The unseen/seenness of becOming multiple

Joseph Nechvatal is a post-conceptual digital artist and art theoretician who creates computer-assisted paintings and computer animations, often using custom-created computer viruses.

In the beginning was the noise.

-Michele Serres, The Parasite

Joseph Nechvatal

Joseph Nechvatal, becOming multiple (2007) 112 x 168 cm (44 x 66”) computer-robotic assisted acrylic on canvas

The idea of unseen/seenness re-opens the production of subjectivity in art by affirming the applicability of multiplicity. I will explore this issue using my computer-robotic assisted painting becOming multiple as example as it demonstrates aspects of latent excess. The idea of latent excess re-establishes an ambiguously private critical distance for the art viewer: a distance achieved through the connective disparity between pleasure and frustration.

I believe that my painting becOming multiple shows that an unseen/seen art is possible and even indispensable to us now by demonstrating what an art of latent excess might look like. For me, an unseen/seen art problematizes the pop simulacra and hence enlivens us to the privateness of the human condition in lieu of the fabulously constructed social spectacle that engulfs and (supposedly) controls us. This private unseen/seen separateness offers us a personal critical distance (gap), and thus another perspective on (and from) the given social simulacra.

Such an unseen/seen art of phantasmagorical latent excess might provide us with two essential aspects relevant to our lives. First, it can provide a private context in which to suitably understand our simulacra situation. Secondly (but more importantly) it may then undermine this understanding of the simulacra by overwhelming our immersion in the customary simulacra – along with our own prudent pose as observer and judge. Through the destructive-creative bacchanalia at the root of an art of unseen/seen latent excess, we are prodded to lose our position of detached observer, As such, becOming multiple demands our engaged intellectual and perceptual production.

For me, an unseen/seen art like becOming multiple, when latently excessive in its own right, is capable of functioning, paradoxically, by nurturing in us a sense of polysemic uniqueness and of individuality brought about through a counter-mannerist style of reproducibility (circuitous, excessive and décadent). It is a style that takes us from the state of the social to the state of the secret distinguishable I, by overloading ideological representation to a point where it becomes almost nonrepresentational. The psychic rhizome around becOming multiple is regularly swarming itself into being as micro and macro factors attract. One cannot declare in advance what its limiting confines are or where it will or will not operate, nor what may become connected and tangled up in the rhizome’s multiple dimensions because the connections do not inevitably plait common types together.

This acknowledged probing at the outer limits of recognizable art representation, the excited all-over fullness and fervor of this syncretistic probe, isn’t a failing of communications within the excessive terms of becOming multiple then; it is its subject. 


I would like to next explain a bit of how becOming multiple functions as unseen/seen art, while simultaneously promoting the aesthetics of obscurity.


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