Michael Schwab lecture: figure and experimental systems

A fascinating MAVA lecture from Michael Schwab, which had a number of key elements related to what I am currently thinking about. He started by discussing what he has coined as ‘second order artifacts’, objects which an accidental intervention has changed to show a different material commodity.

  • A new logic, both visual and material appears
  • Thinking happens which is different from just looking at an image
  • You are not meant to see these interventions, they are on the limit of invisibility
  • The intervention is not intentional – something else has caused this effect

He went on to discuss the figure, using a lot of examples from art history. The bits I picked out in particular were what he was saying about the relationship between the mode of production and the representational image. Particularly relevant in my quest to understand concepts of materiality.

  • You can achieve an effect which is more than just a gesture, where it shows aspects of the method of production
  • Isolate the elements you are focussing on and add the dynamics of the mode of production to it; this starts to stimulate
  • Something particular happens if you are neither here nor there

I very much liked the last statement – it captures well my own expression of the specialness of boundaries and edges. There was a bunch of interesting stuff on gestalt psychology vs systems theory which I will leave to my notebook. The next topic, on experimental systems was also fascinating – with a really interesting depiction of how unpredicted events create new forms and allow your research to develop. A graphical view of serendipity perhaps?


Key takeaways from this:

  • The epistemic things are those we don’t know what they are. Working with them turns them into objects
  • Looking at the potential of a material can offer a result you didn’t expect – a surprising event you can then act upon
  • The process from not form to form operates in an area of not understanding – there must be an aspect of the unknown in what you are doing
  • How do you stabilise these unknown objects and turn them into a new form?

This is perhaps a way into exploring my idea (newly articulated) as a capture of experiential moments. Exploiting and encouraging serendipity, looking at how the random elements in the forms change what you have created and, perhaps most difficult of all, embracing the unknown.


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