Times have subverted the plenty they point to: Things, we have not always known this division – Misprision

of interest, profit, rent – coded Surplus, decoded as labor evaded As gain the source of all wealth so degraded The land and the worker elude the vision – A scission of surplus and use corroded And still, things goaded by labor, nor faded, But like light in which its action was aided. We are things, say, like a quantum of action Defined product of energy and time, now In these words which rhyme now how song’s exaction Forces abstraction to turn from equated Values to labor we have approximated.1

Hannah Sawtell has been in residence at Bloomberg working without portfolio, in parallel to the financial data vendors. Here, she is witness to the feeds, analytics and exchanges that proliferate from the terminals. Securities, preferred shares, equities and commodity markets circulate and message across the proprietary secure networks. Streaming as snapshot files of global regions, specific markets or commodities the vagaries of financial data is ticker-taped and broadcast. Sat at a terminal we speculate the image of the vendor capturing and mobilising economic projections in real-time, delayed or filed at the end of the day. Screen capture is integral to this perception of economic projection. All screens are the revelatory apparatus, a machine adept at any account that permits us to make visible unfolding technological patterns where virtual time and space substitutes itself for an indistinct reality. Screens negotiate this substitution. The vendor seeks to convert intangibles and chimeric capital into fungible value. This is the transparent image of late capitalism, diagrammed in the movements of stocks and shares. The phenomenon fascinates because it deviates from the core of historical production where value is tied to product. This seductive fascination concerns objects and bodies in motion. Desire here must be understood as conditioned by a dynamic force that commodifies behaviours. Control of behaviours conditions the control of futures. The terminal and screen configures the architecture of the environment. Vendors cross paths through various hubs designed to increase connectivity and interaction. For Sawtell, the screen is the mode of capture and tool for artistic labour. Temporal objects continuously flow and dissolve on screens as if all screens are cachectic-labouring brains. Information technology enters the realm of fiction, an immaterial edifice of value that bears a certain resemblance to art and art’s modes of constructing meaning and value. Sawtell’s Vendor is a form of appearance, showing up within things, gaining traction through formlessness. Within a virtual environment contingent on the limits of the object falling away, the Vendor ‘occupies’ the immaterial space of finance, cognitive labour, and the imaginary. The Vendor is a constructed subject metamorphosing to critically transform the apparatus like Baudrillard’s ‘gambler’. The Vendor is the latest manifestation of protagonists that occupy Sawtell’s work; the figures of the Degreasor, Egressor and Osculator also mobilise action – necessarily collective – in a series of sculptures, films and accompanying soundtracks. These scenario driven avatars imbue and figure entities as ‘quasi-subjects’ or as ‘quasi-objects’ – activators of a transitive subjectivity.2 They have a stage presence producing a sense of subject-hood requesting agency for and from the artwork. Anthropomorphism tussles with the minimalist vocabulary deployed in the structures Sawtell fabricates. We consider the work of art neither as ‘a machine nor an object, but rather an almost body’, which is to say, ‘a being whose reality is not exhausted in the external relationships between its elements; a being that, while not decomposable into parts through analysis, only derives itself up wholly through a direct phenomenological approach’.3 In the on-going Degreasor in the Province of Accumulation series Sawtell proffers an assemblage where resolution and distribution eradicate figure and ground. Blue back posters magnetised and fixed informally constellate a materialised glimpse of the profligate image. The images presented, despite their ubiquity, are transparent to point of invisibility. Sawtell exports the images from their compressed form, accentuating the very creases of their existence – their own conditions of circulation. Significance is barely retrievable but figures through marginalisation and perseverance. Their appearance is proportional to the promotional bandwidth they inhabit. They are entoptic images that arise from the optical system and expressed with optical tools. The world of appearances is visible through watery contact lenses
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straining to reorientate inverted film posters, topographical NASA scans and gold molars. The eye is the browsing search engine, the biological originator of the screen. The ‘look’ both as a verb and noun, quality and command, activates – are you seeing what we are seeing. This encounter exceeds the spectator address of primary objects. These images feed into the strictures of an artwork through the existing economy of attention and affect. Flat-packed minimalist reliefs of overwritten design templates are shown adjacent to the images. They are provisional objects – machine cut models, bent and adulterated their forms are described by their means. Their proximity to the larger images forces a flickering reading between image surface and object. They appear as ‘specific objects’ accumulating ‘interest’ operating in the space between perception and interpretation, continually negotiating this in-between space.4 Unpacking the congealed energies of production within the work we unravel an accumulation of references, properties and actions. From the blueprints of industrial technology and design to the software and programmes of digital abstraction, the work strives to become operative and transformative. These shifting modes of abstraction absorb elements from capitalist technology with the aim of salvaging and infusing the artworks with the logic of excess. In the hyper abstraction of ‘cognitive capitalism’5 the surface skin of design triumphs over the non-identical ‘refuse’ that is sensory experience. The degreased forms of the reliefs emerge from packaging design, the wrapped protective membrane of MP3 players and the shell cases of data disks. In turn, their anodised surfaces are lacquered with blue, turquoise and magenta hues. Listed as a medium, phosphate acid bonderises their surfaces creating something more opaque, obscure and threatening. The strength of the sculpture derives from the fact that grasping the works by ‘means of a list of their physical properties, no matter how complete, is both possible and impossible’.6 This discrepancy is precisely what characterises the phenomenological perception of the work – a perception in which the hungry eye does not capture through intellect but with an embodied, changeable and inexhaustible process of accumulation. Spiralling out from these material qualities, we can trace the movement of dynamic, productive processes. Phosphate acid morphs as an aqueous solution, a Janus faced substance exchangeable in its uses from naval jelly rust remover and over the counter teeth whitener to a cure for nausea and an intensified food additive. In addition, it is the essential element in Parkerising fire arms, reproducing the cold metal image of violent extraction that foregrounds the ‘Province of Accumulation’. Sawtell channels Rosa Luxemburg in a call and response with the accelerated and limitless accumulation of the present. It is within this condition that Sawtell plays out her actions, metabolising over-production and critically challenging the colonising forces that capture and embody labour. Accumulation is a prerequisite for capital – without it, all we have is our skin. The first cycle of accumulation is the extraction of resources. For Luxembourg accumulation has its roots in violent expropriation as repeated dispossession. In Swap Meet (Ijen Mix) Optic, 2012, two images hinge and cohere within an adjustable structure that seems to vacillate between window, shelf and screen. The lower image offers us the banality of a water droplet screensaver made physical via toughened glass. This window refuses to look into the world and expresses new autonomy, an updated opaque ‘fresh widow’. Sharing the same editorial real estate the upper image blends a crude transition, frozen mid-wipe between the corporate comfort of an Airbus cabin and an aerial contour map of the volcanic Ijen of the title. The image literally objectifies the elusive elements of environmental stimulation
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with parts standing together and apart. Hoping out loud, the artwork exists within the imperfect and broken where matter can be changed without mattering. Hyperlinking out of the image we meet the sulphur miners of the Ijen tectonic strata. The extraction of resources from the deep red molten sulphur lakes is the most precarious work of dangerous extraction. The mining of brimstone from the turquoise acid crater bound for industrial consumption as fertilizer, fungicide and the primary ingredient for the best quality gunpowder. This form of colliding inventories of properties, ethical preferences and imaged materials continues in Swap Meet (Al-bahr al-mayyit mix) Optic, 2011. Industrial products in their own promotional terms appear as strata and contemporary debris fossilising in front of us. Extracted with no outlet alongside the evocation of endoheric lakes the salinity and buoyancy of the exchange visualises a super-abundant condition detached from exploitation. Transient definitions and divisions of labour is where fission and separation are the rule. Over proliferation pits global and local against each other, privation against excess eradicating community. Informal structures buffer an attempt to endure traces of historical processes, both ideological and aesthetic. In Swap Meet (bio mix) Optic, 2011, the liberal appropriation from the ‘free flow of information’ and our rights to ‘know’ supplement the conspiratorial mode with apparent opposite. Depicted in the shuttered decal is a Swedish server farm. The internet provider offers ‘bullet proof’ secure hosting. Thirty meters below ground in a rebirthed pre-Cold War bunker is an extraordinary environment – the futuristic stronghold for the Wiki Leaks files. Sawtell’s appropriation of the provider’s mutual interior fissures another chapter in which ‘it is a mistake to assume that revealing the entirety of what has been secret will liberate us… Appearance, the public face, is never simple hypocrisy’7. Of course, we cannot trust the façade. Appearance is all we have. We do not find the truth in gossip and scandal, the facile complaint of co-option or institutional recuperation; we are absorbed into ‘pure malevolence’ – interned in an impossible place filled with the assumption that ‘the site of artistic transformation is the site of political transformation’ and that this place is always ‘elsewhere’.8 Sawtell probes this uneasy desire for the politicised role for art making and that which reveals or irradiates the present – ‘a physical diagram, a corporeal blog... poison the gossip, kick some asses, jinx out the jargon, hack into lives.’9 Tensions between formal and economic abstraction manifest in sensuous thinking and an implementation of a concept by coding or programming surfaces. She extracts image-form through our engagement with surface properties. The result is the disclosure and complicity of the primary form of abstraction – namely exchange. The economic sphere manages and administers the circulation and distribution of the surplus (sovereignty) – the excess is precisely that which has to be economised. The argument, if we listen to theory, is to grasp what the economic actors are doing, the type of activity they are engaging in, and make visible our findings through the pornography of circulation. We could argue that art itself, on a symbolic level partakes in the primitive logic of accumulation – hide our sources; deny the commodity character of the art object and stock pile our cultural capital. Art participates in the phenomenon and embodies the conditions of advanced capitalism. We are engaged in a highly speculative activity – where things add up to considerably more than the sum of their parts – continuously generating surplus value. Expectation is the market driver. Fictitious capital generated through un-backed speech acts is met with our enthusiasm that they be true. In these instances, we are the very image of capital, the source of value – ‘our attention’. This currency is extracted by framing our powerlessness in the face of seduction – the realisation that the accumulation of capital is tied to a
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moment when profits are skimmed in the ‘pay-off’ of the ‘bonus realm’.10 The alternative rites of excess have always been about squandering capital, in the eclipse of the ‘accursed share’, never accumulate, ‘always waste it and get wasted, to consume and be consumed, and refuse to save anything or be saved by anyone’.11 From within the superabundance of production and the inability to produce meaning, we are always taking adjacent paths. This is how dialectical thought acts as a transition from one thought to the next, one definition to another, with causality replaced by participation. There is the familiarity of an argument whereby the artwork is just like any ‘thing’, as potentially multiple as any commodity and exchangeable for what it is not. Present and absent they simultaneously defer any place or time. Countering this liberation as damaging false equivalence, we are left with a neutered and detached autonomy. We pay a price for a guilty exceptional status – part of the world and partly not, partly for use, partly for symbolic exchange. Semi-autonomous artworks under the conditions of late capitalism recognise seriality and the mutability of digital processes setting up new commands and behaviours as they glitch and corrupt accelerated circuits. The ‘swap meet’ market assemblage is perhaps a less contested form of occupation compared to that of the barricade. Through it, Sawtell makes the processes of accumulation visible and transparent. Seemingly, in open source methods of sharing no one is dispossessed, or excluded. Political unconscious is congealed in the mass voluntary coerced production of the digital, in the willingly self-exploitative production of the ‘general intellect.’ In acquiescently displaying the act of accumulation, we acknowledge that anybody can participate. The spatial frame of Sawtell’s ‘swap meet’ configures both convivial and ‘dissensual’ attraction – assembled, not as units of significance but chains in ritual handling, in centrifugal movement, forces that implicate and cache our searches. These ripped entities construct many of her works in states where the world of appearances is radically changed. Modern biotechnology and its unpredictable consequences, or the information economy, organise themselves through a parallel logic of the bazaar and bizarre. Art production here seems like a way of working aesthetically and politically with the potential to future an alternative to social reality. There are no gifts per se to colonise us, no question of what we owe the image-object. In the ‘swap meet’, objects remind us of productivist ‘comrades’ retrieved by artists as revolutionary agents and as tools for change. In EU Egressor (October 30th mix), 2011, Sawtell lays out a potlatch of materials, horizontally arranged to form a temporary autonomous zone. Plugged in, reverberating like a cellular phone on vibrate, the materials in their fading yellowing glow, replicate surface and form, from African call centre placemat to concrete canvas. The flattened space pitches an austere location and provisional structure to dwell, think and communicate. Concrete canvas is a mobile material fabricated to produce sustainable buildings with great speed and efficiency. It is, however, mostly hoarded in the domain of the military and not where we imagine it needed. This may indeed highlight the fantasy of participation, as a corollary of encounters between objects and subjects, but Sawtell’s work holds out the possibility for a new assemblage of political encounter through a ‘parliament of things’. Any assemblage as the material vocabulary of a collection faces in two directions – ‘to assemble is one thing; to represent to the eyes and ears of those assembled what is at stake is another.’12 The nebulous notion of our social apparatus is the network that exists between heterogeneous sets of discourses, the pen, the keyboard and language itself entangled in an ensemble. The apparatus separates us from our own subjectivities – a process of individuation subtracted from power relations as a sort of surplus value.
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Anything and everything we encounter has ‘the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviours, opinions or discourses of living beings’.13 Seen from this perspective the appeal is to identify and investigate apparatuses, together with incessant attempts to find new ways to dismantle them. Visible objects, affirmations that can be formulated, forces exercised, and subjects in position are like vectors and tensors. It is cartographic in form a way of producing new maps. Breakage and fracture, working and making visible fragments and scrap are indicative of untangling the social apparatus. Contemporary art abounds with heterogeneous time capsules, stuffed with lost abstractions and broken links. In Sawtell’s films, from Rent, 2008, to Osculator, 2012, we perceive the process of disintegrating frameworks as a highly developed condition. ‘The relationship between pollution and filmmaking strikes me as a worthwhile area of investigation’.14 Sawtell takes up the challenge posited by Smithson that film is capable of picking up the pieces. Using the screen to record, Entroludes 1–6, 2010, are culled from browsing and poaching the pollution of the ‘contemporary global arcade’15 of the internet. Disjointed sound and image extends the animal, mineral, vegetable classification of things. Semi-abstract assemblages occupy the screen with virtual rapidity following streams beyond the dominant feeds and suggested sites. Different pixel and image density are pushed from low resolution to high definition. This throws veneers and machinic interfaces into sharp relief. Visual plagiarism is an act of salvage; cut and paste are after all the first two commands on our drop down menu. Sawtell’s films are a Mnemosyne project with anthropological sensitivity to the social lives of moving images, accompanied by the sound of stuttering phlegm and tincture. Industrial napkin folding machines hum against the animation of sliding dividers in their exhaustive multi-functionality. Our search engines now regulate the ways questions can be asked. Free text combination removes grammatical correctness in equality of all words. A new orthography to question the world or address questions the world asks us. ‘Browsers are philosophical machines’, promoting all accessible clouded answers in the ‘sum of all occurrences’.16 Sawtell’s language of images dwells far away from the home button immersed in the phenotype manifestations on screen. Toned brightness hyperbolically amplifies the swipe aesthetic of ‘screen povera’. We nod along punching staples to snippets of a radio broadcast reporting the demolition of a department store. These films do not yield meaning easily through the absurdist quantitative taxonomy where data matters. A foreign voice instructs us to pull a temporary partition over a green screen but like Melville’s Bartleby we ‘prefer not to’. We are ourselves objects, when we attend to the objecthood of the thing we are shaping – poem, jpeg, sound file – the more we let ourselves be used, as objects in our own right, by the field in which the objects participate – the more we let the demands of the field dictate our choices. To attend to the field of things in circulation is then to attend to what Lévi-Strauss coined as ‘entropology’ where ‘every verbal exchange, every line printed, establishes communication between people, thus creating an evenness of level, where before there was an information gap and consequently a greater degree of organisation.’17 Entropology articulates the discipline concerned with the study of the highest manifestations of this process of disintegration. The files sitting on our hard drive seek a better balance between production and neglect. We seek an archive materially and physically robust enough to withstand the climatic changes and yet we acknowledge our involvement with those climatic changes and market disturbances. The waste of abandoned sites are critical for Sawtell’s re-purposing of detritus; from the over-produced grubbed-up markets to the sprawling favela;
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between forcing the right conjunction of letting sound, image and idea be – and between one person’s potential and someone else’s possibility. Here, art and politics share the same medium or gestures. In its expanded sense they encompass all the physical manifestations through which people confront each other and evoke desired responses –speech, images, signs or architecture. A message must be received, and not just transmitted. Sawtell’s methods map positions in relation to the forces of persuasion, seduction, authority and violence that gestures and things can generate. In doing so, she avoids portraying social processes as exclusively determined by closed institutional structures, making participation appear possible.18 Frameworks of the apparatus, affecting production affect us through the ‘machinic efflorescence’19 of the technology we use, and importantly the way we acquire knowledge. Within Sawtell’s set of operations, the ideology of form is intertwined with the aesthetics of form in a ‘dialectical flash’.20 History warns us that the difficulty of dialectical thought lies in its summative nature. We cannot say one thing without revisiting the totality of everything that precedes our enunciation. A dialectical method might intensify our self-awareness; we see the occurrence of thought in the very act of thinking. This breathless sink oscillates between the object-orientated activities of thought to dialectical self-consciousness. The dialectic becomes as speculative force, just as the Vendor thinks ahead, operating in the subjunctive tense. ‘Method is detour’, Benjamin tells us. It is a way of proceeding through shortcuts, deviations, drift, and associations, cognitive and indirect. Another reading could see Sawtell’s methods as a self-generating or self-effacing set of propositions. Envisage an operating system, unzipped though a string of meta-instructions for generating artworks, which in turn is modified and replaced as the work proceeds, much as current computing architectures write the history of their application in ever-greater capacity and integration. Sawtell visualises material resources as a series of updates with the historical risk that certain ways of running these images maybe irretrievably lost, turning into defunct encryption. In this analogy, Sawtell offers, right from the beginning, a coded reading that continues, through glitch and user error to bear the underlying structure of earlier haptic systems. This logic is quite different to the dialectic of negation toward a final horizon of resolution at some terminal point. Sawtell abandons previous systems and formats while preserving their general operational capacity. She shows us how to do this through a set of preferences where the language of one system is re-functioned – not simply translated. This convergence opens the commodities depicted to the labour and value congealed within them. The artwork becomes a knowing receptor through the overwriting of junked syntax of images, objects and things. Alun Rowlands

1  Extract from Louis Zukofsky ‘First Half Of “A”9’ originally published in November 1940 as a mimeographed booklet of forty-pages, the poem attempts to forge something concrete from the ‘coded surplus value’ overwriting a transcription of Marx’s vocabulary with Spinoza. Republished in Louis Zukovsky, “A” (New York: New Directions Books, 2011) p.107 2 Michel Serres, The Parasite (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2007) p.225–7 3  Neo-Concretist Manifesto was published in the Sunday Supplement of the Jornal do Brasil newspaper on March 23, 1959 4  Donald Judd, ‘Specific Objects’, Arts Yearbook, 8, 1965 rep. in Donald Judd, Complete Writings 1959–75 (Halifax and New York: Nova Scotia Press, 1975) p.181 5 Franco Berradi, The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy (Cambridge: MIT Press 2009) 6  Rosalind Krauss, ‘Allusion and Illusion in Donald Judd’ Artforum, vol. 4, no. 9, May 1966 7  Slavoj Žižek ‘Good manners in the Age of WikiLeaks’, London Review of Books, vol. 33 no.2 January 2011 8  Hal Foster, ‘The Artist as Ethnographer’, The Return of the Real (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996) p.302 9  Jutta Koether, ‘Mad Garland’ Art and Subjecthood – The Return of the Human Figure in Semiocapitalism eds. Isabelle Graw and Daniel Birnbaum (New York: Sternberg Press 2011) p.81–2 10  See: Diedrich Diedrichsen, On (Surplus) Value in Art (New York and Rotterdam: Witte de With Publishers and Sternberg 2008)

11  Jan Verwoert, ‘Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform’ Dot Dot Dot 15, 2007 p.89–112 12  Bruno Latour, ‘Realpolitik to Dingpolitik, or How to Make Things Public’, eds. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel Making Things Public-Atmospheres of Democracy (ZKM and MIT Press, 2005) 13  Giorgio Agamben, ‘What is an Appartus?’ What is an Apparatus? And Other Essays. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009) p.13 14  Robert Smithson, ‘Art Through the Camera’s Eye’ Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, ed. Jack Flam (University of California Press, 1996) p.375 15  Hannah Sawtell, Interview by Yin Ho, Rhizome, Web. April 16, 2012 16 Boris Groys, Google: Words Beyond Grammar dOCUMENTA (13), 100 Notes No. 046 (Hantje Cantz, 2012) 17 Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques trans. John and Doreen Weightman.(New York, NY: Penguin, 1973, 1955) p.413–4 18  See: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, ‘Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re so Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You’, in Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003) p.123–53 19  Felix Guattari, ‘Remaking Social Practices’, The Guattari Reader, ed. Gary Genosko. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996) p.262–3 20  Hannah Sawtell, loc. cit.

Broadsheet #1 by Hannah Sawtell Printed by Business Week on the occasion of the exhibitions: Vendor  Bloomberg SPACE 5 October 2012 – 12 January 2013 Osculator ICA, London 9 October – 18 November 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means now known or here after invented, including photocopying and recording, without prior knowledge and permission in writing from the publisher. Copyright © Bloomberg SPACE and ICA, London, the artist and authors, 2012. Designed by John Morgan studio ISBN: 1-900300-68-0 ISBN: 978-1-900300-68-1 Supported by:

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