SIGN AND DIFFÉRANCE (A Reading of Between Différance, And Now: 1)

Originally published for Studio Sixty Six, in conjunction with the exhibition between différance, and now, by Anna J. Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe.

[1]

Strange objects populate the room. The scattered uncanny, upon entry:

1 : Roche de Bostrom: A cast resin rock is embedded with a generic liquid crystal display. The screen features abstract patterns referencing the processing of information as well as suggesting some form of communication.

2 : A Sandstorm of a Different Name: A Plexiglas tank filled with water holds a buoy illuminated by a red light from inside the plinth.

3 : Freeplay: A 3D printed buoy is suspended over a tank of water illuminated by a path of white LEDs.

4 : Untitled Pink: A resin rock on a plinth, seeming to move of its own agency.

5 : Fugue in 3 Steps: A fluorescent pink resin casting of driftwood sits atop a Plexiglas tank containing water. The water and driftwood are illuminated from within the wooden plinth that supports the tank.

6 : Reclining Algorithm: A long slab of concrete with bands of gold leaf rests atop a resin rock. The rock contains a small LED light that blinks as if communicating.

[2]

Through the title of the exhibit, Anna J. Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe reference Derrida’s writing on différance: a [play] on the homonymous closeness of difference / deference (FR). Difference: to distinguish separateness / [Defer]ence: to redirect, otherwise delay.

In between différance, and now, the artists experiment with objects that lie outside of the function that symbol applies: none of the objects in the exhibit reveal any specific purpose. Their motivations, their very identities, are evasive as they are somewhat outside of the familiar: resin deceives the eye to be rock, further, why would rock be under glass, what rock may move, what is this futile buoy near to the ground, and so on.

Différance is considered in the exhibit in contrast to the state of being that precedes and exists outside of the signification of language. This object to which we give a sign—that is, identity—is separate from this sign. It is a persistent other. We are witness to an absence of the origin in an infinite evasion. Negation: the object becoming sign is a losing of the essential, of the origin. It becomes, instead, the symbol: be that the word or the image. Derrida writes: “Signs represent the present in its absence; they take the place of the present.*”

* “Difference”, Derrida.

[3]

We see this discourse continued by Jean-Francois Lyotard, whose libidinal economy interprets Derrida’s différance as a mode of political economy. “Postponement of the signifier” (Lyotard*) = temporal nature of representation.

The temporal element of Derrida’s différance can be interpreted in Eyler’s A Barrier Against the Abyss*. In keeping with Eyler’s current exploration of serialization—linear repetition—a set of 3D-printed yellow buoys reference a set / a system.

In a single line, we are presented with a multiplicity of instants, of object-encounters, events. Our reading of this series relies on 1) our perception of it: do we see one at a time, or do we see all at once? 2) our secondary interpretation of the series: do we then define a beginning and read each buoy as an independent instant, or do they evade such serialization and retain a self-contained totality, where one cannot be distinguished from another?

* Jean-François Lyotard, “Libidinal Economy”, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant. London: Continuum (p. 44).

** “A Barrier Against the Abyss” (2015) was not featured in between différance, and now, but was part of the same series of work created by Anna J Eyler.

[4]

Fugue in 3 Steps: organists will experience a delay between playing the keys and the sound of the notes. Playing a fugue on an organ = delay in hearing / postponement, referred to as latency. The organist playing the fugue experiences the delay of the sign that is given to encounter, or event*. Encounter with [being / structure / object / event] is then a play of many notes that are heard only with delay. The musician must then rely, must recall and contain some innate [knowledge] of a music that comes before sound, as though a perceiving of a music as a whole that does not rely on hearing each note to play the next—that exists before the external.

And it is in this way that we perceive every event—with the postponement that creates a miniscule state of silence after the internalized encounter with the ideal—so that by the time we are able to read the symbol, the meaning and function that is assigned to this undefined, we have already experienced this delay. All of this has already passed. So, is it not in this same way that we are asked to internalize the signs by which we define the world?

* Jacques Derrida, “Writing and Difference”, trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge (p. 278).

[5]

“and now”: so, we come to the present moment, that which we perceive as the immediate, and contains our encounter with sign. Word, symbol, interpretation—the conscious mind. This too is examined inbetween différance, and now.

Signification in Reclining Algorithm relates to specific codified images throughout art history. We see symbols that have persisted since our earliest systems of signs. The obelisk fragment takes the posture of a reclining nude—architectural refuse taking on the glorified body, a flesh that is tamed into megalith. The nude painted and sculpted, the dominance of the female body: in concrete and angles and brutal absurdity. We are given little else of form, but are left with the signs applied to colour.

Such meanings have by now become so deeply engrained, that we ask, can colour exist for us outside of its signification? In the blue of Reclining Algorithm, there are the most persistent traces of ancient architecture; blue that is revealed in the preserved brickworks, ceramics, fabrics, of our archaeological discoveries. In this blue, we see an ancient Egypt, a Mesopotamia, a distant Mayan civilization. In the gold that is painted onto the concrete, we are reminded of the caps of ancient pyramids. In the rhythmic separation of these painted bars, we may read a binary system, a language, a division, and again, a difference.

[6]

There is only différance, writes Lyotard, “signification is always deferred, meaning is never present in flesh and blood.”*. In its place, we encounter all of the objects and meanings that are in the signs we apply to these objects: we encounter a legion of signs, we are met with the weight of multiplicity. Our problem is not of a fluidity of this being, where each sign may interchange variably, infinitely, with another. Rather, it is the association of sign that locks the [signified] down into a singular history: we are bound to a music that cannot exist without being heard by the one who plays. But, as with all of between différance, and now, we must become like the organist; we must listen to an internal music and assign meaning with an internally structured rhythm that requires no validation from the external.

* Jean-François Lyotard, “Libidinal Economy”, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant. London: Continuum (43.)


 

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