In this annotated bibliography David Kirshner discusses his work 'PPP' and the texts and theoretical models which have inspired its conception and development. Kirshner considers how our understanding of the tool and the media, repetition, the comic and devices may inform artistic practice, particularly new media practices.
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Halogen light installation
(Click on the image to view the PPP video clip)
1 penser (a) to think; - to think about, think of a friend, think about, think a problem over; to think of, remember something needed; 2 to think something (de, about, of); to think out a problem; - (que) to think, suppose, imagine, expect (that); - faire to be thinking of doing; to hope to do, expect to do. 3 penser (a) (literary) thought. 1 panser (a) to bandage, put a dressing on an arm, leg, a person; to put a plaster on a cut (b) to groom. 1 poncer (a) to sand (down), rub down, smooth.
PPP exists as three separate halogen lightworks. Each is controlled by a separate timing mechanism. The chassis are fabricated in steel.
The inspiration, if you like, initially came from a reading various texts by Derrida. Many concepts and ideas seem to come together in PPP, although this is a 'work' - not a piece of writing. Derrida's writing is rich and generous, it incites, pleads with one to delve into other writers, Heidegger and Deleuze among them.
This work developed out of several seemingly unconnected pieces of writing: Heidegger's essay The Origin of the Work of Art (1978), the nature of the 'event' in Deleuze's Difference and Repetition (DATE), and various texts by Derrida which pointed me in the direction of 16th century devices.
Martin Heidegger, 'The Origin of the Work of Art' (first published in 1950) in Basic Writings, (1993).
... works are 'things'. There is a 'thingly' element in works of art [colour in painting, stone in sculpture] but the work is more than the 'thingly'. It is its artistic 'nature'. The artwork is a thing that is made, but it says something other than the 'thing' itself. It is an allegory, a symbol. It is the 'thingly' feature of the work that the artist 'makes' by his labours. There are 'things' that show themselves [objects etc] and there is the 'thing in itself' and also things which do not appear eg despair. 'Thing' designates everything that is not nothing. The work of art is a 'thing'.
Imagine dividing the world into three categories - materials, tools, and art. Form determines the distribution of the matter in space, resulting in a particular shape. But with a tool, the shape is not made by a prior distribution of matter. On the contrary, form controls the arrangement of the matter. It also selects the matter, and its arrangement.
The relationship between form and matter is dictated by the usage, the tool-like qualities of the object. This 'usefulness' is not something that can be added at the end. The 'usefulness' is paramount. A made object is self-contained, but its shape has not taken place by itself, like the granite. Tools, like the artwork, are constructed. But art has a 'self-sufficient presencing' that has a similarity with the granite. Tools therefore are half artwork, they have 'thingliness', but they lack the self-sufficiency of the artwork. Tools have a position between 'thing' and 'work'. In fabricating equipment eg an axe, the stone is used, and used up. It disappears into usefulness.
The artwork is abrupt, isolated, tense. But it demands explanation. The work needs an audience. They preserve the 'being' of the artwork. The work draws its preservers out of their own world into that of the artwork. These preservers, preserve and at the same time modify. The work is communal, it is not a private language. Things, materials are inconspicuous in equipment and are only revealed in art. All art is inventive and projective.
David Wood and Robert Bernasconi (eds), Derrida and Differance, (1998).
Art does not imitate, it repeats - it repeats all the repetitions. Imitation is copy. But even in the most banal copy a difference can be found, a nuance (see 'The original Discussion of Diffrance' and 'The Original Difference' in Woods & Bernasconi, 1998). While repetition changes nothing in the object repeated, it does change something in the mind which contemplates it.
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, (1994).
This is Deleuze's most significant book in a traditional academic style. Its deals with identity and time. I have used Deleuze's text to focus on some ways of thinking about repetition.
For Deleuze, the central stake in the consideration of repetition is time. As with difference, repetition has been subjected to the law of the identical, but also to a prior model of time: to repeat a sentence means, traditionally, to say the same thing twice, at different moments. These different moments must be themselves equal and unbiased; as if time were a flat, featureless expanse. This was a starting point for the epicyclical nature of PPP.
Deleuze talks about three types of repetition. The intracyclic repetition - the manner in which the two events repeat one another or, rather repeat the same act or event to come. The cyclic repetition, which supposes that at the end of the repetition, everything recommences with the first stage. Analogies are drawn between the two phases. And lastly the repetition that plays the role of the signified in relation to the other two. The first two states only repeat. Something that appears for itself in the third stage, where this 'thing' repeats itself. Therefore, the present is the repeater, the past is repetition itself and the future is that which is repeated, having subordinated the other two, striping them of their autonomy.
Sigmund Feud, Jokes and their relation to the unconscious, (1991).
Repetition belongs to humour and irony; it is by nature transgression or exception. This in turn relates to the comic. (see Chapter 6 - 'The Relation of Jokes to Dreams and the Unconscious', pp 178-9 and Chapter 7 - 'Jokes and the Comic', specifically the Mark Twain joke, pp 296 in Freud, 1991).
According to Marx, repetition is comic when it falls short, that is, when instead of leading to metamorphosis and the production of something new, it forms a kind of involution, the opposite of authentic creation. In PPP I have tried, in the random and manic sequencing to try to give something of the comic. Comic repetition works by some defect in the 'past properly'. The comic luxuriates in the ironic.
Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, (1978).
Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, (1974).
Repetition also releases exchange, theft, and gift, and consequently substitution and metaphor. To repeat - to behave in a certain manner, in relation to something unique which has no substitute. But there is also the interior repetition, the echo, the tremolo within itself. Repetition internalises itself, the subject becomes the object. Hence on to copy and cliche, and then trace. Trace introduces the Derridean notion of sous rature (if a word is inaccurate, or rather inadequate, but necessary, a word can be left in and at the same time crossed out. This must be graphic - it cannot be oral. See Derrida, 1978, p 288 and Derrida, 1974, translators preface xiii and p 65). The sous rature cannot be seen together but cannot be conceived at the same time. When we read signs, meaning is not at first clear. Signs refer to what is absent. For Derrida the structure of the sign is defined by the 'trace'. The sign must always be seen as sous rature - always being inhabited by the trace of another sign. Language therefore is not a stable affair. Nothing is ever fully present in signs. Language does not fully present a person or argument. Signs are always dispersed and divided, meanings are always dispersed and divided and ideas are always dispersed and divided.
In other words, Deconstruction is nothing but writing (and reading), rewriting (and rereading) 'in a certain way'. [Derrida, 1978 p. 288]. Derrida's erasing, his palimpsest, encourages the reinscriptions, the displacements, the rereadings, the rewritings, the smearing, the pretended erasures. The artist pretends.
Virginia Foster, Baltasar Gracian, (1966).
Monroe Hafter, Gracian and Perfection: Spanish Moralists of the Seventeenth Century, (1975).
The origins of devices probably date from Renaissance times and were simple messages were placed on shields and armour to frighten the enemy and serve as rallying cries and morale boosters. The Device is nothing else than a symbolic representation of a purpose. A wish, a line of conduct (impresa is what one intends to imprendre, ie to undertake the express intention of an undertaking, which in itself solicits a challenge) by means of a motto and a picture which reciprocally interpret each other. The Device is, in conclusion, nothing more than an invention of our mind. Witty certainly, but slight, and so condensed that usually it consists of the drawing together of one or two objects and as many words. An element of surprise and was considered essential in the formation of Devices. Objects had to be rare, exotic, grotesque; locations unusual and recently discovered, such as, for example, Africa and Ethiopia. Rarity was de rigueur. Phonetic decoration (Mantocore, Catoblepas) was an important feature too.
The first fifty discourses discuss the nature of Agudeza incompleja (simple wit), (see Baltasar Gracian's 'The Mind Wit', Foster, 1966 and Hafter, 1975), the basis of the whole treatise. Here are some examples of the ones particularly relevant to PPP:
|Agudeza de artificio || ||wit via artifice || ||an abstract form of wit |
|Agudeza || ||verbal wit || ||wit deriving from puns and plays on words |
|Agudeza de accion || ||wit via action || ||wit through clever and contrived situations |
|Agudeza incompleja || ||simple wit || ||wit attained by two or three witty devices within a simple conceit like an epigram or sonnet |
Paolo Giovio, Diagolo delle Imprese Naples, (1574).
In Giovio's Diagolo delle Imprese Naples (see p 77) five requirements for a successful device were:
1. that the device should have just proportion between the body (that is, the picture) and the soul (the motto).
2. that it should not be so obscure as to need an interpreter, nor so transparent that every mean mechanic might understand it.
3. that above all it should make a fine show, that is, represent things pleasing to the eye, such as stars, fire water, trees, instruments, fantastic animals and birds.
4. that the human figure should not appear therein.
5. that the motto which is its soul should be in a different language from that of the author of the device, so that the sentiments should be somewhat more concealed, and that the motto should be brief but not so much so as to be obscure and misleading.
Jean Francois Lyotard, 'The Dream-Work Does Not Think' in the Oxford Literary Review (1983).
Lyotard discusses the notion of the 'inscription'. He suggests that the inscription will remain a graphic until it is 'heard'. But the image also casts a spell on the text, what Lyotard calls a 'deception', but what could also be called a 'hesitation', an unwillingness for each function to either submit to the other or to consolidate its own independent status and place.
dream-thoughts - solution of enigma
manifest content - apparently meaningless description
image - considerations of figurability
Geoffrey Bennington, Lyotard: Writing The Event, (1988).
So placing the text inside the work frustrates its own understanding. The word is seen as an image just prior to being read, producing a vibration, a hesitation and eventually a return to Deleuze's' world of and cycles reflections and differance (additional commentary can be found inBennington, 1988).
PPP's conception and realisation was a distillation of this 'information'. As I said at the beginning of this article, the 'work' must stand on its own apart from any 'theoretical justification', but I hope that readers of this will find the process I describe of interest.
This list introduces some additional material for those wishing to read around Deconstruction and devices.
Alciatus, A., (1985) Volume II: Emblems in Translation. Toronto Press, Toronto, CA.
Barthes, R. (1977), Image Music Text. Fontana Press, London.
Barthes, R. (1987), Sollers writer. University of Minnesota Press, MIN, USA.
Belsey, C. (1980), Critical Practice. Methuen, NY, USA.
Bennington, G. (1999), Jacques Derrida. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Bennington, G. (1988), Lyotard: Writing the Event. Manchester University Press, Manchester.
Bremner, G. (1983), Order and Chance: The Pattern of Diderot's Thoughts. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Brunette, P. & Wills, D. (eds), (1994), Deconstruction and the Visual Arts: Art, Media, Architecture, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Benjamin, A. (1989), A Journal of Philosophy and the Visual Arts. Academy Editions.
Daly, P. M. (1979), Emblem Theory: Recent German Contributions to the Characterisation of the Emblem Genre. KTO Press.
Daly, P. M. (1980), The European Emblem. Wilfred Laurier University Press, London.
Deleuze, G. (trans. Paul Patton), (1994), Difference and Repetition. Athlone Press, London.
Derrida, J. (trans. J. P. Levy), (1987), The Archaeology of the Frivolous. University of Nebraska Press, Nebraska, USA.
Derrida, J. (trans. B. Johnson), (1997), Dissemination. Athlon, London.
Derrida, J. (1988), Limited Inc. Northwestern University Press, USA.
Derrida, J. (trans. A. Bass), (1982), Margins of Philosophy. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Derrida, J. (trans. P. Brault & M. Naas), (1994), Memoirs of the Blind: The Self Portrait and other Ruins. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Derrida, J. (trans. G. Bennington & I. Mcleod), (1987), The Truth in Painting. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Derrida, J. (trans. G. C. Spivak), (1974), Of Grammatology. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.
Derrida, J. (1978), Writing and Difference. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA.
Foster, V. R. (1966), Baltasar Gracian. Twayne Publishers, Boston, USA.
Freud, S. (1994), Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious. Penguin, London.
Giovio, P. (1574), Diagolo delle Imprese. Naples.
Hafter, M. (1975), Gracian and Perfection: Spanish Moralists of the Seventeenth Century. Harvard University Press, USA.
Heidegger, M. (ed. D. F. Krell), (1978), Basics Writings. Routlege, London.
Lyotard, J. F. (eds. R. Mckeon, trans. S. Hanson), (1984), Driftworks, Columbia University Press, NY, USA.
Lyotard, J. F. (trans. G. Bennington & R. Bowlby), (1992), The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, USA.
Lyotard, J. F. (trans. G. Bennington & B. Massumi), (1984), The Post-modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. University of Minnesota Press, MIN, USA.
Lyotard, J. F. (1983), Oxford Literary Review, Vol. 6, No. 1.
Peacham, H. (1971), The Garden of Eloquence. London, 1557.
Peacham, H., (1966) Minerva Britannia: Or a Garden of Heroical Devices, Furnished and Adorned with Emblems and Impresa's of Sundry Natures. London, 1612.
Praz, M., (ed), (1964) Studies in 17th Century Imagery. Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Rome.
Russell, D. S. (1985), The Emblem and Device in France. French Form, Lexington, Kentucky, USA.
Wood, D. & Bernasconi, R. (eds), (1998), Derrida and Differance. Northwestern University Press, USA.
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