formless

formless
formless
formless
formless
formless
formless
formless
formless
formless
formless
formless
formless

Following the first main orientation for this course and strengthened by the work line from the chosen artist to research - Margret Blöndal - our investigation process was given in the most unpretentious and free way. That freedom allowed us to be lead to places we didn’t see us coming, although after a later “connection of dots”, it seemed clear we aimed it. A documentation of this work could only be given in a non-linear way, since it should present the multiple possible co-relations between research, results, hints, ideas, and chance, as it was more or less how it happened - in a conscious or unconscious way. As a journal, we attempt to illustrate the many events we experienced together and individually during this laboratory setting we were in. Our scheme to visualize it corresponds our methodology – simples systems (not necessarily logic) that allowed connections beyond our control to happen, mostly improving our steps and providing results we wouldn’t achieve if we were meticulously rationalizing every step on the way. Although the final result shouldn’t be a preoccupation, we naturally deposit some anxiety on the outcome of our last experiment.

Happily it connected perfectly with everything that was anticipated, including unpredictability. Happy that I didn’t have to concern to any special property considering Blöndal as a reference, I started doing random stuff, trusting that I had already fixed somewhere in my mind aspects that would lead me to a place that later I could justify as an abstraction. Some months before, bored with a friend in a nightclub, a story she told got us making figures out of just melted candles wax. Some weeks later in an open air party in the outsides of Vienna - much more bored and with no company this time – I started dropping the melted wax in a white napkin, than folding and pressing with my hands, and repeating it till I had a sheet of a moldable, yet surfaced, material. For the lab, I did the same thing, but this time sewing with the minimum fix points, just to assure stability to the shape out of the wax sheet. Then I found a heavy piece of wood and with soft wire I spend hours trying to establish a tension with it that would hang my object and have the wood as basis. That was my first abstraction with which I believed have translated the ideas of balance/tension/weight/lightness/no excessive use of material/re-use of material/relation with the space and free process non-concerned with results. The final look of it seemed a bit like Blöndal’s work: the pastel colors, the delicacy…

Meanwhile, I was for a whole week helping by a film projection program. There was free popcorn all evenings, which made me think a lot of popcorn: how cool it was, how it represented complexity once we know how it starts and how it ends, but everything that happens in this short in between that defines the shape of it, that is mystery. Everyone likes popcorn, and I started thinking (for another project) about an urban intervention with it, some kind of generative system to sculpture huge popcorn clouds, that for a principle would always look different but the same. So that was my hint to next’s Material Matters experiment. Once I started selecting my popcorns to make small scale of my models, I noticed I didn’t like the way the seeds looked, and there were many darker areas that annoyed me somehow. So I began a fastidious process of cutting off every “anomaly” from the popcorns. Once I had many parts assembled, I made a sugar, lemon, water wax* to use as glue – for it’s transparency, to keep it eatable and because it gets harder with time, so in a first moment it allows changes from position. I placed the Popcorn Monsters in some random material taken out of my storage room, finding ways it would highlight the little pieces. While I was plainly playing around, Johannes was anxious about the lack of systematic and the openness of this start. He felt he could lead off with no parameters, so developed the following plan to put him on track. Trying to figure out Blöndal´s essence of methodology, I came up with the system which helped me to follow her footsteps - literally. By maintaining the intuitive and personal approach for collecting the material, I took an advantage of using the technique that were developed by The Situanionists International, derivé - drifting. In my case that meant strolling around in a odd city with a wrong map. Because Thieves installation that was on our focus, situated in Dublin, Ireland, I bought a map of Dublin. I placed this map  on top of map of Prague, Czech Republic, where my girlfriend lived by then. Then I sticked a needle through the location of Thieves installation and got a random location from Prague as well. During my next visit to my girlfriend I went to this random place and picked up the first object that attracted to my eye. It was a regular blue-shaded plastic bottle, disposed after being used and distorted and deformed with time. This system allowed the result be unpredictable and uncontrollable.

The next step would be – what should we do with the bottle? After presenting my first experiments and Johannes master plan, Gabi Schillig criticized how we were working apart from each other, my concern in finding a spatial relation to the objects on production and Johannes lack of “getting his hands dirty”. We chose the plastic bottle - Johannes first finding in Prague - as an initial unit for both of us. Bottles collected, we took a day to fool around. I was still focused on making a sheet out of the material that I could mould later into a fragmented shape and Johannes moved by melting and mutilating the bottle. Chop-chop, we were following different directions again. Intimately I considered convey to his side, but I didn’t really want it. And I didn’t feel like proposing him to give in to my experiments, because he was having so much fun with his “bought just for it” blowtorch. So we went the following week to Gabi acting the goat for not have followed her advice to walk together. By recommending us to look over the concept of Formless, specifically on the catalog of 1996 homologous Centre Pompidou’s Exhibition curate by Rosalind E. Krauss, she solved our issue and put me and Johannes back on the same road again. To think that what we were doing deconstructing those bottles was a system itself - apart from what would come out of each disfigurement – and that it had a connection with a major topic of discussion in arts and the way we percept the world, showed Johannes and I an exciting track to follow on. Formless – User’s Guide, the book, was hard to find and we at first just got it in French, what automatically delegated on me the responsibility of reading it. This format of “technical reading” had its source in the main reference for the book: George Batailles’ Critical Dictionaries, which targets sabotage the spirit of the system. To start with, a dictionary should be one of the most totalitarian classification methods. By calling it so but being among other components self-repetitive, non-alphabetical, sarcastic; and defining random topics and free-associating them, the Critical Dictionaries questioned pillars of our comprehension of existence and presented them as crutches that would blind our knowledge and limit our experiences, instead of increase them. words are, for the most part, petrifactions that elicit mechanical reaction on us. (Since my French is not that good, our first impressions on the subject were also based on free-association and trust on our ability to connect previous unconscious knowledge with whatever was abstractly trying to be communicated. Later Johannes followed the reading with an English copy we got, and it proved quite effective the “intuitive reading” we were in before.) Bataille presents his ironical concept of formless comparing the world to a spit, and once again questioning the need for a definition of form, and therefore the inevitable depreciative aspect of formless. And from there, Krauss quotes another writing from him, the Sacrificial Mutilation and the Severed Ear of Vincent Van Gogh, where this disfigurement of the painter himself should mark a break from homogeneity and liberation for the heterogeneous (coming heterogeneous not just from heterogeneity but from the “study of everything else”). Formless then becomes an operation – not a subject, not a substance, not a concept – a performative system, which is indifferent to the motif, and enables desublimation. No Shape, Nor Content – but the Operation that makes that neither one nor the other is in their place anymore. This idea evokes another topic from the argument: Entropy. Formless is not a state but the dynamic nature of the operation. Besides the wish contained in these ideas to set our mind and senses free, there is also the gold to delegate the work of art a role of its own. Even if some criterions are set, it has an active interpretation which is manipulated by the author and “everything else” – therefore is alive.

We could relate all this conceptual ideas coming out of the research to our experiments and discussions. After revising our butchered bottles, I felt like keep on reading and Johannes wanted to go back on doing something material, but none of us really knew what to do next. With the approximation to the end of the semester, we had to think of a way to present our tests. Johannes since the beginning had in mind a mobile that should be a sort of tridimensional diagram in which we would be able to display changeable co-relations between our information, in different levels and orders. A great way to represent the vivacious way we were working, where the steps on the way were not coming from a to b. Initially we thought making this mobile out of the pieces we built during the Bottle Experiments. This option was criticized by still resulting in an object, both the pieces as the mobile it self – what didn’t elaborated the approach of formless we were now in. It was suggested to present it as a video, something that allowed loop and endless continuity. For a second, working on a generative digital platform was also cogitated, but both considerations were just too obvious. The challenge of representing formless with a physical structure was much more interesting than just setting the replay mode or programming a screen saver. Kinetic structures were our first cue. Philipp Klein, a college from the group, had showed in another situation youtube videos from Arthur Ganson’s sculptures, and that was pretty much an example of developing a system that later provides the object an act of its own. Thinking of something like that to adapt our material for, we jumped back to the wax used to glue the Popcorn Monsters. The first idea was to build a simple rotating mechanism, kind of like the one from the clock, but preferably with an arrhythmic movement. That should move a capsule or cube with this wax inside (one of the observations about this wax was that as much as one moulds it, it slowly comes back to a neutral state) and maybe a defragmented bottle mixed inside of it, and voilá! – our representation of formless. After cooking for a whole day different stages of wax, we met again to make a presentation for the group about the point we were in. While doing that, it hit us that Yes!: the mobile was the perfect solution and we should go on with that. But instead of hanging the bottles we had chopped earlier, we would use virgin ones with candles inside and let them burn. That would recall so many elements from our procedure and the book on research: dynamic and multi-contradiction; Blöndal’s balance, the melting experiments, Fluxus and performance; and allowed multiple compositions in constant change. Even if an object, it would have freedom to perform beyond artist’s manipulation. Plus, the self-destruction translated other theoretical aspects of our lucubration. Jean Tinguely’s Homage to New York was an old favorite from Johannes and that proved another funny connection from starting with Blöndal to where we were arriving at. No doubt the start for building the mobile was made much more precise thought the supervising from an old work college of mine that happened to be in town. Pedro works since over ten years as a property master for films and it’s a very sensitive, curious and able with his hands guy. It means we had the perfect “handy-man-mad-scientist” with us on the first day. He had built mobiles before, so he knew better than us that it requires some sort of immersion in the subject, a connection with the whole balancing, reducing material, drilling, screwing thing – beyond technical instructions. He was not overwhelming us with an accurate procedure “how to built a mobile”, but just being around, clarifying questions and fundaments, and providing physical help when asked. We were able to, at the end of a long journey, fix the structure over one single point: a nail on the top of a tripod. It was pretty amazing to see it, to testify that it wouldn’t fall. For us, who never really had a foot on science, it felt almost magical the result of the balancing. The look of it was still heavy, thou. The strings we had were not so firm, so our mobile was bounding too much and seemed limp. The bottles had different sized candles and alternated amounts of water inside, that were supposed to provide unique melt for each one – increasing the variations that could happened once we burned it. We questioned the need of water and thought of replacing it for kerosene, to have it more spectacular. Next day of shopping for harder strings, there was no kerosene because it is not allowed in Germany for ordinary people; we went to the camping/grill session looking for lamp oil. Next to it there was candlewick, and another idea to reduce our material just leaped: replacing the candle with the wick. From there on the movement was to simplify the structure as much as possible. This was an aesthetical choice that later we reconnected with something heard from an interview with Blöndal, when she mentioned about her working process, that she usually brings a lot of material to the place where she will exhibit, and reduces it in an almost acupuncturist method. Bit by bit we achieved a moment when aesthetically, technically and for the purpose we had, there was not more to be done with the mobile. For the final presentation, we thought burning the mobile, filming, and take long-exposure and pinhole photographs of it. Then to join this material in a PDF presentation and talk and talk. The once considered live burning got shy by shared security reasons preoccupations.

A couple of days before, announcing some colleges in an informal moment about the burning date, also asking for help (since we needed a lot of people to light it simultaneously, it could happen too fast…), Tina Istoll, also in this class, questioned the change of plans and convinced us to do it “alive on stage” for the class during the final presentation. We let it become a surprise, asked for being the last (also because the darker, the better) and involved the people present on lighting the mobile with us. It’s hard to describe what happened, in this situation we come back to Bataille’s judgment about the use of words and categorization. There is no point on saying if we were satisfied with the result. It burned, it melted - each bottle in a different way; this provoked some abrupt movements and unbalance - although surprisingly the mobile never felt from its pole. Everyone seemed entertained by watching, what was also a jolt. So we guess there was something in this happening that could be related to watching a bonfire together. How thrilling it is just to observe and witness constant transformation, the magnetic unit of those changes. Avowing the use of words such as simplicity, complexity, primitivism, form and formless… what is left to say is that this last experiment crowned our attempt to flee from formal rules and regulations, and proved that the system can be whatever, by letting it loose and interacting with the exterior, it goes much more enjoyable and takes us to places we wish in a mostly unreachable level.