Platform for art and theory/fiction

Adap­ta­tion of Bod­ies and Mat­ter Through the Per­spec­tive of Form-Cre­at­ing Paradigms

From the viewpoint of the genealogy of form-creating practices, what we are dealing with in relation to the environment or a specifically natural environment is, in principle, a separation, alienation from what is directly perceived and experienced, and at the same time production of resemblance with what is being alienated, where we can broadly distinguish between two fundamental form-creating paradigms: the production of resemblance based on delineating and delimiting (senses, bodies, forms) and resemblance through contact, both of which, at least to some extent, can be understood as homologous to the specificities of the two key fine art media, painting and sculpture.[1] Thus termed, the resemblance that delineates and delimits can be linked to the theoretical definition of painting in Della Pittura, where Alberti explains what is and what is not in the domain of painting: the painter should strive, first and foremost, to paint only what can be seen, whereas the things that cannot be seen are not within his domain. The painter’s task is to use lines and colors to outline the visible surfaces of bodies—i.e. the entities that occupy space—in such a way that what is outlined appears plastic and very similar to real bodies; to fill the space of the painting with bodies and at the same time to appropriately accommodate its voids, which cannot be simply filled up. From this point of view, painting is, in fact, the art of establishing a dynamic balance between the full and the empty in the environment of the painting, to which end the painter has two fundamental formal tools at his disposal, geometry and story, which together allow him to establish a readable yet dramatic and interesting relationship between bodies and the environment, thereby transforming the environment into a scene, while the bodies, through gestures, positioning, interrelationships, etc., silently tell a particular story.[2]

In terms of arranging the visible on a surface, having at its disposal geometrical tools for articulating and organizing this space (say, according to the grid principle) and organizing the visible elements into a readable story, painting—before the norm of the painting as a window into the world was established—is to some extent similar to writing, where the visible is equated with the imaginable, with that which can be named.[3] What images as two-dimensional codes and writing as a linear code have in common is that they are both based on reducing three-dimensional spatio-temporal situations or circumstances to a surface, where images are based on scenes that can be perceived at once (even if in the reading process, the eye that captures the whole scene must travel over the image or synchronously diachronize what is presented), whereas texts are supposed to be more distanced from concrete experience since they are based on the operation of transforming real situations into images, and then images into concepts, and at the same time on the synchronization of the diachronic or, rather, on a linear code,[4] which historically is also supposed to produce a new experience of time, linear time, and, indirectly, historical consciousness. Painting, which organizes the visible on a surface and visible elements into a readable story, also implies an understanding of form as the contour of the thing whose opposite or correlate is matter or substance. According to this logic, painting, which—like all Western art traditions—historically defines itself in a certain relation to nature, implies a somatization and matterless nature based on “the systematic elimination of matter from form”.[5]

In Western form-creating history, there is, in addition to Alberti’s paradigm of painting, also the model of the production of resemblance based on alienation from the directly perceptible and experienced, and therefore also on the immersion in privacy, which is more akin to technical tools than to the technique of writing; in Didi-Huberman’s words, the production of resemblance through contact. In the most general terms, resemblance through contact is the result of a technical form of imprint, which is originally based on the imprint as motion: it is a mark made by pressing a body against a surface (of a body).[6] Understood in this way, the imprint can be seen as the common starting point of proto-writing, proto-image, and proto-design, which are all based on the body’s adaptation (movements, gestures derived from musculature, etc.) to the laws inherent to matter (for instance rock) through technical tools (for instance a stone given in nature, which enables the transformation of another stone given in nature). The common point of these forms of alienation through technique (of writing, of the image, and of shaping matter/substance) is that what is established through the process of production or transformation is the Aristotelian distinction between natural artifacts, which possess a nature (i.e. the principle of change and stasis) that essentially belongs to them and is within them, and artificial artifacts, which resist change, are the product of a certain intentional action and require recognition.[7]

Indeed, the first technical tools that enable alienation from the directly perceptible, and of which the first (re)designed artifacts can be regarded as an equal part, are most appropriately considered in terms of Simondon’s notion of technology as an ensemble, due to the entire interplay of the human body, mind, action and intentionality, technical tools, and natural matter/substance. To some extent, an ensemble should be distinguished from an assemble (also: an assemblage, collection or aggregation that forms a group/unit), as it is more fittingly understood as a coordinated unit or set that performs a particular operation: it is not a definable object, but rather the relationships between tools/machines, their users, the environment, and the materials with which they interact. The creation of resemblance through the imprint as an archaic form of representation and design is not originally based on the distinction between the idea of the final product, the exact knowledge of what the body can do, and the knowledge of different materials and their laws, which would allow a pertinent choice according to the purpose and idea, but is more about experimenting with what the body’s matter is capable of in relation to some other matter. As in the case of initial writing, which presupposes the “liberation of the hand”, it is originally a kinetic activity; graphic inscription, as the common basis of writing and image, is thus initially a recording of the rhythmic, circular (centripetal or centrifugal) motion of the body.[8]

In a fashion similar to technology as an ensemble, the imprint as a technical dispositif presupposes and includes a media carrier or surface, a movement that reaches this media carrier/surface (usually a gesture of pressing or some kind of contact), and a mechanical result, which is a (recessed or embossed) mark. As Didi-Huberman points out, the gesture of imprinting is above all the experience of a connection, the relationship that the emergence of a form has to the “imprinted” surface: it is a coming together that can produce something unexpected, which is also evident in the historical thematizations of this technical dispositif, which are often considered to be magical. The proximity of the imprint as a proto-sculptural mode of producing similarity and technical tools, however, is mainly related particularly to the fact that the imprint is characterized—in addition to a less predictable openness, resulting from the properties of matter/substance, movements, and gestures—by a certain predetermination, a proceduralism, almost a seed of technical automatism, where the producer’s position could already be considered as that of an assistant or mediator of the technical dispositif.[9]

The case of two artificial or indeed artistic form-creative paradigms of alienation from what is directly perceived and experienced and the simultaneous establishment of resemblance clearly presuppose certain violence. The violence of reducing the perceptible to the visible, the visible to the imaginable, but also the violence of delimitation, of establishing a boundary between the body and other bodies, and between bodies and the environment. In the case of Alberti’s paradigm, this delimitation takes place analogously to the elimination of matter/materiality from form, conceived as the way in which materiality manifests itself or is structured.[10] It is precisely in this aspect that it can be linked to the notion of mimesis, which is originally an ontological concept, referring to the way of being and coming into being of things. In the narrow sense, it means a reproduction, a copy, a duplication of what is already given, already made, or already provided in nature, whereas in a more general sense, mimesis does not reproduce anything given, but complements (replaces) a certain deficiency of nature (a segment of a natural landscape, a natural artifact or, indeed, human nature itself). Such an understanding highlights the productive aspect of nature and the artificial: mimesis of art is not a reproduction of the visible/perceptible, but rather an autonomous, independent (i.e. not subject to the natural order and laws) production by means of a technique homologous to nature’s creativity. It is an imitation of nature’s creative force that “makes visible”, yet the imitation of the structure of the visible is not necessarily reduced to optical appearance, as it can also be an imitation of natural growth and genesis of forms. In the production of resemblance through contact, however, we are clearly dealing with violence against matter/substance and violence of giving shape or informing (literally: putting into form), which is the starting point of the notion of arbitrarily reshaped matter/substance as passive and yielding (hylomorphism). In both cases, form-creating violence can to some extent be brought close to the self-formation of biological organisms, which presupposes cell destruction (apoptosis): “[I]n order for fingers to form, a separation between the fingers must also form. It is apoptosis that produces the interstitial void that enables fingers to detach themselves from one another.”[11]

Adaptation of Aerial and Plastic Bodies

The distinction between the two form-creative paradigms allows us to distinguish schematically between types of adaptation. Within Alberti’s form-creative paradigm, which is confined to delimiting bodies from their environment or, rather, to reducing bodies to the visible outline, the theme of adaptation, for instance, opens up in parallel with the problem with which it collides when it has to welcome into its environment bodies or things whose outline cannot be determined with lines, or bodies that do not occupy any place or that cannot be measured. By analyzing Renaissance painting, which in principle established the norm of the painting-window and the linear-perspectival organization of the environment of a painting, Hubert Damisch examined this problem through the example of depicting clouds, formless bodies whose contours are difficult to fix and whose shapes are difficult to analyze with the terminology of surfaces. In addition to clouds, which belong to the category of bodies without a surface or a precisely definable shape and therefore have the status of a foreign body, this framework may also include phantasms, dreams, and celestial spaces, where there is no gravitational force at work that would position bodies in certain places, and in which forms disintegrate in relation to the matter of light. Based on the analysis of Correggio’s work, Damisch shows that a cloud can have many of the denotative functions listed: it can be “just” a cloud and the starting point of the so-called aerial style, but it can also incorporate the sign of the presence of God into the composition, denote the bearer of an unearthly body, the difference between the register of the earthly and the celestial, the process of metamorphosis, ecstasy, or even the “intellect, liberated from terrestrial desires, rising into the heaven of contemplation”.[12]

In pictorial practices, the cloud as a partially formless body does not only have the status of a motif or a means of depicting more distant bodies (the aerial perspective, for example, refers to the effect of the atmosphere on the appearance of a distant body), but it can also be a means of designating ontological differences between different bodies in the same environment of a painting, and to some extent also of designating different ontologies of the environments themselves, in order to, for instance, distinguish between a world that follows natural laws and a dream or imaginary worlds that are constantly changing, moving, deforming, becoming. Dream spaces—to some extent similar as in Correggio via Damisch’s reading—suggest a contrast between the construction of space tailored to the human body (to which the state of wakefulness is committed) and the non-anthropomorphic construction of space, which can grow and expand uncontrollably, and therefore also implies, or imposes, specific motion and orientation. In this sense, dream space shies away from geometrization or, rather, from the tendency to define spatial relationships, construct tools for orientation, and measure spatial relationships. Even if it is not possible to envision a human being outside of space and if on the experiential level the first experience of the spatial is a home/house (which can also refer to the body as a domestic dwelling, hence, for example, the analogy between a house and skin), geometry—beyond implying architecture, where it is the body that dictates the sizes, positions, transitions, and organization—also implies a certain aspect of territoriality, i.e. spatiality that is under jurisdiction. The difference between the two types of space or environment can to some extent also be illustrated with regard to the spatial-aesthetic relationship the body has to architecture: on the one hand, the physical entry into it, where so-called unfocused vision is at work, on the other, the visual capture, where architecture obeys the control of the eye and, through a clearly identifiable focal point, stabilizes, “grounds” the perceiving body.

Various more or less formless and foreign bodies imply a relationship to the environment (or a relationship between the figure and the background as the foundation of the human aesthetic field) that does not fully follow the logic of the outline or the determination of a precise location in the environment of a painting, which therefore both reproduces and violates the rules of the linear-perspectival organization and points to the limitations and structural exclusions of this code. Alberti’s paradigm of painting therefore opens up the possibility of adapting by way of layering, stacking, and/or disappearance of layers, which must be separated from the planned construction of the depth of the environment of a painting, since the formless and foreign body penetrates into the structure of this environment, and the embodiment of this type of body therefore distorts its ontological and formal foundation. The placement of such bodiless and foreign bodies into the environment could therefore also be considered through the analogy of liquid or gaseous substances that imply dissolution and evaporation, as well as through the phenomenon of veils and folds. Like a cloud, a fold in this case is again not necessarily only a motif, a mode of existence of the fabric’s material, a means of dramatizing a scene or simultaneously presenting a situation that has the status of the real and of a vision or a dream scene. The fold is also not necessarily only a means of denoting the type of figure through the type of a fold and fabric and of distinguishing the figure from the background, but can also allow the coexistence (at least in the environment of a painting) of different formative codes that are grounded in different positions of looking: the position of looking at spectacular reality (the order of rhetoric, also: the folding of cells, the motion of bodies), and the scientific perspective (the order of the signifier, also: the chart or the coordinate system).[13] In the mimetic pictorial history within Western culture, the fold can therefore function as a kind of phantom limb of an image within an image, or a foreign body that points to the limits of representation or to the very nature of representation itself.

At the level of the production of forms through the perspective of resemblance by contact, adaptation can be considered through the analogy of different plastic materials, which to a greater or lesser extent maintain a balance between receiving and giving shape; in short, they are to a certain extent adaptable and capable of engaging in a dialogue with their environment. The relationship between the body and the surface (of the body) can in this case be thought as a space of coming together, where adaptation does not arise from the immanent properties of matter/any body, but is the result of this coming together. From a nanotechnological perspective, such an encounter is in fact continuous, it is not the result of a specific action but rather of a scale, and as there are no clear delimitations between various bodies made of various materials, what appears to the eye as a boundary (which is also why we can perceive distinguishable bodies or relationships between bodies and the environment) is in fact “a material region, a marginal area with its own mass and thickness, characterized by properties that make it radically different from the bodies whose encounter produces it”.[14] In short, the location that corresponds to Alberti’s paradigm of “it (the body) is there” or “here is the boundary” is already the result of a (perceptual) mapping of space, of a transformation of space into a territory, or of a scientific mapping of natural processes: bodies appear as a unity, or stick together mainly because of standardized scales.[15]

The form-creating paradigm of resemblance through contact is, needless to say, not based on mapping (and the violation of mapped spatial relationships), but is rather about deformation, modification, i.e. about the result of the antithesis of elasticity as a potentially full capacity of wielding received energy, which would allow to restore the original form. In this sense, the result of coming together is a kind of scar, just as in psychoanalysis, for example, mental life is the result of indestructible imprints that shape the subject’s mental destiny. But what form does the scar take? If we take the example of less flexible bodies: bones or bone mass are cellular or tubular in structure and can break in places or only fracture or crush as a result of overloading, but in the third phase of healing, the so-called remodeling phase, they partly retain their original shape (and supposedly even become slightly stronger in the fractured or crushed parts), and the scar is nodular in shape. Although bones do possess a certain degree of flexibility, nodularity is not the result of the anticipation of injury, but rather of the creative destruction that results from the plasticity of bone mass. We could say that, in the sense of form, nodularity is a type of a fold that is not the result of motion or the material’s properties, but precisely of creative destruction, it is a by-product of a temporary entry into a transformative (technological) ensemble.

After the Separation of Painting and Sculpture: The Example of Land Art

Both form-creative paradigms that can roughly be understood in analogy to the specific characteristics of the two key fine arts media—painting and sculpture—are of course situated historically, as is the overcoming of traditional divisions between art media that is usually dated to the mid-20th century and onwards. Overcoming media divisions follows the introduction of the paradigm of art as an information-sign formulation rather than as the establishment of relationships between bodies and the environment. In the context of the modernist painting as a table/grid, as a space into which signs (lines, points, numbers, etc.) are inscribed, the problem of different ontologies of bodies and environments, which is analogous to the painting-window, is therefore reoriented towards different types of signs and signifying systems. From the second half of the 20th century onwards, the exterior of the delimited environment of a painting or a sculptural body, separated from its environment by a pedestal, gradually begins to act as an integral formal part of artworks, which, from the perspective of semiotic analysis of art history, can be explained through the introduction of non-evocative abstraction or, rather, what Braco Rotar refers to as information-abstract visual formulations.[16] The meaning of such visual formulations is derived mainly from the perception of obvious, quantitative, or otherwise quantifiably ordered relationships between individual visual units: elementary units of visual formulation are in this case “reduced” to geometric shapes, which are composed of basic visual elements and variables and possess certain qualities that can be combined according to purely aesthetic rules, where combining as such adheres, in principle, to certain logical and, in the case of computer-generated art, scientistic principles. In such visual formulations, the traditional European division of the fine arts into painting, sculpture, and architecture should gradually be transcended because these are generated based on primary structures, such as color, form, material, and voluminosity, where the latter in a certain sense enables their interactions. In short, they begin to operate more evidently and above all literally as a body in a given environment and presuppose, for instance, an antecedent transformation of the sculptural figure into an object, the elimination of the pedestal that separates the object from the environment in which it is situated, the affirmation of the surface and the perceptual physicality of the material. Such formulations are therefore often based on a specific correlation between the formulation and the environment, where the formulation becomes involved in the visual structure of the space it is in (i.e. not only the space of the painting canvas but also the space in which the canvas is situated), yet this same space also determines the success of the formulation.[17] In so-called primarily structural abstract formulations of this type, the environment is therefore an equal element from which the formulation is derived, not something to which the formulation must yield.

The environment as an integral formal part of the artwork was introduced to the field of contemporary art more directly especially in minimalism, i.e. in the period when various traditional ways of producing similarities, illusionism, and allusions in the field of fine arts practices had already been largely eliminated, and when autonomous languages of each artistic medium had already been fully formed, as had been the classical fine-arts-theoretical approaches to artworks, centered on visual language. The possibility that the environment can become an integral formal part of the artwork is, as mentioned above, nevertheless based on the condition of a general expansion of visual formulations, which are mainly based on the composition of pure signs, whose meaning is entirely the product of convention. Examples of pure signs are, for instance, basic visual elements, which in themselves have a similar semantic function to letters or numbers; in this context, we can draw attention to the concrete example of the basic visual elements of color, which (although it evokes a certain aesthetic response) typically conveys meaning precisely through comparison with other elements and social conventions (for instance, a particular color may carry conceptual symbolism). Visual formulations, which are mainly based on composing non-allusive visual units, are generally expanded upon so that they must first be perceived as discernible elements; only then can the selection and distribution of the transparency code organize them into a specific visual formulation. In concrete terms: the general expansion of abstract art from the early 20th century onwards presupposes that we grasp, perceive, and become fully aware of perceiving the fact that, say, the environment of a painting is a surface on which fundamental visual elements are arranged in a certain way. It is no coincidence that the modernist movement against non-allusive visual formulations from the late 19th century onwards runs parallel to the development of the psychology of visual perception, through which the idea that a visual message consists of simple elements—the atoms of visual communication—became generally accepted. In short, the modernist movement towards non-allusive visual formulations is based, among others, on the historical idea of how the human perceptual apparatus “composes” (disassembles, selects, and assembles) in the process of perception. We could say that the connection between the artwork and the environment can only be eliminated as an important aspect for the analysis of concrete artworks when the representative, allusive, evocative, etc. connection between the artwork and the environment is completely severed. At the same time, we could say that it is only when the environment is eliminated from the ways of signifying the artwork that it can reappear in a specific way as a meaningful element of a visual formulation.

If land art, closely related to minimalism, is analyzed from the perspective of the two basic form-creating paradigms set out above, it seems that artworks—at least the very first works from the late 1960s—follow the hybridity inherent to graphic arts. As we have already mentioned, graphic arts are optical, based on physically making imprints into a space, have a negative and/or positive relief, and are based on the contact of two spaces-surfaces. Early land art thus unites, in principle, the treatment of environment or natural landscape as a surface and as a background with the artwork functioning as a kind of synthesis of their interaction. At the same time, land art is based on the manipulation of the environment as a material, where artists, by adding, removing, or relocating local natural materials, create forms/sculptures in continuity with a minimalist exploratory focus on materiality, elemental geometry, and setup, and where the focus is also on the relationship between the existing features of the environment and the evidence of human intervention. In short, what we have here is, in principle, a two-way inscription, imprinting, and contact: the environment encroaches upon the body-artifact, and the body-artifact dissolves into the environment.

A good example of this is Robert Smithson’s canonical land art work Spiral Jetty (1970), which is particularly interesting because inscription, imprinting, and two-way encroachment of the body and the environment are not only a product of the artist’s action and natural processes (weather, erosion, tidal waters, etc.), but are also connected to the form as such. Although Smithson, like other land artists, was influenced by the simultaneous development of aerial photography and astronomical imagery, the early development of scientific visualizations, and depictions of the Earth as a system, as a result of which the natural landscape “begins to look more like a three-dimensional map than a rustic garden”,[18] the 460 m long and 4,6 m wide spiral protruding from the shore of the Great Salt Lake does not function, strictly speaking, as a symbol for the viewer (who would, for example, draw on many different cults and cultures where the spiral is a symbol of spiritual evolution, unity of man and the universe, etc.). Most of us have probably seen the spiral, which is made of mud, precipitated salt crystals, and basalt rocks, and is not actually imprinted but “superimposed” on the environment, on reproductions from a bird’s-eye view; however, when at the site, human spectators always see the spiral only partially. If they can see it at all, as the work was almost completely submerged for a certain period, then visible again due to a prolonged drought. On the one hand, at the site, the spectator does not see Smithson’s spiral as a line but as a collection of punctuated units which, from the right distance, can appear as a partial fold; on the other, if one gets close enough and enters, the spiral is in a sense also a linear labyrinth, a counterpoint to the linear path leading to one’s own interior. In short, the spiral shape is, in principle, not entirely recognizable to the human eye. Paradoxically, from a bird’s-eye view, the spiral almost appears to be the result of a micro-view, as part of a unicellular organism. The work therefore implicitly evokes the idea that micro- and macrocosm are inter connected, which is immanent to the pre-classical episteme,[19] to many indigenous cosmologies, and to modern occult movements; to some extent, this can be corroborated by Smithson’s own words from a documentary film on how the work was constructed, suggesting that the history of the Earth as a story or a set of graphic signs is inscribed in the “book of nature”.

Before it became a symbol, the spiral, as a variation of the circle, was genealogically linked to centrifugal motion, which is at the core of both the first proto-design product by which humans succeeded in containing matter beyond the possibilities of their own body (i.e. the vessel) and the first proto-technical devices (caves, hearths). Clearly, this form can also be found in nature, either as a more or less random graphism, in the sense of phyllotaxis—patterns of natural growth, such as a spiral arrangement of leaves so that they do not cast a shadow on one another—or as a sign of repeated centrifugal motion, motion towards the center, cyclical motion, or motion that returns to itself (the alternation of seasons, of day and night, of wakefulness and sleep, growth, aging, interior and exterior, etc.). From the viewpoint of the genealogy of form-creative approaches, the spiral is, in principle, a pre-linear form, i.e. a form that precedes the organization or mapping of the environment (of a painting) as a grid. According to the dictionary definition, a spiral is a curve in a plane that winds around a fixed center point at a continuously increasing or decreasing distance from that point, or, alternatively, a three-dimensional curve that rotates around an axis at a fixed or constantly changing distance while moving parallel to the axis; however, from the viewpoint of three-dimensional formative modes, the spiral is also a fold of some kind and can, from the viewpoint of two-dimensional form-creating modes, be considered close to Klee’s active “on a walk, moving freely, without goal”[20] line, which can be characterized by the elastic points of a crease and is therefore not necessarily a tool for outlining and delimiting or, rather, separating bodies from the environment.

If we ignore the speculation that Smithson chose the form based on local myths about the origin of the lake, which itself is a foreign body within an environment, we can surmise that the shape was designed to communicate with the environment with which it comes into contact, which—conditionally speaking—it encroaches upon, or which encroaches upon it to the point of dissolvement, which is why the work is often in need of restoration.[21] Smithson’s spiral doesn’t draw a bare line or enclose a piece of territory/water and make a shape-body (and thereby also separates the environment and the body/figure), nor is it, strictly speaking, the construction of a body foreign to the natural environment, a bare addition. In the North American tradition of land art, it is certainly possible to point to a multitude of artworks that, in relation to the natural environment in which they are placed, act as foreign bodies at the level of the materials used. One of the more famous of these works is certainly Smithson’s Asphalt Rundown series, created between 1969 and 1970, in which a truckload of hot asphalt was poured down the steep embankment of a quarry in the south of Rome, which was interpreted by some as an ecological gesture, since the work was meant to allude to the image of an oil spill, and by others as an imitation of nature’s inherent ability to create sculptures, such as the eruption of a volcano, out of liquid-plastic substances. In this same tradition, it is also possible to highlight several works that function as a foreign body on the level of introducing geometric forms into an “organomorphic” natural environment, for example Michael Heizer’s monumental work City (1970–2022), James Turrell’s Roden Crater (1977–) or Walter De Maria’s well-known The Lightning Field (1977), all located in a desert environment that is “alien to humans”.

Spiral Jetty, however, is neither placed on the ground, nor does it protrude from the ground into the sky. It is not a foreign body simply because it is of a certain shape, because it introduces synthetic materials into the natural environment, because it is a sign of human presence, or even because it is a sign of human presence that is perceived as foreign for a certain reason (the case of monoliths, ancient sacred stones, etc.). Nor because it disappears and reappears like a ghost. If no other positive claim can be made, Smithson’s spiral is certainly foreign in terms of the form-creative paradigms outlined above, since it summarizes practically all of them to an extent, but none of them fully: it is a line, but not an outline; it is an active line, but is not purely accidental; although it is an outline, it is not a fully outlined figure-body in the environment; although it is not a sculpture, but more an inscription in the environment, it is not the bare result of an inscription into the surface/space of the environment; it is not, strictly speaking, a mere sign, nor is it a formless shape, etc. Like Correggio’s clouds, Spiral Jetty suggests that foreignness is based on, or derives from, multi-sensory plasticity and adaptation, on hybridity, active or active indeterminacy, and evasion (neither-way or neither-nor).

  • 1

    From the viewpoint of this basic distinction, graphic arts are, for example, a hybrid, because they are simultaneously optical, spatial, physically inscribed into a space, in (negatively and positively) relief, and based on the contact of two spaces-surfaces.

  • 2

    ALBERTI, Leon Battista, On Painting, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 49–73.

  • 3

    DAMISCH, Hubert, Theory of Cloud: Toward a History of Painting, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002, pp. 178–190.

  • 4

    FLUSSER, Vilem, “Digital Apparition”, in: DRUCKREY, Timothy (ed.), Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation, Aperture, 1996, pp. 242–245

  • 5

    FLUSSER, Vilem, “Digital Apparition”, in: DRUCKREY, Timothy (ed.), Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation, Aperture, 1996, pp. 242–245.

  • 6

    DIDI-HUBERMAN, Georges, Podobnost preko stika: arheologija, anahronizem in modernost odtisa, Ljubljana: Studia Humanitatis, 2013, p. 25.

  • 7

    ARISTOTLE, Fizika: knjige 1, 2, 3, 4, Ljubljana: Slovenska matica, 2004, pp. 119–121.

  • 8

    NAIL, Thomas, Theory of the Image, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 101–129.

  • 9

    “The point of view of the working man is still too external to the process of taking form, which is the only thing that is technical in itself. It would be necessary to be able to enter the mold with the clay, to be both mold and clay at once, to live and feel their common operation in order to be able to think the process of taking form in itself. For the worker elaborates two technical half-chains that prepare the technical operation: he prepares the clay, makes it malleable, without lumps, without air bubbles, and correlatively prepares the mold; he materializes the form by making it into a wooden mold, and makes matter pliable, capable of receiving information; then, he puts the clay into the mold and presses it; but it is the system constituted by the mold and the pressed clay that is the condition of the process of taking form; it is the clay that takes form according to the mold, not the worker who gives it its form. The working man prepares the mediation, but he doesn’t fulfill [accomplit] it; it is the mediation that fulfills itself on its own once the conditions have been created; even though man is very close to this operation, he does not know it; his body pushes the mediation to fulfill itself, enables it to fulfill itself, but the representation of the technical operation does not appear in work. It is the essential part that is missing, the active center of the technical operation that remains veiled.” (SIMONDON, Gilbert, On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, Univocal Publishing, 2017, pp. 248–249)

  • 10

    This operation is not, of course, confined exclusively to the field of representation or art in relation to nature, since it is a general characteristic, which is, for instance, also the foundation of the modern development of science and specifically natural history, which is supposed to follow the newly established separation between words and things that is also reflected in methodological innovations. Although empirical observation has been at the forefront of science since the second half of the 17th century, it is no longer based on classic similarity, but on the analysis of observable features. Such an analysis does not capture natural things as organisms, i.e. also in their function (which is a characteristic of modernity in general), but rather turns first and foremost into nomination of the visible (FOUCAULT, Michel, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, London and New York: Routledge, 2002, p. 144), which foregrounds the sense of sight, by which we “perceive extent and establish proof” (ibid., p. 144). Here, the organic and inorganic are methodically captured in their universal comparability, rescued from sensuous qualities that highlight their particularity or individuality. When the object of science are not the natural laws of dynamics or the logic of changes, but bodies or organisms, what comes to the foreground are refined objects in the form of lines, surfaces, shapes, and reliefs, i.e. the formal structure of objects. (Ibid., p. 145) Only in this way can the already inscribed objects become the subject of a linguistic description that will function as a secondary language, which can also be understood as analogous to the relationship between the painting and the image, where the painting is a specifically organized surface, while the image presupposes the investment of a secondary language that places it on the terrain of rhetoric and enables the production of meaning.

  • 11

    MALABOU, Catherine, Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012, pp. 4–5.

  • 12

    DAMISCH, Hubert, Theory of Cloud, p. 22.

  • 13

    ROTAR, Braco, “Preganjeno robovje”, in: Govoreče figure: eseji o realizmu, Ljubljana: DDU Univerzum, 1981, pp. 67–72.

  • 14

    TRIPALDI, Laura, Parallel Minds: Discovering the Intelligence of Materials, Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2022, p. 9.

  • 15

    PARIKKA, Jussi, There Is Plenty of Room in the Simulation, Ljubljana: Aksioma, 2023, p. 7.

  • 16

    See: ROTAR, Braco, Likovna govorica, Ljubljana, Maribor: Državna založba Slovenije, Obzorja, 1972, pp. 85–231.

  • 17

    Ibid., p. 293.

  • 18

    SMITHSON, Robert, “Aerial Art”, in: FLAM, Jack (ed.), The Writings of Robert Smithson, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1996, p. 116.

  • 19

    FOUCAULT, Order of Things, pp. 35–50.

  • 20

    KLEE, Paul, Pedagogical Sketchbook, New York, Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1960, p. 16.

  • 21

    Had Smithson not passed away in 1973, he could very well have rejected the restoration—his work was ultimately based on the exploration of and fascination with entropy, where works are meant to mimic earthly attributes in the sense that they are to remain in a state of suspended disruption or that their destruction cannot be prevented.

Kaja Kraner

Kaja Kraner is an art theoretician and a lecturer at the Chair of Theoretical Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana. Her book Chronopolitics of Art: Changes in Aesthetic Education from Modern to Contemporary Art was published in 2021.