Thursday, 9 March 2017

Rotor Exhibition - Reflections on Discursive Documents, discussion Event #1

At the discussion event, hosted by Dr Liam Devlin on 2nd March, the artists Alex Baldea and Seba Kurtis were introduced with a short explanation of their work.

In thinking about ethics & politics - then drilling down into democracy, society and motives, the social discursive (discussion) actants are, in this case, photographs.

 I'm drawn to recall some of the writings of Gilles Deleuze and Filix Guattari, with " A Thousand Plateaus" in particular.

I cannot profess to have read the whole book, I haven't, - it's an enormous tome.

But of the parts that are often referred to, the ideas that Deleuze and Guattari had, which ostensibly is about "where we are situated in the world around us" (the worldview, if you like), can be split into 3 ares. They called these "Strata". If one thinks about layers for a moment, the world is made up of Inorganic (geological), Organic (biological) and Social (People, politics, society and everything that goes within it).

It is the third Strata (societal) that is of interest here of course. They initially write about human motivations (Freud) and labour (Marx), and position previous history in society as being a constant struggle to satisfy a combination of both.  The modern individual, being part of society, will eventually become "repressed and neurotic".

Eventually, through deeper and deeper analysis, (which is often influenced by what others think and do around you anyway, such as, in their case, other philosophers like Jaques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas and many others), they come to the essence of what they see (and here it is Deleuze in particular) as values in society, and how they emerge within a 'governed' state.  Deleuze talks about the pinnacle of 'practice' as a human being, being "Creativity" (not unlike Nietzche who felt it was 'Art') and states:

"Herein, perhaps, lies the secret: to bring into existence and not to judge. If it is so disgusting to judge, it is not because everything is of equal value, but on the contrary because what has value can be made or distinguished only by defying judgment. What expert judgment, in art, could ever bear on the work to come?" Deleuze (1980).(1)


  • Thinking about Photography as a document, as a record of fact, is no longer a valid activity.
  • The idea that text and photography are one and the same emerged through the latter part of the 20th Century.
  • There's much more research for me to do on this, but I think I have started to get a sufficient grasp of the subject to enable me to talk about it... Which is, of course, what Dr Devlin wants us to do! 

Post Annotation;

I also came across some work by aboriginal artist, Shevaun Wright (, which is of particular interest in the 3rd planned discussion.


Deleuze G, & Guattari, F. (1981) A thousand Plateaus, Translated by Massumi, B. (2004) Vol. 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of Mille Plateaux.

(1) See Essays Critical and Clinical, p. 135.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Practice - Digital Media Processes - A few days devoted to practice!

During the last months and more so, the last few weeks, I have been increasingly conscious that I need to devote a significant amount of time towards my practice so that I can develop a repeatable workflow or method of artistic practice.

For the past couple of days, therefore, I've been working on various sets of photography collections that I have made during the past year, and I have also supplemented this with a full days photography of some of the local topology and landmarks.

This is being done in the context of trying to explore further the ideas of Gestalt, and some excellent suggestions by my tutor Richard Mulhearn to explore proximity and composition, but in the sense of associating it with my theme of the Peregrine (the nonfictional book by JA Baker, 1968). Tying this together with digital media and speculative realism I have started to look at how I can intertwine the concepts of using drawing from those photographs, to convey an alternative point of view. That is the view of the Peregrine Falcon.

Spending a few days away from the academic environment and just only photographing and drawing at the same time has been extremely beneficial for me, both intellectually but also spiritually!

I'm still trying to play with the text of Baker's book, and by reading selected days activities that he recorded, I've been able to recontextualise and therefore reinterpret his writings with what may have been a kind of conscious experience from the Falcon's vantage point. This exercise must continue through the reiteration of these drawings, and comparing it to Baker's original text to find alternative suggestions of the reality that he saw.


I must continue to develop my drawing on the original themes and experiment with photography to try to capture alternative points of view.

The speculative element of the Peregrine's perception might not only manifest itself through drawing, as audio, taste and smell also would play a large part. It is unlikely that touch forms a significant proportion of the Peregrine's perception, as touch receptors on the peregrines body are far more limited in their acuity if compared with say a mammal or primate.

Because of the dependency of all birds and in particular falcons and raptors in their use of sight as their primary sense, I still feel that from a human's point of view, the primacy of drawing provides a sort of halfway method of articulating their perception from their free point of view.

I am avoiding the use of colour simply because our understanding of it could be vastly different from that of a raptor. This has already been proven to a great extent through studies of other animals' visual perceptions of colour ranges, where their sensory abilities to detect variations in the wavelengths of light far exceed our own capabilities.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Discourse, sociology & how we fit in the world! (Updated 27-03-2017).

Searching the internet for inspiration on Deleuze and Guattari, I stumbled on a useful web-site that also talks about Chantal Mouffe's and Ernesto Laclau's works and compares some ideas of these two pairs of philosophers.  This is important for me to examine ideas of various contemporary thinkers, in concerning the work we are doing for Dr Liam Devlin (the ROTOR exhibition of "Discursive Documents" at Huddersfield Gallery).

Starting with some thinking and analysis of the work of Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, (and their famous book "A Thousand Plateaus" (1981) Translated by Brian Massumi (1987), they talk about the ideas that the knowable world around us, can be conceived as consisting of three primary layers. These layers, or 'Strata' as they prefer to call them, are made up of;
A) the 'inorganic' (that is the geological foundation of the world itself), that is arguably un-movable and permanent and as such, consists of the minerals and elements of geology. Equally too, this foundational 'first' strata, can be considered as "set in stone" or can sometimes be referred to as 'concrete', (as an alternative expression that is sometimes used and often found in philosophical discourse).
B) The second layer above the inorganic layer is the 'organic' strata (that is, all the vegetable matter and animal matter; from single cell bacteria through to mammals and primates, and ultimately us as human beings).
C) And finally, the top layer of strata, which is of particular interest to Deleuze and Guattari in their philosophical analysis, which they refer to as the alloplastic (social) strata.

The term alloplastic, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED, 2017) comes from the Greek word "allos", which is often used to combine with other words to form nouns and adjectives, with the sense of "otherness, different or differently". In this case, it is conjoined with the adjective, 'plastic', where "plastic" is used in the sense of moulding or shaping. Together, the word 'alloplastic', therefore means (particularly in a philosophical and psychoanalytic sense), 'relating to or involving alteration of the external environment to meet the needs of the individual' (or people as a collective, which here can be considered as the society). Therefore, in the case of Deleuze and Guattari, this 3rd stratum, the 'alloplastic strata', is in a sense, the idea of society moulding, sculpting and arguably manipulating the environment to better suit its' (their/our?) needs.

Deleuze and Guattari's analysis of society posits that "alloplastic strata" consists of at least two articulations of 'expression' and 'content'.

Within this dynamic, they state that the articulation of expression (- and that is the human speech), is 'linguistic' rather than genetic.  In other words, it is through linguistic variance and analysis (over time, or temporal) that expression is made or can be analysed, rather than through some deep-seated 'biological' (hence genetic) variance or analysis. (Which would, therefore, arguably, exist within the second organic strata, if it were).  

These linguistic expressions are built with signs (semiotics) or symbols, and so they can be recorded, understood, and transmitted, but just as importantly can be modified. When these forms of expression (or enunciation) are collected together, they create assemblages or "expression" as a whole.

Now, if we were to combine what Deleuze and Guattari call the mechinic assemblages (that is the physical things that we build and adapt by using tools and our own hands), they form what Deleuze and Guattari think of as the "content" of the 3rd "alloplastic" strata.

This 'content', has both form and substance. With much further philosophical deconstruction, analysis and reinterpretation, Deleuze and Guattari find similarities in their machinic assemblages of "content" with their linguistic interpretation of "expressions". Ultimately tools (and hence technology) therefore construct the 'alloplastic' strata, but those tools (and technology) are themselves constructed from alloplastic strata. This conveniently repositions the idea of 'technological determinism' and 'social determinism' as (again, arguably) being one and the same.

This radical construct or 'constructivist materialism' is the foundation on which Deleuze and Guattari go on to provide detailed commentary on society as a whole, and their interpretations of the social world that we live within. This is different from say 'social constructivism', which in brief is about how society (and hence as humans) make sense of the world.  To Deleuze and Guattari, they argue that it is necessary to understand how the world is 'literally' constructed.  That is, it is built 'literally' through text(s).

To underline what has already been deduced from the above, this linguistic interpretation cannot apply to the 1st & 2nd strata of 'Inorganic' and 'Organic' levels, as it resides entirely within a domain of the social or 'alloplastic strata'. However, and here is another of their critical positions, Deleuze & Guattari suggest that the 'form of content' is no longer a human adaptation of the world around them on its' own, but a modification through 'it' (the alloplastic strata) acting upon itself. (That is, through an alloplastic response to its' own environment).

Bringing Deleuze and Guattari's constructivist materialism to bear on the idea of discourse then, if photography can be considered as text, then it follows that discussion forms part of that text, and hence photographs can be 'discursive documents'.

Mouffe & LacLau
With the introduction above (based on the work of Deleuze and Guattari) in mind, we can now move on to comparing their work with that of the work of Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto LacLau.

In contrast to Deleuze & Guattari,  in Mouffe & LacLau's position on social constructivism, they believe in a slightly different representation of construct about society or "social life", and hence their position is that humans give meaning to the world directly, rather than through a mediation of text (as per D&G).

They borrow this ancient word known as 'hegemony' to articulate a kind of hierarchical view of society, where hegemony is the dominance or "leadership or rule through political, economic or military control of one state over others" (OED 2107). - In ancient Greece this idea of a particular city-state being dominant over other cities and/ or states, where the ruling city-state was known as the hegemon. This hegemonic rule and/or control has many examples and has been a subject of social commentary and analysis throughout history.

In their book, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (2003), Verso Books, London (2nd Edition), Mouffe and LacLau talk in terms of an alternative to the 'crisis' or 'collapse of what would have been a 'normal' historical development' (2003, p7). (- Whatever 'normal' historical development might be, I interpret this to mean non-revolutionary?).  The book is also seeking to propose 'change' in the context of a response to "The crisis of Marxism" (2003, p29).

In the 20th century work by the Italian, Antonio Gramsci (1891 -1937), he revised some of the notions of Marx and Engles (and of economic determinism), in favour of a more sophisticated construct of society, through a 'cultural hegemony'.  This was a theory in which Gramsci was influenced by a variety of thinkers, not only Marxists, but also other Italians, such as Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527) amongst others, and even capitalists such as Henry Ford (of Ford Automobiles), together with Italian and other European histories.  Gramsci's Cultural Hegemony suggests that the state and the ruling Bourgeoise (and here, he means the capitalist elite), use cultural institutions to control and maintain power in capitalist societies.  Hence, the ruling classes could, in turn, influence the values of the larger society (i.e. culturally) so that the elite's views become the 'world-views' of society as a whole.

Again, more recent history and world events can be shown to support the notion that various types or forms of hegemony do exist (regardless of whether that is right or wrong), and it can be demonstrated that such 'hegemony' works through language.  In a capitalist society, there is a constant tension of division, not only between the financially powerful elite, but also within the 'non-elite', the 'providers' of labour (or working class as it has been known), that is exploited (through various means of hegemony) for the benefit of the elite.   It is here then, that we can properly turn to Mouffe and LacLau specifically, and their interpretation of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy.  In their book, of the same name, they state (on page 7), that;
 'Finally, with Gramsci, the term acquires a new type of centrality that transcends its tactical or strategic uses: 'hegemony' becomes the key concept in understanding the very unity existing in a concrete social formation." (Mouffe & LacLau, 2003).
In societal terms then, (and now we are drilling down to the heart of the matter in connection to 'social discourse' with respect to Dr Devlin's notions and exhibition), Laclau and Mouffe are interested in the idea that there is an absolute elite within society that governs, dictates and shapes the rest of society, and hence, it is not as a direct result of the ruling elite or 'hegemony'.

They go on to say, through various analysis of other contemporary thinkers and writers, and 19th / 20th Century events within Europe, in particular, Russia and Germany, (Mouffe & LacLau, 2003, p8-10) that nothing resides at the centre of a social hegemony, as a conclusion is reached where they cite Eduard Bernstein (1850 - 1932), who was viewing trade unions within a democratic society to be central for its' control and the centre being;
"according to Bernstein, it is the party. Thus, he speaks of the 'necessity of an organ of the class struggle which holds the entire class together in spite of its fragmentation through different employment, and that is the Social Democracy as a political party. In it, the special interest of the economic group is submerged in favour of the general interest of those who depend on income for their labour, of all the underprivileged.' 
However, they go on to point out that "if the working class appears increasingly divided in the
economic sphere, and if its unity is autonomously constructed at the political level, in what sense is this political unity a class unity?"

Through this and other comparisons (such as Rosa Luxemburg (1871–1919, Marxist Theorist), Mouffe and LacLau are able to show their argument is centred upon their theory that there is not a foundational centre within the social nor is there a "signifier of the transcendental" within society. (I'm not sure if by this they mean some religious focal point or God as a foundation, - indeed, they state the following "the effects of God's presence in the world are drastically reduced" on Page 29).  Nevertheless, without that central hub, they argue that our individual interpretations and therefore 'forms' of articulation and expression can both coexist and compete at the same time, in an infinitely variable structure. They refer to this as the "structural undecidability of the social".

Much of the work (by M&L) is clearly influenced by other French and continental philosophers of their time, and in particular, that by Jaques Derrida. He used the notion of 'deconstruction' as a way to re-articulate all the elements of society around us.  Ultimately, when rebuilding the deconstructed, he was able to conclude that in the thinking about culture, it is possible to regard everything linguistically, and therefore as text, which compares favourably with Deleuze and Guattari.

Mouffe and LacLau do use Derrida's idea of text since an interpretation of text contains a discourse. Indeed when interpreting any important text, by using Derrida's deconstructionist method, the initial reading tends to provide the writer's 'dominant' message contained within it. However, when a second or subsequent reading of the same text is made, an individual is able to critique or argue against the writer's original intent or message.  By defining and comparing 'what is missing' in the text with regards to a particular subject or thesis,  a new interpretation can be formulated, within which the exclusions or repressions or just the neglected issues or connections are more clearly articulated.

 It is through these ideas of text containing a discourse, that we can apply a deconstructionist approach to photography as documents or texts.  Therefore, LacLau and Mouffe's notions also apply equally to the ideas of Dr Devlin, in as much as photographs are "discursive documents".


"alloplastic, adj.". OED Online. March 2017. Oxford University Press. (accessed March 27, 2017).

Deleuze, G.; Guattari, F., (1980),  A Thousand Plateaus Trans. Massumi, B;(1993). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Laclau, Ernest; Mouffe, Chantal (2001). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (Second ed.). London: Verso. pp.  7-34, 40–59, 125–144.

Post production lecture #2 by Dr Anna Powell; Friday 3rd March

Continuing from the previous lecture, Dr Powell discussed the work by Mark Amerika and his post-production techniques as "remixes", and for example the website

There is an interesting remix entitled "an artist yapping about some art stuff times for" and also the piece "isarhythm."

Some of the concepts were originally developed before remixing by the artist William Burroughs and his original work around literary cut-ups. This was re-presented at various shows in Paris and San Francisco.
I wondered whether perhaps Burroughs's influence may have come from Henri Matisse perhaps? I know that Matisse spent considerable time towards the end of his life using cutouts to re-assemble the art that he had previously painted. With regards to Burroughs, he used text as a form of bricolage, an experimental way of writing that was especially fashionable in the 1960s.

Breaking down this concept into its core elements of texts, they still remain semiotic signs and provide meaning as words in themselves. This helps us to rethink how language works. By shifting the thinking as words, these become triggers for new ideas. Subjectivity comes into play with inter-textuality.

The re-contextualization of concepts therefore begins. A decision-making process is going on, even though superficially there is a perceived randomness to the outcomes at first sight.

See the video by David Bowie and an interview with Alan Yentob which discusses his own musical lyrics work and Bowie's use of cut-ups, particularly during his Ziggy Stardust phase. 

See also

These ideas of intertextuality were developed further by Julia Kristeva and later built upon by Lucy Kimbell and Mark Amerika.

We then conducted a practical exercise where we chose 10 to 20 words from three disparate documents and then re-mashed them together as a creative exercise. The outcomes were fascinating as the brain attempts to make sense from the phrases being randomly pushed together and new ideas start to emerge.

Going back to the origins of some of these ideas, it was the advertising critic and writer Marshall MacCluhan who came up with the ideas of form and content in advertising and started the infamous phrase "the medium is the message".

When we talk about art in the contemporary sense, the form itself tends to connect with the style being presented.
 Whereas the content looks at the media or medium in which the art has been created and therefore relates to the context in which the art form situates itself.
 In this sense, it could be argued that "the message is in the media."

The central idea of these notions is that the material from which something is made of, tells us something about the context through content. This sums up a much deeper communication theory, in that the medium gives a much deeper and practical engagement with some artworks.

In Marshall McLuhan's book "the medium is the message", he changed the title of his second book in 1967 to "the medium is the massage". This was a clever play on words as it makes his original book a far more accessible manuscript to engage with as it can be taken forward in a much more intellectual level. This playing on words to reprogram and change perceptions is how McLuhan (who later suggested that he just made a typo!), can be used as a piece of artistic practice.
The variation of the word;

  • message into mess-age
  • can then be changed to massage, 
  • which in turn can be adapted to mass-age.

This helps to understand the idea of post producing texts by re-conceptualising an original thought.
See the work by Shepard Fairey: The Medium is the Message, - exhibition (October 1999). See

In this piece, which was a simple graphic design sometimes referred to as the "OBEY" sticker which was exhibited in the six space in Chicago, became a ubiquitous sign that has appeared from everywhere from lampposts to sides of buildings to the gallery exhibition space itself. The graphic design was originally taken from an image of a WWA wrestler called 'Andre the Giant'. And has also appeared in films such as "the Devil's Own" and "Batman" and also is a favourite of skateboarders, as a 'cult' image.

The process of letting ideas and their corresponding images snowball is akin to making something out of nothing. The artist argues that his work is famous "because we want it to be!"

Being critical; however, Shepard Fairey theorised that the idea of his own image becomes overwhelming because his sticker was positioned in so many different places such as skateboards, lampposts, hats of gang members, T-shirts et cetera. Because it is depicted as a simple sticker, it has
become a message to make a mess.

I recall commenting in Anna's lecture that it seems that Fairey had been influenced by the novel "1984" by H.G. Wells.  With a little post productive research for myself, it is clear that he had. See the exhibition that Shepard Fairey had in London, at the "Stolen Space" gallery on Osbourn Street; entitled "Nineteeneightyforia"...

The simple face (which can be seen to the right hand side of Fairey's works above) is is not unlike a logo that appeared around the wartime (Second World War) often referred to as the Chad ( found earlier in the 1930s in the UK) or Kilroy (USA version, WWII) logo.

Jasper Johns in 1954 also explored this notion of semiotics & through his work entitled "Flag" (1954): A Process Caused in Caustic, as he called it. The context of this work was based on the time of America's involvement in Korea. It asks the question where do you draw the line between a flag becoming an identity and representation?

A more contemporary way of thinking about this idea of postproduction is the way that it is used in guerrilla marketing. For example, see 3M's advertisement for their vandal-proof glass where they place what appears to be a huge sum of money between two sheets of their product in a public space and then video various attempts by vandals trying to get access to it!

Taking this idea further, consider "The Exhibition" and try listening to the audiobook of "the medium of the message" by Quentin Fiore and Jerome Agel in 1967. The text was taken and then re-contextualised.  (There is an excellent resource at

In the series of programmes that were produced by John Berger, "Ways of Seeing" discussed the ideas of "The work work of art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (by Walter Benjamin) in a more contemporary way. This provides an excellent source for further study. The program opens with the start of the classic film by Russian director Dziga Vertov. (see

Berger identifies that "in the painting, there is no unfolding of time". This in itself is an interesting concept.

An interesting exercise worth pursuing would be to take an existing theory or text and then applying some form of post production to it, for example perhaps the re-manifestations of John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" and Marshall McLuhan's "The Medium is the Message", and then re-contextualise it with current notions.

This could become a task to pursue for the next session?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Group tutorial with Stella Baraklianou, Friday 3rd March.

In this short group tutorial, we were given the opportunity to discuss our own work individually after a short introduction by Stella. The discussion was opened with the work conducted in the 1950s and 1960s by Norman Parkinson and his concept of the "squeezed in the corner" space.

This work was further supported by work by Joan Jonas entitled "Vertical Roll" and other works entitled "Disturbances."

With regards to my own project, Stella provided some really useful information regarding a book that she read some time ago by the author Helen McDonald, entitled "H is for Hawk".  I've ordered the book!

There was then some discussion on the perception of sight, and interestingly this was broadened to include one of our deaf colleagues and his interpreter's knowledge, about Usher's syndrome. In this condition, the visual acuity field is changed so that it is not possible to provide sign language through visual cues. Therefore the sign language is conducted through touch, that is, hands-on method, of reading gestures.


  • Another peer of mine provided a fascinating quotation by Slavoj Zizek who states "the function of ideology is not to escape from reality but to offer us the social reality itself as an escape".
  • Further reading of a book entitled "Realism, Materialism and Art" by Suhar Malik and Christopher Cox and Jenny Jaskey is worth reading.
  • Consider also the Google Books by Rodchenko, as further sources of information.