Low Affintiy @GiG Munich
(Magdalena Wisniowska, 2021)
The word ‘plane' conjures up an image of a brightly lit field, on which everything and anything may stands.The field in this image is squarish, with a mathematical axis, ‘x’ cutting one way, ‘y’ the other, and ‘z’ upwards and downwards, together mapping out a grid with each thing in its own little box. To make connections between things we draw (mostly) straight lines, from one point to another.
Deleuze and Guattari would argue that we have this image of the plane because of the link between ‘plane’ and ‘plan’. When we think of a plane this way, it acts as a hidden principle.We may not see the grid itself, but the grid is what makes things visible to us. It causes the given to be given by giving things their structure, organising them, charting their development and growth. It is a plan(e) of organisation and development, a genetic plan(e) of evolution. Because we do not see the principles by which it organises things, only the result of its labours, the plane is transcendent to us and things, and likened to an idea in the mind of God.
For us the viewers, marked as we are by the ‘confirmation and selection bias’ and victim to the 'clustering illusion’ we look for these hidden principles finding patterns where there are none, making connections between things that are not in any way related. One such idea is central to the work Johanna Strobel shows at GiG Munich, the idea of aether, the fifth element of a classical world of four, in which everything can be divided into fire, earth, air and water. It was used to explain how stars stayed up in the sky, and moved across the heavens.
But there is another idea of a plane, in and on which there is no form or structure, only activity and its lack.This plane is populated by sub-atomic particles always in the process of transformation, but with no specific aim in mind. Depending on their activity, their speed and slowness, they compose assemblages, as Deleuze and Guattari write,‘ compositions of speed’. But they do not develop, organise according to a principle.They connect, disconnect, transform, reform.What happens, happens, in endless proliferation. Instead of development there is constant dissolution.
Johanna Strobel’s work conjures up both plan(e)s.There is a longing for principle, apparent in her systematic approach, plug going into socket, light being red or blue, going on or off.We can map this world quite easily on a grid. It is clean, white, metallic.There is also the understanding of a far more dissolute world in which entropy rules, of information lost through USB cables and mnemonic devices of knot-making failing.This world is unstable, reckless, and somehow also inexplicably present.
USB cables are the only cables that allow information as well as power to flow in both directions. But while the power always travels the information gets lost at a certain cable length – the longer the cable, the higher the entropy.
Knot making is an ancient craft to built structures, form containers, make clothes and create all different kinds of decorative objects. Since a couple of years macramé seems to have a revival – my fellow millenials learn it on YouTube.
Knot making has also been used as a mnemonic technique to remember things or even pass on history, for example the knot tied in a handkerchief, cat‘s cradle games, and tapestry, which are connecting knot making, information, and also power in a political sense.
Knotting together usb cables literally and conceptually creates nets or structures of information and power, which form connections and actually power, contain and hold up the paraffin sculptures in my work.
In our times information is the key concept drawn upon to frame and explain the world, life and things – analogous maybe to the ether in earlier times. The ether, a hypothetical substance which was sometimes imagined to be a liquid, sometimes a solid was believed to fill the universe – how else was light supposed to travel in space?
The liquid and solid states of aggregation of paraffin wax lie close together. Paraffin wax is a translucent material, which melts at 40C (104F) and is often used to make candles. Holding shapes and form wax is able to carry information, might it be as a fingerprint, a seal or even a sculpture. Because of its ability to change its state it not only references ancient concepts of the ether but it also reminds us of Descartes wax argument that shows that there is an act of judgment involved in our perception.