black light market | a commentary
© ed keller 1995

The title of this exhibition (taken from a passage in William S. Burroughs) and the attendant history the phrase invokes brings to bear a broad spectrum of issues - including the creative process, perception, power, and subjectivity- and their points of intersection with a set of painterly techniques. Perry Hall deals with these issues in a way that has precedent to varying degrees in the work of artists like Ernst, Matta, Dali, and more recent abstract expresisonists like David Reed and Gerhard Richter. Hall is informed by the interrogation of '...painting as a form of alchemy: process and states of mind/intuition with materials are paramount, regardless of whether the media is digital or painterly.'

His work is inseparably part of this alchemy- an alchemy which accepts a certain aleatoric condition, in fact encourages it, as part of the process. By incorporating surrealist automatic techniques, and by distancing his hand as an author through a refinement of the technique of decalcomania, he has opened the work up to an undecideability which approaches the anexact condition that Greg Lynn locates provisionally in writing,

"As writing is indeterminate, non- ideal, heterogeneous and undecidable it is implicitly resisted by exact geometries. Exact geometries may render only those characteristics that can be reduced to ideal proportions. They promise a universally translatable and therefore absolutely fixed language for architecture as their pure forms are written "once and for all." For instance, there is only one sphere for all cultures for all time: an infinite number of points on a shared surface equidistant form a single radius point. Ideal forms such as these must be reducible to eidetic mathematical statements. Eidetic forms are: (1) exact in measure and contour, (2) visually fixed, and (3) repeatable identically. Architecture, as described by Bataille and Hollier, is eidetic: it is reducible, static, exact, fixed, proportional and identically reproducible.... The antiarchitectural practice of writing does not arrest matter in fixed proportions; it respects and maintains incomplete, undecidable, amorphous and other vague characteristics. Therefore, any writing in architecture must begin with a geometry that does not reduce matter to ideal forms."
from 'Probable Geometries: The Architecture of Writing in Bodies', Greg Lynn, ANY Number zero, Anyone Corporation, New York, 1993 pp44-49

This condition of undecideability is of crucial importance in our encounter with the work- as it is in the maintenance of the anexact that time can be brought in as a factor which enacts the process of the work upon us a viewers. It is, as Deleuze notes in his comment about depth of field in film, an invitation to recollect. This invitation, this seeking, which locates meaning outside of logical sense- realizes in a unique way Burroughs' injunction to destroy all rational thought.

However, there is a simultaneous concern with materials, which involves time in a very unusual way. If one were to make a somewhat reductionist link between Bergson's matter and the exact, versus duree and the anexact (which Bergson himself does, within a strict framework and with the caveat that matter and memory are never any more or less than an always impure composite) one might make the assumption that this concern with material locates us in an exactness which denies the invocation of time that Hall's images perform.

But it is clear that this concern with the material- this alchemy- finds a balance between the enunciative performance of the works- the interpretive realms they birth- and the more machinic flows that occur when one mixes oil and water based pigments, with various metallic powders, and then employs the decalcomaniac process. This balance concerns itself with a series of flows which accept the problematized role of the artist/subject as a given, but which then attempt to emerge from the crushing weight of this realization not by engaging in a purely semiotic game, but by positing material instrumentalities (as well as semiotic) which effect certain responses.

There is a relationship, further, in the processes which follow the decalcomanias, in that resultant forms which emerge from these decalcomaniac processes are then honed and developed, to accentuate their interpretive content. A recursive level of detail is developed by the decalcomania, which Hall opportunistically uses to strengthen the 'uncanny' quality of the creatures and spaces that populate his work. This level of detail takes on a supernatural relationship to the interpretive content of the works, and holds up to scrutiny on a literally microscopic level. Some of the images in this exhibition exist physically at less than one inch in height.

To quote Hall, his interest is in "...creating enigmas, images that have meaning outside of language or interpretation, using surrealist automatic processes and trusting the resultant images and form no matter how diverse. In a culture where information and images usually overload and inundate, taking as many in as possible and recreating, changing and interpreting them by trusting these surrealist automatic processes. '

These processes are part of a tangible, yet slippery, teleology which posits something other than the closure a purely semiotic configuration of the subject might insist on. There is an interesting question of ethics brought into play by this extended set of processes, and by Hall's decision to deploy some of his work on the Internet. Traditional notions of authorship, authenticity and the performance value of original work are challenged [1] through the processes and this digital exhibition; the question of the original is addressed by Andrew Benjamin's formulation of the anoriginal in response to the rigidity that the concept of the original evokes. Without slipping down a dark path of destruction, or into formal solipsism, Hall's work confronts the question of the role of the author and suggests the existence of a new morality and ethics informed by that confrontation.

-ed keller

[1] cf. Walter Benjamin's 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', for one POV on the problem of originality and the aura, and how they intersect with issues of power.