works                     text  




[ Jointing ]

5. Unseeable Process

In accordance with Ahmed’s views, I also aim to provide opportunities for viewers to think and be stimulated by the combining of materials in such formations that could be seen as an error. It is often in the off-stage practices that errors are eliminated from the path, or the path is organized so that errors are limited and discouraged. For instance, root vegetables that we encounter in the supermarket are usually presented with a uniform or ‘perfect’ shape. Any root vegetables that do not concur with this standard are ‘passed’ over by the factory and, as a result, we never see the ‘irregularly’ shaped or ‘wonky’ ones on the shop floor. Human society is too used to the pre-erasure of irregular elements, which are deemed as useless and as errors that need to be eliminated in advance. As a result, it can be hard to question the operations that are making these elements invisible. However, Ahmed’s thinking is that society should allow and actually encourage errors to survive in what is a limited and ill-fitting template for many. Ahmed offers up a challenge to her readers, who are encouraged to identify the errors prohibited by the system. She also would like to encourage us to change our approach to errors and this ill-fitting system that fits the many imperfectly (popular vote). What remains invisible is the systemic decision making that delineates what is allowed in, or what should be produced/encouraged and what should not.

Our daily routines have become restricted by environments that have been built to factory standards. Therefore, we are controlled by object encounters that are constructed through routine assemblages that have been established by social norms. As Foucault revealed, humans build images, languages and information systems to communicate with each other. Undoubtedly, the artificial knowledge/object has the availability to control human society. As the well-used path has been set up for us to follow, our daily routines have become restricted and are controlled by an object encounter that is constructed through a routine assemblage established by social norms. Humans tend to want to be accepted by society and, if we do not follow the routine and habitual path then we face becoming deemed as un-useful along with the paths that we try to create or use. This can be expanded to include the tools we use to construct these paths, as they are deemed as unknowable and cannot be categorized within society. This is in part because we have that subconscious habit of use embedded in our actions/thoughts and restrictions are placed in our way if we divert from the well-used path. This concept concurs with the notion that language can act as a bridge between human and thing, as I explored in the previous chapter Naming. In this chapter, I proposed that the human use of language is one that institutes the disciplinary model in society and limits the paths we choose through providing an ideal frame for our discourse. Russell points out that, ‘All this is done in an attempt to keep things up and running; this is the conceit of language, where people assume if they can find a word to describe something, that is the beginning of controlling it.’[1] Our human addiction to naming things, evidence how humans tend to desire to control each other and their environment. But by controlling others, we are in turn, being controlled. 

When everything is surrounded by a Panopticon logic, we are all under control and an ideal path has been created for us to follow. Most things are now manufactured by an assembly line; each product is required to be built up to fit an ideal format or formular (or the best size to fit many but not all, and no one well). In reality, errors always exist in society, but because society aims to eliminate all errors in an attempt to create and sustain the illusion that a platonic path exists. I agree with Russell, that the errors are positive additions to society. As Russell explains, ‘Errors, ever unpredictable, surface the unnamable, point toward a wild unknown. To become an error is to surrender to becoming unknown, unrecognizable, unnamed.’[2] In other words, when the assemblage of objects transforms from established harmony to a conflicted combination, the invisible constraint becomes visible and a glitch/or signpost to an alternative path begins.

In Ahmed’s thinking about use, she claims that the user often follows the path that is already there but that this path can also be redeployed by the user. Therefore, there is a potential glitch in the existing path for the user to explore for themselves. Individuals may not want to follow the majority or well-used path, and indeed the route may be violent to some users who are deemed errors by the system. As users, we need to be consciously activating errors and supporting the continual use of these errors in order to effect change. 

My practice aims to construct an ‘unknown’ path that then challenges the user/participator to find alternative paths or systems for thought in relation to material combinations. Humans tend to perpetuate anthropocentric behaviour, by acting as the creator of both the social system and a humanmade world, or an assumption of a world made for humans. Thus, we are in the era of over-production and information overload, in which the creator is also the user (prosumer). We should try to admit that both the social system and humanmade objects are the paths that control our behavior in daily life and, instead, face the systems of language and humanmade combinations as to challenge the expansion of the Panopticon model. This is because these pre-designed structures provide architectural, verbal and material instructions, which are able to compel and regulate our behavior.

-Wonky Vegetable- 

The ecosystem and humanmade objects could continue to survive in a world without humans. However, conversely, humans are unable to live without the ecosystem, so we need to rethink our relationship to the environment. We have become beholden to infrastructures and their cultural logics, as opposed to a concern with climate change for example. When we are too familiar in using a particular system or object, we can become blind to its mechanisms; our sensibilities are dulled by spectacle and repetition. In ordinary life, we usually only receive the end-product or a review of the product (the latter usually praise the product highly) which tends to only show us the one-dimensional face of marketing (rather than manufacturing or distribution). Therefore, users rarely receive a thorough picture of the processes of manufacture and distribution behind the product. The end-product is finely tuned and wrapped towards a consumer, which at the same time eliminates the unseeable production process. As a result, human society is now in a habitual process of fatalism of already forged paths. When the valuation of a thing only reflects on its end-product, it’s history and life become a vacuum. This presents the process of making and the afterwards of maintaining as worthless. For instance, the process that vegetables on supermarket shelves go through are not implicated in their final presentation on the shelves. Vegetables are grown in large quantities, involve a variety of chemicals and industrial processes, are packaged and shipped before they reach the supermarket. All of this remains invisible to the consumer, who only receives the end-product itself without any of the vegetable’s background information. This is similar to the way in which the process of art maintenance is usually invisible to the audience. The user/participator often receives the end-product (exhibition) as a pre-ordained path that has already been set-up and predicted in advance. This exhibitionary path, compels and regulates the user to consume the work in a particular way.

- Vegetable Packaging -

[1] Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism, A Manifesto, (New York: Verso Books, 2020), 74.

[2] Ibid., 74.


© 2012-2023  Chen, Yun-Ling. All rights reserved