Douglas Edric Stanley


I have already mentioned these two several times recently, but I just discovered this fairly exhaustive video interview of Étienne Cliquet by Marie Lechner and filmed by Marika Dermineur: video link. I was looking for something with a student and we fell onto this series of videos in which Étienne articulates quite clearly and susinctly his particular mix of art contemporain, les sciences and origami. I’ve been trying to find an angle on his work recently as it contributes significantly to the approach I’m trying to develop around code|art, and specifically the role of the diagram in the construction of abstract concretions (which is about the only way I can put it).

I especially appreciate the way in which he describes his process of distancing the three central poles of his work — art, science, crafts. Instead of attempting their association, he instead uses each to distance the other; in fact, using each pole to distance the other poles from themselves. Crafts reappropriates scientific protocols and distances scientific research from science, science becomes a form for distancing creation from art, etc. This is a brilliant formula for avoiding the whole trap of arbitrarily trying to relate « science » and « art », as if they were two long-lost twins somehow separated at birth.

My favourite part (cf. chapter « Origami, sculpture open-source ») is when Étienne moves from diagrams to folds and on to Lawrence Weiner, Marie then brings him back to open-source to which he replies: encryption, enigmas, puzzles, and the skull of Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors.

Holbein, The Ambassadors
Holbein, The Ambassadors

I particularly like that last movement from paper folding to encryption which I would relate to the process of compilers and decompilers, sourcecode vs. bytecode — I’ll explain myself later and elsewhere. When you look at Étienne’s Tegument-X, for example, it is less of a question of open/closed, but instead of not having the mounting diagram. This leads to some interesting questions surround compilability, which I would distinguish from the current resurgence of the 80’s term of « access » (cf. access culture). It’s an open question for me (I’m thinking aloud here), but I can start to feel a conceptual distinction at least of these two terms.

I’m sorry to link to a French-only interview that even worse can’t be massacred by Google’s translation robots, but even if you can only understand a little French, try to wade through it. But I’ll chance it because I know a lot of French readers follow this blog, despite the fact that I only write in my native tongue here (consider it my soupape where I can blow off a little steam and feel a little more at home).

On a side note, ordigami has the interresting quality of being the only contemporary art blog that I can read with my daughter Lola Daisy. She enjoys it as much as me, albeit from a totally different perspective. She and I have been origami hobbyists for quite some time, and just finished our own little origami cat:


Actually, for Lola, folding hundreds of little pieces of paper and assembling them was not all that much unlike the drawings she makes using Seymour Paper’s Logo. The typical spriograph one makes at first in Logo is almost identical to the process required for making the body of our Maneki-Neko.

Original Comments:

2007-03-18 13:20:21

Etienne Cliquet

J’apprécie beaucoup la synthèse que tu fais de la discussion avec marie lechner sur le rapport art, science et artisanat. Repris par d’autres, sa propre pensée devient ainsi plus claire.

Je cherche aussi une alternative ou un contre-point au concept de “culture de l’accès” notamment pour contourner la connotation morale que revêt chaque fois cette idée liée au contexte économique de la mondialisation. Je me demande s’il ne faut pas par exemple reprendre certains textes de Nelson Goodman à propos des arts autographiques et allographiques et les transposer, les modifier, je ne sais pas… ou aller en chercher d’autres comme tu le fais : compilability. En bref, changer de contexte discursif.

Enfin, je suis ravis que mon blog plaise à Lola. Malgré l’idée répandue que la culture de l’amateur soit répandue aujourd’hui (“The Pro-am revolution”), on peut penser le contraire. L’amateur est de plus en plus enclin à se professionnaliser. Le cadre amateur disparait pour être organiser, intégré à des enjeux professionnels (l’hypocrisie des J.O.).

Pourtant la pratique en amateur offre souvent une autonomie de travail par le plaisir, utile pour engager un cursus professionnel comme l’est une école supérieure d’art quoiqu’on en dise.

2007-03-18 15:03:55

Douglas Edric Stanley

Hi Étienne. I’m going to answer you in English (sorry).

Specifically concerning Nelson Goodman’s distinction between autographic and allographic works, I’m not really a specialist but it’s one of the distinctions I am intending to comment in my thesis. It is particularly of interrest to a thesis subtitled “art and the age of the algorithm”, as this subtitle obviously refers to Benjamin’s infamous text on duplicable media. Goodman is for me the next step after Benjamin.

As you can imagine though, I would indeed look elsewhere for a way out of these dichomoties — one might be Michel de Certeau’s « Invention du quotidien », although that’s an obvious reference.

Ultimately, what algorithmic systems (and as a consequence diagrammatic or abstract machines) put into play is something that blows open these distinctions and ultimately requires a whole new vocabulary as you suggest. More specifically, when one discribes access to code, the access in and of itself does not equal power, as in broadcast media. You not only also have to be able to compile it, and to distribute it through compabile networks (compatibility and protocol are the complement to compilation), but you also have to be able to re-appropriate the code: i.e. to re-use it to your own needs. The /modularity/ of the machine is where the power-struggle lies.

The perfect example of the access problem is Microsoft. « Access » in this case would be the equivalent to having access to a copy of Word. This is what Microsoft originally proposed (while secretely developping their own form of open/inter-operability) in response to open-source software: hey, let’s give them access to cheaper software. Here India, have these copies of Windows on the cheap. Hence all the slogans about Word and Windows being cheaper to use in the « real world » than Linux. But obviously Linux is less about access than about building your own widget and making it compatible with all the other widgets out there so that you can build something above and beyond (or below) Windows or Word. So access is less important in this case than compatibility, and from a hardware perspective compilability (cf. One Laptop Per Child).

I often discuss these issues in terms of « platforms » which I see as a layered complexification of « interactivity ».

What I like about the proposal you made to Écrans, was that the object, like a computer circuitboard, is in fact open-source if you know how the system works. But if you don’t know how it works (no manual), it’s closed-source. This is why hacking is so integral to our experience of technology, and why the idea of source-code only becomes a moral and political one because of restictive licences, copyright protections, trademarks, and patents. Without these economic « brakes », all technology would ultimately be open-source, including Microsoft’s. Anything can be hacked, that is one of the prerequisites of the Turing Machine, as it was designed precisely to measure the computability of any equation: if the equation can be run in the Turing Machine, it is computationally rational. In other words, if it can run on a machine, it can be modulated by that same machine.

Going back to the authographic vs. the allographic, one of the problems of applying Goodman’s theories of artistic production to that of abstract machines is the problem of identity. The problem of identity (and the dialectic of the self-same) is a wholy different process when it comes to works produced with computer code. It would seem quite the opposite — what better theory to deal with computer code as artistic practice than one that approaches art as a symbol-system. But since I cannot find in Goodman’s texts a significant treatment of the temporal nature of symbolic-systems (everything for me is a question of temporality), for the moment I have no “emprise” with Goodman’s texts. But this is probably my lack of understanding of his work and in the end I might out of respect just have to avoid the issue altogether as I don’t have the time right now to dive into Goodman’s entire corpus.

Concerning your discussion of the culture of the amateur and his or her professionalisation, for the moment I can’t add anything pertinent to your comments. I am writing a lot about these issues, especially in relation to games, machinima, and compilers, so I’ll have to answer that later when I’m done.