James P. Carse, “There Are At Least Two Kinds of Games,” in Finite and Infinite Games (New York: The Free Press (MacMillan, 1986), 3-33.
Defining Finite and Infinite Games.
“A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.”
In developmental psychology the difference is often exemplified by how adults play - finite -and how children play -infinite.
The author begins the book using the term ‘spectators’ where in later chapters he uses the term ‘audience’. I have only read the three chapters and I did not come across him
differentiating between the two. I wonder if there is a difference? For me there is none but I tend to use the term spectator more readily than audience. This could be because of the
media I work with.
Players must agree on when the game begins and ends, the conditions of winning and who the winner is in order for the winner to be determined and the (finite) game to end. Even if the spectators or officials are not in agreement with the players it will ultimately be the players who determine the end of the game; a player cannot be forced to play.
“It is an invariable principle of all play, finite and infinite, that whoever plays, plays freely. Whoever must play, cannot play.”
The 'rules' or structure of the finite game come from within - from the players who agree upon them. These are the boundaries of the finite game. The boundaries can be temporal, spatial or numerical. Exceeding the agreed upon or established boundaries/rules/structures can lead to forfeiture of the right to claim victory. In terms of numerical boundaries it is important to note in finite games we cannot play alone.
Therefore, I assume it is possible to play infinite games alone.
Players are like the rules/structure/boundaries selected from/by within the finite game and can also be de-selected, too. Players cannot select themselves.
Ultimately, all players must be in agreement on the eventual winner of the finite game.
Finite games are externally defined due to the types of boundaries they have - there is a specific context.
There can be only one winner but the remaining players can be ranked at the end of the game. Winners are the highest ranked, receive the title of winner, but the ranking of the other players also gives a title of sorts. Not everyone competes just to or expecting to win, often it suffices to gain (in) a ranking.
In all play - finite or infinite - players play freely. This is the only commonality between the two types of games.
Games=Play I assume the author uses the terms interchangeably?
Unlike in finite games, in infinite games cannot determine the beginning and do not care to do so. There are no temporal boundaries; the purpose is to prevent the game from concluding and to keep all players playing. There are also no spatial or numerical boundaries. Infinite players can play alone, anywhere, anytime. Finite games are defined by external factors at work on the players and boundaries - internal limitations establishing the rules of play, infinite games are defined only by internal factors created within the game itself.
“Finite games can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game.”
Rules differ for each finite game, we know what the game is by the rules of play.
Think of similar games with slight variation. For instance, handball and soccer.
Rules of play do not equal laws but are restraints placed upon the players who still possess the freedom to make choices within the boundaries set forth.
“The rules of a finite game are the contractual terms by which the players can agree who has won.”
The contract must be signed by all parties before the game can begin! No exceptions to the Rules! Rules cannot be changed in the course of finite play.
But even with rules there is a type of ‘infinity’ as described by the author in the following sentences (among my favorites in this text…)
“There are no rules that require us to obey rules. If there were, there would have to be a rule for those rules, and so on.”
“The rules of an infinite game must change in the course of play.”
This must happen for the sake of continuing to play!
The change may happen by agreement but there is no rule that agreement is necessary for change to happen. The rules of infinite play only deal with addressing threats to the continuation of play -such as “physical exhaustion, or the loss of material resources, or the hostility of nonplayers, or death.” These are the boundaries (limits) infinite players play with as opposed to the types of boundaries finite players play within. The limits or boundaries of finite play are self-limitations because the limitations have been chosen and agreed upon by the players in advance of the game.
Self-veiling. The act of intentionally forgetting that one has chosen to play (and play be the agreed upon rules) so that the sense of competition may be maintained.
Self-veiling is our belief that we are the role we are playing in the game we are playing (finite as well as infinite). This is vital because our belief is necessary to make others (audience/spectators) believe we are the person of the role we are portraying. It is a contradictory act in which we freely suspend our freedom.
This has been important to my practice-led research of personas as tools in my painting practice. However, as the research has progressed into the mid-stage of the project my belief is even more important to how I work with the tool than the belief of others who do not see me working but the result of the work - the objects. This may change and I highly suspect in the end both my belief and the belief of the spectator will be crucial to arguing for the value of personas as tools in not just a painters but any creative practice.
The roles the players play are performed and thus belong to the role and not the player/performer.
The audience viewing the performance does not forget its role as spectator.
“So it is with all roles. Only freely can one step into the role ….”
The role of spectator makes the audience players in the game, too.
No finite play is possible without self-veiling.
“The issue is whether we are ever willing to drop the veil and openly acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that we have freely chose to face the world through a mask.”
Again, this is important to my research with personas as tool in my painting practice. In a finite game dropping the mask would end the game, I believe. However, in order to continue the play in an infinite game there needs to be moments of taking off the mask in order to redirect the rules and continue the play. For example, threats to continuing my work with the persona Melusine Van der Weiden necessitated me dropping the mask, ‘killing’ the persona, in order to redirect the game and redefine her role as a now ‘deceased’ persona-tool in my practice. My painting practice, and probably any creative practice, is an infinite game, therefore applying personas-as-tools to a practice will necessitate occasionally dropping the mask to not end the game. This is what might move the application of the persona from performance to the performative? [Something I will need to look into a bit further.]
“At which point do we confront the fact that we live one life and perform another, or others, attempting to make our momentary forgetting true and lasting forgetting?”
While I believe we perform many lives in addition to the one life we live I am not convinced that we can or should “make our momentary forgetting true and lasting forgetting”. One need only look to artist who have performed personas - Marilyn Monroe or David Bowie - and how being subsumed by the performed persona impacted the person. It killed Monroe and could have killed Bowie had he not realized the trappings, taken off the masks -first of ‘Ziggy’ and later ‘Thin White Duke’ - in order to redirect the play to infinitely play the game of a persona-driven creative practice while maintaining his true identity, David Jones into his death which did not mean the death of any of his personas who remain infinite.
Personas-as-tools is applying the performed roles of finite play to the infinite play of a creative practice; but in doing so the infinite player performs the role with less seriousness than the finite player, this is what enables the mask to be dropped without ending the game.
Finite games = abstractness
Infinite games = concreteness
Explanation of ‘abstract’ as used by Carse: per Hegel’s definition abstract is the substitution of a part of the whole for the whole, the whole being “concrete”. The infinite player takes the abstractness of the finite game, the part of the game, the role with its self-veiling, and playfully applies it to the concreteness of the infinite game by dropping the self-veiling as needed.
“They freely use masks in their social engagements, but not without acknowledging to themselves and others that they are masked.”
Bowie/Jones did this to sustain his infinite, creative game with personas. The identity behind Rrose Sélavy has always clearly been Marcel Duchamp but R. Mutt is another case entirely - and there is only the one ‘work’ attributed to Mr. Mutt! Richard Mutt wasa finite game in so far as the player behind that Persona remains unknown. Or as Carse writes about in the sentence immediately following the quote above:
“For that reason they regard each participant in finite play as that person playing and not as a role played by someone.”
Rrose is clearly a role played by someone, that someone being Marcel Duchamp. Ziggy was, upon his ‘retirement’ from Bowie’s repertoire clearly a role played by someone, David Bowie, who in fact was another role played by someone named David Jones. Marilyn Monroe was not a role played by someone named Norma Jeane Baker but rather, having lost the ability to separate the person from the persona (role), was that person playing Marilyn Monroe.
“Seriousness is always related to roles, or abstractions.”
Seriously. Hmm … maybe why people have a harder time finding humor in abstract paintings; though less hard to find it in 3D work or even photography or video … whimsy being more easily accepted in other media?
“Seriousness always has to do with an established script, an ordering of affairs completed somewhere outside the range of our influence.”
Is it about control? Power?
“To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen.”
Playfulness is serious business.
“On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence. … To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself.”
I think the infinitely playful can encompass seriousness, and allow for possibilities.
“... an infinite game cannot be abstracted, for it is not a part of the whole presenting itself as the whole, but the whole that knows it is the whole.”
theatrical (finite play) versus dramatic (infinite play)
The theatrical requires an audience for whom the role is performed, both roles are scripted. I am an audience of and for myself when performing the roles of the personas, the roles are not scripted, through the application of the personas their development remains open, and the play is infinite. However, in communicating the value of personas-as-tools and the methodology of my research, the development of the personas and their application in my practice it has been necessary at times to combine the theatrical with the dramatic, bringing the finite game -which is also dramatic in the regard its script is written during the play as the outcome remains unknown, this is what makes the play ‘a game’ - into infinite play.
Because their will eventually be an outcome the finite game is theatrical.
I am thinking how Marcel Duchamp played between the two, the theatrical game of chess and the dramatic game of art. [Consider returning to this thought later…]
The script does not equal the rules. Scripts are written as the finite game is played, during play the finite game is dramatic, at its conclusion it become theatrical.
In finite play this is the past triumphing over the future … it occurs thanks not to a script but to the experience of the player who anticipates from experience what moves need to be made in order to win the game. The element of surprise is lacking for the experienced player of a finite game and can end the game by its presence.
Surprise is desired and expected by the infinite player, it is what keeps the game from ending.
Again, thinking of Duchamp playing between the two.
“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained.”
The master player.
“To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.”
The artist versus the crafts-person.
“Education lead toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.”
The application of personas-as-tools is not a matter of training to use these in a creative practice but educating the user as to the possibilities of what their use could mean for the future of his or her practice.
The master chess player versus the ‘breather’.
Any finite game can be played repeatedly but each time the game is unique. Infinite games are ongoing, hence not repeatable but because they can contain finite games infinite games can contain repetition that is unique.
This statement fits my painting process and how I apply repetition within it.
Terminal moves end the finite game.
My use of repetition within my process is a means of avoiding terminal moves. Duchamp used repetition in his practice to avoid the terminal move of ‘retinal painting’. He embedded his identity as a finite player - the master chess player -into his infinite identity of ‘breather’. His non-production of producing art work was often a repetitive act of avoidance by repeating the same basic statement in different yet similar ways over nearly 60 years. In doing this Duchamp was awarded, mostly posthumously, a title: father of conceptual art … both rightly and wrongly [elaborate on more sometime later].
“There are games in which the stakes seem to be life or death.”
Stoics versus Epicureans. And at this point and through the next chapter I see the author taking a political turn. It was political when he wrote it in the early-mid 1980s and has become more so now.
“If the losers are dead, the dead are also losers. There is a contradiction here: If the prize for winning finite play is life, then the players are not properly alive. They are competing for life. Life, then, is not play but the outcome of play. Finite players play to live, they do not live their playing. … The contradiction is precisely that all finite play is play against itself.”
Death = abstract
Life = concrete
Immortality cannot be lived…
“Infinite players die. Since the boundaries of death are always part of the play, the infinite player does not die at the end of play, but in the course of play.”
Example: David Jones’ death, Duchamp's’ death ...both in the course of play and the game continues...
“The finite play for life is serious, the infinite play of life is joyous. Infinite play resounds throughout with a kind of laughter. … It is laughter with others with whom we have discovered that the end we thought we were coming to has unexpectedly opened. We laugh not at what has surprisingly come to be impossible for others, but over what has surprisingly come to be possible with others.”
Infinite play = paradoxical
Finite play = contradictory
The finite player wants the game to end with his victory, the infinite players wants the game to continue so that others can experience the joy of playing.
“Infinite players play best when they become least necessary to the continuation of play.”
Again, thinking of Duchamp who has played best post-mortem. It might even be said, at least I believe Brian O’Doherty would argue, that this began before Duchamp’s death when O’Doherty captured Duchamp’s heartbeat to have it ticking away ad infinitum.
Duchamp’s title might be father of conceptual art but his name is ‘Marcel Duchamp’.
“Titles are theatrical.”
“Titles are powerful. … in the arena in which the title was won.”
Power and identity won through title. Here the author further directs the text, and further in the next chapter, into an eerily, contemporary place ...
“Power is a concept that belongs only in finite play.”
I am continually hearing from a variety of voices that an end game is being played around us. Ending this section with a lot of quotes ...
“... one does not win by being powerful; one wins to be powerful.”
“Power is contradictory, and theatrical.”
“If anything appears to be a permanent feature of reality it is power - the constant impingement on us of superior forces bothe without and within.”
“... we do not play against reality; we play according to reality.”
“Power is a feature only of finite games. … How then do infinite players contend with power? … There is no way of looking back to make a definitive assessment of the power or weakness of earlier play.”
“Let us say that where the finite player plays to be powerful the infinite player plays with strength. A powerful person is one who brings the past to an outcome, settling all its unresolved issues.”
“A strong person is one who carries the past into the future, showing that none of its issues is capable of resolution.”
Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Middle East …
“Power is finite in amount. Strength cannot be measured, because it is an opening and not a closing act.”
“Infinite play cannot prevent or eliminate evil.”
“Evil is the termination of infinite play. It is infinite play coming to an end in unheard silence.”
“Unheard silence is not the loss of the player’s voice, but the loss of listeners for that voice.”
“Evil is not the inclusion of finite games in an infinite game, but the restriction of all play to one or another finite game.”
James P. Carse, “No One Can Play A Game Alone,” in Finite and Infinite Games (New York: The Free Press (MacMillan, 1986), 37-64.
Society, Culture, and the players.
Of the three chapters from Carse’s book this was the most difficult for me in the sense that itcontinues the discussion of finite and infinite relative to issues of power in society and culture. Whereas in the previous chapter I was able to connect the text to my own research in play and personas, escaping into the topics I am drawn to in my practice, this chapter connected me with the reality we are facing today in the world, and that is what makes it difficult, or probably better said, depressing. There were a number of parts I highlighted, but I made fewer comments as I read the text until I came to section 37. At that point I began to feel as though Carse was no longer commenting on the political situation of the early 1980s but had leapt forward into the future that is today. Perhaps this is the past driving the present into the future that is now?
Section 42, when the author begins to discuss culture with greater depth, I was able to begin connecting back to my own research. Namely, with the idea that the role played by the audience, bringing the audience into the play, could possibly be a subversive act, “not competitive play but play that affirms itself as play”. There is the connection to Dada in the sense that the notion of seriousness is challenged by this, and it leads me to think further of Richard Wollheim ‘Painting as Art’ and the roles of the spectator, artist and object -the painting- the need for the artist to step into the role of the spectator, to see the object as the spectator, in order for the object to be ‘as art’. This and the following sections helped lift the depressive feeling brought on by the discussion of power and property.
In section 43 the discussion of how culture could disarm war reminded me of the work of Australian painter Jon Cattapan as Australia's 63rd Official War artist, painting a deployment in East Timor (Timor Leste). Using the night vision technology, a technology developed for war, he was able to find the beauty, the poetry, in the groupings of soldiers in the landscape of war. They were officially on a humanitarian mission so I wonder how this is impacted by the author's statement? Does the goal of the mission change the impact of beauty/poetry on the motif of soldiers and war? https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/perspectives
I am not going to write much more about this reading other than to include here the following quote. I noted that in my opinion it should be printed on t-shirts, banners, signs, billboards, bumper stickers; broadcast on all forms of media -traditional, non-traditional, social, you name it - and did post it myself on FB which I rarely post anything on anymore.
“The manipulation of the government, the laws, the enforcement functions of a state wither by persons within the society (through usurpation or abuse of power) or by persons without (in other states) cannot in itself affect the decision of a people to be a people. A people, as a people, has nothing to defend. In the same way a people has nothing and no one to attack. One cannot be free by opposing another. My freedom does not depend on your loss of freedom. On the contrary, since freedom is never freedom from society, but freedom for it, my freedom inherently affirms yours.A people has no enemies.”
James P. Carse, “A Finite Game Occurs Within a World,,” in Finite and Infinite Games (New York: The Free Press (MacMillan, 1986), 89-96.
There is always something more to the finite game. The determining factors of the finite game are not found within but outside the game ... in the something more. The rules of the finite game indicate but do not determine the game; they are generalities rather than specifics. What happens within the finite game is relative to what happens within it but can only be understood by what exists outside it. In other words, understanding the game -its outcome based upon the rules and the relations of what happens within- can only occur by understanding the context in which the game exists ... the world surrounding it.
“World exists in the form of audience.” the spectator(s). Spectators are the world and, thusly, the context in which the finite game exists and is played.
“An audience consists of persons observing a contest without participating in it.” What a narrow definition; I disagree. Observation is a form of participation impacting what occurs within the game.
“No one determines who an audience will be.” True. However, we can create conditions to attract a particular audience … some call it marketing, others knowing your reader, audience, user, etc. I disagree with the Heidegger quote. A world is never its own spontaneous source but the result of actions and reactions. Who is a world (action) must be a world (reaction).
“The number of persons who join an audience is irrelevant. So is the time and space in which the audience occurs.” … true and false ... these matter in their irrelevance. The irrelevant action gives pause to the relevant reaction. The specific event is irrelevant in terms of my general participation, by specific experience of the event becomes relevant via my reaction to it.
“An audience does not receive its identity according to the persons in it, but according to the events it observes.” 'I was there' is less relevant than 'I was there'. It is a matter of inflection.
Recalling a recent conversation of how media shapes our experience of events - 'I was there' via the TV or Radio or Internet - and an acquaintance recalling watching Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. At the age of 9 she said 'I was there.' Both I and there were emphasized by the teller.
What can we call 'boundaries' in the 24/7 global culture we live in? Simply 'there'?
An audience of a lot of 'I's.
“The fact that a finite game needs an audience before which it can be played, and the fact that an audience needs to be singularly absorbed in the events before it, show the crucial reciprocity of finite play and the world. Finite players need the world to provide an absolute reference for understanding themselves; simultaneously, the world needs the theater of finite play to remain a world.”
Doesn't this contradict the first two paragraphs of this section? The audience through its shared desired becomes part of the team ...via observation becoming participants … each subject needs its object, each object its subject and at times they reverse themselves and it is unclear which is which.
Our desire to be part of the game, part of the team drives us to seek these out... in order to become part of the world, inside and out.
Reciprocity of game and world …
We observe ourselves in action and react accordingly. We are our own subject and object. We are our harshest critics.
The fan speaks of 'our guys' and takes a loss harder or a win more jubilently than the players themselves. See the response of the underdog to victory ... for instance, the Czech National Hockey Team beating Russia for the Gold medal in 1998 Winter Olympics was about so much more than a game of hockey ... and they celebrated this victory on the streets of Prague early that Sunday morning like it was 1989 all over again. I know twin brothers, in their 60s, one a fan of team A like his father was, the other of team B like his mother was. Mom and Dad have been dead for decades but the brothers carry on the family division for the sake of family unity.
The Audience! The world's time is the time carried forth by the audience in collective memory … “I was there.’ When the time of the game is viewed as the lifespan of the audience - the 'I's that make it - then this could be viewed over a greater arch than the quarters, halves, or innings being played by specific players. Victories are timeless because they have become memory.
“Time divided into periods is theatrical time.”
Quarters, halves, innings ... as I think of my own recent research and examining my work-life-time AKA the periods of my development as an artist ... I have begun dividing and summing these up as 1970-1999 stage 1 learning; 2000 - 2013 stage 2 trying via doing; 2014 - present stage 3 doing via reflecting and reflecting via doing.
“It is not a time lived, but a time viewed …” looking back….
“The outcome of a finite game is the past waiting to happen. Whoever plays toward a certain outcome desires a certain past. By competing for a future prize finite players compete for a prized past.”
When I did x (action) I got y (reaction) but I wanted p (desired outcome). I only get p by doing q. Therefore if I want x to result in p I need to do the following: x(q) = y(p)
We generate infinite time not by looking back but by looking ahead. Relative to my breaking up the time of my work/life into stages this is could mean I can only progress from the finite to the infinite by reuniting the stages into one whole work/life. Rejoin the fragments to create the whole.
This is beginning to sound familiar… Each moment of time is a fragment from which the whole can be configured anew again and again ... infinite …
“An infinite player does not begin working for the purpose of filling up a period of time with work, but for the purpose of filling work with time. Work is not an infinite player’s way of passing time, but of engendering possibility. Work is not a way of arriving at a desired present and securing it against an unpredictable future, but of moving toward a future which itself has a future.”
Yes! This is what I am doing ... !!! (or at least trying to do …)
“Infinite players … They are not concerned to determine when it is over, but only what comes of it.”
Yes, because there is always the next fragment, step, … which is why I find the idea of 'finished' work, work that is complete in the sense it has a specific configuration so difficult.
“For the finite player in us freedom is a function of time. We must have the time to be free. For the infinite player in us time is a function of freedom. We are free to have time. A finite player puts play into time. An infinite player puts time into play.”
We generate infinite time not by looking back but by looking ahead.
Infinite players … “They look, but they see they are looking.”
The infinite player is always aware of his or her presence as a spectator, and observer, in making the game ... isn't this what Wollheim says about the painter makes the painting as art by becoming the spectator? I think so.
“Infinite play remains invisible.”
Which makes it hard to understand why Sisyphus keeps pushing the rock up the mountain when we cannot see the rock or the mountain, or even Sisyphus for that matter.
“They find themselves in its time, aware that it remains unfinished, aware that their reading of poetry is itself poetry.”
They become participants in the infinite game.
“Inflected then by the genius of the artist they recover their own genius, becoming beginners with nothing but possibility ahead of them.”
This might be taking it a bit far … but yes, it does reboot the spectator and the artist, too.
The closing paragraph is one to remember for future use …
“If the goal of finite play is to win titles for their timelessness, and thus eternal life for oneself, the essence of infinite play is the paradoxical engagement with temporality that Meister Eckhart called “eternal birth.”
Alfonso Lingis, "The Origin of Infinity" in Deathbound Subjectivity (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989), 11-29.
Heidegger and Husserl, but mostly Husserl.
If power is finite then it makes sense that Heidegger’s judgement is “awry”.
Husserl - telos; the teleological analysis of the historical emergence of the finite as the beginnings of what we call history occuring in Ancient Greece with Plato. A total space in infinite time. For Heidegger time is finite not infinite as proposed by Husserl. For Husserl Western history is finite but the time in which it is 'played' is infinite.
Perhaps it is fitting, as I am sure it is something the early Christians stole from the Ancient Greeks (and to an extent from the Kaddish of Judaism), throughout reading this I kept returning in my head to the Gloria Patri doxology as I learned it as a child growing up in the United Methodist Church:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost/As it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be/World without end, Amen, Amen.
The idea of infinity is there is no ‘end game’. The world of past, present and future - the father (past), the son (the present), and the holy spirit (the future) - will go on ad infinitum.
Western praxis is not connected to needs which are finite but generates on going, infinite tasks for itself.
Infinity is contained and created in and of itself. Extension is always an infinite extension.
Infinity is both subject and object, similar but not identical. This unifies the two and enables their repetition ad infinitum.
Infinite time: if there is one moment there are infinite possible moments If there is one fragment there are an infinite number of possible fragments. Both result in a 'whole' that is itself infinite.
“Infinity is a theoretical idea;”
How could one begin to test infinity seeing there is no end?
absolute truth and infinity
We either accept that 'truth' is absolute and what is true now will always be true, otherwise there can be no absolute truths because we are unable to see the end and if what is true now will be true at the end ...
The theoretical attitude is not about society but about the individual (culture); the individual is ad infinitum.
A culture must be explained/described by the individual of that culture to the stranger to that culture. The asking of the question ‘why’ something is so reminds me of how the child learns and by learning grows to ensure what is so either remains so or is changed.
To stand to one’s culture is to remain true to the ‘I’ that is oneself ad infinitum. (Husserl) It is a commonality of humans who are rational, it is subjectivity personalized, the “absolute form of being”.
Theoretical subjectivity: infinite space, infinite time, infinite being.
It is the now as opposed to the then and the when; but both are contained in the now just as the finite can be a part of the infinite but the infinite is never finite just as the past and the future are never now. The future is now is already the past. The past drives the present into the future which is already the past when it arrives there.
Getting to my process … the whole is always contained in the fragments as the fragments are always contained in the whole.
Heidegger und so weiter … (und so fort!)
Newton’s Third Law: for every action there is a reaction. “Every experience influences the (clear or obscure) setting of further experiences.”
The mirror. I have used mirrors in my practice frequently to explore notions of the self, identity and their place in space and time. Looking into a mirror opposite a mirror I see myself looking into a mirror ad infinitum.
Our (my) life is finite but life is infinite and in my life there remains something that is infinit. The transcendental ego.
Michael Foucault, “Language to Infinity,” in Language Counter-Memory, Practice (New York: The Free Press (MacMillan, 1986), 37-64.
The future void, and the past of all prior, drives the present into the future. Death drives life to death; repetition. The life narrative begins. Telling the story in advance negates or lessens its impact. This is where language originated. It is an infinite space.
Borges condemned writer, Hladik, telling his unfinishable story to ward off death.
“... an ontology of literature beginning from these phenomena of self-representation in language … betray the relationship that language establishes with death - with this limit to which language addresses itself and against which it is poised.”
The imperceptible signs which serve as their own crack through which they shine their light.
A doubling. A mirroring. The process of repetition; simulacrum versus the copy.
The liminality of language.
“It is possible that in every work language is superimposed upon itself in a secret verticality, where the double is exactly the same as the thin space between … A work of language is the body of language crossed by death in order to open this infinite space where doubles reverberate.”
The liminal space is infinite space and the space occupied by the simulacrum.
I recently re-read ‘The Order of Things’ and it still lay on my writing desk when I came to this section:
“...a change was produced in the relationship of language to its indefinite repetition at the end of the eighteenth century - nearly coinciding with the moment in which works of language became what they are now for us, that is literature.”
"Literature is the contestation of philology (of which it is nevertheless the twin figure): it leads language backe from grammar to the naked power of speech, and there it encounters the untamed, imperious being of words. ... it breaks with the whole definition of genres as forms adapted to an order of representations, and becomes merely a manifestation of language which has no other law than that of affirming - ...-its own precipitous existence; and so there is nothing for it to do but to curve back in a perpetual return upon itself ..." (Foucault, 1970. p.300)
“... language protected itself against death through this invisible speech, … the work placed the infinite outside itself - a real and majestic infinity in which it became a virtual and circular mirror, completed in a beautifully closed form.”
Recalling the configurations of couplings; impossible to follow. A text so circuitous there is no opening for one to enter into it; quite claustrophobic.
Infinity loop. The record player stuck in the groove...
Language becomes finite when each episode follows the preceding incrementally.
The language of terror remains infinite.
“If we make a book which tells of all the others, would it or would it not be a book itself?” -reminiscent of the no rule to obey the rules.
Kim Schoen, “The Expansion of the Instant: Photography, Anxiety, Infinity,”, in X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly, SUMMER 2014, VOLUME 16 No 4 http://x-traonline.org/article/the-expansion-of-the-instant/
Aside from the relation of these readings to my own research what I have enjoyed about them is that by reading them in the order on the syllabus they clearly build to this final piece of writing with images and allow me to connect further into my own creative practice. While reading the previous texts I had not considered the notion of anxiety in relation to what I was reading, yet there was clearly moments where what I was reading did insight or rather connect me to my own anxiousness of the current political situation, death, and whether or not we are facing an end game.
“Repetition prompted by the anxiety of finitude.”
I have never considered if this "anxiety of finitude" is what prompted my use of repetition in my process. However, looking at my practice through the lens of these text it is clear to me that yes, this is the case. The areas of interest of identity, working with mirrors, self portraiture, and the personas all stem from a health crisis at mid-life, one that has increased anxiety levels and awareness of death at any moment. Of the ways I have sought to take apart and put back together the fragments of this in my work seduction has played a part, maybe not as overtly as it could have but again, awareness is the key to further work.
“In the total focus on the self in Kippenberger;s oeuvre, we yet feel his insistence on a self on the move - on excessiveness, overabundance, on a multiplicity that evades the veracity of any single version of the self.”
On the move - out running?
I don’t believe in the veracity of any single version of the self only in the veracity of every single version of the self.
Extending the time, the absurdity of pushing back death by repetition of the photograph as a video frame. I do this to a degree through the process of scanning and printing the painting to create the next painting, ad infinitum. It is not about the specific time but the specific original … is there one?
I have been exploring how to create a visual text that is simultaneously linear and non-linear, creating double-sided paintings, paintings that can be shuffled like a deck of cards and laid out in any configuration but still visually connect to the surrounding paintings.
It has been called excessive. But excessive seems to me to be the only way to describe this infinite experience.