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Speculations III ::: Yuting Zou on Joseph Nechvatal’s nOise anusmOs Installation


Speculations IIISpeculations III
Yuting Zou on Joseph Nechvatal’s nOise anusmOs Installation
Published at:
Joseph Nechvatal’s nOise anusmOs installation
Galerie Richard, New York, April 12-May 26, 2012
by Yuting Zou
Independent Researcher
“The task of perception entails pulverizing the world,
but also one of spiritualizing its dust.”1
Black is the “color” of undivided
nothingness and simplicity that
has yet been penetrated by light.
Black is immanent to itself. Entering the Galerie Richard, black
was arguably my instant impression of Joseph Nechvatal’s
nOise anusmOs installation, for most of this new series of
paintings are unified by a black background. Against the
black backdrop are complicated webs of alternating red and
white, they suggest many ambiguous and provocative images
of corporeal surfaces. Here, sfumato plays a role in slightly
reducing the contrast of colors by adding a smoky and subtle
layer to the otherwise pixelated images. The entire room is
filled with immersive noise, from the visual noise (digital
virus) inside the pictorial frame to its audial extension into
the ambient space through the “viral symphony.” Bathed
in a continuity of noise, it appeared to me that the overall
composition of this body of work was more sparse and plural
than before, and more speculative.
On the black canvases, the potencies of color start to unfold.
Each painting is an autonomy of the inside, and it records
the life of the tiny automata—artificial viruses. Those automata
are equipped with sensory systems that allow them to
perceive their local environment, detect enemies, and react
accordingly. While, in most of the artist’s previous works, the
macroscopic corporeality is decomposed by the microscopic
into visible or invisible traces, the majority of this new series
reverse the scheme, as the microscopic is used to generate
the macroscopic, the cosmological. The artificial viruses are
creative agents that resemble Leibnizian monads—simple
substances that are living mirrors of the entire universe,
projections of a phantasmagorical phenomenon, and each
an indivisible autonomous enclosure of infinite minute
perceptions. A cluster of viruses start from an indiscernibly
close vicinity, with almost indistinguishable perceptions,
then form infinitesimal differential relations, and unfold
the color pixels underneath their paths. As time goes by, the
integration of minuscule differentials gives a clear perception
of chiaroscuro of varied degrees. By that increasingly
sharp chiaroscuro, the two-fold image is made visible: the
human anus (or retina) and the black hole (or wormhole).
As such, through viruses’ own mild (confused) perceptions,
their vibrating trajectories become a filter for a distinct perception
towards a threshold of consciousness. This process is
captured into an actualized work of art. Looking upon them,
vision sees vision.
Under dim lighting, the gallery room simulates a universal
theater, where various media coexist to form a bel composto
(beautiful assemblage) of many arts—the electronic “viral
symphOny,” computer-robotic assisted acrylic on canvas,
video animations, and a projection. Nonetheless, the mixedmedia
unity is a mind-boggling one, a mixture of mystery
and indecency, just like the “permanent happening” on the
altar stage of the Cornaro chapel. That is, Bernini’s marble
sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, where St. Teresa is portrayed
as a young woman in tunic at the height of her spiritual transport.
As she recalled in her autobiography, she experienced
both physically and spiritually an intense sweet pain that
caused her to moan, when all her entrails were penetrated
and drawn out by a golden arrow during a gravity-free levitation. 2
Somehow reminiscent of that, the close-ups of human
anus or retina are nomadically linked to the black holes or
wormholes, through which an imaginative cosmological teleportation
takes place. In that silent flight of noise, bodies are
pulverized into weightless dusts, becoming a homogeneous
whole with the boundless unknown and the inexperienceable,
reaching the ultimate ecstasy. Moreover, in the light of
his own theory, the typical strategy of Nechvatal’s art works
is to invoke “an infliction of a pleasant frustration that can
lead to creative visualization,” which can also be observed
from the audience’s reaction. Unlike his previous style that
is characterized by overlapping two incompossible strata of
the actual and the virtual, this time, the actual human retina,
anus, or cosmological singularities, are progressively weaved
into the fabric of the virtual noise, resulting in an emergent
“viractual” (a term coined by the artist).3
It is a pleasure to see how these strands of virtual particles move on to unfold the magic tapestries that depict the moment of creation. However,
they diverge quickly, lose their way in the labyrinth of the
black chaosmos, and have only a brief existence from the
undifferentiated black, back to black. Perhaps, all this echoes
with what Francois Laurelle says, “(t)he World is the endless
confusion of man and Universe.”4
Given the expansive, ecstatic, non-hierarchical impression of the work, the unity of the microscopic and the macroscopic
culminates in one’s mindscape as that of the infinitely small
(infinitesimal) and the infinitely large, reflecting essentially
the Leibnizian fractal view of the infinite:
I did not definitely assert that there are infinitely many degrees of
infinities; I merely made certain conjectures, by virtue of which I
deemed this to be possible, and indeed probable. My main reason was
that there is no reason why God should have willed the existence only
of this degree of infinity or order of magnitude, which constitutes our
objects, proportioned to our intellects. I can easily conceive that, in the
smallest particle of dust, there can exist a world, in which all things
have the same relative proportions as in this large world; and, on the
other hand, that our world might be nothing but a particle of dust in
another, infinitely larger world. This way of conceiving things can be
continued upwards and downwards indefinitely.5


1 Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley, (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1993).
2 Teresa, Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, of the Order of Our Lady of Carmel. Trans.
David Lewis, ed. Benedict Zimmerman. 3rd ed. (London: T. Baker; New York:
Benziger, 1904).
3 Joseph Nechvatal, Immersion Into Noise, (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities
Press in conjunction with the University of Michigan Library’s Scholarly
Publishing Office, 2011).
4 FrançoisLaruelle, Of Black Universe in the Human Foundations of Color. The
original French essay, titled “Du noir univers: dans les fondations humaines
de la couleur,” was published in La Décision philosophique 5 (April 1988):
107-112. The English edition of this essay was first translated and published
by Miguel Abreu as “Of Black Universe in the Human Foundations of Color”
in the catalogue Hyun Soo Choi: Seven Large-Scale Paintings (New York: Thread
Waxing Space, 1991), 2-4.
5 G.W. Leibniz. Die mathematische schriften von Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz, vol.
III , C. I. Gerhardt (ed), (Berlin & Halle, 1849-55): p 503–4.

download of Speculations: Journal of Speculative Realism, No. 3

download of Speculations: Journal of Speculative Realism, No. 3 (2012)