“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Wittgenstein

Actuality has little to do with making sense and more to do with accepting nonsense.  Making sense is an activity that operates with 4-dimensional syntax and grammar (usage).  Logic (syntax and grammar) is a sequential (time) contextual (space) analysis – it is the rules “behind” making sense.  The limits of these rules – their boundaries – confine a sign and separate it from its context of signs, charging the symbol with meaning through its usage.  Logic gives form in an otherwise “undifferentiated mass of organic sensation”.  Without the form of a sign, it would have no meaningful content, but would rather be a powerless shape in a context of sameness.  There is a logical limit on the expressive power of languages.  What is beyond these limits is nonsense.  That is not to say that it is insignificant, but rather inexpressible.  The nonsense is something logic cannot limit.  It is either an infinity or a paradox that dissolves logic and all hopes of making sense.  The causal (sequential) way of interpreting the world is an active way of interpreting the world.  The passage of time is continuous, flowing and progressive.  Growth and decay are continuous, fluid movements.  This way of thinking of time, as Smithson pointed out, is a practical, active way of thinking about time, but has little to do with the impractical actuality of time – the present.  The present is unobtainable by any logical means.  This does not necessarily entail that it is unlimited, infinite and void.  (which Smithson might ascribe to the present)  But if time were a place where events happened, the active (logical) event would cease to happen as soon as it happened.  The present – the actual – is a space without limits… it is a space apart from logical (limited) expressive meaningful space.  It is an incomprehensible infinity of possibilities where there is no correct or incorrect.  It is a meaningless context of sameness… unobtainable.  The present is inactive.  There is no movement in an instant of time.  It is a pause between the future and the past.

The future criss-crosses the past in an unobtainable present.”  – Smithson “Quasi-infinities of a Waning Space”  Logic cannot obtain the present.  Feeling cannot seize the present.

The inactive present avoids logic and experience because it has no limits.  What we experience is the future criss-crossing the past.  This is an active, expressive time with limits that change.  It can be mapped.  Progression and evolutionary notions of time turn into logical (epistemic) tools to map action.  This time makes sense.  Using this time, the world makes sense.  Without this active time, there is no sense to be made.  It is, as Smithson suggested, an infinite void of sameness – no limits – no form – nothing to make sense out of.  Logic requires active, continuous time.  It is fundamental to thinking.  This is not to say that all of our provisional theories are wrong.  They are correct.  But they are only correct because they are within the limits of logic.  There is no correct or incorrect outside the limits of language and logic.

The interpretations of actuality have infinite possibilities, none of which are correct or incorrect.  There are historically contingent provisional theories built on logical, fallible foundations that cannot be proven correct or incorrect because the foundation (axiom) floats without context.  There is no map of the map.  The world described is limited by the epistemic tools at hand.  The world felt is limited by the glass (sensing) body.  The nonsites eliminate the body from setting up limits, to let the world set the limits.

Some Material on Dialectics

February 2, 2009

Some material on Dialectics:

Robert Smithson, nonsite
“The side of a smooth green hill, torn by floods, may at first be properly called deformed, and on the same principle, though not with the same impression, as a gash on a living animal. When a rawness of such a gash in the ground is softened, and in part concealed and ornamented by the effects of time, and the progress of vegitation, deformity, by this usual process, is converted into picturesqueness; and this is the case with quarries, gravel pits, etc., which at first are deformities, and which in their most picturesque state, are often considered as such by a levelling improver.”

– Uvedale Price, Three Essays on the Picturesque, (1810)

“Burkes notion of “beautiful” and “sublime” functions as a thesis of smoothness, gentle curves, and delicacy of nature, and as an antithesis of terror, solitude, and vastness of nature, both of which are rooted in the real world, rather than a Hegelian Ideal… We cannot take a one-sided view of the landscape within this dialectic. A park can no longer be seen as a “thing-in-itself”, but rather as a process of ongoing relationships existing in a physical region – the park becomes a “thing-for-us”… dialectics of this type are a way of seeing things as a manifold of relations, not as isolated objects. Nature, for the dialectician is indifferent to any formal ideal… Olmsted’s parks exist before they are finished, which means in fact they are never finished; they remain carriers of the unexpected and of contradictions on all levels of human activity, be it social, political, or natural.”

– Robert Smithson, “Frederick Law Olmsted and the Dialectical Landscape”, (1973)

“Both sides [of the dialectic] are present and absent at the same time. The land, or ground is placed in the art, rather than the art placed on the ground… Large scale becomes small. Small scale becomes large. A point on a map extends to the size of a landmass. A landmass contracts to a point… The rules of this network of signs are discovered as you go along uncertain trails both mental and physical.

– Robert Smithson, “The Spiral Jetty”, (1972)

If cultural means, “social, political, or natural human activity” then I would say dialectics are the result of cultural relations with the landscape. The material landscape becomes mapped my the mental, as the landscapes shift from entropy to different mapped “states” (mobility) of Picturesque to deformed. The material shits in relation to the mental interpretative evaluations of it. The landscape is never finished, and our maps are never finished. The maps are continually revised in a dialectical relationship with the entropic lanscape. Human activity (culture) effects our evaluative and interpretive maps of the landscape. The development of the dialectic is an entropic phenomenon, both in the material and in our maps. They do converge as “a point on a map extends to the size of a landmass [, and] a landmass contracts to a point [on a map].”


January 28, 2009


What does it feel like?


The dots penetrate the body. I’d say this feels more like acupuncture than saying, “acupuncture penetrates the body with needlelike precision. It is a simultaneous multiplicity of bodily sensations.” I think the visual metaphor is more powerful.

Sol le witt, Body


A numbered sequence, or a symbolic pattern:

Symbolic pattern:


11111 [end]

11110 [reset]


Numbered sequence:

1010101012 ad infinitum

What I find interesting here, is that if one just looks at it as an abstract, symbolic pattern of shapes, rather than numbers denoting a quantity, it has an end, or a reset. While if one reads into the “concepts” the numbers contain (quantities), it becomes an infinite series.  Symbols, depending on how you read them and/or look at them, will inform the bounded-rules you set on the logic you attempt to extrapolate the set(s) of symbols to thier end.  Considering Sol Le Wit’s work, I find that this freedom of setting logical limits on symbols is what informs culture, and/or brings them to thier senses.  The artist, in this way, is a highly creative logistician.

Sol Le Witt drawing


Smithson’s Site / Nonsite

January 18, 2009

Smithsons dialectic of Site / Non Site or earthwork / indoor earthworkSmithsons dialectic of Site / Non Site

Site                                                                       Nonsite

  1. open limits                                          closed limits
  2. A series of points                              An array of matter  
  3. Outer Coordinates                           Inner Coordinates
  4. Subtraction                                        Addition
  5. Indeterminate Certainty              Determinate uncertainty
  6. Scattered Information                   Contained information
  7. Reflection                                           Mirror
  8. Edge                                                      Center
  9. Some Place (physical)                   No place (abstract)
  10. Many                                                    One

The site is an illogical combination of the senses, where the non-site is a logical picture that is abstract, representing a site.

“Representation” is very important here. 

 The nonsite is closed limits.  This means that it is categorically contained to the field of, say, optics.  Within the limits set by Smithson, in his work, Enantiomoprphic chambers, the limits of optics allow Smithson to logically extrapolate the stereoscopic vision to its poles, its ends.  Under Smithson’s enantiomorphic optics, the illusionistic space of the fusion (the metting place, the “dinner table”) of the refracted light of the dual globes of the eye, (see diagram) that makes the world one image, is not within the limits of Smithson’s optics.  He is doing away with the binocular focul points of the eyes, and therefore is allowed to bring the light to its stereoscopic end through logic.  What he is adding is another image of the world… a double image.  This is what the extrapolated, categorically contained optical reflective, refractive “bounce light”, symetrical, dual images look like in Smithson’s optics.  In Mathematics, it’s called Trisoctahedron symmetry, found in the crystal’s of certain minerals:

“Trisoctahedron or Trigonal Trisoctahedron
The trisoctahedron is a form composed of twenty-four isosceles triangular faces, each of which intersects two of the crystallographic axes at unity and the third axis at some multiple
.” – Mining Basics.com  http://www.miningbasics.com/html/the_isometric__trisoctahedron_.php

This is my logical picture of what purple light would look like seen through this shape in three-dimensions.  There is one light source in the image, which may be called the “flash of the camera”:








Superimposed on top of the crystal is the refracted “bounce light” from the purple “wall” behind the crystal that is ultimately passing through the crystal onto something like a photographic plate, which would be the stereoscopic vision of only purple if it were to be percieved without the binocular focal range of our eyes.  (see optics diagram)

Concerning Smithson’s logical limitations on his own optics, imagine an infinite number of points in the visual landscape, like the grand canyon.  Then after imagining this, apply this “crystal filter” to every infinite point.  What would it look like?

The nonsite consists of Many, categorically contained logical extrapolations that are additive to the site (or earthwork).

More simply put:

The site is subtractive, and the nonsite is additive… or rather:

SiteOne whole experience

NonsiteMany logically contained, extrapolated categories that make up the subtractive experience of the Spiral jetty




















 …  ECT.,

The nonsites converge in the experience of a site, rendering the experience subtractive of the nonsites. For example, stereoscopic vision is an experiential (not logical) impossibility, that must be subtracted in experiencing the site. The mirrors of the nonsites become ambiguious reflections in the site.  So, this art (just forget about the categorical containment of “aesthetics”, and whether or not this fits into a category at all) is dialectical, in an inextricable relationship between a site and many nonsites.