1 16 The The first question is this no doubt : why have I waited until the last moment? The second : why this title, why this opening? The third : why start by asking these questions? Georges Perec, Je suis né Moyen Complet Kim Schoen
2 What is the Moyen Complet? For the purposes of this essay, the moyen complet may be translated or interpreted to mean : the medium complete, the medium finished, the middle complete, the unfinished finished, the median way, the sort-of typology, the fragment (but not really), the average complete. The writings of Georges Perec have been the in iration for my title and hence the naming of this phenomenon, which will henceforth be described, is in French. 1.0 HOW TO BEGIN : MAKE A LIST I will begin to explain the moyen complet using a compound word I came across while reading about Deleuze, Gregg Lambert s The Non Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze : indecision-hesitation- ammering 01. It seems quite orderly to use these three words as a compound thematic to explicate my idea for this essay. But I have now begun by making a li ; an introdu ory thematic that has nothing to do with any of the three words in the compound. No matter. Authors of critical texts come up with categories that may seem quite aunch and logical, but it occurs to me that they had to make up those categories to begin with, and there could have been more, or less, or different ones. As an example, Henri LeFebvre, in Rhythmanalysis, uses a classification of rhythms that includes a.) Secret rhythms, b.) Public rhythms, c.) Fi ional rhythms, and d.) Dominating-dominated rhythms. In the book, there are varying typographic expressions of these titles : semi-bold italics, bold, plain italics. I found myself daydreaming of other categories that could have been used and ju ified in this li, such as e.) Flagellated rhythms. We will let these conflations of categories entangle themselves at the get-go. This leads me to bring up another point : the idea of an absurd universe, where meaning is not provided by the natural order, but rather can be created, provisionally and un ably, by human beings a ions and interpretations. 02 Kim Schoen The Moyen Complet seventeen 01. Lambert, G. (2002). The Non-Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, New York and London : Continuum Books. 02. Description found using an online dictionary, in the nascent note-taking phase of this essay.
3 1.1 The Absurd : Inviting Ridicule Absurd incongruous ; inviting ridicule ; the absurd excuse that the dog ate his homework ; that s a cockeyed idea ; ask a nonsensical que ion and get a nonsensical answer ; a contribution so small as to be laughable ; it is ludicrous to call a cottage a mansion ; a prepo erous attempt to turn back the pages of hi ory ; her conceited assumption of universal intere in her rather dull children was ridiculous. 03 Kim Schoen It is ludicrous to call a cottage a mansion. This essay will therefore ay with the terms of the cottage. Overarching ideas about tidy, theoretically logical orders, while enticing, have always prompted in me a slight su icion. To explain everything, without exception, no loose ends it would indeed be thrilling and elegant! I really would like to explain everything without exception regarding my theory about the moyen complet. In this I admittedly invite ridicule. But isn t this how everyone arts off, imagining a finish beyond one s wilde dreams, excited for the future? 2.0 INDECISION It was Beckett who wrote, I can t go on. I ll go on, but I can t help thinking that mo times it is the proportionally more morose inverse that applies : I ll go on. I can t go on. People get excited at the beginnings of things. But as time passes and agitation increases due to the varying fru rations that accompany ambition, a ivity wanes. One of the reasons for the oppage is the case of indecision. The moyen complet attempts to describe a phenomenon in photography : the making of a series, whereupon a maker begins something caught between two impulses : 1) a preoccupation with categorizing and classifying, and 2) an aversion to the hi orically perverted uses of typologizing and, as an addendum to this, 2.1) a sidelong glance towards the more romantic form of the fragment. eigthteen 03. Another online dictionary swipe.
4 Caught in this bind between 1, 2 (and 2.1), the finish of a series becomes not logically impossible, but humanly impossible. Trapped in a disfigured binary, unable to avoid the beginning impulse towards segmentation and classification, but unable to finish due to the su icion of the attempt, the series as moyen complet ops in this middle ground, fertilizing it. I interviewed the arti Nicholas Grider in the beginning of my research for this essay, since I su e ed we had some things in common regarding our ideas about the series in photography. Nicholas is building a typological archive entitled Men in Suits. The men are mo ly white middle-aged males, performing the trope of being a man in a business suit. He explains : But nobody s photographed at work, nor at an office, and mo of the people I ve photographed a ually aren t businessmen, and they only put the suit on ecifically for the photo, and it's not necessarily a suit that fits them well or one that they re comfortable wearing. Nicholas said that it became about the men engaging with this one kind of identity, but not really having the background for it, not having the field to the ground of it. He goes on to say, Although the series has ri limitations associated with it, it s a theoretically unbounded proje, it could be iterable with many, many more men. A typology not being able to be completed is the thing I m really intere ed in about typologies. It s not a neutral sort of thing, the typology (i.e., taking pi ures of all the people in a prison sy em and trying to catalog people like that, then con ru ing the archetype of what a criminal was supposed to look like, solely upon looking at composites of the images). But it s an intere ing tool to try to use, e ecially dealing with the kinds of content where you wouldn t expe a typology to happen. Nicholas feels that people often fall back on the typology, e ecially within photographic pra ice, because of the documentary ties that photography ill has, even when migrated towards a contemporary art The Moyen Complet nineteen
5 Kim Schoen landscape. I agree with him. Typologizing attempts to ward off chaos. Its initial impulse is to generalize and then encompass particulars. The poet Robert Hass argues that in our fir experience of the world, we are clued to the hope of a shapeliness of things, which, he argues, is the psychological basis for the power and necessity of the arti ic form. To begin with the infant looking-out-of-the-eyes and seeing phenomena organize themselves, and thinking this is going to happen and having it happen might be, then, the authentic source of the experience of being, of identity, which implies that a lot of things are the same thing. 04 Camus writes that to under and is, above all, to unify. It could be a natural impulse of human consciousness. 05 When I think about typologies, it s about trying to extra some sort of generalization from a group of similar obje s, says Nicholas. Within a colle ion of, say, men, you d have a typology of what businessmen look like, or a typology of what a policeman looks like, or a typology of what a gay 27-year-old a or-model looks like. You know, you can retch things into that kind of universality, which is really, really troubling as well, and not finishable because you probably can t photograph all the policemen in the world, also problematic because there s no way that universality that s implied ever works. What I am trying to do is engage these ideas how there s a typological impulse that we all have to organize our worlds that doesn t quite work, and it comes from different ideologies that influence us. Pointing out the flaws and problems of the typology is important to me. Once perverted, the typology gives a platform to criticize or further inve igate other typologies, which is also fun. The typology is so very tempting. So very tempting to want to di ribute the entire world in terms of a single code. A universal law would then regulate phenomena as a whole : two hemi heres, five continents, masculine and feminine, animal and vegetable, twenty 04. Hass, R. One Body : Some Notes on Form, in Claims for Poetry, Donald Hall, editor. University of Michigan, 1982, p Camus, A. (1955). The Myth of Sisyphus & Other Essays, New York : Knopf, p. 13.
6 singular, plural, right, left, four seasons, five senses, six vowels, seven days, twelve months, twenty-six letters. Unfortunately, this doesn t work, has never even begun to work, will never work. Which won t op us from continuing for a long time to come to categorize this animal or that according to whether it has an odd number of toes or hollow horns. Georges Perec, Think/Classify Forming a single code : it seems so right in its neatness. But then, the inevitable entropy and disillusionment created in the backwash of the utopia. The potency of the two poles of order and chaos arti s oscillate between is rong. And the vibrating, almo radioa ive indecision one finds oneself caught in creates a field for the absurd. Fischli & Weiss s series Airports ( ) is a produ of this tension. As the Tate Modern press release says, the series focuses on the banal side of air travel ; the fuel vehicles, the baggage trucks It is a photographic subje mo often documented by amateur photographers : travelers beginning the narrative of their vacations, or advertising brochure photographers trying to highlight the indu riousness of the tarmac for an annual report. This quasi-typology was shown alongside Flowers/Mushrooms ( ) at the Tate to create an even larger field of contradi ion. The large-scale use of color photography parodies today s penchant for such presentations, and the ubiquitousness of the subje matter and the color-po er yle of the composition (sunsets, flatness) teases the luxe di lay even further. One is caught between completely letting go and luxuriating in the giant photographs, and laughing at seeing what is usually quite a serious subje the typology treated as kitsch. Fischli & Weiss said they made sure to photograph in certain dramatic weather conditions for the airports, which lent them a pensive dramatic quality the pensive dramatic quality of airplanes being refueled. The Moyen Complet twenty-one
7 Kim Schoen These series are not exhau ive, and their absurdity re s in the effort to typologize even the mo banal of subje s. The making up of provisional orders, a penchant for the ridiculous and the absurd these are endearing habits of the moyen complet. The world in itself is not reasonable, writes Camus ; that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. 06 This longing for clarity awns typologies, ordering, sy ems. They all art off orderly enough. But again, as Camus says, it is always easy to be logical. It is almo impossible to be logical to the bitter end. 07 The ate of the absurd is a con ant vacillation between these poles, never an abandonment of either. One of the absurd joys is indeed creation in the middle of this delirious universe ; we are left to describe, to enrich, to fill the field with multiplicities. Fischli & Weiss create a new middle ground, one where enjoyment can take hold. rat : Suddenly this overview. bear : The truth comes to light when you think really hard. (Both laugh.) rat : It s a joy to be this clear. bear : Order is beauty. rat : Mmmm. Only to a certain extent. I wouldn t go that far. bear : But how simple everything is, fundamentally. rat : But only a very few people can see that. bear : Not a wide read view. rat : Those poor, confused people have no idea An Addendum To Indecision Indecision is usually vilified for reducing people to inaction. Who are you if you cannot choose? People get fired for being indecisive. In terms of capitalism, indecisiveness freezes you in the interminable system of exchange that surrounds you. twenty-two 06. Ibid, p Ibid, p Fischli & Weiss, from The Least Resistance,
8 I have a bone to pick with decisiveness. It relates quite neatly to the branding and marketing of arti s in an international playing field. One is either bold or quiet, fanta ical or meticulous ; never both, never neither. Decisive choices made by arti s get picked up on and magnified. The arti is required to be decisive, even if it is decisive in regards to (shall it be a his or her?) choice to be indecisive, so that the marketplace can locate, under and, and utilize the work. It s irritating and exhau ing to always know what you mu do, as well as being extremely limiting. Nicholas says : I don t really highly value yle and what I guess you could call voice. I don t have a yle. It entirely depends on what proje I m working on. That also leads to a schizoid idea versus the idea of some person doing a particular kind of work in a particular way and that being what makes them meaningful as an arti. That common cliche of finding your voice that s complete bullshit. Because that s not how writing works, how language works within our sy em, our culture. The voice is simply a performance of a certain kind of authority over what you re doing. To find it means to ju simply arrive somewhere and op thinking. And I don t want to op thinking. Indecisiveness in an artist can produce some very exciting pathways, like the meandering burrowing of fungus on a seashell. It can be a productive force, creating new temporalities and possibilities. It can keep one going. The Moyen Complet 3.0 HESITATION This se ion begins by completely contradi ing the end of the la se ion. But Gregg Lambert has his compound word indecision-hesitation- ammering in the order that he has it, so we shall leave it without hesitation. 3.1 The Faltering What came to the surface was of the nature of the fuzzy, the uncertain, the fugitive, and the unfinished, and in the end I chose deliberately to preserve twenty-three
9 the hesitant and perplexed chara er of these shapeless scraps, to abandon the pretence of organizing them into something that would by rights have had the appearance (and sedu iveness) of an article with a beginning, middle, and end. Georges Perec, Think/Classify Kim Schoen We have all begun a sentence confident in our forward traje ory, in our ability to say something and then faltered, realizing midway that our original point has either been lo in the ether of forgetfulness, or perhaps is ju plain wrong, as we work out word that follows word. And thus, we hesitate. We know of the imposing power of the sentence. The sentence implies subje ions, subordinations, internal rea ions, says Barthes. The Sentence is complete. 09 It is made up of capitals and periods Completeness, finish, autonomy : all hazard a relationship to ma ery. Barthes says, In fa, it is the power of completion which defines sentence ma ery The professor is someone who finishes his sentences. The politician being interviewed clearly takes a great deal of trouble to imagine an ending to his sentence : and if he opped short? 10 Series made in the moyen complet often hesitate to finish their sentences. And this hesitancy forms a kind of arrhythmia in the repetition, an irregularity of pausing, creating the ops and arts that form a series. Not wanting to finish the sentence (the typology or the tautology) creates another type of series. Valérie Jouve deals with the irrational sensations of living in a city. She often clu ers her photographs into combinations of small series, or groups, depi ing bodies in relation to the archite ure they fun ion in. Photography s ability to arre, to pause a subje in mid-movement, creates in Jouve s photographs a sense of hesitation in pose, po ure, and intention. The subje s occupy midway points ; they are neither here nor there ; they are on a range tiled bench on a rooftop, about to enter a revolving door, slumped over, one foot barely touching the ground, twenty-four 09. Barthes, R. (1975). The Pleasure of the Text, New York : Hill and Wang, p Ibid, p.50.
10 about to take in a breath, turning one s head toward or away from the camera. The decisive moment turns indecisive. A large grate darkens and obscures what might have been the pi uresque flap of a man s jacket off his shoulder in the breeze. Intervals where a pause has been taken, a breath sucked in, a caesura created call to mind the diale ical image. Benjamin sugge ed that what he called a diale ical image could be a and ill, capable of halting of the endless churn of diale ical thought. An image s potential power lay in the interruption of everyday time, as shock. But Max Pensky writes that even Benjamin himself was unable to offer a coherent, intelligible account of what diale ical images were. 11 Diale ical images carry, if not their own exclusive definition, rather, a sense of potential that lingers. The pauses created from hesitancy form a sort of lingering. These intervals are hesitant and perplexed, and create an uncertain movement, one that vacillates, shilly-shally. One can begin to enjoy these pauses in themselves, without necessarily looking forward to what comes next. The intervals in Jouve s arrangements form a series of pauses and hesitations between photographs. There are linear, serial arrangements, but on the same wall, a large single photograph looms at above-normal height. Or there are small grids of photographs that appear to be of the typological sort, but next to those are diptychs and single images. The hanging creates a rhythm of potentialities (so, photographs can hang like this!). One remembers Barthes sly sugge ion that our very avidity for knowledge compels us to skim or skip certain passages (anticipated as boring ) in order to get more quickly to the warmer parts of the anecdote (which are always its articulations...) 12 The bodies travelling through the archite ure of the gallery looking at the photographs configure themselves in much the same way as the subje s of the photographs do in the archite ure of the city. A viewer can hesitate in front of Jouve s work. Barthes says that it is the very rhythm in what is read and not read that creates the pleasure 13 the pleasure and erotics of intermittence. There is no need to march from one The Moyen Complet twenty-five 11. Ferris, David S. (ed.) (2004). Method and time : Benjamin s dialectical images, by Max Pensky, in : The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin : Cambridge University Press. 12. Barthes, R. (1975). The Pleasure of the Text, New York : Hill and Wang, p Ibid, p. 11.
11 photograph to the next ; there is no need for a sy ematic progression. In this, there is pleasure in looking, hesitating, ignoring some photographs, moving quickly to some others. Kim Schoen Josef Sudek kept photographing a rose in a jam jar on the sill of his udio, but not sy ematically, and not with any great ru ure in mind. He made about seven photographs over about five years, and perhaps the days on which he photographed them had personal significance, but this significance remains unknown for the viewer. The random pauses in between, the intervals between cut flowers in drinking glasses, gives the series a natural erratic rhythm and poignancy. Jelly jar, jam jar. Rose, rose, wi eria. Barthes says that the pleasure he takes from reading and the same could be said of looking at photographs is not necessarily the triumphant, heroic, muscular type. No need to throw out one s che. My pleasure can very well take the form of a drift. Drifting occurs whenever I do not re e the whole 14 Roni Horn s Another Water is a series where a reader can drift. Produced in the form of a book, each page is another image of the shifting, opaque, swirling waters of the occasionally deadly Thames. Underneath, text runs in a thin ribbon : accounts of people or things that have been lo in the river. One can drift, or dip in and out of the text and the photographs. They are sedu ive, mercurial, running. We have now drifted from hesitation into drifting. 3.2 The Middle Ground I once saw a Chri mas tree, ill up in July, but flagging in a cement, public arena in downtown Bo on. I joked with my friend about why it was ill there. You do it, he pantomimed flatly, guessing at the conversation that might have been had between two underpaid twenty-six 14. Barthes, R. (1975). The Pleasure of the Text, New York : Hill and Wang, p. 11.
12 colleagues in a city-governing events council. Things often don t get finished because of hesitation the hesitation of procra ination, deferral, laziness, forgetfulness, blame, confusion, cancellation of funding. We are surrounded by things that have not been finished. Jean-Marc Bu amante s photographs depi the halting involved in the con ru ion of the landscape that surrounds us. He plays again ta ics of ignoring or repressing the unfinished and chooses the outskirts of important places to photograph with his large format camera. In T Bu amante shows us the foundation of a non-descript building, the brick work abandoned midway up. Never mind that this pause might have been, in real-time, simply an afternoon s re between days of labor and not an abandonment ; it figures as one in the permanent halt of the photograph. This brick outline figures as opped within the photograph, and the photograph gives it its purpose and end to and ill and represent the unfinished. Bu amente s use of photography, with its infinite capacity for the arre of obje s, is turned toward the marginally noticed, the halt of the half-finished landscape. The moyen landscape, the middle ground : trees, pipes undug, an abandoned cement block, trash not yet picked up. Middleness chara erizes not only the content of the photographs but also the arrangements of them. Bu amante s book, Bitter Almonds, begins with a middle and ends with a middle. The fir photograph in the book (none of which is numbered or titled) shows us a scene of a building covered in scaffolding, fencing, put up but slightly drooping, a ramp-like walkway that seems to lead nowhere, and some sort of red felt covering the sidewalk, which has been sullied by the crushed cement du around it. The scene is not unfinished, but part-finished. The la photograph in the book shows us this scene : in the foreground, a non-fun ioning field, broken concrete blocks jutting out from it, dry weeds colonizing it ; in the middle ground, an assortment of cars parked at odd angles ; and in the background, apartment blocks with tall antennas shooting up from them, echoing the weeds. In the middle of the book, more city scenes caught The Moyen Complet twenty-seven
13 between light and shadow, access and barrier. Both as image, and as series, Bu amante s Bitter Almonds ays halted in the middle ground, occupying it truculently. The hesitation toward finish chara erizes the moyen complet. These types of series are hesitant to say something definite. Or rather, they say something definite about hesitation. 3.3 The Trailing Off... I will probably not be able to think through or to finish any more proje s. It is as if I were to say that it would be a nice excursion on foot to Hukvaldy and back. But I could not make it all the way anymore and certainly not back. Josef Sudek Kim Schoen Elena Brotherus began a series of photographs of bridges. Their vantage point looks from a slightly lower height than an archite ural surveyor, lower than even the human eye height. This gives a slightly pathetic feel to the per e ive. Brotherus has said her intere in the bridges was because you couldn t see to the other side. Her series of bridges was never finished. Rather than setting up a sy em and fun ioning produ ively within it, the moyen complet leads one to begin something and then trail off. It leaves behind a fragment. The world contains so much mess and visual noise, says Brotherus. I have tried to mark off the intere ing and significant fragments. In doing so, she leaves behind a fragment herself. Blanchot marvels at Novalis and his novel in the vein of Marchën. And here is the remarkable trait : not only will Novalis leave this novel unfinished, but he also will sense that the only way he could have accomplished it would have been to invent a new art : that of the fragment. 15 Blanchot writes that romanticism prompted the search for a new form of completion, mobilizing the whole through its interruption twenty-eight 15. Blanchot, M. (1993). The Infinite Conversation, Minneapolis and London : University of Minnesota Press, p. 358.
14 Trailing off could be considered the romantic way to leave a field. But upon further refle ion, middleness does not have the same romantic connotations as the fragment, not entirely. Think of Pierre Bourdieu s book, Photography : A Middlebrow Art, and see what kind of sociological connotations the word middle carries ; it s closer to low-brow than high-brow. There s something not entirely lofty about the moyen complet ; it carries with it the sense of a failed goal, but one that does not reach romantic proportions. Blanchot writes that the sy em of the fragment found in the romantic, in mo particularly Friedrich Schlegel, makes possible new relations that except themselves from the whole. But, he ates, naturally, this omission or infle ion is not explained by the simple failings of personalities that are too impatient or too subje ive to reach the absolute. 16 Paul Valery was perhaps more reali ic about arti ic personalities in that he believed a work was never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfa ion, the need to deliver, or death : for, in relation to who or what is making it, it can only be one age in a series of inner transformations. Perhaps the moyen complet includes those who are too impatient, or too subje ive to reach the absolute. Starting and trailing off, arting and trailing off these arti s create many paths to follow. The Moyen Complet 4.0 STAMMERING There are times when the impulse to make photographs comes without an idea of what one really wants to photograph. It arrives with a feeling : I don t know what I want to say, but I want to say something. This is one possible reason for ammering feeling the urge to communicate but not knowing what. One begins to say something, which then turns to a confusing utterance of meaningless sounds and words. Behind this, something of the sublime lurks : one feels that what needs to be expressed surpasses reason. twenty-nine 16. Ibid, p. 359.
15 Kim Schoen Absolute fright can also cause ammering, the involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds or syllables or words. Cartoons make the mo of this signifier. One chara er ares at the looming danger behind another, and all he can do is ammer and point. Or there can be a psychological reason for ammering, then called uttering abnormal hesitations or pauses before eech, referred to by utterers as blocks, and the prolongation of certain sounds, usually vowels. Much of what con itutes uttering cannot be observed by the li ener, such as sound and word fears, situational fears, anxiety, tension, self-pity, ress, shame, and a feeling of loss of control during eech. 17 Stammering means to ruggle with finish. The middle ground of the communicative a becomes fraught with disfluency. A unit becomes superfluously repeated. Or there are unfilled pauses. Or filled pauses. The series includes random interje ions as placeholders. The repetitions in Michael Schmidt s Ein-Heit could be thought of as a kind of ammering. The series utters between found photographs, re-photographed new aper photographs, Schmidt s own photographs of people, buildings, fixtures, landscapes, and cityscapes in Germany. Schmidt flattens all sources into black and white and sizes them identically ; this is now the unification of his voice. It is a ammer now trapped under a hum. His work has been produced as a book by Steidl, and in alled in many places, recently in the 2006 Berlin Biennial as a thin ring of photographs around a large room. We see the enlarged dots of the new aper in a portrait of young girl surrounded by her family, fragments of eech from a new aper, language carved into the side of a monument, the habitually blank, white, left-hand pages of the book suddenly di urbed by an image of marching. Legs frozen in marching. A photograph of a young girl with a heavy coat of make-up, erratically repeated in slightly different pose some pages later. We see a curtain closing off a photograph, then, later, an elderly woman pulling back the drapes on her cinderblock flat. thirty 17. [accessed 20 August, 2007]
16 Schmidt himself has this to say about the reprodu ion of sources : There are many reprodu ions of b&w ra ered images from new apers or other publications, often partial, close-up views. Some seem to show the layout of concentration camps, heaps of clothes or dead bodies. The ra er artifa s and degree of magnification makes this sometimes difficult to ascertain. This seems to play on the difficulty or unwillingness of perceiving the harrowing traces of the pa, and on the difficulty of discerning its hi orical truth if access is mediated by a multitude ofreceding, di uted, overworked and reprocessed sources. 18 The push and pull of the processed and reprocessed creates a rhythm that moves backwards and forwards toward the sources of ammering. The temporal condition of the ammer is a alled present ruggling to move from the pa toward a future. This movement elicits the anxieties and tensions of culture ruggling with how to engage the morass of the present. Ein-Heit (the symbolic significance of unification) produces Schmidt s re onse. Babbling (n), lallation (n), babble out (v), blab (v), blab out (v), blather (v), blether (v), blither (v), bubble (v), burble (v), guggle (v), gurgle (v), peach (v), ripple (v), sing (v), smatter (v), talk (v), tattle (v) The Moyen Complet Roni Horn s This is Me, This is You shows us a young girl, Georgia, making faces, close up to the camera lens. Her shifting expressions are silly, serious, goofy, a rodomontade of face-pulling. The flummery of her expressions before Horn s camera both eaks of the experimental/ experiential nature of her young age and Horn s more serious idea of the mutability of identity. The movement of the portraiture is in the shifting repeating of emphasis ; each photograph of Georgia is face-as-emphasis. Georgia insi s on herself each time differently. The a of photographing is concomitant with the a of expression. (Horn is, as Gertrude Stein sugge s, talking and li ening at once). The utter of image making makes thirty-one 18. Notes on Ein-Heit by Michael Schmidt : [accessed 10 August, 2007]
17 the portrait move, not as in one after the other, but as in the shifting of emphasis the no-particular-order of modulations, mutterings, assertions, and mouthings. To ammer within a photographic series brings up all sorts of que ions about why a thought might be difficult to finish, or merely undesirable to finish, enchanted as one can be in the present a of imagemaking as murmuring or babbling. And it repetitively (and ob inately) points at that range undercurrent that keeps prompting us to want to say something. 5.0 EXHAUSTION So then I began to appeal to the exhau ing resources of the irrational. Georges Perec, Life, A User s Manual Kim Schoen Between the beginning of a series and the effort to find its own rational end lies a minefield of que ions. Perec says that in every enumeration there are two contradi ory temptations. The fir is to li everything ; the second is to forget something. The fir would like to close off the que ion once and for all ; the second, to leave it open. 19 The kinds of series that lie in the moyen complet become a kind of enumeration, not a typology. Perec says : Thus, between the exhau ive and the incomplete, enumeration seems to me to be, before all thought (and before all classification) the very proof of that need to name and to bring together without which the world ( life ) would lack any points of reference for us. One needs to enumerate ; the result is a photographic series in the moyen complet. It is not exhau ive, nor incomplete. But it can be exhau ing. Nicholas, again, on Men in Suits : How many will be enough was a que ion I kept asking myself. I did five, and that didn t seem like enough, because people were ill getting to individual psychological readings, and so I did ten, and then I did twenty, and then I thought : well, I ll ju keep going and see how the scale of this affe s the thirty-two 19. Perec, G. (1985). Think/Classify, from Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (trans. John Sturrock), London : Penguin Books, p. 198
18 proje. The jury s ill out as to how I feel about it. I arted this not with a ri number in mind, but with an idea that I m gonna pursue this rigorously or until I get really sick of it, and then I might op, temporarily or permanently. How many is enough? In terms of the infinity of the typology, it depends on how you look at it. The theoretical answer is that there s never enough. That a typology in order to be accurate would have to represent every single member of the set that it represents, and that s an impossibility in every case. What that means is that every number is arbitrary that you pick. So that makes other considerations come to the foreground, such as pra ical considerations, financial considerations, any type of other kind of consideration that enters into the making of the work. There s a certain point at which well, I left the Men in Suits at around 50 or 60 because I got tired. I get tired of like, trolling for the people, finding them, explaining the proje, getting them to do it, scheduling a time to do it, driving out to wherever they are to do it, doing it, and then, getting that film processed, printing it, and then doing another one. Certain kinds of typologies are really exhau ing. The Moyen Complet Deleuze writes of Beckett s chara ers and their inventory of peculiarities pursued with fatigue and passion. 20 This fatigue is a produ of contemplation, of the continual desire for (yet exhau ion with) making the contra ions that form our perception. In our efforts to under and, we work at a ive synthesis, drawing difference from repetition from the continual passive syntheses that con itute us. Contemplation and the forging of rational perception is an ongoing proje, one that does not re. Fatigue marks the point at which the soul can no longer contemplate what it contra s 21 But in all its component fatigues, in all its mediocre autosatisfa ions, in all its derisory presumptions, in its misery and in its poverty, the dissolved self ill sings the glory of god that is, of that which thirty-three 20. Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference and Repetition, New York : Columbia University Press, p Ibid, p. 98.
19 Kim Schoen it contemplates, contra s, and possesses. 22 Even the dissolved self ill sings. Even when one says, I m exhau ed, this is in itself a contradi ion. One is saying, in effe : I m finished but also I m ill here, telling you that I am finished. We revert back to Beckett s original di um of going on, de ite the fa that one often feels one cannot. Arti s who work in the vein of the moyen complet continue to tell us of the biological and ontological ruggle in continuing. They work in the middle, always caught in the present, the present, which extends between two eruptions of need. 23 To be present means to be perpetually inscribed in need, to always have to ask : what difference is there? 24 Exhau ion comes from being engaged with contradi ion-in-perpetuity, inevitable in the endless unfolding of things. This is perhaps what okes the fantasies for a utopian encompassing, a rational explanation for all things obsessions with finish. Making a series requires that one mu consider where it should logically op. But in addition to a logical end, there surely is a natural end to things, and by natural, I mean when one naturally ops not through premeditation nor radical exhau ion, but simply through the petering out we all grapple with. The moyen complet acknowledges these natural ends in the making of things. Outside influences inevitably creep in and di urb the be -laid plans di ra ions, physical tiredness. Irrationality is also tiring. I gladly op here. thirty-four 22. Ibid, p Ibid, p Ibid, p. 99.
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