Friday, July 07, 2006

What I'm Doing

Hey _______--
OK, so I'm now mentally totally inside this project and want to communicate some thoughts before they evaporate. I've sent you a draft/version/adumbration of what the text might be, feel free to do with it as seems appropriate--decrypt it, read it, cut it up, bury it in the yard until it sprouts, make n-dimensional superstrings from it, paper airplanes, whatevs.
I've been reading this really useful book by Johanna Drucker: The Century of Artists' Books. I'll send it to you once I'm done with it, and can take some notes. Probably this weekend.
It makes me begin to think about decisions we'll want to make about the form (or forms, no need that this be only one thing) of what we're doing. Drucker's definition of the artist book, as a product that challenges or re-imagines its own book-ness, that makes "meaning" by its structurality rather than its content, is really useful here. And so I ask: do we want to do 1) a relatively cheap edition of x copies on relatively inexpensive paper, printed with a laser printer, maybe two colors, or colored pages, which uses a standard format of--book cover, contents, rectangular serial pages. 2) a smaller number of reproducible objects--out of better paper, cloth, metal, trash, etc. 3) a single, one-off totally weird object that probably no-one will ever see or hear about but which will be our delightful secret. 4) All and none of the above.
I'm imagining now (without a clear image of what this would look like) a book-object whose structure imitates that of DNA, of the chromosome, of codes in general. I'm interested in the idea of folding (as this is the way that the relatively limited information of the DNA sequence gets turned on and off as it gets twisted by various chemical bonds and charges) of pleating and unfolding. I'm interested in the idea of topological forms (forms defined purely by their shapes, the kinds of knots they make, and not their relative or absolute dimensions--the meaning of say, in the famous topological problem, the seven bridges of the city of Konigsberg which in their holes and points of connection define a limited set of possible movements--there is no way, if I remember correctly, to cross each of the seven bridges only once. Deleuze has a book (The Fold) which gets into this productively, as it's his idea (following Spinoza/Leibniz against Hegel) to imagine the universe and consciousness as a single substance that folds into itself, that mixes inside and outside (the outside is inside in consciousness, and the inside is outside in bodyness), where human experience is just a part of this substance turned back on itself, snake eating its tail, yadda yadda--this to get away from Hegel's and Marx's dialectic vision of opposing and interacting forces (which, some say, isn't really that different, I don't know where I stand here). I can send you some of this book if you want. So, this makes me think of a way in which your art and my text can mix together, fold into and unfold from each other, rather than relate dialectically across the gutter/spine of the book. Meta-commentary note: As for us working together, this means that rather than imagine a synthesis through the reconciliation of our different (delightfully so) sensibilities, I'd like to humble myself so that I can become changed by your vision, your critique of my text, etc. I'd like to unfold from within what you do, as perhaps you will unfold from me. [insert "summer of love" music sequence here, kaleidoscopy hearts]
Lately, the idea that has been important to me is the imagination of the form as meaning here, rather than the content, the form of code and its subversion--a script which can be expressed in any way possible, simply by imagining new rules. This means (at least for me) that the content isn't in the code (in the sense of the code representing some kind of truth) but in the way that the surrounding body and world act upon it--allowing for the expression of its infinite virtual potentials (its ability perhaps to create all kinds of beautiful monsters and monstrous beauties) folding the code in on itself and out of itself--we can think of all that "noise" in the genome as that potentiality. Thus, we have then a model of code or language or visuality as expression, as production, rather than representation of some absent content. This allows me to imagine a book where meaning is generated, unfolding, exfoliating, rather than represented. Right now, after a talk with a friend last weekend, I'm feeling nervous about what I've written being interpreted as espousing an idea of an essential biological ground for human experience (since these ideas have been, historically, so dangerous and since I believe that most of the biologicalized theories are often just materializations of ideology, false consciousness, samsara), not to mention biological determinism. But maybe I'm wrong--again, I want to be open. It's not my project.
So that's what has emerged as the first idea of the project--secondly is a kind of dystopian vision of a super-capitalism (all of the pieces of which are in place already) in which the body is parcelled, cut-up, mapped, commodified, and systems of exploitation and racism and sexism and control and class-structure are completely internalized, in which the social relations based on domination (which are already made to look real by "spectacle," by a swallowed false image) are made more powerful because biologized--by personalized pharmaceuticals (yes, I'm a hypocrite), designer genes, etc, and in which the disparities of wealth and accumulation are further ramified and compounded by a class-structure based on biotech-haves and biotech-havenots. Lately I've been asking myself: if skincolor and race become a matter of choice, like a hairstyle, will this make racism stronger or weaker? All of this seems, sadly, from where I stand, pretty likely, unless anticapitalism finds some way to get its shit together (and yes, I'm not doing much here). Seriously, I look at Noah and wonder how many more generations of non-bioengineered babies the world has left. Or if it even makes sense to talk like that so traversed by chemicals and weird pollutants and whatnot is the body. It makes me fucking crazy. Of course, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with this technology--in a non-capitalist world that I fail always to even imagine, perhaps, it could be totally fine, could enable some kind of ecological and social homeostasis. I'm not romancing some idea of what a human is essentially. I'm just pretty sure that (as the world stands now) this shit means some new and improved baby-eating, world-destroying, poverty-making monsters to come--the sick political unconscious of the U.S. and its love of disasters thinks this one's real good, real pretty. Not to mention the environmental degradation which this will indubitably hurry along. How to write about that, too, I don't even know. . . ( another project, another day)
Back to folding, I should say of course, that this idea is partly inspired by your sculpture/painting, by the idea of three-dimensionality unfolding from the picture plane and into hipster-clogged galleryspace, those chutes and ladders that lead not where I know. . . And then, of course, the baroque psychedelia of your ink drawings, of the interwebbing of people, erotic, codependent, liberatory, however. Hopefully some of these thoughts will find a place in your imagination. If not, talk to me and tell me what you're thinking. With much love.
Your friend,
J'espere Quesi

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