Schwab, Michael. ed. (2018). Transpositions. Aesthetico-Epistemic Operators in Artistic Research. Orpheus Institute Series. Leuven: Leuven University Press. [OA] <https://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=1000226>

Contributors: Rosi Braidotti, Esa Kirkkopelto, Annette Arlander, Lucia D’Errico, Laura González, Leif Dahlberg, Tor-Finn Malum Fitje, David Pirrò, Hanns Holger Rutz, Birk Weiberg, Michael Schwab, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Cecile Malaspina, Paulo de Assis, Dieter Mersch, Mika Elo, Yve Lomax.

 

Preamble

What I have learned from reading—or, working my way through—the book reviewed in this piece, is that a) the concept of transposition is multiple and needs a polythetic definition [like the strands/fibres of a rope] to be readable across the contributions in the volume; b) it gives no place for a reader-over-and-above the text-materials gathered in the anthology [cf. Donna Haraway’s god-trick], but she must invent herself as a reader in each contribution.

The reader must also transpose herself, and succeed at morphing into an entity sufficiently indigenous to each of the articles/essays to resurrect the concept afresh at every new attempt. In this sense the book is a training-ground for the concept it seeks to theorise; transposition. Theoretical ventures are common in artistic research, but the book requests that the reader relinquish the practice of theorising over and above, and instead invent readability alongside and in touch with.

The inclusion of Rosi Braidotti’s prominent essay in Transpositions, suggests that the ethics of the multiple and a nomadic ontology are built into the foundations of Michael Schwab’s editorial initiative, including the foundations of what is demanded from the reader. And, of course, the reviewer is no exception. It is an arduous, but interesting—and perhaps important—task: to see each essay as an occasion for a new encounter with the topic at this level.

That is, essentially to deal with transposition as an operation with infra-experimental processes before they have been reflected as science, art or philosophy (SAP). Which is why I would recommend—for readers whose interest drives them to work with the entire volume—to take extra care in reading Braidotti’s essay, that expands the book’s epistemic focus to include the ethics of nomadic ontology as it unavoidably appears to the reader.

The specific difficulty of addressing this level of reading—which is de rigueur for a reviewer—is the following: the reader as a producer as s/he reads each contribution, and as a translator; to mediate between elements that do not invite comparison. Neither between the contributions (the volume does not seek to establish or vehicle consensus), nor the one feature of transposition that transpires throughout: that transposition is indigenous on non-mimetic terms.

So, the essays contained in Transpositions are singularly autonomous in the way the topic is appropriated separately by each of the authors. This is pervasive and also consistent with ‘transposition’—both as a notion and as a book-project: for neither invite comparison. On this account, and because they each define their lead, the essays rather come out as an ‘assemblage’ (Deleuze): each essay can be yanked out of place, plug in somewhere else, and still work.

It oddly reminds me of the almanachs of yore: volumes brimming with handy information on a conglomerate variety of subjects, organised by a connective trope—transposition; a partly designed, partly accidental hit-and-impact. It is a way of setting the topic in motion by other means than the force of argument alone. For this reason, I would say that Transpositions takes one step beyond the book volume to acquire some workings of a ‘propaedeutic desiring machine’.

That is, an implied pedagogic scope—inscribed into its specific difficulty, which is also its interest—to change what it means to read. To read as moving alongside, and in touch with; an agent of contingencies—on par with light and sound and in a theatre production—that are unavoidable in an era where the book can be contained by a computer-screen (pdf-reader or other) with easy access to media-resources that are thereby pre-staged to work alongside it.

It is tempting to be so bold as to assert that theorising today is a production factor in a segment of artistic practice, that does not seek to interpret, but to produce the research. It does so from a stage where it is unsegmented to the extent that it defines SAP-practices in proportions reflecting what has been determined—below the “radar” of discourse—through a variety of experimental practices: where transposition is a case in point. If so, Transpositions is ‘stealth-ware’.

 

The book: edit & review

Barth – Transposition review Fig. 1

In the above figure—I have taken the liberty of using the design on the book-cover as a heuristic device to invent a contingent relation between the elements of the book-review—my working-assumption is to invent the communication I have relied on, as a reader, to intercept the information that is between each contribution as much hatching from within each. I found the cover useful as a ‘palace of memory’ to hold the book but also the reader.1

This device has proved itself useful, because it makes it possible to relate in a specific way to this book: the book as it is—as found, as negotiated and as unknown (i.e. the contingency added/invented by the reader). As I worked my way through I found it useful to categorise the articles from their reference-lists. Some of the references can be defined as research-generic, others that are research-unique (references tied up to this project), and research-specific.

The book is really not an ordeal for a trained reader (or, the presumed lion’s share of JAR’s readership). But the scope of its subject matter is resolutely non-representational. Of course, transposition relates to a variety of border-traffic within and between juxtaposed discursive practices; with which the readership (of JAR and this book) is assumed to be familiar. But the topic also features a third practice—with its varieties—which lies in the border-crossing itself.

I have ended up tying up the contributions with the help of three main categories: A—the essays in which art-work provides an autonomous basis setting the topic in motion within a relatively generic reference list [known to many JAR-readers]; B—the essays in which the references are less known and more uniquely linked to the research-work and its outcomes; C—the essays that prime references that are specific [i.e. springing from the author’s artistic work].

In the introduction, the book’s editor, Michael Schwab unfolds a broad understanding of transpositions as aesthetico-epistemic operators. He underscores the multi-disciplinary application and inheritance of the concept: from music to linear algebra. That is, professional settings in which ‘transposition’ has a fairly analytic definition, to acquire an abductive definition in the contributions seen as an ensemble: the type of inference where not all premises are ever known.

The word ‘transposition’ itself is suggested to determine positionality (Haraway) in movement: featuring a string of situated and positioned knowledges displayed in the contributions of the book. Which is also why the transposition of the contributions onto the book-cover appears a bit random, but is still not wanton. Transposition is non-predictive and therefore neither representational nor inferential in the sense of being deductive.

Rather, it features an experimental element residing in parallel shifts, in what is known and in the knower, that are going on in each their own time: which is probably the main reason why the book should have a relevance for anyone interested in the artistic reader (as a reader, an artist or as a reading artist). The apparatus of search and research are entangled in a sense referred to in Karen Barad’s widely referenced work Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007).

In experimental systems (Reinberger) action is deeply implied rather than controlled, a child of epistemic noise (Malaspina) rather than given meanings, contingencies—alongside and materially contaminating tactilities—that can transform opposite terms (such as site and non-site in Robert Smithson’s work) to work as point and counterpoint: exceeding the medium to operate according to a complex open logic, engendering alongside ways of knowing.

Since Schwab, in his introduction, makes claims for a ‘notional practice’ of transposition—as an aesthetico-epistemic operator—to work within artistic practice, but also with artistic practice, it is clear that that the affinities between the pieces in the anthology, and their development across the volume, deserves the be elaborated by the attentive reader. Which is what is attempted in the following: picking up on rhythms, concrescence and ultimately transduction.

 

A—Research-generic references

In François Laruelle’s non-philosophy (2017) our search and query, inasmuch as it is implicated with the unified matrix of the real (radical immanent), is generic. I am suggesting that this sense of the generic is relevant in those contributions in the volume in which the hallow of references—or fringes—bring about an implication of their subject matters, that may tease out the affinities between them (or epistemic noise) as they become parsed by the operations of a reader.

 

a) Rosi Braidotti sets the political pitch for the topic. The article is a synthesis and retrospective of an earlier publication (Braidotti, 2006) with the same title: Transpositions. She outlines and foresees a set of alternative practices—that are counter-posed to a currently prevailing techno-cultural fundamentalist ideology, rooted in a single idea (Tourraine) and grafted on US hegemony—a power-critique of the capitalist schizotopia (Deleuze).

The nomadism she proposes is multiple and ethical, critical and sustainable, cartographic and normative, in transposable moves that proceeds by leaps and bounds, without being deprived of their logic nor coherence. A pragmatic amor fati that sheds habits as cumulated toxins, and instead transform desire into consciousness, as the erotic and political dimensions of desire converge on environmentally sustainable life-ways: Transposing if so-what then-where to?

What she adds to post-structuralist parlance is a kind of radicant itinerancy, with claims on consistency—between premises and conclusions—grounded as an archaeological query (rather than as a formal requirement over and above life as it unfolds): that is, to excavate the contingencies of life as it unfolds. The position and situation of the knower, transposes unto the positionality and situatedness of knowledge-claims (Haraway). Onto-ethical unto epistemic.

Title: “Transformations”

 

b) Esa Kirkkopelto articulates transposition within the purview of artistic research. His reduction of scope comes through as pragmatic and useful. It operates within the realm of hypothesis and scientific method. He is asking the timely question of whether—despite their differences—artistic research can be seen as a continuation of the modernist avant-garde, overcoming the difference between art and life. The cost of obviating the reality of art in research.

The modernist turn away from representation in art, in some sense constitutes an artistic drift that invents art as it turns away from it. The aesthetic regime, however, continued to be a marketable form of appropriation. As art turned to research it may have attempted to remain true to the former attempts at liberating art—in modernism—working more broadly on a critique of appropriation, through the operations of a transponent (~correspondent).

The transponent is an (artistic) agent that succeeds at becoming indigenous on non-mimetic terms (cf. Bourriaud 2009). Kirkkopelto proposes a model of transposition—i.e. the transponent agency operating across fields—as a type of invention (with its own rhythm and logic) that is uncanny in its inception, pierces the context, becomes a vehicle of its own change, the constructed realities of other fields in dis-play, as the reality of art turns to method.

Title: “Abandoning Art in the Name of Art: Transpositional Logic in Artistic Research”

 

c) Lucia D’Errico takes the reader on a journey venturing, as it were, a take on transposition as parcours: big leaps in musical transposition, where the inventive jeté resembles the outer edge of acceptability. This, which she names ‘aberrant likeness’, is grafted onto chapter 13 of Deleuze’s book on the painter Francis Bacon: resemblance, here, emerges as the “brutal byproduct of non-resembling means,” which she bridges to a kind of information theory.

The originality of this this essay resides in the author’s ability to articulate transposition—a concept already firmly established in the musical field—from the vantage point of the performer (rather than the composer [or, the arranger] per se). Her point is demonstrated, rather than weakened, by selecting musical examples from a repertoire that becomes contemporary through her focus on performance: though her case-examples are from Paganini and Vicentino.

The compositional angle is thereby located—situated and positioned—between listening and performing: hence a triad of angles allowing the readers to “remain in the picture”, even as the author brings her analysis into terms reverberating with information theory (in the analysis of what happens between the score and the performance seen as a transmission). With a potential to bridge between the ideas of disturbance and presence: as an anti-teleological and unnecessary fate.

Title: “Aberrant likeness: The Transposition of Resemblances in the Performance of Written Music.”

 

d) Tor-Finn Malum Fitje brings the reader into the ventures of transposition between signal and output: between the unseen of particle physics, and the historical development of quantum theory. He locates the specific problem of transposition in quantum physics to the detail of metaphor: the relocation of meaning from idea to word, from information to image, from theory to model. Metaphors can be analysed in terms of deviation from something better known.

Alien tokens of better-known types. Mathematics—the venture of quantifying space, time, matter by the vehicle of number—thereby can be considered as metaphors in physics. Like Karen Barad (ibid.), the author distinguishes carefully between the uncertainty principle (which is epistemic) and the observer-effect; and its extensions in the Copenhagen interpretation— complementarity principle of the wave/particle dyad (which is ontological).

By following the trail of metaphor in the history of modern physics—discussed alongside theories of the metaphors from the humanities—the author is bent on picking up a trail of modernism in physics, which is different from modernism in painting. Piecing together a world-view, in the light of quantum physics, rather than taking it apart (e.g. cubism in painting). It is relevant for readers to query the difference between STEM/STEAM2 subjects as one of world-views.

Title: “Transposing the Unseen: The Metaphors of Modern Physics”

 

e) Michael Schwab starts his essay by stating that expositionality can be seen as the articulation of something as something else: a special case, or a case in point, of transposition. His case analysis of Marcel Duchamp’s work—discussed in the light of Rancière and Barthes’ camera lucida—teases out its relevance within the framework of artistic research. This perspective on Marchel Duchamp he shares with Didi-Huberman (2008) and Bourriaud (2009).

Schwab’s notion of the transpositional object—featuring e.g. Duchamp's Fountain—questions its self-sameness: that is, whether it is identical or different to itself depends on the route of access. It will be un/known depending on the transpositional operations that define works as such. Transposition thereby becomes the specific interplay between work as opus operatum and as modus operandi. Schwab discusses how Duchamp’s work may have formalised this.

Quoting Duchamp’s Green Box (1934): “a/b, a being the exhibition, b being the possibilities, the ratio a/b is in no way given by a number c (a/b = c) but by the sign (/) which separates a and b”. It is not possible to convey the complexity of Schwab’s discussion here. But since the quote contributes directly to Schwab’s elaboration on transposition, it could be interesting to consider the potential of a/b—as separate—as coordinates: i.e. the transpositional object is a vector.

Title: “Transpositionality and Artistic Research”

 

f) Dieter Mersch—states (p. 267): “Thus, transpositions pertain to vectors and relational trajectories within spatial orders to which the carrier or medium and thus the material background also belong; at the same time, this makes them possible and restricts them”. Mersch goes beyond the query on self-sameness (Schwab) and the aberrant (d’Errico) to pursue transposition into the realm of alchemy: that is, what a complete transformation reveals—transmutation.

Here, transposition—as transmutation—probes the topic of world making: a phase-shift, as it were, that does not only perform a transformation in time, but a transformation of time (Wallerstein, 1991). That is, the change of both the “…structural and substantial basis of the world” (Mersch, ibid.) and (p. 277): “It is a reflectio in re, a medial or performative self-reflexivity within the thing’s constellations and their constant alterations.”  A ‘ground zero’ at which the thing reveals—shows and veils anew—before the beginning and after the end.

As when thinking not only passes into the act of painting, but to the paint itself. It is related both to form and matter. The coming together and taking apart of non/sense before—and even after—we can speak of signification. In sum, the piece elaborates the non/sense of what it means to have something (which would not otherwise have been had). In this aspect, it features as a cartography of transitions that place value before meaning: as the transposition of criticality.

Title: “Alchemistic Transpositions: On Artistic Practices of Transmutation and Transition”

 

g) Yve Lomax is concerned, in her piece, with the inappropriable character of transposition: life cannot be considered an object, and in the aspects that are linked up with objects, the paradigmatic transposition—the flare of the example and its peculiar existence (thus or such [Agamben])—makes the subject and object inseparable. The artistic value is not there to be owned, but remains alongside or adjacent, where the point of touching is also being touched.

What is the part with respect to the part? The space, the lighting, the photograph and its existence owing to its having caught something in the moment of separation (that is, as more broadly with monotypes and prints [Didi-Huberman, ibid]). Showing as indicating a photograph in space, showing as what shows in the photography, showing a moment and the paradigmatic transposition whereby the display, motif and moment of this photograph irradiates all three.

She writes (p. 300): “This is what the world can be. This is what sunlight can be. This is what a photograph can be.” And more broadly, examines what a hypothesis can be in artistic research if considered as a paradigm. A sense of how something can be had, without being possessed. She concludes that transposition—in this light—can be seen as a mode of deactivation of instrumentality/use: in sum, this is where the music begins.

Title: “Without Remainder or Residue: Example, Making Use, Transposition”

 

 

B—Research-unique references

In this section, I have categorised the references of the contributions as project-unique: where the references at some point “teach” the projects; as when research constitutes a core iterative practice—with a simile from Deleuze (1994, p.1): “To repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent. And perhaps this repetition at the level of external conduct echoes, for its own part, a more secret vibration which animates it, a more profound, internal repetition within the singular.”

 

h) Laura González reverses the idea of art as subject to the human faculty of judgement, and proposes the work of art as the analyst of the human being that stands before it. Being-in-analysis before the work of art. The work of art as it “‘evenly hovers’ its attention on us,” and the viewer becomes the patient. She asks (p. 75): “What would happen if, using the clinical setting as a transpositional tool, the artwork were the analyst and we, viewers, lay on the couch as patients?”

She asks this question, understanding psychoanalysis (Freud) with Lacan’s libertine bent for triangular freedom: 0) as an assemblage of three interrelated components; 1) psychoanalysis as a praxis; 2) psychoanalysis as a method; 3) psychoanalysis as a theory. González goes to some length to describe this practice (Freud), where the unconscious is the odd partner in practice rather than a theoretical concept. The analyst is without memory or desire (Bion).

González reserves (p. 81) “transposition to the one encounter, between work and the viewer, through the clinical setting.” This is based on a parallel between the specific settings, as the consulting room and the gallery space. That is settings as entities deserving specific attention where the work of art as an analyst features transposition, rather than transference. In this sense, she brings a narrower focus and a broader scope to what Yve Lomax relates in her essay.

Title: “Work of Art as Analyst as Work of Art”

 

i) Leif Dahlberg discusses transposition in the light of a collaborative project between Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno: Annlee (1999-2003) in what I understand as a ‘vectorial narrative’. The journey to the centre of the Earth (Jules Verne) and the voyage to the Moon (Neil Armstrong): the one imaginary the other real, the real occasioned by the imaginary—two co-ordinates:  the vectors in a tangled narrative that the author explores throughout his essay.

The essay discusses transposition as metalepsis: or, the looping relation between fact and fiction, where the imaginary feeds forward to the real. A strange loop, in which learning can mean removal: featuring Annlee’s lunar soliloquy, where speculations about life on earth appear against the backdrop of the desolate reality of the moon. Here, transposition is not limited to metaphor: since the uncanny is an acting force, multiplied as Annlee suddenly speaks with Armstrong’s voice.

The metalepsis proliferates—through the re-doubling of narrative and description—as though through a contagious touch, not only with the span of a collaborative project involving Huyghe and Parreno, but also because Annlee has been addressed and animated by several artists. The author rounds up some reflections on how their collaborators did no lose their rights in the project, and how the disseminated relations of ownership have affected the afterlife of the project.

Title: “Annlee; or, Transposition as Artistic Device”

 

j) Hanns Holger Rutz defines configurations as opposite to systems focussing on (p. 149) “the productive potential of the representations that its elements both entail and operate on.” Echoing Dahlberg’s reflections on metalepsis above, he grants the concept of ‘representation’ a second life in presenting re-configuration as transposition (with the potential as a key-notion, when the objective is to disengage the substitutional logic prompted by representation).

In its direct reference to Shannon (1948, and others) the pieces is an invitation to reflect on information as transposition. He writes (p. 151): “If the correspondence model and the reversibility of coding are dismissed, then one has to take a fresh look at the process of coding itself instead of its end points.”  He thereby moves from coding as a tool to obtain accuracy, according to the symbolic model of communication, to algorithms taking over the programme.

The algorithmic object can change due to reconfiguration. Algorithms are ‘rhythmic events’ (Ikoniadou, 2014) extending to other phenomena as writing, or formulations modelling data-reconfigurations. He writes: “By tentatively accepting this pulsation, we may tackle the problem of how to proceed from an experience of algorithmic agency to a written account thereof.” The essay comes out as an open-cast with the hum-and-buzz of the Transpositions project.

Title: “Algorithms under Reconfiguration”

 

[Claude Shannon’s (1948 p.2) diagram of a general communication system]:

 

Barth – Transpositions review Fig. 2

 

k) Birk Weiberg proposes that to understand photography as transposition (p. 177) “means that there are not two states but two positions for the same thing.” Transposition can therefore engage a particular way of seeing photography, as the single event of connection between two places. The author develops this idea from a case on Alfredo Camerotti, and aesthetic journalism. And uses this as a pivot to broaden and multiply the scope and articulation of transposition.

His take on transposition brings to the fore a shift from a) photography bringing to public attention aspects of common events that escapes in daily life, to b) the potentially (ibid.) “…never-ending process of shifts, displacements, and assemblies not offering any stable position.” He sees the potential of developing a research practice based on transpositional photography, because photography—at the difference from written documents—do not aim at universal validity.

In the works of Marc Augé on non-places—somehow extending from the art-space as a foreign place—he sees the potential of expanding the work of transpositional photography to a larger scope of urban connectivity between places, and the potential for transpositional photographs in allowing knowledge to be created without themselves being representational. Weiberg’s essay contributes to linking transposition with multiplication and proliferation.

Title: “Speculations on Transpositional Photography”

 

l) Hans-Jörg Rheinberger makes a statement of transposition as the operation that takes things out of their context of use, and (p. 215) “…brought into a constellation where we can marvel at and do things with them.” In this sense, transposition is the infra-experimental operation that activates a model: which in turn presents the transposition, as it were, and allows a certain range of secondary level operations on it. The model is thereby an active model.

The model as a kind of mise-en-œuvre of the transposition (p. 219): “models operate in and through a medium that presupposes an ontic cut with respect to the target phenomenon, the epistemic thing in question”. They present themselves as reconfigurations within a particular data-space: they are broader the data they do things with, but they are narrower—and less distinct—than a theory; they can be mathematical, diagrammatic or materialised in paper.

Models are holistic and relational, but never over and above: they are immersive and inhabit the data-space. As fringe-theories they articulate with hermeneutic ontologies (Heidegger, Derrida, Lévi-Strauss). They are also ubiquitous in scientific laboratories (p, 218): “Traces produced in an experiment are usually of a volatile character. In order to work with them in what can be called a data space, they have to be made durable.” Dual transposition yields individuation.

Title: “Transpositions: From Traces through Data to Models and Simulations”

 

m) Cecile Malaspina features an extant reading of Émile Bréhier (the historian of classical philosophy) as a framework for discussing the shared use of transposition in theory and praxis. She argues that transposition is one of the principles—which she defines as (p. 226) “…as a first step with an enduring regulative function”—allowing the Platonic dialogues to articulate with one another. The trail of transposition leaves a trace of contingencies.

She writes (p. 232): “When Brehier placed the idea of transposition at the epicentre of a turning point in thought, namely at the consolidation of philosophical reflection in the dialectical method, the question he left open for us is, what is transposition?” What is its work in how the relation between question and answer is constructed (dialogue between ideas and evidence)? Transposition is varied: its operational range and objectives are multiple.

Transposition prompts and parses structural and conceptual variation. She concludes (p. 242): “transposition can be understood as a method of permutation, whose degree of freedom ranges from the formal rules of axiomatic systems to the poetic license of metaphor, and whose complexity reaches into the most advanced domains of non-Euclidian geometry, no less than into the informal complexity of cultural semantic systems.”

Title: “Transposition”

 

n) Paulo de Assis offers the reader the opportunity to go deeper into the relation between transduction (Simondon, 1964)—as the (p. 245) “…dynamic operation by which energy is actualised, moving from one state to the next, in a process that individuates new materialities”—and a case, informed by a musical practice, that includes both composition and performance. Featuring the concepts of haecceity (singularity) and corporeality (somatic transduction).

His grounding-case is Brahms Piano Concerto. He takes great care in describing the performance of the solo-pianist in the details of what s/he perceives and intercepts from the orchestra. This is the virtual backdrop of piano-performance, which de Assis insists in the sense that a reservoir of topological singularity is real to a performer. The case-work is valuable because it explains the nature of the more theoretical errands that he has with Simondon.

De Assis gives an exposé of transduction as inherent in Simondon’s expanded notion of physics. He writes (p. 246): “Distinct from “induction” and “deduction,” “transduction” takes place in medias res, inside the transfer process itself. In this sense, transposition can be considered as one particular case of transduction, one that deals with measurable and quantifiable phenomena that can be observed externally.” Through/for artistic practice.

Title: “Transduction and Ensembles of Transducers: Relaying Flows of Intensities”

 

C—Research-specific references

This referential hallow is linked to the way each of the contributors invite the readers to react on specific materials to prompt the reflections growing out from them. These materials range from art-works, the text-materials of the essay we are reading or a situation evoked for the purposes of connecting the reader environmentally, as it were, to the subject matter of the essay. The reader is, in some way, invited to inhabit and join in with the material at hand.

 

o) Annette Arlander gives a detailed account of Animal Years: in which she raises the question of how to perform landscape by bringing attention to changes within it: seasonal, meteorological, climatic and environmental changes. This she did through twelve one-year projects, video-recorded on the Harakka Islands (off the coast of Helsinki), and each dedicated to an animal in the Chinese calendar. Over the period of a year she returned to the exact same spot, to intercept background-events.

She writes (p. 46): “Each year I looked for a new perspective on the landscape, a new aspect of the environment, and a new kind of relationship between the human body and the place. These variations from year to year, in contrast to the repetitions taking place within one year, can be understood as transpositions of the basic idea of a weekly visit to the same place.” She moved in the borderland between performance, video and environmental art. Her framework is articulate.

She asks: “Why are some practices easily rerouted or re-sited, while others are hard to transpose?” Though transpositions generate the objects they appear to be operating on, they are also embodied agencies with tendencies of their own. Her framework features Karen Barad’s quantum theory of matter and meaning (2007), in which the apparatus produces both bodies and phenomena—by transposition—with genealogical elements used to study entanglement.

Title: “Calling the Dragon, Holding Hands with Junipers: Transpositions in Practice”

 

p) David Pirrò states (p. 135): “I regard this text as a diffraction. The object being diffracted is the concept of transposition and the obstacle, the slit that it encounters, is the need to formulate this very text”. To him, transpositions are aesthetic speculations into topics as weak measurements, quarks, behaviour, oscillations and collisions: the collisions as interaction, generative of compounds and complexity. His speculations are almost shouted at the reader.

Behaviour is complex, compounds are complex, analysis is a strong measurement, complexification elicits behaviour. A transposition is not an analysis. A transposition is a complexification. “This text is a complexification”. The transposition term is a noun. Transpositions afford connections. A transposition is a compound. Transpositions are differential. Transpositions resist integration. Transpositions are incomparable. Transpositions are recursive.

His modern statements disseminated as diffractive elements in the text, and are conceptually networked. He concludes (p. 147): “A transposition, while being a work of art, is not under the complete control of the artists who produced it, in the sense that it offers an openness to be seen, perceived, or thought in different ways to how it was first conceived.” Transposition is a model. David Pirrò was a member of the Transpositions project (cf, Hanns Holger Rutz, above).

Title: “Staging Collisions: On Behaviour”

 

q) Mika Elo—“Right now I am sitting on a balcony in Bremen (and now as well). This sentence was born on a gentle summer evening on that balcony (the parentheses were added a couple of weeks later in Helsinki). Other sentences might be formulated on a chilly morning (actually today is that kind of day) or in the night, in a completely different mood, probably in some other place, perhaps even under an umbrella in an outside location” (p, 281).

The problem (ibid.): “A some point, the afterlife of a text outweighs the history of its origins.” The author seeks to address what he calls the artistic research syndrome. What are its symptoms? One is the displacement of sense—in the dual meaning explored and exploited by Deleuze (e.g. 1969)—in a way that particularly hones Elo’s query on transposition. The ineffable changes at the border between art and academia; they call for sensitivity and dexterity.

The mediality of sensing makes it prone to become a vehicle of weak changes, because it operates in its own multi-dimensionality and alongside non-human agencies. He queries the potential of ‘magical writing’—referring e.g. to Walter Benjamin and Martin Buber—for the detection of such changes. He writes (p. 286): “The distinctive character of Benjamin’s critique […] underlines the importance of ‘media sensitivity’ in the processes of explication”. A caution!

Title: “Ineffable Dispositions”

 

Epilogue

This review has evolved to become a commentary. It is written on the assumption that each contribution in the book can be understood as: i) a clarification of the notion of transposition; ii) as intervention in the context of the book. The present commentary can be understood accordingly: i) as clarification; ii) as intervention. It is consistent with the idea that the present book is a transposition of transposition (cf. Schwab on camera lucida).

The guiding idea has been to bridge the gap between the book as conceived and the book as it is, as the specific material for this review; a case in point of transposition. It is based on the didactic gesture of providing the potentially interested, concerned or affected reader with a sample. At the same time it somehow seeks to re-double a practice: the transpositions featuring in the book—within/between the chapters—the transposition featuring in the review.

It thereby represents a bid on how transposition may teach us something about exposition (Borgdorff & Schwab, 2013) as a ‘dynamic ground-zero’ where a count-up crosses paths with a count-down; where the re-doubling of practice does not result in a meta-perspective—in the sense of articulating over-and-above the book—but is somehow orthogonal to what is transposed. In this case, the chapters of a book, where the commentary features a specific volume:

 

Barth – Transpositions review, Fig. 3

 

Reading the book therefore goes beyond observation, in the sense that it does more than affect a phenomenon (the book as an entangled object). Instead, it features each contribution at the crossroads between a linguistic proposition and an act; where the book-object is a ground-zero of proposition and action. This constitutes the first of 3 steps of articulating intention (as a trans-individual entity), a necessary dimension of any book, yet impossible to articulate.

It is not/part of the book, any book (or any readable book). The review thereby is a bridge between the book, as editorially conceived, and the book as it is (i.e., as found, negotiated and unknown): that is, a specific book. Here, specificity is considered an attribute of contingency: or a precisation (Næss, 1993) of contingency. Transposition, then, appears as an intermediary operation between ground zero (camp-base) and specificity (as the summit) with some steepness.

If seen in this way, transposition exceeds the framework of invention (Eco, 1975) to what Agamben (2008, quoting Melandri) calls a signature: that is, a ‘sign within a sign’, that articulates when it is played and otherwise is silent (as Schwab states in his essay, p. 205: “Transpositions must be made or missed”). Here transposition can be seen as something which is present in a sense of post-symbolic communication (Lanier, 2010) at ground-zero, before precisation.

Transposition, in this sense, is an interstitial concept tied to operations in a between-space. As stated by Schwab (ibid.): “While my mind can certainly be part of a transposition, it literally can only ever occupy one position without turning spatio-temporal positionality into a metaphor allowing my mind to ‘occupy’ multiple ‘positions’ and ‘transpositions’ between them.” One might conclude that exposition is an interstitial space for transpositions in vitro.

So, the ineffable and multiple character of transposition does not derive from its being ultimate or transcendental, but interstitial. Which is why the rearrangement of the numbered sequence chapters (the sequence in the book— first diagram) in the lettered chapters (the sequence in the commentary—second diagram) should be understood as a sequence (the book) and its consequence (the commentary); where sequence is to consequence as text is to context.

The difference, however, is that in the sequence/consequence relation the terms are alongside/adjacent to each other in the work of reading, while they are orthogonal in the commentary, as suggested by the second diagram above. The rationale for adding a commentary to the review is that it brings up a third level which is neither tied to the sequence of the book, nor to the consequence of the commentary, but to what I have referred to in the preamble: book-production.

Sequence and consequence are here considered as the transformational half-chains (Simondon, 1964) producing a container for contents belonging to neither. The interaction between them is communicative, the information generated from this interaction is a seed: in concept a transposition (the idea of a book), in action a transduction (the foray of this book). The book is not an individuated entity, but prompting/parsing a process of individuation.

The ‘end of the book’ is here understood in the sense of Derrida (1967) rather than Barthes (2010): if the ‘end of the book’ is the reader, it is because the reader produces the book (and in an extended sociocultural sense partakes of the book-production). Or, in more ethical terms (Braidotti, 2006): if the ‘end of the book’ is the reader, the reader should produce the book, in the sense that responsibility is also the ability to respond, as Derrida to Paul de Man (1987).

Digital technology may not entail the end of the book, in the sense that we will not have books: but the future of the book, which is structurally intended to be the reader’s (as has always been), may summon a readership on the same lines as the ‘fourth wall’ in theatre. The naming of this challenge, which already exists at the level of practices in digital space, may be a good place to round up: the contemporary book-review as a learning theatre.

That is, a ‘transposition of a transposition’ in which is involved the categorematic of individuation—as a formative and energetic process—differing from the problematic of self-sameness (Simondon, 2005). If Marcel Duchamp’s ratio a/b—discussed in Schwab’s piece—is conceived as a complex number /A + Bi/ the sum does not imply a dialectical synthesis of the terms, but a vector: that is, rather the mediation between the terms than their conflation in a third.

It is on this basis that the experiment has been made—in this commentary—to change the route-of-access to the constituent chapters by shifting from their numbered sequence to the lettered one, which is consequent in the sense that the terms of each review-section—project- (A) generic; (B) unique and (C) specific—highlight reading-directions, or routes of access, that exists in some vectorial sum in all of them: /A + Bi = C/. Where C is readability.

The main reference for this idea is François Laruelle (2017 and elsewhere) about the role of the complex number i —defined as the square root of -1, when squared gives -1—in his proposal for a First Science: featuring the matrixial field in which clones, entities that are transcendental by a factor X, unfold from a radically immanent unity (1-in-1). His ideas on cloning resemble transposition, to venture the present attempt. The complex number is Lacan’s quart de tour.

Where readability is specific—as materialised in the above chart—the references in each contribution are diversely (project-) generic and unique. Readability may well be a condition for transduction: that is, a transposition working in medias res—in a phase located between the ‘ground-zero’ of reading a text-volume (between proposition and action), and its precisation: Not ultimate and transcendent but interstitial (and in this sense immanent).

A worthwhile transduction may reside within the SAP-string: science-art-philosophy—whereby science and art are set to work on the investigation of philosophy. Not to come up with philosophical investigations, but to provide an open-cast of metaphors that philosophy cannot come up with on its own. This form of accountability within philosophy (not before philosophy) appears to be a Leitmotif throughout the present volume: clarification is tactical information.

The method used in this commentary is sampled from Norman Potter’s (1990) Models and Constructs—Margin Notes for a Design Culture. More precisely, points 2 and 3 in his 20 (+0) literalist precepts: §2—Seek always the resident principles; §3—Find them where they belong, in the job itself. The third term of the transposition—in effect a transduction—is taken from Karl Gerstner’s (1964) application of the Zwicky Box in design.

 

 

Zwicky Box as shown in Gerstner’s MoMA exhibition catalogue in 1973
Zwicky Box as shown in Gerstner’s MoMA exhibition catalogue in 1973

 

It is a theoretical system of drawers that can be pulled out from 3 sides: (A) horizontal, (B) vertical and (C) perspective. The three paragraphs devoted to each contribution in the Transpositions volume can be seen in these terms: that is, as sample combinations from a much larger pool/archive: which is to be found in each of the chapters in the volume. It is with these closing remarks, that I sincerely wish all the people who have been with me, a good read!

 

 

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Biography

Theodor Barth is an trans-disciplinary anthropologist based in Oslo/Norway. He holds a professorship in theory & writing at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO). His Dr. Philos. is in social anthropology (on ritual understandings and citizenship). He has developed a framework for involving writing in artistic practice called the 'learning theatre'. He has been engaged in book projects—as author and editor—with architects, artists and designers and more recently with experimental archaeologists. In his current artistic research he focussing on "excavating" the notion of memes, as a take on how the body learns: material communication, interactive ecologies, tactical information, resurrection of artistic contents, in inter-medial spaces one step off digital platforms. He currently works at the Design Dept. at KHiO.

  • 1. In my reading the cover lends itself to an idea of the combined dictionary and encyclopaedia which Umberto Eco saw in the Model Q (Model Quillian). The idea being to combine trees with nodes in a network. Eco, Umberto. (1975). Trattato di semiotica generale, Milano: Bompiani. For his part, Schwab states the following about the cover (p.19): “Drawings, such as the one on the cover of this book, are the only way I can think of transpositions, a fact Gerhard reminded me about when he pointed out that it was in my artist’s book Paris (Schwab 2008, 2nd ed. 2013b), which was commissioned and edited by Yve, in which I first conceived of my drawings as ‘photography . . . transposed’ (Schwab 2013b, 11).”
  • 2. STEM-subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEAM subjects: the same but incorporating A: Art, Architecture, Archaeology, Archaeology (as suggested by Ingold, 2013).