09. 2015 Autographic: Play with the graphic medium in a post-print age, paper, Impact 9 International Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking Conference, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, Chiny, publisher: caapress, China Academy of Art, 2015, ISBN:978-7-5503-0957-9


06. 2013 Tricksters lead the Game, in: Trickster Strategies in the Artists' and Curatorial Practice, Edited by Anna Markowska, Polish Institute of World Art Studies & Tako Publishing House Warsaw–Toruń 2013, ISBN 978-83-62737-26-0

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trickster-Strategies-Artists-Curatorial-Practice/dp/8362737263

http://ksiegarnia.pwn.pl/produkt/196433/trickster-strategies-in-the-artists-and-curatorial-practice.html


01. 2013 Light and Weighty, Text in solo show publication, "Rescue Kite" by Mark Selby, Institute of Jamais Vu, London


2012 „The plush darkness”: Play and the Sublime in Recent Participatory Art, Gillian B. Pierce (Ed.), The Sublime Today: Contemporary Readings in the Aesthetic, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012, ISBN (10): 1-4438-4189-7

http://www.c-s-p.org/Flyers/978-1-4438-4189-4-sample.pdf

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sublime-Today-Contemporary-Aesthetic/dp/1443841897


03. 2012 – The green magic of recycling - the art of Suzanne Morlock, feature article in Sculpture Magazine, US

http://online.qmags.com/SM0312/default.aspx?pg=54&mode=2

26-27.10.2011 – Tricksters lead the game, paper, International Conference Trickster Strategies in the Artists‘ and Curatorial Practice, Institute of Art History, Wroclaw University, Poland

This paper explores philosophical and conceptual background of artistic ‘trickster’ strategies and suggests that the notion of play/game is an indispensable research tool in this subject. Who is a contemporary trickster in the world of art? It seems that this position is no longer marginal – to be in the move, to be outside, on the margins of, or in-between the dominant narratives of power – beyond the usual order of things in cultural, social, political or economical realms, has become the “proper” space of the artistic activity.

 

06.04.2010 The role of artists in the art of city making, lecture at the Symposium on Wl. Strzeminski‘s idea of the functional city‘, Kobro Gallery, Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, abstract published in the exhibition catalogue

 

10.11.2010 – The Criterion of Play – paper presented at the European Congress of Aesthetics, Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

This talk responds to the growing critique of contemporary ('relational') participatory art as dominated by ethical or political concerns, but disregarding the aesthetic value (as expressed by Claire Bishop, Claire Doherty or Dave Beech). This debate follows the current resurgence of interest in aesthetics and proves that it is essential to rethink this notion in a way relevant to the contemporary modes of presenting art. I raise under the discussion the notion of play as a condition of aesthetic judgement emerging from traditional Kantian aesthetics. I argue that the postmodern, poststructural reading of the concept of play can be identified as a condition of the 'new aesthetics' that responds to the participatory, process-oriented, ephemeral art projects that take place within the gallery or in the public sphere. The aesthetic criterion of play challenges the politically-correct rhetorics of recent participatory art. 

 

08. 2010 – Artist – the Game Master, text in Stimulus-Respond journal (issue 'Master') 

I propose to test the metaphor of an artist as a 'game master'. This phrase describes the position of a postmodern artist as based on the tension between homo ludens – the careless player, the naughty child, the 'grasshopper', and post-industrial homo faber – the entrepreneur, the legitimate provider of a unique 'experience', the careful organizer of the tours to 'real life'. I will sketch here a subjective characterisation of the artist-game master, my own interpretation/representation of this paradoxical persona. There exist various roles he/she can adopt – mutually exclusive or maybe complementary, or even necessary to locate this function within the domain of art.

 

03. 2010 – PhD Thesis

Play in the Theory and Practice of Art

Abstract

This thesis focuses on the notion of play in the theory and practice of art in the 20th and 21st centuries. I approach play both as an 'internal' element of the concept of art (following the philosophical tradition) and as the 'external' model for the creative process (as applied by modern and postmodern artists). The main purpose is to produce an interpretation of play that would span various, often contradictory, features of this concept and would serve to reinterpret the notion of artistic representation, traditionally linked with the vocabulary and approaches coming from the domain of work (production, mastery, preconceived outcomes, fixity, and the nature/culture dichotomy). My thesis defends representation, however, 'supplemented' with the notion of play.

In my project of highlighting the role of play in the discourse of art and aesthetics, I draw on Jacques Derrida's reading of Kant and Plato. Derrida's analysis of the 'logic of supplementarity' in Western thought and terms such as parergon, pharmakon and 'undecidable', help me to argue that the ambivalence of play and the movement 'in between' the opposites allow us to understand play as a condition of artistic representation. I also use Mihaly Spariosu's distinction between the interpretations of play as 'rational' or 'prerational' to inscribe play into the argument between representation and non-representation in the theory and practice of art.

In terms of practice, I link the emergence of the 'strategy' of play with the rhetorics of primitivism in modern avant-gardes from Dada to Fluxus. I analyse play as a tool of transgression and an 'attractive supplement' of the creative process – a way to activate the public and change the traditional proper function (ergon) of art. I trace the assimilation of play in recent participatory ('relational', 'dialogic') art intended to go 'beyond representation'. I argue that play has become a commonly used 'tactic' and an undercurrent of today's artistic and social network. In the final discussion I reinterpret the notions of work (ergon, essence) and play (parergon, supplement) in the light of the 20th century artistic revolution. Using vocabulary and approaches coming from the domain of play (and specifically Role-Playing Game) I attempt to overcome the prejudice against the notion of representation. 

The analysis of play, in any context, is to a large degree an attempt against play's charm and attractiveness. I inevitably act as a spoil-sport by unveiling the rhetorics of different uses of play in modern and postmodern art. Nonetheless, I think it is a rewarding process and an exciting journey, although not necessary playful. But is play simply fun?

 

16-19. 09. 2009, IMPACT 6 International Printmaking Conference, Bristol, UK

Academic poster presentation, paper published in the conference proceedings:

 

Play of layers and matrices in non-digital printmaking

 

In this paper I explore conceptual and philosophical implications of using multiple matrices/layers to construct the printed image. I refer to my own printmaking practice, in the technique of linocut, and the collaborative international printmaking project Kooperacja, Samarbeid, Collaboration (2003-4) I participated in. I also draw on my theoretical study on the notion of the 'strategy of play', which I developed in the course of my PhD research (ongoing). To contextualize the analysis of a print's 'anatomy' I turn to the philosophical debates on the relation of a whole and its parts, with the focus on the concept of "rhizome" by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. In this paper I propose to challenge the traditional 'proper function' (ergon) of a matrix and to test the 'tactic of play' as an alternative methodology for the printmaking practice.

Introduction

In my PhD research, referring to the writings by Jacques Derrida, as well as to the wide range of artistic practices, I analyse play, both as an 'internal' condition of artistic representation and an 'external' strategy employed by 20th century artists to bring art back to life as a vital social experience, to enhance creativity, and to challenge conventional outlooks and values. I argue that play, (traditionally marginalized and subordinated to the concepts of work, seriousness, reality, etc.) belongs to the notion of art to the same degree as work does. Art can exist only when it is goal oriented work: ergon – 'proper function' (Plato, 1955) and play (parergon) – disinterested deviation from the 'proper' path. I propose to look at the relationship of work and play within the concept of art as synergy (working/playing together), instead of the traditional allergy between these terms. In this context, I define play, not as a dangerous or an attractive "supplement" (Derrida, 1987) of work, but as an indispensable condition for representation – 'something as something else', and as a possibility for change, movement (Derrida, 1978), experimentation, wandering, getting lost, being neither present nor absent, neither here nor there, "undecided" (Derrida,1993).

 

In my printmaking practice I test the 'tactic of play' as a method to extend application of multiple matrices beyond the technical requirements of the production of a multicoloured or a multilayered image. By doing so, I examine the possibility to use the multiple matrices/layers in printmaking as a conceptual statement. In 'play', an artist can make the layers 'visible' and highlight the process of building the image of separate fragments. Instead of the traditional 'path of wholeness': applying particular matrices as components of a superior whole, he or she can choose exploration of visual bits and pieces that not always make up a whole, but point to the fragmentation and subjectivity of representation, lack of hierarchy and order, open-endedness, and so on.

Proper function of a matrix

Traditionally, in colour printmaking, each block, screen or plate provides a separate colour. Applied in a particular sequence, they add up during the printing process, resulting in a completed colourful image. This way of using matrices and building the final print with a few or several layers is, in fact, a technical requirement for colour printmaking – not the only possibility, but the most commonly used one. According to the convention of the printmaking medium, the aim or the ambition of the artist is to hide this inner fragmentation of the image and to apply multiple matrices in such a way that they perfectly complement each other and that the different components of the design line up.

 

'Proper function' of a matrix is closely related to the etymology of this word in Latin, which means 'womb'. A matrix must be then seen as an origin, a physical source of an image, and in case of a multilayered design, it is a part of an organic whole, which can be compared to the genetic code that determinates the emergence of the new 'organism' in a certain duration of time. The individual printing matrix is then just an element in the production process, subordinated to the intended outcome as a whole. Its role is to fit in the bigger structure with other matrices, and also to mask the image's 'anatomy' as built with separate pieces. Each matrix must seem necessary, essential to the image's final characteristics, and to some extent transparent in terms of its own presence. This subordination occurs due to the fact that the matrix is not an independent entity, it 'gives birth' to the particular and unique form, within the particular context, locked within the predetermined frames. When separated, it loses sense, like a singular piece of a puzzle.

 

Studio experiments

 

My own experiments with matrices and layers were to some degree inspired by the printmaking project I participated in as an MA student. Three groups, four students each, from Poland, Norway and USA produced a collection of 96 prints. Each artist could print only one layer and then the work was continued by two artists from two other countries. Each final print consisted of three layers by three authors, most often in three different printmaking techniques. Works were exchanged by post, we never met and we did not leave any suggestions of how to respond to the initial or to the second layer. The project concluded in the series of three exhibitions entitled Kooperacja, Samarbeid, Collaboration in the three countries. The whole project was mainly about the communication, the 'conversation' in different visual languages, but also about constructing images with fragments of our artistic worlds, since most of us used matrices created originally for other prints.

 

This experiment made me aware that different layers in printmaking can not only correspond with different colours, but also different textures, forms, styles, modes of expression and ideas. Such perspective opens up endless possibilities for the printmaker. The most apparent way of exploring the 'path of fragments' is the stylistic approach close to the postmodern collage, composed of visual particles from various sources, quotations, and overlapping contrasting elements, the kind of effect we achieved in our collaborative project.

 

In my own practice I have been looking for the alternative approach to 'layering' – different from the 'traditional' and the 'postmodern' ways. I have been interested in creating matrices that belong to the unified language of my visual world, but at the same time can be used to create images that do not pretend to be completed and self-contained entities.

 

The printmaking medium, especially the technique of relief print, I choose to work with, imposes various limitations on the artist. I cannot use a spontaneous gesture to create a matrix – a direct drawing, painting or scratching. An expressive and often quite painterly design, an organic whole, must be translated into separated fragments and executed in the time-consuming process of cutting the block. I see this process as an analytical meditation on fragments that constitute the initial experience, as a meticulous 'undoing' of the illusion of totality and a seemingly logical chain of causes and effects, and also as questioning the utopia of 'transparent' representation. Although the final image may look unfinished, empty, lacking some elements and so on, it mirrors my approach to the creative process. The printed image must be seen as one of the components of the work (but not the most important one), together with those of designing, painting, cutting and printing. The 'final' print is therefore a kind of documentation, a physical trace of my analytical study on a particular aesthetic and conceptual problem.

 

Theoretical context – a whole and its parts

 

To contextualize my studio experiments, I turned to philosophical debates on the relation of a whole and its parts. According to Encyclopedia of Postmodernism, different views characterise classical, modern and postmodern discourses:

 

The relation of a whole or totality and its parts, in the classical philosophy (...) is ultimately dialectical: the parts by coming into necessary relations with each other negate each other as separate elements and resolve their subordinate differences into the high-order unity of the whole or totality. They are parts because they form a whole, and it is a whole because it brings parts into unity. In modern thought this whole or totality is no longer given (...) but must be reconstituted as fully as possible from its scattered parts in accordance with the ancient dialectical model. The totality, though missing, is still the transcendent regulative agency. In postmodern thought, this regulative totality is an illusion that serves only to provide cover for totalitarian terror and the reduction and exploitation of difference, and thus must be abjured wherever it threatens to reappear. (Taylor, Winquist, 2001)

 

No matter which model or philosophical perspective we choose for our practice, it is possible to look at a print's inner structure as an example of parts and a whole relation. What is important: the choice of one of these approaches implicates further formal and conceptual decisions, and the general position towards the printmaking method. In my own practice, however, I neither focus on building the reliable uniform whole (believing in the unifying principle or not), nor I celebrate the endless parade of fragments in our experience, but I rather try to play with tension between a whole and parts, inevitably constituting this whole. 

My tactic, or rather the process I have recently started to explore, is mainly inspired by the concept of "rhizome" by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (Deleuze, Guattari, 1980). Their proposition does not fit in any of the discourses mentioned above. From their perspective "the concept of totality retains a minimal and strategic value: totalities are produced alongside their parts, as another part and not as a transcendent law" (Taylor, Winquist, 2001). In 'rhizomatic' thinking (or structure of an image) "any part may be connected to another part, forming a milieu that is decentred, with no distinctive end or entry point" (Parr, 2005). The configuration of forms constitutes an open-ended whole and points to different directions (formal and conceptual). A print as 'rhizome' is neither unity nor multiplicity; it grows and becomes without an ultimately preconceived plan, beyond rigid hierarchy and order (although it can follow some rules as well). A 'whole' remains fluid and questionable since there is always an impression that something can be added – perhaps another layer 'closing' the image. But this closure remains deferred, and serves as an opening for another possibility to be explored. When we apply the concept of "rhizome" to a print, each matrix, as well as the 'finished' image, becomes a part and a totality at the same time. The 'finished' image must be then seen as an image 'in becoming' always pointing back to its parts and to the possibility of the endless generation of new additional parts/totalities. The printmaking medium is especially prone to such an approach, since there is almost no limitation in terms of the number of produced 'originals', and each of them can be modified in endless ways.

 

Play of matrices

            Applying the strategy of 'play' together with the concept of "rhizome" to my printmaking practice, allowed me to contextualize and understand better my experiments with the printmaking process and the use of multiple matrices. I realized that what I was doing was in fact questioning the 'proper function' of a matrix: its traditional and structural role in the creation of an image. However, the theoretical study made me aware that I do not want to end up with an opposite version of a 'subordinated' matrix, a 'liberated' free-floating fragment. I am rather interested in achieving a state of creative synergy between parts and a whole. This is why I try to approach each matrix, each layer, each element of a design, as a part of a temporary, open-ended whole. This allows a singular matrix to act as a fragment and a whole among other fragments/wholes, which can be juxtaposed, grouped, put together to create a print – a documentation of the possibility of the whole. Printmaking process enables creating multiple versions of the same image and also multiple applications of the same matrix. Even if I do not often create multiple variations of the same print, this is always an option that also opens up an image as one among other narrations on the same experience. Matrices/fragments 'in play' are to some extent independent from the image and can produce other images as well, when arranged in different configurations. They can contribute to other formal solutions but also to different meanings. They are replaceable but also indispensible, aesthetic and functional, like blocks in children's play. They do not have one proper function – to produce the illusion of a totality. They allude to this totality, emerge because of its possibility, create a negotiable suggestion of a potential 'finished' print, but also generate meanings beyond this subordination, as a part of a wider, "rhizomatic" network of forms, texts and connotations.

 

Summary

I propose to look at the 'tactic of play' as a creative tool that may help to incorporate all aspects of the printmaking process, including the use of multiple matrices, as potential conceptual and aesthetic statements. In my own practice, I use this tactic to challenge the traditional technology-bounded function of a matrix. 'Play' of matrices, their liberation from the proper and only technical function, exposes the inherently fragmented 'anatomy' of a print. In consequence, I approach the printed image, specifically in the technique of linocut, as a documentary of a particular, but not the only possible configuration of matrices. Matrices can generate numerous possible images, and are not just subordinated fragments of the only one puzzle. The printed image, from this perspective, becomes an open ended "rhizome" that can be extended into other images, and the one that functions as a temporary whole, but in fact it is also a part among other parts constituting an expanding network of forms, meanings and references.  Print as 'rhizome' opens up a possibility for playful experimentation and improvisation, and liberates a printmaker from the only one proper routine of proceeding "along preestablished lines towards predeterminated goals" (Childs, Fowler, 2005).

Summing up, in 'play' matrices are free:

- to question their traditional 'proper function' (ergon),

- to remain fragments,

- to undo the illusion of totality,

- to leave physical traces of the analysis or experiment,

- to be independent from the image (at least to some degree) and able to produce other images as well,

- to be replaceable and indispensible, aesthetic and functional, like blocks in children's play.

- to create a negotiable suggestion of a potential 'finished' print.

However, it is important to stress that my proposition challenges, but does not negate the traditional function of a matrix. I do not try to overturn the hierarchy work/play, and to subordinate the proper function of a matrix to playful endless experiments. I rather try to find a moment of tension, creative synergy, between wholeness and fragmentation, unity and multiplicity, preconceived plan and improvisation.

Acknowledgements

Supported by Loughborough University School of Art and Design's Research Fund

References

CHILDS, P., FOWLER, R., 2005, The Routledge dictionary of literary terms, London: Routledge, p. 206
DELEUZE, G., GUATTARI, F., 1980, A Thousand Plateaus, London and New York: Continuum, 2004, pp. 3-28
DERRIDA, J., 1978, Writing and Difference, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, p. 292
DERRIDA, J., 1987, The Truth in Painting, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p. 52
DERRIDA, J., 1993, 'Plato's Pharmacy', in: Dissemination, London: The Althone Press, pp. 67-154
PAPPAS N., 1995, Plato and the Republic, London and New York: Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to, Routledge, p. 49
PLATO, 1955, Republic, Book 1, London: Penguin books, p. 40
PARR, A., (Ed.), 2005, The Deleuze Dictionary, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, p. 232
TAYLOR, V. E., WINQUIST, CH. E, (Eds.), 2001, Encyclopedia of Postmodernism, London: Routledge, pp. 8

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