With regards to the reflexivity of action we have to tackle the notion of notation. Notation can refer to a lot of things but often it is a form of representation of a certain situation that we want to document. And in the Latour’s Re-assembling the Social (2007), we find the following passage:
“In order to trace an actor-network, what we have to do is add to the many traces left by social fluid through which the traces are rendered again present, provided something happens in it. In an actor-network account the relative proportion of mediators to intermediaries is increased. I will call such a description a risky account, meaning that it can easily fail.” (133)
What Bruno Latour articulates is that while we have a situation such as the summer school, which also could be described as network of actants, actors, the site, material, discourses and all of that. The traces are left. To trace these traces is the basic remit of recording and analyzing the situation, an urban situation, an architectural situation and a performative situation. Now, according to Bruno Latour this can always fail, it is a risky business to engage in such activity. And why is that so? The question really is to see whether the event of the social – and for Bruno Latour every event is performative. Every situation is performative. It is produced by action, which we can also relate to Lefebvre’s notion of the production of space. Space is produced by actions. – whether the event of the social can be extended all the way to the event of the reading through the medium of the text. That is the question.
How can we perform a reading of the text that brings this performativity to the fore? There is always a price to pay for objectivity, – what Bruno Latour says or the objective fullness to achieve. What is really radical here is that for Bruno Latour everything is data. Everything from the first telephone call to a perspective interviewee, the first appointment with the advisor, the first corrections made by a client on a grant proposal, the first launching of a search engine, the first list of boxes to tick in a questionnaire. In keeping with the logic of our interest in textual reports and accounting, it might be useful to list the different notebooks one should keep – it no longer matters whether manual or digital .
Now, I don’t want to go into the list that Latour is making up of notebooks. I just want to refer to the fact that these text reports are working in different ways and under different logics, and that everything can become data. This is very important for us because the summer school also takes an open form in order to reveal the potentialities of a certain material structure, but also of a political imaginary such as the “refugee crisis”. If we want to tackle these potentialities we have to deal with an open form, which also holds for the way we record it. This means we cannot decide beforehand what kinds of data we are going to use. We have to record kind of everything. That is one aspect of the notation.
The other aspect is that everything can become a notation. And this is the central point that Hans-Jörg Rheinberger refers to. A scholar at the Max-Planck Institute for History of Science, Rheinberger has completely re-written the history of science. And what he did in the end of 80s was to translate, together with the actor Hans Zischler, Jacques Derrida’s book “Grammatologie” (Grammatology) (1998). We are now of the opinion that the postmodern movement is kind of over and Derrida’s Grammatological turn is not en vogue anymore. Read with Hans-Joerg Rheinberger, grammatology takes a completely different turn, it takes a practical turn, a way to describe what actually happens in the laboratory.
Now in a very important text by Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (2014), which is called “for all that gives rise to an inscription in general”, we can see how this transposition from grammatology to the laboratory works. Hans-Jörg Rheinberger here starts with a quote of Grammatology. I will quote this quote.
“For some time now, as a matter of fact, here and there, by a gesture and for motives that are profoundly necessary, whose degradation is easier to denounce than it is to disclose their origin, one says a ‘language’ for action, movement, thought, reflection, consciousness, unconsciousness, experience, affectivity, etc. Now we tend to say ‘writing’ for all that and more: to designate not only the physical gestures of literal pictographic or ideographic inscription, but also the totality of what makes it possible; and also, beyond the signifying phase, the signified phase itself. And thus we say ‘writing’ for all that gives rise to an inscription in general, whether it is literal or not and even if what it distributes in space is alien to the order of the voice.” (cit. a. 2014, p.9)
And he gives examples by Derrida. These examples are: cinematography, choreography, of course, but also pictorial, musical, sculptural ‘writing’. So in the case of the summer school if Marco for example is present and filming the situation, this filming is a ‘writing’. This filming is also a notation. And that leads to the fact that we get different, different, different materialities of notations. And these can be scribblings, which have a different impact on acting in a situation. Because scribbling … you can do very fast, you are very close to the action. Or in Alex’ exercise, you wake up in the morning, you think about it and you immediately hit the spot, you scribble it down. From that scribbling you go on and do the next more precise drawing. The drawing itself is also a ‘writing’. The text you write is a ‘writing’. Every small photo you take is a ‘writing’. It all comes together. Now what function does that writing have? And I think it is important here to refer to the way that Hans-Jörg Rheinberger describes this kind of semiological term in the laboratory. Rheinberger says that all the epistemic things that are produced in the laboratory, the things that are produced by the interaction with the black box of something that we want to know. All these are graphemes – like notational entities. And these graphemes are being written. “From time out of mind it is the property of this generalized writing that the grammatology of being in its materiality makes possible all re-iteration and re-occurence difference as difference thus history and meaning.” (2014, p. 10)
All the history of the summer school is itself propelled to the iteration of its ‘writings’. So the HOOU Project itself is another iteration of the project itself. But also in the project, when you do an exercise like the one set by Alex, you constantly re-write the kernel of that exercise. You are re-iterating. That is the whole aspect of the take. Because the take is the form where the ‘writing’ takes place. It is just with the take that we expand the notion of writing to the performativity of going through the take itself. So the program of the take is like the program of a laboratory, it is the program of practice of the re-iteration of writings.
Now we return to the non-representational aspect of the writing or what Latour called the risky aspect of the writing, the subconscious of the writing, the open form of the writing. Rheinberger says,
“there is no writing without palimpsest. The sketchbook is the prerequisite for all history and the first of all histories is difference. The necessity for passing through the erased determination is the necessity of that trick of writing is irreducible.” (2014, p. 11)
This notating is a play with as well as the representation, which means the representation of a thing and an action, which means producing a sign that refers to that action. But at the same time in the sense of Derrida’s saying that this reference is always distracted by or moved by a trace. And the trace is the essential movement of the notation. That is what we call in another organizational dimension the minimal structure. In the dimension of the representation this is the trace. That means that every with notation you get, you have re-formulate from a form into a structure to get to its trace. Derrida says you have to inhabit the structure of the writing. And that is exactly what is at stake. One could say with Rheinberger that there is a logic of living or a logic of playing engrained in this grammatology. Speaking with Rheinberger this is the “play of the possible” (2014, p. 13). It cannot be handled from the outset in a targeted and selective manner; you either play it or you don’t. And if you do play it is indeterminable because of the peculiarity of its structure. Now you see that is the whole aspect in a nutshell.
One has to keep in mind, though, that every notation can be treated in that way. We also call it playing diagrammatically with the notation. It also means that you lose your fear of notating. You don’t have to know in advance or before you notate what you notated. It is the opposite. Your affection and your affective structure that you have trained in that diagrammatic process will lead you to the structural notation of what happened, to get the epistemic quality out of this notation in the later rewriting or replaying of the possible as Hans-Jörg Rheinberger says.
It is important in this context to refer to Stan Allen, who wrote quite intensively on notation in architecture. And he clearly makes reference to Gilles Deleuze. According to him, all notations in architecture are necessarily reductive and abstract. Yet the product of the notion does not necessarily re-assemble the notation itself. Notations are, as Allen says quoting Deleuze, are abstract machines, capable of producing new configurations out of given materials. That is the whole aspect of the summer school. That is why we propose it is about creating future potentialities, it is about the re-configuration of the materialities in their structural playing together. Stan Allen continues, “they work across gaps of time and space, but notations are not universal. They work by means of transposition rather than translation.” (2009, p. 32) That’s the whole idea of referring to Derrida that you transpose all the time between the different media that you will use in notating everything, as following Latour everything is data. That is to say notational diagrams are not decoded according to linguistic conventions but rather the internal relationships that are transposed move step by step into the new organizational contexts. So here you see a connection between the notations and the structural approach, between the organization of the agency of the project in its performativity and the connection to diagrammatic thinking because diagrammatic representation also establishes a relationship between sign and referent through a structural relation rather than through a formal one.
I want to conclude by saying that each notational system articulates a specific interpretive community and loosely bounded collective domain. Every time you create a project you manage a project. You create this collectivity of notations. You cannot predetermine this group and this language of notation as Rheinberger says because it is an open play of and with possibilities. As we have seen with the lists, you can only supply material and engage with the situation so as to interact with the situation itself.
One of the most important exhibitions that shows the translation of the project into notation or the notation of the process as a product and as a work was Mel Bochner’s famous exhibition Working Drawings and other Visible Things on Paper, not Necessarily Meant to be Viewed as Art. This exhibition took place at the visual arts gallery and the school of visual arts from December 2nd to December 23rd in 1966. For this exhibition Mel Bochner asked friends and colleges to send them notations of projects. Thus for the first time he would have an exhibition that would not exhibit works but the notation of the works as process. Certainly today we are able to see this materiality as a diagrammatic representation of the work itself or as a diagrammatic form of the works themselves.
I will just show some examples here. And sure enough some of them are also laboratory notations, long before Hans Jörg Rheinberger thought about the notational aspect of a laboratory. This could also be a notation of project management timings.
The head of the school did not allow this exhibition to be placed on the walls because the art institution thought that it was not art. Mel Bochner presented the exhibition as a catalogue and this practice of cataloguing has been with us ever since.
Referring to the concept of Project Archaeology, the question of serial repetition and the question of notation … we are always confronted with an idea of a space of knowledge, or a spatial arrangement of knowledge. This idea of a spatial arrangement of knowledge derives from Michel Foucault in his famous book, “Les Mots et les choses”, “The order of things” (1994) or in German “Die Ordnung der Dinge”. In the introduction to the English translation that was called “The order of things” Foucault gives directions for using the book as he calls it . And there are very interesting aspects that also refer to our concept of the project archeology.
First he says his book must be read as a comparative and not a symptomological study. It was not his intention to draw up a picture of a period, to reconstitute a certain zeitgeist, a certain cause, a certain Stimmung in a time that caused knowledge to appear. Foucault rather wants to show the space in which the knowledge appears, its fragments and the way it appears. That’s why he also calls his book a regional study, another topological metaphor. Foucault speaks of a space of knowledge that has to be analyzed in the way it is arranged and systematized. So one of the main aspects for Foucault in his historical study is to see how for instance a space of knowledge in the 19th century was arranged by representational strategies completely differently from those of classical science in the 18th century.
The other aspect besides the topological aspect of knowledge is the structural aspect of the unconscious. Now when you see the archive like this, it is full of unconscious structure. What I see is not a representation, I just see a structural arrangement. And I see all kinds of material that I have to get out, distribute, and then, out of this distribution, create the knowledge in the process; this way of archiving indicates that the process creates its own knowledge through the process of showing it, re-arranging it, throguh its re-arrangement let appear the sub-conscious or unconscious aspects of this archive. Now Foucault says that there are always two ways how knowledge appears in that space of knowledge, because it appears in a representational space as Hans-Jörg Rheinberger puts it. So, on the one hand the space describes the processes and products of a scientific consciousness of a formulation of projects of problems, the clash of controversy and so on. But on the other hand it also restores what is eluded in the consciousness, influences that affected it. Foucault says that this unconscious is always the negative side of science, that which resists it, deflects it, or disturbs it. Now, the important thing for Foucault is to not to try to eliminate this disturbance but to make the disturbance the productive motor of the whole research. So what he wants to do with this book was to reveal a positive unconscious of knowledge. “A level that eludes the consciousness of the scientist and yet is part of scientific discourse, instead of disputing its validity and seeking to diminish its scientific nature.” (1994, p. x) So it is not an entirely scientific book at all. It just tries to reveal a positive unconsciousness, which has to be done by shifting one’s own methodological plan. You cannot show the unconscious in the same way you would show a conscious. In that sense what he does is to isolate, in German you would say frei stellen. He cuts out. It is a cut, copy and paste strategy, a very structural approach. He isolates the entities of knowledge as their specific locus. All these fragments are not valid without their topological position within a space of knowledge and that is the interesting point; how it is exhibited – one could also call this an exhibition – because it is an exhibition of locations, of locational strategies and of relationships. And relationships, and indeed relational space, only come about, if you have points of position and these positionings stand together. That’s why also the whole idea the post structural monishing positions completely not true. It is just about the show, illustrating how the positions are related and relational in a field. This way of isolating spatial entities of knowledge and their locus is what he later called archaeological. This is the way how you show the unconscious of science. For example what he tried to do in the book is to determine the basics of an archaeological system to a series of scientific representations. Not only does Foucault imply to understand knowledge as a spatial configuration, he also shows how the representations of space create a space of knowledge and how these representations are related to each other, as we have talked about in the exhibition. We also show the relation of representations to each other. That is the relational approach to an exhibition. That’s why Foucault writes in the introduction that his book should be read as an open site. (1994, p. xi) This I think is crucial to the whole undertaking of understanding the book itself as a diagram as an open site as an open structure of relating representations of space while it is itself a representation and a spatial configuration of representations. This is a serial approach like an archive: here you have a serial structuring that’s important because that’s how you can let different series clash in heterogeneous ways and according to functions and motifs these materials then pop up and create new configurations in the project archaeology. And these propositions that are engrained can produce all kinds of aspects. It is just important that they are isolated fragment and thus structural and in being structural are part of a redistribution of a reshuffling of that epistemological space. So creating knowledge for Foucault is never to find knowledge somewhere, to extract it from somewhere, or to find it like the tabula rasa, genius plan, where you have the best idea. No. It is about fragmenting the knowledge in a way in which it can be re-assembled according to its differences. I will close with a quote from the book itself. The book with the following preface:
“This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought - our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography - breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other.” You can see here, how Foucault also works with the topological metaphor with the breaking up surface and with breaking up plan of our familiar landmark of knowledge and how burst of --, a burst of an unconscious grasping of a situation in that case of a list and its heterogeneity disturbs and starts to disturb this space. Now the passage that Foucault refers to is a certain Chinese encyclopedia in which it is written that quote: 'animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (1) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies', end of the quote in Foucault. And Foucault says: ”In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” Referring to this --- by Foucault one could say whole summer school is about an exercise possibility of thinking this. Later on Foucault explains: “It is not the 'fabulous' animals that are impossible, since they are designated as such, but the narrowness of the distance separating them from (and juxtaposing them to) the stray dogs, or the animals that from a long way off look like flies. What transgresses the boundaries of all imagination, of all possible thought, is simply that alphabetical series (a, b, c, d) which links each of those categories to all the others.” (1994, p. xiv) In that sense the project archeology is creating these lists, these serials that link categories that traditionally may not belong together and relating them in the exercise of the possibility of thinking that.
Foucault, M., 1966. Les Mots et les choses. Paris: INA.
Foucault – The Lost Interview, 1971.
Speaking from the Laboratory | Mark B. N. Hansen & Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, 2015.
Wissenschaftsgeschichte, A.I. des M.-P.-I. für, Azzouni, S., Wittmann, B., Schmidgen, H., Kursell, J., Gausemeier, B., and Brandt, C., 2014. Eine Naturgeschichte für das 21. Jahrhundert: Zu Ehren von Hans-Jörg Rheinberger. Berlin: Alpheus Verlag.
Allen, S., Ostrow, S., and Agrest, D.I., 2000. Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation. Amsterdam: Routledge.
Derrida, J., 1998. Of Grammatology. Corrected ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Latour, B., 2007. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. New Ed. Oxford u.a.: Oxford University Press, USA.
Rheinberger, H.-J., 2006. Experimentalsysteme und epistemische Dinge: Eine Geschichte der Proteinsynthese im Reagenzglas. 1st ed. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.
Rheinberger, H.-J., 2010. An Epistemology of the Concrete: Twentieth-century Histories of Life. Duke University Press.
Balke, F., Siegert, B., and Vogl, J., 2016. Medien der Bürokratie: 2016. 1., 2016. Paderborn: Fink, Wilhelm.
Mihatsch, K., 2015. Der Ausstellungskatalog 2.0: Vom Printmedium zur Online-Repräsentation von Kunstwerken. 1., Aufl. Bielefeld: transcript.
Which are the media of notation?
Scribbling, hand drawing, isometric view, floorplan, section, perspective, collage, comic, photography, film, audio recording, and of course all possible hybrids of everything mentioned before.