An exhibition of artwork intersecting with the philosophy of
wor(l)ds in collision
wor(l)ds in collision
An exhibition of artwork intersecting with the philosophy of
Richard Carter, Sas Colby, David Connearn, Johanna Drucker, John Hall, Alan Halsey, Tony Lopez, Dan Wood and Exegesis, the poetry collective of Jaime Robles, Mike Rose-Steel and SMSteele
Byrne House, University of Exeter, Streatham campus 12th June until September, 2015
Wor(l)ds in Collision was organised to coincide with the British Wittgenstein Society's annual conference, Saturday and Sunday, 13-14 June, 2015, in Exeter. .
The Wittgenstein Vector (detail) Installation with poetry and images, 2014 Laminated digital prints, individual cards, 17.5 (h) x 12.5 cm (7" x 5")
An object seen from different angles A Wittgensteinian introduction to Wor(l)ds in Collision
God grant the philosopher insight into what lies in front of everyone’s eyes! (Culture and Value 72e)
A peculiarity of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy is the variety of fields in which it has been interrogated and adopted. His work resists assimilation into any one discipline. The writing prowls the line between the abstract and the poetic, places the unsayable at the centre of its putative elucidations, and insists on leaving much up to the reader’s own thinking. It finds the remarkable in the quotidian, and vice versa. The style is aphoristic, non-technical and nonlinear, the subject matter sometimes elusive. He uses analogy, digression, diagrams, dialogue and irony, as much as rational argument. This situates Wittgenstein at a nexus between several traditions, proving attractive and challenging to the visual artist, the poet, the sociologist, the linguist and the philosopher, never quite belonging to any one of them. What does it mean, he encourages us to ask, to write like this? His texts thus hover in an unresolved space that echoes Stanley Cavell’s question at the end of The Claim of Reason: can philosophy become literature and still know itself?
Sometimes a sentence can be understood only if it is read at the right tempo. My sentences are all to be read slowly. (Culture and Value 65e)
As Marjorie Perloff recounts in her study of this phenomenon, Wittgenstein’s Ladder, artists have been fascinated by not only Wittgenstein’s questioning of language and the mechanisms of philosophy, but also by his approach to form, and his singular biography. Derek Jarman’s biopic Wittgenstein (from a script by Terry Eagleton) presents a series of skits in which the passionate, mystic and bewildered Wittgenstein is portrayed entangled in the sophistication, irony and hypocrisy of Cambridge society. David Markham’s astonishing novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress performs the lunatic solipsism of inhabiting the universe of a ‘Private Language’, while aping the aphoristic form of Philosophical Investigations in which Wittgenstein demonstrated the allure and absurdity of such an idea. Eduardo Paolozzi’s print series ‘As Is When’ offers a graphic response to propositions in the Tractatus, playing with the logical precision and existential challenge of the text through striking patterns of repetition and colour. This list gives a mere taster of the many artists who have responded directly to Wittgenstein. Many more engage in investigations of art and language with no reference to his philosophy, but produce work that can be read as ‘Wittgensteinian’ in its preoccupations or approach. Each sentence that I write is trying to say the whole thing, that is, the same thing over and over again & it is as though they were views of one object seen from different angles. (Culture and Value 9e)
This exhibition concentrates on Wittgenstein’s insistence in his later writings on the usefulness of the concept of ‘games’ for thinking about language. There is no one quality that unites all the things we think of as games, and to play a game requires not only rules, but the possibility of testing, breaking, revising those rules. Rejecting the idea that language has one essential purpose, or that meaning is something fixed and transparent, the artworks here are engaged in various forms of play, translation or reconfiguration. Language is physical as well as symbolic. Our experiences lay claim to the traditions and practices that give them meaning, but can be turned back thereon to question and confuse what we might otherwise take for granted. We come to points where ordinary language seems inadequate, but this is not because we lack an adequately nuanced set of concepts, or because we need a better ‘theory’ of language, but because we have not paid enough attention to the particular and the familiar. What frameworks support our observations and convictions? The artwork here in some ways mimics the incompleteness of Wittgenstein’s writing, the unendingness of his philosophical project. Variously they show art as a process of discarding and reassembling, of repetition with variation, of careful attention to presentation and nested meanings, to the balance between authorial control and emergence, between understanding and opacity. We are delighted to welcome you to this playful collaboration between poets, artists and philosophers, where the boundaries between words and images, meanings and material are plucked, strummed, exalted and trammelled. – Mike Rose-Steel
Three Propositions Still from the opening credits of the video by Jaime Robles Sound by Tom Bickley, 2015
A curatorial note
At a recent interview composer John Adams talked about his collaboration with poet Alice Goodman on the opera The Death of Klinghoffer, which takes on the difficult themes of terrorism and responsibility under the threat of violence. Adams’ comment was that collaboration is one of the most painful processes that two people can involve themselves in. Having collaborated with different artists at different times, I can only offer to Adams the following: ‘that depends’. Perhaps it was the topic that made the collaborations behind this exhibition a pleasure: the artistic pursuit of Wittgenstein, with his propensity for quixotic meanings and almost oblivious tendency toward generous intellectual rigor. (Was that last an oxymoron? Or simply an accurate description of the shifting sensibilities of humankind and one man in particular?) All the difficulties of the show had to do with impersonal situations: long distances, inadequacies of transport, shaky finances. Those who contributed work have been consistently generous and patient. More pleasure came, however, from the fact that I truly enjoyed seeing and selecting the work. I have tried to cover a range of possibilities in a very few artists. There are artists from the southwest of Britain and there are North Americans, there are women and men, there are well-established artists and those at the start of their careers, there are visual artists and poets, digital artists and scholars. Every image is elusive, inclusive, and just the way, I hope, Wittgenstein might have appreciated it; though I confess most of it would not have been his aesthetic cup of tea. The fact of which offers a crucial comment on the process of making art itself. Art is built on exchange and reaction. It gains vibrance through contradiction and confrontation. Here the worlds of the spoken and unspoken, the seen and the unseeable, collide, and are reborn. – Jaime Robles
Morse Matrix Digital print, 2015 59.4 (h) x 42 cm (23.3" x 16.5")
My artwork is concerned with how digital technologies remediate their surrounding environment, visualising the mechanisms through which different observable phenomena in the world are converted into forms that are computationally amenable. Morse Matrix was achieved by translating a series of written messages into a Morse encoding scheme, before visualising the results using contemporary digital display standards as a guide. The piece is exploring the role of symbolic abstraction and material remediation in the conveyance of information across the past century of electronic communications and computing. â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Richard Carter
Richard Carter is a postgraduate researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Exeter. His principal area of academic interest concerns digital computing systems and the cultural forms they convey. His research intersects directly with his artistic practices, which involve computer encoding written messages into intricate visual patterns, generating images that explore the structures and processes underpinning digital activities, objects, and environments.
Piero Della Francesca: Particolare (central panel) triptych, Giclee prints on canvas, with over-painted text, 2015 made from original acrylic paintings (2004) 55 (h) x 45 cm (22" x 18")
The Italian word for detail is particolare, which I decided to use as a title, because these images are taken completely out of context. They are details, and I’ve added text over them, a text which has nothing to do with the original intent of these paintings. The image is from a Piero Della Francesca work that's in Arezzo, Italy, called The Legend of the True Cross and the panel is “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon”. The quotes are extracted from art reviews, written by American art critic Peter Schjeldahl, and published in The New Yorker magazine. However, Piero is such a Renaissance master, and his forms so poetically beautiful, that I’ve made my own relationship with the quotes on aesthetics. This triptych unites my interest in both art history and the role played by the senses in life and art. — Sas Colby
Sas Colby studied at Rhode Island School of Design and has been exhibiting her mixed media artwork for more than forty years. She makes one-of-a-kind books, paintings and constructions, and her art is often informed by international travel and humanitarian concerns. Sas lives in Berkeley, CA, and teaches seminars emphasizing experimental practices and inquiries into the nature of art.
white is also a kind of black Diptych, ink on paper, 2015 42 x 42 cm (16.75" x 16.75")
From the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s email description: Diptych: A line etc. black/red black/blue black/green (fyi: perception-trigger tinted blacks) A line etc. white/black (a white slightly darker than the paper) (Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m currently uncertain of the Word for this) A line etc. yellow/black (an impossibly dark yellow)
David Connearn, born 1952, attended Queens College Cambridge where he took a degree in History (1975), Camberwell School of Art where he obtained his BA in Fine Art (Sculpture) in 1979, and was a postgraduate at The Slade School (HDFA 1981). He was appointed John Florent Stone Fellow at the Edinburgh College of Art in 2000. His practice is primarily based in instinctive, non-figurative drawing that deals with themes of experience and temporality. He lives in London.
What does it mean to “take” an object – that is, if one is a verb? Going from place to place required constant organization of the goods in her possession.
20. Transitive / InTransit(ive) (verso page art) From Wittgenstein's Gallery, 1989, Japanese paper swatches, ink, watercolor 27.5 (h) x 35 cm (11" x 14")
Wittgensteinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gallery is a conceptual work that addresses the differences between visual and linguistic systems by asking each to perform according to the rules of the other. By asking whether a word casts a shadow, or if an image can be conjugated, and so on, the piece, which consists of more than a hundred images in different media and texts, grouped into 27 points of focus, poses its philosophical questions in graphic form. It was originally created in 1989 and exhibited at Columbia University in 1992. The range of graphic techniques and the wit of the words keeps this project from being pedantic, and makes its substantive investigations playful.
Johanna Drucker is an artist and scholar known for her work in graphical forms of knowledge production, digital humanities, history of print and the book, and visual language. She has been making artist's books for decades, and in 2012 was the subject of a retrospective, Druckworks: 40 Years of Books and Projects. She is on the faculty of Information Studies at UCLA where she is the inaugural Breslauer Chair in Bibliography.
The Wittgenstein Vector Laminated digital printouts with fishing tackle Byrne House, 2015
Exegesis The poetry collective of Jaime Robles, Mike Rose-Steel and SMSteele
The Wittgenstein Vector is comprised of over 50 short poems, each responding to a single proposition from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, trading off the philosopher’s own comment in later life that the supposedly logically nested propositions act more like chapter titles than arguments. The poems stand in counterpoint to the austere and abstract content of the book, combining three very different poetic voices and original artwork into a new mapping of the limits of expression – loving, ironic, troubled, patient, partial and temporal. Originally an outdoor installation, the tactile and mobile elements of the Vector encourage readers to explore it with eyes, hands and ears. Since its original launch in January 2014, the installation has also given rise to a pamphlet and two short films.
The three Exegesis writer/artists are from expansively different parts of the anglophone world: Mike Rose-Steel (UK), Jaime Robles (USA) and SMSteele (Canada). They have created three site-specific poetry installations – Wall of
Miracles, The Wittgenstein Vector and The Long Goodbye – on the University of Exeter campus; performed the satirical anti-Valentine’s Day cabaret captured in an accompanying booklet, 51 Shades of Black and Blue; and given multiple readings and workshops.
loss in blossom Framed digital print, 2010 25 (h) x 20 cms (8" x 9.875")
Games with games: First, for me, there were the games of margined pages, enclosed, separated; looking up, there were all the open games of portable frames; the games of domestic walls and shelves, with the memorial work of their images and objects; games with sentences, with lines; games reducible to words and their parts, though irreducible to the other games where those words and parts have, over the years, gathered their purchase. Bless loss; risk blessing. â&#x20AC;&#x201C; John Hall
John Hall is a poet, teacher and essayist, who has been publishing poems for pages since 1966 and making visual poems for two decades. His teaching at Dartington College of Arts included the foundation of a degree in Performance Writing. His essays have been collected in two volumes (Shearsman, 2014). His most recent publication of poems is Keepsache (etruscan books, 2013). He is the first Professor of Performance Writing (Falmouth University) and is Visiting Professor at York St John University. (www.johnhallpoet.org.uk)
In White Writing Digital print series, 2010 25 (h) x 20 cms (8" x 9.875")
Notes from his email on In White Writing: for each page I made a black-on-white collage using whatever was in my waste-paper basket. Then I drew or doodled on the collage, scanned the page & inverted the colour to white-on-black. Then I went over it all with a pen, reducing white areas & eliminating unwanted material. Then scanned it again & made some digital adjustments (relatively minor, the rule was to make it as handmade as possible). When each page was finished I did another scan, re-inverting the colour to black-on-white to serve as the collage base for the following page, so there would always be elements which carry over. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Alan Halsey
Born in London in 1949, Alan Halsey ran The Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye for almost twenty years before marrying fellow poet Geraldine Monk and moving to Sheffield where he continues to work as a specialist bookseller. The author of many collections of poetry, his graphics have been widely published and he is the illustrator of several books including Kelvin Corcoran's Your Thinking Tracts or
Nations (2001) and Gavin Selerie's Le Fanu's Ghost (2006). In White Writing was published by Xexoxial Editions in 2012.
More and More Digital text animation A Bury Art Museum commission, purchased in 2011. (Photo by Julia Grime)
The text work More and More, a kinetic poem, comprises a series of sixtysix sentences, taken from a wide variety of printed sources, and composed in a sequence by the artist. The work is a language game in which rapid shifts of register and imagined context provoke a variety of emotional responses. The installation is an animation that simulates a Solari departure board as used in airports and train stations. At each new transition from sentence to sentence, each cell of the board travels through the alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks, until it gets to the character (or blank) required for the next sentence.
Tony Lopez is an English artist and poet with an international reputation for innovation in Found Text. His latest books are Only More So and False Memory (Shearsman, 2012). He has received awards from the Wingate Foundation, the Society of Authors, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Arts Council England. His poetry is featured in numerous anthologies, and his critical writings are collected in Meaning
Performance: Essays on Poetry (Salt, 2006). He taught for many years at the University of Plymouth, where he was appointed the first Professor of Poetry in 2000 and Emeritus Professor in 2009. (www.tonylopez.org.uk)
Untitled Acrylic on canvas, 2015 40 (h) x 50 cm (15.75" x 19.685")
These pieces investigate the layering of spaces and meanings within a single image, interspacing found objects, fragments of memory, symbols of space, speed and danger, and spaces within the image. Chronology is compressed to the single moment, presenting simultaneously multiple ideas and viewpoints, in a way designed to defeat comprehension in a single thought. Each image has holes, corners, traversing pipes or reflections that pique the viewer's curiosity for what appears to be discoverable, or imaginable, but remains elusive. In this sense, the picture holds us captive.
Dan Wood is a painter based in Exeter. He is a recent Paddon award finalist, has exhibited nationally and internationally, and had work commissioned by Habitat in 2002. He holds a BA in Fine Art from Nottingham Trent (1998). Dan will undertake the MFA programme at Bath Spa next year. (danwoodart.com)
Exhibition list Richard Carter Morse Matrix Digital print, 2015 59.4 (h) x 42 cm (23.3" x 16.5")
John Hall Untitled triptych 3 framed digital prints, 2010 38 (h) x 32 cms panels
Sas Colby Piero Della Francesca: Particolare Triptych, Giclee prints on canvas, with overpainted text, 2015 55 (h) x 45 cm panels (22" x 18")
John Hall A picture held us captive Framed digital prints 57 (h) x 28 cms
David Connearn white is also a kind of black Diptych, ink on paper, 2015 42 x 42 cm panels (16.75" x 16.75") Johanna Drucker Pages from Stochastic Poetry Letterpress proofs 29 (h) x 24 cm Johanna Drucker 20. Transitive / InTransit(ive) From Wittgenstein's Gallery, 1989 Japanese paper swatches, ink, watercolor 27.5 (h) x 35 cm (11" x 14") Johanna Drucker 27: Image / Language From Wittgenstein's Gallery, 1989 Foil paper, collage, and gouache 27.5 (h) x 20 cm Exegesis (Jaime Robles, Mike RoseSteel, SMSteele) The Wittgenstein Vector Installation with poetry and images, 2014 Laminated digital prints, fishing tackle 17.5 (h) x 12.5 cm individual cards (7"x 5")
John Hall loss in blossom Framed digital print, 2010 25 (h) x 20 cms (8" x 9.875") Alan Halsey Six prints from In White Writing Digital print series, 2010 28 (h) x 20 cms (8" x 9.875") Alan Halsey Three sets of prints from Memory Screen Collage, digital print series 14 (h) x 10 cms Tony Lopez More and More Digital text animation A Bury Art Museum commission, purchased in 2011. Jaime Robles Three Propositions Video, 2015 Sound design by Tom Bickley Dan Wood Untitled Diptych, acrylic on canvas, 2015 40 (h) x 50 cm (15.75" x 19.685")
The organising of this event has been facilitated by many generous souls. Most importantly, all the artists who have lent us their work have been enthusiastic, helpful and insightful; we are privileged to be able to show such diverse and intriguing pieces. Further, we are very grateful to Professor John DuprĂŠ of Egenis, along with Chee Wong and all at Byrne House, for letting us invade their building and make use of their several walls. We also thank Will Dyer and Sharanya Murali for their help with the installation of the exhibition, Richard Carter for his fine poster design and Duncan Park of the Devon Picture Framers for skillful framing assistance. We especially thank Linda Brownrigg for her generous and unfailing support. We have been assisted by a PGR Activity Award from the College of Humanities, and by the many open-handed donors to our Kickstarter campaign. These are all excellent people. Seraphim
Rebecca Andrews Brenda Hillman Alan Munton Lorna Wilkinson
Annmarie Dalton John Lowe Felix Robles Erling Wold
Sas Colby Matthew Davis Nancy Mozur Alex Sanderson Ophanim and Thrones
Rose Biggin Ian Ground ElĂŠna Rivera
Ziqian Chan Susanne Dyckman Sarah Martin Anna Ramberg Esther van Raamsdonk
Exhibition organisers: Jaime Robles and Mike Rose-Steel Catalogue design and production: Jaime Robles