ELAINE STOCKI [on] KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE

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Jaune Brillant. 72″x60″, oil on canvas {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

{Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline’s most recent body of work uses a random number generator app to instigate the painting process.  The work was recently shown at ACTUAL Gallery in Winnipeg, Canada.}

Elaine Stocki:  Why the random number generator?

Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline: Using the random number generator was just a pragmatic solution to the problem of how to motivate the painting process. Early on in the trajectory of this work I began by using a set of cards, but as the parameters of the work became more complex, it just became impractical. So I numbered all the variables that go into making the paintings and use the number generator to select the moves that happen.

For me the making of the paintings is about searching through the material space of possibilities presented by the process, so the randomness of the number generator is as good a criteria as any really.  The randomness is just a catalyst for the process that allows things to happen in the work.  The number generator is just the spark that sets the other causal chains of the process into motion.     

The work that I’ve done since around 2011 has all come out of the use of a generative system of stencils.  The stencils more or less function as a shabby information relaying mechanism in the work.  They allow me to transcribe elements from one painting and then translate them onto the subsequent paintings.

One of the earlier stencil sets was a group of lines based on marks from one of the paintings.  I transcribed the elements of this gesture into sections that could be fit together end to end like plumbing or the tracks in a toy train set.  The problem of how to fit the pieces together became apparent, so I numbered all the ends, wrote the numbers on bits of paper, and then more or less pulled them out of a hat.

Immediately this altered my relationship to the work. Rather than just being an inert tool, the stencils had their own strange behavior.  This completely changed how I would approach making the paintings. Over the past few years I’ve just extended this situation out into almost every aspect of the making of the work so that everything more or less just follows sets of scripted protocols.  My painting process became some sort of golemed-doppelganger of itself and my position in the making of the work has been demoted to something more like an attendant rather than an author.

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Soft Object. 60″x48″, oil on canvas {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: Do you think that your self inflicted demotion to attendant in the art making process has any philosophical basis or precedent?

KKG: Early on in the development of the work there were two people that influenced my thinking about the work quite a bit.  Firstly, Manuel De Landa’s work relating to the inherent morphogenetic capacities of the material world. What is most striking to me about De Landa’s work is the way he points to the material world as a dynamic space of self-organizing systems and processes that are perpetually generating new forms and assemblages between forms via their interactions.  His work outlines a very interesting re-formulation of materialist philosophy.

Secondly, Andrew Pickering’s books The Mangle of Practice and The Cybernetic Brain, were both quite important to me.  In these books Pickering foregrounds a much more performative understanding and way of interacting with the world, which he contrasts against a more dominant representational model of understanding the world.

In relation to my self imposed demotion within the making of the work, what both Pickering and De Landa point towards is a much more symmetrical relationship between human and non-human agents in the world; what could be called a flat ontology. Subjects and objects are seen as occupying the world equally, exerting reciprocal formative pressures on each other. Both also point to the world as a material process that is perpetually unfolding itself in novel ways. For me, their work proposes a displacement of the habitual notions of artistic agency in relation to making work. It shifts the emphasis towards operating more at the level of designing parameters for processes or situations where the inherent creative capacities of the world can to play themselves out. This creates a situation where both artist and the work shape each other in what Pickering would call a “reciprocal dance of agencies”.  This also be extends out into how the larger context of the work’s production bears on what is produced and how it is produced.

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Fruit on Black, installation view, ACTUAL {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: Do you have full faith in the process, or does your emotional or aesthetic opinion ever intervene?

KKG: I have no faith in the process.  It’s not really an issue of faith.  The process is a way to proceed in a situation of non-faith.

The whole process is built around my emotions and aesthetic opinions in that the process takes the habitual ways I would make a painting and then systematizes them.  But in doing so it also makes those biases alien to themselves by re-organizing them.  The process becomes dumb to itself, and so, it itself becomes an intervention into the pre-existing system that is my emotions and aesthetic opinions.

ES: Would someone who was watching your process note certain “cheats”?

KKG: Yes.

ES: Does this become problematic to you?

KKG: I think what I’m doing is making the whole enterprise of making a painting problematic for myself.

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Fruit on Black, installation view, ACTUAL {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: How does the sculpture you made for your show relate to this? There are odds and sods thrown in there. I noticed half of a wiener dog salt and pepper shaker. Are these everyday objects meant to perform with the pieces of sculpture in a sort of flat ontology that you describe? Is that why you put them in there?

KKG: I suppose if you took the idea of a flat ontology seriously everything would perform together within that ontology.  But the work is not meant to be an illustration of that idea.  Wouldn’t the work just be terrible if it did that? I mean, there may not be much of a valuable distinction between a work of art and a Dachshund salt and pepper shaker, other than value itself, but that’s not really why I put it there. Although, I feel like your interest in the salt and pepper shaker is by virtue of the fact that you gave it to me.

The objects in the sculpture are really just the banal stuff that was around me that met the criteria of the sculpture. But as such, the objects are an extension of my subjectivity in that together they form what Timothy Morton would call a hyperobject. They are a kind of subjective Katamari ball. They are just things that I have made, used, had given to me, put on, in and out of my body, looked at on the internet, etc.

Similar to the way my painting process is re-organized through the systematizing of that process, the objects in the sculpture are also re-organized and re-distributed through the system of the sculpture. The tiles used in the sculpture basically just amount to a bad minimalist sculpture tarted up with a funky paint job and arranged using a drunk-walk algorithm. By placing the objects in the sculpture the relationships between the objects are redefined by the program of the sculpture. But part of what interests me about this systematizing of the work is the way it mimics the cybernetic/algorithmic systems that basically re-organize and re-distribute subjectives in contemporary culture.

I think both DeLanda and Pickering are great in showing the productive virtues of these types of systems, but I feel like the show also comes with a fairly ambivalent back hand. Part of what was going through my mind during the making of the show were the resonances of recently re-reading Deleuze’s Postscript on the Societies of Control. That essay was written in like 1992 but it couldn’t be more important for today’s culture. Its just jarring really. Plus, it has the great line: {Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.}    

ES: Wait – how in the first place did the paintings turn into 3-D? Does that relate to de Landa and Pickering as well?

KKG: I guess you are referring to the tiles, but in the end I really feel like the whole show ends up being the sculpture.  Putting the tiles and wall paintings in the space was sort of a catalyst for how the rest of the elements would be organized.  So the limits of the sculpture are quite fuzzy. Its not clear to me where it really starts or ends.  It absorbs the accoutrement of a contemporary art exhibition into itself and also points to things well outside the show.  So there are also the paintings, QR codes that lead to websites, one of which shows a drawing hanging in the basement of the gallery, the hand bills, the artist’s statement, my blog, etc. Beyond that I included an image of a Heineken can found at the bottom of the Whittard ocean canyon, basically one of the deepest parts of the Atlantic.  I consider that can as part of the sculpture.  Not the image, but the can itself.  I’ve appropriated it, wherever it is. And finally, the images of the fruit supposedly mutated by Fukushima radiation. Given that there are detectable amounts of Fukushima radiation in Manitoba it only seemed right to have the mess of Fukushima as part of the sculpture, since it has already integrated its caesium particles into the work anyways.

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Martha. 14″x17″, pen on paper {2014} Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline.

ES: The barcode that scans to an image of the drawn bird in the basement in the gallery is my favourite idea in the show. I love how it works with the rest of the work. Can you talk a little bit about why a bird, and why the basement?

KKG: The image of the bird is an image of Martha the last Passenger Pigeon, who died alone in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.  She was stuffed and ended up in the Smithsonian.  I guess I really just made the drawing in lieu of being able to actually acquire Martha.

Again, I think a lot of the things in the work have a relationship to the way subjectivities are sort of being recomposed at present.  The modern individual has been replaced by a networked “dividual” able to be broken up into information of various kinds.  At the same time you have the tension between individuals and multitudes.  The tension between one person in relation to, for instance, the geologically scaled biomass of the anthropos.  You sort of have this situation of the one as many, and also, the one and the many.

For me Martha’s story seems to head in an opposite direction. Passenger Pigeons flew around in flocks of billions.  They would basically black out the sky like some sort of sentient meteorological event.  So its quite staggering to see something like that reduced to one individual completely severed from their relevant networks.  Placing the drawing in the basement seemed suitable to this situation.

Beyond that I think that only being able to see the work by linking to it via the QR, through a smart phone, over the internet, allowed for another means of renegotiating the space of the gallery.  It also holds the drawing close and at a distance simultaneously.  You can understand where it is but in a sense have to project yourself into that space. I think it generates quite an odd experience of a work of art, but also one that is completely familiar to how we consume art now.

ES: You used to do a lot of figurative work. Would you ever conceive of this process using representational repeating patterns? Is that idea off putting to you?

KKG: One big influence on the work was Jeff Funnell’s cat paintings which are more or less that.

The new paintings came directly out of my earlier representational paintings.  In a lot of ways those earlier works were more or less what you are describing.  They were basically made by layering segments of found images.  But as I went forward it was really the structural and material aspects of the painting that were interesting to me, so it was enough to use a repertoire of visual information collected from the paintings themselves. I guess I’m more interested in what the painting is and what it does rather than its ability to reference something in that way.

That being said there were plenty of images in the show. I’m not opposed to representation. The supposed dichotomy between representation and abstraction has always been a false one. I think this notion in modern painting often obscures what paintings are and what they are doing.

ES: Last Question: What does the title of the show, Fruit On Black mean?

KKG: It means Fruit on Black.  But stroked out.

The title of the show and most of the titles for the paintings came out of another process I’ve been using.  I drop texts related to my work into a William S.Burroughs style text cut-up app and then pick out the interesting word combinations. That was one of the phrases that popped out.  It fit the show and I liked the image that it conjured.  For me the title is again just another piece in the show.  I liked the idea that people would read it and then carry the image it provoked for them through the show.  /Its more like a micro-poem.  But it also has a performative drawing aspect through the striking out of the text.

The strikeout aspect was also interesting to me in that these types of fonts have been created in order to make texts illegible to computers trained to read through text on the internet.  Actually getting the title of the show to appear on the internet has proven to be quite a difficult thing.  Even getting it on the handbill properly was quite hard. (Apparently it doesn’t work in my email either.) So I like that aspect of it also.  It ends up being a kind of delinquent text that sort of falls in and out of the symbolic order.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ELAINE STOCKI: Elaine Stocki is a Canadian artist who works in Photography. She recently had a show at Thomas Erben Gallery in New York.

KRISJANIS KAKTINS-GORSLINE: Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline is an artist who lives and works in Winnipeg. He recently had a show at ACTUAL in Winnipeg. 

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