This was 13 years, 8 months ago

it is eleven and I am biking home and it is raining and I am wet and it is alright because I am going east on dean street and there are no cars and I bike without hands and glide around potholes and stretch my arms and I am getting soaked and sodium yellow lights spaced yards apart split myself into a fan of shadows on the ground and everything is so quiet and sleeping and I love these moments so much so much these magical tangible moments, incommunicable.

Talking to a friend I reify my thesis: the power of a phenomenological puncture (whether for images or for bodily presence) is something that only happens really in two cases: with a perception of scale or an event of impropriety. Is this really so big? Did that really happen to me?

The first is a little bit more subtle; you walk into it and it happens and a space envelops, develops. The first is in the grammar or technique of habit, Benjamin's architecture absorbed in a 'state of distraction', and in the language of infrastructure, which is optical design + physical presence + scale. Noticing the shape of power plugs or the color of traffic lights or the painted lines on street crossings or the material of building facades or the (non) angularity of building edges.

Because these spaces of puncture depend on a sense of newness, of learning-into-a-language, they always happen right at the moment when something is encountered, deemed 'exotic', pushed as the other. The presence of another further delineates a line of the self, maybe, 'I know who I am because I know I am not you', 'I notice everything that is different about Korea because I have never been to Korea', 'Having lived in Korea now I do not notice everything that is different about Korea anymore'. And this is something that is not sustainable; it's the sound of joyousness as a sandcastle crushes to bits, or a house of cards falls down, or bottles break; it's the sound of entropy being celebrated, the progression towards disorder itself a delight, the discrete number of states increasing within a system to the point that I can no longer say 'you vs. me', or 'him vs her vs me vs them', but 'you vs. you vs. you vs. you vs. you..... vs. you'.

What I mean to say is that once familiarized with, there is no re-jolt of sudden surprise, because the surprise or puncture that I am thinking of is itself the surprise at unfamiliar-things-being-noticed-and-thus-becoming-unfamiliar. And maybe that's when the architecture of habit comes in; after the initial jolt there is always this slow absorption, slow absorption, which is the default state because with most buildings there are not many punctures, not many surprises. Unlike art. Maybe this is simply because buildings buy into a history of solid buildings, whereas (Western) art's recent history, within the last 150 years, has reiterated a history of ruptures, of things-changing-now.

Serra or Matta-Clark or Turrell come into this in that they start with an architectural jolt, the initial surprise of a cutting-out-of, of the scale of panes of iron, of the non-graspable gestalt of a seemingly immaterial square in the ceiling. Travel is the other way around, the spectator moving through the medium than to have the medium be moved for the spectator, so to speak.

(And suddenly I have this image of the traveler always having to travel, always having to move in search of more ruptures, because having encountered an 'exotic' country and watching it become 'native' and 'home-like' is the simultaneous joy and sadness; because the celebration of vertiginous newness, of looking-at-something-that-is-different is exactly the reason for its disappearance, in that looking-at-something makes things not-so-new... And so maybe the traveler packs up his bags in search for the territory which, for the traveler, will be never-becoming-his, always-new-and-other.)

The second event of this phenomenological puncture is this bodily puncture: is this really happening to me? Maybe more aligned with crisis or rupture or change, this sensation follows the Kübler-Ross model of endurance: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.. More than anything it's the initial taste of denial that is so horrifyingly vertiginous and life-changing that is so powerful. On a more lighter and smaler scale this puncture happens when one is dragged onstage to be part of the performance, perhaps, or something changes within the terms of the artwork/performance/fiction ("did that character really die?"). Is this really happening?

As I was saying to this friend earlier: Relational aesthetic is oft-maligned as a gimmick, maybe, something that rides too heavily on the core idea or process. But really when it succeeds is when one doesn't perceive it as a tactic; there are boundaries that are broken or trespassed, like the crazy guy on the subway threatening you, or being swung at on the street, or almost being mugged, or being in a bike accident, where the question of denial of "is this happening to me?" is answered quickly with "yes, yes it is", and the other stages are activated into play. When I went to see Tino Sehgal's "Is This Progress" -- or rather, when I let this happen to me, it was one such moment when my expected boundaries were stretched. It has nothing to do with the expectation of how an artwork should or should not function and whether it should or should not include the audience in it. It has less to do with the surprise at the specific events that unfold, and more to do in that they unfold in the way that do. It has everything to do with the continued and controlled sensation (the word 'awe' comes to mind) of 'is this happening to me?' and the way in which the spiraling narrative up the stairs encouraged and induced this question in so many different ways, without lagging. Hence, the possibility of the piece being 'spoiled' by other viewers. Hence, the resistance against taking photographs.

If my words come across as stating Sehgal as a 'relational aesthetic', whatever that may be, that's not what I mean to say. What I mean to say is that the rich and powerful spark of RA that Bourriaud brings up (brought up, rather, more than ten years back) as something that is debated in the open, whether successfully pursued by Gillick and Tiravanija and etc. etc. is really something valuable. Valuable, because it's another way of pursuing this phenomenological rupture, this bodily rupture. Bodily ruptures don't have to be relational, or pursue an aesthetic, but what they maybe have to do is puncture an aesthetics of relations -- aesthetics spoken about in the sense that Ranciere does, which is to treat them as bounded territories or discourses (in the words of other thinkers). Arenas that are broken to let other things flood in, the cleanliness of the self dirtied by the exterior. And this shock is something that is both "bad" and transformative -- a "hygiene problem", as DFW's The Broom of the System's Dr. Curtis Jay would call it...