Unreal Nature

May 16, 2019

This Flickering Space

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:05 am

… This flickering space is the possibility of a public sphere not premised on communication, community or final clarity.

This is from ‘Vanessa Jackson: The Private Persistence of Public Art’ by John Tagg (2006):

What is it we see before the work? Is it possible to say?

A certain intensity of blue. A motif formed by the intersecting segments of incomplete circles. The outline of a lozenge, warped from the true and producing an effect of perspective. One plane optically behind another. One surface visibly laid upon another. And color, in constantly modulating relations.

But, already, as we know, we have gone too far, because we understand from the beginning that this is a field of reference and not just a field of sensation. We understand that we have always been in a space of semiosis, from the very start, without ever having the obligation to give an exhaustive account or speak systematically about patches of color and lines before moving on to the whole world view of a people. Such systemizing does not rule the desire and the drive to speak. Nor does it describe how these elusive painted signs and these excessive and inadequate verbal interpretants are marked by their historicity.

Ah yes, history. What are we to say about that? What would it mean, on the occasion of this retrospective, to peel away from exhausted narratives of Modernism and avant-gardism to think of these paintings in relation to a certain time? And what if this time took us back to the 1970s? — ‘the missing decade’ in British Art, as it has been called; that grey night when, apparently, not even an owl was flying?

[ … ]

… Geometry is a public language, axiomatic and exhaustively demonstrable, at least within its propositional frame. Color, too, however private its vibrations, oscillates around a surface of communicability, even if its taking on of meaning is always in excess or falling short. As the support for shared recognitions, color hovers on the threshold of a common ground that is, nonetheless, never marked out or bounded in advance.

[line break added] This flickering space is the possibility of a public sphere not premised on communication, community or final clarity. It is the beginning of the possibility of an argument or agreement — here, in front of this painting, to whose surface and to whose always incompleted effects the argument and the agreement contract to return.

What is it, then, that we see before the work? Is it possible to say? Perhaps we only see on condition and to the extent that the painting becomes a work. The public function of the painting would then be to define the conditions of that possibility, without regard to efficiency, communication or saving time; to create the conditions and the demand for looking aloud and, in this active sense, to conjure up its own space, a public space, as a space of articulation and endless dispute …

-Julie

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