by theodoros zafeiropoulos
In a thematic register this exhibition explores the term “failure”. It is centered on localizing and producing symptomatic examples that speak for the evaluation of the artistic practice (work) as “doomed” not to meet a premeditated, desired or sought-for target. The participating artists were invited by the yardstick of the pluralistic contribution of thinking and problematizing about both the genealogy of the work and their proper stance on practice. A prime concern has been to assemble unexpected studying versions able to cover and broaden the spectrum of the field outlined by the term “failure”.
The main context of this exhibition is to elucidate and showcase the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that affect the conception, the design, and the materialization of the work of Art and the Architecture. The reasons that may lead to any kind of off-target/failure are, for the most part, interwoven with the phase, the level, the adequacy and the intentional direction of design, the random factors that arose or arise in failure, with possible shortages or omissions during the construction-materialization as well as the further or subsequent use, non less than with some dysfunctions and arbitrary shifts of meaning areas, epistemological misunderstandings and erroneous formulations. But, above all, the results of any dysfunction are drawn through introspective observation and conceptualized as a mechanism – a construction – of a collecting depositor1 (space), within which any emerging factor has to be decoded, validated and archived, according to a methodology of relational disposition. The main objective here is to approach the conceptual elements that produce or dissimulate similarities, with the further purpose of discovering real affinities between artworks (construed as examples) and surrounding events.
“I see the similar”, in the Aristotelian version2, means that I apprehend the “identical” inside in and regardless of the “difference”, for the further purpose of correlating or schematizing a new meaning. Thus, the semantic benefit is inseparable from the categorical assimilation through which it is schematized, as far as it remains trapped in the conflict of the “identical” and the “different”, although it is the rough draft, as a request for information by means of the “notion”.
Between the two poles of subjective success and failure lies a space able to host potentially productive activities, within which the paradoxical rules and the eventual doctrines are rejected. Descartes3 recognized two different axiological substances, res cogitans and res extensa, which basically correspond to the relation subject-object, signifier-signified. The off-target/failure is joined together with notions such as “mistake”, “error”, “incomplete”, “unfinished”, while it defines moments of thinking that elude consensus, making choices in favor of the multiplication of questions instead that of answers. The abstract and, simultaneously, multiple possibilities offered by the monitoring of the process sequence is further reinforced by the problems and obstacles of physical materialization4, maintaining a perpetual struggle with ideas, hylomorphism, representation and support of every norm and definition, since to manage materiality is a major hindrance with regard to definite decision-making and, by extension, any kind of teleological constructability. One seeks for useful and efficient criteria, able to judge the success or failure of a situation, which are characterized on their own as a new condition – “an important work” – while they maybe serve as the major –already codified– factor of reflection. Under this generalizing pronunciation, off-target/failure comes forth as a “special” function, which, on one occasion, would operate as a “non-return check valve” and, on another occasion, under a more specialized consideration, would individually be the “new” work.
The failed promises that, in the name of evolution, were proposed as “the avant-garde myths” (“To be an artist is to fail as no other dare to fail” as S. Beckett put it) lead us to realize – in arts – how apparently impossible is to be absolutely certain about the extent, the safety and the stability of the eventual working surface. This historic and widely used quote schematizes for us here two important aspects: courage as a (visual) condition to treat failure, and the invited (artistic) occupation as failure through the conventional attitude that art and failure cannot be considered separately. The American sociologist R. Sennett calls “a great taboo of modernity” the failure of a society to achieve success and progress; correspondingly, the futility of Sisyphus’s punishment – as self-assertion – lies in the quest for liberation and dignity through the affirmation of the absurd as a recurrent failure. While in rationalistic theory success is considered to be the overvalued good, in post-war Art and Architecture, doubt has embraced experimentation, encouraging a line of thinking that “risk” is to be recognized as a viable strategy.
The role of the creator in this “un-stable” working environment is to respond to the need for creation or to creation according to a definite series of general guidelines (prescriptions), which sometimes preexist (meaning that she is obliged to follow them) and sometimes are presented in the course of materialization (mainly as imponderable factors). The ensuing product, program or creation must be functional and, simultaneously, quite flexible, so that it can at any moment be reconstructed and modified on an unexpected eventuality, as a response to something given or amidst a possible failed application. Thus, the creator makes use of a mechanism of “intentional assumption”5, being receptive to eventual conditions that step in the content of her object. She is receptive to behave in an active and yet risky way during the process of producing her work, without getting absorbed or crashed by the work. This intention, the way Wittgenstein6 delineated it, utilizes the sign in thought. The intention seems to interpret, to give the definite interpretation. It does not give yet another sign but something Other. Through that spectrum, the off-target/failure comes forth as an insatiable material, which puts to risk all of the activities, the desire for autarchy, self-affirmation and self-validation.
The subject faces the “entropy” of the process and struggles to let the truth of the event play out, unfold any of its random or conscious aspects, in the prospect of either encapsulating or staging a network of conclusions. It wants to include “aspects of problematizing” in words, forms, structures and meanings, without restricting its powers unilaterally through the suppressive violence of representations. The subject of foundation (the potential creator) searches for structures with the purpose of allowing its constructions (Art, Architecture, poem, thought, economy, form of government) to ally with forces that have catalyzing effects in the course of moving from the non-existed to the existed, from the familiar to the unfamiliar, and from the idea to the spatial conception. It risks coming closer to what poses the greatest threat to them, for the purpose of facing the totality of the process sequence in a way that any step can take into account, control, and lend an ear to any form of contingency. Jacques Rancière7 describes the occupation with art as a way of intellectual emancipation, laying great emphasis on the catalyzing duality creator-spectator. “To be a spectator does not constitute a passive condition that ought to be transformed into activity. It is our usual condition. We learn and teach, act and know as spectators too, since every moment we relate what we see with to what we have seen and said (the ineffable).”
The off-target/failure as a formulated condition thus becomes visible by shifting the center of gravity from the idiosyncratic position of the artist to the artwork itself, from the relation between the artwork with its spectator and the internal analysis of the artwork, to the potential “truth” it entails. It is a condition that leaves aside “the Aristotelian notion of Reality”8, by avoiding revelatory or intuitive ontologies. Taking distances from the target is achieved through adopting the attitude of a biologist par excellence, who cannot stop wondering about the bearer of thinking and, as the case may be, for the nature of practice itself. The subjectivity of “aiming at a target” is attributed, according to the exquisite analysis by Ricœur, to the idea of “categorical transgression”, a process that enables us to enrich the deviation implied in the process of transposition. In other words, there is a continuous referral of the signified, which is nonetheless produced due to its differentiation from other signifieds. The traits that could establish the meaning of off-target/failure can be considered to be absolutely “absent” in case they constitute declaratory components. The consequence, according to Derrida9, is that we can never, in any case of an imp-pass, have an established and definable present meaning. The relations of interaction by the yardstick of such a condition of alteration, which analyze individual parts of the work and unavoidably enter into its content, are those that shape the sequence, and, above all, provide clues for the “mechanisms involved”. A. Badiou, seeking for an ontological determination of the “being of the event”10, postulates a theory of “multiplicity” that is heterogeneous with regard to the one that justifies being as being. This position reveals that the event is the very nodal point through which we ensure that all things are not mathematizable11. What “happens” now as a managing weakness forms a fold between the ecstatic unfolding and the intensive continuum, a theoretical position suggesting that an event is literally an un-founded multiplicity; the abandonment of the foundation makes it a purely random supplement.
The works for which we stand by, with reflections on such a complicated handling, do not produce only logically consistent conclusions but also hybrid models that simulate the invited off-target/failure. The simulation (of failures) is one of the most important and powerful methods, used in researches on designing and monitoring the operation of complex processes and systems. According to R.E. Shannon12, simulation is defined as the process of designing the model of a real system and experimenting with that model. They aim to understand the behavior of the system and/or evaluate alternative strategies for its operation, i.e. results arising from the change of the system as a whole or its way of self-healing. Its mechanism (autopoiesis) refers to the self-reproduction or autopoetic organization of the system, which the Chilean biologists H. Maturana and F. Varela13 have described as the most inherent process of uninterrupted reproduction, being in fact a product of evolutionary cellular (biochemical) relations and variations. Each act (as the beginning of practice) is depended on the inscribed in the “DNA of practice” ways the creator acts, on inherent socio-biological limitations, and on the technical means of assistance she has conquered so that she supports them.
Paraphrasing Walter Benjamin: the criteria for evaluating conclusions are produced by a “here and now” and are “coincidental” – i.e. they can be interpreted only “dynamically” and not based on stable parameters. Therefore, each activity of supplementing has great importance in the description of the event, since it emerges during experience under the form of an “intuitive re-action” or as a form of momentary or intuitive appreciation of an important “truth”. In the case of a conventional fold, a double theory of multiplicities is postulated, a theory inherited from the theory of Bergson, where an event is always the divergence between two heterogeneous multiplicities. In both these cases, conflicts and resistances are solved not due to knowledge itself but due to the fact that this knowledge facilitates a special experience during which “conflicts acquire meaning”14, take on a consistent and organized form, which at the end enables their free evolution and, thus, their solution. It follows that the operation of one of the powers of the mind has to be inhibited so that another one is put in motion or, in a more conventional formulation, that more sensitive sensory organs, able to perceive the singular moment where things enter a more variable trajectory, get activated. A. Camus, from the point of view of literature, considers the irrationality of the above duality in the sense of the contradictory, of the illogical. He sees logic not in the thinker but in the one who feels logically, linking it up to the teleological notion of suicide as a redemptive outlet of purifying completion.
The narrative function of failures regulates and normalizes the “march of description” of any form of weakness that interrupts/pervades practice. As M. Heidegger suggests,15 “It is not a matter of assimilating understanding and interpretation to a particular ideal of knowledge which is itself only a degeneration of understanding that has strayed into the legitimate grasping what is objectively present in its essential unintelligibility.” The dire necessity of formulating specific but also alternative proposals for shifting from the obvious reality to another – which will instill life to ruins and claim a deliberate switch and an erudite deviation from the target – calls for an all-embracing consideration of problems, which surpasses the otherwise necessary impression of the failures that have caused them, as an intellectual digging up for unearthing a “new finding”. Besides, in the depths of any construction of anything “built”, there is this primitive desire to “trace” a new path, as a beginning, an unrolling or a winding. At the exact opposite, the eventuality of a conscious lack of target (off-target), as an area-version of process in-sequence (with regard to the “ongoing activities”), moves into the domain of judging the result through an empirical appreciation that monitors and records events under way, in a time parallel to the time of the production/elicitation process of the work. It is delineated as a parallel universe, able to reveal and function as a communication channel for grasping the duality of the terms “failure-success”.
The basic matter in hand is to explain the simultaneous changes taken place in the “continuity of the human activity”16, the resistance of structures in the frame of a fluid practice, the relation between activity and interaction, in localizing the powers of inaction and transformation of forms. According to a Hegelian reading of the anthropological practice of Bourdieu17, the analysis of praxis is moving from recording, describing the empirically concrete, the immediate given to the primary experience (the sensory perception of the whole) towards an abstraction, as a negation of the sensory immediacy in the formation of abstract concepts, which apprehend universal types, inevitable laws laid down for all individual cases, and shapes as “mutilated” sequences. The movement is completed through a composition, as a reflecting representation of the internal nexus of the studied object and of the unity of its various parts; as a closedown of uncertainty in a unifying apprehension of the determinations and the inevitable laws that govern every phenomenon as a whole. Through that prism, we can discern some similarities with the psychoanalytic function of symbolism and even resort to references to the work by numerous scholars, whose interventions open the way of connecting Lacan with the political/politics of practice; a space that reveals the nature of a straitened field, which remains for the most part a “no man’s land”, since this field is absolutely self-referential and seeks for outlets on the inside, through working around to questions by analyzing internal conflicts.
By focusing both theoretically and practically on the meaning of off-target/failure, this exhibition and the relevant conference will attempt to formulate alternative, unexpected ways of opening up finite states with regard to the production of visual and architectural works. The sought for shifting18 lies not in handling but in producing a virtual “kind” of target/objective. Any “kind” of off-target/failure is dealt with in the same frame along with brevity, surprise, dissimulation, enigma, wit, antithesis and all the other handlings serving the same objective. The shifting achieved makes them infinitely necessary through a continuous reduction and explanation of every “targeted metaphor”19 and every total of similarities, which, both at a textual and a practical level, will be the “tool” that will ensure our access to the distinction of certain conclusions inside the duality “empirical knowledge” and “metaphorical dilemma”. The above questions, indicative of the complexity and vari-formity of art, reveal that the artistic practice constitutes a complicated field of applying heteroclite forces, the crossbreeding of which creates each time the particular “atmosphere” of a work. This collection and showcase of visual representations, mediations, fiction20 and juxtapositions will attempt to examine and define this duality, by bringing off/target-failure in the center of interest as a perspective for an expanded productive process.
I think that the term “depositor” here is very near to the term “toponomology” introduced by Derrida. This term includes the complicated relation of the archive to the place where it is kept and the authority, the power. This relation describes the intersection of “topological”, “place”, “law”, “substrate” and “authority”, during which an installation scene becomes visible and yet invisible. See Derrida, Archive Fever, transl. K. Papagiorgis, Ekkremes, Athens 1996, p. 45.
P. Ricœur, The rule of metaphor, transl. K. Papagiorgis, Kritiki, Athens 1998, p. 562-563.
“(…) each truth discovered was a rule available in sciences (and I trust that what is contained in this volume I will show that I have found some), I can declare that they are but the the discovery of subsequent ones. (…) As for myself, if I have succeeded in discovering any truths in the consequences and results of five or six principal difficulties which I have surmounted, and my encounters with which I reckoned as battles in which victory declared for me.” Descartes, Discourse on method, Part II, Part 4.
“The fabricated object is described by Aristotle as the product of a strategic process: the conception of the target by the creator sets up a process of thinking as for the suitable form of execution. To the degree that the creator commands her Art, the conception of the target defines the selection of the matter that would better serve this target as well as the suitable shaping of the matter.” K. Mpatinakis, “The artistic value of conceptual Art” in Vaso Kintis (ed.), Philosophy and art, Okto, Athens 2011, p. 32.
“What we call ‘understanding a language’ is often like the understanding we get of a calculus when we learn its history or its practical application. And there too we meet an easily surveyable symbolism instead of one that is strange to us. (…) In this case ‘to understand’ means something like ‘to take in as a whole’.” See Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar, transl. K. Kovaios, MIET, Athens 2010, p. 70.
L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar, op. cit., 89.
Jacques Rancière (2008), The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, transl. Dafni Mpounanos, Nisos, Athens 2008.
“The suggestion that we can act against opinion but not against knowledge is at once set aside; it will not help us to solve our difficulty, for opinion may be accompanied by as great a feeling of certainty as knowledge, Aristotle’s own solution is offered in successive stages: (a) The familiar distinction between potentiality and actuality is drawn; it may be possible to act wrongly if you have the knowledge of the right at the back of your mind, though it would be impossible if you were actually knowing the right at the moment. This is a genuine contribution to the solution; its defect for Aristotle lies in the fact that it does not distinguish between the various items of knowledge which according to his theory are involved in knowing what you ought to do.” See W. D. Ross, Aristotle, transl. M. Mitsou, MIET, Athens 2010, p. 315
Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, transl. K. Papagiorgis, Kastaniotis, Athens 2003, p. 221.
Αlain Badiou “From being to event», Patakis, Athens 2009, p. 29-30.
“Benjamin Peirce: ‘Mathematics is the science that draws necessary conclusions’ (1881), Α. Ν. Whitehead: ‘Mathematics in its widest significance is the development of all types of formal, necessary, deductive reasoning’ (1898), and Bertrand Russell: ‘Pure mathematics is the class of all propositions of the form 'p implies q' where p and q are propositions...” 1903, are indicative of the conclusions reached by the vast majority of the mathematical community in the early 20th century.” See R. L. Wilder, Evolution of mathematical concepts, Koutsoumpos, Athens 1986, p. 127-128.
Robert E. Shannon , PDF, 1998: INTRODUCTION TO THE ART AND SCIENCE OF SIMULATION.
Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela, The tree of knowledge, transl. S. Manouselis, Katoptro, Athens 1992, p. 71-80.
See the critical comments by Alexander Nehamas in “What an Author is”, Journal of Philosophy 83/11, 1986, 685-91.
See M. Heidegger, Being and Time, transl. Y. Tzavaras, Athens 1978, p. 256. For an analysis of truth in Heidegger as “unconcealment” and the role of Dasein in its “discoverdness”, see Being and Time, op. cit., p. 335-357. See also The Origin of the Work of Art, transl. Y. Tzavaras, Dodoni, Athens 1986, ch. 2 and 3, where Heidegger treats the relation between art and truth, and more specifically the role of Dasein, “preservation” (Bewahrung), and the preservers, p. 110-120.
De Landa, Μ. (1997), A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, transl. M. Vainas, Kritiki, Athens 2002, p. 459.
R. Scruton, “European philosophy from Fichte to Sartre”, in Kenny Anthony, History of Western Philosophy, transl. D. Rissakis, Nefeli, Athens 2005, p. 277-292. D. Patelis, “ascent from the abstract to the concrete”, Philosophical and Sociological Dictionary, Kapopoulos, Athens 1995, p. 72-73.
P. Ricœur, The rule of metaphor, op. cit., p. 76.
P. Ricœur, The rule of metaphor, op. cit., p. 553.
P. Ricœur, The rule of metaphor, op. cit., p. 17: “By linking fiction and redescription in this way, we restore the full depth of meaning to Aristotle’s discovery in the Poetics, which was that the poiêsis of language arises out of the connection between muthos and mimêsis. From this conjunction of fiction and redescription I conclude that the ‘place’ of metaphor, its most intimate and ultimate abode, is neither the name, nor the sentence, nor even discourse, but the copula of the verb to be. The metaphorical ‘is’ at once signifies both ‘is not’ and ‘is like.’ If this is really so, we are allowed to speak of metaphorical truth, but in an equally ‘tensive’ sense of the word ‘truth’.”