Process Drawing-01

Ancient Mesopotamian typologies (ca. 2000 BCE) serve as the material basis for a few rudimentary operations designed to coax from them their implicit forms. These operations yield a complex geometry interminably releasing unanticipated forms that suggest objects and architecture.



In the ideal geometries of Classical design and the efficient and functional ones of Modern design, there is at bottom an enchantment with ideas. Designing is the willful imposition of preconceived ideas on what would otherwise be passive and chaotic matter. It seeks to make legible and maintain its ideas despite the dense material aura in which they are caught. My work tacitly maps a shift in the general regimes of designing away from their Classical eidetic and Modern functional appropriation toward their resolution in the material, morphological play of continuous variation. Resisting the sovereign, static, transcendental geometries of Classical and Modern design, my work concocts supple, dynamic, material processes of interminable production. It is the consequence of surrendering to material conditions that, coaxed, throw off their own forms suggesting design. Objects, architecture, and images emerge unexpectedly in the design process. While the work produces an interminable formal vocabulary, it does have, through fabrication and production, a practical desire. It achieves a limit and tumescence that would otherwise be absent. It moves from morphological fiction to morphological fact.


1. “Nothing More, Nothing Less” is a design ethic that reconsiders the way in which we generally encounter and engage given material conditions as the basis of artistic production and design. It is premised on the thought that matter is fundamentally complex, dynamic, and abyssal, and is so to degrees that cannot ever be fully comprehended or decisively put to work in the service of art and design. Inexhaustible, interminable, exorbitant, matter resists any attempt to subdue it. It eludes the willful imposition of stabilizing forms, the despotism of which is no match for it. Matter stirs below the forms imposed upon it. It is largely anonymous and goes largely unnoticed.

2. Despite any meaning attributed to it, despite the consensual self-evidence that gives matter meaning, matter carries on its life in a profound aura of mystery and enigma. Meaning does not adhere to matter. It is something more and something less than matter. Meaning compels matter to circulate in ways inappropriate to it through economies of use and function. Matter takes revenge in the form of deterioration and disease. It is primarily for this reason, though not only so, that “Nothing More, Nothing Less” as a design ethic, is specifically ecological in character.

3. One hears in “Nothing More, Nothing Less” the design slogans “Less is More” and “More is More” of Minimalism and Maximalism respectively. “Nothing More, Nothing Less” ardently resists the imperatives given in these slogans. Resisting the subtractive operations and austerity of Minimalism and the additive operations and excesses of Maximalism, “Nothing More, Nothing Less” proposes to leave matter more or less intact. Its intent is not to preserve the empirically given in its given formal state, but to coax from it its inherent, enigmatic possibilities. Once released, “Nothing More, Nothing Less” lets these possibilities abide in a mystery made visible, no less mysterious for being visible.

4. This, in the first instance, requires an attentiveness to the empirically given, to matter and its conditions. Attentiveness is only attentive provided its gaze is not caught in the snare of consensual, self-evidence and any particular formal state. It calls for unorthodox means of approach, oblique pathways convoked by and broken according to the imperatives and directives of matter itself, and not by and according to the formal ideas of an autonomous and imperious creative subject. The creative subject is a spectator, not an actor; an operator, not a designer who brings to bear established and developing skills, and new technologies and trials.


I want to stitch a thread of connection through some of these and go back to far earlier work with it.  Make a narrative.  Claim a development in retrospect.  Invent history.

Robert Morris, “Present Tense of Space”[1] 

I call drift the pursuit of selective, non-transitive historical itineraries.  It is a question, following Iverson and Melville, of driving art historical practice to the margins of history.[2]  History as drift is composed of modulations, mutations, abrupt changes, leaps of association, historical incongruities, and thematic non-sequiturs.  Continuities that do appear are the work of coercion and impulsiveness, adhocism and improvisation.  Impromptu transitions are supplied in place of seamless, analytically guided ones characteristic of properly historiographical operations and progressions.  Major divisions and overall schemes are largely the effect of heuristic forces late upon the scene and not of systematic anticipations or universal logical proprieties.

The principle result of this “aimless mania of construction”[3] is a series of irregularities, hyperboles, hypocrisies, distortions, and deformations,[4] peculiar combinations and cross-sections, asymmetric pairings, quantum relations, and the like.  For example:  “from paradigms to particles;” “from Naturphilosophie to the built environment;” “from oryctognosy to architecture;” “from docility to the first material moment of subjectivity;” “from representation to improvisation;” “from master planning to an aimless mania of construction;” “from art to artisanal production;” “from the eye and the mind’s eye to the lethargic body.”

Here, the prepositional structure “from-to” is a structure of quantum relation; it is not a structure of inclusion:  it does not describe a frame of initial and terminal limits binding a medial and linear plenitude; it is not an installation.  It is not a structure of translation:  it does not describe a movement between original stances and their destinations; it is not substitution or interpretation.  It does not describe a movement between poses and their transposition, or forms and their transformation, or modes and their modulations; it is not imitation or participation.  The structure does not follow the conventional linguistic standard whereby it signifies those prospects denied above:  inclusion, translation, and their derivatives:  installation, substitution, interpretation, participation.  The “from-to” structure is one particular construction among others within a vast, fantastic grammar[5] describing relief in an otherwise flat monotony of the historical element—its contours.[6]  Each component of the pairings above and such like them names a thought at its greatest precipitation or intensity.  Each is an “intensive ordinate”[7] between which are “infinite movements”[8] and “infinite speeds.”[9]

Each pair of ordinates and the movements and speeds that issue from them constitute a single conceptual manifold, a heterogeneous and synthetic concept, a concept “in a state of survey [survol] in relation to its components.”[10]  They are irreducible, incongruous, reluctant.  They hesitate before traversing the infinite speeds that cause them to condense.[11]  They are quanta of quantum relations.  They are derived by way of subtraction, elimination, omission, and disregard.  They are of ignorance.  Generated in the from-to structure is not a measure, but a volume, a depth and duration, a method beyond measure.

But no absence is marked here, no lack; the hyphen in “from-to” is not shorthand for a full progression, a length extended between two remote points.  Whatever according to a traditional historical scheme would be situated between the quantum terms, to the extent that there is such a site, is emptied out, excavated.  It is the work of discernment in the Bergsonian sense[12] and of subtraction in the Deleuzian sense.

There are no sites; there are only intensities.  The terms are not two distinct positions; together they constitute a single “superposition,”[13] a hieroglyph.  They are impositions within superpositions:  superimpositions.[14]  They are impediments to an otherwise fluid history.  They are the inhibitions, stutterings, and stammerings of thought.  They are the syncopations of sythetic concepts.

Consequently, the work—the generative work—of the art historian has its menace:  of making of art history art historical delirium.


[1] P. 1.  Also cited by Iverson and Melville, “The Spectator:  Riegl, Steinberg, and Morris” in Writing Art History:  Disciplinary Departures, p. 106.

[2] Iverson and Melville,  “What’s the Matter with Methodology?” in Writing Art History:  Disciplinary Departures:  “the field of art history is far from level ground:  particular periods, places, and kinds of art stand out with varying degrees of prominence, while other periods, places, and kinds of art drift toward the margins of the discipline.  In recent years this unevenness has become controversial, resulting in new ways of doing art history, often coupled with attention to the underground regions of the field, and in disciplinary challenges to the structure of the field as a whole….” (Iverson/Melville, 15 my emphasis)

[3] Wilhelm Worringer, Form in Gothic, p. 107.

[4] See Deleuze, Negotiations, pp. 179, 202-3 n. 1.

[5] Cf. Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice:  “I would enjoy discussing Deleuze’s rigorous phonocentrism were it not for the fact of a constant decentering.  Let Deleuze receive homage from the fantastic grammarian, from the dark precursor…,” (180) by whom Foucault means Antonin Artaud.

[6] Cf. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, p. 42.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. p. 36.

[10] Ibid. p. 20.

[11] Cf. ibid.

[12] See Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, pp. 38, 45, and 49.

[13] From the title of a work negotiated by Carmelo Bene and Gilles Deleuze:  Superpositions.

[14] Cf. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, pp. 59, 124.