STUDIO NOTES 2016/2017

Philosophical materialism generated the aesthetics of zombie formalism.

The ontology of substances, the world reduced to surfaces - the essential thingness of things.

Nothing that is not even a question. Not the necessary nothing that allows for the appearance of something - the terror of eternal nothing. Syntax instead of metaphysics - syntax turns gesture into ideology; rendering it concrete, impenetrable, material. The nihilistic coolness of disinterest.

The image reduced to object; atomized. Process as causality without metaphor; as physics, gene sequencing, bioengineering, technology. A rebellion into the mundane.

The interrogation of any ideology requires the positing of some kind of transcendent morality. What we should ask ourselves is whether or not our descriptions are adequate.

A phenomenology of art can only proceed through art. Discourse can assess specific aspects, but the work itself will always be more than what can be described. Discourse, subject to its own abstract systems, is of little use if sense and perception are the primary means of communication.

If it is true that consciousness is essentially relational, then the way we perceive formal properties is important to understanding the way our consciousness organizes information. These formal systems structure the mental processes we use to comprehend the world.

It is possible to imagine a time when images were uncommon.

An image - a concrete thing that conjures the intangible. The metaphysical leap from the physical world into the imagination makes images inherently dangerous, subversive, and closely aligned with the spiritual. 

Now, images are an essential part of our existence. They have become our primary experience. They are the ghosts of their subjects, giving them a supernatural power: a path we construct to our past, and a mechanism for perceiving the present. Our lived world has become a series of images. It is difficult to know whose memories are whose.

Where exactly is the line between subject and object - the instance when self becomes other, and other, self. Is a thing something we do or is done to us?

Things are, but we also make things what they are through perceptive mechanisms and linguistic systems. The syntax and grammar of separation, the technology of logistic equations.

Every perception, every linguistic gesture is a creative act - both abstract and representational. Separation, categorization, the naming process - these performances give us a world in which things are simultaneously what they are and what they are not.


The pursuit of equality is a search for universality, but it is also a search for difference.

A particular thing has value because it is different from some other thing. Difference creates specificity.

The way we define the term “good” always influences our ideas about what is valuable, but our ideas about value don’t necessarily influence ideas about what is good. The transmission and negotiation of value requires systems of representation. Value is always a proposition, a network of activity, a system of relations. It must always be purposeful, a means to an end.

If “good” is an attribute that stands apart from any singular thing, then it is not something that can be acquired by mere possession. Which frequency do we tune in to receive what is given? The medium of advertising - the mode of consumer exchange.

In art, to describe something as beautiful is often an insult based on an implied ideological hierarchy: a condescension from conceptual thinking to the lowliness of the material world.

Each instance of beauty is equal to all other instances, if beautiful as an adjective exists. Beauty has no inherent reason for being, other than being beautiful. Even though beauty is subjective we each admit to its existence, however personal. You can not formalize that which has no essential forms.


Merchandise has an aesthetic quality; it is value objectified. Any process of differentiation is a search for value.

The ability to isolate a thing from its background depends upon a preexisting network of difference. Our formal systems have cut the world into pieces. We have brackets inside of brackets, worlds inside of worlds. It is this reductive process that primes us for consumer exchange.

Our experiences are weighed against a superseding ideology that polices our interactions. Concepts are consumed, reassuring in their ability to erect and uphold margins for critique. Objects have become a means to some ideological end - discourse the mechanism through which value is upheld and maintained.

The mind reduces the world to concepts, but it is ultimately intuition - the primacy of immediate experience, that has the power to restore continuity to the world.

Experience, subject to the body and its modes of apprehension, requires a synthesis of the sense organs. This synthesis needs to be actualized in order for comprehension to occur. A space emerges between the world and our perception of it, allowing the intangible and unnameable to emerge.

Drawing - a synchronization of the movement of hand and eye. One subject enters and exits the body, another is the body itself. To make what is seen done - the futility of perfect copies. To render is to cause to be, but it is also to give. What is given is often a gift that the giver can not perceive.


Is it possible to separate the sensible from the intelligible?

What is received through sensual experience has qualities we don’t think to name.

Limitations obfuscate. Differentiating between part and piece obscures the essence of things.

Non-systemic relationships are perceived as holistic. Without entities there is no before or after, no causality, no time. Sense does not precede intelligence; they are alternate modes of transference, bound to the limitations of our sense organs and conceptual ontologies.

Memory joins our perceptive awarenesses, employed in a search for likeness. Memory moderates our linguistic systems, deployed in order to posit difference. Intuition is the vehicle of perception,discourse only a tool for identification.

The mode of apprehension determines the subject, but is also determined by the subject. There can be no creativity without inconsistency.

The practice of painting is not about attaining the status of “artist”. It is about learning to watch and submit to things as they take their course. Questions arise, answers emerge and lead to more questions. Practice makes a certain kind of awareness inevitable. Because the situation is constantly in motion, attachment leads to frustration.

Surprisingly, it is not success that leads to greater insight - it is failure. Failure is essential, because it is through failure that we find faith. In art, we must continually create situations for ourselves in which failure is inevitable. Once failure ceases to be a real possibility, we must move on.


Beauty - an entity and an act performed. The echoes of aesthetic ideologies become principles that determine our instincts. A sexuality of the mind. Consumption, ingestion; idealized and free of genetic defects - enacted through desire; to join, replicate, validate. Beauty is threatening in its capacity to transcend the reason that generates it, subversive in its ability to render attractive values we despise.

Beauty is more than a definitive attribute for women. It is something we are supposed to be. In a world navigated through appearances, it is fundamentally tied our existence. For most men it remains a possession - a property attributed to an object that is other, relevant only in its ability to be acquired or discarded.

Power creates and upholds the network of attributes we use to define beauty, which is ultimately a means of control. I no longer see beauty as a quality a defined by nature. I see beauty as a series of choices.


We pit media against media as if the medium has any hierarchical relevance under the unifying force of capitalism.

The marketplace has proved that it can render any act or entity a commodity, regardless of its object status. The capitalist machine has succeeded in compartmentalizing our efforts by dividing us from ourselves and our potential collaborators. We have been lumped together into superficial groups, reduced to commodities and consumers. We define ourselves according to how we make and spend money. Our individuality is constantly threatened by capitalism as a homogenizing force, difference is exaggerated in order to maintain hierarchies that are ideologically justifiable.

Intrinsic values remain embedded in every mode of production, regardless of the superficial values promoted through market abstractions. We forget that critical discourse functions in relation to some kind of collective moral structure. Unless we come to terms with this implied morality, we will never have the power to dismantle the pseudo-critique co-opted by market forces and manipulated to suit those values. We must continue to search for the person behind every object, gesture, action or thought - regardless of how mundane or superficial. We need to hold on to some kind of essential humanity, otherwise we risk obsolescence.

Death drive: the drive towards self-annihilation as it manifests in people, in markets, and social systems. The ticking time bomb at the center of every ideology: the inevitability of change. Progress is the ideology of change.

History is fictitious. Every act of remembering modifies that which is remembered. To say something is fictional is not to say it isn’t true. All historic events have a unilateral distance from the present. The idea that some points in the past are further from the present than others is illusory.

The objective value of any commodity that lacks an explicit reason for being is unthinkable. In a capitalistic society, the manifestation of such a thing induces a kind of frenzy. It must be quickly inserted into the network of known things in order to be grasped. Value is easy to manipulate because its structure is built a on a system of subjective knowledge.

The contingencies of exchange value have become our baseline for understanding the world. We resort to historical narratives, and in doing so validate them. Science legitimizes the existence of a thing through mere manifestation. Things are as they could only possibly be.

Every representation requires a separation - a distinction between that which is represented and the representation itself. Because a representation is not the thing it represents it is inherently abstract.

Because every representational process is an act - intermingled with past associations, it is inherently conceptual. It modifies our relationship to what is represented, which changes every time the representational act occurs.

Meaning is a discursive negotiation founded on linguistic structures. Anything can have meaning because meaning is something we do to a thing. It is a non-essential attribute that depends upon the cognitive particularities of whoever participates in the exchange of information - a subjective interpretation we reflect back onto the world.

Technology isn’t mistaken for new ideas in painting because technical means reinvent themselves every time they occur.

We continue to search for a lineage of ideas in painting in order to raise the stakes for novelty, and to question the relevance of novelty and how it is defined.

In order to make paintings one must recognize that nothing and everything is new. One must relinquish a sense of ownership, of invention, originality, while acknowledging that everything at any given moment is inherently sui generis.

What do I mean when I say painting? I mean the making of an image - not the taking of an image.

It is too easy for new technology to excite people.

What is responsible for the different manifestations derived from the same circumstance? Often superficial things that are uninteresting.

In the search for originality it’s easier to choose a medium that has a tradition. In art, painting is mundane. In painting, simple geometry is mundane. When you have novelty in mundane situations it is highly visible. It doesn’t hide behind trends or new technology.

This attitude is not reductive. Reductionism takes as a point of departure some kind of objective reality to subtract from. There is no objectivity, no maximal state, no absolute zero, no amounts. Everything is as complex as everything else.


In order for there to be division there must first be a whole to divide. 

A collapse of the boundaries between self and world would require a dissolution of the limitations imposed by our sense organs, and yet it is precisely our sense organs that form a conduit between ourselves and our world. Any limitation is ultimately a perceived limitation, founded on cognition and sensation. Our environments dictate to a large degree what we think about, and yet the manner in which we think is something we bring to every circumstance. 

The continuity of the is self is something that survives as we get sucked into different worlds, solicited to think and function according to patterns dictated by our environments. We are somehow different in every instance, and ultimately the same. The self under attack is ultimately a reinforcement of the self. It is the background of every experience.

A world without separation is a world without contingency. The continuity of the self is the focal point of our senses, our memories - compiled and unified into an indivisible holism. It is this unification process that makes us who we are, not its constituent parts.

What is painting? There is no adequate answer.

Painting stands over and against any collection of attributes, but it is also the sum of these attributes. The more you attempt to define what painting is, the less concrete it becomes. It is inherently fixed and unfixed. A speech act and a concrete entity.

In order to apprehend something, we must first have a category for its thingness. In this sense the subject of painting will always be painting. Every manifestation of it becomes a part of the holistic system we use to define it.

The real issue is who is granted the power to answer the question.

I think of color and form as events. As properties that can not be reduced or divided.

Because things in the world appear to us pre-classified, we get caught up in contrast and polarities. We forget that distinctions are fluid and temporal. 

For me, the essence of being is tied to the presence of being, which is ultimately bound to the materiality of the world.

What we call the work is no longer the work.

We exist in a world of ready-made things. The materialization of activity; time subtracted from process, reduced to raw material. Labor, stripped of its humanity, allows us to consume without guilt.

What tethers an object to an idea? Our imaginations can only conjure that which is already known to us, yet things in the world restructure our cognitive processes. We betray the substance of the object when we integrate it into some kind of ideology - yet that betrayal is an inevitable consequence of thinking. What is the object to the cognitive subject? A prop for some kind of mental fantasy? Is it possible to make anything with integrity?


Some definition of “good” is an integral part of any moral system. In the negotiation of moral systems, some categorical idea of good will always remain. The idea of morality without good as a quality, however malleable, is unthinkable.

Goodness as a categorical attribute, when taken out of the context of morality, becomes effectivity. Effectivity is the parallel material translation of ideological good. What is good can potentially be at odds with society, but what is effective never is. Good, as a property, is essentially intangible. Effectivity is always tangible, objective, and results-oriented. Good is aspirational - an intrinsic piece of an ideological holism. Effective is material, strategic, proficient. Techniques can be developed for producing effectivity, but not for the attainment of goodness.

There is always a hidden morality behind the posturing of material objectivity. It’s not a question of substituting one for the other, it’s a search for finding and exposing the relationship between the two.

Any attribute that can be defined independently of the self is an arbitrary component of the self, subject to the biological conditions of our organism and the cultural machinations of our circumstance. These attributes require a context - a form - in order to manifest.

A culture is a living thing, like any organism. Difference is threatening, because it causes us to doubt characteristics we use to define ourselves. Sameness is threatening, because it de-personalizes attributes we thought were our own. It is the indivisibility of such attributes that makes us unique. Systemic relationships that are impossible to decode isolate us - something we simultaneously desire and resist.

The strength of something built requires proof. Proof is the solid that makes the flexible rigid.

There will always be an internal inconsistency between what something is and what something is. Imperfection makes a system productive. The survival of any system depends on its internal inconsistencies. All that can be proven is the impossibility of proof. Whatever you want to call it, there it is.


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This text is from a booklet “Studio Notes” which accompanied an exhibition at Situations Gallery in 2018.