CULLET (art-archive)

CULLET is an online art archive that I have been curating since 2014. It can be accessed at: https://www.facebook.com/Cullet-580481965368250/. This article will share a bit about the idea behind this archive and Cullet’s evolution. The reader is encouraged to visit the “Album” section on the Cullet Facebook page and see what is going on. The following is little more than a supplement, a glance back and ahead.

I initially conceived of Cullet as an archive of “archive fever,” to develop an idea from Jacques Derrida that was one of my main inspirations along the way. Such an archive would try to include not only straightforward texts about archiving and the archive, but texts that expressed the *desire to archive presencing* as such–the drive to save and remember qua prosthesis, not just anything, but the eruption of existence itself, the instant of coming into being. How to archive the miracle of occurrence itself? I tried to find texts that could stand alone, torn from their context, and yet exhaled unto their final period a complete world. But they should also contain and present a “theory” of the archive unto themselves, that is their own: a stand-alone statement about the entire outlook of the Cullet project. In this way, Cullet would articulate a theoretical statement about archiving, only exclusively through the materials. I would then pair those texts with other already-complete worlds: paintings that resonated or problematized or commented upon the texts somehow. Together, these pairs were meant to be small bundles of compact creative energy, waiting to unfurl and explode in the minds and eyes of viewers.

After nearly four years as of this writing, there are about 300 of these pairings. Slower work than I imagined, to be sure, it took some time to get a feel for the direction I wanted to take the project. I have taken care to try and elevate the inspirational-quote-with-a-cool-picture-online to the level of an “artwork.” I realize this is a bit comical, but I sought to achieve it by having a relatively clear, philosophically motivated and backed concept; a rigorous although essentially intuition-based selection process regarding the raw materials (inevitably guided by my own aesthetics); and a logic of collage that avoided the arbitrary and kept ever in sight its core desire to “archive presencing” (the immomental). Of course, countless other themes relating to memory, time, energy, creativity and life got included and interwoven in this way, but in my mind the same imagination leap, the same seek for existent novelty was always at stake: “the” novelty of existence in its each-time-unique jaillisement, Hölderlin’s das Reinentsprungenes.

The process for creating a “cullet” almost invariably begins with a text that I find, often during occasions when I purposely sit down with a stack of random books (some of which I’ve never opened or read in full before) and flip through them looking for paragraphs and passages that catch my eye, which in this moment is on high-alert for complete worlds, for detachable morsels of thought that are seeking a new space to unfold into, one with more freedom. This activity I affectionately call “culling.” Once texts are found, I then go to the painting archive on my computer and phone (3,000 to date) and try to find a “match.” It is a bit like trying to find the words a good visual spouse or vice versa; after all, it being an archive, they’re going to have to live together for quite a while. Sometimes, of course, no match is found, or the text proves faulty. Numerous extractions lie dormant and single, like all the paintings waiting their mating moment. Often this process requires going online to find new images, which sparks off its own new searches and discoveries.

The Cullet project is motivated mostly by the pleasure I gain from these “heat seeking” missions. Every find is in principle random, which makes a successful pairing (I admit there aren’t so many) all the more precious. But despite the lightness of the production phase, up to now I have remained rather “purist” about the aesthetic of presentation, treating the wall a gallery space. Something about the project led me to be very careful and modest, out of respect for the materials – and for the immomental itself. While I do enjoy this very clean, art-book look, it has inhibited Cullet from its other original purpose, which preceded the whole idea of making the pairs: namely, to assemble and share raw materials for creative inspiration for others, any other.

This is where the page gets its name. “Cullet” refers to broken, recycled bits of glass that are added to a furnace during the process of making new glass objects. These broken bits serve one function: to help the furnace reach higher temperatures faster. This metaphor has guided my intuitions for selection and helped refine them. I never sought quick and easy fodder, but only quotes and images that could activate many meditations and senses, which challenged reading and thinking and vision, juxtaposed many elements (including between different pairs), and so on. Essentially, each cullet is meant to be a sort of jolt or prompt from the normal boredom of the Facebook feed. But to achieve this, they ask something from their reader. They have to induce a sort of “pause,” indeed, the very pause that the archive was trying to archive: the caesura, interruption or surprise that happens universally, though ever unexpectedly, in the moment of creation and differentiation. This implies throwing the cullet straight into the furnace of one’s own imagination and letting it dissolve immediately in the generation of a new light and heat. So the archive itself could happily give itself over to you and disappear into your process, like the vanishing moment or void-inspiration it sought to archive―just like the recycled bits of fragmented glass melt in the kiln only to be immediately remolded, turned, blown, and exposed to fresh air.

Until now, I never got around to explaining all this publically to those who followed the page, nor have I really mentioned it on my website fragilekeys. This is a bit of a puzzle to me. I wrote a number of things, especially in 2014 when the project first started, that I never published because they seemed too incomplete. Or rather, they would have betrayed another part of the initial concept, which I mentioned earlier: that Cullet should be a theory of the archive whose only theoretical statements would be the texts and images in the archive itself. This is the Benjaminian aspect to this project: that the material would speak for itself, in its own voices and tones, without any intervention from the historian or theoretician aside from the configuration or “constellation” they arrange. An archi-poem, perhaps. My concern was not however an epoch, but “presence-archiving” itself―which probably also contributed to my silence regarding its own “past.”

I have contemplated opening the Cullet page to a more diverse material–videos, articles, links to historical documents, a whole different range of “recyclable” material that can fulfill more quickly and more frequently the metaphorical goal of being a “cullet” for our creative imaginations. Instead of, or in addition to, just choosing one quote that has to stand stranded on its own, I thought of filling in the context, or amassing some links. I would continue to create the pairs as pleasure serves, but perhaps I would follow it up with information about the artists,or the school of painting – anything really, so long as it followed the intuition-based, “heat-seeking” principle of random-selection that had guided my researches so far. In sum, at a point I hoped that Cullet would get a bit messier, less curated and more chaotic, like the box of glass shards, the smoldering interior of a furnace, that it wants to be. These efforts lasted to agree, but ultimately too many other projects and activities prevented this. Cullet thus remains an art-archive page, devoted to the slow discovery of new pairs.

Since it isn’t often I speak of the project, I will speak in a way I normally dislike. But I have to make a request to whoever is a follower on the page and enjoys the work I do there: please share, or at least “like” what you see, to encourage others to come here. I don’t say this self-servingly. Facebook is notorously cruel about actually putting a post into the news feed, especially for a minor show like mine. Moreover, liking or sharing is the only way that posts from this page will even continue to show up on your news feed (if you don’t react, the algorithm assumes you’re uninterested in it). That is why even though there are about 150 followers, posts sometimes barely reach half of them. But when even one person shares, its views can jump up to 300. There is a crude kind of democracy here, and the challenge these posts pose don’t bode well for easy clicks. But it is easy and nice to share. After all, that is what these entries are there for: to make an entrance.

Because as much as I enjoy creating the cullets myself, a big part of my intention is to bring “art” into the Facebook Newsfeed and, however modestly, change the virtual landscape through a new use of it. This has political ramifications and I can testify to the speed of these networks, connections, inspirations. But it’s not something one can do on one’s own. It matters that things which could actually induce a pause, a shift in time, an alteration of consciousness, or a radically new line of flight in one’s day or general trajectory, are passed along. I don’t have the established audience of someone like Stephen Ellcock (follow him if you don’t already!), but I’ve witnessed how these things can grow. Personally, it’s enough to know one person’s day was slightly brightened or enlighened by the work to sustain my care for the page (that is, one person in addition to me). I don’t care about me, I care about inspiring alterations in the social landscape and in the lives of singularities. I think everyone should start projects like this, not for their own benefit, but to change their entire comportment to social media. Collectively we can change these spaces and “transform the world.” I realize these are rather lofty and idealistic goals for someone who is just posting obscure poets and painters in idiomatic mixtures, but I trust in the “power of one” and also the speed of the “one-to-one.” How many times in my life was it one post, one quote, one comment, one turn in the road, one person, that changed everything? We can be that for each other, but it takes reconsidering our practices, and trying out new things.

So I hope you will join in by helping out the page with your digital votes of confidence or better yet by your own unexpected interventions. The collective needs encouragement. We need to make visible what matters to us and what makes us grow and mature in creativity and knowledge, against the standardizations and homogenizations that usually rule the internet and would make it seem like humans have given up on these more noble aspirations. Along my journey with Cullet, I have been confirmed by all of you that we have not given up at all. Perhaps if we make our presence just a bit stronger, a bit more widely known, with a bit more friendly encouragement for each other when it comes to these daring adventures of “individuation” (Simondon), things can change for the better quicker than we think. As Bernard Stiegler says, “The Internet will lead us out of the consumerist model, but only on the condition that individuals participate in the production of its contents and that the world of amateurs is revivified.” My optimism about the individuation processes we can undergo together here is extreme, but it is always transindividual too, I/we. It will take us to resolve upon new attitudes and uses. As the research has taught me, there’s so much incredible material out there just waiting to be shared and mixed and rethought. Let’s do that work together, and make our lives a little better. I close with one cullet, a sample:

Ronnie Landfield, A Vision, 1988

Books are to be call’d for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half-asleep, but, in the highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essaythe text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or framework. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds, well-train’d, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers. —Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas

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