DRIFT

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.

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