un Projects is based on the unceded sovereign land and waters of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation; we pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.
un Projects

Machine Language


To continue, to pick up where something was left off. The prefix ‘re-’ descends from a root meaning ‘turn’ — the return is a doubling, a sitting within the previously inhabited material presence that was left and come back to. Ekphrasis enacts a close reading of an artwork through text, the formation of a double that often exceeds the original in volume — it takes a lot of language to narrate a thing. The return to the same artwork introduces the notion of time; here the material considerations stretch between two nodes of text, one in the previous issue [17.1: Resist] and one here, on this page: Flow and Return (2005) by Natasha Kidd.

From the subterranean depths something surfaces; enclosed, complete and multiple. A supporting assemblage of pump, pipes and canvas container exerts form on the large quantity of white emulsion it holds and propels. Flow and Return’s paint draws a circle through the system, a spinning ouroboros of viscous liquid continually in contact with itself; the painting machine run by an automated heartbeat tuned to the mechanics of the continual resurfacing, a continual emergence. The spread-wide body of liquid paint slowly spends itself upon the surface, streaming through narrow holes cut neatly in the perfect skin of primed canvas. As each new slick dries fresh the surface is remade; the skin becomes layered and the supporting structure grows. Rigid paint becomes armature. The return of the material is in spite of the loss sustained in this drying, a loss that is negotiated through the topping up of paint; enclosed and complete but only in continual addition on both sides, the cycle sustains itself by the constant changing of states. Each drying layer carves in relief long fluting verticals, creating a positive, protruding set of curving grooves as record — a kind of excavation of form.

Running through everything is a stream of information translated into form; a duration through surfacing, drying, manifesting as length. The stalactites drip. A liveness maintained through continuation. The newly introduced paint meets the existing material as they amalgamate different registers of viscosity, forming a new hybridised, interwoven frequency that reverberates onwards through its containing vessel. Meeting it, touching it, while simultaneously in touch with itself; the same and separate bodies, the same and separate surface.[1] Re-meeting itself in a previous form, a splitting has occurred, a transmogrification — no longer does the mirror encounter its double, now time introduces a widening space of change.

Within a preoccupation with the unfolding and refolding, of material and time; in tracing the possible serial forms, a new syntax is discovered, unearthed, excavated, exhumed.[2] Obeying the forces it is subjected to; dripping downward because it must. Overcome by the weight of its own matter, able to pull back only when the critical mass of material is small enough to contain itself within the surface tension of the drip that teeters.

Here time is measured in surface, and this surface is ever growing, always renewing with each slow lick. Time wraps and pleats itself between new surface and history of surface in an inventory of gestures. The return of the material that has cycled through the system, through the puncture wounds in the canvas, creates a register of phatic gestures — form without content, movement without gesture; a dilation. The aggregating forms of utterances without meaning; the language of communication necessary for momentum, connection from one point to the next, one body to another, the language of flow. The paint, in leaving the enclosure of its container, is free to map its own articulation, define its own channels of annunciation; to speak itself. The paint becomes language, forming and unforming itself in the flowing. The assemblage is not distinct from the paint. The paint is as much a contingent part even as it sits separately defined by its fluidity — is the paint speaking the machine or the machine speaking the paint?[3] Continually the two are entangled.

In the theatre of the material something is worked towards, a kind of puppetry arises; a tracing of movements across other movements — a response — the first bound to the second, the affect of connective tissue, a stringing along of causation.[4] Within the choreography the gesture is elongated, moving through extension, demanding agility, balance, responsively. Each repetition an augmentation of the original, a veneer of maquillage. To maintain life, living must be reperformed in a constant aspirational reproductivity, self-making, self re-making.

To describe a trajectory as a return is to render the second half of a parabola, a conversion of potential energy to kinetic; a specific metamorphosis. An echo, a turning back, an encounter with previously traversed terrain; Flow and Return (2005) by Natasha Kidd. What is in between? The furthest reaches of that parabola, the overspill, the rot, the excess, briefly reached for but ultimately denied. To turn and turn again, and find everything always already present, sitting within itself.

Marguerite Carson is an artist and writer from Scotland currently based in various places. Their work considers themes of correspondence, navigation and mythmaking; often interrogating the boundaries of truth and meaning. They curate the art writing zine Are You New Here.

[1] Karen Barad, On Touching The Inhuman That Therefore I Am,  in Power of Material/Politics of Materiality (English/German), ed  Susanne Wtizgall and Kirsten Stakemeier, 2015.

[2]Gilles Deleuze, The Fold Leibniz and the Baroque, trans Tom Conley, University of Minnesota press, 1993.

[3] “As much as we speak language, language speaks us. Language is a machine and we are caught in its gears.”

Victor Burgin, Returning to Benjamin, MACK books, 2022.

[4] Snejanka Mihaylova, Maquillage as Meditation: Carmelo Bene and the Undead, Sara Giannini, If I Can’t Dance, Amsterdam, 2021

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