Scaffolding

by thomasmagnahastings

Some objects are intended as material supports to real-time processes that occur in and around them, processes like condensation, heating, tree-growth and asphyxiation (rope). Scaffolding, for instance, presents an architectural function, and is not normally considered a permanent fixture (unless you live on the base of Mount Etna, where the ground remains shaky). In fact, one tends to look right through scaffolding, as if it wasn’t quite there. Why is this? Our vision, I would argue, takes process and makes it a precedent over form. Painting, cement blocks, rainfall and wolf whistles are activities that accrue and bleach over the spectacle of scaffolding’s quietness at night. These real-time processes infect the molecular structure in front of us, so that the empty ladders and rungs, after working hours, seem peculiarly out of place against the stalwart building they are there to support. Earlier, I asked the question: What kind of material and formal properties might adequate to Hegel’s outlining of a Synthesis that suspends the moments of its negations; of a Being and Becoming entwined in Stasis?[1] My response would be that a formal structure specifically designed to act as a material substratum to some kind of real-time process (whether it be a sauce-pan or a length of rope in the hands of an Alexander McQueen), is always ineluctably written over by that process, so that a cold pan starts to quiver from a ghostly heat, and its silvery lining appears starched white. Empty form is a carrier for you or me. We relate to the sensuous world by projecting our self-consciousness into things. When we promote forms to ‘thingness’, they are from that time on really nothing but ourselves taken outside of ourselves. I am interested in finding ways of obliterating this kind of solipsistic world-negotiation, by wondering how a real-time process like condensation can actually countermand and take on the subject’s ability to transform form into a mirror. In other words, I want a situation in which condensation takes on the role of you/me, in giving the saucepan its thingness, its static becoming. How can a real-time process have the power to relegate the viewer to a witness, forcing her to stand outside the ring of an object (not a thing’s) own life force? And why is this different to asking whether a falling tree makes a sound in the woods, if no one is there to hear it? Because, I am interested in a situation where the subject is coerced into recognising and reckoning with the force of process, to the point where subject-hood is irrevocably undone. Skeptically, one may reply that, once you begin to depend substantially upon a real-time process to forward a directional agenda – the obliteration of you/me – that process is reified in turn, and becomes another component of the subject’s recruiting of the world. In my next post, I want look at how one artist, Hans Haacke, attempted to use a real-time process to smash through the subject’s relentless insurgency of form, with a work entitled ‘Condensation Cube’, from 1963.


[1] In the Phenomenology of Spirit [1807], Hegel presents a world-view (weltanschauung) in which Spirit precedes Nature. This is a world where objects remain senseless until we have made sense of them, where objects depend upon us for their subsistence. In this situation an object’s being and becoming refers to the internal self-movement of spirit only we can give life to by admixing its senseless matter with our own material concepts. My question is whether real-time processes could take back the sovereign role of animating static matter with the life force of a becoming, by exposing the origin of our ‘spirit’ in the abstract thought of non-being.

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