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In Transit

by Doreen Mende
What do I need to carry out my creative 1 sabotage of the future?

is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge. Much of the debate in this field has focused on analysing how knowledge relates to connected notions such as truth, belief and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as scepticism about different knowledge claims. Many definitions give the impression that epistemology is closely related to critical thinking. But in part because epistemology defines

The Otolith Group

And this always takes place in the exchange, in the system of reflection where it is the other we look atwe never see ourselves; we are blind; we see of ourselves what comes back through (the difference of ) the other. And this is not much.2

Hlne Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber

The blind spot is a moment in the future: we can never capture it but it is ever present. We carry it around in our bodies as it walks with us. We cannot get rid of it nor can we step out. It draws a line between inside and outside, but the line is both a crevice and a stitch, diluting the clear distinction. We cannot quite say at what moment each comes into operation. Does the blind spot detach us from our field of action? Or does it attach us
1  The Otolith Group, Otolith III: Voiceover Script, in A Long Time between Suns, eds. the Otolith Group and Will Holder (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010). See also the essay Sabotage the Future by T. J. Demos in the same publication. Hlne Cixous and Mireille Calle-Gruber, Rootprints: 2  Memory and Life Writing (London: Routledge, 1997), 16.



3  Intellectual montage is a technique developed and applied by Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein in the 1920s as an educational tool in revolutionary cinema. It cuts the continuity of editing by juxtaposing two images with the purpose of creating a shock effect, distancing the viewer from preconditioned modes of perception.


knowledge as being of the truth, unlike critical thinking, epistemology nearly ignores mechanisms, topics and methods emphasised in critical thinking such as the testing of specific propositions, logical fallacies, bias and deception found in everyday, real-life conditions and problem solving. Holism

to it? At present we can only say that it marks a possibility where a train of thought pauses for a moment in order to allow an uncertainty of blindness taking place. Uncertainty is a hallmark of our times: there is uncertainty in keeping a job, in getting a project funded, in forecasting earthquakes and volcano eruptions. But instead of fighting against uncertainty, the blind spot could be taken as an enabler of it. We are uncertain of seeing in times where there is an excess of the seen. Our lives are directed not by our secured knowledge but by an inability to see. How can a good thought be hidden between the images and sounds of a space in order to resist a fast commodification of its mind-opening potential? Its resistance might be misunderstood for an intellectual montage3 or it might be mistaken for a negation of the exposing apparatus. Yet, the place of action here is not the speech act in the first row of a protest march. Nor does it appear in a favoured manifestation of the making of , as can be observed in many recent artistic and curatorial projects. An exhibition practice operating through the blind spot, for example, initiates the strong intuition that the political does not take place under an all-enlightening spotlight. The beauty of the blind spot is that we cannot isolate its appearance because it is a line of action providing the conditions of seeing without becoming manifest in an image. It would be good to not exclusively address


the optical sense through the blind spot though; instead we could take its modus operandi as an allegory for thinking around exhibiting: the ex in the verb exhibiting is not only coded to inscribe meaning onto an image, in a space or into a sentence of a print. It also prefers an outside, the act of exposure, when the ex travels through the circuit of a closed knowledge. The absence of light-detecting faculties will exile the blind spot at the very moment when we think we have applied our knowledge and finally brought it to light. The moment when it seems we have detected a word, an image or a space, the blind spot makes them disappear. Following the blind spot leads towards a future away from utopian concepts that would replace one existing imperative system by another. This type of future is hitched onto other temporalities, like the past and present, in order to carry out my creative sabotage of the future as one Otolith III character suggests at the end of the last part of the Otolith Trilogy.4 That does not sound like a stage declaration of a thoroughly arranged plan, but rather as a not quite predictable arrival time, where thoughts are shaped without having the means of production and beyond the subjugation tative voice. That is a powerful potential. to a represen In that relation, an image, a word or an exhibition may reject attempts of signification and representation because the blind spot permanently changes the field of actionlike a wild animal that can only be caught at the risk of losing its life. Our brain fools us into thinking we have control over the exposeda seemingly complete control over
4 The Otolith Group, Otolith Trilogy: Otolith I (2005), Otolith II (2007) and Otolith III (2009).

is the idea that natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts. This includes the view that their functioning cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts (Aristotle). This concept was also used by Max Wertheimer in Gestalt theory (1920s) and in Synergetics: Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking by Buckminster





an exposure in public. But no camera lens will be fast enough to record the vanishing point. Becoming blind (a process and not a given) is rather a way to exit an instance of control and it follows its own set of rules. It demands that we think about the political in a different way, a way that implies silence, exile and uncertainty. The blind spot shatters the illusion of absolute knowledge, just like the blackout on TV deranges the image. A pause in direct action. Public presence is not lost here but generated through an accident, a blockage or an inhibition that disturbs and opens a patterned system. Encountering the blind spot indicates a possibility to give a thought a twist, away from a position of knowing. Of course, we cannot fully abandon this position since we are politically and socially constructed beings inhab iting a set of cultural codifications that enable us to manage our everyday life at our location of action. But the blind spot makes us enter a moment of non-knowledgenot as a gap to fill but as a com ponent of a texture of being permanently on the road. This feeds a way of thinking that believes in ex hibiting as a mode of production arriving from the inhabi tation of a blind spot: a silence, which is shared in public and in which various sets of knowledge are only useful through their exchange. It activates a being on the road that puts us in a place of waiting for the next flight, while dealing with misunder standings because we cannot follow the language spoken on the street, when asking a stranger for the way, watching a fellow traveller or searching for a place to eat. We might encounter our blind spot while travelling in a foreign place: we need to ask questions in order to find our bearings and a place to stay, a grocery store to buy some food and a street where a friend lives. While we look at the map, we might

Fuller in 1975. Another advocate of Gestalt theory, Kurt Koffka, explained: it has been said: The whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is more correct to say that the whole is something else than the sum of its parts, because summing up is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part 1 relationship is meaningful.


is that which is perceptible by the senses, material things (as opposed to things thinkable or immaterial), also perceptive, sharp in the senses. The term was applied in Germany by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (sthetica), to a criticism of taste considered as a science or philosophy; against which protest was made by Kant, who applied the name, in accordance with the ancient distinction, to the science which treats of the conditions of sensuous perception. But Baumgartens use found popular acceptance though its adoption was long opposed.

see from a birds eye view how the city is shaped and organised, but being within a system of crossings, squares, businesses and social actions, the quotidian usage of space makes us blind. The excess of mobility and speed, the noise of traffic and voices envelops our itinerary. Being on the road does not so much fix a moment; the ongoing movement rather lets us clandestinely move around for the sake of an immersion into a foreign place. Time and again, the exhibition space is a foreign place. Each manifestation changes its appearance and gives a temporary domicile for guests. We can see the blind spot. This may seem in contradiction with what was previously written. But it becomes temporarily manifest through a movement between proximity and distance. We all know this famous technical experiment and it may be published in this book a couple of times. A star on the left and a circle on the right are drawn on a paper. The left eye is closed looking at the circle on the right. Depending on size and distance, moving the paper back and forth, the star disappears until all we can see is the circle: two marks and a bodily movement provide a measuring tool for detecting, for seeing the blindness. The test might deliver a proof for the existence of the blind spot, which seems to be magic and simple at once. But we see nothing that could serve as evidence of the truth in a legal sense. Encountering the blind spot is encounter ing an excess: we see nothing but remember an appearance that was there just a moment ago, but isnt anymore, yet, will be there again soon. It is an excess, because the condition of seeing is shaped by blindness, by the layering of one possible exposure after the next. We know the star is there, because how can it have disappeared if we saw it just a moment ago or can glimpse it ahead? The world 21


before us appears to be a phantom, a figment of the mind. However, to borrow a thought from Serge Daney, unidentified images are engraved in the retina; unknown events inevitably happen and spoken words become the secret code of an impossible self-knowledge.5 Is the disappearing star in front of our eyes like a secret code of an impossible utterance? There and not there at once. It sounds promising and enables us to enter a condition of secrecy. It does away with the function to carry a theme and a meaning. This image of a void discards the delivery of information and a word denies serving a proper name, but it insists in its multi-directionality. Image and word follow their own course, not representing anything, but moving back and forth as a subject would. The condition of the blind spot enables the seen to decide about appear ance and disappearance as we can decide to stand in front of a camera or not. A secret word in the textile of blinding does not hide knowledge behind a spotlight, but moves on in its own right. Thats a vulnerable existence. The imperative of the seen is broken through the right of being not-exposed. Proximities and distances alternate and take the blind spot into appearance, yet, it is impossible to attribute some proper meaning to its appearance. It directs the gaze towards us, into our eyes watching a scene: a busy street in Sarajevo on a sunny day. The city hosts a literature festival where Jean-Luc Godard delivers a lecture attended by Olga Brodsky. He talks about shot and reverse-shot; documen tary and fiction; Palestine and Israel. At the end of the conference, a friend of Olgas will give Godard her DVD of a film that she made during the festival. She is
5 Serge Daney, The Tracking Shot in Kapo, in Postcards from Cinema (London: Berg Publishers, 1997), 21.


Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, taste and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. Scientifically it is defined as the study of sensory or sensory-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as

critical reflection on art, culture and nature. ImmanuelKant declared that Baumgartens aesthetics could never contain objective rules, laws, or principles of natural or artistic beauty (Critique of Pure Reason). In his Critique of Judgment though, Kant conformed to Baumgartens new usage and employed the word aesthetic to mean the judgment of taste or the estimation

Stills pp. 2327 of Notre Musique by Jean-Luc Godard, 2004




walking in the street. In her bag are books which will be mistaken for bombs in a cinema in Paris some weeks later. She is walking in a street in Sarajevo. We cannot see her yet; the image is blurred and only the red bag may give an indication that it is her while she approaches us. Its like an image coming from a distance. When she appears before us, the sunlight blinds her and she blinks. Her gaze seeks a focus out of the light. Her eyes meet the cameras eye; her image looks at us: the sound is muted and we only see her speak. What we see is an image covering the sound. The image is too loud so we cannot hear anything. Olga has become an image without a voice. Silence. In the moment, we share our mutual silence for which we will need to develop a language. Then a speech shoots through the image: there are two women, side by side. l am one of them. Where is the second woman? We only see Olga. And who is this I? Is it another voice that has been attached to her mouth? CUTShe has turned her back to us. Olga wont answer these questions but leaves us with a sense of uncertainty. The lens of a camera and the ex of exhib iting are performed through an act of refusal. This gesture of revolt has opened the closed circuit of a secure frame of knowing. The lens of a camera and the ex of exhibiting are confronted with an act of refusal. We are confronted with our own blindness: a blinding moment, in an aural and visual sense, dilutes a clear distinction between the criminal and the defeat. The image looks back at us while taking its own path. A gesture of independence. It does not wait for us while categories of known knowledge analyse what is going on. It wont help because we are blind since we apply a pre-figured pattern to analyse the seen. But this is not what the image is waiting 24

of the beautiful. For Kant, an aesthetic judgment is subjective in that it relates to the internal feeling of pleasure or displeasure and not to any qualities in an external object. SigmundFreud inaugurated aesthetical thinking in Psychoanalysis mainly via the uncanny as aesthetical affect. (Canny is from the Anglo-Saxon root ken: knowledge, understanding, or cognisance; mental perception: an

idea beyond ones ken.) MauriceMerleau-Ponty sees an active dimension in perception, in that it is a primordial openness to the living environment. At the core of his philosophy is a sustained argument for the foundational role that perception plays 2 in understanding the world as well as engaging with the world.The world is nothing but world-as-meaning.




6  All quotes taken from Jean-Luc Godard, Notre Musique, 2004.


PierreBourdieu argues that Kants aesthetic merely represents an experience that is the product of an elevated class habitus and scholarly leisure as opposed to other possible and equally valid aesthetic experiences which lay outside Kants narrow definition. Jean-Franois Lyotard re-invokes the Kantian distinction between taste and the sublime.

for; it resists interpretation and categorization. This approach no longer makes it possible to look at a scene as a given fact or to locate the power of exposure merely within an image-forming apparatus in the distance; we are implicated in this apparatus. The act of exposure, in the exhibition space, on the cinema screen or on a computer display, results in an entanglement of temporalities within the exposed: coming from a past, their public display marks a present that enables a con dition to carry out a creative sabotage of the future. The act of exposure is an explosion of contradictions, including us. Borrowing a sentence from Juan Goytisolo, What lies ahead of us now is like a story without thought as if bequeathed by an impossible will. More than ever, were faced with the void.6 The blinding moment, exposed as silence, as a cut or a blackout, denies a complete picture of the world, or to phrase it differently, our blindness is an intrinsic condition perforating the real. Does our ability to see conceal even more than we think? We walk around with a fragmented gaze. It looks like an image being ready to serve as evidence of the truth or an identifiable image. But the blind spot teaches us: what we encounter will always remain incomplete with quite some unexpected holes; and sometimes while being on the roadI was clandestine, as Serge Daney writes. It will not occur in a state of being detected, but in the temporality of a movement, a passage. NO PRODUCT: In a recent talk, the Indian think er Gayatri Spivak talked about her visit to Kosovo. She regularly undertakes trips with a group of thinkers to places like Kosovo, which have become known through

Design knowledge is a term that stems from approaches in practice-based research in art and design that support the idea that any cognition (in art and science) is conditioned by its form of medial-aesthetic agency (mediation). Georg Picht sees

Sublime painting, unlike kitsch realism, will enable us to see only by making it impossible to see; it will please only by causing pain. 3 He advocated a strict separation of aesthetics and politics, because their convergence would necessarily lead into left or right fascism.




7  Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, What is Critique? 21 May 2011, 1821h, Frankfurt Research Center for Postcolonial Studies, Goethe University Frankfurt.


in a common theory of production a basic science of the modern world and puts up the question, if thought itself should not be understood as design.4 Design is here being drawn as a constructive practice, which is constantly changing, shifting and reinventing the world and therefore the condition for/of knowledge, including the subjectmatter of design research.5

mass media, curatorial projects and UN reports as places of conflict. She spoke about a form of knowledge production that does not, for the umpteenth time, emerge through an interview with a local taxi-driver, or through context analysis and doing good for the community. Instead of having a specific goal or itinerary, the group follows the route of hanging out, talking, meeting colleagues that are local, inviting guests, maybe reading a text together, sitting in a caf and entering a stage of thinking where a critical position is that which 7 breaks ones own world. Spivak called her travelling a NO PRODUCT project. This is hard to achieve since we are living in times of Capitalist Realism, in which we are so-called cultural producers and in which the British writer Mark Fisher sees the conflation of economics and politics regulating our speech and action. There is no way out of capitalism, since there is no outside anymore. But we can achieve different forms of practices which enable us to move between disciplines and thoughts, below the power of state and above another alternative capitalism. Practice here follows different temporalities. It is not so much the case that the distinction between past, present and future ceases to exist, but time follows a movement of thought shaking the categories of a linear time chronology. We might set up an exhibition, take a picture or finish a piece of writinga practice of thinking will establish a further complicity with the matter of concern, folding past into future and multi plying the present tense.


Design knowledge is being contrasted with an image of science as searching for timeless truth , or as being busy with laws of nature, truth, or existence which is grounded in the idea that knowledge is indispensably connected to truth, analysis, logic, objectivity and rigid evidencing.

The crevice and the stitch: here it is again. We might have walked away somewhat from our blind spot that refers so much to the aspect of seeing, yet we can now take from the blind spot its rejection to keep the crevice and the stitch as separate but entangled entities. The blind spot moves us between the exhibited there and our here, not in order to come up with a new product but with uncertain trains of thought, voids in mind and a desire to resist colonising patterns, which have occupied the eye, the ear and the body. The and does not indicate an addition, a further element in a chain of operations, and even not just a relation between inside and outside. Betwixt and between is a condition of thinking. This space in-between, the AND, according to Gilles Deleuze unfolds as precisely a creative stammering, a foreign use of language, as opposed to a conformist and dominant use based on the verb to be... its always in between, between two things; its the borderline, theres always a border, a line of flight or flow, only we 8 dont see it, because its the least perceptible of things. This form of movement does follow a possibility to learn how not to see, in order to see. It enables a thinking practice in form of a display in transit. This display is not another view-fixing apparatus, as we might find it in modern architecture or in the shape of another manifest element in space such as a wall, a plinth, a showcase, as displays are generally considered. It rather is a resonant body, which includes us. But lets not forget that the exhibition requires holding out something. The ex in exhibiting is like
8Gilles Deleuze, Three Questions on Six Times Two, in Negotiations 19721990 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 45. Originally published in Cahiers du Cinma 271 (1976).



the lens of a camera or the pen in the writers hand. It contains the potential to create a public display. But the inexhaustible movement of the blind spot disturbs a western paradigm, which has placed exhibiting always on the side of light. History ceases to exist as a linear trajectory and emerges from the instability of an on going movement between light and blindness, between a manifest inscription and a flux of thought. The main drive, however, is not to establish a competition between manifestation and movement, but to unfold the co-existence of both, in order to utilise the political potential of exhibiting. The exhibiting moment then, perforated by blind spots, unfolds a texture with acts of exposures that might leave a trace. Some kind of manifestation is needed, because not anything goes, but the display in transit deranges the inscription of a historically protected meaningit ex-inscribes those protections, and by doing so, it is sending us on the road. The blind spot then is not so much a model, but a condition of thinking. It does not stand for another curatorial theme or an exhibition topic. For us, it enables a practice to realise an exhibition not so much about a theme, but how to walk around a theme, including our relation to it. It makes it more difficult to think of a common ground from where we all could start. The ground has become a blinding texture where codes of knowledge contrast with displaced places, silenced voices and phantom images, in which we are implicated moving in the crevices of exposures. With this in mind, a blinding texture enables us to think through exhibiting, not as a clash of cultures, but through a shared silence where knowledge comes into being through the exchange, in the system of reflection 9 where it is the other we look atwe never see ourselves. 30

Nigel Cross sees design as an independent form of knowledge and coined the terms designerly ways of knowing and design knowledge.  Design knowledge resides firstly in people: in designers especially, but also in everyone to some extent. [...] Design knowledge resides secondly in processes: in the tactics and strategies of designing. [...] Thirdly [...] design knowledge


resides in products themselves: in the form and materials and finishes, which embody design attributes. Next to this the term design thinking evolved mainly in economic and administrative context. The term is not clearly defined and operates in between dichotomies of rationality versus creativity, theory versus praxis and the connection of design with innovation. It is sometimes defined as conscious not-knowing and seen as an indispensable ability in leadership and innovation processes.7, 8

As long as we walk around with our blind spot, a structure only appears to be a model for living. It takes us to a possibility of exposure, of making public without describing or explaining what we see, but unfolding the conditions of not seeing. Because we are blind and the only thing we can do about it is to see ourselves thrown into strangeness, which Hlne Cixous describes as a passage from the one to the other, de lune lautre. And it is the I as a We from which we have to start. Permanently on the road.
9 Cixous, Rootprints, 16.