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Stefan Arteni

The Way Of Form

SolInvictus Press 2006

. . . while no Representamen actually functions as such until it actually determines an Interpretant, yet it becomes a Representamen as soon as it is fully capable of doing this; and its Representative Quality is not necessarily dependent upon its ever actually determining an Interpretant, nor even upon its actually having an Object.
Charles S. Peirce

Note: the illustrations reproduce works by Stefan Arteni

To traverse the whole, to touch the depth of being, is to awaken the ambiguity coiled inside. Emmanuel Levinas East-Central Europe is not a static abstraction. The complex pattern of interaction rises out of the peculiar aspect of limes ethos as the site of continuity of the archaic and of a paradoxical fatalistic optimism, and can provide a picture of comprehensive correspondences in space and time - the multiscale non-linear and many-valued chronotope. To paraphrase Milan Kundera, it is a culture or a fate. If it may be said that there is a longing for an escape from the terror of a linear meaningless history for example, after modernitys attempt at memory erasure, Boris Groys proposes erasure of erasure to describe the contemporary global situation - it may also be said that the East-Central European cultural space, the liminal locus where semiospheres come into contact, intersect and overlap, necessarily denotes the potential of possibilities that art is able to realize by attempting to make sense of the past in the present. In order to decipher the strategy of composition and the metamorphosis of color - simply put, a specific predominance of organization and of the materiality of the color-medium, a subtle way to get hints of emic categories and of mental algorithms as cultural construction - it is necessary to return to the traumatic roots and fuzzy boundary of identity, to the doubt and disquiet of a Borderland. The tacit assumption that art is the moment of form, form paradoxically endowed with the seal of indelible contingency, is elaborated by Danilo Ki: form as possibility of choice, form that is an attempt to locate points of fulcrumin the chaos around us. According to Vessela Misheva, systems theory maintains that only those actions and communications that did not receive expression can be accumulated in the social system - there will thus be a culture of the soul, a boundary position able of bridging gaps and schisms. Alexius Meinong speaks of the play and counterplay of possibilia that subsist, of Aussersein, and of Sosein as independent from Sein. Constantin Noica describes Being as caught in-between the actual and the potential. Says Jan Patocka: myth, rather than logos, is capable ofcarrying or pointing out the trans-reflexive foundation of our thought. Such a stance will require a mapping of the terrain of memory, an interplay between present and what Mikhail Bakhtin called great time. It also forces recognition that 'systems' in non-Western cultures need different approaches. Because of the contradictory mix found in the elusive and shifting zone of semi-periphery (the concept has been introduced by Immanuel Wallerstein) recognizing both an amalgam of the pre-modern and modern as well as multiple modernities, the dynamic character of a cultural system in a situation of marginality appears as a limitic emically substantiated structure (which can also become detached from regional reference) against global monocultural centralness. "Culture is created on the border of cultures". Mikhail Bakhtin

"And myth is always against history". Manfredo Tafuri

Milan Zeleny indicates that an autopoietic system acts "upon an already ordered, structured milieu" and has a life-span : "autopoiesis is bound to exhibit gradation,it becomes. It gradually degrades itself; the processes of autopoiesis weaken and dim". The need to integrate different perspectives as the backdrop or background of a space of autopoiesis, leads Vessela Misheva to develop a corollary to the theory of autopoietic systems, that is the notion of proto-autopoietic or undifferentiated poietic systems, systems which lack self-defined boundaries and use condensed (abstract) and often tautological constellations of messages. This presumption stems from a definition provided by Edward T. Hall: in polychronic and high-context cultures, messages involve intuitive and hidden cues, while background information is implicit. In a similar vein, Beth Dempster points to the other end of the spectrum, to the potentially significant concept of sympoiesis (meaning 'collective making'). Sympoiesis reflects the fuzzy unboundedness, the amorphous and diffuse structures, the ambiguous characteristics of a system which exhibits interaction and influences, and is continuously, although not necessarily consistently, changing. As Dempster puts it: "Sympoietic systems arise and evolve by virtue of the complexity of their component autopoietic systems". Both Jan Patocka and Constantin Noica took the question of the soul as their core concern. Patocka writes: Europe Western Europe first of all, but also what is called the other Europe - is issued from the care of the soul. Certainly, one acts ever in a situational context. Yet ultimately the care of the soul is the mode of overcoming Daseins throwness. Culture is a memory and control device of society, writes Dirk Baecker. Lorand Hegyi points out that in the Central and Eastern Europeno generation was able to escape some form of confrontation with the immediate danger of existential annihilation. What, now, of the fate of art? A cultural world is given to Dasein in an historical throw, a throw that discloses limits and possibilities. Art is essentially a solitary vocation, yet it can come into its own only by entering into dialogue with the most heterogenous sources. The secret of the occurrence of transmission is intrinsically interwoven with the illusiveness of art, which, for the artist, tends to efface itself in favor of the experiental event of creation. The realm of silent practices is suspended between the polarities of the singular act and culture-bound constraints. In the Western world of today, the relationship to tradition is an irreparably broken one. The connecting thread is to be found adumbrated or realized elsewhere and elsewhen, indwelling, for example, the still archaic mentality of the East-Central European and the timelessness of Chinese and Japanese calligraphic art Byzantine Hesychasm is remarkably parallel to Zen understanding, both aiming at a state of dynamic nonaction or, more properly, acceptance. "another choice of tradition". Milan Kundera

It must be borne in mind that, as Caryl Emerson points out, Central and East Europeans (for all their contributions to the avant-garde) have routinely stood up to Western models. (To approach the question of modernisms relationship to tradition, it may be briefly noted here that, paradoxically enough, to transgress is to reaffirm a limit). Emerson argues that exile, displacement, multi-languagedness, heteroglossia, outsideness to oneself and thus a taste for irony constitute the defining coordinates of a unique heritage, a polycentered identity connected to finding themselves always between several cultures and unable to lose themselves in any one of them or, so to speak, "planted in each reality, informed by all, circumscribed by none". What is interesting about multilingualism is the unique state of compound multicompetence postulated by Istvan Kecskes and Tunde Papp, that is a common underlying proficiency and two or more constantly available interacting systems, none of which is the same as the language system of a monolingual. Brian MacWhinney points out that in case of childhood multilingualism, it appears that multiple languages are acquired as separate entities. Ulrike Jessner argues that the increased metalinguistic skills trigger a heightened awareness of the arbitrary aspects of language, of cognitve styles and of syntactic factors. All in all, the dynamic of systems creates new structures and emergent properties within the playfulness and variation of culture-specific metaphoric fields. Multiliteracy enhances the ability to manipulate language form, including the graphic written form - thinking skills are built on a foundation of concrete learning, which includes experience, visual feedback and motor activities. There is evidence that human cognition is oriented around vision, indicating also that linguistic memory is different from visual memory. Stephen Kosslyn's work on visual memory and visual perception has implicated motor control in visual imagery. Language is a repository of culture. The polyglot inhabits someone else's culture, including the culture or cultures. An artist's split between cultures becomes a potential means of deautomatizing worn-out formal devices, a strategy of inserting and asserting, of uprooting and defamiliarizing. "The boundary is a zone of semiotic polyglotism", writes Jola kulj. She continues: "Selfhood is not inevitably sameness". It may be suggested here that Mircea Eliades notion of enstasis or Jose Ortega y Gassets concept of ensimismamiento are close to Vladimir Dimitrovs and Robert Ebsarys thoughts on intrapersonal autopoiesis and to Yuri Lotmans idea of a ritual culture oriented towards autocommunication and the resulting idiolect, thus recognizing the predominance of the performative side of art (Michael Polanyi speaks of a tacit knowledge) and of its ludic subliminality before and beyond any theory. By focussing on the ritualistic substrate of art, S. N. Balagangadhara defines performative or practical knowledge, the pattern of actual activity combining contingency and necessity, as the ability to act recursively.

"Multilingualism highlights the inherent instability of meaning." Antony Adolf

"Sometimes one's duty while facing a true mystery is not to solve it, but to elaborate it so much that it transforms into a deeper mystery". Lucian Blaga

Conventions and norms adopted as solutions to recurrent problems have been reformulated in game theoretic terms by D. Lewis. J. Van Huyck speaks of the emergence of conventions in evolutionary games. Peter Vanderschraaf has the same problem in mind when he shows that game-theoretic characterizations suggest that the emergence of correlated convention (correlated equilibrium) occurs even if the initial actions are randomized. Jenna Bedmar and Scott Page investigate the multiple-game approach as suggestive of the emergence of culture. Like any game, art is subject to the continual alternation of exploration and play, and to a set of pragmatic and historical framing conditions. In fact, the relation between culture and mediated communication implies standardization and traditionalization (communicative conventions). The artist is absorbed in the flow. Autotelic activity reduces the participants awareness of self. The constitutive alterity to oneself, re-making the self away-from-self, is woven into the fabric of a multi-sited memory, leading to a more penetrating grasp of the pattern of autocommunication. To put paradox at the heart of art, it is this very nowhere here nor there, the homelandlessness of the ever atopos, the always multiplicative factor of coexistent insideness and outsideness, that appear as the way to inscribe enstasis into an integral unfolding experience. One may add, by way of explanation, that the pervasive kenotic spirituality of East and South-East Europe, profoundly akin to the principle of sunyata (void, nothingness, emptiness) or to Kitaro Nishidas notion of the mu no basho, the place of nothingness , discloses itself as the path of operational suchness. Kenneth Inada describes emptiness as an experiental fact of epistemological non-assertion. The work is methodically deconceptualized Byzantine apophaticism and the Upanishads via negativa, neti, neti, which means not this, not that, or neithernor, point to the fact that visual art is forever resistant to and refuses the limit imposed by definition and conceptualization. If one considers this thought further, one sees that it actually corresponds with Thorsten Botz-Bornstein's insight: "There are indeed parallels between Zen aesthetics and Byzantine aestheticsart is in the first place virtual". The works "are supposed not to represent but to be". They "present style in the form of a virtual world" by means of "continuous acts of severe formalization...This means that through art, nothingness, though itself absolutely formless and invisible, can project itself into the visible world. "The inside-outside position of an observer located on a boundarythe boundary position that is responsible for the construction of a mind with a non-modern structure". Vessela Misheva

Stephen Jay Gould and E. S. Vrba suggest that language, religion, fine arts, poetry, music, dance, writing and reading, are examples of contingent exaptation (fit by reason of form), while Jan Koster agrees with Frits Staal in the idea of the autonomy of form in ritual - the world of rhythm is self-enclosed, rhythm unifies all aesthetic experiences, syntax and rhythm constitute a semantically empty, autonomous structure, going back to ritual, to a set of recursively applicable formal gestures and procedures. This viewpoint is also shared by Rober N. McCauley and E. Thomas, who advance the ritual form hypothesis, that is a theory of procedural memory or tacit knowledge - embodied activity is central to cognition. Alvin I. Goldmans studies have found that extensive practice on a task often produces a shift in the brain pathways used to complete the task. According to William Seeley and Aaron Kozbelt, the capacity for syntax, for reorganization, presupposes a loop of continuous reciprocation between the formal method that utilizes a class of practical knowledge which renders objects themselves invisible by recovering only visual cues and saliency, and visuo-motor skills that are pertinent to particular media. G. Spencer-Browns Laws of Form is an exploration of the syntactical possibilities of drawing a distinction and of covert conventions. There is an interaction between kinesthetic/spatiomotor and visual input. The traces of medium-specific actions defined by Peer Bundgaard as exploitation of ontic constraints, the systems or patterns of brushstrokes, are transformational and probabilistically deformed by noise, blur, superposition, warping and interruption. Improvisation may involve repetition and revision, embedded in which are appropriative allusions to and fragmented citations of previous historical practices - it is up to the painter to reactivate the past. Ranulph Glanville describes art as an iterative and circular process with the unknowable and concludes: Art is deeply cybernetic. Even the viewers experience of art can occur in the absence of an understanding of the work, or, as J. H. de Roder argues, the experience is a physical event. The work is to be seized through a personal relationship, in reciprocity and in an unfolding, or, to use H. G. Gadamers term, by tarrying (Verweilen). It has proven difficult to formulate a semiotic theory in relation to visual media because, as Sandra Moriarty puts it, the linguistic anchoring of the image is reductive, the verbal language metaphor frustrates much of the research on visual thinking. In many non-Western societies language plays a less dominant role. Moriarty insists on the autonomy of visual modalities of communication a Luhmannian compact communication (work of art) that mobilizes perception. Thomas Sebeok argues that the visual is neither derivative nor peripheral to language, and that, properly speaking, visual communication may constitute a primary modeling system.

"The act is a gesture, a ritual, measured by its function, not by its result". M. A. Pop

"The Museum Europe liberates us from the specific modern obligation of being always absolutely modern. It quotes the Modern ironically and thinks it anew - as something past". Norbert Bolz

"enter through the image". From a Nag Hammadi Gnostic Text

But more important, and in the end more powerful, is the idea of heterarchy, the play of parallel and simultaneously active and/or interwoven multiple artistic frameworks while respecting the logic of each, and producing ambivalence and paradox when they intersect. In a true sense the process exhibits a polycontextural stylistic matrix and a distributed artistic identity one runs across the terms heterarchy, polycontexturality and kenogrammatics in Gotthard Guenthers transclassic logic investigations suggestive of new and unrehearsed practices. A cultural space set at the crossroads of semiospheres is the meeting point of incongruent traditions mediated by procedural transjunction the Eastern-Orthodox Byzantine (painting as prayer of the heart), the West European, the East Asian (the way of the brush as meditation that dismisses thought and concepts). Cultural borders transpassing engenders approximate equivalences which may be termed benign pseudomorphic operations, that is to say the imprecise, de-creative, interpretative, appropriation of empty sign systems (i.e. formal domains) within essential medium based limitations - a coexistence, a heterarchy of artistic systems, where the operator is free to move among formalizations. It is, of course, the methodological value of direct experience, what Francisco Varela has elegantly called embodied action, that comes into play. The tendency toward a playful autonomization of the sign-construct instead of toward its semantization, provides the ground for the unpredictable trajectory of a polyphonic monologue, the play of transjunctional operations, including equivalence, transmutation, poly-negations, and rejection, that may involve parallel operations in parallel artistic frameworks - in a heterarchy, self-reference is essential to its nature. In scrutinizing Charles Peirces semiotic model, Roman Jakobson defines art (ars, that is skill, craft) as artifice (artificium, that is craftmanship, crafty strategy or expedient), as a playful fabrication: The signs ofart can carry the imprint ofsymbol,icon andindex, but it is obviously above all in their artistic character that their significance is lodged. Art itself is an inscription of praxis and as such preserves the historicity of its unstable and ever shifting horizon, the is-ness of the placeless place, the no-mans-land that spans a manifold of co-present different cultural systems and perhaps dramatizes latency, the improbability of communication, and silence. The fixed work, the closure, is based on the possibility of openness, it occurs as nowness (Vergegenwaertigung) under erasure.

"We might cross over and back". Friedrich Hoelderlin

Moreover, it should also be noted that since the iconoclastic controversy the sign model is conceived as a contingent relation one must think of relation as ontological principle. It is a matter of seeing as. The mapping of sign systems onto kenogrammatic structures viewed as patterns of connections, as patterns of empty slots within the organization of the works form-space, displays the interplay of the stochastic and the lawful, of chance and necessity, as the awareness of form lines, areas, textures, contrasts. The semantic kenosis to which one subjects art is conducive to the emergence of the work as sedimented, fragmented, form-space topology, as a chronotopic palimpsest. Without going into details, one must stress the cultural perspective and its constraints. William of Ockham defines representative signs as rememorative. Jan Assmann distinguishes a cultural memory maintained by artifacts and performance that claim an a-symmetrical function of recollection. The term mnemohistory, Assmanns own coinage, adheres to the truth of memory. While memory, as Thomas Sebeok puts it, is a reservoir of interpretants, the signified, itself a complex system of relations, is external and somehow mapped to the sign. This involves a demarcation of the characteristically ignored historical aspect of a semiotic of representation: as Merlin Donald points out, one can define and redefine maps of meaning onto form. Due to their iteration throughout the centuries, visual sign-constructs may have become automatized, a sort of conventionalized shorthands, and thus may be described by invoking Peircean symbolicity. Sren Brier writes for instance: Peirces definition of signs iscybernetic and self-organizedIt underlines habits and historical drift. In fact, the formal elements of the signifier can acquire primacy over the signified. This operativity and materiality slips away since the contemporary dominance of significance blinds the viewer. If the image-content builds a first message, the material-artistic utterance (the ontic foundation, the signscape as concrete assemblage of self-sustaining marks, marks as marks of themselves that may refer only to other marks, marks as instance of sign-form pointing toward what E. Cassirer calls Formschoenheit) is another message that contradicts the first one. And one can argue, as Niklas Luhmann does, that in the theory of signs as a form, there is indeed no reference. But drawing a mark immediately creates a foundational paradox. Carole McKenzie and Kim James indicate that a mark is a change in the surface of an area as the result of an event and which signifies that event, or, put in a more Luhmannian way, the trace is a signifier of difference. It seems almost unavoidable to place James Elkins insight in this context. Elkins insists on painting furnishing a cast of the painters movementsthe quick jabs, the exhausted truces, the careful nourishing gestures. This is why Elkins maintains that it makes sense to propose that marks be understood as objects that are simultaneously signs and not signs. The marks may be conceived as haptic gesture-signs, and, at the same time, as performative, operational, processual self-reference.

'"Every sign consists in a relation as suchan irreducible triadic relation" John Deely

"Culturesupposes that the individual is placed more or less consciously, but at any rate actively, at the essence of things". Vasile Bancila

What is called art is treated here as a class of phenomena characterized by complexification. Extrapolating from Lotfi Zadek and his incompatibility principle (as complexity increases, meaning becomes necessarily fuzzified), one may deduce that the rich complexity of syntax consists of a web of fuzzy occupancy, and consequently one should shift towards David Lidovs idea of processual interpretant. With Luhmann, the form patterns of ritual repetition (the Latin repetere means to seek again) and stabilization are entwined with compression of form and reduction of meaning. Richard K. Payne points out that ritual practice is repetitive but not semantic. Repetition, which, for example, is the foundation for mastering East-Asian calligraphy, combines the idea of linear progression with that of a cyclical return indicating that innovation too is a recursive process. In other words, the context of feedback, of recursive self-reference, suggests that art is both determined and unpredictable, a mode of activity that incorporates paradox itself. Likewise, when it comes to defining resistance to self-colonization and to the deluge of sameness, monoculture, and leisure amateurs, some of the most innovative gestures ultimately resort to the paradox of a fragile tradition based on reflexivity and innovation, to the ability to salvage, mutate, and build upon the fragment as ruin or assemblage used to materialize memory and as a system of communication, as record of a world under erasure/crossed out or essentially lost - the canon functions as hermeneutic provocation. It is a rather metalingual painting, making reference to previous artworks as sites of memory, to cultural memory qua artifacts, mentifacts, and performance, a memory reconstructed in the light of the present, an ocular memory that displays historical visual data revealing metaphorical and metonymic processes transported across generations through representational traditions of unfettered flexibility. Markings are ideational cultural patterns even when corrupted by 'noise'. A traditional culture's jest, joke, anecdote, grotesque and allegory - sublimating tragedy into humor proceed as a ludic and cathartic autonomization of the sign. The ethos of open play allows for much variation and improvisation, although play involves voluntarily submitting to a system of rules. The player is an observer as well as player. Johan Huizinga speaks of a 'magic circle' which accounts for the second-order reality or holding power of extended play.

"We human beings are always more our contingencies than our choices". Odo Marquard

"a form of irenic play canassume a culturally transcendental dimension, in the sense that it can go beyond its immediate historical context". Mihai Spariosu

Summing up, art operates between societal system and consciousness and uses medium specific phenomena of perception as communication - inspired by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, one may describe perception as an inner selective construction by means of which a reality springs forth. It is critical to recognize the importance of historical accident and the fragility of an historical instantiation of art, especially in an era that has witnessed societal systems excluding the sphere of art from the aggregation of communication - Vessela Misheva proposes the term ex-communication - and thus reducing it to an external environment. But an "environment is a logical space consisting of the other possible ways", hypothesizes Tosiya Nagai. Actuality is certain but unstable, potentiality is uncertain but stable. Contingency involves the exclusion of necessity and impossibility. It builds upon the demiurgic enterprise and opens up a shifting horizon of polycontextural interdependencies. The latency of internal references and of non-linear ramifications are interlinked in never-ending cycles. So it is tempting to think of art as a kind of goal-less waying, the waying of ways that have to be created every moment anew, and - speaking of the pilgrim - to think of the artist as finely attuned to the way. Those on the way need to become the way, said Laozi. Here one encounters a paradox. The accidental character of the pilgrim's aimless wandering is delusive. The Way is the Quest, the spiritual nostos (homecoming), the natural environment of the artist. "This is why, as opposed to a post-modern Nomad," writes Maria Roginska, " the apparent nomadism of a pilgrim does not know any accidentality". As alluded to earlier, recursivity documents the movement across boundaries. Performative recursivity is multidimensional, multi-faceted and multi-layered, it self-organizes into deep dynamic aspects and into endless complex zones of articulation and negotiation. Art accepts the task of coding the undetermined and indeterminable and of conveying the inexpressible. Stefan Afloroaei opines that "the symbol becomesable to reveal the existence of a perspective whereby certain heterogeneous realities are granted a chance to articulate themselves as an ensemble...". It is the form of the medium that dominates the ways of encoding. Robert Chia points out that communication becomes cautiously indirect and circular. He writes: "That which lies beyond the grasp of language is approachable through a complex form of paradoxical utterances". T.Shimomura uses a musical analogy: "Like a musical theme, the basic theme is repeated and emphasized many times overwhile executing variations". However, as Chia states, the master theme lies beyond the individual instantiations. The emphasis is on a deep sensitivity to the tacit. For Michel Serres, complexity, and its preference for boundary, expresses an ethos of decentredness and names a wandering through the criss-crossed tapestry of cultural crossroads.

"In art the process of perception is an end in itself and must be lengthened". Viktor Shklovski

"Creation is the answer we can give to the terror of history". Mircea Eliade

Some basic but ultimately prosaic question such as 'why art?' may inevitably be posed. "Art is quite useless", proclaims Oscar Wilde. But Zhuangzi and Martin Heidegger praise the worth of uselessness. Niklas Luhmann raises the question: "What difference does the work of art make?" Constantin Brancusis saying comes to mind: "Art may redeem the world". Stefan Arteni