[re-reading] SILKE KITE IN THE WIND | pep quetglas


Cage Experiments in Chance , Operations 1950

Pep Quetglas
Silk Kite in the wind*

In favor of indeterminacy
I’m in favor of indeterminacy and against any automatic planning.
Against any planning, qua planning, as a shifting to the future of what is being done now, it denies the present its value, it converts what is here into something targeted elsewhere – at what isn’t, at what will be. To plan is always to deny action and the present their interest and reality, to reduce them to being the herald of a future time, to something spectacular, to a spectator of that future time.
And I’m even more against a plan that wants to be ‘automatic’. Etymologically, automatic is what which moves by itself, that which moves by virtue of a hidden mechanism, without direct intervention of the will. In its autistic movement the automatic displaces the rest of the world, it prevents others from being actor and authors, positioning them as mere spectators of an ongoing mystery.
Have you ever been in the presence of an automatic mechanism? Many people have tried to imagine one, from Homer and the Bible to Edgar Allen Poe, but few happen to recall the name of the most universal and destructive enterprise: that of depriving people of their activity and their present – to deprive us of our lives – and to convert us into mirrors and spectators of that which does not exist, that which moves without us, for and by itself, to make us into heralds of the future, that’s to say, of nothing.
I’m against automatic planning.

I’m in favor of indeterminacy, therefore I’m not in favor of indeterminacy. I don’t think I’ve made a mistake, nor have I sought to make a play on words. To say “I’m not in favor of indeterminacy” is not to say “I’m against indeterminacy”, but to say “I’m in favor of indeterminacy” is equal to saying “I’m not in favor of indeterminacy”.
This means: If I’m in favor of indeterminacy I can’t be in favor of anything determined – or even in favor of the very affirmation I was just making, or even in favor of indeterminacy, or even in favor of myself, as someone with a determined opinion. I can’t make an affirmation if, at the same time and for the same reasons, I can’t not make an affirmation. I can’t be if I can’t not be, at the same time and for the same reasons.
No sooner had they extracted one from me than I thought of another title for those notes; a rather more indeterminate title, like for example ‘Towards Indeterminacy’. Afterwards I refrained from seeking to correct it. I thought that imprecision of the title offered me, without looking for or wanting it, a starting point for the text.

We live in a hostile world.
Hostile, here, doesn’t mean uninhabited. We aren’t in a desert, there’s no mass of ruins around us, no heap of rubbish piling up at our feet. We aren’t romantics, far from it: we know ourselves to be living in an endless paradise, full to overflowing with the objects and marvels. It’s wonderful what there is.
Hostile means inhospitable.
The things there are around us don’t welcome us, don’t allow us to look to them for support. They’re truly rich, beautiful, alive – but they don’t accept us. Cézanne used to say of things that they were ‘spherical’. He saw spheres, cones and cylinders everywhere, wherever he happened to look. A world made entirely of convex surfaces, of objects with their backs toward us, in which there was no concavity to welcome the gaze.
A world without shorings, slippery, of scales, of shields; a disintegration that is unaided, without a face, through which our gaze plunges until arriving at the ground.
That falling to earth, that world which never welcomes us, we call ‘modern’.
That’s why the brushstrokes in Cézanne’s canvases break free and raise their shields before our eyes, their capacity to caress and model and situate objects, or even to fight among each other, gone. That’s why a century later Peter Handke, in The Story of the Pencil, goes on reclaiming that same prehensile, comprehensive capacity for language, whose loss Cézanne had announced in painting: “Words like claws: to write in such a way that nobody could now laugh, nor ‘escape’; to grasp firmly; ‘desperate writing’.”
The task of modern art appears to have been, as Tafuri at his best might put it, “to get rid of the anguish, attributing its causes to oneself against them.” To conjure the horror of living among spherical things which deflect, disperse and impede our interest and emotion, to exorcise the effects and the causes of living in a world like that, rebuilding that same world afresh, within ourselves, creating by ourselves a world of spherical things, a universe of bachelor machines.
Stylistic differences and disputes apart, all modern art is nourished by the same basic idea: that of the indeterminacy of the art object, of the defining of the work. The work loses its quality of unicum, and is dispersed, deflected in a set of relationships the spectator creates in his own image and resemblance: deprived of his ability to confront his perceptions, forced towards a disseminated, disoriented, ample and vague consideration of what the work is.
Modern art attempts to produce a non-defined, connectable object, undefined and without hard edges; not a system, maybe an open and incomplete system; to produce its author: an editor, an assemblagist of predisposed pieces; and to produce its spectator: a subject who has exchanged a perception focused and concentrated on the art object for a disseminated, disoriented, non-determinable perception.
Rereading it now, talking it over with Bea, I am surprised by the absence in the above of one name: Cage. I don’t remember how it was that, in a text about the indeterminate and the modern, his name came to be missing.
Indeterminacy. Indeterminability. Indeterminance.
Recently, on an occasion I was trying to erase certain traces – but there are no traces except in memory, and they don’t wear out: they’re the one that burn us, eat us away -, I burned a notice painted in letters of tar on a sheet of wood, taken from outside a pine forest between Montuïri and Pina: “The taking of mushrooms is forbidden”. I stole it after Cage died.
Cage taught us that indeterminacy is liberation and also condemnation, or maybe condemnation and also liberation. There’s nothing to listen to. It’s all to be heard.

* This article is a foreword to Yago Conde’s Architecture of the Indeterminacy. Actar. Barcelona, 2000.
Re-reading intends to be a global reading of published essays and articles under the subject in discussion. PUnkto 1 | chance.