Articulations of Death, Fragmentation, and the
Unexperienced Experience of Created Objects
intellect Bristol, UK / Chicago, USA
First published in the UK in 2015 by
Intellect, The Mill, Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 3JG, UK
First published in the USA in 2015 by
Intellect, The University of Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th Street,
Chicago, IL 60637, USA
Copyright © 2015 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by
any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without written permission.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the
Copy-editor: MPS Technologies
Cover designer: Holly Rose
Production manager: Claire Organ
Typesetting: Contentra Technologies
Print ISBN: 978-1-78320-476-2
ePDF ISBN: 978-1-78320-478-6
ePub ISBN: 978-1-78320-477-9
Printed and bound by Gwasg Gomer Cyf / Gomer Press Ltd, UK
Foreword by Victor Vitanza
Chapter 1: Ruptures: Negation in the Created Object
Chapter 2: Art and Unexperienced Experience
Chapter 3: Memorialization and Objects of the Dead
Chapter 4: The Apparatus and the Unfixed Vanishing Point
Chapter 5: Presence, Absence, and Play in the Hyperreal Spaces of Computation
Chapter 6: Traces of Absence in Photography: Dina Kantor and Alec Soth
Chapter 7: The Cost of Burying the Dead: Six Feet Under
Epilogue: Resisting Arrest: The Elusive Vanishing Point
What is hidden in laughter must remain so.
In the bugginning is the woid, in the muddle is the sounddance.
Instead of the sentence, the sounddance.
—Norman O. Brown
The foreword is written by someone other than the author of the book,
usually by an authority in the field who brings credibility to the book
and the author while celebrating the written work.
Time, readers, please?
Let us re-begin with notes. A Performance of—a romance with, virtually an affair with—
comically-farcically as it may become—the book: Vanishing Points.
The Foreword keeps trying to climb on top of the book, ‘becoming sexual.’ Erratically so.
To make new books.
Writing a Foreword that is an assignment until it becomes an assignation …
The immediate question, henceforth, is Who wrote this book? Who is the author, or
rather auteur? As in cinema. The object of our desires? This ‘I’ has searched and searched
and has found a few clues. Left by someone for someone, but for whom?
Some snippets of clues: Let ‘us’ read together the opening:
Opening notice: ‘I think a lot about invisibility.’ Then, ‘Reality is increasingly digitally
rendered and privacy is becoming more and more difficult to define. I tend to think of it as
a privilege, not a given. Privacy engages the ability to opt into hiding and opt out of being
available to the public’s senses. As a social subject in a synthetically rendered reality, my
participation in the public realm is a default: I am involuntarily open to the signals that
require my attention.’
Well, ‘I’ started with a surveillance, searching for pictures, images, on Google. With
not much luck. And yet, there were possibilities that presented themselves. For instance,
‘I’ found Gmail for a possible writer of this book. What presented itself is the following
message, which I read supposedly addressed to ‘me.’ It had been there in virtual space for
about a year or so. It reads: ‘My Gmail status is set to “invisible”’ and appropriately affirms
my choice by informing me “You are invisible.” These are small but significant assurances
which make my being tethered to my connectable devices bearable.’ But then again, from
Google Contacts, this ‘I’ was told: ‘Visible only to you.’ How charming and unarming! But
This person, ‘I’ discovered further, has on Google six people in circles. I thought, this
person must be a connoisseur of people. But the names were in Russian! Exhausting a
Google search, ‘I’ searched on LinkedIn, and found ‘someone,’ but the picture was of a
television test pattern. On Twitter, I found a female, perhaps, but with wide sunglasses
covering most of ‘her’ face. Sunglasses that were comparable to the size that Jacqueline
Kennedy was known to wear! After searching through Facebook, however, I found
In rather different ways, this experience remains comparable to searching for Bigfoot, the
Loch Ness Monster, Bobby Fischer, etc. Fort/Da. Fort/Da. Fort/Da.
Last of all: On the impossibility of writing a foreword for Vanishing Points, and yet the
necessity of bringing one forth in words by tripping, stumbling over other words. This
‘I’ has not forgotten that The Author is Dead. So really, Why does this ‘I’ search for the
dead? But this is a serious matter that takes on a more, non-productive playfulness. In
terms of these contraries: Invisible-Visible. Absence-Presence. Death-Life. And yet, more
impotently, all that finds itself in the middle. Muddle. As an exclamation, not a question
point. Affirmation-!-Negation. And yet, again, rather in a third place. One that is the
great exclusion. Yes, the excluded third. As the imagined auteur says: through art and
then philosophy or vice & versa. A question arises, however, about the remains, remnants,
between, the openness of V&V? And! Some more? Well, it has been determined to be nonpositive affirmations.
Jacques Lacan supposedly often asked his patients how far they could count.
Is this all about measurement! Accountability! For example, The Vitruvian Man? The
measurer of all things! Canonized! Human beings as Man likened to Euclidean Geometry
vice versa. With ideal proportions. And yet, ever again, after Euclidean? There comes?
Elliptic, Hyperbolic, etc., geometries. An embarrassment of Grotesqueries.
A flashback: Remember having your hand slapped and told, ‘Don’t touch that!’ Yet ‘we’
could not not touch ‘it.’ To this day. We desire to touch whatever. Think: The objects of our
desires. But really, how does the object touch us, we, who art scattered! If not reassigned. So
then, we eventually in time awaken and have a fad discussion of Object-oriented ontologies.
And ‘we’ see how the object objects to our subjectivity. Reciprocity of sorts? Then, ‘we,’ some
of us, recall the other third of Abject. Abjection. Subject-Object-Abject.
Losing our Renaissance vanishing points, our modernity perspectives, all is up for
grabs. Floating here and there and over there in the vacuum. As the auteur says: All is to be
confronted in the objects that we create. Perhaps it has come, in time, to the revenge of the
crystal. Against carbon. Or simply put: the object! Think of a closing time: Think of Mad-cow
Moreover, there is our loss of conceptual starting places (topoi), or our points of stasis to
the ex-stasis, being thrown out, yet along side others. Adjacent. Not agents, but adjacencies.
Being-there. Say, Design as Dasein.
We have lost our sense of time, temporality. Or perhaps it might be better put as ‘we’—
who are no longer WE—are experiencing an acceleration of time, in late- or post-modernity.
As much as we have remained framed every workday in terms of Tic-Toc, we are being
thrown in between the other, middle side of
Toc [ ] Tic
Waiting for the return of Tic. Let us embrace of tics. Yes, accelerated, but eventually lost. For
and in moments, unmeasureable moments. What intrudes perhaps is exemplified in what
Freud has called Nachträglichkeit. Too early [Ereignis/Event] Too late. ‘We’ miss a train of
Are ‘you’ AM or PM. Do not get confused with the question in terms of AC and DC!
There is so much more that desires to be said. For the moment: Once ever again: Who
wrote this book? Which is a question that has eventually here taken this ‘I’ back to Georges
Bataille. Rereading, reglancing, searching for my notes in his books. Our books. Nobody’s
book. Books … Ah, here are the notes. Bataille thinks it the best of impossible worlds to
never, ever be recognized. He writes in Inner Experience:
If one proceeds right to the end, one must efface oneself, under go solitude, suffer from
it, renounce being recognized: to be as though absent, insane over this, to undergo things
without will and without hope, to be elsewhere. One must bury thought alive (due to
what exists in its depths). I publish it knowing it in advance to be misread, having
to be so.
(155; Bataille’s emphasis)
Some more background with an anecdote: Bataille was in the Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Hegel seminar that Alexandre Kojève offered at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, in
Paris between 1933 and 1939. The seminar deals in part with master-slave struggles for
recognition and deals with self-consciousness and in particular the unhappy consciousness.
By chance, while reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Bataille sees an intruder.
As I write, a ladybug flies under my lamp and alights on my hand; I lift her off and put
her on a sheet of paper. A while ago I copied out one of Hegel’s schemas on the paper, a
diagram showing the various forms he has for getting from one extremity to the other,
from [universality to individuality]. She stopped in the Geist column, where you go from
[universal mind to sensory consciousness (individuality)], by way of [people, state, and
world history]. Moving along on her perplexed way she drops into a column marked
[Life] her home territory before getting to the center column’s ‘unhappy consciousness,’
which is only nominally relevant to her.
I’m humiliated by this pretty little bug. I lack any happy consciousness in her presence.
For Bataille, it is better to have not been recognized at birth, during his life, and after his life.
It would be total invisibility. But surely, he is caught in between invisibility/visibility.
Foreword? As an Afterword? Or as Foreskin: Much less a ‘Circumfession’! As Jacques
Derrida writes. Still, what will have been read, say, in a Future Anterior. The impossible
times of this vanished book!
However, if you are still following the wandering/wondering here, we can think of our
lives as informed through paradoxes. That’s simple enough, though daring, nonetheless.
Which is what the auteur of Vanishing Points thinks. Brilliantly. This ‘I’ so thinks.
Alright, if you are standing in a book store reading this outlandish Foreword, then, this
‘I’ is telling you to purchase this book (or if necessary, steal this book) and take it home and
live with it. Face it! In fact, purchase/steal several copies for gifts. For Others. Or if you have
borrowed this book, don’t return it! Just keep it! Whatever, with the book in your hands,
each night, read a few pages before bedtime. Then, sleep. For the happy unconscious.
Bataille, Georges. Guilty. Trans. Bruce Boone. Venice, CA: Lapis Press, 1988.
. Inner Experience. Trans. Leslie Anne Boldt. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1988.
Brown, Norman O. Closing Time. New York: Random House, 1973.
Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake. New York: Penguin, 1976.
Kojève, Alexandre. ‘Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of
Spirit.’ Assembled by Raymond Queneau. Allan Bloom (ed.). Trans. James H. Nichols, Jr.
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986.
Remember what Friedrich Nietzsche advised: ‘Simplify your life: die!’
—Paul Virilio, Art and Fear1
think a lot about invisibility.
The limits of representation are particularly interesting to me, as every medium is
destined to fragment, distort, and obstruct reality in one way or another. As digital
technologies and the networked spaces that surround them grow increasingly ubiquitous,
perceivable lines that separate mediation and direct experience become indecipherable,
making social subjects of those of us who engage them. Perceived reality is increasingly
digitally rendered and privacy is becoming more and more difficult to define. I tend to think
of it as a privilege, not a given. Privacy engages the ability to opt into hiding and opt out of
being available to the public’s senses. As a social subject in a synthetically rendered reality,
my participation in the public realm is a default: I am involuntarily open to the signals that
require my attention. Jacques Derrida reminds us that our bodies are always already open
to the world as we cannot help but silently respond to the signals that alert us. With this
in mind, my privacy is placed at the altar of sacrifice to the networked connections that
perpetually call for its compromise. The kind of solitude and retreat that privacy allows is
thus difficult to achieve. What does this mean for the subject who wants to hide and retain
some measure of invisibility?
My online presence is fairly inactive and my digital footprint faint. Personal images are
infrequently available and my daily status is collecting virtual dust, having avoided public
updates for months on social networks. I keep my online correspondences almost entirely
within the realm of the private, and thus communication publicly initiated by me is a rare
occurrence. Instant messaging default settings have been turned off. I avoid public forms of
text- or image-based sharing. My Gmail status is set to ‘invisible,’ appropriately confirming
this choice with the displayed message ‘You are invisible.’ These are but a few significant
assurances that make my being tethered to my connected devices bearable and small doses
of privacy achievable. In my maneuvers against a system that I question, my work is anything
Yet, by most accounts, these combined efforts are essentially means of playing dead,
shielding my digital presence with a veil of inaction. Through such quietly rebellious acts,
I neglect my digital profile, my online identity, and my virtual second skin. As a result,
their vibrancy suffers. To remain socially relevant in networked environments, one must
assiduously contribute through regular Internet activity. As such, I am cultivating an
undernourished digital self, one that is entering the territory of digital and social death.
Because we are physically invisible to one another in networked environments, and many
of our engagements exclusively take place there, our visibility and digital livelihood depend
on observable networked actions: posting, updating, tweeting, re-tweeting, uploading,
downloading, rating, commenting, liking, endorsing, and deleting. By foregoing many
of these actions, I am depleting my digital sustenance but not exactly committing digital
suicide. I choose to participate but reject the idea of participating fully.
This is the crux of willful negation: I opt out of full participation with a sort of
strikethrough mechanism that illustrates my decision to reject without eliminating its
traces. The customizable options that allow some measure of privacy achieve performances
of invisibility that merely suggest the illusion of total privacy. These acts go against the
current in a culture of unfiltered sharing and communication in networked space, which is
no small thing, but they also experiment with experiencing the incomprehensible through a
play between presence and absence. When my settings are marked ‘invisible,’ it means I am
available to communicate, but my presence is hidden from public view. It is a simple way of
saying that I am here, but I am not here: I am both, but the degree of my presence has been
judiciously reduced. More significantly, every act of opting out after opting in is an act of
yes-yes-no in Derrida’s terms. An offer to join is proposed, and the message is received (the
first yes); I join (the second yes); then I refuse full participation (no). An alternate form of
negation is yes-no: if I really want to be socially invisible, I can avoid entry altogether. The
offer to join is proposed (yes) and I answer with refusal (no). Each is a decision of willful
negation, a preference not to, a satisfying rebellion of opting in but refusing to participate
according to the system’s default settings. But any gestures toward inhabiting the essence
of Bartleby, Herman Melville’s disobedient scrivener,2 are limited in that they exist as
predetermined actions marked by digital code, programmed by the invisible facilitator who
anticipates a bit of opting out here and there. My choices do not feel very rebellious in this
light—since the networks I join do not threaten the validity of my membership on account
of my inactivity—nor do they secure genuine invisibility.
While they offer some satisfaction, my expressions of defiance are too polite. Others have
committed splashier acts, like Facebook suicide, deleting their Facebook accounts through an
arduous process of verifying the decision one menial but irreversible step at a time. But one
would be remiss to suggest that being in between all-in and all-out is less provocative. My
uncommitted position keeps the possibility for action open and then continuously denies
it. This upsets social media behemoths, like Facebook, which do not ‘easily tolerate a partial
buy-in.’3 Facebook offers users the chance to reconsider deletion with the less permanent
option of deactivation and then reacts to the decision with updates on missed events and
waning friendships to lure the user back. Taunts like these notwithstanding, there can be
rebellious satisfaction in the in-between, which refuses an absolute position on the either/
or spectrum. One is encouraged to consider alternative possibilities for using the network.
As Geert Lovink says, ‘[Computers] come in all shapes and sizes, to be used for any possible
purpose, including global surveillance and virtual sex.’4 I support the creative flexibility of
computers but personally endeavor to occupy networked environments without a lot of
fanfare. For me, they are a stage upon which I choose not to act: a canvas that I leave blank.
Despite their limitations, my actions are incorrectly interpreted as inactions, invalidating
the activity required to play with the perception of my disappearance, or facilitate the illusion
of my having disappeared. This invites, but does not fully achieve, digital social death. While
invisibility and death are not synonymous, their shared characteristic is residue: my actions
of doing and not doing leave traces, as well as, hopefully, curiosity and wanting. Disrupting
the order of things by thwarting perception and forcing irresolution is a satisfying tactic
toward invisibility, engaging the irresolvable states of being there and being not there. This
allows for an occasional surprise appearance—look, I’m not dead after all!—before slipping
back into hiding. This kind of partial, or seemingly total, invisibility depends on a medium,
which serves as a necessary sleight-of-hand device that deceives. The synthetic landscape of
networked environments, for one, wherein a single vanishing point is difficult to decipher,
lends itself to subjective orientation. The medium acts as a channel that both obscures and
reveals, engaging a play between presence and absence. Paradoxically, observable actions in
networked environments are already obscured as they inherently host a plethora of invisible
commands. Flows of data we cannot see or interact with exist and invisibly act in an under-layer
to our surface-level play space. The implications of this inherently buried existence are vast.
As such, we are surrounded by mediated acts of deception. As Sherry Turkle’s research
observes, screen communication offers a place to hide.5 Finding ways to play dead or
to achieve a degree of invisibility in a highly visible and connected culture are growing
rejections of mainstream uses of media, but are, moreover, demonstrations of what
Lovink refers to as ‘the beauty of digital discord.’6 The hidden places of a created object
are sometimes located in the most unlikely areas. The rise of self-destructive media7 is
one gesture toward advocating the right to disappear, countering the celebrated practice
of cloud computing and digital preservation. The ability to temporarily leave your avatar
and ‘fly’ around undetected in Second Life creates numerous virtual walls of undetectable
delineation. One already presumably hides behind his avatar, but leaving that digital body to
further hide under the veil of extended invisibility approaches a different level of vanishing
while remaining (partially) present. But invisibility is not strictly attached to electronic
media, where hiddenness is at its core. Paul Virilio states, ‘Wherever TELEPRESENCE
has taken over from PRESENCE, whether physical or graphic, silence spreads, endlessly
deepening.’8 Silence is embedded in all things and has immeasurable plurality, forging a
glimpse of the unreachable, or unpresentable. Moreover, Virilio reminds us that silence and
noise are counterparts to one another and are understood with respect to the underlying
relationship between presence and absence: silence has presence as much as it has absence.
The marks of silence are measurable and thus produce invisible events that exist in a realm
of suspension, forcing out of service, use, or operation the conventions that ground our
objective understanding of what defines presence in a created object. Moreover, within
this space of suspension, presence and absence freely alternate, making it difficult, if not
impossible, to identify a single vanishing point.
Outside of the digital realm, some of the most striking creative objects are subtly designed
and executed ruptures, which destabilize the authority of a single vanishing point and
tease out variations of presence in the indefinite space of so-called absence across media
platforms. The term ‘rupture’ here is a deliberate choice because it suggests danger and
evokes violence, appropriately describing the process of creation through destructive means.
One such rupture is Guy Debord’s autobiography, wherein he revised his date of birth.
This seemingly unaggressive act imposed a double negation on his past and present life,
erasing entire portions as though they never existed and establishing a new reality through
a negated beginning and end. Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing similarly
conflates the presence and absence of drawn forms, framing traces of the past through the
lens of absence and obscuring where one work and artist begins and the other ends. These
acts create ruptures in both the creative process (anchored in destruction) and the viewer’s
perception of what is perceptible and therefore trusted, forging new realities and multiple
points of reference. As such, there is a compelling relationship between mediated experience
and perception, both of which are unfixed. Certain quantum mechanics theorists contend
that objects exist only at the point of observation. This outlook questions the totality of
absence, driving one to acknowledge its residue and subsequently its tethered relationship
to presence. It also recognizes the ability to feign absence through partial erasure or by
obstructing perception. Perception is always already a trick of the mind and the senses,
encompassing both the identifiable and the incomprehensible. Creative ruptures highlight
the relationship between presence and absence and invite us to consider and recognize their
mutable possibilities—including the ones we have never before experienced—obliterating
resolution and the concept of a single vanishing point.
These examples underscore an understandable human curiosity in the unknown. To
get closer to articulating this: negation actively removes, leaving behind what appears to
be absence but is more accurately the presence of absence. This distinction is significant
because it indicates traces of what is hidden or deleted and advances the functional role of
the parameters of absence. Death, the ultimate ineffable experience, is its own negation: in
death you are not simply absent, you are removed from the living. In some ways it follows
the logic of the obsolescence model, deeming irrelevant and no longer viable that which
is outdated and no longer accessible. In a discouraging struggle to define what death is,
resolution can be achieved by describing it in the affirmative or by its parameter: death
is not living; death is no longer living; death is the absence of consciousness; death is the
ultimate condition of inactivity. Yet this is an imperfect system, getting us closer but not fully
reaching the impossible. As Victor Vitanza reminds us, ‘While the negative has its problems,
the affirmative, or any attempt to denegate or desublimate the negative, also appears to be
problematic.’9 As such, negation and affirmation create moving targets, exposing the plurality
of the vanishing point. The incomprehensible is articulated in contradictory ways as we
attempt to give it form through created objects. Yet a fascination with death is not necessarily
the catalyst for such creative experimentations, rather an interest in pushing the limits of
the medium; going beyond what it was designed to do, toward a new sensorial experience,
creative expression, and a bit of rebellion. At the heart of all this is the recognition and, to
some extent, the glorification of the limits of representation. As such, these experiments are
best served when they push the material limits of the created objects as well.
The Vanishing Point Reconsidered
That shadow which the picture as it were casts upon the world: How am I to get an exact
grasp of it? Here is a deep mystery. It is the mystery of negation: This is not how things
are, and yet we can say how things are not.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks, 1914–191610
The vanishing point is the meeting place where two parallel lines converge, giving the
illusion of depth and establishing spatial orientation between representational objects. Since
we are accustomed to a distinguishable vanishing point in most two-dimensional contexts,
it is useful to apply its logic to other concepts that require relational understanding. While
the singular vanishing point is a valuable tool from an objective standpoint—it resists
perceptual confusion, disorientation, and distrust on the part of the audience—it cements
the expectation of a unified perspective and linear trajectory, cancelling out the plural
possibilities that give form to the imperceptible. Despite this device’s clear-cut utility, an artist
is at liberty to construct impossible arrangements of objects in the same two-dimensional
space, betraying the logic of orientation between the viewer and the creation. Rembrandt’s
The Night Watch (1642)11 is one such example of a construction of impossibilities—
including incongruent use of light, depth between objects, and spatial arrangements—that
still manages to achieve visual and narrative resolution through a clever bending of the
rules of representational rationality. By imposing on the vanishing point a pluralistic utility
arranged by multiple perspectives, the created object can advance our understanding of
how perceptions of presence and absence meld into a single event and ultimately affect
how we perceive, conceptualize, and attempt to give material form to the incomprehensible.
Moreover, the exposure and recognition of multiple vanishing points are of great importance
toward understanding the value of mediated expressions and their ontological possibilities.
Vanishing Points meditates on the relationship between presence and absence in created
objects. Specifically, it examines the ways in which the medium of a created object allows for
experimentation with, and within, presence and absence, acknowledging the potential to
thwart the perception of a single vanishing point and provoke allusions to incomprehensible
experiences like death. As such, this work is about the articulation of disappearance, invisibility,
and inexpressible experience as depicted in various created objects. This elucidation is evident
in works like Ad Reinhardt’s self-described textureless, formless black paintings, or in Mark
Rothko’s preoccupation with death, confessed in interviews and depicted in richly textured
color blocks of paint on canvas that, over the course of his career, gradually began to merge.
Such stammerings of expression take material form across media: paint, plaster, language,
performance, music, photography, celluloid, data, and mixed media. Many of these experiments
advance philosophical outlooks, particularly what Jacques Derrida refers to as ‘unexperienced
experience.’ This concept, originally referring to a literary device of Maurice Blanchot’s that
allows readers to engage in the impossible experience of death, is used here as the basis for an
inquiry into how it can be used as a technique in other created objects as different means to the
same end. Additionally, references to Paul Virilio’s work on the human sensorial and emotional
experiences and their relationship to art are made to support my argument that the imperceptible
elements in created objects that engage fabrications of presence and absence formulate a
systematic substitute for the inexpressible. Finally, Sigmund Freud’s concept of the death drive is
a key figure in the framework for analyzing the motivational tug behind playful demonstrations
of presence and absence, especially in his observation and breakdown of the game of fort/da, a
type of hide-and-seek, which serves as a model for many creative processes outlined here.
The created objects examined in this text are invitations to engage the impossible—the
unexperienced experience—incomprehensible, fragmented, and heterogeneous, which are
revealed in a mediated exchange between presence and absence. On a basic level, this is achieved
through actions like employing the properties of silence, contrasting between darkness and
lightness, and demonstrating willful negation. These works demonstrate that working against
automatic frameworks of perception and the notion of a singular vanishing point disrupts the
idea of a continuous line that affords a singular reading of a created object. In the synthetic
context of a created object, absence is both imagined and tangible, but the lines that establish
their delineations are the same. What these artists create is an arrangement of vanishing points,
which are revealed/discovered in fits and starts, crisscrossing rhizomatically, sometimes as
groundless signals as they are deeply embedded in the hidden fibers of the work. The created
object produces—and sometimes hides—layers of visibility/invisibility that await discovery and
contemplation. As a result, we are able to locate and perceive numerous vanishing points that
both orient and distort our perspective. Through myriad styles and forms, the created object
achieves the incomprehensible so that it can be observed, manipulated, contained, repeated,
and destroyed. The vanishing point that leads to the incomprehensible is unclear, making the
difference between presence and absence ambiguous. Its singularity is repeatedly challenged by
experiments that provoke this exchange. In this way, the artist is within each of us: the poet, the
filmmaker, the architect, the undertaker, and the disinterested scrivener. My own polite acts of
social media disobedience thwart the single vanishing point that establishes the beginning of
my presence and the end of my absence.
Articulations of Presence/Absence
The alternation between presence and absence in a created object fosters a deception that
hides the multiplicity of vanishing points: within that space, orientation shifts according
to varying perspectives. The artworks examined in this text articulate marks of absence by
forcing them into the realm of experience and materiality. Maurizio Cattelan’s tongue-incheek, macabre themes question the resolution of the end and engage in a flirtatious calland-response with death; Debord’s life’s work demonstrates the lingering presence of his
indefatigable absence from public interaction; the television drama Six Feet Under brings
death into the American living room with facetiousness and provocation; Jacques-Louis
David paints the moments just prior to death; Rothko stages the suggestion of violence
and death in paint; Dina Kantor’s photographic series documents the disappearance of a
condemned small town in Kansas, United States; Christian Marclay unbinds the notions of
time and fragmentation in a quilted assemblage of found footage in The Clock; the hidden
back room of Pac-Man’s escape route offers a combination of dead space and sanctuary;
Reinhardt’s black paintings give shape to a depthless void; and Alec Soth’s photographs
locate methods for disappearing into the farthest edges of America. Other artists pervert
the notion of a singular vanishing point through more performative means: John Baldessari
cremated over fifteen years’ worth of his personal artwork and keeps the remaining ashes
in an urn; Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing is a visual model for a multitude of
vanishing points; Nam June Paik’s imageless film Zen for Film (1964) and John Cage’s musical
compositions, sans instrumentation, epitomize the containment of absence as a construct
of presence; and Caleb Larsen transforms a nondescript black box into a perpetually selfmotivated selling machine/artwork on eBay. Finally, the visual style of Ingmar Bergman’s
films and Alfred Hitchcock’s more mainstream oeuvre are relevant here: the former creates
a visual and perceptual ‘resting in not-existence’ and the latter’s long-held obsession with
invisibility plays out in stylized narratives that heighten absence in a decidedly visual
form. Through these created objects, we gain a particular perspective, condition, attitude,
or motivation toward experiencing and exploring the plurality of the vanishing point, by
entering the territory of unexperienced experience.
Though many of the artworks selected for this text directly or indirectly relate to the
subject of death, they are examined here primarily because they characterize or give form to
their subject through an interplay between presence and absence, dissolving the functional
singularity of the vanishing point and yielding the possibility for unexperienced experience.
Vanishing Points does not aim to be an all-inclusive art history account of created objects
that relate to death, nor does it attempt the impossible task of including a comprehensive
narrative of human attitudes toward death. Instead, it looks to these two areas of study
for content that supports the idea that invisibility is created, controlled, and negotiated in
created objects, particularly through willful acts of negation across mediums and the use of
‘nothing’ as a creative tool. Through sometimes irreverent but always experimental means,
these created objects emphasize removal as an agent to expose what lies beneath; command
shifting aspects of orientation; and compromise overall visual, perceptual, and narrative
Vanishing Points was generated by an appreciation of art, a curiosity about death, and
an interest in playing dead through acts of invisibility. It is through the created object that
we experience the openness of the pluralistic vanishing point, which yields the power to
Author Natasha Chuk Isbn 9781783204762 File size 4.4MB Year 2015 Pages 196 Language English File format PDF Category Art Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Deftly deploying Derridas notion of the unexperienced experience and building on Paul Virilios ideas about the aesthetics of disappearance, Vanishing Points explores the aesthetic character of presence and absence as articulated in contemporary art, photography, film, and emerging media. Addressing works ranging from Robert Rauschenberg to Six Feet Under, Natasha Chuk emphasizes the notion that art is an accident, an event, which registers numerous overlapping, contradictory orientations, or vanishing points, between its own components and the viewers perspectivegenerating the power to create unexperienced experiences. It will be a must read for anyone interested in contemporary art and its intersection with philosophy. Download (4.4MB) Virilio And Visual Culture The Flesh of Images: Merleau-Ponty between Painting and Cinema Poetry In Painting: Writings On Contemporary Arts And Aesthetics After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial Modernism Digital Art (world Of Art) Load more posts