Neo-Vorticist Assemblage

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part Four

"Let us try to understand in the simplest terms how space escapes the limits of its striation. At one pole, it escapes them by declination, in other words, by the smallest deviation, by the infinitely small deviation between a gravitational vertical and the arc of a circle to which the vertical is tangent. At the other pole, it escapes them by the spiral or vortex, it other words, a figure in which all the points of space are simultaneously occupied according to laws of frequency or of accumulation, distribution; these laws are distinct from the so-called laminar distribution corresponding to the striation of parallels. From the smallest deviation to the vortex there is a valid and necessary relation of consequence: what stretches between them is precisely a smooth space whose element is declination and which is peopled by a spiral. Smooth space is constituted by the minimum angle, which deviates from the vertical, and by the vortex, which overspills striation. The strength of Michel Serres's book is that it demonstrates this link between the clinamen as a generative differential element, and the formation of vortices and turbulences insofar as they occupy an engendered smooth space; in fact, the atom of the ancients, from Democritus to Lucretius, was always inseparable from a hydraulics, or a generalized theory of swells and flows. The ancient atom is entirely misunderstood if it is overlooked that its essence is to course and flow. The theory of atomism is the basis for a strict correlation between Archimedean geometry (very different from the striated and homogeneous space of Euclid) and Democritean physics (very different from solid or lamellar matter). The same coincidence means that this aggregate is no longer tied in any way to a State apparatus, but rather to a war machine: a physics of packs, turbulences, "catastrophes," and epidemics corresponding to a geometry of war, of the art of war and its machines. Serres states what he considers to be Lucretius's deepest goal: to go from Mars to Venus, to place the war machine in the service of peace. But this operation is not accomplished through the State apparatus; it expresses, on the contrary, an ultimate metamorphosis of the war machine, and occurs in smooth space."

          — Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, p. 489


Con-fessional: Artlab-Retina

January 8, 2012, 8:56pm: Fragile. This thing will *not* stay together 2 weeks. I'm giving you a 1-week warranty or your money back. We'll call it "Toward a Theory of Relative Decay Coefficients Concerning Various Materials, Processes and Affects".



4. Neo-Vorticist Assemblage

Razzle dazzle. There you are, naked on the high seas, bobbing gently in the face of impending doom. It is World War One and there you float, regally, on one of Her Majesty's great military ships. There you are, naval gazing, and if the enemy vessels can see you, as they inevitably will, there is no where to which you may run.

Norman Wilkinson has an offer for you. The British painter wants you to make yourself even more exposed than you already are, draw attention to yourself with garish diagonal stripes on the gunwales, as if a black and white noise pattern in some 1970s children's comic book. This is the offer of dazzle camouflage: revealing rather than concealing in a gesture towards visual confusion.

Con-fessional: SS Empress of Russia in dazzle camouflage

SS Empress of Russia in dazzle camouflage


Dazzle camouflage isn't meant to hide the subject being perceived or blend one into the background so as to be rendered imperceptible. No, the idea of the zig-zags was rather to distort visual acuity as it concerned the edges and contours of the boat, such that the relation itself was split or made indeterminate. One's optical measures from a periscopic firing solution would suggest a depth between the two that was different than that required of the artillery shell or torpedo on its way to the target (with its tactical tactility). Additional diagonals would simulate the crest of the sea itself to provide a misleading estimation of speed, both position and velocity thus rendered fuzzy in the approach.

No one seems quite certain if dazzle camouflage actually worked in practice, and it is certainly difficult to conduct accurate field tests in the heat of war. But whether or not there was a demonstrable effect is immaterial: the sailors felt safer in the painted gunships, and perhaps a placebo is all that matters when such a daring gamble is at stake — the security of a deadly cosmetics in service of a deadly phallic gunplay.

(Which is perhaps an opportune moment to point out that it was in fact women, graduates from the Royal Academy of Arts, who actually designed most of the patterns unique to each boat on small wooden models — before being scaled up to "life size" by a foreman and painted. Always already prior to the enlarged image, a crucial support of the war effort as a sort of secretive chess queen, intimately interfaced with the most fearsome war technologies of the day.)

Artists, then, as part of the wartime operations. Not in terms of the representational effort, capturing for archival posterity the tragic events and glorious sacrifices made at the front lines, but in a decidedly more strategic role, deliberately breaking up the figure in a defensive gesture — of course, until the counter-offensive was volleyed in return.

Con-fessional: Semiotextile

Department of Biological Flow
wearable theory


It was another British artist, Edward Wadsworth, who ultimately supervised much of the dazzle camouflage effort during the war. He would also become the watchword linking these techniques to the post-war Vorticist movement, itself a response to the transformations of space and time emerging in Cubism and Futurism. A vortex is a circling field of intensities whose affects converge, or perhaps to avoid being so linear, circulate, concentrate and accumulate. To plot them discretely, as if they were lines on a canvas, would be to range off in all sorts of directions. And yet this accumulated effect is to culminate in a certain zone of negative intensity, punctum caecum or aporia in the eye of the storm, a negative spacetime that effects a sort of gravitational pulling-towards, a vanishing point not like that of the perspectival gaze but of an experiential field in motion whose tactile qualities fold into the visual (and which trembles in microturbulent response). The attempt of Vorticism was to capture through circulation, concentration and accumulation a certain focal point of movement-energy on the canvas.

Con-fessional: Wadsworth

Edward Wadsworth
Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool
oil on canvas


From rolling ship to flat plane: upon returning from the seas to the canvas Wadsworth and the Vorticists seemed content to resume once again with figuration, though certainly in a more dynamic form than before. All vectors attempt to converge concentrically upon a single vortical locus and all eye movement tracked to a vanishing point of energy, the dynamic forms-in-becoming best perceived with one's eyes blurred out of focus, just ever so slightly. The zigs and zags of Wadsworth's drydocked vessels find themselves recaptured, in-tensionally, as the painted diagonals of an art movement, a new aesthetic for the young Britons returning home from war.

Con-fessional: Gravitational Potential

But what if the intensity of those moments before gunfire could be reinvested as well? What if the eye itself is precisely the war zone of experience under research consideration? What if the thin cosmetic layer stretched over one's gestures and contours of performativity could be swirled and folded, along with the stench of collective fear, into a timely bunker synaesthesia as imminent as it was intimate?

Bring the neo-vortex to the nuclear gallery-reactor! Lift off the flat surface of the canvas to assemble a dynamic volumetrics of performed archive and expressive material, whose vectors shoot high and low, pitch and yaw. These would range off in all sorts of directions, and yet their accumulated effect would be to culminate in a certain zone of negative intensity — a blind spot if one was to arrest this process in motion — before being catalyzed into a frenzied energy field of exponential affects thereafter.

Plug in, mecha butterfly kraftwerker!


Con-fessional: Artlab-Vortex


Perhaps this is how the story will unfold and be told, with the blind spot as zone of political action.



circulation, embodied
the leaside wind blows blusterly

winded and wanting air
crafted carriers confetti fold
iron-clad structures or blue-blood barriers
global protean, denaturing
and bloody regulation of the body

                                                in a bind

my heart beats insistent

corpuscular dawning

take a deep breath
iron-willed and Wanted
circulate and blow until blue in the face
gauzy and tattered
my heart beats insistent


(for the kentucky wildcat)

Performing the Archives

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part Three

Con-fessional: Toward a Kinoderm Aesthetics

"How do we collectively archive trauma after the halfway point? … Perform for as long as we can remember, without ritualizing form, until we are finally able to forget. … And if the copy has already been made? For trauma not to be exploited as economic or ideological opportunity, the arkhé itself must exist as a multiplicity, or a swarm-in-becoming. Fragments of memory must proliferate throughout the network such that archontic power itself is distributed — not as a perversion of the immaculate conception in which the gestures of self-pleasure yield to the gestation of thought, but rather as decaying placental bits of intersubjectivity that remind of comfort, warmth and the pains of labour."


3. Performing the Archives

The art critic Simone Osthoff suggests to us that "the archive as artwork challenges the notion of history as a discourse based primarily upon chronology and documentation — no longer presupposes a stable and retroactive archive, but often a generative one. Consequently, the historicizing process of contemporary art is frequently mise-en-abyme, within multiple recursions of fiction and non-fiction, without foundations."

Con-fessional: Löfgren and Scoon

clockwise from top:
Amber Scoon, Skin (#4), 2009
Isabel Löfgren, Celebrity series: search:"michael jackson.jpg", 2003
Isabel Löfgren, untitled, 2004
Amber Scoon, Growth, 2009


But how would I even know of Simone-who-breathes-new-words-into-my-performance if I wasn't already fond of Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and their relational practices in Brazil? And how would I know of Lygia and Hélio if I wasn't already taken by the foldings and weavings that emerge in the work of Isabel Löfgren and Amber Scoon? What if secret threads of thought hadn't led me in their direction to begin with? And so on, Zeno's paradox revisited: there is always another point to be located when one attempts to trace the genetics of any performance, and our archives are nothing if not pointed reminders.

What about the waves?

Archives and the artefacts they contain are not simply repositories for particular images, messages or semiotics, but are also invested with a certain "living" energy, an affective tone that "activates" only to decay thereafter as certainly as would any isotopic matter. More precisely, these artefacts are markers of the in-betweenness of their coming into being, of their collective becoming before attaining the status of an independent actor that may fashion its own new instances of the in-between. They are dynamic forms, in other words, always bound, struggling and becoming in-formed by the malleability of creative flow.

An art object goes into a basket or a case — a basketcase! — and into a closet only to come out again the other side, barely vibrating. It still pulses ever-so-slightly, however, as it emerges from the darkness. It impulses, a slight turning-inward to conserve what little energy remains in its cryostatic forgetfulness post-natality. It cries for the event from which it emerged, or perhaps it cries for another opportunity to express, to perform. But an art object doesn't know how to perform. And so it remains, as remains — closeted, archival, sputtering.

Con-fessional: Undead

Undead objects are not of much use for constructing a nuclear gallery-reactor, however. They must be reanimated, given the breath of new life, or at least a half-life. Isotopic, they must speak a babble of tongues and topics, suggestive of a then and a now and a future, tense. Better yet a maybe-never, save for the flights of fancy that insinuate themselves imaginatively between the object points and their presumed trajectories.

And they begin to speak. A vocabulary starts whispering insistently to my ear, though the volume is halting and I'm certain it's not loud enough for anyone else to eavesdrop on the conversation. Or perhaps a flight of fancy has imagined itself to me and I've dreamt the entire thing happening.

Con-fessional: Art Now

Sean Smith
"Identity and Fatigue: Some Refractions on Process and Memory"
artist talk
September 22, 2011


Still, they speak:

an emergent vocabulary
process, fatigue, ecologies, erotics, authentication
witnessing, naming, forensics, intensities, fragility, decay
disappearance, rupture, disinformation
meme density, transference, resonance, intuition, parasite, overexposure, tempo
multiplicity, weaving, autonomy
topology, biometrics, disequilibrium . . . and ethics

For the archive to speak anew we must destroy its prior image. Communicate then destroy, or at least remix it anew, destabilizing the pharmakon lest it become a prescription. The remix is collective, the making-multiple explicit in this small group who tear and weave the leaves nibbled and spun by the mecha butterflies. Into these new territories with the found and the felt and intuitions barely understood — though with nary a word spoken. The proposition is the composition, the bodies respond not so much to position but to rhythms and relations and orientations.

Not a word spoken, the archive is performed, reinvested, until the process wanes and its intensity subsides. Pedagogy not as a bitter pill to swallow nor a racing around the track, currently, but rather as tentative footsteps fluttering toward distant landings and misunderstandings. Truthfully.

Con-fessional: Performed Archive

Multiple-Body Kino-Gait Study
and Performed Archive
VAC 2291 - "Toward a Kinoderm Aesthetics"
University of Western Ontario
Tahir Ahmad, Joanna Braund, Madeleine Ferracuti, Emily Fister, Nicole Minett, Jacqueline Mok, Sean Smith


The minor traumas of creation form tiny aporias in the meshworks of language. Our weavings may cover some of them over while our wavings leap across these microcosmic chasms to activate their excesses elsewhere and when. The very performance of the relation and its archival remains can reinvest an energy, recirculate meaning and generate the freshly perceived and considered. But only for so long — they are isotopic after all, half-life to half-life to half our lives again, fading, until stability is newly resumed.

genetic mutation (escape codes)

genomic variation

"At the gala opening ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Ω∟¥₥₱¡© Games in Athens, Greece, organizers mounted a spectacular tableau of Western cultural history. Merging figures of Greek mythology, the changing aesthetics of Hellenic pottery, and an ascending chain of modern humanity, the Olympic pageant metamorphosed from epoch to epoch, culminating in a cosmic Milky Way lake of lights. In a last transformation (effected by a complex system of wires, projections, and laser lights), the luminous lake rose into the air to form the double helix, a spiraling light show representing, if not the alpha, then the omega of it all. The BBC1 commentators who bantered the pageant play-by-play evinced no surprise at the transition from the horizontal cosmos to the whirling vertical of the molecule. It was as if this finale was already anticipated, evincing the 'of course' of recognition and familiarity, as if an old friend had arisen from its familiar stellar habitat."

(Judith Roof, The Poetics of DNA, p.1)

- - -

skin tectonics, surgery and a question of autonomy

"we don't eavesdrop specifically on you (the freedom), we just abstract models from databases for statistical profiling (the non-freedom) . . ."

- - -

"Thus while we see the antagonism of the labouring body move from the musculo-skeletal to the central nervous system to the micro-memory coding modules of DNA, in the parallel movement to colonize relation we must similarly code the spectrum of in-between located in the trans-subjective. And here is where we locate the one binary that is irreducible, for relation as understood by capital expansion today is distilled via systems analysis and statistical method to the ones and zeroes of the machine. Embodied poiesis is always already compromised by the digital form, while synchronicity exists as the tangential touching that tracks these skins in relation."

(sportsBabel, May 2010)

- - -

variations on the body, appropriate to the task at hand


omega, right-angle, yen, mill, peso, inverted exclamation mark, copyright, dollar sign



(hat tip to ®™ark)


"The sound experience which I prefer to all others is the experience of silence. And the silence, almost everywhere in the world now, is traffic. … If you listen to Beethoven or to Mozart, you see that they're always the same. But if you listen to traffic you see it's always different." (John Cage)



[absolute silence]


Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."

Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."

Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."


[louis oosthuizen makes a short putt to force a playoff at the master's]


Bird 1: "Chirp, chirp, chirrrp."
Bird 2: "Ch-ch-chirp."

Plant Activation

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part Two

Con-fessional: Artlab-Retina

2. Plant Activation

Processes fold into processes. Some occur imperceptibly, while some are entered into as a sort of energetic system. Still others require a dynamic generation of their own and a particular machine from which they may emerge.

Suburbia: an idyllic dilation of spacetime for the walking subject, wrought from enlarged optics and ever-efficient motors. But bordering on a pathology, no? One does not require an advanced degree in rhythmanalysis to readily perceive here a qualitative shift in everyday dwelling and commerce. Simply defer one's acceleration and go for a walk. Soak up the affective tones that float in a weird energy field of synchronized motions and petroleum afterthoughts.

It is four months before the experiment will begin. The end of the road seems far off in the distance, yet here it is: the end of the road has come to me. I'm approaching the cul-de-sac near my temporary home for this project, an approach I have made several times already while in residence. But on this evening I perceive it freshly anew: as the tiny neighbourhood street yields to the loop of the cul-de-sac it becomes apparent that I have stumbled upon a mass produced gallery-reactor component in the wilds of suburbia.

Con-fessional: Loop

Is it the mathematical form-as-such of the circle with its ocular connotations that have been perceived here? One suspects not, for I am walking along a tiny pedestrian corridor that connects two of the vast asphault conduits carved for automobile use. I do not take the god's eye perspective — if we could even describe a singular vertex of the gaze here rather than an open field of view — but instead the much less acute angle from eye level on the walking body to street level, which varies ever-so-slightly as I emerge from the pedestrian corridor and approach the bend in the road.

Or is it rather the feltness of a certain intensity that has been perceived and retrieved from the body — a certain history of automobiles turning counterclockwise around the loop, a certain domestic gaze whose radiance converges upon a roughly-described middle, the total assembly a certain pattern that repeats itself throughout the great suburban tracts and lends them an organic homogeneity? This is what I discovered in the wilds, only verified thereafter by checking the proper schematics.

Con-fessional: Gmap

Perhaps we can sample the unique rhythmic energy of this space to generate a boost for our experimental processes? Rather than slowing down in the face of accelerated living, can we attempt to meet speed with speed — at least fleetingly? Ultimately we are not concerned here simply with acceleration-as-strategy, but rather with developing abilities to modulate tempo as necessary. Further, our interest lies with developing a corresponding ethics of such: when to accelerate or decelerate, and how do variously contingent communities organically put these decisions into praxis? How are various techniques transduced? How to plant seeds without growing roots?

Con-fessional: Imago-Missing

Department of Biological Flow
Imago (Kino-Butterfly - Someone Might Be Listening - Lorenz Security Ltd.)


Plants, tempos and cross-pollinating processes: this sounds like an opportunity for mecha butterflies to emerge from the experiential fold. The species Homo generatus lepidopterae makes explicit the energy located within the relation, the movement of bodies between surface and volume, and the potential for strange attraction in the awkward motions of gaited flight.

How to write a program for the mecha butterflies, appropriate to the task at hand, not so gaseous as to become meaningless yet not so solid as to stifle the potentials of contingency? As with any tide of intensity that in-forms, you only get one shot to perform the generation into existence, only one chance to make a first impression.


Department of Biological Flow
Process Machine for Plant Activation (Homo generatus lepidopterae)
(youtube video - 26:39)


[1] The two Department of Biological Flow particles will begin the process at opposite points on the circular orbit. [2] One particle begins walking around the circle counter-clockwise toward the other stationary particle, who holds the relay baton. [3] A camera will serve as the relay baton. [4] When the moving particle reaches the stationary particle it shall bump the stationary particle into motion along the same orbital trajectory. [5] The baton shall be passed backwards each time two particles collide. [6] The orbital velocity shall increase with each revolution until both particles are in motion, at varying speeds. [7] Once both particles are in motion the orbital velocity for either particle may decelerate, so long as the overall energy in the system stays relatively constant (ie. if one particle slows to a walk, the other must accelerate to a run). [8] The performance ends when the plant has been activated.


Con-fessional: Plant Activation

Department of Biological Flow
Process Machine for Plant Activation (Homo generatus lepidopterae)


Suburban fatigued, traces of the performance captured, the mecha butterflies return from the techno-organic wilds to the concrete enclosures of the institutional curriculum — the latter which gets its name from the Latin currere or running. We run in search of knowledge, or at least to generate a certain future potential between us — but how to store the energy? What will the archive bear? What can be folded from one performance to the next, and so forth — embodied, relational, imagined?

Con-fessional: Exhaustion

Department of Biological Flow
coffee, antacid, eye shadow and duct tape on synthetic dropsheet


The finish line just out of reach: fluttering, experimental, exhausted.