Exogenous Paintings

A series of exogenous paintings. Exogenous in that they are directed outwards towards the immediate context. Rather than representing distant things or remaining internally focused, the paintings are deictic – they point to the world (at least until the context shifts).

Stencilled text on a minimal abstract painting that hangs just to the right of a door: ‘The door is just to the left.’

Bright red painting with blue text: ‘The painting opposite is yellow.’
On the opposite wall, a bright yellow painting with blue text: ‘The painting opposite is yellow.’

A painting that depicts the scene directly before it. It is called ‘Vampire Mirror’ because none of the people currently in the room appear. Most evidently, the viewer is invisible.

A painting that directly asks: ‘Who is looking?’

And so on.

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Wayward Titles

A set of abstract paintings with figurative titles (Rothko style black canvas entitled ‘Billy Bends Down to Pick Up 10 Bucks from the Pavement’, ‘Sharon Cooks Dinner Yet Again’, ‘Philip Comes Out to his Work Colleagues’).
A set of narrative-figurative paintings with the standard abstract title ‘Untitled’.
A set of titles for paintings that refer to contextual features rather than to the paintings themselves (‘Next to the Door’, ‘Beside the Yellow Painting’, etc.).
A set of titles without corresponding works (‘Absent Work’, ‘Non-Existent Work’, ‘Stolen Work’, ‘Misplaced Work’).
A set of titles with no text and no works.
A set of titles that express judgements concerning the quality of the work (‘Shit Painting’, ‘Poor Effort’, ‘Excellent Stuff’).
A set of glowing blacklight titles for a set of black paintings in a dark gallery.
A set of large and verbose titles linked to a set of miniature works.
A set of blinding LED white titles.
A set of titles generated randomly on the fly.
A set of titles projected awkwardly on the works.
A set of titles stacked neatly in a small box with no works.
A set of works that are themselves titles.

[PS: I love the way Agnes Martin titled her work – her intricate geometric abstractions are named ‘Mountain’, ‘White Flower’ and the like.]

Agnes Martin, Mountain, 1960

Agnes Martin, Mountain, 1960

Agnes Martin, White Flower, 1960

Agnes Martin, White Flower, 1960

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Job Interview Responses Drawn from the Lyrics of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’

So K had given me a copy of the famous Velvet Underground album with Warhol’s banana on the cover. I was playing it on high-rotation in my car. This was a re-release of the original album and included an additional song – ‘Heroin’. I was singing along all the time, imagining melodies that Lou Reed never bothered to pursue, then I had this thought: a video installation of a job interview in which all of the interviewee responses are drawn from the song:

generic job interview

generic job interview

Why have you applied for this job?
I have made big decision.
I’m gonna try to nullify my life.

So where do you see your career heading?
I don’t know just where I’m going.
But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man.

And so what skills do you bring to this position?
I guess I just don’t know.
Oh, and I guess I just don’t know.

Can you work effectively in a team environment?
I really don’t care anymore
About all the Jim-Jims in this town
And all the politicians making crazy sounds
And everybody putting everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds.

This job involves some travel – are you ok with that?
I wish that I’d sailed the darkened seas
On a great big clipper ship.
Going from this land here to that
In a sailor’s suit and cap.

Do you have any questions for us?
You can’t help me now, you guys
And all you sweet girls with all your sweet talk.
You can all go take a walk.

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100 Ideas

Returning to the 100 ideas concept:

The first idea, which falls outside the overall set of one hundred ideas, is to assemble one hundred ideas for art projects. A very limited conceptual-aesthetic filter applies. If an idea registers, even for a moment, as faintly worthwhile then it will be described. I’m acknowledging of course that very few of my wayward ideas are ever realised, so why not document them here instead? They are most likely better in minimal form than inflated into actual works. In many instances they may have been better forgotten altogether.

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Boulder

Mt Keira boulder

Mt Keira boulder


A small well-chalked boulder problem from March 2013. What an utterly long time ago. Just a few moves, but at my limit. Could scarcely believe it when I finally succeeded, grabbing for the good horizontal break and clambering up on to the slab. Now the chalk will have disappeared and the moss and lantana will have returned. I was there for such a short time. I am so completely gone.

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Fieldwork (the aesthetic)

A common critique of the aesthetic involves delineating its social implications. The aesthetic, it is argued, has served within modern capitalism as a means of naturalising aspects of class difference. As the old explicit delineators of social difference within the feudal system broke down new systems of difference were required. Amongst other means of differentiation, the emerging bourgeoisie distinguished themselves from the working class via dimensions of taste – experiential and consumption preferences that demonstrated affective subtlety, refined sensibility, etc. In this sense, the aesthetic – a sensitivity to the aesthetic – is positioned as a pseudo innate capacity, which provides an ideological alibi for social differentiation and economic inequality.

While this argument retains its force, the aesthetic cannot simply be positioned in these terms. Cast as taste, it certainly has an aspect of naturalisation, but there is also the sense that taste must be trained. The breeding of good taste is not simply a biological process, it requires social cultivation. The phenomenon of the European Grand Tour provides an explicit example of efforts to develop and train aesthetic taste. Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794) also positions aesthetic sensitivity as something that must be explicitly and deliberately fostered in order to reap socially integrative rewards.

The aesthetic represents a deeply ambivalent and uncertain category/capacity/field. Kant describes aesthetics as a species of judgement that charts a relation between the apriori and the experiential. The aesthetic represents a realm of mediation, negotiation and agreement. Our perception of the beautiful and sublime in the natural world comes to affirm an accord between our inbuilt capacities and the nature of the external world. This can only happen in his view from a disinterested perspective – beyond the corrupting influence of everyday human interests (appetites, instrumental goals). The aesthetic describes a perverse experiential mode – at once engaged and disengaged, at once outward looking, but only in terms of discovering analogues for the apriori. Hence all the of the difficulties involved in recognising the proper field of the aesthetic. Does it lie within some notion of what is proper to the aesthetic – within some sense of autonomy – or within its wider articulation with, in and of the world?

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Fieldwork Notes

What is the place of fieldwork within art? Can fieldwork be placed within art?

Art is a field. The field beyond art is a field.

A field represents an area at once open and delimited.

Can there be a field that is primarily concerned with questioning its delimitation, with insisting upon an openness that is at once true and endlessly compromised?

It seems that art would prefer to be something beyond a field while still maintaining a sense of integral identity – grounded in what? The notion of the aesthetic?

Contemporary ‘social practice’ art, for instance, takes shape precisely in terms of this dilemma. Art is not even mentioned and yet we are not speaking about social practice generally, but instead about a very specific genre of social practice that emerges from debates concerning relational aesthetics, socially-engaged art, etc. ‘Social practice’ imagines a potential for aesthetic action beyond the realm of aesthetics per se and beyond the institutional system of art. Yet at the same there remains a lingering desire to assess works of ‘social practice’ aesthetically/artistically, not simply in terms of their social efficacy and embededdness. The question is posed, how are these works to be judged? What separates them from the wider field of efficacious social action itself? And here is where the difficult problem of conceiving the field of aesthetics and art remains.

We have then a field which insists upon its openness, while equally insisting that there is a distinctly aesthetic field.

Some rough notes from a day or so ago:

Standard distinction between fieldwork and lab work. Malinowski – anthropology and fieldwork – an academic field that includes the apparently wider field as a vital part of its identity. No lab without the field.

And what sense can the aesthetic make of itself without the field? Starting with the senses, the confusion of openings to the world. The aesthetic is not innate but must be developed (Schiller). The Grand Tour as fieldwork and as studio – their necessary intimate relation.

The field is not simply what lies beyond the studio, but what lies beyond the conventional understanding and context of art. Art itself is a field (field as enclosed space of disciplinary operation), but art necessarily reaches beyond its institutional limits and autonomy (Adorno). The field is everything beyond art as well as art itself (Rancierre). Autonomy/Breach is constitutive of art. No art without the field’s encounter with wider fields.

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Complex Fields

Jeff Wall Fieldwork. Excavation of the floor of a dwelling in a former Sto:lo nation village, Greenwood Island, Hope, B. C., August, 2003. Anthony Graesch, Dept. of Anthropology, University of California

Jeff Wall Fieldwork. Excavation of the floor of a dwelling in a former Sto:lo nation village, Greenwood Island, Hope, B. C., August, 2003. Anthony Graesch, Dept. of Anthropology, University of California

Jeff Wall’s ‘Fieldwork’ (2003) depicts archaeological fieldwork in British Columbia.

Two fieldworkers excavate the remains of a Native American (Sto:lo Nation) floor, now part of a field. No longer an interior, the floor has passed outside. The walls and roof have gone. There is only the floor, which is now largely indistinguishable from the ground.

What field? Has this place always been the field? Are fields always resolutely outside? Could they also contain interiors? What is the interior region of a field? How can it be conceived? And what of the forest? Is that also a field? Don’t forests lie at the edge of fields and isn’t entering a forest like stepping into a room? How is the general shadiness and interiority of a forest to be understood?

Actually the ancient floor is now a tiered hole with an archaeologist kneeling before it taking notes. He kneels on one of four mats that are arranged on each side of the square hole. The archaeologist is out in the field but immersed in his fieldwork. He fashions his own delineated space within the field – a space of private observation and writing. He attends to a discrete, excavated area within the larger field and fashions his own field of observation and description.

Another fieldworker stands at the margins. He watches the working fieldworker, while himself simply standing there beneath a lofted branch, his feet shoulder width apart, his hands in his pockets. He is immersed differently in the field – distractedly, inactively, within the prosaic tedium of slow, deliberate archaeological fieldwork.

They have a bunch of stuff lying around. They have created a little dirt track. They have colonised a little bit of the wider forest and turned it into an archaeological field. Once again, the exterior is shaped as an interior.

There is another fieldworker as well – the photographer. Wall photographs the fieldworkers each day. He conveys a sense of the culture and context of archaeological fieldwork in carefully composed formal-aesthetic terms. It is as though a painting of a Renaissance forest scene has been updated – no longer full of cavorting centaurs and nymphs, there are instead two archaeological fieldworkers; who despite themselves, despite their level of distraction or methodical calm, somehow still manage to summon up the memory of an earlier mythical field (accentuated by the subdued, meditative, untimely light). How is this enabled? It is perhaps at least partly by fashioning a relation between interior and exterior space – elaborating curious openings, borders, thresholds and rooms within forests and fields. All of this suggests the complexity of fields and fieldwork. Fieldwork involves much more than simply stepping outside.

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Small Grand Tours

Walk to major Australian galleries through areas of nearby bush or parkland. Preferable if this involves crossing a high hill. My clearest example: walk across Canberra’s Mt Ainslie to the Australian National Gallery. The aim is to mimic aspects of the European Grand Tour in miniature and alienated terms. We are not passing across northern Europe and the Alps to Italy. We are ascending a small eucalypt-covered hill and then wandering across parkland to the gallery. Can all manner of major Australian public galleries be approached in this way – through a preparatory journey that negotiates a relation between everyday life, natural space and art? My concern is to make explicit the often unstated relation between art and a complex exterior – and to explore this relation in playfully classical experiential terms.

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I’m Kiki Dee

Video piece (or maybe just audio). All manner of people lay claim to being Kiki Dee. They say simply “I’m Kiki Dee”, although of course they are not Kiki Dee. Kiki Dee is a British soul singer best known for her 1976 duet with Elton John, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. Kiki Dee is her stage name. Her real name is Pauline Matthews. The name begins as a fiction – a distant memory of a fiction – and then is resurrected through further fictional claims to identity.

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100 Ideas (earlier)

One hundred and one ideas. I shall not judge them. I was tempted to call them dumb ideas, or DAFT ideas (Dumb Art Fantasy Tasks), but it seems preferable to leave them in their nascent, utopian state. No point in dismissing them quite yet. Allow them at least a fragile moment of expression.

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Some Contexts of Fieldwork

Artists as ethnographers – social practice
Artists along with scientists – artists on ANARE trips to the Antarctic (Mawson Station), etc.
Artists pursuing procedures rigorously in the field – sampling, systematic observation and documentation, etc. (affinities with science, but with an aspect of irrational fascination)
Artists walking (and more) – aspects of performance

Fields:
the social field
the field of everyday life
the urban field
the environmental field
the disciplinary field (rethought as transdiciplinary)

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Field

‘Field’ is a complex term with a wide set of meanings.

Etymologically – and most concretely – it refers to an open area of land. Yet this openness is complex. A field is less an entirely exterior wilderness than an area of grassland, paddock or pasture. It is at once open and bounded. It may be surrounded by hedges or fences. Or it may be circumscribed by other geographical features – forests, mountains, swamps and rivers. The combination of openness and determination shapes our experience of going into a field. We have stepped outside. We have stepped out into the world, but at the same time we recognise the limits of this exterior. A field represents a delimited expanse. Its vastness is never absolute. It is not the sublime vastness of the the sea or outer space.

It is perhaps because of the determinate character of a field that fieldwork is possible. One can fruitfully move within this space. One can keep animals, plant crops, conduct research, produce art, etc. Yet the appeal of any field lies not only in its potential productivity and domesticity, but in its openness and risk.

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Fieldwork

Fieldwork is a form of research. It involves leaving the lab and going out into the world. Fun to leave the lab, but also important. Research must be extended beyond the artifice of the lab. In this sense, fieldwork is pursued seriously and diligently. It follows a determined method and aims to provide fruitful insights. But what if I go out into the field in a less focused way? What if I have no clear plan in mind? What if I pursue a fanciful method or no method at all? What if the possibility that I am engaged in research never crosses my mind? Then what am I doing in the field and what can I discover there? What is the perverse value in not pursuing deliberate research?

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Grand Tour

Rough notes.

Aesthetic experience may conventionally be associated with the so-called higher senses – sight and hearing – but it is intimately connected also with the lower senses – touch, taste and smell – as well as with features of experience that are difficult to decompose, which come in a larger, holistic form, involving not only the sensing of something external, but also active engagement, motion, duration, etc.

What is the European Grand Tour, for instance, if not a complex overall experience, in which the understanding and appreciation of classical culture is structured in terms of the contours and rich intricacies of a journey. I am particularly interested by the journey across the Alps that precedes almost every grand tourist’s experience of Italian culture. How does the experience of wild, mountainous nature provide a necessary precursor to journeying through Italy? How is the experience of the Alps positioned? How does it provide access to the aesthetic?

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Survivalist Camps

http://www.survivalistcamps.com/
http://realsurvivalist.com/

http://www.instructables.com/id/10-essentials-for-wilderness-survival/
http://www.survivalistboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=11
http://www.campingsurvival.com/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Creating-a-low-budget-composting-toilet/

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Survivalist Gaming

Mitchell sent me this:

Here’s a good article on survivalist gaming –
http://aeon.co/magazine/culture/welcome-to-the-scarcity-games/ – but
it doesn’t mention my favourite, called A Dark Room
http://adarkroom.doublespeakgames.com – a review:
http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/a-dark-room-the-best-selling-game-that-no-one-can-explain

M

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Flat Pack Feral

A fantasy of alienated feral existence is rendered in a concrete, neatly packaged and participatory form.

A wooden palette of cardboard boxes is placed at the edge of an area of Bundanon forest. Ikea style instructions explain that viewers should move the boxes up into the forest and then open them to explore their contents. The boxes contain bits and pieces of the detritus of a feral existence – a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, cooking gear, trash and pages from an incoherent journal. Additional instructions inside the boxes explain what to do with these items – how they should be arranged.

The campsite is assembled in the morning, left up for the day and night and then returned into the flat pack boxes and placed back on the palette early the next morning.

The aim is to play up contradictions and subterranean alignments between the disorder of a marginal existence and the regularities of commodity form – between entropy and systematic procedure.

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Whenever

Have released a new album out on bandcamp. It’s called Whenever.

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Following

Kim, Lucas and I follow creeks up from the beach to the escarpment.

Lucas re-enacts materialist film events with Louise.

I bought a banjo last night from Clive in Unanderra. He was in his pyjamas.

A MANIFESTO OF FOLLOWING
What are the implications of following? Where does following lead?
Instead of trying at every instant to do something new.
Instead of commenting wryly on the past.
Instead of feeling stuck.
Instead of lamenting the disappearance of the future.
Instead of attending to a restrictive past.
Instead of strictly following.
Instead of strictly going astray.
Instead of imagining that following is a simple process.
Instead of imagining that following is especially hard.
We follow. We follow following. We follow following wherever it leads.

Please some clarity.

I have recorded three albums of material in the past year. None of it is especially innovative. I am following memories, emotions, sensations. It is not really for others to listen to – or to listen to very attentively. I make it available, but in the same manner that smoke wafts over a fence. I am cooking in my backyard. Unavoidably this will have olfactory consequences for my neighbours. But we are all cooking. The smoke and odours blow both ways. None of us are amateurs, none of us are professionals. In the same manner music circulates through the neighbourhood. I am drawn to popular traditions. I’ll play things my own way. I’ll cut corners and cheat. But I am still following.

Similarly, we don’t try to reinvent the creek bed. We follow the creek. We follow the creek as best we can. This also involves walking away from the creek at times. When the path along the creek is blocked then we follow other ways. Whatever way suits. There is some ingenuity here, but the novel turns emerge from the process of following. Following does not have to be dully scrupulous. Nor does it have to obsessively veer off track.

Lucas and Louise’s film work reflects upon following. It stages a repetition that does not actually repeat. Alongside this there can be a less attentive following, a drifting following, a semi-conscious following. All these different modes of following are valid – not that they really need validation.

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Assemblage_02

Assemblage, what the fuck?

I’m sure I should be reading Deleuze or watching some interminable lecture by Delanda on Youtube (actually his lectures aren’t bad), but fuck it. I’ve gone straight to Wikipedia and straight to assemblage art because I have some vague sense of what that is – putting together found objects, the juxtaposition of incompatible bits and pieces from everyday life, etc. This leads me back to the roughly similar terrain of collage. I think of the photo-collages of Hannah Hoch and the mixed media painting of Georges Braque. Surely that is enough to go on – at least initially.

Two features of assemblage:

  • Composed of pre-constructed things that have been removed from their ordinary contexts. The various things both reference a surrounding, non-aesthetic immediacy, but also an unobtainable original context – an irrecoverable object past.
  • the various things are combined in a manner that not only unsettles the possibility of unity but establishes another, unlikely whole. There is a clear irony in linking fragmentation and disjuncture to the possibility of delineated composition. It as though only here, within the context of artistic assemblage, that both the arbitrary nature of the world and the impossibility of escaping this arbitrariness can be represented. The assemblage becomes a symbol of the non-organic, the non-whole, the irreconcilable.

Yet my interest is not precisely in creating symbols. It is to somehow find effective means to negotiate assemblage intimately – to traverse it – without any possibility of stepping back to take in the whole. My aim is to pass ignorantly into the assembled space.

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Assemblage_01

Can you forgive me if I begin again?

There are single things, which can be either simple or complex.

Simple things cannot be decomposed further. Nothing at human scale is simple. At the smallest scale, the notion of simplicity becomes complex itself. Apparently simple constituent elements – atoms, particles, etc. – only attain simplicity within the context of their positioning in a field, so can they properly be conceived as simple, discrete things?

Complex things can be decomposed into further things. Complex things can be simple or complex.

Simple complex things are composed of clearly identifiable constituent things. A numerical set is a simple complex thing that is composed of a collection of numbers. A chemical compound is a simple complex thing in which a number of discrete chemicals enter a macro-level relation. Arguably, a compound is more complex than a set because the individual elements enter into combination, rather than remaining discretely configured.

Complex complex things are not composed of discretely determined constituent things. Everything within a complex complex thing is itself a complex complex thing. Futhermore, the various things do not enter into a single relation. There is neither a set nor a compound. The overall relation is itself complex and ultimately indeterminable. The complex complex thing is only provisionally a thing. It contains a variety of things and is itself various.

An assemblage – conceived as a form – is a type of complex complex thing. Its special character is a sense of juxtaposition. The various constituent complex complex things brought together within its problematic identity lack organic relation. They grew up elsewhere, but have now been thrust together. There is always within assemblage a sense of disjuncture and imposition.

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Assemblage_00

Assemblage. What do I know of assemblage? Very little it seems. So I will start with this ignorance, but also, leaping ahead of myself, posit that perhaps ignorance is a condition of assemblage.

There are two conceptions of assemblage: one as a form, as something that takes shape, appearing as a thing, or more properly a collection of irreducibly complex things; then there is assemblage as a quality that affects everything, which indicates the multiplicity, incongruity and complexity of what passes for things. In the latter sense assemblage represents the untenable and provisional character of all objectivity. Nothing can be represented as a discrete component or as a discrete set of components that enter into a discrete relation. At the edge of all complexity is further complexity. No edge is guaranteed.

And it is in this sense of a limitless space of assemblage that ignorance becomes relevant because I cannot stand back from any apparent assemblage as a discrete thing or system. In engaging with assemblage I become another dimension of its complexity. I cannot help recognizing assemblages that take coherent shape, but their apparent objective integrity is immediately compromised by my work of designating them – constituting them. For them to appear as themselves, as something discrete, I must ignore everything that unsettles the possibility of delineation. Ignorance is necessary to lend assemblage apparent coherent form. It is also necessary in order move within any assemblage, for movement entails becoming embroiled in a complex landscape that appears inescapable. I am ignorant then both when I point at the assemblage (from an imaginary separate distance) and when I am caught within the assemblage and can imagine no way out.

But let’s try to state things more clearly.

As a form an assemblage has the following features:

• It is a multiplicity.
• The multiple elements of that make up this multiplicity are irreducibly complex. They resist analysis. They are not elements but assemblages themselves.
• The assembled elements lack any natural relation – they are juxtaposed.
• The overall multiplicity nonetheless takes provisional shape as a single thing.

As a quality assemblage has the following features:

• Multiple
• Irreducible to analysis – to decomposition into primary elements
• Juxtaposition of already complex elements

Very similar conceptions, but the latter is more consistent and radical. It does not permit assemblage to reside in any particular thing – to obtain any sense of coherent autonomy (objectivity).

But enough of this nonsense, ignorant as I am, the notion of assemblage set me thinking about something I once knew, or more accurately never dared to properly know, since I recognized the potential for loss. As a programmer I worked with all manner of programming languages – C++, Java, Scala, Python and a range of scripting languages – but I never learned Assembly. Assembly is the lowest level computer language, just mildly abstracted from machine code itself. Writing in Assembly involves engaging with the intimate detail of specific machine architectures – memory registers, buffers, etc. Data is represented in binary or hexadecimal form rather than as ordinary decimal numbers. Everything is slow, hard and prone to error. The good Assembly programmer gains the capacity to think like the machine, to comfortably negotiate its alien and opaque complexity.

How is this relevant to the notion of assemblage? Assembly Language provides a model for a particular kind of relation to a given field. Instead of representing the field via an abstracted map, it is engaged with in its complexity. This is complexity to the point of loss, to the point of obsessive, concentrated immersion. There is no possibility of simply standing back and seeing the whole. Each view of the whole is inadequate. Everything only obtains tangible shape within the details of particular configurations, encounters and negotiations.

The work of assemblage is a work of implication and loss.

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Aesthetics

Aesthetics is political, but is not itself directed to the political.

In the classic formulation of Schiller, the aesthetic paves the way for enlightened political society. It provides an education at the level of sensibility that is vital towards individuals coming together to establish a genuinely free political community. Aesthetic experience serves as a mediating force, it augurs the reconciliation of sense and rational abstraction, concrete particularity and general law. Yet this mediation depends upon it withdrawing from any particular context of action as such. It is not directed towards mechanical-instrumental ends or social-ethical ends. Its peculiar context of action depends up a suspension of ordinary contexts of action.

This suspension implies that anything can be subject to aesthetic configuration. If aesthetics has a formal aspect, it is not as a form that can be explicated in entirely formal terms. Aesthetics works over things. It distances them from themselves. It renders them mediate, but without ever passing into an abstract language of symmetry, harmony, etc. It delineates things.

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A Pen and a Pencil

Thanks to the person who very kindly sent me a pencil and a pen in an effort to encourage me to write more. Do my best, but I’m afraid that I follow my own patterns of wayward and sporadic writing activity.

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