In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.

A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western

DISCHARGE 2012             COLOUR COLLOQUIUM 2010             SYNTHETIC DIRT 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Francis Burger: Squaring the magic circle

Willem Boshoff, Nothing is Obvious
How do spaces of play become delineated?

How does one draw on weak logic to erect a flexible line that allows for rather than inhibits emergent thoughts, ideas, objects and inventions?

How does one cultivate and harvest spaces of emergence, of freedom? Spaces like Archimedes’ bathtub and Jean Philippe Toussaint’s bathroom, where eureka’s, both loud and soft, fast and slow, mark the arrival of the truth as an event, effervescing all at once across tight networks of people, things and places.1
How does one solicit the unsolicitable, say the unspeakable, fix, formalize, or commission the impossible?

Focusing on experimental artistic research strategies the proposed paper will investigate the above questions through a discussion of merging the estranged bedfellows of quantitative and qualitative research. Taking advantage of the intersection of post-structuralism and complexity studies within contemporary critical theory, the theoretical base of the investigation will extend to include samples from an orphan genealogy of abstract engineers.2 The paper will pivot around the illustration of practical strategies evidenced by artists and other practitioners within a localised community.3 Functioning as a performance, the paper will be presented in conjunction with video and sculptural works from two or more of the above-mentioned artists (See Notes).

Backed by previous attempts at researching the quiet histories of lesser-known South African artists and other intellectuals or eccentrics, the discussion will aim at the articulation of a shareable, ‘sayable’ method that interrogates and intervenes in the writing of current histories via a combination of actions that are simultaneously radical and responsible, independent and gregarious.

1. The ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes is known anecdotally for screeching ‘Eureka!’ and running down the street naked after solving a problem of volume and weight in his bathtub. Toussaint’s (2008) The Bathroom narrates the story of a man who moves into his bathroom in an attempt to secure the ‘quietude of [his] abstract life’.

2. Taken from a comment on Deleuze’s philosophical family tree by Brian Massumi (1987), the idea of my own ‘orphan’ genealogy could emerge here to include anyone from Diogenes to Nietzsche, from Chief Bambatha kaMancinza to Eugene Marais to Enoch Mgijima to Krzysztof Wodiczko, Stacy Hardy or Bp Nichol.

3. Namely Josh and Jared Ginsburg, Anja de Klerk, Christian Nerf, Willem Boshoff and Doung Anwaar Jahangeer as well as practitioners from conservation (Paula Hathorn and Tanya Lane) and complexity studies (André Zaaiman).
sources cited within this proposal:

Massumi, B. 1987. ‘Pleasures of Philosophy’ in Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus; Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by B. Massumi. Minneapolis: Minnesota. (p. x)
Jean-Philippe Toussaint, 2008. The Bathroom. Translated by Nancy Amphoux. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press. (p. 7.)

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