Through the Looking Glass: Seven Reflections on the Maritime Plaza Hotel by Matthew-Robin Nye

This essay charts the production Canadian painter Cameron Forbes’ in situ paintings of the rotunda of the Maritime Plaza Hotel in Montreal from objects in the plein air tradition to processual motors and events with their own volition. The paper introduces Forbes’ practice as one which depicts the affective tonality of architecturally framed environments, complicating the idea that just light and texture are captured in the plein air tradition. It focuses on her recent installation The Maritime Plaza Hotel: A Circular Formation of Windows at Concordia University’s MFA Gallery in November, 2016, citing the work as exemplary for its multiple reflections on meaning, subject/object relationships, and architectural site-specificity.

The paper was re-published as a supplemental text for her exhibition "The Maritime Plaza Hotel" at aceartinc., Winnipeg, from the 18th of May to the 22nd of June, 2018. An earlier version of this piece was produced in Architecture|Concordia journal, Issue 3

Ask any Montreal-based artist practicing in the vicinity of the intersection of Guy and Rene-Levesque if they know about the hotel with the saucer – the Maritime Plaza – and they will often gain a momentary, wistful expression as they reflect on the many times that they have imagined what secrets the nearly derelict building might hold. Nearly, because the main floor of the hotel is still occupied by a car rental company, but the rest of the late modernist building morosely lays dormant, with visible doorways ajar, blinds bent and tousled, windows unwashed. What heavy drapery is left is bleached by sun and lightened by dust.


Despite its disrepair, there is an allure to the building, not in its primary L-shaped volume, an uninspired example of the international style in white brick, concrete and royal blue paneling; but in the former hotel’s rotunda, a single story pavilion perched several meters in the air on a column about a sixth of its diameter, nestled between the two wings of rooms and services. Its circular façade is composed of floor-to-ceiling windows capped with a half-moon crescent. The rises and dips from one crescent to the next form a scalloped roof, which undulates around the pavillion’s circumference. This pavilion has fantastic architectural qualities: it is elaborate, expressive and mysterious, opaquely hinting at the banquets, disco parties, late night cocktails and mediocre dinners it might have once hosted. Built in 1964, at the height of Montreal’s aspirations to growth, it is easy to imagine the pedestal being one of many conceived both here in Montreal, and also in a broader developing world of the late modernist movement, possessive of the naïve egalitarianism available only to a particular class of the international jet set.

It was with this wistful dreaming that I approached the work of Cameron Forbes. Her painting installation, The Maritime Plaza Hotel: A Circular Formation of Windows, was first presented as her graduating thesis exhibition from Concordia’s MFA program this November in the university’s dedicated MFA gallery, itself a short distance from the hotel. Forbes, a Saskatchewan-born painter, has been recognized for her evocative plein air studies of landscapes, domestic scenography, and architecture, most recently by the Royal Bank of Canada as a finalist in its national painting award of emerging and mid-career artistic talent. Along with my desire to see a work responding to such a strong architectural lure, I was also cognizant of my own apprehension at the medium used to encounter the work: It is hard not to bring doubt to a work which addresses a subject with which one sees creative potential, handled by other hands in different ways.

Forbes’ paintings are loose, colourful, expressive; they are quick studies of environments, painterly snapshots constructed to remember a place, affect, or landed feeling. There is an innocence in their brashness: at first glance this looseness might be mistaken for naivety or simple aesthetic enjoyment of a time or place. This deceptively simple form, however, begins to tremble with complexity over further time spent. Forbes hints to this in her artist statements: in her series ‘Bathroom Retreat’ (2014-15), a series of paintings from the privacy of her home’s bathroom after the birth of her daughter, she writes that shadows are not absences of light, but informational, “coming to (me) as sensations when I close my eyes”, a source of feeling. For Forbes, a space like a bathroom may contain many modes of being at the same time. A bathroom:

“…has its own hermetic landscape. Sometimes very humid and wet, sometimes warm, other times cold. The clothes dryer, soap, diapers all add to its atmosphere. The light changes, it shifts the room. Candles for relaxation, fluorescents for shaving. I can close the door.”

A bathroom, then, is a site of relaxation, maintenance, relief, protection, reflection… it is also both atemporal and multi-temporal at different instances: a place of lost time and stolen time, ritual and habitus, a folding of many automatic events repeated from day to day. Her studies in this series, often from the bathtub, highlight different states that the bathroom inhabits: a black and white sketch of square tiles and bathtub faucets soberly reflects on the formal composition of the bathroom environment, perhaps indicating exhaustion in their depletion of colour. Another riotously hued portrait of water, tub, shadows and knobs violently stakes out a moment of privacy, an outburst of creativity in stolen time from the duties of motherhood. Both are composed from the same perspectival point, but the vast difference in the affect that they communicate demonstrates that the paintings are not merely a representation of space or specific location, but a co-composition between human and non-human environmental forces, as well as objects and surface textures (the aforementioned tiles, faucets, and bathtubs). The variance between the images of the same subject - the in between meaning created by the relational composition of the two images in the same series - opens a way to read the works that looks to the meaning made outside of the picture plane, acting like a snag external to a woven textile.

This meaning draws in all that is felt from the images, but also what the images might be felt by. A study of a closed, controlled space becomes a broader enquiry into how that space is composed at the moment of composition. The artist brings her interior world with her, texturing the space, infusing it with her own subjectivity. The bathroom environment forfeits some of its sovereignty and begins to search for new, temporary, identity: What is a Cameron-Forbes tile? What is a bathtub Cameron Forbes? What is a bathroom-Cameron Forbes-bathroom?

Speaking specifically to the body’s relationship to space and the built environment, Arakawa and Gins state that the body is a “complex organism that is always in the process of reading surroundings,” and it “needs to be defined together with that within which it moves; peering at it from the other way around, the surroundings need to be defined together with bodies moving within them” (xx). The Maritime Plaza Hotel: A Circular Formation of Windows promises this complication of temporality, time, and movement. Environments long dormant are activated by Forbes’ entering into their surrounds; in turn, they, “pose questions to the body” (ibid.). The processes which comprise of the Cameron-Forbes -as-person and the Maritime-Plaza-Hotel-as-body begin to in-form. “Place” is further engaged by the “originary” architecture’s  transposition to the gallery. Critically, a question of landing site - the event, that where perception (followed closely by subjectivity) lands - is raised: beyond the formal lure of the exhibition’s subject matter, what relationship might the viewer have to the world the artist proposes, her subject matter (the feeling’s feeling of another event), her reflection of herself through this subject matter (the call and response of the original site of perception to that which has now been called forth)? In this relational milieu, what role does the viewer play, dancing in a live field of relations? The mirroring of the viewer’s own continuing eventing enters into and alights upon this milieu, troubling the idea that as viewer, one can remain unentangled by the work’s propositional nature.

(The proposition of entangling the viewer in the artwork’s worlding has always already been unfolding; it has always been reaching towards the viewer upon entering the gallery space).

Around the perimeter of the gallery’s interior, Forbes has set small assemblies of the plein air studies which were the start of the work’s production: watercolour sketches of grates, nearby hotel rooms, the exterior of the rotunda as seen from a high vantage point, (perhaps on the 12th, the highest floor). A white maquette of the rotunda placed on a plinth sits between the walls and the room’s centre, inching towards the real event of the work: six life-size replicas of the outward-facing windows of the rotunda dominate the room, reaching towards the ceiling, calling for attention. Five stand in a semicircle, creating an architectural simulacrum of the hotel’s pavilion, while a sixth is placed to the side, acting as sentry to that which is not present: The remaining unmaterialized windows which, if present, would complete the banquet hall’s circular layout. The large panels are constructed out of wood and particle board from several smaller pieces, with joints faintly visible. The boards, each capped with the same semicircle as the rotunda windows, are washed with white primer, the image created on top. Curtains frame each piece, painted in hues ranging from a washed, watery blood red to a faded, burnt orange. Some are tied and some draped akimbo, and each image opens to a view of that windows ‘outside’, a picture plane doubling itself, the tradition of painting in plein air troubled by an acknowledgement of architecture and interiority. They depict, respectively, a patch of carpet, a field, nearby windows, the lawn of the building across the street, a sky without a ground, and sheer white curtains, all in Forbes’ loose, faded, polychromatic palette. These washes of colour speak more of impressions than factual detail, time shifting to the rhythm of dreams, somewhat out of place, unfocused, imprecise.


1st Mirroring: Painting and Reality

Painting en plein air, a technique popularized by the impressionists in the 19th century, is inherently a relational activity, as well as a depiction of relations emphasizing the capture of a direct interaction with the world and the exchange between the artist and their subject. The conditions of light and imperceptible movements in the artist’s field of perception are captured in intensities of colour. Painting, in our age of high resolution image capture, maintains a deep lure for the more-than of perception, catching the subject and artist in a complex field of interactive entanglements. The informational qualities of the work present multiple  interpretable meanings; each agitating at the edges of the directly perceived the seen and unseen, that which has made up the image and that which has been subtracted out. Painting en plein air opens up a democracy of the unknown. The landscape, place, and affective environment that Forbes encountered over her four days spent in the former Maritime Plaza Hotel add informational qualities to the windows (and their mirrored panels) that a higher-resolution image would have difficulty capturing.

Forbes says that her works “stem from the plein air tradition, with an interest in questioning my relationship with nature and place. They all begin with what the body can see; a human-scaled perspective.” Painting in situ represents a being-with that both exceeds and circumvents language; instead, it is a language of bodily interpretation. The body responds to environment, interprets it with all of its senses, capturing the world in its continual unfolding (alongside). Forbes acknowledges that her paintings attempt to capture a relationship that is “immaterial, always changing”, “the space that is created between two figures.” (ibid) Figure-ground and back-ground, the architectural frame a point of mediation between the two. In fact, Forbes’ work is a complex endeavour of mirroring in seven stages: The artist’s body to her subject represents the first stage of reflection in a whirlpool of refracting relations, the prismatic unveiling of meaning through interpretive painting practice in the style of plein air.

2nd Mirroring: Landscape and Perception

Proposing a bodily relation to enviro-architectural surrounds, Arakawa and Gins posit that environments are populated, inhabited, in mutual co-composition. Perception lands in a particular surrounds and actualizes the environment of the perceiver for the duration of its (momentary) habitation:

Thick with one’s breathing.

Thick with one’s landing-site configurations.

They carry landing sites with them,

heuristically for a direct mapping.

They expel, exude, and disperse landing-site configurations/

They go through their ubiquitous sites,

i.e., the sum of all landing sites of each moment.

Their ubiquitous sites go through them.

- Arakawa and Gins, excerpt from ‘Humansnails', Architectural Body, 31-32

The landscape that Forbes has depicted, the subject contained within her paintings, performs itself once again for the benefit of its perception, and again for its reenactment as image-within-image. Its re-performance in the exhibition is a form of Deleuze’s refrain to its first presentation; in other words, two blocks away from the referent landing site, the site of initial production, six landscapes-from-the-perspectival-point-of-rotunda repeat themselves, while divorced of their local relations, they nonetheless become active again. A landing site, that where perception grabs hold and begins to assemble meaning, is not only populated by what meets human perception, but also its non-human environmental composition, how the world encounters the narrowing apparatus of perception.

Elsewhere, I have argued that a landscape is “the just before act of landing, the topological in transition to the perspectival. Once perception lands, it takes up a landing site” (Refugia 4); landscaping then becomes the active transition to perceiving and turning form into meaning, the landing site the final result of a concrescence of landscapes landing. In the refrain, the landscape takes up another landing site, meaning is renewed, and the site is re-politicized by the artist’s gaze.

3rd Mirroring: Social Space

“Power can be eroded,” Forbes states in her exhibition essay. Following the work of Henri Lefebvre and his theory of social space, she argues that the actualization of non-hegemonically produced space - for example, unofficial pathways or ‘desire lines’ created between geographical points of interest - can produce an alternate social space. “Through painting my physical environment and finding patterns in space, I reflect on social space. And by working in a space I also contribute to its creation.” (Forbes 2) If the original hotel site was a production of capital and modernist ideology, The Maritime Plaza Hotel is a production of a different kind of desire: while the allure of the space is bound up with the unknown - what is in that rotunda? - perhaps the unknowability (divorced from class adventurism so often coupled with desire - the desire to know) is close to the allure of the dreamscape, a co-composition with the imagination and the ineffable. The third mirroring, that of social value, is the counter-production of space that runs as a shadow alongside the use-value of space, a reproduction of the Maritime Plaza Hotel rotunda for its own enjoyment.

Social space is an articulation of forms of knowing a place through its inhabitance. Deleuze, reading Foucault, states that power-relations are “simultaneously local, unstable and diffuse, (but) do not emanate from a central point or unique locus of sovereignty, but at each moment move ‘from one point to another’ in a field of forces, marking inflections, resistances, twists and turns.’ (Deleuze 1988: 62) Power, according to Deleuze and Foucault, is a force, not a form; the form it takes is in a knowledge-container; an inhabiting of the Maritime Plaza Hotel through its duplication is a gesture of shifting the power-in-knowing from one environment to the next; this is not necessarily a form of capture, but of grabbing hold of the force of mystery and unknowability, capturing its feeling and making it knowable; not the opposite of knowing, but one of knowing’s tactics of evasion.

4th Mirroring: Desire

Foucault developed the concept “heterotopia” in order to describe the place where non-normative processes of living which nonetheless support the general aim of normatively functioning society could take place, (often) out of frame. The Maritime Plaza Hotel is a reflection of desire, an aspirational gesture towards an ideal form (the international-style hotel, a heterotopia of remarkable resilience in its time). When it opens its doors, and is fully operational and fully booked, it comes closest to achieving a form resembling the ideals of its builders, financiers, occupants, and its contemporaneous societal drive towards modernity. One might say that this freshly opened version of the Maritime Plaza Hotel is the closest the hotel ever came to a representation of itself as an ideal form - a parity with the pure human ideals that conceived it. Perhaps one of the stark allures of modernity’s built environment is its dissociation with the visible elements of the natural world; instead, the modernist building occupies itself with light, imperceptible thresholds moving from interior to exterior, air, and the transformation of raw materials into rigid, controlled forms. As the hotel ages, maybe switches owners, it begins to assert its own formal notions, independent of the ideals that shaped it, gaining a form of autonomy; a desire of a kind, but a wild desire - where the processes of time, material plasticity and the anarchic share of any actual occasion assert themselves independent of any normative desire. The hotel starts to become a structure with its own self-knowledge.

As the ideals of modernity began to release the Maritime Plaza Hotel from their grasp, agents of creativity, productivity and corruption entered the frame: The hotel became a lure for feeling, looking for modes of expression outside of its original intent. Forbes approached the employees of the car rental agency on the main floor, promising several copies of her paintings in exchange for four days of access to the abandoned hotel, introducing a form of fugitive desire, a system of barter, hinting at what might come after modernity’s collapse.

5th Mirroring: Breaks

“Windows are breaks, and the neglected state of the hotel allows for further breaks - water and light flow through the space” (Forbes 7). The demise of the hotel begins to accelerate as Forbes, planning on spending more time in the space, is on the fourth day told it must be her last as the building has been purchased - a new owner plans to renovate.

Renovations commenced for a time, and then they stopped. Forbes was in the hotel at the end of 2015; the building remains remote, empty.

Bernard Cache defined the way we see the world in three paradigms: the inflection, the vector, and the frame. Of these, he believed that “it is possible to define architecture as the manipulation of one of these elementary images, namely, the frame” (Cache 1). The image, however, is not that which is graspable by human perception; it is a near-blind reaching towards of the world which selects itself out in concert with our ability to see that which is in front of us. “Our brain is not the seat of a neuronal cinema that represents the world; rather our perceptions are inscribed on the surface of things, as images amongst themselves” (Cache  2) How long will the image of the Maritime Plaza Hotel last?

6th Mirroring: Submersions

If the actual is dissolving, what takes its place? The rotunda has 20 windows marching around its perimeter; the work, in progress, has six completed. Slowly, the hotel is materializing again, in new form. The sixth mirroring, however, is the sixth panel: that which is off to the left of the exhibition, almost placed in the logical space for a Fibonacci sequence to be mapped, in plan, onto its location. The sixth panel is perhaps the most striking: red curtains frame a white haze, which could either represent a sheer curtain, an incomplete painting, or a cloudy horizon. The ambiguity is evocative, troubling. The lone panel, and the grouped five, struggle to make sense of one another; but the lone panel prevails, presents an opening. While to this point, I have put forward a diagram that illustrates a relationship between the objects in an exhibition and a hotel two blocks away, another diagram emerges: that which is present, and that which is unseen in the space of an exhibition. The completion of further panels as Forbes continues to work on The Maritime Plaza Hotel will not replicate the original, but create something else.

“As the painting develops, I find that once inanimate objects take on sentient characteristics. Even their colours become human. They bleed.” (Forbes 11) As a viewer, my interest in the original hotel begins to wane, as my attention towards the work grows. I am implicated in the production of a new sociality, a reinscription of Forbes’ body’s initial engagement with the architectural site, inscribing me in the event. I am now implicated  in the dissemination of The Maritime Plaza Hotel along with Cameron Forbes and other viewers of the work.

7th Mirroring: Inflections, reflections

Windows, in the six panels, are also walls and doors. Their subject matter is uneasy, has an undecidability to it, and it is not only the sixth panel which is ambiguous in its curtain-framed depiction. Viewers walk in and around the panels, inhabiting a space that is physically incomplete. Movement is still directed, subtly, by the arc in their arrangement. A virtual relationship to a site is actualized. The viewer performs The Maritime Plaza Hotel.

Mathematically, an inflection is the coordinate on a continuing line where the line shifts from being concave to convex, or vice versa. This is relational, elastic, and shifting. It is for Cache, an “open surface in the pure light of weightlessness” (Deleuze 1993:17); for Deleuze, it is “ideality par excellance” (Deleuze 1993:15); a shift in the world preceding the production of a new event in the world; a worlding. For Deleuze, inflection is creativity, forever writhing and expanding, both creating and inspiring further turbulences. This spiral of activity “follows a fractal mode by which new turbulences are inserted between the initial ones. Growing from other turbulences, in the erasure of contour, turbulence ends only in watery froth or in a flowing mane” (Deleuze 1993:17); part of a larger system of activity masked by the diminishing scale of its activity.

The Maritime Plaza Hotel’s construction in 1964 could be thought of as the culmination of a long series of events, both historical and ahistorical. The windows, at different junctures, were and will be again walls and doors. I have argued that in its beginning, when the building came alive, it was at its closest to its own ideal form - at least, that form which is based on a series of specific images and ideals. At that moment, processually, the building was at its most dead: potentiality was harnessed in order to maintain productivity, the structure’s aims were fulfilling, to the best of their ability, the architectural body’s form.

The further the structure moved from the date of its inception, the wilder the assemblage of harnessed processes holding it together became. Forces both external and internal to its bodies - architectural, fleshy, processual, environmental - have buffeted it with the relentless onslaught of time. Inflections, in a spiralling processual becoming, mark each passing occasion with an increased frequency. This frequency calls for the satisfaction of action: actualization! “There exists thus a series of curves that not only imply constant parameters for each and every curve, but the reduction of variables to a “single and unique variability” of the touching or tangent curve: the fold” (Deleuze 1993:19).

While some processes come to rest, others accelerate towards actualization. This paper introduced as the subject of Cameron Forbes’ work to be the Maritime Plaza Hotel, making, in this initial formulation, the work the object. The work has been in movement for some time; it can now take on the term of the ‘objectile’, for, following Cache and Deleuze, “the object here is manneristic, not essentializing: it becomes an event.” (ibid.)

Forbes concludes her thesis text on the work as follows: “In Maritime Plaza Hotel you will see an accumulation of observational moments; of paintings, sketches, models, and studies. A searching more than a statement. This is a dialogue that occurs both inside and outside the painted frame. Rather than a re-creation of a hotel space, it is a space for looking, a theatre of the everyday. I hope that you can feel you are behind the scenes.” Indeed it has, and more. If the work The Maritime Plaza Hotel starts at the frame, and is a springboard for meaning, what does the frame enclose, and what does it exclude?


Since the writing of this piece in late 2016, the Maritime Plaza Hotel has seen renewed activity – renovations in its taller tower and within the rotunda; the shorter tower demolished, to be replaced with a soaring condominium. Forbes’ work has evolved, as well – an arch compliments the six panels. Both work and site continue to shift, evolve, and produce new worlds.


Matthew-Robin Nye is a visual artist, cultural producer, and Joseph-Armand Bombardier PhD student at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture at Concordia University in Montreal.


Works Cited

-Arakawa, and Madeline Gins. Architectural Body. Tuscaloosa: Alabama University Press, 2002.

-Cache, Bernard, and Michael Speaks. Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1995.

-Deleuze, Gilles, and Sean Hand. Foucault. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1988.

-Deleuze, Gilles. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1993.

-Forbes, Cameron. "About." Cam Forbes. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.

-Forbes, Cameron. The Maritime Plaza Hotel: A Circular Formation of Windows, Exhibition Catalogue, 11 November 2017, Concordia University MFA Gallery

-Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. New York: Free Press, 1978.


How to carry a landscape; Or, a crystalline gaze into the boundless wild. by Matthew-Robin Nye



This text is available in Inflexions 9: F(rictions*

Sum up your body. Yawn. Yaaaawn. Note that your Yawn is autonomous from your body. Note that your Yawn has a body that is not your own. Note that this body has weight.

Picture an uncountable number of strings in space: cotton, unbleached, soft to the touch and casually fuzzed, in the way that only natural fibers can be. Taut: coming from and receding to distances beyond your field of vision. The strings, shooting in every possible direction, create a delicate network that, were it to have edges, might resemble the hazy blowball of a dandelion in bloom. These strings, their networked connections, the structure that they compose have no knowable borders, for their plane of experience bounds outwards with an appetite that exceeds time’s will to march forward.

You are within this uncountable number of strings, lacking coordinates. But, “you” are a(n impossibly) suspended “you,” an invisible “you,” a “you” without agency. You are a vector, a “you” of convenience, set to expire the instant “you” is/are no longer required. Don’t worry; “you” will continue to be reconstituted with new qualifications for some time, iterations echoing forward and behind, the terminus of this journey of you-ness only known by the stillness of its arrival. The end of the line.[1]

Continuing: A number (x) of these strings quietly present themselves, nearing the foreground of your attention. [2]Coming from somewhere off in the distance to your left and disappearing somewhere over to your right, they maintain a directional tendency but retain an independence from each other; these string-things are following the course of their string-ness from and into imperceptible depths. There is no sound here, but the space resembles an aural field, full of reverberation, events far out of sight creating vibrations in the lattice of your immediate surrounds.

These strings are not still. They don’t perceptively move, but on singular occasions their trajectories shift, to align, caress, run abreast of each other, in a choreography of being both together and separate. Had these strings not selected themselves out, you would not have noted their gambol—their here and there, the resonance of their fluctuation between concrescence and form-taking. After a moment, they separate—split – fray – bound off in unknowable directions. “You” reconstitutes itself again for its next sojourn.

It may seem like “you” is/are witnessing the birth and death of an undetermined event, the one-step-after-the-next, the fourth note after a third. Were it left here, this taking-account-of would be an accountancy of taking, a connecting A(x)-to-Be-to-Seeing all the way down the line, becoming predictable through force of habit, the lassitude [3] of actions repeated again and again to the point where they become familiar, family, exploitable, expendable…

Slow the moment down. Pause. Feel the line slack, cut; let out the line, line by line, remember that these cotton lines with their sumptuous tactility are just a proposition that you have been entangled by, a wild nest that ‘you’ is/are trapped within, iteration upon iteration of the illusion of choice, a becoming anything-but-other. Imagine that gorgeous, dandelion-like nest of lines of unrealized and realized potentials, and recall: in the network-making, border-linking, searching for- of family resemblances, these logical connections which are so highly prized are the trip-line of something else. [4]

Let go of “you.” Let the strings let go of you. Let go of the strings.

Instead, imagine a ribbon that has more than two planes. It maintains its thin and thick, its coming-to and going-away. But it also adds the capacity to carry, to turn sideways and hide, to catch, present a face, to slice. A ribbon offers an affordance of rest, layer, and surface. Imagine this ribbon has the capacity to be as wide or as invisible as its evasion of capture requires, carrying imaginary homelands across linear perimeters of time and space. Side-step the line.

It is not possible to see all facets of a ribbon at once. Invariably, one side is hiding. One side of a ribbon may display an effect, where the other contains a cause. Logic is hidden, unavailable for inspection. Progression loses its coherency, its narrative disjunctive, misaligned.

Return to this spider’s web of cotton lines zipping to and fro, and substitute with ribbons careening this way and that, ripping past one another, turning on themselves into complex crystalline forms, presenting fragments of truth and untruth. Ribbons fold in on themselves like origami, creating faces adjoined to faces in both space and time. The perspectival force of progression has folded itself into an unknowable knot.

What if we step back from our perceptive world, before connecting ground to gravity, walls to barriers, bodies to wounds, before we accept the truth of one step requesting another. What if one step calls for a second, and a step responds to this call by presenting a pot of mums where a foot used to be?

Buried in its folds and facets, its corners tuck in on themselves. Hidden deep in these pockets and folds rests an uneasy fugitivity, a wildness whose logic is incommensurate with the logic of capture. [5] The rendering of an actual world loses its sensibility. The world begins to deterritorialize, borders unhinge. Experience drives the account, but the account is odd, queer, other. Smoke clears from a war-torn sky and two moons come into focus. [6]

On a plane adjacent to these two moons, other ribbon-surfaces depict landscapes. These landscapes are larger than a single plane might hold, but many ribbons folding in on themselves, creating structures of dodge and weave start to do the work of holding it aloft. Each landscape is not contained on one surface, but pours over the fold, continuing out of sight, to the interior or the opposite side of its crystalline form. [7] Borders lose their cohesion. A single face of landscape belies but does not hold its entirety. Imagined continuity takes the place of the whole, the virtual supplanting the real, while the real is tucked away for safekeeping. A landscape can now be carried in the mind’s eye. A border can be traversed from the centre, meaning made by the juxtaposition of one moon to the next, one homeland to another. A homeland, its scale hidden by the deceptively simple operation of tucking the real into the virtual, carried on a fold no larger than a postage stamp. Tucked into the cuff of your pants for safekeeping.


[1] On a different life-plane as a becoming-architect, I was tasked with the same initiation of many in the field: learn the daunting, seemingly impenetrable task of mastering AutoCAD. As with other vector-based software, all points in its virtual reality are relative: placing your cursor in the software’s black void is imprecise, its confluence of x, y and z vectors difficult to locate, let alone conceive of. Adjusting to this reality is like learning to trust the placement of you foot in the next step in a pitch black room; time, and an awareness that the distance between points is a leap of faith towards the speculative and conceptual.


[2] It is impossible to overstate this significance of Erin Manning’s work on neurotypical and neurodiverse perception on my understanding of myself and the world, in its in-formation. Neurotypical observation is never passive: in fact, it is violent, a wrenching of a desired object from its surrounds. “The separating out of the object backgrounds the intrinsic relationality of the field’s coming to expression, clearing the stage for an overshadowing human subject to cast his presence in its place, in order to take personal credit for the field’s environmentally emergent accounting for itself.” (Manning and Massumi 2014: 7)


[3] Each Methodology has its own life history. It starts as a dodge facilitating the accomplishment of some nascent urge of life. In its prime, it represents some wide coordination of thought and action whereby this urge expresses itself as a major satisfaction of existence. Finally, it enters upon the lassitude of old age, its second childhood. The larger contrasts attainable within the scope of the method have been explored and familiarized. The satisfaction from repetition has faded away. Life then faces the last alternatives in which its fate depends [….] When any methodology of life has exhausted the novelties within its scope and played upon them up to the incoming of fatigue, one final decision determines the fate of the species. It can stabilize itself, and relapse so as to live; or it can shake itself free, and enter upon the adventure of living better (Whitehead 1929: 18-19).


[4] How to do Research-Creation? At the SenseLab, our research location resides in the hyphen; but that hyphen represents a territory in and of itself, an important locality under-explored by current thinking on the subject. Sawchuk and Chapman start in this direction with their research category “Creation-as-Research”, hinting at its radical potential to upend knowledge production – “It is in this sense that such creative work can be understood as a strong form of intervention, contributing to knowledge in a profoundly different way from the academic norm.” But why do we shy away from a total radicalization of this form of knowledge production, buffering this hybridity by mimicking creation-as-research work within more established “theoretical articulations? (Sawchuck and Chapman: 2012)[5] I want to deliberately gesture here to two key concepts: The emergent field of ‘Wildness’, an ecological approach to subject formation, a subfield of queer theory in development by Tavia Nyong’o, Jack Halberstam and the late José Esteban Muñoz; and the fugitivity, articulated by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten in The Undercommons. Emerging scholarly work on the topic of queer subjecthood points to an integration of imminent becoming and Affect Theory, reconfiguring ecologies through an understanding of the processes by which they emerge and shape subjectivity. Fugitivity speaks to modes of being that escape capture by the (capitalist) structures that drive our society’s institutions. The work of putting these concepts in conversation needs to be done.[6] In Samuel L. Delany’s Dhalgren, the aspiration-less drifters in the fictional, post-apocalyptic American city of Bellona are startled one evening to find that there are not one, but two moons hanging largely in the sky. Two moons become a signifier for a landscape in flux, vibration, motion. The narrative of the text functions as a möbius strip, the “beginning” of the text folding into its “end”, the landscape reconstituting itself (but different) as a locale unfixed in normative functionings of time and space. Most of the characters in this narrative are black, queer, female, or immigrants to this city out of time. A möbius strip, of course, is a ribbon riddled with improbability, its facets only ever virtual. Wildness knows no bounds.[7] In the crystalline, you can never see all images at once. “Crystalline narration will fracture the complementarity of lived hodological and a represented Euclidean space. Having lost its sensory-motor connections, concrete space ceases to be organized according to tensions and resolutions to tension, according to goals, obstacles, means or even detours.” How would a landscape versed only in the crystalline perform? What fugitivities would it support, wildness would it let in? How might it fold back on itself, in clever concealment? (Deleuze 2005: 128)


Works Cited

Arakawa, and Madeline Gins. Architectural Body. Tuscaloosa: Alabama University Press, 2002.

Campuzano, Guiseppe. “Veiled Genealogy of a Trans Future.” The Future Lasts Forever. Eds. Runo Lagomarsino and Carlos Motta. Gävle: Konstcentrum, 2011: 29-38.

Delany, Samuel R. Dhalgren. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time Image. London: Continuum, 2005.

Harney, Stefano and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. Wivenhoe/New York/Port Watson: Minor Compositions, 2013.

Latour, Bruno. “Networks, Societies, Spheres: Reflections of an Actor-Network Theorist.” International Journal of Communication. 5.1 (2011): 796-810.

Manning, Erin. Always More than One: Individuation’s Dance. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

Manning, Erin and Massumi Brian. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience. 2014.

Nyong’o, Tavia. “Back to the Garden: Queer Ecology in Samuel Delany’s Heavenly Breakfast.” American Literary History. 24.4 (2012): 747-767.

Sawchuk, Kim and O.B Chapman. “Research-creation: Intervention, Analysis and Family Resemblances.” Canadian Journal of Communication. 37.1 (2012): 5-26.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. New York: Free Press, 1978.

What is a Cuff? by Matthew-Robin Nye


What is a Cuff?

A Change in Direction – where something extra slowly accumulates

            -detritus (lint, people, gunk in a pipe)

                                    -Where attention is grabbed

            -collar, ledge

                                    -Where movement is redirected

            -a glancing blow, a bicycle path underneath a bridge, a french curve

How do you reverse engineer a cuff?

            -We know how to build a cuff – an architecture that catches – but this is not necessarily a cuff in and of itself. A cuff is what is left behind, is an environmental co-composure, the human observing and engaging with the more-than human.  Perhaps building a cuff is an exercise of subtraction, where peeling back the layers built up and around a cuff might reveal the product of the cuff.

The cuff is not an architecture; it is that which is surrounded by an architecture.

A Cuff is the space between where a vacuum cleaner wants to go and where it can’t go. It is similar in this way to the infrathin, but it is not as concerned with perceptibility/imperceptibility.

A Cuff is the moments around the punctum – but not the punctum itself. It is attention sliding around a subject, trained but not entrained by it.

A Cuff is a slip, series of microadjustments and slight change in direction that you fall in to rather than fight. A cuff is an oxbow in a river – the curve needs to be traced back, may no longer be visible.

A Cuff is a movement-architecture relation. 

Refugia: Introductory text by Matthew-Robin Nye

This text accompanied the exhibition Refugia in Montreal, May 2016

Refugia is an in-situ performance of the landscape/cityscape of Samuel R. Delany’s city of Bellona in his novel Dhalgren (1974, Vintage Books). The performance is of a domestic landscape interwoven with personal narratives and process-oriented techniques for fugitivity, over three apartments that sit on top of one another.

Dhalgren is a frustrating text, because it steadfastly evades the capture of reasonable explication. As a reader, one enters the novel in the middle of a sentence - “to wound the autumnal city.” - a thought surfacing, and consciousness becoming. The novel’s first pages introduce a character who has little memory of himself as subject and who cannot remember his own name. He emerges from a cave to find his way to Bellona, an American Midwestern city caught in the grip of an unknown/unknowable apocalypse, with buildings that burn and then do not burn; a dark cloud cover that lifts only twice in the novel to display the celestially impossible (two moons in the sky, an immense sun); streets that continually change names; and geographical markers that shift in their distance and direction. The city, with services in a perpetual state of failure and where anarchy-as-process reigns, is alive but nearly hollowed of its inhabitants. Once the “fourth largest city in America,” Bellona’s population is now only one or two thousand, an assemblage of the marginal and disenfranchised, a loose organization of queer bodies, black bodies, the mentally diverse, and societal outcasts. The protagonist, who comes to be named “The Kid,” explores this city and its affects, filling himself and his notebook with his experiences of Bellona and its people through poetry, sexuality, and relational movement.

Dhalgren’s structure offers up a similar circular paradox to Refugia: it resembles a Möbius strip, for which finding the point of entry to a series of relations already worlding, already relating, is an arbitrary gesture. The physical, literary, and narrative constraints of the novel are present in Dhalgren in that it has a beginning and an end, though this is structural artifice. One might as easily begin reading in the middle of the novel. The Kid becomes allegory for the twisted logic of the novel itself. Dhalgren’s words presented intermittently in first person, third person and poetry. The narrative comes from a subject who has become deterritorialized from geography, society, his own mentality. It can be read as a warning against the processes and appetites of capitalist ecologies;[1] as an entry to a queer utopia.

Refugia are the hideaways “from which diverse species assemblages (with or without people) can be reconstituted after major events (like desertification, or clear cutting, or, or, …)” (Haraway 159). Refugia are where processes – ecological, mental and social – go to regenerate. To Donna Haraway, and in Anna Tsing’s recent work, a loss of refugia, the wiping out of these regenerative and diversifying hideaways, might characterize our modern geological epoch. The generative relations that are the basis of diversity have no place to renew themselves in the capitalocene.[2] Worlds become fatigued and fall into lassitude, exhausted. While Tsing and Haraway are thinking about macrobiological processes (i.e. speciation), refugia can be found in many scales: in the biological human, in the appendix, where ‘good bacteria’ are known to regenerate before rejoining the flora of the gut; in daydreaming, where the mind is let off of the entraining leash to stretch its creativity; and in the domestic space ­– private worlds where our sociality is not on display, and where our environments are not dancing to attention.[3] Foucault’s heterotopias are the spaces constructed by societies to contain alterity in subjecthood, time and geography before reentering normative social space. Refugia are the counter-gesture to heterotopia, in that they evade capture, form in resistance, regeneration and renewal, and are the resting place of the undercommons.[4] They relate to the normative capitalocene not to support its functioning, as a heterotopia often does, but to counter it, and become unproductive. Heterotopias are on the reserve; refugia are in the wild. 

The Reserve describes those spaces where one’s movements are predicted, prescribed and commodified. The antiseptic packaging of life and dont-feed-the-animals commerce of the Native reserve or the nature reserve, the suburb, the condo, the coffee chain, the institution. The quotidian is offered for consumption on the reserve: “This is one powerful narrative irony in ambient poetics: the background we think we are perceiving throughout—the background of everyday life—is revealed at the conclusion to have another background—that of the structures of capitalism and governmentality” (Nyong’o 761). In its drive for value, the reserve stamps out ‘novelty,’[5] instead reaching for newness. Creativity is banished in favour of predictability, everyday life revealing itself to be a distilled formula of logistics. Populations are merely numbers.[6] “A capitalist subjectivity is engendered through operators of all types and sizes, and is manufactured to protect existence from any intrusion of events that might disturb or disrupt public opinion” (Guattari 33). The reserve has no room for novelty, unless this novelty is in the form of stronger monocrops, higher yield, further return on the dollar, ecology-as-product, relations as user experience. Complexity is difficult to manage. The reserve is a management system of sorting, selecting out, culling extraneous meaning and accurately representing contents. It favours action over movement, habit over novelty, minor correctives in a preordained course. “What defines action, as opposed to movement, is that its execution is swaddled less immediately in in rhythm, than it is mediated by preestablished meaning” (Manning and Massumi 38). Narrative as truth reigns on the reserve; here, the story is of rescued animals, treaties, and aspirations waiting to be fulfilled.

The Wild is the untamed, the untamable. It is behind a fold, a shadow world that exists on top of the reserve, around it and in its cracks. In the way that a forest floor knows how to communicate with its trees, signaling to arrest acorn masting for a season, in order to cull an over-productive squirrel population, the wild is self-aware. The wild is the leakages, the slippage outside of containers of identity and the identifiable. The wild follows techniques of fugitivity,[7] incompossibility,[8] and has an ethic of “bad debt”[9] and being-with. The root of the wild, and wilderness, is relationality, complexity and flexibility.[10]

In The False we counter the misleading notion of truth. The false presents us with opportunities to encounter the generative, explorative, and wild. Embracing the false opens up the possible. Revealing the incommensurability of ‘truth,’ it pulls back the curtain, exposing the real. Reason becomes derailed, relations become novel again – the power of the false produces the force of the world. With the structure of truth stripped away the body is revealed: “What remains? Bodies, which are forces, nothing but forces – decentered, affecting and being affected” (Deleuze 139). Qualitative forces, transformative, dangerous, wild, live forces. Through the power of the false, the world begins to refresh itself, relations renew. The false is a reintroduction of the anarchic share into the limited milieu of relations on the reserve. The ‘because’ and ‘therefore’ begin to tremble, the production line stalls: “Having lost its sensory motor connections, concrete space ceases to be organized according to tensions and resolutions of tension, according to goals, obstacles, means, or even detours” (Deleuze 128). New landscapes are revealed.

Landscape is a selecting-out from the field in its emergence, a place that is between the forest and the trees. Landscape is a proposition for perspective within the field, the briefest moment in which the subject has not yet been taken up. A landscape is the just before act of landing, the topological in transition to the perspectival. Once perception lands, it takes up a landing site: “When how the world is apportioned out is translated into landing sites, all stays the same, touched but untouched.  A person parses the world at any given instant into particular distributions of landing sites, or better, an organism-person-environment can be parsed in these distributions.” (Arakawa and Gins 6). Where perception lands can be highly political. Landing perception on skin, depending on how you land, could tell you about an identity or a quality, a containment or a process or give rise to a statement or a question. “The body is pushed into a taking-account already in process, and this pulls it toward a self-individualizing realization” (Manning and Massumi 24). Subject is in formation, and landscape the briefest moment of choice-agency. “Landscape should be as invested in the dissolution of nature as ‘ecology,' 'mother earth,’ 'environmentalists' for it is a capture and transfiguration into labour. Landscape becomes labour” (Moore Capitalocene 2). Landscape labours to establish value.

Architecture is a process, a becoming-with environmental forces. It is both a peopling of space and a choreography of people in space. It is a co-compositional bodying of processes, people and the processes which make objects. Architecture is a stepping forward with the environment. It is a bodily relation: it is both a reflection of the environment and a process in composition with it. “The body, a complex organism that is always in the process of reading surroundings, needs to be defined together with that within which it moves; peering at it from the other way around, the surroundings need to be defined with bodies moving within them” (Arakawa and Gins, xx). For Arakawa and Gins, the built environment is a stage in a process between the momentary container of the body (organism that persons) and its surrounds (architectural body). The architectural body, with each act of perception, moves through the organism that persons, the two shifting and re-configuring continually in service of movement. “The organism-person feels and thinks his way through an environment” (Arakawa and Gins 3).   

Utopia is not a place, but a state. Utopia is not a destination but is folded in, that you can carry on your back and step forward with. One step, and then the next. Utopia is fragile: it is vulnerable to many forms of capture, and as an idea, is often packaged and commodified. The field has no centre, but utopia proposes an imaginary one. Like a mirage, actually reaching that centre is a fruitless journey. One step, and then the next: utopia is a harmonization of many processes, ecologies that dive into one another.

Utopia is a process, and its worlding is immanent, and immanently precarious. Utopia is a landscape that you carry with you through an ecology that includes the omnivorous drive of the capitalist processes that it is comprised of, and the social, and the mental. In utopia, the withholding of satisfaction[11] is a holding-forth of the impossible ideal. Reaching the ideal of utopia will only result in the satisfaction of mirage, because utopia is not a place. In this capitaloscene, the incompossibility contained in a present moment, of utopia-not-utopia, capture-not-capture, might be for now the best we can hope for, until the total rewilding of the world.

Wildness is chance, liveness. In wildness desire creates the conditions for the imaginary homeland[12] of utopia in formation. Wildness is the field in its emergence. Wildness creeps, is found only in chance encounters and immediate sensory experience. Wildness envelops itself in the false, the trickster: it is a fugitive intercessor into the logical and regulated. Michael Taussig argues that “wildness challenges the unity of the symbol, the transcendent totalization binding the image to that which it represents” to resist a particular body, instead moving through bodies (Halberstam 144). Wildness, as body, is Manning’s “sensing body in movement, a body that resists predefinitions in terms of subjectivity or identity, a body that is involved in a reciprocal reaching-toward that gathers the world as it worlds” (Manning 6). In wildness, when the body is narrated, told what it can be or not be, it leaps down the rabbit hole of falsehood, hiding in plain sight. “To still becoming into a lingering identity is to try to stop movement” (Manning 11). Halberstam concurs: The function of wildness is to “…challenge the unity of the symbol and to fracture meanings that have coalesced around marked bodies" (144). The project of buttressing containers of identity has been actively coopted. Wildness melts into the forest, evading capture. Wildness is an emerging scholarly field exploring an ecological queer vitality that exists outside of and before the social contract takes hold: it is “a space/name/critical term for what lies beyond current logics of rule.” (Halberstam 138).

Halberstam argues that wildness can be found in the commons of brownness, blackness, indigeneity and queerness. These subject formations have similar stakes in the project of wildness: “A queer inquisition into ‘wildness’ — where we might understand wildness as the space that colonialism constructs, marks, and disavows, as well as a space of vibrancy that limns all attempts to demarcate subject from object, and a space of normativity that holds the deviant and the monstrous decisively at bay” (Halberstam 141). In a postcolonial ecology, the logical processes of normativity create those that are part of the capitaloscene and those that are extraneous to it. “Right now, the earth is full of refugees, human and not, without refuge.” (Haraway 160). Movements are social, political, biological, feral. A reconstitution of refugia,[13] a taking back of the disavowed, may be the start of mobilizing the project of wildness. In the introduction to The Undercommons, Jack Halberstam says that in the undercommons, as in wildness, “…we cannot be satisfied with the recognition and acknowledgement generated by the very system that denies a) that anything was ever broken and b) that we deserved to be the broken part; so we refuse to ask for recognition and instead we want to take apart, dismantle, tear down the structure that, right now, limits our ability to find each other, to see beyond it and to access the places that we know lie outside its walls.” (Moten and Harney  6).

 Capitalism is a process that is not above or separate from the processes of the natural world – it is a process that is of the natural world. Further, capitalism is a process that extends through the three ecologies – environmental, social, mental - a rot that creeps. In the mental, it articulates itself through desire for objects, psychosis, stasis, and homogeneity. In the social, it articulates itself as competition, oppression, and colonization. In the ecological, capitalism articulates itself as a border frontier, an appetite for regulation and commodification, conversion of value relations to value productions. In each of these states, the capitalist process colonizes from within rather than as an external front. Capitalism “tends increasingly to decentre its sites of power, moving away from structures producing goods and services towards structures producing signs, syntax and … subjectivity” (Guattari 32).

 (Art) Worlding

The decolonial movement offers some insight for how to reconstitute refugia and bring wildness back into the quotidian. A renegotiation on the same uneven terrain will produce similar results. I find it useful to think with Andrew Goodman’s work on rewilding in nature and the art world. Rewilding is the act of introducing new systems of relations into stagnant ecologies: “Rewilding emphasises the potential of dynamic and complex ecologies with intensive capacities to collectively experiment with flux." This resetting of the relational field is not the introduction of relations themselves, but the introduction of unique entities capable of generating new relations. What can art before the container do? What capacity does the work have to develop, grow its own potential before it enters the exhibition space? The ‘wild,' here, becomes a field outside of the institution that has not yet been cultivated, tamed and professionalized. Art should be wild. At its best, “art provides us with witness to the wildness of queer lives and the queerness of the wild. It does so by offering us utopic visions but also by joining those vision to madness, failure, and the temporality of the belated, darkness and negativity" (Halberstam 142). "That is, if we are concerned with a kind of art that might be thought of as participatory in an expansive sense of the term - an art that we might even choose to call 'ecological' in its encouragement of a complex set of relations forming and reforming immanently between, within and across various components of an event, can this type of 'ecology' be rewilded?” (Goodman) Art’s utopic visions might in fact be key to the reintroduction of novelty to the reserve.

When an artwork is encountered in a field of relations that has already been narrated, the landscape for its production of meaning has been set. This is a dimming of potential before the work has left the gate. What of the unexpected encounter? What of the destabilizing gesture of art? Perhaps, art’s recently increased production in response to refugee and economic crises, political upheaval and social outreach is because the art work, as presented by the institution - even the artist-runs that we may deeply respect - has had its potential quieted, dulled by institutional weight. The institution is itself weighed by the audience’s expectation of some form of capture, the presumed capacity to recognize, parse, and comprehend - if not outright reject. “Can an art event in fact become a literal intensively organizing dynamic system?” (Goodman). Has the system of the institution become so weighty, its codes so recognized and accepted, that they short-circuit the work, blanket it with meaning that circumvents and arrests the artwork from doing it s art-working?  Art idoes not do its work in a vacuum: it is in an ecology, an additional process in the milieu that adds diversity, complexity, richness to the field, and expands its potential.

Refugia is not being presented in a formal exhibition space because it does not accept pre-established relations outside of its chosen ecology. “The room becomes configuring as the body recomposes” (Manning 15). Architecture and body move together as one to create meaning: Architecture as body, with organs, muck, compost, decay and yes, even procreation (or kin-making, as Haraway would propose) in its DNA. But not architecture with white drywall, to be inscribed with temporary meaning and returned to 'neutral' over and over, in the downtime between exhibitions. It is incumbent on the institution to fulfill its moral and natural obligation to function as process itself; to circumvent its predisposition to architecture-as-object towards something more dangerous, live; architecture-as-process. Does the artwork function on the reserve? How does delivering an art, as signifier of ‘Art,' the apex container of knowledge (indicative, of course, of its Creator) function as process rather than object when the boundaries of the reserve are so clearly set? Every effort must be made to provide an allowance for the work to be generative, not only in the mental sphere, but in the social and environmental spheres, and the interactions between these spaces.



Additional subjects enter the ecology of the apartment: not only the companion species, the clothes moth, the rotting apple, the memorabilia, the partner, the neighbour, the place where a book was read, the place where a breakup happened, the middling, the interstitial, the dog - the apartment exhibition offers up affordances for new relations, acts as what Simondon might call a transductive process by which the system of private, domestic living enters the uncertain realm of interrogation. The presence of additional subjectivities in the space - the supervisor, the friend, the curator, the friend-as-curator, the dean - offers nodes where multiple fields of potential can activate further, both troubling the extant relations in the domestic space but offering up a further potential to this space. The immanence of the space becomes felt, begins to vibrate. This potential is activated not by the individuals, with all of their institutional authority and might - it is by the disturbance, the rupture in the field. The “…a-signifying rupture summons forth a creative repetition that forges incorporeal objects, abstract machines and Universes of value that make their presence felt as though they had been always ‘already there’” (Guattari 31). This is a story of decentralized subjectivity, the subjectivity of architecture and landscape forming and in-folding upon itself, worlding together.



Works Cited

Arakawa, and Madeline Gins. Architectural Body. Tuscaloosa: Alabama University Press, 2002.

Delany, Samuel R. Dhalgren. New York: Vintage Books, 2001. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema: 2. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1997. Print.

Goodman, Andrew. “Black Magic: Fragility, Flux and the Rewilding of Art”. Immediations book series Editor: Senselab. Open Humanities Press. Forthcoming.

Guattari, Félix. The Three Ecologies. Trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton. London: Continuum, 2010. Print.

Halberstam, Jack Judith. "Wildness, Loss, Death." Social Text 32.4 121 (2014): 137-148.

Haraway, Donna. "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin." Environmental Humanities. 6.1 (2015): 159-165. Print.

Harney, Stefano, and Fred Moten. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Wivenhoe/New York/Port Watson: Minor Compositions, 2013.

Manning, Erin. “The Dance of Attention.” Inflexions 6, “Arakawa and Gins”

(January 2013). 337-364. Web.

---. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2009. Print.

Manning, Erin, and Massumi Brian. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience. 2014. Print.

Moore, Jason. The Capitaloscene, Part I: On the Nature & Origins of Our Ecological Crisis. 2014. Web.

---. The Capitaloscene, Part II: Abstract Social Nature and the Limits to Capital. 2014. Web.

Nyong'o, Tavia. "Back to the Garden: Queer Ecology in Samuel Delany's Heavenly Breakfast." American Literary History. 24.4 (2012): 747-767. Print.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality. New York: Free Press, 1978.


[1] “This means that capital and power – and countless other strategic relations – do not act upon nature, but develop through the web of life.” (Moore 11)

[2] Jason Moore defines the Capitaloscene as “the historical era shaped by relations privileging the endless accumulation of capital” (Moore 5)  

[3] “Dancing to attention” is the virtual becoming actual, the world in-formation. “Concresence is, literally, growing together. (…) We dance our way to concresence.” (Manning 22)

[4] In their brilliant The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, Harney and Moten propose a space that exists with, under and through the commons of the university; the undercommons is a place of resistance that refuses productivity, finance, and the structures of control built in to capitalist society. It is the war room of blackness, brownness, queerness and indigeneity.

[5] Referring to Whitehead’s concept of novelty, Manning states: “Novelty is produced by the body becoming. Novelty is dynamic, active through the plasticity of its rhythms, emergent always in excess of its form” (Manning 21). It is this plasticity, the joyfulness that comes with exceeding a container that the reserve cannot abide.

[6] Logistical populations will be created to do without thinking, to feel without emotion, to move without friction, to adapt without question, to translate without pause, to connect without interruption, or they will be dismantled and disabled as bodies in the same way they are assembled, by what Patricia Clough calls population racism” (Harney and Moten 91)

[7] “Fugitivity is not only escape, “exit” as Paolo Virno might put it, or “exodus,” in the terms offered by Hardt and Negri, fugitivity is being separate from settling. It is a being in motion that has learned that “organizations are obstacles to organising ourselves” (The Invisible Committee in The Coming Insurrection) and that there are spaces and modalities that exist separate from the logical, logistical, the housed and the positioned.” (Halberstam on Fugitivity in The Undercommons 11)

[8] Deleuze sites Liebnizs neologism “incompossibility”, a present moment which is the result of many possible pasts. There have been many possibilities, but only one thing proceeds. The may and the may not are equally real in their own worlds, but do not world together; “The past may be true without necessarily being true” (Deleuze 130).

[9] Moten and Harney propose “debt” as a response to credit: “credit is a means of privatization and debt a means of socialization. Debt comes in the forms of “debt” and “bad debt”. Bad debt is the other side of credit, entrapment. Debt, as social force, is the social contract of owing more than you take. “But debt is social and credit is asocial. Debt is mutual. Credit runs only one way. But debt runs in every direction, scatters, escapes, seeks refuge. The debtor seeks refuge among other debtors, acquires debt from them, offers debt to them. The place of refuge is the place to which you can only owe more and more because there is no creditor, no payment possible. This refuge, this place of bad debt, is what we call the fugitive public.” (Moten and Harney 61)

[10] In ‘Black Magic: Fragility, Flux and the Rewilding of Art,’ Andrew Goodman beautifully outlines how biological dynamism in a healthy wilderness is not about a given element, but how an environment that is complex on system-level has the capability of robust, self-organizing criticality.

[11] For Whitehead, the satisfaction of the event is when a process has actualized in its unfolding, the decision that emerges from potential.

[12] “All sorts of deterritorialized ‘nationalities’ are conceivable, such as music and poetry. What condemns the capitalist value system is that it is characterized by a general equivalence, which flattens out other forms of value, alienating them in its hegemony” (Guattari 43).

[13] “One way to live and die well as mortal critters in the Chthulucene is to join forces to reconstitute refuges, to make possible partial and robust biological-cultural-political-technological recuperation and recomposition, which must include mourning irreversible losses” (Haraway 160).

The Lassitude of the world shaken off in the Promisory Environs of the Classroom by Matthew-Robin Nye



Each Methodology has its own life history. It starts as a dodge facilitating the accomplishment of some nascent urge of life. In its prime, it represents some wide coordination of thought and action whereby this urge expresses itself as a major satisfaction of existence. Finally it enters upon the lassitude of old age, its second childhood. The larger contrasts attainable within the scope of the method have been explored and familiarized. The satisfaction from repetition has faded away. Life then faces the last alternatives in which its fate depends [....] When any methodology of life has exhausted the novelties within its scope and played upon them up to the incoming of fatigue, one final decision determines the fate of the species. It can stabilize itself, and relapse so as to live; or it can shake itself free, and enter upon the adventure of living better (Whitehead 1929: 18-19)

It is my objective to begin to knit the Field (or Landscape of Absolute Potential) that these elements of my practice – artistic, curatorial, pedagogical, and philosophical - can reside within. Ublimé’s Fields is both an intra-practice and inter-practice project: On one hand, it articulates a methodological approach of affiliated artworks, exhibitions, non-profit organizations, collaborations; on the other it works towards a philosophical grounding of creative process, knowledge making, and practice. This approach is processual, in which I interrogate the idea of presenting a work in its ‘finality’ becomes a logical fallacy, as a presentation is nothing but a refined snapshot of continually evolving process. In practical terms, Ublimé’s Fields represents a constellation of events, deadlines and goals that I would like to achieve by the end of the August 2015.

The Lassitude of the Art Object produced to either (accumulate the affect of the moving world) or (to crumble into oblivion)

Architecture is defined by the organization of people in space; a territorialization outside of the actual/presentationally immediate world, instead located in Whitehead's prehensive space or Deleuze's virtual space. None of my recent works look like architecture. 'Architecture' becomes a prompt, an organizational principle, or a system to rail against. Architecture is articulated by the in-process: smell, ephemera, and movement.  In my artistic presentations, visitor/participant encounters representations of our built environment and inhabited spaces through works which I believe to be queer; queer not necessarily because of a differently performed sexuality, but because these spaces may not be expressed in the material dimensions of the built environment.

The Lassitude of Performance: to enter a space with the outcomes of the event pre-determined

During the three years of my Master’s program, I have focussed my research questions on the definition and production of Queer Utopic Architectural Space (QUAS); in order to define QUAS, one must first ask: how does this space articulate in the perceptible world? What political valence does an architecture in movement embody? What operational techniques can queer architecture deploy, shedding the predominant heteroparadigm? The final production of a working definition of QUAS as my Master’s thesis is generated from my artistic practice, rooted in the hybrid territory of research-creation. Specifically, this refers to a production of artworks that responds to my research and deepening knowledge production in Process Philosophy and Queer Theory, the articulation of a conceptually complex landscape through the production of interpretive performative and visual gestures. This interdisciplinarity allows me to develop a methodology that portions my investigation in both distinct and blurred parcels through research, and research-as-production. 

If the Artist/Educator is the mediator of knowledge and experience, where does the work lay?

On Lassitude - Field Notes by Matthew-Robin Nye


In reading Against Method with Marc one evening in Cholula, we glommed on to a passage that Erin also referenced, a passage in Whitehead’s text The Function of Reason, which we also found compelling. The quotation as printed in Against Method in full:


Each Methodology has its own life history. It starts as a dodge facilitating the accomplishment of some nascent urge of life. In its prime, it represents some wide coordination of thought and action whereby this urge expresses itself as a major satisfaction of existence. Finally it enters upon the lassitude of old age, its second childhood. The larger contrasts attainable within the scope of the method have been explored and familiarized. The satisfaction from repetition has faded away. Life then faces the last alternatives in which its fate depends [....] When any methodology of life has exhausted the novelties within its scope and played upon them up to the incoming of fatigue, one final decision determines the fate of the species. It can stabilize itself, and relapse so as to live; or it can shake itself free, and enter upon the adventure of living better (1929: 18-19)


Polyphonic: More than one voice.

Contrapuntal: As in music, two or more voices independant yet contextually codependent, verifying, contradicting, tuning, and harmonizing. (Marc Wieser)


See: Thought in The Act, Manning and Massumi, Proposition 16: Play Polyrhythms of Relation



Lassitude. Mexico. Trying. Moving. Polyrhythms of Relation. The Minor Gesture.


Recently, at a SenseLab workshop in Mexico, Lassitude became the contrapuntal gesture to Trying. Massumi and Manning reference contrapuntal divergence in Proposition 16 of their text Thought In The Act. This contrapuntal contribution is a part of a “backgrounding, foregrounding dance of prearticulation, moving between gesture and words, mak(ing) the force of conversation (feel) felt beyond its semantic formulation.” (118)


(Preconscious noticing)


The difference between trying and lassitude

How does one avoid lassitude?


Change directions.

Anticipate the next step you’re going to take and dance sideways.


Creation is the antithesis of lassitude. Creation is a generative act. Lassitude is a perpetuation of existing acts.


How do you cut time? What is the minimal and maximal duration of an instance? A creative moment? What are the temporal limitations of a spontaneous gesture?


Trying: The feeling of effort, the propulsion from this moment to the next. A propulsion that is not within this moment, but is felt for, apprehended by the future. The future reaches into the past, has an appetite for pastness - the future reaches into the present for fulfillment. Trying is the effort in creation. Trying has no terminus - trying is the ungluing of lassitude.


How do you create an artwork that is free of lassitude? How do you create an artwork that the future continues to have an appetite for? An artwork that feels for, reaches its tentacles out to, a promise of continual generation?


Shock is one instance; the shock of war, the shock of trauma - the bigger the explosion the further into the future it feels. A shock is built up towards, is in the past in its immanent becoming, and then the shock - CUT - lassitude is momentarily vanquished, the energies to create a perfectly generative new newness has arrisen. The dynamic future reaches back, into the present, searching for material.


What happens when this future has nothing to reach for? What happens when there is no creation in the given instance? Lassitude creeps. It grabs hold of progress, the moment, creative force, and calcifies. The future becomes fixed, loses its promise, begins to rebel against the present. This rebellion takes the form of the presentationally immediate, the obvious, the mundane and expected. The future becomes bleak.


With lassitude, becoming has become. Within lassitude, spontaneity and creativity are linked as counterforces. The work of art must keep moving in order to avoid its grasp.


Learning in Process by Matthew-Robin Nye



A classroom is an everyplace where the world constitutes itself, expresses its continuous worlding through an elastic transit between existence and potential: the virtual and the actual. The world (that sticky existence that we move through with rent-paying/transit-taking/grocery shopping gravitas) enters the classroom in tufts of lateness, hungover-ness, excitement and many other imaginable forms of student-drag.

The world in its tenses is a very large place; but the classroom occupies a space that orders itself around the enrichment of experience; thus, the classroom is a sieve through which the world passes, contributing to the enrichment of the world, while also collecting tiny droplets of knowledge, matter and experience (the world) for discourse, retention and expansion. In this frame, the pedagogue’s role is to facilitate the self-mapping of the world’s growth-process. Looking out through the student, the world finds its cartographies deepened by their own expression; the intelligible, before it is formed, is a subjective prehension of the world plus one.

The worlds that we build in each classroom exist outside perception: their taking-form is tangled up with emotion, intelligibility and the not-yet deciphered; memory and many other forms of resistance; and the curricular plan (or as I prefer, its absence). Zooming back to the small knot of information we might call teacher-drag, it is a hopeless task to populate these worlds with static meaning.

Dragged by my world, I enter the classroom knowing that I prehend the growths of many worlds before I cross its threshold again. I am met with the gaze of many worlds in-process; in student drag, artist drag, undecided drag I meet these searching worlds with my own gaze. What dance shall we step in today?

The world’s information leaks through in curricular plans and lecture notes; we lazily reach for these droplets, though most slip through my fingers, having evaporated long before I entered the classroom; I am hopeless at giving this kind of direction… But, these coordinates are a blind; they snag at the mesh of our classroom-sieve, threatening to weigh our world down until it stops moving. There is no value in the things that get caught, dying slowly in the imperium’s net. We develop tactics to reveal the intuitive.

What of learning to catch the world that has avoided the sieve altogether; teaching each other to look for the world that is live, untamed, running away? As a classroom: we learn to ride this wild world to the composition of the next. Learning is an act of constituting knowledge in a plus one: relating the world through oneself and reconstituting it anew, to cross the threshold again, prehending the growth of the next world, sparkling and glowing with its...


Ublimé, the 48-Holed Tapada, and her Epic Yawn by Matthew-Robin Nye


Textural excerpt from the Ublimé Project, 2014

Sum up your body.

Breathe deeply in, and deeply out. Yawn. Yawn. Yaaaaawn

Note that your yawn is autonomous from your body.



(pause)(have you done it yet?)




       Yawn. If you extend your yawn’s perimeter beyond the extents of your body, your yawn has increased your body’s autonomy from its typical resting state.


Okay, we’re ready.

This is a story about Ublimé[1], the 48-holed Tapada[2], and her Yawn[3]. Ublimé’s name was first uttered in the most unexpected of circumstances: when Shakira sang the Colombian national anthem, in front of a whole bunch of Presidents and Prime Ministers, Diplomats and dignitaries. Of course, everyone thought she got the words wrong, but Shakira, whose ‘hips don’t lie’, was talking about Ublimé! It was on the world stage that we first heard of Ublimé[4].


The act of Naming happens as frequently by accident as it happens with intention. The mythologizing of a subject – place, person, or thing – occurs with intention as frequently as it happens by accident. The instance of Ublimé’s naming, whether by chance or calculation, is quickly subsumed by the consequences of the act of naming: a pop star shunned over a slip of the tongue. A national identity destabilized. An opportunity opens up, creating a yawning sense of magic.[5]


Shakira found a hole. The hole that Shakira found came in the shape of an opportunity, which itself was shaped like an Ublimé: a little space in the lyrics of a boring old national anthem - a hymn to the nation-state and the powers that uphold it - to thank the person that made every such hole, every such opportunity possible: Ublimé! These days, everyone’s thanking Ublimé, every time they find a hole. Other holes we’ve always been thankful for but haven’t known who to thank:


“Look, there’s room for one more at this table!”[6]

“Thank god, I have an extra five minutes to get ready!”

“We can reach him – he’s alive! Quick, pull those rocks away!”


This is not an origin story, because our capacity yawn has always been there.[7] This is not a manifesto, because our futures exist in the present. This is an attunement, the fairytale a register against which to align the affective compass.


Every unexpected opportunity to move in is a hole. Ublimé doesn’t actually have 48 holes[8]. She has one… or a thousand, sometimes more. It depends, really: Ublimé’s holes are there when you feel for them – or smell for them, or listen for them, or move into them – and they’re gone when you’re stubborn. Not, ‘I’m not going to do this dishes stubborn’; more ‘It’s my-way-or-the-high-way’ stubborn; ‘This is the way it is and it isn’t going to change’ stubborn. ‘Adult’ stubborn.


We like to think of our moral compasses as aligned, more or less, with each other, with a given community. Big Oil is bad. Capitalism is bad. Silos of Identity are good. In this analogy, it is implied that our moral compass is aligned forward, to ‘true North’. We orient Forward and Up. Perhaps the orientation of the world should take a turn, and be oriented towards everything, everyone at once. The compass facing North is broken. The compass that is spinning wildly works just fine.  


But this is very important: Ublimé’s holes, more often than not, have to be approached sideways. I know this can sound annoying, but: The holes that you walk into directly are the holes for that ‘my-way-or-the-high-way’ guy – they’re too easy for Ublimé! Those holes come in the form of really loud silence when everyone holds their breath around him because they’re scared of him; in the way that the door to his office is a hole; and in the spaces between his perfectly spaced trees on his big manicured lawns. Those are holes that are forced, they’re bore-holes. Those holes are so the ‘my-way-or-the-high-way’ guy can get what he wants. Ublimé doesn’t play like that. You’ll never find Ublimé there, making a hole for that guy.


There is no ‘way forward’ – for we haven’t found our way. Instead, there is a way out of the centre, away from the rotten core. A destabilizing, hula-hooping, movement-laughing tumble away from the centre: The spinning compass![9]


The time Ublimé tricked the Big Builder Guys into Dancing with Each Other


One time, these Big Builder guys caught wind of Ublimé’s holes and said, “Hey Ublimé! We’ll give you lots of money if you build some of your holes for us! Market Analysis says that we’ve inundated our clients with Doors that open and close when we want them to, but people are getting tired of our Doors! They call it saturation! How about you show us how to make your special Ublimé holes that all these strange kids have been talking about – we’ll be rich!!”[10]


We are at peak saturation, there is no more money to be made. It is all lost in circulation, stacked in neat piles in offshore banks, shaped like empty real estate, portioned into nearly invisible slivers of pie we like to call (equally miniscule) ‘standards of living’. The moneymakers are coming for you, young moneyman, they have you in their sights – sights, the greediest of all the senses.


When those guys asked her to build them holes, Ublimé laughed. She laughed and laughed, so much that the wind picked up a little and the trees laughed along with her. Ublimé’s laugh sounds a little bit like the tinkling of bells that you can find on clown costumes. So the Big Builder guys heard the trees rustling and some strange tinkling in the wind and shuddered and said “Oh, that was spooky!” to themselves, but so quietly that no one except Ublimé could hear, because Big Builder guys aren’t supposed to get spooked. Big Builder guys gathered up their courage and said “Come’on, Ublimé! Tell us how to make holes!!” Ublimé laughed a little bit more and replied, “Okay guys, I’ll show you how to make one of my holes!”


We are the jester, gifted with ‘madness’, we have the ability to cast a critical gaze upon the landscape (field) and laugh along with its lunacy.

There is a way out:


Ublimé yawned. Ublimé stepped sideways.


We move out of the centre. We move away from ‘forward’. We move out of ‘now’. The further one spins in this gyroscopic movement outwards, the more unstable the world that rests on the pinprick of normativity becomes.[11]


The Big Builder Guys looked confused. “Where’s the hole, Ublimé? You just stepped sideways and yawned!” Ublimé smiled under her Tapada and replied “But gentlemen, I just made you an Ublimé-sized hole! I moved sideways and it’s right there, where I was standing!!” The Big Builder Guys looked stern. The Big Builder guys looked angry. “We need 1000 Ublimé holes by tomorrow or else we’re going to go Bankrupt!!!” they hissed. The Big Builder Guys looked scared. Ublimé smiled, and shrugged. “Well, I suppose you should start stepping sideways now, if you want 1000 holes by morning!!”


We tighten the social contract; we leave production to the Big Builder Guys, and let them try to dance forward. They don’t know that the only way to dance forward is to dance sideways, up and down at the same time.


Ublimé left the Big Builder Guys stepping in confused circles in to each other, making exactly zero holes.


No one has asked those guys to dance for a long, long time. They’re so stuck in the now, most of them can only walk forward.


This is all back in the days when those Big Builder Guys could see Ublimé, and even then they were lucky, because Ublimé is a tricky one: Most of the time, you’ve just missed her, or she arrives just as you look away. Most of Ublimé’s holes happen in the present moment, but the person who makes the hole, Ublimé, is always just in front or behind it, but never with it, in the moment when it’s most obvious. But in order to have a hole, you have to have something that makes the hole. That’s Ublimé, and her Yawn.


A Yawn is an opportunity to reset an alertness. A Yawn is a call to attention.


The time Ublimé went to Jail for Making Too Many Holes

It’s hard to tell where Ublimé ends and the yawn begins. You know what a yawn feels like: first you feel it coming. You can feel your whole body summoning it, pulling it together, and it starts to rush up through you and out of you at the same time. Your body opens up and makes a yawn-shape. At the very moment you think you’ve gained control of it, when it has reached its crescendo, the yawn is already in the midst of passing through you, because you can’t really hold the yawn. You can feel and watch the yawn leaving your body, like a train pulling out of a station, slowly accelerating away. Ublimé does time like a yawn: you can feel her coming like a yawn, so she is definitely in front of time; sometimes, when you stop and think about it, you can feel her around you, like when your body is at its most yawniness, that very peak of the yawn; but more often than not, she’s moving away, out of site and mind before you even fully realize that she was there, pushing the air through you, pulling it out.[12] 


We are a movement, moving outwards, expanding our perimeter and diluting the centre. Our movement(s) are not marked by where we end, by their maximum reach; they are marked by the spaces in between our steps; the pauses between the notes we strike; the ambiguities we leave in our trace.


One day, a bunch of men in uniforms came and grabbed Ublimé when she was minding her own business making holes and opening things up to keep life fun and interesting. They put her in the back of their paddywaggon and dragged her down to the police station. “Why’d you bring me here!?” she asked. “Ublimé, you have to be put away for your own good and the good of everyone else!! You’re disturbing order and the normal functioning of society” (whatever THAT means!). The men in uniforms threw her in a cell with no holes and threw away the key.


We dance in shopping malls, copulate in alleys, express our politics at the dinner table, resonate whenever possible. We are bang bang rattle-our- drums-all-day loud.[13]


Ublimé looked around her dark cell. She made a little hole and pulled out an electric torch because she was having trouble seeing. Her cell was pretty lonely, so she made a little hole and pulled in a few of her friends to chat. She made another couple of holes to bring in some music and get things cozy… and before you know it, Ublimé was having a party!


The Men in Uniforms heard a commotion from Ublimé’s cell. They marched down the hall with all of the cells for people that weren’t helping with the normal functioning of society, right up to Ublimé’s. The men in uniforms took out their keys, and opened Ublimé’s door, and their eyes widened. Their jaws dropped. The men in uniforms looked very, very angry. “UBLIMÉ!” - they shouted – “stop this party THIS INSTANT! You are being PUNISHED for making holes where you were NOT AUTHORIZED! You are disturbing the normal functioning of society and parties in jail cells are NOT ALLOWED!”


Ublimé looked at the men in uniform, and she looked at her friends having a Very Good Time. Ublimé yawned. The men in uniform suddenly found themselves looking at a very empty, dark jail cell, with the faint ringing of bells in their ears the only evidence that Ublimé was ever there.[14]


Ublimé and how she became known as a Yawn


I know I talked a little bit before about how Ublimé is really hard to see; it hasn’t always been like that. Back when the Big Builder Guys and the Men in Uniforms knew Ublimé, before they decided to pretend that she doesn’t exist and she decided to pretend that they didn’t exist, (it was mutual), Ublimé used to run around in her beautiful one-eyed costumes, opening holes, closing holes, moving sideways, dancing and laughing her tinkly laugh, and everyone could see her, which could sometimes be a problem. You see, like a yawn, Ublimé is contagious. Not a contagious like you’ll catch a cold; more contagious like you’ll catch ideas.


Play in the notes


Ublimé had all kinds of funny ideas… so many, in fact, that you could say some of the best funny ideas came from her! One time, Ublimé was walking around minding her own business, and she starting singing a well-known song to herself. It went ‘dum-de-dum-da-da’. She sang ‘dum-de-dum-da-da’ to herself a few times, and she thought it was a pretty good song and she was a pretty good singer. She started thinking about what it would be like to be a famous singer like Shakira and her mind started to wander over to what time of shoes she was going to wear and wouldn’t you know it! Her tune started to slip as well. So did the words a bit. So Ublimé started to sing ‘dum-de-dum-da-deeee-dum’ and then ‘dum-da-da-dee-dum-dum’ and before you know it, she was singing her own song, that no one had ever heard before. Ublimé had just slipped into an Ublimé-shaped hole and was rummaging around and finding all SORTS of notes and sounds that hadn’t been picked! She-








Ublimé was rudely interrupted. “Yes?”, she asked the irritated-looking townsperson, “Can I help you? I just discovered this NEW THING called… hmm… hmmm… Hhumming!!” and I think I was about to get to a good part!


The rather stern looking lady looked stern-er. “That is not how the ‘dum-de-dum-da-da’ song goes!” She tapped her foot. Ublimé chuckled. “How do you know that!?” Ublimé asked – “we haven’t even gone there yet!!” The stern lady looked even stern-er. The stern lady tapped her foot furiously. The stern lady yelled “BECAUSE” – (she was really yelling!) – “THAT IS NOT HOW THE SONG WENT, AND THEREFORE THAT IS NOT HOW IT GOES!”


Ublimé sighed, yawned, and went and hid in one of those holes that you twist your angle in because it wasn’t there the last time you looked, you’re pretty sure! She was in a pretty stormy mood – but humming stuck around!


You know, Ublimé wouldn’t want us to dwell on the mean things that people have done to her, even though she’s out teaching people to dance, making parties, humming hums, makin’ holes – so I’ll tell you what she did instead.


The Yawn is the final frontier of the tangible, quantifiable or commodifiable. The Yawn is the border of infinitude and singularity, before these opportunities choose an orientation and thrust into calcification, the presentationally immediate, laid before you for inspection.


Ublimé yawned. The first time Ublimé yawned, the Big Builder Guys stopped being able to see her.


The second time Ublimé yawned, the people who wanted to keep her in prison because she was making too much fuss lost hold of her for good.


The third time Ublimé yawned, the people that told her that she could only sing, dance, or laugh a certain way stopped being able to hear her.


The fourth yawn started off with a little stretch, in Ublimé’s toes. The stretch got a little bit bigger, and her hips pushed out of their sockets a bit. Her yawn got even deeper, her shoulders widened, and she started to inhale – and inhale, and inhale. She pushed her arms as far out to the sides as she could, stretching, stretching, until her fingertips grabbed each side of the farthest stretches of the universe. Ublimé kept inhaling, and slowly, the world started to shake. Ublimé inhaled and inhaled, and she started to expand with all of the air and planets and trees and mice that she was inhaling, her chest growing outwards so much that she started to look like a balloon. Her chest stretched and it stretched, and finally there was nothing left to suck in.


Ublimé paused, her mouth wide open, jaw hanging in mid-air. She looked around. A little bit of worry crossed her brow for a second…




Ublimé disappeared, and everything fell back into its place with a THUD. Well everything was in its place, that is, except Ublimé! Now, Ublimé wasn’t just dancing from place to place, yawning, opening little holes of opportunity and closing them, two, seventeen, three thousand and eight at a time, humming to herself and making parties; no, Ublimé had turned the whole world into a place where a little yawn is waiting to happen here, a little yawn is waiting to happen over there. Now, Ublimé and her yawns are everywhere, opening up holes where you least expect it. Ublimé turned herself into a Yawn, or a countless number of them: Those yawns are tricky, never here, always coming up or just passed – but if you dance sideways, look quickly out of the farthest corner or your eye, squeeze between a strangers as you’re moving down a crowded sidewalk, you might just catch a glimpse of Ublimé starting to yawn.[15]



NOTES (An essay in addendum)

[1] Ublimé first came to public consciousness at the 2012 Summit of the Americas in Colombia; singing the national anthem, superstar Shakira broke rank by altering the lyrics ‘Cesó la horrible noche; La libertad sublime’ to ‘Cesó la terrible noche; La libertad de Ublime’ calling to mass attention the plight of Ublimé, and the need to free movement – the ability to sum up and freely transfer force at will from the tyrannical grasp of late Capitalism and heteronormativity. (The second half of this note may be conjecture).


[2] The tapada (‘covered,’ 'covered one' [fem.]), also known as the saya y manto, was an article of clothing worn by women (and adopted by an unknown and possibly unlimited number of transvestites) in Lima, Peru over a period of 300 years (from the late sixteenth to nineteenth centuries) that looked similar to a niqab or burka, but only showed one eye and lacked religious connotation. In ‘Veiled Geneology for a Trans Future’, the late artist Giueseppe Campuzano identified the tapada as a potential conduit to the future, and article of resistance, to ‘disguise as a transnational subversion… where past and future may be imagined, posit(ing) another present.’ Campuzano points to the tapada as an article of concealment and resistance not only to gender hierarchies, but to all restrictive identity politics and hegemonic structures, including those of nation states, returning the owners’ identity to themselves.


[3] Ublimé’s Yawn is the imperceptible moment, the microsecond before all movement transitions from the unanticipated to the commenced; from the virtual to the physiological; from the prehensible to the presentationally immediate. Our story will focus on Ublimé’s Yawn. The Yawn is the final frontier of the semblance of the fold that is not tangible, not quantifiable of commodifiable. The Yawn is the border of infinite and intangible opportunity, before these opportunities choose a singular orientation and thrust into calcification, the presentationally immediate.


[4] The application of Queer Theory to the production of space is one solution to the cooption of our built environment: a queer orientation towards a subject – in this case a physical or conceived space - is inherently a dis-orientation, a spatial gambit: A re-orienting of Architecture through the lens of queerness shifts it away from the production of hegemonic structures (such as late capitalism), to structures that we can consider to be ‘architectures’ but perform the function of carrying the architectural objective of supporting communal activities, towards a landscape born of resistance to the norm.

Through performance, philosophy and the arts we demonstrate queerings of our inhabited spaces by worldbuilding of a ‘bent’ nature, upending traditional notions of the performative functions of architecture and the hegemonies these spaces represent.


[5] If a yawn is autonomous from the body – it is often generated from without, moves through you and outwards again - it can be stated that the yawn is not of the body; it is the temporary embodiment of virtual forces that propel movement, those forces articulating themselves in a monadic thrust towards an event through the body.. A yawn is that last frontier of the tendency-to-form before the event is tied up in the Whiteheadian superject. (Manning)


[6] Queer space is a landscape comprised of a communal, matrixial identity structure, which we access through a shared psychic plane. Citing Jean-Luc Nancy’s ‘co-originality’, the denial of dependent relations in order to individuate, Lisa Blackman states that ‘our very sense of interiority emerges through our relations with others; human and non-human and in that sense we are always more than one and less than many’ (184). But, most of us have lost our way, having become lone, singular individuals, and through our lack of touching, exacerbated by digitization, commodification and pre-packaged identity, we are also the un-individuated ‘many’. We have forgotten what interconnectivity and interdependency feels like – or we have forgotten how to recognize interconnectivity - and because of this, we are same-same islands of ourselves.  There is a way, however, to jumpstart the process of connectivity, and access the positive interconnectedness of queer space: if, as Blackman argues, co-originality is the ‘single-plural processes characterized by the strange paradox of being both ‘one-yet-many’ (184), borrowing Bracha Ettinger’s ‘border-linking’, we can reach and vault past Nancy’s co-originality to co-experience and queer space by border-linking: the psychic tuning of interiority on an affective plane. It is unquantifiable; yet it is an event that we have a shared experience of; a yawn is an irresistible group activity - the original instance of co-experience, an affective attunement (Manning).

[7] A yawn – the physical, cross-species, age-old act of yawning – is unique in that it has no material outcome, no outward physical difference from before the event. While it has been variously hypothesized that the yawn may cool the brain or aid in digestion, most interestingly it has been posited that the yawn may be a social call to alertness within a tribe. The act of extending a yawn’s perimeter outside of the body, psychically touching those nearby, can be considered a border-linking of shared affect of awareness.


[8] (The number 48 was settled upon during a late night party in a jungle in Colombia, and is the subject of a different story.)


[9] The connection between familial activities congregated around the functions of the stomach logically aids in the evolutionary argument for the stomach as seat of emotional intelligence, reinforcing the social aspect of communal meals, which is central to the functions of both biological familial units and ‘chosen’ familial units alike. Could the seat of affective experience then not be accounted for in the stomach?  The queer ‘chosen family’ is where a character like Ublimé might feel most comfortable in her difference; identity forged through the experience of difference being the seat of the mythological strength of such a character - a tenant of ‘queerness’. ‘Queerness’ is itself a chosen identity, the landscape that Ublimé occupies - as a person or named phenomena – is one centred on difference from the norm, where the normative is the presentationally immediate world. It is from the normative world that difference radiates outward (like queerness). The further one spins in this gyroscopic movement outwards, the more unstable the world that rests on the pinprick of normativity becomes.


[10] Normative world-makers would have you believe that the event isn’t pregnant with the forces that lead to their becoming. They would have you think that markets drop due to diminishing resources, we leave the house to buy the paper, the man was punched because he sparked anger in the assailant - they would have you believe in simple cause and effect, A+B=C. We know that this it is only through the short-cutting of habit in accounting for the event, that we see the perceptually immediate as the event in its entirety. The habit in the virtual – the formative forces that lead up to and impregnate the event with the ‘force of existence’ (Massumi 55) are short-circuited to the point of total erasure of the infraceptive qualities of the in-act. The magic, which is really the virtual or its effects, can perhaps only be found in the semblance, those differential moments, the rhythms of the non-sensuous that round out the other side of Marleau-Ponty’s flesh. We are entrained to see the event as a singular occasion, because this is what can be commodified in language, hegemony and action. In a recent note to me, a friend referred to a ‘yawning sense of loss of magic’; it occurred to me that perhaps what he meant was a ‘yawning sense of magic’, that is, the fullness of the void which gives body to flesh, actual flesh, dissipating with the closure of activity.


[11] A queered phenomenological approach to the event is a privileged one. Through difference, and a deliberate turn from the normative progression of life, a queer is already unhinged from the entrainment to the perceptible world that is Edelman’s ‘reproductive futurity’, the promise of a deferred happiness in to take place away from the present moment. Sarah Ahmed likens this shift to a dispensation of directions, asserting that heteronormative societal directives are not only about “‘where,’ but they are also about ‘how’ and ‘what’: directions take us somewhere by the very requirement that we follow a line that is drawn in advance… Within the concept of direction is the concept of ‘straightness.’ To follow a line might be a way of becoming straight, by not deviating at any point.” (Ahmed16) A queering of the gaze allows us to start to break our entrainments, permitting us to widen our gaze to the peripheral. In entertaining a broader field of subjects our grasp on the perceptible world begins to loosen, permitting us to catch the edge of a yawn. 


[12] “Every monad … expresses the entire world, but obscurely and dimly because it is finite and the world is infinite” (Deleuze 86). An orienting away from the normatively directed is an opening up of this peripheral vision, an illumination of a new world, or at the very list, the glimpsing of a broader field in the world. The orientation away from the normative world is an act of queer worldbuilding, a turning-away from subtraction of the superfluous: ‘Disidentification is meant to be descriptive of the survival strategies the minority subject practices in order to negotiate a phobic majoritarian public sphere that continuously elides or punishes the existence of subjects who do not conform to the phantasm of normative citizenship’ (Munoz 4). A creation of a matrixial queerworld, a landscape of the informationally superfluous is the glimpsing of Utopia.


[13] We are entrained to see the world neurotypically, subtracting and subtracting those things with little or no material quantifiable value until we are left with something of established value: ‘red’ ‘car’ ‘Mercedes’ ‘2014’ (Manning and Massumi). We favour vision over all the senses because the thirst of our subtractive gaze is able to portion out far more that than we could gather under the caress of our hands, or with a deep inhalation, or the flick of a tongue. We skip quickly from qualitative to material value, because even greedier than our eyes is our ability to reason: to abstractly calculate that one red Mercedes takes 2,000 man-hours, creating a profitability (after factoring in material and ancillary costs) of +.25 red Mercedes per red Mercedes sold, and four Mercedes sold will give us a second, red, Mercedes.   


[14] We, the citizens of queer space, laugh. And we laugh and we laugh, and we anger the manufacturers of expensive cars and the proprietors of boutique hotels and bespoke bicycle seats, for while we have not given up joy in ‘things’, we have given up the joylessness of not having things. Like Ublimé, we visit the sensible world from time-to-time, but we have oriented ourselves away from the presentationally immediate, and found out home in queer time and space. We re-train our attention to dance, to flit from subject/object to subject/object, withholding value for as long as possible. Our movement, our attention, is engaged in active dialogue with the world, dancing with it and for it. ‘The separating out of the object backgrounds the intrinsic relationality of the field’s coming to expression, clearing the stage for an overshadowing human subject to cast his presence in its place, in order to take personal credit for the field’s environmentally emergent accounting for itself’. (Manning and Massumi 6)


[15] What is to account of Ublimé? We have established that she is not capable of adhering to the world run by normals, the rat-racers, the rule-followers, those so caught up in the moment of nowness that they miss the everything else. Ublimé the monad may long ago have staged a strategic retreat, but she now rests in a second undiscovered kingdom as a force, making mischief, inviting you to discover her other-queer-space. For Ublimé, a yawn is the call-to attention of an emergent hole, the best way she is able to articulate a hole without being present in it. Ublimé may not be in a hole, the now – but her yawn envelops it, enacts the very peripheral of the virtual spaces that knot together in a dance to attention (Manning)


A call for a yawn is as clear and simple a call for affective attunement as possible. It is a call to attune, to bring forth the psyche for physical alignment. 


Rough bibliograpy

·      Ahmed, Sara. (2011) ‘Happy Futures, Perhaps’ in Queer Times, Queer Becomings ed. McCallum, E.L., State University of New York Press

·      Ahmed, Sarah. (2006) Queer Phenomenology, Orientations, Objects, Others. Duke University Press, Durham and London.

·      Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Chapters 1-2 Architectural Body

·      Walter Benjamin: “Doctrine of the Similar” (Collected Works)

·      Walter Benjamin: “On Semblance” (Collected Works)

·      Blackman, Lisa. (2011) ‘Affect, Performance and Queer Subjectivities’, Culture Studies Vol. 25, No. 2 March 2011, pp.183-199.

·      Campuzano, Giuseppe. ‘Veiled Geneology for a Transfuture’ from The Future Lasts Forever eds Lagomarsino, Runo and Motta, Carlos (2011). Gävle Konstcentrum, Sweden.

·      Gilles Deleuze: “Perception in the Folds” (The Fold)

·      Edelman, L. (2004) No future: Queer theory and the death drive. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.

·      William James: “The Feeling of Effort” (Collected Essays)

·      Lagomarsino, Runo and Motta, Carlos (eds). (2011) The Future Lasts Forever. Gävle Konstcentrum, Sweden.

·      Erin Manning: “Wondering the World Directly” (Body and Society, forthcoming)

·      Manning and Massumi: “Coming Alive in a Field of Texture: For Neurodiversity” (Thought in the Act, forthcoming)

·      Brian Massumi: “Arts of Experience, Politics of Expression: First Movement” (Semblance and Event)

·      Brian Massumi: “Envisioning the Virtual” (Handbook on Virtuality)

·      Maurice Merleau-Ponty: “Entrelacs” (The Visible and the Invisible)

·      Muñoz, José Esteban. (2009) Cruising utopia: the then and there of queer futurity. New York University Press, New York.

·      Muñoz, José Esteban. (1999) Disidentifications: Queers of Colour and the Performance of Politics

·      Alfred North Whitehead - Chapter 1 and 2, Symbolism

·      Alfred North Whitehead: “Objects and Subjects” “Past, Present and Future” (Adventures of Ideas)