The Circular Poetic of Stains

"I dreamed of a circle I dreamed of a circle round..."

[isolating myself in the biology department lecture hall, thinking some linear pedagogical room structure will help expedite the closing of this paper.]

"and in that circle I had made, were all the worlds unformed and unborn yet..." Lyrics from a 10,000 Maniacs song, called Circle Dream. Beautifully, completely, fully, it closes as it begins. A circular form.

“Vision is no longer the possibility of seeing, but the impossibility of not seeing,” (Virillio 90).

Virillio discusses ESCAPE VELOCITY as the SPEED AT WHICH WE SEE THINGS (Open Sky 31). To see things is, in essence, to record the experience in your mind, to etch it into your memory. We use the flash of the camera to capture the instant of an experience we want to SLOW to the point of FREEZING it, an attempt to possess the moment. “As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure,” (Sontag 9). Perhaps this insecurity translates to Kundera’s notion of a “fear of the future.” We rely on speed to escape because inevitably our subjectivities have been captured and written into the code of Virillio’s Vision Machine; we no longer have the freedom of NOT being recorded, of NOT being made into an image. The “events” of our daily lives are captured by technologies from security cameras to website movement tracking devices - none of our MOVEMENT escapes the eye of technological recording.

“Picture-taking is an event in itself…Time consists of interesting events, events worth photographing,” (Sontag 11). A little outdated now, there is no longer a scale of value associated with the “naming” of an event as “interesting” or “worth” photographing. The anxiety of this awareness again relates to Kundera’s question of the future and fear; we fear that the image captured in the past will be revealed in the future and serve a purpose against us.

At the core of this state is an Althusserian perspective on how these technologies are being used and deployed by institutional forces. “It is still ideology (in the broadest sense) that determines what constitutes an event. There can be no evidence, photographic or otherwise, of an event until the event itself has been named and characterized,” (Sontag 19). However, given the mass distribution and access to image-making technologies, one would expect that a strictly institutional. ISA-type control of images is challenged today. I will discuss this at more length in regards to mobile phone cameras.

Extension of Reflection, 1992
Gabriel Orozco

Compare with...

Relation in Movement, 1977
Marina Abramovic and Ulay
performance still

Commenting in Open Sky on the “end of photography” from a Fine Art perspective, Virillio suggests that the “art of seeing” is now “merely a freeze frame…images frozen or arrested are now only ‘stops’ along the way of unfolding visual sequences,” (Virillio 89). We are traveling through our lives in linear trajectories dictated by the efficiency and speed of network systems, with our perception of EXPERIENCE as a series of visual images.

Gabriel Orozco’s artistic practice embraces the position of a traveler through the networked world, while at the same time embracing the SLOWNESS of his experiences. His photographs are documentation of his experiences in the world, like riding a bicycle through two puddles as in Extension of Reflection. Circles emerge frequently in his work, observations and interventions.

Curator Francesco Bonami describes Gabriel Orozco's constant observation and recording of circular patterns as "the poetic of stains." This is Orozco's own customized language of accidents or "stains"; images that are bumped into during the day without expectation. "These accidents change our perception of the space and time in which we are moving," (Bonami 19). Orozco doesn't consider himself a photographer, but he uses the medium to take note of such stains, using simple AWARENESS as a material to work with. "Shaping awareness means putting an otherwise ARTIFICIALLY LINEAR perception of things into a different perspective," (Ibid.).

Perception of time and movement is a game of subjectivity and physicality. Orozco also explores this in his sculptures, such as in Horses Running Endlessly, wherein the MOVES of the chess pieces are implied by our own implication of knowing the game through its (re)production in the memory of the social body ("this is how we play").

Horses Running Endlessly, 1995
Gabriel Orozco

Through simple recordings, photographic pauses, the circles of Orozco's artwork give a point of reflection without a push for that point to directly connect to another; the linearity of experience is less interesting to Orozco's art practice.

There are cues to be taken from his work to "find the circles" in our daily experiences, a simple form to focus on so that the ESCAPE VELOCITY slows to a pleasurable pace.