Jammie Nicholas (DAI, 2016): "Can we really ever readdress inscriptions, digital or analogue, and see them side by side?"

20.08.16 | tag: Arnhem

Excerpt from Jammie's 20 minute presentation for Speaking Without Thumbs - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, July 2016

..almost impossible to describe; and it was only by analogy that they called it colour at all.


Giving only a very brief introduction, Jammie Nicholas let the work speak for itself. The installation consisted of three laptop computers placed and balanced on an assortment of reference materials including sample colour cards, mars bar chocolate bars, books (from H.P. Lovecraft to The History of Cave Art), DVDs (Jim Carry in Truman Show to Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck: a collector’s edition), among other items. Each laptop was connected to a separate video projector and each screen had a unique video sequence of images; viewed all together, the different images merged into one overlapped projection. Using the video projectors as a material unto themselves to mix projected light onto the ‘canvas’ of the screen transformed what could have been a typical video projection into a precisely organized light installation. Content-wise, the videos mixed images, colors and art historical references in a non-linear assemblage. Alluding to the history of the artistic gesture, one of the repeating images included early humans’ hand prints on cave walls, others include the physical hand gesture of painting, and screen “swiping”, calling attention to the evolution and improvisation of gestures as they relate to image making. In another repeating image, a can of generic paint has the phrase “This is Paint” on the label: one cannot help but think of it as a counter statement to Magritte’s iconic conceptual painting “This is not a pipe.” In this lecture performance, Jammie addresses the history of visual art though a media-specific installation.

Ekaterina Degot regarded this lecture performance as a “calm meditation for all of us” though she thought it may have benefitted from being shorter. She saw the three screens as three performers and thought that this piece was about repetition. The mysterious color in the can is white, she observed, and white only comes about when everything comes together in synthesis. For Degot, the whiteness had political connotations, especially when seen in the context of this “old white guy” in many of the video images. Among other art historical references, she saw the banana as a reference to Warhol.

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung thought that it would have been great to go beyond the performativity of the objects, for example if the piece had been accompanied by the performativity of the body. Bonaventure enjoyed the play with the color palettes, and the transition from analogue to digital (“which should go hand and hand”). He felt a certain monotony because the work didn’t go out of the frame, nevertheless appreciated its playfulness.

Rachel O’Reilly remarked that it was overly familiar to her as an aesthetic experience of new media since the early 2000s. In past experience as a new media curator she had to explain the history of digital media to curators of old media especially painting, thus linking Duchamp to digital art. O’Reilly was therefore interested in the “datedeness” of the presentation and what Jammie intends to be doing with it by making such work ‘now’. It caused her to thinking of Malevich on new media history, also of the division between Duchamp and Turing camps in Malevich’s famous essay on new media art. The form of the work she observed, “was bizarrely pedagogical.” This led her to ask whether (or how) this work is contemporary to itself. Though she does not usually ask this question of motivation or datedness (because there is usually a good reason for making any work even if it seems ‘dated’), in Jammie’s case, she was in any case interested to know what he, in terms of his research, was “getting out of doing this now.”

Bassam el Baroni remarked that he has been watching this work evolve over the past year which make the sources and references (perhaps) more clear to him than they would be to a viewer unfamiliar with the his work. Jammie’s sources seemed obvious to El Baroni and include Laruelle and Galloway, in particular his text on the black universe that is about the opacity of the relationship of the human being to nature. He saw see the three screens as each depicting a particular perception. The first would be the world according to Laruelle; the second would be a non-relational view of the world (through the universe); and the third is how we actually see the world. For El Baroni, the work’s subtlety is difficult to pick up if you are not aware of the theoretical background. He sees this as a weakness because a work should be understandable without knowing all the theoretical references. It is a question, he says, of the philosophical concept of ‘incommensurability’ – the problem arises when a type of idea emerges and there is a lack of exchange. This thin line between that and being incommunicable is the line the artist has to negotiate. “Where is that line between good ambiguity and bad ambiguity?” (referring to Maurice Merleau-Ponty). The artist needs to ask him or herself, “what degree of ambiguity do I want to produce?”

About: Speaking Without Thumbs

Jammie Nicholas' website