Drawing Spaces of Negotiation by Jong Pairez

Mattang, a stick chart by Marshall Island people that illustrate different oceanic waves and island relationships. Source: http://www.forensicgenealogy.info/images/marshall_explanation_mattang.jpg


 
In artistic practice, drawing is fundamental. It is the basic of showing how one is talented and capable enough to perform their artistic practice. Therefore, drawing is always synonymous to a highly advanced skill that only a few can perform. Furthermore, in the Western world when drawing became an independent art form(1), starting from the beginning of 14th century, the anthropocentric approach to understanding phenomenon, during this time also became noticeable.
 
The formal practice of drawing even further advanced upon the introduction of paper that was first invented in China. The ease of paper as a surface material for graphite and ink helped canonize drawing as a medium based practice. Thereafter, the standardization had set the limit to drawing, but nevertheless, it became instrumental to the realization of important anthropocentric knowledges, such as mobility and cartography, marking human modernity. Furthermore, the formalization of drawing also helped fortify the authority of written text over its precedent provisional form of communication.
 
This essay will explore the relationship between drawing, cartography, and writing. But most importantly these three elements instrumental to modern knowledge will be loosely scrutinized to open other possibilities of drawing.
 
Cartography, Drawing and Orality
 
There are many scholarly work available that studied the practice of drawing, some notable works are from the field of education and psychology. They approach the study of drawing beyond artistic practice and by digging into prehistoric communication practices. For instance, Psychologist Barbara Tversky, in the article(2) she contributed to the cognitive science journal she declared that pictorial expression of thought predates writing. From this premise Tversky analysed how prehistoric man communicates and understand the surroundings.
 
In her findings, she found out that early man manipulates spatial pattern through their hands and mind to communicate. She then defined it as spatial-action where “actions in space, whether on objects or as gestures, that create abstractions in the mind and patterns in the world, intertwined so that one primes the others.” This action in space extends to pictorial expression, together it augment cognition silently and directly unlike language, thus, Tversky concluded that, “The arrangements and organizations used to design the world create diagrams in the world: The designed world is a diagram.”
 
Cartography and Written Text
 

Stick chart, Marshall Islands. Exhibit from the Pacific Collection, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stick_chart,_Marshall_Islands_-_Pacific_collection_-_Peabody_Museum,_Harvard_University_-_DSC05729.JPG


 
The diagrammatic understanding of the world by prehistoric man requires provisional and temporary approach to communication. In other words, to be able to make concrete the ideas expressed in drawing it must remain provisional for the other to affirm a common understanding of the proposed idea. Art Historian Stephen Farthing in his comprehensive study of drawing said that early form of drawings are tools for translating multi-dimensional events into “readable two-dimensional matter”.
 
The social aspect of prehistoric drawing implied by Farthing help us define why early man came up with diagrammatic approaches to translate multi-dimensional events especially in describing their positional understanding in relationship to their surrounding environment. The effectivity of this approach in fact is continually practiced by indigenous people. For instance, seafaring people from the South Pacific islands uses stick charts(3) until today to navigate the ocean. Through 3 these provisionary tools of translating the stellar phenomenon they are able to understand their positional relationship with the environment and navigate around it.
 
However, as the provisional proximation of space and translation of multi-dimensional events become codified through the invention of written language in the turn of ages, the provisional characteristics of diagrammatic drawing was also replaced by a more accurate definition of space that is now confined in the interest of power.
 
The first Western accurate mapping of the world came out in the Age of Exploration. It was also the same historical moment that drawing was canonized into an independent art form, limiting drawing into a mere artistic practice. Those who were outside the category of the artistic was defined as technical drawings, mostly accompanying colonial expeditions of the new world, practiced by missionaries, colonial engineers and cartographers. Moreover, in the turn of many centuries, the once socially-shared and negotiated spaces related to the social aspect of drawing has now become a contested enclosed political space(4). This shift changed our perception 4 of space and time, especially in how we position ourselves in the imaginary contested political spaces. The outline of drawings that was once a negotiated and provisional marking of a certain space has become a calcified imaginary border that separate us from one another.
 
Text Eaters
 

A digital reproduction of Rauschenbergʼs erased De Kooning drawing.
Source: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.298/essay/erased-de-kooning-drawing/


 
In 1953, American artist Robert Rauschenberg challenged his ability to draw, he thought of making drawing with an eraser. In an interview Rauschenberg confessed that this idea came upon from incessant erasure of his drawing mistakes(5). He then tried to make a lot of erasures in his drawings to find a new discovery but found the results lacking. After many attempts, Rauschenberg was convinced that erasing a drawing of an artist with universally renowned status will make his erasure drawing successful. With the consent of the world acclaimed painter Willem de Kooning, the work “Erased de Kooning Drawing by Robert Rauschenberg (1953)” changed the modern history of drawing. Many art critics praised it as an important landmark of Conceptual Art in art history(6). But to some, it was a gesture that brought back the social aspect of drawing that once thrive in its provisionality. Moreover, the erasures also gestures the slate cleaning of drawing history enabling anything possible after that, as implied in the brief commentary by John Cage, saying: “It’s a joy in fact to begin over again. In preparation he erases a De Kooning.”
 
Meanwhile, there are group of people in continental Southeast Asia living in a tumultuous environment on the highlands between the borders of South China, Laos, Northern Thailand and Burma. Dutch historian Willem van Schendel described their habitat geographically as Zomia, due to the almost impossible accessibility of the terrain. The difficult habitat of these people intrigued many anthropologists. One among many is the American anthropologist James Scott.
 

Zomia is a Southeast Asian Massif indicated in red from this map. It is a
highland mountainous ranges bordering South China and continental
Southeast Asia. Source: https://alchetron.com/Zomia-(region)-5166076-W


 
In previous accounts these people were described as “primitives” and “barbarians” especially in Chinese historical annals. Some earlier anthropologists would concede to this archaic claim due to the illiteracy status of these people. However, what Scott had found is surprising. In his research, contrary to common claims, these people known as Akha, Lisu, Hmong, and many others were once lowland dwellers and completely harnessed with civilization skills, especially agriculture and literacy. However, because
of the growing oppressive culture inherent in the power dynamics of civilization (Chinese civilization, Khmer civilization, etc.) they decided to leave the knowledge behind (Scott, 2013).
 
Like Rauschenberg they cleaned the slate, however, by running deep into the mountains evading state authorities. Together as fugitives they erased their history and unlearned their literacy skills by eating the texts written in the books and replacing it with oral stories that laterally and provisionally describes their shifting identity(7). Their “jellyfish” identity as described by Scott allow them to become inventive and highly creative similar to how drawing was once a tool of communicating provisional ideas in translating multi-dimensional events. Further, Scott also claimed that the reasons behind deskilling and unlearning processes by these people is to adapt to a new terrain that requires the ability to swiftly move and acquire new knowledge from a tumultuous environment. This difficult periphery according to Scott is also a “Shatter Zone” because of the “bewildering ethnic and linguistic complexity” from mixtures of different people who ran away from their own respective states.
 
Conclusion
 

A Burmese depiction of the Akha in the early 1900s. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akha_people#/media/File:Akha_tribe_depiction,_1900s.jpg


 
The overall discussion above is to show you a brief look of how drawing developed from a provisional form of communication to codified written language. Moreover, it also describes in a quick glance how the formal and specialized form of drawing that came along with written language marginalized its earlier version. This, however, also shows us the separation of drawing from a necessary tool for negotiations to an absolute illustration of truth as seen in both technical and fine art drawings.
 
The discomfort and discontent from these modern practices of drawing is illustrated through the work of Robert Rauschenberg along with the ethnography of Southeast Asian band of fugitives. The illustration, however, is not to suggest a nostalgic return to the past where drawing was once a necessary tool for translating multidimensional events and negotiations but to expand the practice that is contextualized in the present.
 
Today, as the world has become more and more interconnected; to speak, write and draw in a homogeneous way limits the many possibilities of connectedness. The potential to bridge the gap behind the limits of language is through drawing, however, only if drawing breaks away from its own limitations.
 
 


(1) Independent art form, is the term used by Encyclopedia Brittanica to describe the time in Western history of art where drawing became prominent in 14th century among studio artists. Source: https://www.britannica.com/art/drawing-art/History-of-drawing

(2) Tversky, Barbara. “Visualizing Thought.” Topics in Cognitive Science, Volume 3, Issue 3 (2011).
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1756-8765.2010.01113.x/full

(3) Stick Charts are navigational map made out of sticks and cowry shells representing the constellation of stars and ocean swells. Lewis, David (1994). We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific (Second ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 404.

(4) I am invoking the term Enclosure to illustrate how Cartography contributed to the fortification of Private Property. The term Enclosure was originally coined in 18th century England describing the fenced ownership of agricultural land that was once commonly shared by subsistence farmers. Rubenstein, James, The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, Pearson Publishing (2011)

(5) Robert Rauschenberg interview extracted from Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/29169282

(6) In 1968, Harold Rosenberg referred to Erased de Kooning Drawing as “the most significant creative
gesture of the last two decades,” URL: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.298/essay/erased-de-kooning-drawing/
Cite as: Sarah Roberts , “ Erased de Kooning Drawing,” Rauschenberg Research Project, July 2013. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,
https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.298/essay/erased-de-kooning-drawing/. Paragraph: 19.

(7) Akha people lost their writings along their route of flight. It is told in their oral stories that “they ate their books of buffalo-hide when they were hungry, and so lost their script.” Scott, James, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Yale University Press (2009).
 


References:

Scott, James, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Yale University Press (2009).

Rubenstein, James, The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, Pearson Publishing (2011)

Farthing, Stephen, “The Bigger Picture of Drawing.” Thinking Through Drawing: Practice Into Knowledge (2011). Eds. Kantrowitz, Andrea, et. al.

Drawing Performance: Abstraction from Germany and the United States

Hanna Hennenkemper / re: 1/17, 2017 / Stamp on Japanese paper

 

‘Drawing Performance: Abstraction from Germany and the United States’ was presented at the Gallery Inga Kondeyne, Berlin.
This project is curated by USA based artist and curator James Bockelman and comprised of nine artists from Berlin and six artists from the United States. Drawing Performance traveled to three different venues over thevcourse of a year 2016-17. The first was presented at the Tugboat Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska, then the Maxhausen Gallery of Art on the campus of Concordia University Nebraska, finally returning to the Gallery Inga Kondeyne, Berlin.
 
In this exhibition, Bockelman raises a question using the quote from John Cage about the field of drawing which has not been categorized until now.
 
“What is a drawing? No one knows any longer…something that doesn’t require that you wait while yourmaking it for it to dry? Something on paper? Its question of emphasis.Thanksgiving. Art..”
 
Bockelman’s answer is that drawing today is an “event site” and he introduces 3 elements of drawing. “Surface”, “Activity” and “Registration”
 


1. Old Man Study Group (Hamlett Dobbins and Douglas Degges) / Untitled, 2016 / Gouache on paper
2. Carsten Sievers / o.T., 2013-2015 / Pencil on folded paper
3. Flora Wiegmann / Performing her piece, Dyslexicon, 2017


 
According to his sentences, “Surface” is where artists performed or even will be performing. Before artists draw on the material, there are readymade images on the surface such as cardboard packaging or an
incomplete crossword puzzle or even a black box theater. Even a blank sheet of paper is full of psychological tension. Artists make a line on it to indicate one’s boundary.

Drawing is also a celebration of human “Activity”. Artists observe something and copy how they see the world, using hand knowledge of the source as well as the employment of the muscle memory.
The sum of gestures are recorded both on the surface and in the movement of ones eyes. When you kiss a mirror, the mark is not only recorded on the mirror visually, but also remains in the physical act. In this way, drawing “registers” the performance.

 
The media in this exhibition is purposefully expansive and includes ball–point pen, dance, video, as well as
the use of tracing paper and other readymade, printed material. I see the artist’s various gestures and thought
processes. The three fundamental elements in drawing were intertwined with one another.
 

James Bockelman in front of his collage drawings


 
Kazuki Nakahara
2017


Drawing Performance: Abstraction from Germany and the United States
23. June – . 29. July 2017
at Galerie Inga Kondeyne Berlin.
Participating artists from Berlin, Germany: Carsten Sievers, Nadine Fecht, Alexander Klenz, Hanna Hennenkemper, Johannes Regin, Kazuki Nakahara, Frank H. Taffelt
From United States: Hamlett Dobbins, Flora Wiegmann, Jered Sprecher, Steve Roden, Matthew Sontheimer, James Bockelman

‘Expanded’ by Nicole Lenzi

Brent Fogt / Hertson, 2011 /  ink and graphite on paper, 16 x 14.5 inches


 
My interest in non-traditional drawing began in an undergraduate course called Experimental Drawing and continued through graduate school. The blog Expanded is dedicated to presenting diverse drawing practices happening around the region that I live, Baltimore/Washington D.C.; country (United States), and world. It is a framework for consideration of what a drawing can be. The goal was also to create a space where artists, educators, and other organizations can reference and form dialogues.
 
In 2010, I participated in an exhibition entitled Drawing in the Expanded Field at Clara Hatton Gallery, University of Colorado. After research, “expanded” was clearly a term used in many contemporary drawing shows and college courses. Five years later, it is the title of this blog.
 
Historically, drawings were made to plan a painting or sculpture. Over time drawing emerged as an art form in and of itself. Traditional drawing is concerned with representation of subject matter. Nontraditional, on the other hand, employs strategies to explore concepts.
 
While the artists on Expanded often contrast each other, their core is the same. They all work unconventionally and push the boundaries of how to see and experience drawing. Artists who have participated typically work in or with 3D/installation, systems, process, performance, photography, technology, and experimental mark making. Contributor Brent Fogt allows weather conditions to create his drawings. Gelah Penn’s installations extend the language of drawing into architectural space.
 

Gelah Penn / Situations, Detail  2017 / Plastic tarps, foam rubber, lenticular plastic, Denril, plastic garbage bags, polyethylene sheets, stainless steel Choreoys, black foil, mosquito netting, latex & silicone tubing, mosquito netting, metal rods & staples, acrylic paint, rubber ball, upholstery & T-pins / 132 x 432 x 365 inches


 
Most often featured work is conceptually based and combines philosophies and styles in the most unusual ways. Marks accumulate in Monica Supe’s 3D and performative works. The artist engages in handicrafts that “visualize the working process”. Woven lines make time visible. One questions when the activity starts and if it ever really ends. On Expanded, artists’ works are open to seeing what can happen.
 

Monica Supe / Endlos, 2016 / 7, 8, 9, 11 (endless 7, 8, 9, 11) 2016, wire crocheted (10 x 10 x 10 cm – 14 x 14 x 14 cm)


 
Often, I think of the Experimental Drawing course that sparked my interest in the subject at hand and how the contributors are so dedicated to their practices. My professor, Herb Olds, would sit in front of the class, telling us, “Drawing is a language. We have to keep that language alive.” The language has since taken many forms.
 
Expanded : http://expandeddrawingpractices.blogspot.com/
 
Nicole Lenzi

2017
 


Nicole Lenzi‘s interest in nontraditional drawing began in an undergraduate course called Experimental Drawing. She earned B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1995 and an M.F.A. from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007. She takes a multi-dimensional approach that includes installations, 3D, relief, and 2D works. Recent exhibits include Concept and Time and Space at CICA Museum, Seoul, South Korea; and Drawing Lines Across Mediums at Site: Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY. Lenzi has maintained a blog on contemporary drawing, Expanded, since 2015 and is based in Baltimore, MD

‘道 – Michi (way)’ by Kazuki Nakahara

Cheers! I am currently doing a residency at a printmaking workshop in a small village near Leipzig.
When I heard of the concept of “Drawing Tube”, I imagined a well-ventilated thing that I could peek into at either end or from various ends. It is the circumstance that information flows not only in one direction, but goes backwards as well. I hope it will be a tool that connects the drawing scene across the world and allows anyone to see it.

 

In the book “文字逍遥 – Moji Shouyou (character stroll) ” written by an authority on kanji ideograms (Chinese characters) Shizuka Shirakawa, I found that the definition of ‘way’ and of ‘space’ is deeply connected with the concept of drawing.
In the primitive age of kanji culture the concept of the word “道 – Michi (way)” included the meaning that when humans tried to expand their living area they invade the space where wildlife and gods come and go.
“空間 – Kūkan (space)” and “空 – Kū (emptiness)“ are not inorganic blanks themselves, but rather living real worlds. There should be a special tension when making a way in such a space that is different from tracing an established line today. Thus organic lines involve the will to contact the outer world and the sense of tension of entering a space which is empty but not blank.
 
Kazuki Nakahara
2016
 

Shizuka Shirakawa. 1987. 文字逍遥 – Moji Shouyou (character stroll) . 平凡社 – Heibonsha.
 


Kazuki Nakahara (b. 1980, Kagawa,Japan) lives and works in Berlin. He studied for a Bachelor of Economics(Japan) at Yokohama City University (2000-2005), followed by History of Art at The University of Vienna (2003-2004), Fine Art at The Berlin Weisensee School of Art (2005-2010) and a MFA at The Berlin Weisensee School of Art (2011). His recent solo exhibitions include Galerie Inga Kondeyne, Berlin (2015, 2013) ;  Le Salon Vert, Geneve (2015); Schrift, curated by Maya Minder, Werbeflaeche, Zurich (2013);. Recent group exhibitions include FID Drawing Prize, Gallery Catherine Putman, Paris (2014); Paarlauf, Gallery Inga Kondeyne, Berlin (2014); FID Drawing Prize,The Drawaing Box,Tournai (2014); travelling light, Centre for Recent Drawing, London (2014); Dachwood und Zeichnug, curated by Rieger+Shtein, Marthashof, Berlin (2014); Transition, LIA, Leipzig (2013); ICH UND DU,Galerie Inga Kondeyne, Seitz und Partner, Berlin (2013); 3.André Evard-Preis für konkret-konstruktive Kunst, Kunsthalle Messmer, Riegel am Kaiserstuhl (2013); Reactivate!Art in Public, Zug (2013); and Preview Berlin, Galerie Maniere noire, Berlin (2013).

 

image : 中原一樹 / 道 / 2015年 / 21x30cm/ 紙にインク

Image: Kazuki Nakahara /道 – Michi (way) / 2015 / 21x30cm / ink on paper