(This being a tentative and uncertain exagmination in the form of some work in progress.)
Matt Ward is annoyed with GPS drawings, and is asking good questions:
"However, I now feel that there is a move to elevate these simple marks to a level of 'art'. My question to Jen was: what do they mean? Are they Art? If so, what do they communicate or do they only communicate something to the person who made the drawing?
A discussion later that day with Jen, we realised that the drawings can't work in isolation. If unsupported by a narrative of who did the movement, and where they did it, they loose meaning."
As he asked this, no doubt Matt had already remembered Duchamp ("Can works be made which are not 'of art'?", from the White Box Notes) - perhaps this is why he doesn't really answer the Are they art? question.
Which kind of GPS drawing is he thinking of? Does it matter what the GPS trace looks like? (or: does intentionality matter in this?) - it is interesting how many GPS drawings are already aspiring artwards, the movement in the real-world movement deliberately placed very much in the service of depiction. (Is their artfulness less "honest" than those that are "spatial squiggles" without aspiration beyond remaining visual records produced as the output of bodies moving?)
On their own, those movements are pressed down, dried out, flattened into randomesque marks. Not much to go on, to get hold of, or do with. Matt immediately turns (left at the sign, then past the lights etc) to Deleuze and Guattari to get directions:
Make maps, not tracings. The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed on itself; it constructs it.
The map is open, connectable in all its dimensions, and capable of being dismantled; it is reversible, and susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to montages of every kind, taken in hand by an individual, a group or a social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a mediation.
Contrary to a tracing, which always returns to the "same", a map has multiple entrances.
source: Deleuze & Guattari (1983) On the Line
... and asks "what 'sameness' do GPS drawings return to?". Those plateaux of context and meaning (of presence) are flattened into mere linework. Paul Klee's line, taken for a walk. Doodles. Scribble. Confessional aside: for us, there remains a considerable opacity to D&G.
Which is the problem with so much process-centred art. The method might be interesting, but without it, the flattened trace isn't necessarily. Process-art is often neutral at best, and often dessicated/inert. Dessicated to the point in indifference - important because it seems to be the wrong kind of indifference. (Particularly susceptible where the art product is a direct record of the process? The map drawings of Jason Wallis-Johnson, say, being less interesting than his abstract carbon drawings), or... these lines, mere tracing, non-scientific seismologic records from a train with quite feeble cylinders, the graphing of a shaky method (Klee's line taken for a walk, but this time "expressing the throbbing jerk of the minute hand on electric clocks" (this is Duchamp again, Green Box Notes).
But perhaps it's no bad thing to decouple the representation from its performance, to lose the meaning. When they're "no longer about the movement of the people they traced" [Anne Galloway, in the comments], they are freed to go in new directions. Loose meaning. Those randomesque marks seen in the manner of automatic writing, say. It's what allows you to start again, building out with Alexander Cozens' blots. Traversed by swift GPS nudes at high speed. Tracings, outlines, figments, apparitions (ghostmarks slipping?). Botticelli's sponge, thrown at a wall. Returning to the seim anew.
And if those traces of the process, that flat automobiline raw material, are grafted to one another, composited into drawings, do they start to become something else? A timid-powered blossoming into representations? Into maps? Back into landscape? Or art?
Why collage the traces? An attempt to cut the images free of the need to explain the supporting process. So that people can just look if they want without forcing the explanation - which itself tends to constrain the field of response. Though without completely relegating the method (oh, the logic of the supplement, having/eating the cake). Aesthetics as well as the familiar logico-conceptualism, strict process being somewhat uninteresting. (What do you think?) To write the authorial hand back into the scene - yes, even though it has always been there - in the decision, the hand masquerading as "neutral"-tool, and so on. Beginning to blossom.
Thanks Matt. More to come.
Sources. And a pile of things still to be charted:
- Exagmination: Our Exagmination round his factification for incamination of Work in Progress: Beckett et al on Joyce.
- Timo's Afar project does a little bit more than the average GPS drawing.
- Duchamp: A l'infinitif (the White Box Notes, 1966); La mariee mise a nu... (the Green Box Notes, 1934)
- Deleuze and Guattari: On the Line (1983); Mille Plateaux (1987?)
- Indifference: Duchamp, passim
- Paul Klee quote: source?
- Alexander Cozens: blot technique - advocated random marks to get a picture going.
- Traversed by swift GPS nudes at high speed: Duchamp, The King and Queen Traversed by Swift Nudes at High Speed (1912), one of his last milestones on the Paris-Jura road to the Large Glass.
- apparition and ghostmark: "a slip of the time between a date and a ghostmark" in Joyce's FW 467 (1939)
- Botticelli, to denigrate landscape painting, says that a sponge thrown against a wall leaves a patch in which you can see beautiful landscapes. But Leonardo welcomes contingency, recommending that painters "remain standing sometimes and look at the patches on the wall or into the ashes in the fire, in the clouds, or in mud and other such places; you will, if you observe them correctly, discover very wonderful inventions in them." (And, before Botticelli: Protogenes, despairing of being able to naturalistically represent the natural, would throw a sponge at his painting, accidentally and naturally creating the . "Thus [...] coincidence created the natural truth" - reported by Pliny.) See also Chance images in the Dictionary of the History of Ideas. A lineage of contingency and the aleatory, from Protogenes, to Durer, to Botticelli and Leonardo, to Cozens, to Whistler, to the Surrealists and Duchamp, (to Freud), and on to...
- seim anew: FW 215.22
- Notes on Derrida's trace (and good Guardian obit). And logic of the supplement.
- blossoming, timid-power, feeble cylinders, etc: Green Box notes