The Invisible Object

“What is at issue in gesture is not so much a prelinguistic content as, so to speak, the other side of language, the muteness inherent in humankind’s very capacity for language, its speechless dwelling in language.”

(Georgio Agamben, Kommerell, or On Gesture from Potentialities. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1999)

If Igor Santizo’s gesture is indeed the framing of the invisible object, then we can draw a lineage of subjects who have enacted this framing from Rilke, Rodin, Giacometti, Nauman, to Santizo. Then Santizo would be an historical subject within a linear construction. We could come up with a generic idea from these differences, but what would we produce? We might be forcing an interpretation, another end. We would mark what he holds in his hands as a positive space, another object. This is one possible failure.

Can the void be held in the speechless gesture? or does representation necessarily make it an invisible object? A poster often announces an event to come; this one is a document of the event itself. What is the quality of this event? Igor Santizo is the figure in an abstracted space we can identify as a store where we could purchase any non-specific object, a supermarket. His ground is formed by these rows of products and the lights that illuminate them.

In Tout Va Bien (Godard, 1972) the foreground of a major panning shot in a supermarket captures the repetition of consumers with their hands full, performing acts of exchange with cashiers. During this scene (the continuous pan lasts about 10 minutes) the ambient noise of the supermarket is interrupted by spoken word. The spaces that open up for the voice are misaligned, however, with the text. The gap between the ambient noise and the text appears like the space between Igor’s hands.

The culmination of the scene in Tout Va Bien is the group act of rebellion where the where the consumers in the supermarket make a mad rush to abscond with their products without paying. The political act is represented by the interruption of consumerism, interrupted itself by the gaps in the soundtrack. We can imagine Santizo’s poster as a cinematic document: the artist caught between a political and a consumerist act. However, if we write what is held in his empty hands as the space of desire, the excess of commodity fetishism, then we are marking it as a object of discourse, another possible failure. We are determined to understand this space as we understand the sound-spaces in Godard’s film. Santizo’s reference to Giacometti makes his body a sculpture, an object in a field of objects. There is a reversal in his relationship to consumerist space by an obscuring of himself as an object of a political process, a transaction without movement. He is bound, like the bronze figure of Giacometti’s sculpture, by the stillness of the photograph. Santizo’s body acts in collaboration with the background to designate the space between his hands. There is a tension between Santizo as a sculptural object and as a subject of consumerism interrupted by stillness. We are aware of the artist’s choice to be documented (by Chris Gergley) in the act of choosing not to continue the act of consumerism.

Our joining the project here presents us with a similar relationship to Santizo as Gergley’s. How do we write ourselves out of the writing as Gergley photographs himself out of a photo? Here lies the paradoxical aspect of the process fo this artwork: is Santizo enacting the perfect capitalist position? The corporation who outsources everything from prodection (Chris Gergley), to design (Robert Arndt), to dissemination (Hadley Howes, Maxwell Stephens, and the Western Front)? Is he branded? Or is he saved from this position by the inscription of our names? At which point can we return to the sculptural object in the photo, its 3/4 turn, its gaze cast down at the hands not holding an object, and the implicit agency in this act.

The empty space which indicates an act of resistance, is colonized by all these things: capitalism, consumerism, history, representation, and desire; and these in turn inscribe the subject in the hands that frame the space, differentiating the figure from the ground while at the same time subjectivising him to the context of the supermarket. Can this proliferation of meaning provide enough complexity that we can say we are skirting the issue? circumnavigating the process? sketching the outline, or designating the framing? Can we leave a gap at the centre of this negotiation empty enough to call a void?

Hadley Howes & Maxwell Sephens, 2002