Short Essay
Liner notes for the limited cassette edition of Tooling Vol. 1 [︎︎︎].

Technics sustains artistic practice at its core, which amounts to state that, as a practice, craft or accomplishment, art is an eminently technical activity; a technical activity committed exclusively to the production of self-governing outcomes. However, despite such framing, the production of artworks — works of art as events belonging to the work realised by art — distinguishes itself from other technical activities due to the imperative self-referentiality of its outcomes. Thus, technical activities whose outcomes point to ends beyond the scope of their self-realisation, to outward teleologies that constitute the binding vector of instrumentality, are barred from the discipline of art. For a technical activity to be read as art-producing, the possibility of a judgment formulated under the sovereign autonomy — the non-utilitarian functions — of the localised formal instantiations that make up its outcomes is mandatory. If an outcome or work cannot be thought under the terms or modalities that it has generated for itself by being technically brought into being — where being is the essential property of what is or can be formulated within the structured space of sociality as a dynamic network of distinguishable agencies — then such outcome or work is excluded from the discipline of art as an outcome or work produced within the regulations of said discipline.

A reading or judgment founded upon the autonomy of an outcome or work automatically validates such outcome or work as being a work of art, since such reading or judgment constitutes a phenomenon only attainable via the autopoietic purpose performed by an artwork. This generative and purposiveness without purpose 1 constitutes the emergent move that frees an outcome or work from any purpose or teleology that is not of its own making, a move that finds pairing in the fact that the lover of a work of art — that is, the man of true sensitivity and wisdom — loves it for itself alone, wholeheartedly 2. Obviously, despite being a technical activity, that does not imply this reading to be prosaically technical in nature, it is not an assessment of technical expertise or virtuosity. On the contrary. The self-realisation of an artwork awards the work the possibility of being thought not exclusively, but primarily inwards, to its own accord, where expertise and virtuosity, being features only pertinent contextually (instrumentality), are rendered not only meaningless, but inaccessible. In that, by laying beyond the self-defined agenda of a work, such parameters can only produce readings bounded to triviality.

However, such judgment, despite not being technical, is invariably grounded on the low-definition/high-resolution of what can be presented, on what is made available through technics: the artwork, an indivisible set of practical solutions made possible, materialised, through the structuring rendering capacities of technics; capacities that, in turn, account for all that technics is — organisational, material and transferable rendering procedures (formulations) of both thought and world, with thought and world, as structures, made possible precisely through technics, through the what can be done and, therefore, the what can be known along a dynamic fabric of verifiable possibilities. In that, artworks always belong to the domain of the possible, they stand as a testimony to an act in which the forces of the material system commandeer the act of thought as if they have been forces of thought all along 3.

Pertaining to the domain of the possible, due to the necessity of being presented and thus becoming what it is, is a fundamental condition for the artwork. Both the occurrence (a) and register (b) of such possibility is what is both guaranteed (a’) and defined (b’) by technics. Such condition encompasses everything that is possible to be deemed as a work of art and, in a certain sense, all that can be played out along the plane of sociality. Not everything is presentable, but if it is presentable, it is presentable through technics — with technics being 1) the way in which things get structured, thus 2) the way in which, by being structured, things acquire a cognitive-recognitive potential, and finally, 3) the way in which, by structuring, we organize ourselves. This unfolds to such extent that even strictly private, unprovable or physically impossible events, objects or narratives (e.g., love, afterlife, time traveling) can find ways into the possibility of being presented by being drawn, painted, sculpted, modelled, screened, danced, written/programmed, played, described or spoken — crafted, made available, through the cognitive-recognitive rendering capacities of technics. In addition to guaranteeing the possibility of the artwork (a, a’), technics actively tunes the operational register and modality of the artwork by materially granting and managing the texture of its features, thus having a last and definite say on what is ultimately underlined, suppressed or suspended (b, b’). Consequently, putting  technics to use, tooling, becomes the pivotal action within the production of artworks, since tooling ensures a proper fit and helps guarantee a repeatable process 4 — the local and the structural.

In that sense, it is hard to follow an argument, like the one that Alva Noë traces in Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, in which, while recognising the technical background of art, and the organisational nature of technics, art is assumed to be not a technical activity 5, but rather a philosophical one 6 — with philosophy being conversely characterised as an artistic practice. Hesitation towards such proposition arises since its justification is to be found in the organisational and reorganisational capacities of both fields. If, like Noë writes, technologies organize us and are evolving patterns of organisation 7, then the organisational and reorganisational capacities of both art and philosophy can arguably be attributed to their technical background, with technics acting as a meta-field, a genesis of tools and rendering procedures that, when sorted, allow for any knowledge yielding field to perform as such. In that case, there is in fact a commonality to be found between art and philosophy, but such commonality does not justify a lateral and mutual subsumption (art <—> philosophy), neither it clarifies the exclusivity of such organisational condition to these two specific fields. If a subsumption turned out to be allegedly necessary, and its illusive why such operation should take place, then it would be of both art and philosophy folding back into technics — a perpendicular collapse of orders, instead of a lateral collapse of domains that, in any case, would be executed at the expense of the modalities (modes of action) of both fields. In the case of art, at the expense of its autonomy and self-referentiality.

A similar and analogous complication with the possibility of non-utilitarian functions and autonomy becomes apparent when Noë’s line of reasoning addresses mathematics. The author writes, the fact that mathematics requires notation for its practice does not mean that mathematicians study systems of symbols (although there are branches of mathematics that do just this). We’re not thinking about numerals when we calculate, any more than we were thinking about pebbles when we were figuring out how many sheep there are; we use pebbles and numerals to think about how many sheep we have 8. Much like artworks, mathematical objects can be tangentially put to use as models, samples or examples by external purposes, however, the casual and tangential usage of instantiations (object) of a discipline (class) do not account for what a discipline is — pure mathematics (not some branches) is not concerned with counting or measuring anything beyond their scope. Those more than valid utilitarian functions are reserved to statistics, engineering, physics, and so on. Much like the self-referentiality of art — where form signifies itself 9 —, mathematics — where signification forms itself 10 — is devoted to mathematics, to the comprehension of comprehension 11. In both cases, art and mathematics great achievement was to secure spaces for autonomous and organic creation — thus standing primarily as platforms where thought becomes aware of itself.

To be continued… expanded and corrected.


1 Negarestani, R. (2016) Technologies of Form as Technologies of Freedom. In Gaensheimer, S.; Wandschneider, M. (Eds.) Florian Hecker: Formulations. London: Koenig Books. ISBN 9783960980551. (p. 39)

2 Focillon, H. (1992) The Life of Forms in Art.New York: Zone Books. ISBN 9780942299564. (p.31)

3 Negarestani, R. (2014) Concrete Torture: Jean-Luc Moulène and the Protocol of Abstraction. New York: Sequence Press.ISBN 9780983216971. (p.20)

4 Crowson, R.; Mutter, S. (2006) Product Tooling and Equipment.In Crowson, R. (Ed.) The Handbook of Manufacturing Engineering, Second Edition, Factory Operations: Planning and Instructional Methods.Boca Raton: CRC Press.ISBN 9780849355509. (p.101)

5 Noë, A. (2016) Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature. New York: Zone Books. ISBN 9780942299564. (p.29)

6 Ibid. (p.26)

7 Ibid. (p.28)

8 Ibid. (p.35)

9 Zalamea, F. (2016) Multilayered Sites and Dynamic Logics for Transits between Art and Mathematics. In Glass Bead (Eds.) Site 0. Castalia: the Game of Ends and Means. Online, www.glass-bead.org. (p.4)

10 Ibid. (p.4)

11 Zalamea, F. (2012) Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics.Falmouth: Urbanomic. ISBN 9780956775016. (p.95)