on going thoughts


Project proposal for the course Writing in the Expanded Field

Professor, Abe A Nowitz


FUTURE PERFECT: A Shelf, Archive, Database and Memex

To build a small shelf that is both an archive and database of objects, arranged in a fashion that attends their thingness and tends to a tactility of cognition, memory, and loss.


The Shelf:

The shelf is what I refer to as a substrate for the archive or database to take place, it is host or server, or custodian. The physical shelf is comprised of not one but two structures that will hold the bits of the a archive/database. One structure will be a series of rods that protrude from the wall like a periodical stand while the other structure will be more traditional looking shelf. Both of these structures will be constructed primarily out of silicone rubber, with some wooden parts used obviously as added armature. An additional third shelf will hold nothing but a parenthetical space, literally speaking the structure will be a parenthetical symbol made from two parabolic shapes mounted to the wall that will cast light and shadows of pieces of writing onto the wall.

These three “shelves” act as triangulated coordinates of retrieval, transmission, and projection. These coordinates, are relations a user, reader, or viewer has with (or to) an archive/database as well as stages of cognition. This set of relations constantly constructs and deconstructs a systems of perception, memory, and thought. Thus the archive/database becomes a site of unprogrammable encounters that articulates how a system or structure is exhausted at its own limits of producing verifiable information; thingness emerges.


The Objects:

The objects will comprise two discrete bodies of work that make part of my own archive. One set, to be hung on the rod structure, will be posters that  remediate past projects with collaborators. The posters will be part documentation and part an address to my collaborators and the past me that worked on the project. The other set will be a series of video work of my own and past collaborators. The videos will be housed on a shelf as if they were books, so that you just see the emanating light from them. The parenthetical “shelf” will act to frame an open set, however the words cast on wall will be pulled from part of an accompanying essay to this project.

What ties these sets is their nature of being reproducible media (and are themselves reproductions) and are connected to the history of mediation. What I care to do with this project is tie mediation to perception, the senses, and cognition.


The Archive and the Database:

This personal archive I seek to build domicile in nature, not just because of its personal resonance but because of the roots the “archive” has in it being an attempt to establish a base and a shelter, being a home and a host. This dynamic of hosting, or facilitating, is much of my role in the archived projects. So here I am created an archival feedback loop, one that will in fact never get to the center of a practice, but only mover more and more toward those who I will have touched in the work.

This is what the database does, it creates a potential space of touch to another, be it information, an image, a memory, a person, etc. However, by the very fact of creating a web of connection it creates dislocation. There is loss in the archive and database. The database and archive are in themselves reaches toward a containment of understanding, as grasping of what has been and what might could be. They are the future perfect tense in a Derridean sense. They are a hope and happening, where cognition forms and can reform in a relation among things.

The bits of an archive or database are piece of information that are material, regardless of their digital or analogue origin. A lacuna or breach of touch is how we engage with the material of the archive/database because of its structural nature, such as with language or writing. Tactily speaking, aural words from another never reaches our mouth, at best we feel our own mouths making mimicking movements to repeat the sounds that reach to an idea that we may blow to another. From here we establish how we symbolically use bits of data and informations systems to constitute and categorize pages, ephemera, images, video, as bits of information that can be arranged or housed.


Further Questions:

But I am curious how does traversing the topology of an archive or database perforate textual knowledge into touch or kind of remote sense perception and memory? What does an archive or database command, what does it constitute, and what consignations emerge out of arranging? Conversely what fluidity of meaning comes vibrating out from within the arrangement? How might the archive or database be pedagogical (looking at itself as a vehicle or entity of cognition and remediation of the body and identity formation)? This is an identity question that can only be asked and not fully fleshed out in the project. What can be done is shine a light on paradoxes within our the relation to the archive, our thoughtful studies to be always already in the now then and forever. A future perfect sense, that is this project.


Main Sources:

-Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever

-Roy Brand, Love Knowledge

-Selections from anthology Can You Feel It: Effectuating tactility and pint in the contemporary, edited by Freek Lomme

-Vannevar Bush, As We May Think

-Jessica Pressman, “Reading the Database: Narrative, Database and Stream of Consciousness”  from Digital Modernisms: Making it New in New Media


Some Archives and Artist on my mind:


-The Internet Archive

-Letterform Archive

-Roger Brown Study Collection

-The Prelinger Library

-The Museum of Jurassic Technology

-Mining the Museum, David Wilson

-A.L. Steiner






-databending-wordoftheday-grammatology(?)-technicalimage-sccanning-magicalconsiousness (a study or mobius strip of making and unmaking meaning)




  • organizer
  • facilitator
  • designer
  • arranger
  • reflector
  • documenter


  • image repertoire


  • always already, it happened


This is a start to a kind of database methodology to exhibition practice. This month I organized a show of SAIC Low Res MFA work at SAIC’s Graduate Open Studios. There was an open call for work from current Low Res students and alumni and at least one work from each submission was  included. The show was comprised of a broadsheet publication as well as installed works. My own visual art work was on display as well as my work as organizer via sculptural stands for the broadsheet and flyer, the design of those materials, and the subsequent poster of documentation of the show which is a layout (abstracted floor plan)  of images taken while unpacking works and mid  deinstall .






Finitude (link to rough draft)

video, duration 9min

Thank you to Morgan Green. For best clarity of audio use headphones.

Works Cited:

Flatland, Edwin A Abbott

The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson

Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes

The Fold, Gilles Deluze







When Rosalind Krauss wrote Sculpture in the Expanded Field, she articulated logical approach to defining a field that was ever being widened by artists largely of the 60’s and 70’s. In the last portion of the seminal essay she notes that her methodology of analysis can account for the modernist and postmodernist shifts in sculpture. Her approach is definitively non genealogical, which she notes as the traditional way art historians track art movements. Though I thank Krauss for opening the delineations of sculpture, I question that the strict logical approach is more expansive (itself) than an updated genealogical approach. The genealogical method I am supposing here is one of a more multifold histories and contemporary practice. I want to see extents of “the expanded field” by briefly looking at two of my own current endeavors.


Case 1: A course entitled “Writing in the Expanded FIeld” taught by Abraham Avnisan Nowitz through the School of the Art Institute Low Residency MFA program.


This fall I am thinking a lot about algorithmic and digital forms of writing. The course that I am taking harks back to Krauss’s essay, but looks back as if the screen was a field. From the vantage point of looking at digital forms of writing we can see that the major shifts in sculpture reverberate into the realm of digital literature. Krauss notes that sculpture,once hinged on its monumental nature, by the late nineteenth century became more a matter of non-presence, functionless, and self-referential. This was the entrance of sculpture into modernism. Literature took a shift into the self referential as well with groups such as the Oulipo making algorithmic writing processes. Work such as Perec’s A Void were perhaps in a pre-postmodern moment. From here we can try and test out what Krauss’s use of the Klein square can do to help flesh out the field/screen to understand the postmodern era (though I would argue that postmodernism emerged and has exist contemporaneously with modernism, even today).

Using a modeling system of logical analysis is quite appropo to the realm of digital literature. It as model provides structure, as does the code underlying works of digital literature. However I want to suppose that even by layering sculpture and digital literature onto this model we refer to Krauss, further canonise her essay, and are in fact genealogical method of analysis itself.


So now I have folded digital literature and sculpture on to themselves and wish to unfold a project that further employs a genealogical method.

Case 2: MAKING OUT Kiss In

MAKING OUT is a forth coming exhibition I and a five other collaborators are mounting in October of this year. The show will be comprised of large bleachers to hid under and we are planning a series of public programs, including a Kiss-In, which is directly inspired by our conversations with program director Gregg Bordowitz. This Kiss-In looks back to ACT- UP protests of the 1990’s, where they employed public kissing in service of AIDS activism. We have to ask ourselves, what does it mean to do a Kiss-In now, especially in a gallery setting? What ghost do we conjure and how might we live with history as not linear, nor logical, but as a part of our ever forming genealogy.


MAKING OUT is not only exists within the loose framework of sculpture in the expanded field, but it also holds multiple story lines like a piece of digital literature. The bleachers act as a kind of networking device. Under the bleachers story lines can emerge about how the original Kiss-In’s might have failed or succeeded in terms of AIDS awareness, access to medicine, and policy change. It’s important to note that AIDS/HIV still greatly affects american populations and that African Americans account for 45% of diagnosis according to the CDC. The crisis is not over, it’s just shifted. We feel that if we keep kissing we might be able to feel out these complex storylines, see what our fights are today even beyond AIDS/HIV.

Readings that helped inform this post:

N. Katherine Hayles, “Electronic Literature: What Is It?” Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 2008)

Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” October Vol. 8 (Spring, 1979)

Julian Gill-Peterson, “Haunting the Queer Spaces of Aids: Remembering ACT UP/New York and an Ethics for an Endemic,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 19, Number 3, 2013









self portraiture:




*stereoptic hand scanned images of my shirts.





*hand scanned images of my body. first image is comprised of two physically layered images. both are digitally enhanced, printed on transparency, and framed in deep frames.


family album:

assisted memory palace

familiy-album-1 familiy-album-2 familiy-album-3 familiy-album


Google Sketch Up environment is comprised of homes I lived in as a child and my parents family homes. each home is constructed out of Google street views of the homes taken at various points of time, ranging from 2007 – 2016. This free fall urban plan in many ways is me thinking though Hito Steryerl’s text “In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment” in relation to my genealogy though home and location.  This terrain I have build, composes a kind of internal landscape out of satellite images brought to me though technical rendering and navigation. But where do I arrive?  The images I screen grab surly do not feel like the places I recall. They are ungraspable or at best approximate locations.

But how can I get close? How could I ever navigate my way home, and a sense of home, through images (online or in print)? Using a hand held document scanner I got in touch with these homes:

4240 Norton Ave.4240 plant redwood

4240-norton-ave-1-5 4240-norton-ave-1-4 4240-norton-ave-1-2

1000 Grand Blvd.

908 Normandie Ave.



I am still no closer to inside the spaces, homes, in the images. I can, perhaps, slip into the cracks of the glitch. There we feel some motion. There I might feel how I see. All facilitated by an apparatus of and for holding, as if the scanner was a holding space, a la D.W. Winnecott. I in some reversal of the “eye” to “I” of the beholder are beholden and hold.

So I standing here in some paradoxical void. Now thinking back to the Google images. Though it is soothing to be held, housed by technology, mothered by google, I also am tending to that space, creating it with all the content I upload. So I am not just in a void, I have some agency, some self.  Somewhere in all  the dislocation of the free fall images, that odd abyss of green “terrain” and zero gravity, is the possibly of imagining new and multiple orientations to my own history, family, home, place, and self. Thats pretty great to remember the next time I am at a store using my credit card and the teller looks at my name, then at my face, and ask “What are you?”

-Fall 2016, then revisited fall 2017