The under-determination in Polyxene Kasda’s work
by Mariana Zikou, Art historian, Stoa tou Vivliou 2/6/2016, Athens
I will try to develop some thoughts on the writings of Poly Kasda in relation to one of her first books 'The Conscious Eye' and her latest one 'When that word swallowed me'. The two will be linked with an epistemological concept, the 'under-determination' and an allegory, the Kafkaesque Burrow.
Dr. Yannis Almyrantis presented an intriguing approach with his essay “The over-determination in Poly Kasda’s work”. The present essay reflects on its antithetical term, the 'under-determination' in Kasda’s work.
Within the frame of this presentation ‘under-determination’ is used with a double interpretation, employing the prefix under- (in greek hypo-):
On one hand, under-determination is an epistemological concept which challenges the univocal approach of experience. In this sense, it is considered impossible for an experience to be fully interpreted through a single axiom. This thinking is reflected in Gödel's incompleteness theorem and can be extended to Derrida's philosophical term of ‘deconstruction’, which refers to the infinite experience of language, but also to the impasse of its meaning.
Under-determination is transcribed in the work of Poly Kasda as scattered traces of language, objects, performances, gatherings, as well as other manifestations like TV shows, buildings and new media, which may reveal or conceal the true meaning, the core of her objectives. A core attracting into its orbit scientific theories of computational and cognitive science along with the philosophical and applied concepts of experience.
'The Conscious Eye', one of the first books of Poly Kasda, is associated with the epistemological interpretation of under-determination. Poly Kasda initiates a genuine and systematic exploration of the human experience and the cognitive processes that transpire the works of artists and the artistic movements of the 20th century. The human eye is used as an interface, the eye becomes a quasi-mechanical component tool which creates a tube between the inner and outer reality topology.
The book starts with two questions 'So what happened to many artists and they stopped painting? What lies behind this silence that took so many strange forms?' To these questions Poly Kasda creates insightful conceptions, linking scientific theories and technologies with artistic methods and the philosophical discourse.
However, in the preamble of the book she already shows her awareness of under-determination: 'This essay on the essence of contemporary art and visual perception is just the tip of the iceberg'. In the last pages of the book, she outlines the collapse of certainty, the decay of conventional structures and with it, the withdrawal of words.
These comments lead the way to the second interpretation of the term under-determination, into the creative-experiential extension of the term, which can be connected to Poly Kasda’s new book 'When that word swallowed me'.
The book is ushering us in a wild exploration into what is under, below the territory of the visible and of the reassuring semiology, into the aniconic fields of artistic experience and ambiguity, of the collapse of the subject and ultimately the collapse of the text into sub-texts, in word-symbols that burst further into glyphs, into the smallest cracking units of language, to become objects and anti-texts, no-texts, precipitated in a submersive trip into the substrates of language, the hypothalamus of experience and into the sub-liminal of perception.
The deep dive begins; a persistent recollection towards the core of the experience described in 'When that word swallowed me', in which she notes: 'After the completion of The Conscious Eye, I was left again with this Something Essential Missing, this SEM sensation'.
The course of the next 25 years would open up the topoi for the emergence of the iceberg, an intense immersion to the core of cognition and experience. A striking, persistent and productive exploration which often anticipates the developments in technology and cognitive science, such as through her artistic project Myth/Network, where Kasda composes an ideography of the web before its spreading.
At the same time, these explorations in the other side of reasoning, in the twilight of experience and of deconstructed meaning, had their impact. In 'When that word swallowed me', Kasda reveals that her essay 'Pyrisporos' which followed 'The Conscious Eye', disturbed and chased away the audience she had gained with the latter.
As she continues her research into the philosophical discourse of computational and cognitive science, her visionary leaves her at times without applied scientific and theoretic tools. She then resorts to alleged scientific axioms and data, some of which evolve later as validated concepts, while others swing for now and maybe forever between the exo-logical, the alchemy and the myth. Kasda will not renounce them as useful tools, stating: 'But is there any other way? Those fantastic things that are directly seen by the soul are formulated by the intellect as an absence; a dense omission from which words return baffled'.
From then on, although her creative and exploratory course continue intensively, she will start consciously and methodically concealing their true essence. In 'When that word swallowed me’, she confesses the creation of a 'self-sustaining shelter' which takes the form of a woolen cocoon: '...I started knitting around me a borderless blanket. It was gradually growing from inside itself, mounting on the walls, towering above me like a wave swallowing me in its cocoon-like embrace'.
This hermetic structure can find its counterpart in an allegorical architecture, the Burrow of Kafka, one of his last texts that remained unfinished. The Kafkaesque edifice can be interpreted as the agitated strive of an individual to safeguard her safety and integrity, when disclosing the erebus of one's own personal experience.
As if in a discoursive relationship with the Kafkaesque creature residing in its underground dark maze construction, Poly Kasda writes: 'On the ordinary level I was protecting my delicate experiment from the unexamined eyes, shielding it behind palatable, easy to digest descriptions. I knew that if it were contaminated by doubt, the whole structure would crumble…'.
This fragile and intimate revelation, along with her uncompromising determination to continue sinking in the profound substrates of the inner self, destined to be the cornerstones for the creation of her allegorical biomatic narrative 'When that word swallowed me' and ultimately, the symbolic collapse of her Kafkaesque shelter.
Kasda's short autofiction marks an epitome of the research in the profound and unfathomed realms of human experience and imaginary through artistic practice; a possible invitation also for us, to challenge the emergence of our own minds' uncharted topoi. The 'Conscious Eye' continues its quest into the most elusive, controversial and intra-real dimensions of its existence.