Ann Hamilton On Ian Hays’ Current Large Works and Details: Joyce, Derrida, Language, Art.
Ann Hamilton 2013
The dummies in Duchamp’s Glass imply that Man is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with a spirit of full desire never to be achieved: a spirit understood as the Illuminating Gas. In Ian Hays’ large Photoshop Screen Print Shaun 6 Reading Joyce Reading Duchamp the two top lines of these dressmakers dummies likewise imply that the imitation is a mannequin for Man – that language applies in the same way to Joyce’s evocation of the corpus of Man in Finnegans Wake: that is to say the lettered characters that create the entire book. The two images illustrated above issue from the ranks and files of over 1800 such images that make Yawn 6. As an introductory essay on Hays’ work since 2010 it is time to report the continuation of his preoccupations with Joyce and Duchamp that has led to these arrays of semi-figurative images whose roles are textual, or more interestingly digraphic, literal, syllabic and abecedary, liquid and polysyllabic in technique.
Duchamp’s dummies awaiting there Illuminating Gas portray, recap, the prosaic fictions involved in determining the sexuality of delayed rhythms stratified through the Notes Duchamp created, and in the fashion in which his language was arranged to this end. In fact the engine that is his Glass project reflects the artist’s struggle to place the important and common experiences of our lives into the language of humour, aesthetic incongruity and sardonic mobilization. As a process of layered prose the Glass is best understood as a consequence of Duchamp’s pursuit of a dark poetic of impersonality through the machinic. One must read Duchamp and read on him even if only as a means to redfine for oneself the difficulties to be discovered in his work and the uncomfortable experience of accepting his irresolutions and ambiguities as normative and the problematical as sensitive thought. If the dummies in the Glass are chess pieces (an idea to which authors on Duchamp have naturally subscribed) we are free to develop the entire mechanization of the Bachelor Apparatus both creatively and constructively through the strategic machine that it operates transformally into a mechanism operating under its own power. Shem and Shaun the two warring brothers in Finnegans Wake maneuver, baffle, scheme, deceive, producing counterfeit morphogenesis inside alternative loopholes that Joyce’s text provides. In Joyce’s notebooks we discover “Yawn telegraph telephone Dawn wireless thought transference” with Shaun transmiting information whose thoughts and replies to mamalujo act as mechanisms to deflect scrutiny away from the miriad voices he contains in his cryptic body. Lies, truth, improvised chicanary and honesty share beds in Joyce’s Nietzschean morality play. Subterfuge, ruse and sham are conveyed in linguistic strategies that double-cross aesthetics. A more bluntly human though very similar perspective may be compared when we conceive activities such as these from the viewpoint of medication and autopsy for the human body that has been interrupted from its typical functions by a strong disquieting trauma as described by Bruno Bettleheim in his essay on one of his patients in his book The Empty Fortress – the “machine boy” Joey – under the spell of autism – when the human being energises itself to deceive the sealed vault it has unconsciously built in its anxiety for release.
Language is the core of all artistic and philosophical creativity, and as Jacques Lacan suggests: “We know as sentient beings that all we are resides within the domain of our languages” and that “The most complicated machines are made from words”. It has seemed to me at least that this concern with language in relation to the “visual arts” needs repeating despite the apparent obviousness of its substance. For instance, the figures in each of Hays’ latest visual and written works are morphed photographs imaginatively superimposed upon a world independent of the notion of history as we commonly understand and use it. Joyce in the Yawn chapters of the Wake works with the metamorphic human body as a crypt equivalent to the mummies of ancient Egypt that would be resurrected into a clandestine space in which its relation (yet without relation as such) with an absolute past, is played out. With the term “history” we commonly assume the passage of past time and past events, but in Finnegans Wake this traditonal assumption is undermined by Joyce’s syntactic play with his newly coined portmanteaus in such a way that “lines of flight” (in Deleuze & Guattari) deny the possibility of a single reading. That is to say, it adopts a form of language that flees all history because it escapes immediate meaning and in this way is associated with “the war machine”. (1)
The sedentary histories of all aspects of any past are accompanied by myth and invented fabrication since we cannot territorialize or re-inhabit these past space-time coordinates. Such histories are actually games of memory played out in our language and not history that is different from all types and all kinds of fictions when we imagine we are thinking “historically”. Samuel Beckett’s suggestion that Finnegans Wake: “is not so much about something as it is that something itself” is parallel to this ahistorical indifference and a new effective way of developing textual creativity with which Hays has obviously been concerned in the morphological images and writings that are now accompanying these latest large pictures created in Photoshop.
If we take this view that any objectivity is pursued through subjectivity – no matter the field – be it art, literature, science, mathematics, physics, geography or politics we recognise our inner metaphor is the enabling and undetectable phenomenon that allows our minds to broach all apparent stasis – to make fun of writing and to make fun with it. Since Finnegans Wake’s “Wakease” is a confrontational “War Machine” that is grinding objectivity with the subjective, its full ironies only really confront a reader who has re-read its text over a longer period of time when this revelation of confrontational subjectivity strikes him, opening its doors to language’s complexity and its inexplicable viral universality – the very issue Duchamp also put into practice more effectively than any visual artist before or after him, generating new meanings from old in the artistic predicament in which he had found himself after the consequences of Cézanne and the ultra-Modernist illusions of formalist Cubism. Duchamp’s like Joyce’s devices makes enigmatic and problematic what one thinks one understands by terms like “presence” and “consciousness” that lead us to also think, for instance, the linguistic devices of Gertrude Stein.
What has not occurred in the field of the visual arts is the realisation that without the genius of language there would be no means available at all to any of us to adjudge between an egg and a rock, let alone an artwork and a urinal. It is language from beginning to end that enfolds our humanity, and it is this fact in which Finnegans Wake rejoices and that is ironized by Duchamp’s Glass and by its Notes. The terms in Duchamp’s Notes to the Large Glass that create its cerebral mechanics are the central motif of his entire project, and though there are various texts to be discovered on Duchamp’s use of language in regard to his Glass project, and indeed his work in general, his use of language in his art has been almost wholly overlooked. This is a curious case in point of putting the cart before the horse in the world of art and its histories. If there is still an art happening in the world today, and by this I mean an art concerned with thought, it must turn itself toward language and how language has brought about the conundrums of art’s odd histories and art’s conceptual becomings from the earliest periods of, say, Medieval art to the present day and at least – at some point – in our relationship with the world we are creating.
Art History has seen itself over time as one discipline that utilizes facets of the imagination and incorporeal effects upon which and more awkwardly Duchamp’s Glass has placed the greatest strains on poetic contemplation; yet meanwhile from its polar direction, his Urinal or Fountain appeared to be directing attention away from it. It is here that through language the course of the History and Theory of Art has functioned over the past 100 years as confused imagination. What is remembered in complex art by those capable of thinking through these dilemas is just how closely art historical texts move to our own bodies and minds that require them as objects and through which one can view the world of the artwork as complexly as one views oneself – and that which belongs to our own memories. These images and texts are the products of our awareness fired by more deeply felt forms of understanding; it is the production of language through the material world of art and the one leverage we have into this world that creates its birth. The artist in our own epoch no longer reads and no longer learns – therefore what we are seeing today is the falling away of the artistic and informed creator in all of the arts that would otherwise see us perhaps generating another Renaissance. Superficiality is ignorance that art departments still prefer to the rigours of informed thought and reading in tutors and students.
Histories of art are the accumulated texts and thoughts of previous minds that have shaped all of the works we perceive around us in one way or another. Histories of culture, of architecture and Design – whatever you will – are the outcrops of learning that are the outcrops of language. One location to which we should turn is the work of Nietzsche, and particularly his thoughts on morality and ideas concerned with the productivity of our language in discharging itself against the common rubric of our crystalized lingua franca. The bleakness and the paradox of our life brought Nietzsche to demand art against a nullifying nihilism that threatens that sense of what morality and the worth of living could be. Language should be the focus of the artist and not only the writer, the poet and the philosopher then; a language that expands itself through the power of constant thought and reading in the furtile contemplation of our being in a creative becoming. Hays has been writing this problem since 2004 and continues to create his working environment around and within these histories of art and their development of reproductions.
What Nietzsche contended is that language is all metaphor and this is an explanatory model of that which can comprise the complexity of nervous processes, our mental representations, and imagination, and this model rests on the most basic understanding of metaphor as our form of transferring or transmitting denser information, content, or impulse from one level to another. Nietzsche’s claims are often contradictory since he also maintaned that metaphor provides the illusory cover for the fact that no such transfer could ever take place. Nietzsche therefore came increasingly to view concept formation as a creative and therefore an artistic act. For him every word immediately becomes a concept, inasmuch as it is not intended to serve as a type or kind of reminder of the unique and the wholly individualized original experience to which it owes its birth, but it must at the same time fit innumerable even if more or less similar cases – meaning that strictly speaking we never arrive at equal cases – in other words a miriad of unequal cases. So every concept originates through our equating that which is unequal. All concepts are of our invention created by common agreement to facilitate ease of types of communication. Typically we forget this fact after inventing the concepts, and come to believe that they are “true” and do correspond to reality. Thus Nietzsche argues that “truth” is actually nothing but metaphor:
A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins. (2)
Hence the struggle against a dullness of mind through a revival of thought through the powers of our imagination, and our ability to visualize our sensed world infinitely beyond our present workaday technologically-induced thought conditions, largely uninformed by the muscles of human personal and artistic values and mind-body worth in its singularity and its pluralities. Nietzsche’s “Yes – saying” is equaled by Joyce’s and by Duchamp’s attention to language and art as Man’s most important wisdom. A more recent word by John Maeda will be useful:
Amidst the attention given to the sciences as how they can lead to the cure of all diseases and daily problems of mankind, I believe that the biggest breakthrough will be the realization that the arts, which are conventionally considered ‘useless,’ will be recognized as the whole reason why we ever try to live longer or live more prosperously.
Duchamp and Joyce powered the dynamics of imaginative creativity to a point at which their successors might proceed to pick a way through the very problematic their legacies have left. The observations offered above are not fleshed out enough to suffice a deeper interrogation of what Hays’ work up to now has been able to offer concerning influence and production against the work of Duchamp and Joyce – perhaps someone else might proceed in the future to do it better than mysef. In as much as both Joyce and Duchamp developed original means in order to promote a new way of imagining a picture of thought, and a different and powerful method of opening up new ways of understanding the forces involved in Man’s creative imagination, the only productive step seemingly open to Hays has been the impossible one of attempting to realize a new way of creating subtleties through an image/language. Language is invisibly and simultaneously indispensible yet inadequate for the purposes of our transferring the most sensitive and subtle feelings of our internal sensations to consciousness, not to mention attempting to communicate such delicate sensations to other minds in such a fasion that individual bodily ambiances be transmitted into the world at large by way of a more refined, more empowering linguistic, verbal/body interface. From the perspective of Joyce the problem of attempting to put a “new language” into practice was of course unrealizable, the power of the work of art for him and his language-use in Finnegans Wake, although highly unconventional and problematic, was nevertheless embodied in ordinary language and its grip on the mind as logos.
The paradoxes in discourse of reality and fiction are confronted by each of us every day of our lives whether we are aware of some of these apparent enigmas or not. Hays’ latest scripting that accompany his latest images is certainly fitting in one important respect in that it is related to the paradoxes Gilles Deleuze developed in his book The Logic of Sense that teases out many of the paradoxes to which sense is equated in its various and different aspects. Inverse relations are the same as identical relations depending on the use of the signifier, as Deleuze reveals in his study of sense in Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass: “The paradox of the absurd, or of the impossible object”. From this paradox is derived another: the propositions that designate contradictory objects themselves have a sense. A corollary of this for instance is that the possible and the impossible define a minimum common to the real but that impossible entities are – as Deleuze puts it – “extra-existents”, that yet exist as such in the proposition.
The fictive, the impossible, play a fully active part in our lives and yet, for most ordinary cases of matter-of-fact, these extra-existents are disregarded since they are not habitually looked for – we see these impossibles or paradoxes largely when something piques our interest, and on return they appear to become deep for us once we have been alerted to their presence by the extra-ordinariness of the moment, the event. Such is the status of language when it obstructs us. One can sense that the work being generated in Hays’ latest images and texts develop from subtly nuanced deep fleshly bodily recesses of negative/positive interplay, and also between the apparent plays of literary interstices, the power of metaphor and the evident role of philosophical thought on language as sites of intersection. Beyond reproduction/simulacrum models of reception developed by Deleuze elsewhere, however, Hays’ lines of images and texts are deployed as a means and as a process of engineering resemblances between the activities of thought or mind creativities, the agency of academic interests, and the innovative paradoxes upon which language and communications rely. It is not the pictorial letter-like qualities alone in these images standing in rows as interacting participles in sentences that signify here but also their simulated paint-like qualities whose metaphors echo in their texts beneath and above them; and with this observation I will suggest the most acute difference Hays’ work is confronting. It appears as reintegration of the complexly ordinary into art via an appropriation circulating through the medium of language and form of the world-wide-web and its interactive feeling for fragments of the future and the embryo of the ever-developing object. Just as there is provision in Finnegans Wake for endless reinterpretation and change referring its reader to a place beyond temporality, so such a space is opened by the creative possibilities of a personal temporality and its ending or Wake through the moving machinic apparatus of the Internet and the WordWideWeb and as the medium of Photoshop for Hays.
Hays’ inspiration through the work of Joyce and Duchamp and their play in the full silences that exist between language, image and thought and that usher us back to the poetry of Mallarmé, exites further interest. On the level of pedagogy Hays refers to the work of art as it is most often perceived – in the art history book, on the internet, and wherever else in printed form and most often located within a particular language – either empirically engaged, existentially or socially, or in the more elaborate or academic works of books on the history and theories of the work of art and its contexts. Writings from any decade or era on the work of art have their own special edge for discussing and arranging ideas and concerns about the work or works of art under discussion – however, the fact remains that what is being discussed is an image that is ostensively a print; it is probably a 10th of the size or less of its original and it is the missed product of the camera lens. The history of art is taught by virtue of this lens proceeding by way of the slide, the data projector, onto a support by which means the original appears in the eye of the minds of all who perceive it. The yawning gap between real and real for Hays intensifies the modern processes of perception and understanding that concerns him since these useful terms of the real and the real confuse and deepen thought upon which Joyce and Duchamp worked and with whom Hays has found cohesion. Mallarmé’s silences are distinctive interstices in his later poems performing a role construed as structure and inclining along his linguistic lines of verse that both define and refine them through the mind of the sensitive reader in whom the work resides. I would argue that such was the case in the general working practices of Duchamp and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even whose pacing as to its life as a visualised poetic and by the photograph and film is unique as matter of patterning in itself.
Who interprets, of course, is the point of all of this art: everything artistic is a matter of this.
In many of Hays’ latest works attention has been drawn to the image of flesh and the image of tools both of which, in their different ways, are entangled in a fundamental sense with Man. Verse and image appear as flesh and blood entangled with machinic entrails in an (un)natural extension of language opened to the spectator by means of measuring devices, various tools of geometrics, and optical instruments in many of these cinematic lines on the new Large Images.
Ian Hays. Minute Detail from Yawn 6. 2010-11. From 1800 Characters. Shaun. Finnegans Wake.
The effect of understanding Hays’ work relies on sustained considerations of details and their attendant writings both here and on the works themselves. In view of these prints being the product of previously printed material our work, if we want to enage with it, would actually come through extended reading on academic texts. The bibliography on the email@example.com website contains many of the works Hays himself has consulted over the years but omits books and essays that have not been deemed immediately relevant to the images and texts he has been creating. The most amusing issue that people have regarding his work is the fact that since he is no longer a painter, and has not been a painter for many years, his works or prints are not therefore original works of art. Against the backdrop of the computer screen world-wide-web he continues to create as one and the same with his writings the idea that painting – because it is redundant as Duchamp had indicated – is thus patently resurrected as metaphor.
The lessons of Duchamp obviously come into view at the place where the medium of paint and support no longer provide amusement for the mind that has now exhausted the linguistic play provided by layer upon layer of art historical analysis. In a sense the intrinsic value of a work of art and its extrinsic or historical and aesthetic values blur such that dichotomies are loosend at best, and at worst are not discussed but are instead muffled, sometimes by linguistic jargon or accepted simplistic traditions of discourse. Academic results in the roles taken up by analytical historians of art develop quite differently in regard to the life of the work of art, yet there does become a point at which even a learned language must give way to unthought issues that have gradually worn the surface of the visual and lingustic sign away – the social and historical fabric of the work of art under review for example has become the terrirory of artistic reproduction. It seems to me absurdly curious still that many painters – artists of visual works then shall we say – do not attend to language (by which I mean plain analytic writing) even concerning only that which has already been bequethed to them from the perspective of a linear historical position.
The traditions of painting are long and extremely varied, so that historians and many of their assumptions concerning the medium were limiting to an artist whose genuine concerns were with new ideas and new technologies in play in Europe and the USA. The question of working within a historically complex yet clichéd medium, an overused and overburdened archeology of concepts and pictorial concerns, had made it unfeasible for Duchamp to explore the genuine relationship he wanted to have with language and image, hence his desire for a more graphic exploitation of the image employing a “dry” style or medium. Hundreds of texts and books on Duchamp’s work as a provocateur undermine his earnest activities that combine humour with irony and incomprehensibility at the point of poetry and technology – suffice it to remark that Duchamp admired the work of writers and particularly the works of Raymond Roussell, the poetry and letters of Jules Laforgue, T.S. Eliot and the work of Alfred Jarry. Writers carried ideas into regions beyond the domains of the visual arts while visual artists nevertheless were bound to writing through Art History’s prose. Duchamp’s use of titles for his works both on and outside of them reveal an obsessive delight in language’s extraordinary flexibility that can be noted for example in his naming of the parts that were to take their place in his Glass that is nothing less than the staging of visible and invisible poetry in motion at the centre of which carnal libidinal frustration meets cerebral ascetic distress. In effect the works he made or found were bound to language hand in glove. One extraordinary work that in our own day has not appeared as so remarkable is the Boîte-en-valise which is a portable miniature monograph including sixty-nine reproductions of most of Duchamp’s output created by reproduction and, with the touch of a renovating craftsman, re-tinted by Duchamp’s handiwork. What is brought into question with this work of retouched reproductions is the changeling nature of the original and the position of reproduction as an art in itself residing as a trace metaphorically between language and its always-changing image of itself. The reproduction has become so semantically liberated that taking it as a concept for itself it has served Hays’ new work on Finnegans Wake because – as he has noted himself elsewhere – it transgresses its own inherited social codes.
Given this exemplum of Duchamp’s thought through his Boite en valise it might appear curious in our day that he did not take the culture of this practice a few stages further and to surgically dismantle what is certainly the ultimate image/text amalgamation that is the History of Art Book and/or Catalogue. Hays has created his images throughout from art reproductions lifted directly from these sources and from the internet as a means of re-treating photography in the manner it has obsessively been treating the art-object across the past 160 or more years. Yet in order to advance the differences apposite from Duchamp to the Artist’s Book and Photographs exemplified in our current decade it is as though one would need to emphasise his significance yet again in the face of a fashion that simply ignores the complexity of art and its histories in a tedious replay of the Art Photograph – and the by now ancient debate of photography as art:
Modernism in the visual arts was rightly bemused by Duchamp’s activities and has failed on the whole to recognize the critical importance of the work he made and on which we are still left to ponder if we are at all serious concerning the role of the visual and literary arts in our own day and the future of intellectual work in the hands of those artists and writers whose works will now inhabit the www. When we speak of the autonomy of Duchamp’s oeuvre then we may be imagining an army of works in disparate pieces and its extremely heterogeneous nature. Still, what we know is that each of Duchamp’s works and texts relate to each other, hence the Boîte en valises that in their variations display this understanding. When we consider the applications through which we view works of art and in particular the www, the original work is simply further removed from us than it has ever been before, and is further re-and de-contextualized, re-rendered, re-allocated in space and time to such a degree that the Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction (3) would seem, in its argument, to have reached its own limits in its fundamental propositions, save for Benjamin’s condition that the contemplative value of the original work of art and its aura have been lost forever because of the power of reproduction.
At least this is the paradoxical turn that Duchamp consistently addressed during his working life largely due to his works that defamiliarize the spectator from the reproduction as merely a reproduction. Not discounting the quality of paint as such as a full medium for direct physical expression in its countless manifestations from Leonardo and before to Kandinsky and beyond, the Boîte en valise ironizes the bringing together of the conflicting technological phenomena that Duchamp had been exploring from his earlier paintings of mechanomorphs through to the Glass. The quality of the thing in itself, a work’s autonomy for Duchamp had been expressed in his long deployment of technological nomenclatures throughout his own writings and in his difficult designations of works that create a linguistic humorous whole, self-contained, self-referential, and that builds its own world out of puns. Taking an oeuvre that communicates with itself, building away from its creator in order to make him free, constitutes a reversal of much that is in Modernism. From Hays’ perspective these approaches to creativity in Duchamp and Joyce have provided examples of an intellectual approach to visual and written art that is free from the snags of style or of manner that reverberates in the works of those artists who have slavishly copied them, particularly the work of Duchamp, without facing the query of where Duchamp and Joyce might have taken their work to. Given Hays’ writings on this subject that are slowly becoming quite extensive, perhaps his own readers/spectators will find a relationship unfolding between his visual images, the vast sum of detail and time Duchamp lavished on his Glass, his Notes and Boîte en valise, and Hays’ battle with Joyce’s alian language.
The utilities in Photoshop that readers of Hays’ images will find in number are the Filters that allow the artist to rectify any ‘original’ feature of a photograph. The hand-tinting pochoir process of producing coloured images employed by Duchamp to create the reproduction-come-originals occupying the Boîte en valise looked back to earlier periods for producing popular pictures of those times: Pochoir (French stencil) . Through the 1920’s and 30’s stenciling had become a popular medium in its own right. This was most evident in Paris where it became known as pochoir, used extensively to illustrate the very latest in fashion and also in design. Pochoir almost immediately began to be applied to the production of postcards as the flat clean color that it produced had become more acceptable amidst the general influx of modernist tendencies in design. Celluloid and plastic replaced the old metal foil stencils that were traditionally used but otherwise the technique was generally unchanged from earlier years. The transparent medium of the watercolor however that had been used to paint over ink was now largely replaced with a more opaque gauche that provided these cards with a more intense coloration and a largely ‘painted’ look. Some cards were produced with only a few colors but most used many hues. Black was still often used as a key, applied in linear fashion to hold the composition together. While beaux arts postcards were produced with pochoir it was a costly time consuming process and it eventually succumbed to its cheaper rivals. Stenciling however quickly evolved into the more commercially viable screen-printing process. Duchamp worked on his Boxed exhibition of the Valise twice: between 1935 and 1940 and between the 1950s and 1960s. Hays’ work takes the strategy of Duchamp’s pochoir series as precomprehended although it is equally obvious that this is not the case via-a-vis the wider world and that of the Internet. The two websites below may be useful in order for the reader to extend their understanding and thought on this study on Duchamp’s work and the effect of the photograph:
Examining Hays’ latest works in the series New Large Works & Details (Wake 5. pp. 489-508 and Wake 6. pp.509-516) – with great brevity on this occasion – it becomes clearer just how detailed and filled with quotation are the techniques between the Boîte and the subtle images Hays has redeployed as vehicles that straddle the problem associated with the previously unrefined inexact photographed reproduction. This esoteric framing of quotation through infuence was recruited for its particular purposes that would suffice in a special way to advance a new cause: that of initiating this new project capable of investigating, describing and acting visually and linguistically on the two most demanding works of visual and written Modernism on and in the machine and its poetic. Accident and the nature of human life can be seen complexly through the different layerings Hays’ work with the machine has embraced. Francis M. Naumann has commented on Duchamp’s use of pochoir as a format that diminished “the hand” or handiwork of the artist that for Hays became the reverse physical and conceptual ingredient by which means Photoshop would be irreplaceable as the mechanized exacting purpose-built device for realizing art as another multilayerd pioneering visual arena. We may look now to Naumann’s words on the Boite and take note of how the joke has turned:
For all intents and purposes, the process [of pochoir tinting] denies any possibility of expressiveness on the part of its maker, eliminating the “patte,” as Duchamp called it, or artist’s personal touch. From the years of his earliest mature works (ca. 1913-14), Duchamp maintained that he was devoted to “discredit[ing]” the idea of the hand-made. (Francis Naumann in toutfait 1999).
With the essential inclusion of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake in Hays’ own project we can only estimate the potential for the subtlety and finesse his images and writings are aiming to move toward that are examining the work of art as such from, say, Myron to the art of whatever is ‘now’. It is clear in Hays’ notes that Joyce and Duchamp were influential in putting his own thought to work as a development further to their very own quest for an artform that renders thought and language available to the visions of its closest and well-informed readers. I am aware that Hays and Naumann have disagreed on any close relatedness of Duchamp to Joyce’s writing, Naumann having exchanged words with Hays on the subject a number of years ago. We should be aware of works that fail against the key aspects of Duchamp’s contradictory form of mimesis, artistic production and inventiveness, as a man of letters, a polarized writer and poet who wrote his cross-fertilizing fragmentary incomplete texts as a multiplicity of decentered activation on the intangible. Works of desconstruction that exist under his name and others under his pseudonym Rrose Sélavy speak of challenges against and also for Bergsonian models of time, as indeed do the portmanteaux words of Finnegans Wake. It is apposite also to reference this point by providing the reader with the title of a major work (that Naumann also refers to in his Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) that creatively considers and articulates the part Duchamp’s writings play in the full context of his oeuvre: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp in the Development of his Poetics by Carol Lee Plyley James: The University of Minnesota PhD. Dissertation 1978.
The early works and texts Hays created for his Internet Site were inviting Joyce’s language of the Wake to open up within a framework of computer art and an understanding of Duchamp’s writings called inframince. The smell of smoke mixing with the odor of a mouth that exhales it – the nearness of the poetic of Mallarmé – he likened to Joyce’s word variations as marrying through the senses by olfactory/Infrathin or escalations on working with the Wake; alternations of perceiving, hearing, internal confusions of chance evanescences that vanish and reappear, altering, being and becoming more chaotic, enveloping several impressions. Reading while re-reading Joyce’s verbal inventions Hays seems to have been made even more aware that we are being asked to determine spaces between arbitrary possibilities and inexpressible senses, thus for Hays’ purposes accentuating the visible shapes of inframince. Misspellings of words whose morphemes contract and expand in the Wake create timespace upon which we can muse, and, being coincident with Duchamp’s alchemical word inventions on physical matter, like Laforgue’s and Roussel’s texts, are successful as a type of writing preceeding Derridian deconstrucion. Language emerges in shapes from flesh-coloured cloth-covered metaphors at various spaces in Hays’ New Large Works and Details awaiting physical transformation at another date – thoughts on the manifestation of time as a delinarized and pluridimensional temporality is here being recognized against typical interpretive constraints imposed by traditional concepts of meaning and time for its liberation – archetypes as in Hays’ earlier works to 2004 are here being refused.
Ian Hays. Detail from Large Detail after Yawn 6. 2011-12. Shaun. Finnegans Wake.
From this perspective of figuration Hays’ grids in his images that imply continuity and the deployment of connectedness, function in an approach minutely detailing unique abstract forms that divulge their content equivocally, visualizing phrases or a series of phases as a disjunction/synthesis of the portmanteau word. Of course the portmanteau word suggests the revisionary kind of mind, and this reference to the cinematic in these New Large Works that had prefered to have escaped from sense have been taken (akin to Jules Laforgue) into exile. (4)
The aspect of reapparaisal in the material and textual subject matter in Hays’ latest images and texts has not been neglected. Revaluation is inseperable from taking responsibility for all equivocation itself that is alive in a tensed relation to philosophy between Derrida and Joyce and Derrida and Duchamp. There has been a vast superfluity of Duchampiana or Duchamp-like-things made after him in the genre of the readymades since at least 1945, and accustomed as I believe we are to it (we have seen it become popular art, current fashion, and mindless reserve within the force of finance) the intellectual rethinking to be countenanced in Hays’ work that oppose these activities reflects his interest at last in his own signature – his philosophical learning that has been occupying his continued thought on the texts of Derrida in particular. Artists since Joyce and Duchamp are “programophoned” after them (whether they know it or not) and, as we know regarding influences, it may be unapprehended or simply a way in which one can continue to work; as for Derrida, influence was pronounced since in his own work “Joyce’s ghost [was] always coming onboard” his own writing. As Andrew J. Mitchell and Sam Slote recount from Derrida’s Lecture Two Words for Joyce:
This is not a matter of you remembering him, [Joyce] no, but of you being remembered by him, inhabiting his memory. The Joycean obligation is then “to be in his memory, to inhabit a memory henceforth greater than all your finite recall can gather up, in a single instant or a single vocable, of cultures, languages, mythologies, religions, philosophies, sciences, histories of spirit or of literatures. I don’t know if you can love that, without resentment and without jealousy” (Two Words for Joyce 24/21–22). The totalizing drive of Joyce’s absorption and disaggregation of culture and history makes us part of his programming, where “in advance and forever it inscribes you in the book you are reading” (Two Words for Joyce 24/22). We become part of the programming “on this 1000th generation computer, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, compared with which the current technology of our computers and our micro-computerized archives and our translating machines remains a bricolage, a prehistoric child’s toy” (5)
Types or manners of writing in history of art books, of course, strongly affect the nature of the kinds of knowledge that can be lifted from them no less than in philosophical texts or treatise on science and physics. For this reason if for no other reading Derrida can be a highly effective way of improving one’s attitude to the written text as such, whose form is dramatically different from spoken language – it is as though these ways of communicating disengage entirely one from the other for us, and so much so that the written word can effectively begin to read just like an image that contains all its ambiguities – an image such as a photograph for example. It is at this point that Derrida’s concerns on the issue of presence in time and textuality comes into focus as interpretation and signification – the possibility of undermining linearity and highlighting multidimensionality as a thought-praxis. Textual wordplay becomes thick and may be operated upon as a material art coefficient to our shifting thought since it offers itself as a target for imaginative playfulness, semantics and morphing – nothing is permanent in this economy and where chance and change become dramatically forefronted in our reading. Here we are in a proximity to the writing, music, sound, and noise scores of John Cage for example, whose art and writings on Joyce and Duchamp among many other subjects concerning music became isochronous to his interest in Eastern thought. As Cage was aware the integrity with which Joyce and Duchamp created their works both serious and hilarious would always appear to be avant-garde. It needs to be reinforced that intellectually it can never be a matter of disliking or going around Duchamp since one must go through him; the very opposite of what has been happening in Gallery Art over the past 30 years or more, whose frailty regarding its lack of treatment regarding the technology of language and philosophy as power, has defined itself nakedly and simply through its complete lack of enlightenment and presents itself instead as a flirtatious unprovocative entertainment.
I would like to suggest that as a way of revivifying Hays’ images we should think the ordinary and the commonplace as Bergson and Deleuze supposed life as an open system that mirrors a true science and a true vision of evolution, movement and thought, regardless of outcome. Thus we can perceive influences taken up in Hays’ earlier work for the www as ruminations, and as a slow movement in progress that has now become a literary and visual resistance to totalisation as a paradoxical means of actually raising totalisation’s potential profile.
Our intellectual habits are largely or typically lazy and not prone to review – so what we do with difficult work is to look for pre-existing molds or schemas in order to have our idea of such knowledge quickly confirmed. Our minds rebel against the idea of an original and unforeseeable creation of forms, of works and writings that entail such personal attentiveness, prefering closed systems and not open ones. It is this enigma that has drawn me to the status Hays places on difference and repetition – eternal return – as posited by Deleuze and Nietzsche respectively. Against the idea that narrative form imposes meaning upon the passage of time and therefore humanises it, the murkiness of the works evolving from Hays’ project resists all forms of easy translation because of its innumerable visual and written time-frames developing in these awkward image-text relationships. We should remember that it is typically and by now strangely assumed in a post-Newtonian world and within the framework of current scientitic-philosophical thought about language, that meaningful discourse must still, of necessity, have a sense of closure written into its genetic makeup even if only in the traditional guise of an implied address, that is, a prospected destination that defines and directs its sense. How bland this gesture and creation of the uniform appears even as it reappears over and again on the internet itself.
Limited as painting, printing, sculpture, assemblage or installation are with regard to mind art there is yet a difference of subjective intensity that is literally – because of its subject matter – a mobilization of the queer concept of difference in Hays’ image-compilations whose energies are in the process of being generated through the model Deleuze describes as the Rhizome. Multiplicity is apparent in the becoming connections any point of a rhizome can and must be connected to, hence this mobilization that resists chronology and organization as opposed to spaces of irritation, disturbance in power relations and a potential for felt sense, motivated as thought and invigorated by text. Here “everything breaks, everything is joined anew”; copies of commonplace or unremarkable household items in Yawn 5, 6, and 7; characters appropriating familiar-seeming rooms and floors, are folded within emergent tactics of readings. Hays’ grid structure reveals its way of being composed and ongoing in such a way that reading in any direction arrays of details form a mélange of figurative imagery simultaneously with abstracted newly forged entities, filtered or brushed into shapes, whose potentials change according to the compass of any reading undertaken. Letter characters are flesh characters – the metaphor is strong. Further to this Hays’ modifications that occur in his works daily strain to deliver language to the body. I think it is of interest that according to Christine Van Boheemen-Saaf:
Joyce’s ‘symptom’ contains the real reminder that philosophy, art, technology are produced by the flesh. However, instead of labelling it ‘symptomatic’, I wish to see it as an act of resistance against the hegemonic imposition of a structure of subjectivity which splits body from language. In fact, I propose we understand Joyce’s drive to bring the body into word as the product of a different way of conceiving the practice and substance of language, perhaps analoguous to that of ancient Irish oral culture, preserving an incantatory mode. (6)
Minute Detail from Yawn_5. 2010 – 11. From 1800 Characters. Shaun. Finnegans Wake.
These image series are progressive, but also partial, advancing step by step by means of what we might call the floating signifier and floated signified given by the signifier that is not assigned or realized as such, able to take any value whatsoever, on the condition that these belong to the available reserve. There is of course a powerful interrelationship in Hays’ works between Joyce’s writings, particularly Ulysses/Finnegans Wake and their lists of and references to place names, peoples names, catalogues of references to history as myth and myth as history, narratives inside narratives, variations of voice and timbre in detail, movement between what we call the past, the present and the future in a complexity that does not explain itself to the reader but rather insists upon the world as thought: a changing living and dying and hectic manifestation so well beyond our capabilities to comprehend it’s complexities that there is nothing for it but join the flux as a matter of remaining sensitive to it. Joyce as we know was well aware of the more ordinary quality of his mind that often manifested itself in his writing as in his remark that he had “a grocer’s assistant’s mind“. (7) Duchamp gave a strong hint as to the sources for many of his readymades and the notion of the spectator building their own Glass through differing mental states since for him the huge American Sears and Roebuck Catalogue with its mail order kit-houses with central heating, and indoor plumbing and electricity, and with its vast array of goods from sewing machines and bicycles, to furniture and dolls and sporting goods to groceries, appeared as a metaironic poetic structure against which he alluded to The Green Box of 1934 for La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même. Duchamp himself characterized the notes as “somewhat like a Sears Roebuck catalogue,” meant “to accompany the Glass and be quite as important as the visual material”, if not more so in many ways. For a useful paper on Duchamp and the Sears Roebuck Catalogue see below: Tout-fait Issue1/Vol.1. December1999. The Green Box Stripped Bare:
It seems to me that Hays has been forcibly elaborating on his earlier works to such a degree that this ‘filmgrid’ schema needed to take into account the devices – to which I have alluded above – in a more formal design. Certainly the difficult occupation of attempting syncopation with Ulysses/Finnegans Wake/Glass/Notes, and the rest, has become an enormous exercise in self-development too regarding the writings of the histories of art: a desire to create in imagery what is probably unfeasible, blank and accidental. Continued processes of repeated readings of Joyce’s Wake produce elaborate signals that resurface and then turn back again into the page. With Hays’ return to rectifications of readymade artworks in his latest images, vast differences in perspective are opened in the imagination by his use of very different styles of writing and structure in their accompanying texts that function as imagery. While the outlining and evolving narratives of the Glass and the Wake present various but relatively standard if deeply repressed thought-images, their peculiar semantic and syntactical constructions are occasioned by their difficulty, allowing the object’s unconscious to be taken on loan only to foreground a condition of indifference that separates the subjects’ vocabulary from any or all typical experience. These two works are still providing Hays with a sharp edge aiding him in concentrating on his Details from the larger-scale images whose dimensions are such that only Zoomify can present them. While this appears a difficult reading of what one is contending with in Joyce and Duchamp we also need to re-acquaint ourselves with readymades Duchamp rectified like Pharmacie of 1914.
Since all of Duchamp’s works reveal the alchemical equality rite of low into high and high into low, Hays’ Details and thus of course the source images from whence they came attempt to follow this over-defined circuitry – and exploratory and pioneering as Hays’ new works are they are dedicated to the work of the general narrative question on mankind and its language posed by his preceptors. To perceive their legacy and as an aside for a moment, we should take an example from the Wake that will be instructive. The Mamalujo portion of the Wake – Book IV for instance, is acutely, intellectually and aesthetically challenging, but there is a general consensus that ALP at one point is writing a defence for HCE – her husband – and pleading his innocence. As a water element in three forms she appears as Kate, ALP, and Isabelle (a grandmother, a flowing stream and a young girl), and Hays’ work relates to Joyce’s strategy of overlapping forms in a way that is challenging and visually equivocal in regard to the odd gender question of male/female and female/male.
Large and small are both entangled in the Wake in view of the mire of foreign terms Joyce had employed in a bid to outplay extrications of one-sense-states of explication that literally does equate to the quantum mechanical thesis of materialist entanglement developed through the EPR Paradox (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox) perhaps better known as the Copenhagen interpretation, in which reality is seen to be a superposition of all possible states, or “hidden variables”. Put simply, an extrication of any one sex in the Wake (or identifiable wholes of any kind – and arguably in Book IV particuarly) is made intellectually impracticable; and in a fashion that the harder one works at an extrication of a single sense or sex then the tighter the grip becomes to disallow it on that particular page or sentence or particle under interrogation. Hays’ argument, however, appears to be that by querying the language of the Wake and the Glass – by creating imaginative parallax or stereopsis in the form of vast arrays of figures in his recreated investigations on Shaun (at this present time FW. pp. 474-488) a display of interaction will then become available to spectators in alphabetic format too (words and sentences whose forms are near and/or distant, clear and/or unclear etc.).
In other words like the Glass, Hays’ imagery is not there to illustrate his texts, and his texts are not intended to explain his images, but to add to the complexity of reference and movement subjective deliberation can entertain in this academic environment. If we move our views along the parallaxis παράλλαξις of these binocular visions in terms of his sentences and images we are already in the process of conditioning ourselves to the play in hand of Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, Duchamp’s Glass and his experimental propositions in The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. Duchamp’s operations with parallax are perhaps more familiar than the ways in which Joyce explored the phenomenon geometrically in the Wake and more obviously in Ulysses. The question of perspective in the history of art was placed under pressure yet again by Duchamp not simply reminding us of the important role it played in Renaissance painting – but confusing that tradition of large and small entities that will create a field of unified reading.
Here the split we see at once between the 2 dimensional pictorial plane and illusions of space in which our eyes easily play, and the illusions of the three dimensional world as presented by the Glass, is clearly dualistic and cannot be resolved in a classical way. At the root of this duality at least to some degree is the problem of our “resolved” language systems that describe a 3D world in practical and thus empty ways. In a sense Joyce likewise re-envisioned his own project in Finnegans Wake particularly due to the enormous dualities of languages he opposed to one language field, although any native tongue is enough to reveal the almighty power that brings the totality of the world to everyone on this planet. Perhaps his grasp of this fact determined the fate of the book I have personally come to consider retains Hays’ own fascination with the art of literature, poetry, philosophy and the visual arts as the melting pot of languages. Joyce and Duchamp tore up the “rule book” on communication, literature and of course visual art; and the parallax view seen holistically presents the Wake and Glass as probing, exploratory texts. Their suggestions, allusions, camouflaged objects, objectives, signifiers/signifieds, proper names, inflexions and gestalts, place their relevance inside the work of poststructuralist theory. Their flavour of poetic complexity is a creative one that enables us to enjoy the proximity with which both artists place us to Jules Laforgue; Alfred Jarry; the reflections of Schopenhauer and Max Stirner; Nietzsche; Kafka; Ionesco; Jean Genet; Beckett; Queneau, Peter Weiss and so on – mirroring the complexity of creativity itself in the ways both Duchamp and Joyce explored it, and holding mankind as its exemplar since art, like our science and physics, is required to be as complex as we ourselves are.
It goes without saying, I believe, that one would wish, perhaps laughingly, that language could actually be treated as its own topic: and there have been those who have suggested that this is what happens in Finnegans Wake as such, though this in fact would be misguided. This is the nub of Hays’ problematic in as much as the many manifestations of analysis on the writings of such thinkers as Joyce and Duchamp invite these types of statement while misrepresenting – by default – the position of language itself. We cannot produce positions from outside of language since even the best of unreadable texts like every sign or noosign or signs outside of the given signs are implicated in a world in which there exist no gaps or nonmeaning for us at any time in any space. Reading Deleuze can produce in us that very sensation of experiencing these integrating patterns of distinct and merged layers, rhizomes, and “sense”:
Sense is both the expressible and the expressed of the proposition, and the attribute of the state of affairs. It turns one side toward things, and another side toward propositions. But it cannot be confused with the proposition that expressed it any more than with the state of affairs or the quality that the proposition denotes. It is exactly the boundary between propositions and things (8)
Deleuze’s stated arrangements in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense in particular, redefine our own position vis-à-vis the work of time and visions of the work of the refined representation, inasmuch as such representation can be allotted to the properties of virtual material “things”, leaving thought to perform its morphing explorations as it shifts from sense to sense – redefining itself most succinctly in the work of art, because the work of art defines an area or arena for contemplation and rigour away from common sense, practicality, and “good” judgment. Language requires to be exposed as Finnegans Wake exposes habits, of addictions, tendencies, customs, conventions and traditions of pattern in linguistic usage – habitually baring them morphogentically. Joyce’s language-use functions in the way that shadows operate – by highlighting in general the ways in which language usually functions, thus permitting us from many different perspectives to envisage the complexities of normal language; and from our achieved perspectives it becomes possible at least to envisage language as the ontological ground for all creativity: artistic, scientific, et sic in et sic de aliis – the root of human creativity itself. Ulysses/Finnegans Wake and The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even cast the commonplace world into relief as of course do Duchamp’s readymades, and the important problem that must be overcome in the visual arts is its complete lack of understanding that language was art’s very genesis at every point and every turn; hence it is language that will be its future in the hands of those who can wield its faculty.
Margot Norris has noted: “It is difficult to write or talk about Finnegans Wake in conventional language” and also suggested that a meta-language for aiding in discussing the book is likewise absurd. (9) However we have no other ways except through conventional language to reason this “unassimilable freak” (10) and perform acts of thought with the support of some form(s) of metaphysics. Deleuze writes of the “passion of the paradox” in which “language attains its highest power” to the point of what he calls “becoming mad” in Carroll’s text, dispersed before good and common sense. That to which Deleuze is drawing attention is the differentiation of infinite qualities residing in sense/nonsense. While we are learning ways in which we can work with Finnegans Wake, for instance, perhaps the richest of the problems that comes to mind concerns the different qualities or the values of difference in exchanges between common and portmanteaux words. In a scramble to make any kind of sense from what Joyce has written it is worthwhile to suggest to a reader the importance of sustaining the role paradox plays during readings and not to close this down for the sake of the role of ‘sense’. As Deleuze suggests:
[…] the gift of sense occurs only when the conditions of signification are also being determined. The terms of the series, once provided with sense, will subsequently be submitted to these conditions, in a tertiary organization that will relate them to the laws of possible indications and manifestations (good sense, common sense). This presentation of a total deployment at the surface is necessarily affected at each of these points, by an extreme and persistent fragility. (11)
Un-sense and differAnce determine the moment of going-through exchanges of value – thus exchanges of qualities realizable through the text, and our invitation is to create the writing anew with the aid of this matrix and thus challenge the metaphors into which we so easily slip in typical texts. This is not an exercise in getting something right, but a preparation for overturning a world and rebuilding it from the shattered remnants of the language in which we far too typically live. Since Joyce and Duchamp recoiled at the wasted time ahead in enduring the exercise of “progress” that spells “the language of art” as they had come to know it in Modernism, a form of schizophrenic activity in an advanced form of a voyage around the body, a shadowing of the mind in its activities, had displaced the autonomy of the art work as the consummation of state-mindedness and replaced it with the war machine we have the privilege today of operating. Duchamp wrote of a “clearing” the artist requires creating for himself a space comparable to the war machine and crucial for his pursuit of the instability of identities with which his work was deeply and conceptually engaged – as a previous form of Deleuzean “nomadism”.
For Deleuze the war machine is pure exteriority against the “state”, a space with which the “state” nonetheless has to engage as the war machine proliferates itself and changes. Familiar as this condition at first might appear, the gulf between literature, art, and philosophy becomes amusingly reduced as the work of our protagonists meets with the Deleuzean model of “proliferating concepts”: of inventing new conceptual categories that construct new ways of understanding, thinking and seeing. Different planes of thought, for instance, are required by Deleuze’s reader in order to develop concepts like “quasi-cause”, between sense and sensation, whereby internalization stimulates its flowing-sense-kaleidoscope of immaterial sensations to us: “things” as we see and think them are actually mixtures of potentiality in a multiplicity of the virtual and the actual through which unidentifiable aleatory “points” flow. In “rhizome” we must deduce that hyphae complexes of seething “dead matter” proliferate in vast helical twists metamorphosing in a will to power its nutrient pathways from underground to skyline. However, the motivating forces at work with the term “quasi-cause” (as with any unusual neologism employed within a sedentary form) develops primarily from language itself – which is to state that all understanding is the elaborating power of its reception, and how and in what way(s) it is received.
Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s Deleuze and Language (12) offers interesting insights on the play(s) of language he distinguishes as important in Deleuze’s writings, claiming that Deleuze’s new “pragmatic model” focuses on language as “a historical construct” that is deeply enmeshed in material realities. Perhaps not simply “enmeshed” but actually responsible for and “immanent to the world” I would suggest. Differance, difference, and repetition occur through language: – period. All transmissions conveying new concepts and thoughts from the past into its future spread and are conducted by language and all the forces of its material/immaterial base: hence the idea that all language is metaphorical. Language-use in all fields of human life is plainly used as a flesh body is used: hence Joyce’s deployment of HCE and ALP and the language curiosities we all experience in Finnegans Wake, plus the material metaphysical signs in play in Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. It’s an important amusement.
Repeated ritual activities for Duchamp and Joyce spelled disaster hence their attitude to creativity and their creations that remain aesthetically unidentified and metaironic. The Logic of Sense provides its reader of Duchamp and Joyce with a “map” (in Deleuze’s terms – as opposed to a “tracing”) of language in action as good sense, common sense, and nonsense: What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious…. The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, and susceptible to constant modification…. A map has multiple entryways, as opposed to the tracing, which always comes back “to the same”. (13)
Deleuze describes the trace in terms noticeably similar to Bergson’s model of “cinematographic thought”: The trace is “like a photograph or X ray that begins by selecting or isolating, by artificial means such as colorations or other restrictive procedures, what it intends to reproduce”. (14) “The strength of the map, by contrast, is that it never operates by means of resemblance. While a map functions always in relation to something beyond itself, it engages in those relations as a tool-box, a set of potentialities that are never predetermined and that can in turn effect changes upon the images and objects they come up against”. (15) Hays seems particularly aware of scholarly texts such as those that fix and explain Deleuze’s intentions, but not all of the writings of his oeuvre can be developed in such straightforward ways. Words are intrinsically unreliable signals and Deleuze organizes his sentences and paragraphs in The Logic of Sense in a way that places great strains on our translations and adaptations (the work of transmission). From Hays’ viewpoint, as a reader of Joyce and Duchamp during his lectureships as an art historian, the certainty of differAnce and difference in a text (and perhaps particularly a text that seeks to iron-out interpretation(s) of another and complex activity of thought in writing) is filled with gaps, escapes and dodges because its central aim is to clarify. The Logic of Sense casts shadows over any such clarifications.
Troubling texts presenting models for thought that vary wildly from discreet and more acceptable norms likewise differ between themselves; such is the difficulty present in an elaboration of Deleuze’s work that nevertheless bears a relationship to the freeing aspects of certain kinds of other literature, poetics and I would like to add the feeling of thought itself. In this way we have been concerned here with a literature and an art very much directed at a more or less explicit violation and subversion of the culture in which it has occurred. Incessantly un-suspicious of the “literature” they practice, our traditionalist art historians and also artists consistently separate words from things as a staple, while working and writing within a thorny tradition: a tradition of Modernism in the visual arts that now requires redirection to locations and roads less travelled. Hays’ key unease with philosophy, art and writing is their language entanglement with the rendition of unreal and real conceptual worlds into this language-game as a mirroring, rather than as an enactment of those worlds.
In their writings, Duchamp and Joyce each describe a revelatory transcendental process that brings words and things into contact with one another. Of course, given the time, I would need to discuss Tristan Tzara, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and William Burroughs – important as such writers and poets are there is so much one is just forced to overlook for the sake of time and space. However, it seems to me at least that Hays visualizes Finnegans Wake as a vast idea about language: that The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even is the one self-evident work of the 20th century that befits the additionally-thinking- mind, whose fascination concerns itself with an appetite for poetic phenomena whose appeal spreads outward to generate philosophical thought.
Duchamp’s writing for the mechanics of the Glass was a matter of syncretic combination in the regions of poetic-science, or as so many other writers on Duchamp have concluded, a nod toward alchemy and pure-effect-resonances as opposed to, say, metaphor in the typical usage of the idiom. It is clear that for works like these, words are things: language’s opaqueness and its obstinate reference to itself are what make it a mental power for itself while placing mind in the Abyss. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay for instance Indirect Language and the Voices of Silence (16) affords at once a direct insight into the enigma of language, and simultaneously limits the phenomenon of language’s power by its description of painterly art and exacting language as he understood it via the complexity of his epoch; it is a phenomenological practice throughout which he perceives the activities of painting including Cézanne and Klee. Language must be itself creative, but Merleau-Ponty occasionally places himself on the wrong side of writing and the art of painting by invoking painterly acts as though such acts are always clear and inescapably valuable; he is insupportable in his lack of knowledge concerning the innumerable activities that might be absorbed in the physical practice of art in-itself. His descriptions of the activities present in vision tower over his responses to painting as though it were indeed a kind of language as such and it is into this Abgrund that his writing often falls. The art of oil painting that concerns him has for most part been a ritual repeating itself over and over through idea transformations taking place. Certainly we can be belittled by the art of painting particularly when we understand only a little of its apparatuses, and it is this, among other reasons, that largely belong to literature and to philosophical thought, that prevents us from understanding the odd-seeming relationship Duchamp had with painting as a means of total expression and the history of ideas.
Hays’ new works as photographs, if this is not obvious in his previous images, exhibit a counter event – a sous rature effect of the painterly surface troubling the case of minimalism developed after Duchamp’s works like his Fountain. Of course the display of a urinal as an artwork could only occur where there is a glut of extremely sophisticated artworks against which it may be measured, and where a ritualized interest in artistic virtuosity can be appreciated. Insofar as Hays articulates the appearance of painted material, an air of painted stuff in its limitless differences or a type of simulacrum of it, hollowness follows in line with its source material dispersed as it is on the Internet or reproductions. His own writing on this facet of his visual art is at times uncomfortable since he is only too well aware that modern times have left modern minds unexercised. His work in totalis stimulates the judging self to explore the regions within and around territories unexplored by language-and-image: that is to say there are incalculable imminences in differences whose stemmings and presences as a proper thought-experience have engaged perhaps the most intriguing minds of the recent past like Derrida and Deleuze in particular, whose works form a bridge for Hays to language, literature, poetry and the visual arts as opposed to a view of their works as residing mainly within critiques of psychoanalysis.
Hays’ essays and his web images and prints particularly embrace the ambiance set up by such writings, and also the fact that neither the Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even or Joyce’s Finnegans Wake can be taught – rather each invites an effort of thought fully unlike any previous or subsequent artwork or artifact whose location will not be recouped by applying the stubborn creed of either The School of Art or the man-in-the-street. Minimalism after Duchamp has been a dull and useless misnomer, nevertheless what we find are stripped-down vehicles for imagery affording reference to the camera and the photograph that have taken the work into the domains of art history allowing language to standout as a source for intellectual play.
Hays’ work is mindful of the conditions that apply to all pictorial work that follows simple ideas such as these (that actually stand as style, manner, and even period) without a gloss as to why his work resists this tyranny by its implication of a textual voice growing from its own earth as his time continues. The conundrum of what art might be is inherent in coming after Duchamp, but both he and Joyce’s Yes to the Irony of Affirmation and its twin the Irony of Indifference are concerned with creation/destruction as, for instance, in Joyce’s term “abnilisation of the etym” (FW.353) and Duchamp’s quasi technical skills on glass in precarious alliance with fragile annihilation in a fashion that suggests the inauguration of a new strain of thought for the arts.
From this perspective it is not as though the writings of Merleau-Ponty or for that matter any insightful visionaries on the work of the work of art are wrong, so much as they demand far too little of the reader and are therefore disappointing, thus our deeper interest in the works of Duchamp and Joyce to this literary end. At once inaugural and terminal the Glass and the Wake require a different set of interpretive skills for identifying the strategies by means of which the very subversive potential of these textual machines have been put into effect in the mechanics of writing or reading.
All we require is the recognition of potential that both projects encompass in regard to their own selfgenerating programs. The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even transgresses inherited codes, which frustrates the status quo of art historical language as it has changed in form to content over the past 500 years. A greater problem is the dilemma of a phenomenon that is Finnegans Wake whose demands of time and times is now a recognized central feature of its raison d’etre and whose complexity is such that more recent criticisms of the work have developed Joyce’s use of time as central to the entire project of writing as such through the voices of Wakease.
If I am correct Hays is pointing his reader to the fact that humans consistently undervalue themselves – a clear and prodigious thought that may certainly alter our views on modifications to the “I” and particularly those works like Hays’ that explore concepts on time and the changes that art can bring about in the self and the decentered self (as Derrida has discussed with regard to self-identity and narcissism – the mis-recognition of oneself in the Other in his Specters of Marx). And then Deleuze takes as axiomatic the notion that there is no time but that of the present which contains past and future in the “I”. These layers describe different ways in which past and future can be inscribed in a present – as this inscription grows more complicated, the status of the present itself becomes more abstract. Like Deleuze and Guattari in their last book What is Philosophy art and language for Hays are concerned with the development of processes every day; and where: “philosophy is the art of forming, inventing and fabricating concepts”, in which the philosopher does not use preordained schemata but rather has to create his or her own concepts, i.e. the interplay of concepts, which actively structure one’s own thinking and perception of complexity as the most vibrant scenes of ordinary life appear outrageously poignant in their mere existence. At this point we can enlist another commentator in order simply to enrich our discussion but simultaneously indicate another aspect of Joyce’s turn toward a format of invented language to which Derrida subscribed in his Two Words for Joyce regarding the power of the gift and translatability as its primary concern but also “debt” as opposed to Joyce’s “greatness”:
Joyce’s project is one in which an awareness of debt is unavoidable, in which the investment in an ideal eternal history is sure to pay off. Ultimately we learn this guarantee is nothing but a formidable insight. It is the calculation of the future and its containment: and, by extension, the absolute limitation and containment of the other. There is no time and no space for the other in Finnegans Wake. This is why, perhaps, Joyce cannot be liked ‘except when he laughs…’ but then, ‘he’s always laughing’. (17)
Ruben Borg writes that it is through their own laughter that the Other realizes him/herself in spaces that are planted and present in Finnegans Wake creating infinitesimal spasms evoking pasts and presents coextensively as deferrals of sense in a full rejection of grammar, of Subject and Predicate. An innate sense for the richness of language in the business of the everyday hastens and is flat against the portmanteau word that sweeps it up in a flood of perpetuation and immanence; hence our anguish that our common language is never enough as a force with which to deal with the outpourings of art that appears to us as a specialized location, external to the everyday, and whose languages are built in order to describe unfamiliar activities and impossible states of creativity, striking against the common space of ordinary usage. But ordinary language is invisible and infinitely more complex than Finnegans Wake since it is not as though we are aware of what language is, particularly in its most widespread domains. It is also too simple to allocate “complexity” and “specialization” to forms of written usage created by and seemingly for an academic and artistic community without our pressing for further thought on how ordinary language subsists “inside” its metamorphosis and “inside” extraordinary works of art. Ordinary usage is omnipotent and made even stranger by the works of art that are developed through and from it – ordinary usage creates the stage for art.
Effectively the portmanteaux word trundles between the earth in time-space through a lapse in the text that demands a processing of what is read as the elapsing of time itself: “All readings [of Finnegans Wake] are encouraged by the word’s immediate context and all contexts are compelled to a forced coexistence in the word…” (18) where man is mirrored as the most complex phenomenon. Art is not typically a daily pursuit but it summons our desires for artifice in the complex and also as a thinking specialisation: like the organization of conditions like time, languages and silences particularly developed in the literature of and on Joyce and Duchamp. What remains outside of the work of art is uncircumscribed – only that which is so unpresented to us is uncircumscribed and is not a work of art. Duchamp’s practice led him to seek such uncircumscription in the world that left him with the only option he had after all, which was language in the form of notes and in the titles he gave to artworks that had been fully circumscribed by language. The question is: how have recent works of art up to 2013 reached out to the complexity of the living – of life unbounded, unqualified, mysterious – to what Duchamp has referred to as the unrepresentable Infrathin ?
‘Interstices’ may be substituted for Duchamp’s term ‘Infrathin’ as a way of allowing a greater freedom away from the specialisms advanced by his Notes, yet what is occurring here is a sudden development through the Glass’ Notes and the Wake’s language, taking us all closer to a kind of ultimate refinement that has yet to be fully acknowledged – a refinement beyond the arts that were precursors in the fields of literature, poetics and philosophy, the visual arts of painting, printing and sculpture that had now been relegated, so to speak, to a rougher dimension. Joyce’s newer paradigm was built on slippages of the mind and brings thought into view due to its deviation from the norm and the giving over of sense to the producer of his act of writing who is his reader – thus the paradigm rests its case somewhere between the text and the event of re-reading, (for Derrida every reading is a re-reading) re-creating from the dead text and the body as such of the literal Finnegan(s) and his tribe. In Hays’ work I think this amounts to images and texts that recombine with and after the event of their immediate created condition time after time, as it were, the development of his alias, and as the very movements of freedom openly accredited to the work of Finnegans Wake and the Large Glass. This freedom is opened only by the overthrow of conventionally distributed authorities of the current culture in its language that appropriates linearity and linear understanding without the scaffolding of the material documentation of what has been happening in philosophy since the likes of Deleuze and Derrida, in which the problem of time and presence traverses language as such in reverse on the plains or plateaues we imagine are “behind us” – and the conceptual future horizons of our own creation. Only by stepping outside of the language one was given, in one way or another, is it possible to genuinely create that freedom. However, this means seeing language as though from a great height in our imagination, even as we are chained to its stubborn, if elasticated, metaphorics. Ruben Borg on the Rhetoric of Memory (19) puts the case of the language of the Wake in one instance like this:
In my understanding, the prehuman past of which the Wake’s obscurity is a symptom overtakes [any] temporal scheme. The Book’s verbal and syntactic inventions convey not the evidence of a repressed experience but rather a trauma borne in absolute passivity – a loss of self-identity that cannot be acsribed to any ‘living system’ or individual agency. […] the Wake illustrates this phenomonological impossibility in the scene of HCE’s identification with his own mourners (FW 7). In that fantasy, the corpse takes the stance of the autobiographer; he signs the text and recollects the past from a position that disqualifies all relation to self, that disables, in fact, the very logic of self-reappropriation which is the essence of the Hegelian Erinnerung. Joyce contrives to stage this phenomonological impossibility in his method of composition. His deployment of an infinitely divisible mark, of a sign inscribed in destinerrance does not only open his writing to the production of an absolute future (a future more futural than any prospectiive modifications of the present), it also situates in that future the symptomatic return of a past more primordial than any intentional or existential trajectory.
(1) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press.
(2) Friedrich Nietzsche. On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense.
(3) Walter Benjamin. The Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction.
(4) It is not difficult to find similarities between James Joyce and Jules Laforgue. Both are, each in his respective language, creators of neologisms. To be precise, they are the most spectacular examples of inventors of a new lexicon in the French and English languages. Laforgue’s role as a forerunner in this respect has already been considered by scholars such as Warren Ramsey, who states, “[n] o other 19th century writer anticipates so clearly the intense word-consciousness, the linguistic innovations of Léon- Paul Fargue and James Joyce.” Biographically speaking, both have remarkable similarities: they begin by cultivating poetry, which is followed by tales where the classical myth is treated according to modern, parodical or ironical formulations, and they are both playwrights. Both choose to live abroad: to change lands, or, as Steiner would say, “extraterritorialise” themselves, and recreate a new language while in contact with another; both certainly keep a background language in touch with another hidden, omnipresent language from their childhood: Gaelic in Joyce’s case and the Spanish of Montevideo in that of Laforgue, who, incidentally, was christened Julio, not Jules. Both maintain a close relationship with T. S. Eliot, an essential part of the study of their works. We must remember that Eliot, who got married in the same church as Laforgue when he married Miss Leah Lee, was inspired to commence his poetic creativity by one of Laforgue’s poems. It is recognised that the “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a variation of Laforgue’s “Solo de lune.” (Alfredo Rodriguez Lopez-Vazquez. Universidad da Corunna. Hamlet, Laforgue, and Joyce 1996).
(5) Andrew J. Mitchell and Sam Slote. Derrida and Joyce: On Totality and Equivocation. Introduction.
(6) Quoted in Ruben Borg. The Measureless Time of Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida. Continuum. 2007. p.123.
(7) Richard Ellmann. Selected Letters of James Joyce. Faber and Faber 1975. London.
(8) Gilles Deleuze. The Logic of Sense. p.22. Columbia University Press. 1990.
(9) Margot Norris. The Decentered Universe of Finnegans Wake. John Hopkins University Press. 1976.
(10) Derek Attridge. Peculiar Language. p.10. Routledge. 1988.
(11) Gilles Deleuze. The Logic of Sense. p.93
(12) Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s. Deleuze and Language. New York, NY: Palgrave- 2002.
(13) Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. and forward by Brian Massumi (Continuum Books, 2004). p.13.
(14) Ibid. p.12
(15) Amy Herzog. Images of Thought and Acts of Creation: Deleuze, Bergson, and the Question of Cinema. Invisible Culture – Electronic Journal for Visual Studies. 2000
(16) Maurice-Merleau-Ponty. Signs. 1964. Northwestern University Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.
(17) Ruben Borg. The Measureless Time of Joyce, Deleuze and Derrida. Continuum. 2007. p.61.
(18) Ibid. p. 81
(19) Ibid. p. 124
Ian Hays. Computer Screen Prints may be purchased by getting in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.