Jordan Crandall (by way of Pit Schultz <>) on Sat, 26 Apr 1997 20:33:04 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> suspension figures - Jordan Crandall

In December 1996 I invited Keller Easterling to co-edit a publication
with me to accompany the documenta installation 'suspension.'  This
publication is related to the ongoing investigations of 'Blast.'  It
looks at in/habiting practices and the senses of space or 'home' they
generate.  From the beginning, we set out to develop a format that would
suspend the reader between signification and comprehension protocols, as
a textual and psychological analogue to the investigations conducted in
the spatial installation.  

As we began to develop this publication, what emerged is a set of
'figures' that were no longer bound to a page but bound up indelibly in
the construction of space.  Correspondingly, we found that the spatial
developments involved complex figuration practices.  The
binding/coordinating system that we developed is one that links bodies,
figurations, and spaces, courting the transformation of each into the
other and orchestrating them as if a conductor.  This conducting device
is a kind of 'rhythmic fitting' or 'connector-frequencer.'  It is a
p(l)acing mechanism that shifts and coordinates perspective, scale,
movement and transmission rate. As we looked at the dynamics between
'figure as inhabited' and 'space as potentialized', or 'space as
inhabited' and 'figure as potentialized', the oscillations between the
virtual and actual began to be situated within this field, rather than
in a prior sectioning of body and space. 

Following are some excerpts from the email dialogue of the development
of this publication.

Keller Easterling:  In the installation, the body is suspended between
different spatial protocols. In the publication, the viewer/reader is
suspended between different protocols of comprehension or translation. 
But then the question is:  What is the vehicularity of these texts
within an active organization--that of the exhibition or another?  How
are they switches or fittings except unto themselves?  It seems one text
may be a switch or fitting to another and that after time, one begins to
understand their cross-reference. In other words, you may need one text
as vehicle to translate or decode another text.  Finally some of the
texts may, either virtually, or physically, in their content or their
architecture, translate between the viewer/reader's position and the
exhibition. Or the binding may be that switch/vehicle.
  What is the default/home button in all of this? Is the home that
appears in this publication always a switch back into the room of the
installation or to "home buttons" everywhere?  One switch could then be
a distributed/repeated component in the texts, an icon a sound etc.
which has an analog rather than a digital presence.
  I am using Alfred Jarry's pretend patent applications in seminar and
studio this spring. They are, as you probably know, hilarious texts
which describe three very ordinary objects: gloves, slippers and a
cane.  They are described in a way which materializes all of their
functions and their precise utility in translating between environments:
between the feet and the floor or between the cold and one's hands.  The
patents are interesting to the suspension project because they are
domestic objects and because the objects are vehicles, fittings or
attachments.  That sends my thinking in another direction where it is
not an assemblage of texts where one can simply observe the different
format comparatively but where the entire publication has some
vehicularity in relation to the rest of the space.  If so what is it
translating between?
  I must have a juvenile sense of humor but I love those comedians like
Professor Irwin Corey and Victor Borge.  Professor Irwin Corey was like
Alfred Jarry, substituting nonsense into dense scientific explications. 
He was always on the Mike Douglas Show.  Well the substitution of sounds
for punctuation has by now become a bit tired, but Borge did something
where the protocol was to substitute next sequential numbers for either
numbers or words which sound like numbers in speech.  For instance, "He
placed his hand on his five-head and cried that his two chance five make
it in this business was o-five.  Twice and five all...etc." Something
feels a little funny about mentioning these things because of their
power and their cuteness, but certainly there are many language
protocols which play with aspects of language other than meaning and so
foreground their operatives as protocols: riddles, double dactyles,
palindromes, etc.  The problem with some of these things is that they
are recursive and self-reflexive which is the wrong species of order to
introduce into a project like this. But it is good to know why.
  More interesting are those  kinds of texts where the sounds and the
rhythms of the words overtake meaning or the protocol for the use of
words has simply shifted and words are another kind of comfort or
fitting that has to do with their sound and the pleasure of saying them
or some kind of virtual architecture which keep cueing them up and
repeating them. Something a little different from a chant or a mantra. 
I think of T.S. Eliot's one section of the Wasteland where he keeps
using rock , water, rock and no water.  Of course that is crafted to be
emotional and so it to is a little different.  And something like
Finnegan's Wake is crafted to be a puzzle and so it is annoying and
impossible. Currently I repeat over and over again "You" "Don't"  "That
is Why" "That's why" "Person and You" "You don't" "And that is why" 
"And that is what I told you" "And that is what I am trying to tell
you." And this is, for some reason, very fun. I keep trying to find
something here.  There is someone at school, who has been trained as a
philosopher and so he inserts the same kind of philosophical
introductory phraseology into his speech over and over again.  Actually,
what he says repeatedly is "If you like,"  "If you like" as it turns out
can be added almost anywhere in a sentence and it lends a kind of, if
you like, sartorial posture etc. It is a protocol.
  Now, after much thought I really see how spaces are switches, fittings,
governors, etc.  I see how they are common, routine, and naturally
occurring.  I see how they occur in active organizations and multiples
and how a small detail can partially overwrite a larger context. A
textual switch is harder at the moment only because there are so many
possibilities. I have tried making switches in stories and I worked with
a student last year who tried to identify a switch in a story and build
an architecture around it. But this is different.
  Still, there must be something about the actual spatial rearrangement
of the text.  Because of the peculiar floating horizon you describe in
the [accompanying] video, I kept thinking about what a horizon would be
on a page, and what was "above the fold" and "below the fold" as
journalists say.  Usually when there are multiple texts they occur in
columns, but this does not take advantage of the typical position of the
hinge in a book.  Kids books take advantage of the hinge in that they
actually split the page horizontally, so that you can look at any top of
the page aligned with any bottom of the page:  give eyes to a different
mouth etc.  One would have to look beyond the (tedious) capability of
these mechanisms simply to shuffle.
  If one reads a text with a rock in your mouth, the rock is a vehicle of
the text.  If I am swinging a baseball bat against the wall while
reading a text (out loud), the bat is a vehicle.  How is the physical
manipulation of the publication a kind of prop for some behavior?  
  How would a text be a kind of virtual switch or a summons to behavior
or a governor to behavior? How would it prompt an affectation? Some of
these things might be found somewhere in all of the content without
really looking. But it is interesting to think about a virtual switch as
a kind of reflex. Every time you hit the home key....
  I have been writing a little bit about multiple active organizations
which operate like summations.  For instance, in Levittown construction
protocols were synchronized.  All the slabs were poured at once and the
framing completed at once etc.  This, a global summation across repeated
elements, rather than the appearance of the house, was the dominant
architecture.  One way of switching or fitting those sites is to find a
site in another repeated object or gadget.  What difference, if any,
does it make that the publication is a repeated element.  Is every
publication identical?

Jordan Crandall: Regarding your comments on the switching functions of
the texts, vis-a-vis each other, the reader, the exhibition, and other
organizations, we could (problematically) isolate four parts: 1.
internal (texts as vehicles of translating other texts); 2. between
reader and text (foregrounding writer/reader roles, assumed positions
within the norms of editorial relations); 3. between reader, text, and
exhibition setting (in its real/virtual totality) (could incl.
positioning mechanisms within the exhibition context); 4. between
reader, text, and other organizational structures/environments.
We could think of the devices as:  1. textual (the textual codes
themselves and their associations); 2. covering (exterior face,
protective coating, overall aesthetic associations); 3. systematizing
(contents, index, numbering/ordering scheme, unifying design tools); 4.
binding (means of holding together and maintaining an order over time).
  One of the most interesting things I want to accomplish in the
exhibition is to infuse the objective visual planes with a beat, a
physicalized mode of navigation, while simultaneously, bringing those
beats to bear on the corporeal space.  And the beat is a way of 'pacing'
between the realms, trying to bring them together and inhabit them but
not resolving them.  So the rhythmic aspects are important fittings. 
Visual, auditory, carnal.  Pulses.  I like the idea of 'the beat' as
both a rhythm, and a habitualized mode of occupying a space (the cop's
beat), and a journalistic mode that indicates the newsworthy, the
happening, the scoop.  Also I am very keen to pay attention to black
oral traditions, where the beat becomes a structuring principle, as
opposed to a linear one (beginning, middle, and end). So we're talking
about speech and rhythmic protocols, and spatial ones, which
employ/generate various fittings.  
  Is this a kind of "home" setting, a sort of rhythmic or articulatory
dwelling-place?  We are inhabiting speech with certain kinds of patterns
that are domestications; beats to familiar rhythms that make us feel
that we matter, we occupy, we belong "here."  This leads to the
questions that you raise about the default/home button.  Does the home
in the publication always switch back into the installation space or to
"home buttons"?  I like the idea that the home is a kind of
recurrence-pattern, familiarized and dwelled-within in some way.  We are
talking about a particular home, a particular pattern, even though that
home is different for everyone. So we should think of "this home" rather
than "any home."  I like the idea of using a switch that is a
distributed and repeated component in the texts.  Should it be a
button?  An icon?  A recurring format or submerged string of codes?  
  I like very much that the entire publication could have this vehicular
function, where it's a kind of vague, permeable entity that mediates
between the reader and the space.  It's translating between
comprehension and spatial protocols.  Or the publication could locate
these vehicles/fittings as editorial objects -- it's objects could have
that function.  Or its binding/covering apparatus could have this
function. "How is the physical manipulation of the publication a kind of
prop for some behavior?"  A summons to behavior or governor to
behavior?  And what kind of behavior do we want to evoke?  How would it
prompt it?  When you mention "reflex" that gets me thinking of
recurrence-pattern, habit, home. 
  What is the horizon of a page?  The fold, literally and metaphorically,
as in journalism.  The hinge.  Should the book hinge according to
multiple horizons?  The horizons, the orientational grounds, could
evoke/correspond to the multiple spatial protocols and comprehension
  Should we regard this publication as a kind of guidebook to
constructing environments as "multiple active organizations"? A way of
synchronizing protocols to construct this home, as the example you give
in Levittown?  So it sets forth a kind of distributed, suspensional
  There is one aspect of publication that is good to work with, and that
is its repetition, its ability to distribute a stable reproduced thing. 
It's an important condition, that can be used as is or subverted. 

KE:  There are a couple of things which I have been thinking about which
address different aggregates the ideas you mention.  
  I didn't think about the horizon being the binding, but of course it
really is.  The horizon is a line that absorbs things like a vacuum. 
When you are looking at a run of stairs, or a set of shelves, you can
see less and less of the tops of the treads/shelves as they reach the
horizon (wherever that is).  It is the line where things disappear.  And
it is the same as the gutter of a book.  The idea of horizon may even
lead to constraints which were not originally in your video, unless it
is broadly understood to be a place of hinge, or a place of
disappearance-so that it may have many mechanical, visual and virtual
  I have sometimes used Erasmus Colloquies as a model for my own
writing.  Erasmus wrote them as dialogues for teaching Latin, but
sometimes they became more meaningful dialogues which were sometimes
like stories and sometimes just broken snippets of speech which are very
touching.  Some merely exercise the language and so have a kind of
nonsense.  "Will you jump with me tonight Sir?"  "Yes I will jump with
you."  Some sound like Beckett.  I used them for a model when I was
trying to write dialogues between people who represented different
behaviors or chemical properties or species etc.  An inert or explosive
or binding or doubling conversation etc.  I think about them here
because I imagine that there might be many pieces of writing or
overheard speech which we will want to compile in some way.  To pretend
that it is a kind of group colloquy might be one way.  I occurred to me
when thinking about sartorial protocols and baroque academic writing. 
Recently some was forwarded to me as part of a "bad writing"  contest. 
You know how these things sound and they are a bit cliche.  
  Another content idea involves the switches and modulators of language. 
I was never taught to say things like "As you may already know,"
Frankly..."  "Luckily..."  " It will come as no surprise"  "I would
agree with.." "I've got to be honest with you"  " I would be remiss If I
did not mention..."These are the introductory modulations which gentle
people have learned by reading and listening.  I love these things.  I
was on a group committee of fabulous faculty, all older and wiser and
tenured.  One of them was the leader and a lawyer and his speech was not
only directly addressing practical problems, but it was full, full of
introductory, modulatory phraseology.  I read his e-mails like a comic
strip and then copied these phrases in real life.  And there are as many
subtly mean exclusionary phrases.  This is a little different from the
"If you like" and more like that other meaning of protocols related to
behavioral consensus. 
  I feel as if I am straying a bit, but I do feel convinced about the
home idea that you articulate, home as distributive and repetitive.  The
actual handling of the publication probably will involve some repetitive
gesture.  Whatever the action of these "vehicles of the text"  you might
always hit one common repeated behavior at those home junctures.  

JC: 'Home' might be then in the sense of 'habitation'--a mode or place
of habituation.  One habituates oneself to the cold, through the vehicle
or fitting, as in Jarry's gloves.  One gets used to something, adjusting
the body to fit the conditions, and in so doing, in/habits.  This is a
mode and a place, and it comes after you habitualize something, you
pattern it, and in some sense dwell within it, placing yourself,
generating a place for yourself.  The vehicle/fitting facilitates this
recurrence, as a 'placing' mechanism.  One of the interesting things
here is that it flips the vehicle/fitting into a psychological space,
while it simultaneously operates tectonically.   

KE:  A few questions and tentative restatements:  How does one find a
distributed home that is suspended between environments?  Home is not in
the stationary places but rather in the transitional places which exist
between formats and protocols. Home is sometimes miniaturized into
transitional devices which are accustomed props or objects of
habituation.  "Beats" and adaptable icons/devices/binders provide
handshake protocols between different environments found in the separate

JC:  I'm thinking that there are some standard page formatting devices
that we could use.  The first is page numbering.  The page number on the
bottom of the page indicates its order within the book's overall
arrangement.  What if we used that space to develop an alternate
ordering scheme?  I like the way that, for example, URLs have a
hierarchy that allows you to glimpse (sometimes) the categorization and
ordering schemes of web pages on a particular site. The ordering
protocol might reflect the source.
  Others devices are the naming, or branding, practices of the page, and
footnoting protocols.  
  What if we made time our ordering basis?  In other words, what if we
structured some kind of routinization, some kind of cycling, some
frequency unit? I've been thinking of our binding/adapting instrument as
a rhythmic fitting or frequencer.  If frequency is defined as the number
of times any action or occurrence is repeated in a given period, or the
number of periodic oscillations, vibrations, or waves per unit of time,
calibrated in terms of a standard unit (hertz, equal to one cycle per
second), it could just as well be expressed according to other
protocols, arranging space according to repetitions and routines.  So we
might propose some such other protocol.  For example, every day Madame X
goes drinks 2.5 cups of coffee with a donut, gets the mail, and then
cleans the entire house.  So the way that she reads, and structures her
world, is ordered according to her routine, which is in a sense her home
setting.  She sees through the scrim of the task to be done:  between
squirts of Windex see glimpses TV, but the dryer buzzes, the machines
call.  They help to pace her, providing units of measurement.  
  I like the idea that this is a set of figures, like Fig. 1, Fig.
389-392, Fig., Fig. "Working Mom," etc. etc.  also the
.fig works as a computer filing protocol, like if you would organize
your files in the fig folder---working.fig, 516.fig, etc.  There is
something wonderfully 'cross-platform' in the use of this.  Also it's
such an old form of linkage and reference, and carries with it those
historical resonances

KE:  I like the idea of figures, but just to recall some other ideas
which have been present--they are also like brackets or windows. The
whole thing is a kind of "stack" "stacks" but perhaps that has the wrong
associations with tiresome hypertext stuff. Still it would be nice to
have a way of referring to them which identified their togetherness or
their multiple nature.
  I am trying now to think of the publication as a whole.  I wonder if we
might do more to establish a kind of rhythm within the pages themselves.
The beat along the side could perhaps be used to greater effect.  It is
not a slow plodding heartbeat or rap beat.  It is a technological beat,
so maybe we need to correlate the beats of some of our texts: the meter,
the rap song and others to this graphic rhythm, so that a human beat can
exist within it.

JC:  The frequency coordination rhythm on the side of the pages is part
of the binding apparatus.  Its model might be that of a conductor, who
orchestrates a combination of elements into a temporary composition for
the benefit of a listener/reader.  Why not 'worry the note'? and call
forth a configuration of parts?  The sense of depth, of things laying
atop each other, or a sense of competition, or at least, some kind of
compositional orchestration.  We might introduce more depth into this
visual field.  Perhaps also there might be noise, as opposed to pure
signal:  that as yet uncomprehended, semi-obscured, or blended, part,
that eludes comprehension.  I'm thinking of some other contemporary
rhythmic phenomena, like lag.

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