Endgames (catalogue essay)

8 July 2016


In any game where the moves are systematically reduced to a number that anticipates the application of more skill in reaching a conclusion out of the appearance of deadlock, the endgame might at the same time produce intensities of contrast, gesture, and intellectual positioning. The endgame is the negotiated point of an encounter, where the stakes, having been reduced by playing out all possibilities are immeasurably high. The endgame describes the process over a long period of research, where the artists seek resolution in the presenting of specific works that end in the composition of an exhibition as a whole, or as organism, made of many independent decomposable parts, or organs. However the endgame is performed precisely in decomposing the unity of expectation of the game-board itself by inventing smaller assemblages, worlds within, and worlds between, to the advent of what the philosopher Quentin Meillassoux affirms in the word, hyper-chaos, i.e., things happen between one moment and another in movement, contingently. There are (infinite) novelties to be staged in instances of a perpetual deferral of beginnings and endings. Things slow down between, the closer we approach to the end, the further it recedes into an inexpressible concept.

Material Imaginaries

Lenin spoke of the concrete as a dialectical unity, ascending from abstraction to the phenomenal objects in the world such as art or technology. They achieve abstraction from the concrete social relations that produce them; against the binary logic of eclectic abstraction he proposed objects as defined in neither one or another way or relative to opposing views to ascertain their function his logic was given form in the example of a glass: A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties, qualities or facets to it; there are an infinite number of them, an infinite number of mediacies and inter-relationships with the rest of the world. A tumbler is a heavy object which can be used as a missile; it can serve as a paperweight, a receptacle for a captive butterfly, or a valuable object with an artistic engraving or design, and this has nothing at all to do with whether or not it can be used for drinking, is made of glass, is cylindrical or not quite, and so on and so forth. Some accusation could be mockingly levied at any logic that advocates a tumbler without a base, (as a metaphor for ascribing political agency to an organisation) which would be without use to a cause. It would be inutile, useless. Art might emerge at this nexus, through irony or poetic allegory, in narratives of failure, and myths of human aspiration set against its Masters, with whatever voice they take form. The poetic imaginary, here entangled with the prosaic material, is a violent, contra-distinct movement, allegorised in Mayakovskis words, between two figures, the poet and the citizen. The citizen attempts to kill the poet, so the poet kills the citizen, (himself), to save the poetry.

Of the poetic, Goethe (praised by Nietzsche), writes against utilitarianism: A man born and bred in the so-called exact sciences will, at the height of his analytical reason, not easily comprehend that here is also something like an exact concrete imagination.  An imaginary concrete analysis of a real concrete situation, in the realm of poetic realism, is quite outside of the thinking apparatus of utility born of the idealists definition of materiality as only conceived in the limits of human thought.  The lens is clouded with the opacity of conventional notions of imagining what is or not real and imagined, as if unaware of dreaming the world is itself founded on a grand illusion of human narcissism . What kind of imaginary are we imagining but a substitution for the real outside of thought, in one core opposition that defines us, reasoned on a false assumption of a border between human and non-human, machine, animal, madman, as Other. The material does not function just like a glass, but through glass, darkly, outside the order of thinking phenomenal and ideal things. Barred from the very category of the real, which will exceed the depth of all imaginaries, is the Real of the Virtual, not of the categorical, utilitarian virtual miserably imitating reality, but one which the human eye expands in perception - inscribing what it really sees into the intricate network of memories and anticipations (like Proust with the taste of the Madeleine cake), it can develop and achieve new perceptions, poetic associations, etc.

Slavoj Žižek writes of the activity of interpassivity: of doing things not to achieve something, but by acting, to prevent from something really happening, really changing.  All the frenetic humanitarian, politically correct, etc., activity fits the formula of Lets go on changing something all the time so that, globally, things will remain the same!

The belief in the agency of interpassivity cited here by Žižek is that we secretly wish all material action to fall back inside the orders of the Big Other (the Voice that speaks through us, orders us, but is inexistent, simply not there). Belief and fact set the ideological dynamo to work on the destructive energy of potential material-imaginaries, that is, to disaffirm the real of the virtual. The duality would suggest that there is as yet no fully actualised material imaginable, no object out there ever to be imagined. But by full immersion in the infinite, potential field of virtualities, reality is actualised.

The reflection of the outside as mirror of human thought is its own catastrophic delusion; a realist assumption of an external edifice called reality, always trapped inside a negative reflection (much like the good/bad opposition in The Matrix). What it presents is an impossible space-time paradox. Things are independent of thought. They are at one remove inaccessible, yet are speculative and material at the same time from another locus. The object looks at you. The material imaginary is always immanent, a process of a working through the thought-world correlate, not in the crude opposition imagined in the illusion/real projected as a dualism in the movie (The Matrix, 1999, The Wachowski Brothers).

Organs without Bodies

The concept of organs detached from their biological organism harkens to Marshall McLuhans notion of media as extensions of human receptivity and subjectivity; of the body as a unity of perceptions. The works, having  bio-political life of their own, can be decomposed from that ideal of unity, into autonomous mediatised agencies to be read, endlessly interpreted, re-assembled, re-read, dis-assembled, and re-configured and composed into contingencies, without losing their autonomies -  not as media,  but as stand-ins for human subjectivities. The plurality of these apparatuses that have their own reproduced voices (in Greek, heteroglossia, many different voices), playing a game with the anamorphic real as skewed sensory effects, of projected fantasy. 

Žižek uses the example of the film Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001) to connect the dissolution of fantasy and organs without bodies. In the famous night club scene, the singer collapses but the music continues. The audience only then understands that they had been listening to a recording; hence, the vocal chords take on a life of their own (a disembodied voice) as the fantasy breaks down. Here the following personal statements are written as if spoken by another, in the third person singular. The voice is their own, but spoken through the letter of an impersonal authorship.

The original project was entitled Totem Haunted Technologies. The first interpretation, as an exhibition, was re-titled Through the Looking Glass. Both these alluded to the game - In the latter Alice through the Looking Glass, (speaking of, and narrated through the Chessboard); and in the former of the persistence of rituals of the totem and taboo of technology as we live and breathe it. Perhaps if these games are played between the spaces of order and chaos, as immediate effects exceeding their causes, we need to symbolise what Lenin called  mediacies- to share and converse with our unspoken and forbidden imaginaries, to materialise the ghost in our own image.