Essays on Modern Art: Cy Twombly - Criticisms and Essays on Previously Unseen Ar



Essays on Modern Art: Cy Twombly

Justice Koolhaas

Shakespir Edition.

Copyright 2015 Justice Koolhaas.

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The research and translation for this text was match-funded via the B route: application 1227H/2014.

The translator would like to, as ever, thank Sofietje and Jan.

Cover design: D. Janssen.

‘Crisis in Poetry’ circa 1970. Pencil on mounted linen.

Dimensions approx. 120 × 151 cm

Table of Contents

Translator’s Introduction

The Concept of the Problematic

Textual Connexivities

Also by Justice Koolhaas

Translator’s Introduction

Series Introduction

It is difficult for today’s students to find source materials that are original enough to give their assignments an edge. There are so many books and so little time. This is especially so in the labyrinthine world of art and its accompanying theories. What can another book add about the artists that form the backbone of art history? The Essays on Modern Art series offers three things: each book is short, discusses a previously unseen artwork, and carries the prestige in presenting a new and startling theorist – Justice Koolhaas.

Her thought has only recently been made available, and is introduced at length in a previous publication, Creative Theory, Radical Example (Koolhaas 2015). Her art theory has, over five decades, covered mainstream figures and lesser known ones alike. Each of her theoretical essays, introduced by myself, is reproduced alongside at least one of each artist’s works owned by Koolhaas.

The artworks are from a collection of over fourteen hundred that she amassed between the nineteen sixties and early 2000s. These range from paintings and sculptures to videos and installations. Each was obtained in an unorthodox manner. She used her position as an outsider theorist to ingratiate herself with art professionals and hangers-on, the kind of people who typically accrete around artists once their work begins to gather some commercial and critical momentum. Sometimes this resulted in studio visits that sometimes resulted in her asking about any recent work that had been discarded. The discussion about that discarded work occasionally led to her asking to keep it, but with a proviso. She asked each artist to write a note directly onto the work itself (typically an obscured facet, such as the obverse of a painting) to the effect that the artist disowned the work and wished for it to have no market value.*

Most refused. Those who agreed will have done so for their own reasons. Either way, her proposition would have fascinated many. She claimed that she was inverting Marcel Duchamp’s assertion that if an artist declares an object is an artwork, then no matter what that object is, it is an artwork. In this case, that artist’s authority to confer status is used for conferring the exact opposite – through what she called an ‘undesignation’. The challenge was whether undesignations could hold. Would they, on the contrary, still confer status? The possibility here is that artists may unintentionally and unwittingly inherit a Midas touch in a perverse experiment with which to test the frontiers of a post-Duchampian world in which artists have no need to touch their art. We shall only know for sure once the executors of the Koolhaas estate decide on the future of her collection.

The art world has changed beyond measure since Koolhaas started collecting and writing about art. There are ever more degree courses to educate a growing middle-class in art theory and practice. The gallery system has expanded to accommodate an ever-richer top echelon of society that is ever-hungrier for investment opportunities. The art world has never been so lively and open. The gulf between an educated high-brow audience and a mass of popular culture consumers*** has been all but eliminated. That said, great art writing is difficult.

The corpus of Koolhaas’s art writing usually concentrates on psychoanalysis, politics, identity and her stance towards feminism from its outside; aesthetics do not loom as a large area for philosophical discussion, and she rarely uses the word explicitly herself. One might think this is a curious occurrence when so much of her work deals with writing, literature and art. Indeed it is here, as I will show, that Koolhaasian aesthetics can be located and elaborated.

My introductions to each book in this series take their cue from Cecilia Sjöholm’s interpretation of another theorist – Julia Kristeva – and her ‘theorist aesthetics’. These were radically politicised by the textual ‘terrorism’ of Tel Quel, ontologised through femininity and the maternal, and opening to the politically productive possibilities in writing (Sjöholm 2005: 33-58). Although Sjöholm’s larger focus is on politics, and will be too technically cumbersome for many practicing artists to get bogged down with, the way she makes a conjunction between the ontological and political in Kristeva is germane to understanding how Koolhaas’s essays elaborate aesthetics.

Although Kristeva’s focus is often on aesthetic products, particularly avant-garde writing, it is in respect of an author’s subjectivity in process; her discussions centre on the drives behind this process, and the political implications for aesthetic production, making for what I call a ‘productionist onto-political aesthetics’.

It could be argued that aesthetic theories always are productionist if they are systems for judging the realisation in aesthetic products by motivations, wherever those motivations come from. It could be further argued that aesthetic theories cannot sit outside ontological spheres. It is difficult for form to entirely escape a relationship with matter; even in digital art forms, materiality is encountered in technological capture, storage, and transmission. Nor is politics strictly inseparable from aesthetics if we accept that all human activity is at some level political.

The kind of aesthetic theory under discussion here, then, is about a matter of emphases. Kristeva’s aesthetics are articulated in a political motivation (to recover what she calls ‘revolt’) that is realisable through the (act of producing) text that can help us reconnect with our (ontological) inner drives annexed from us in a world awash with imagery: thus, an aesthetics that is productionist and onto-political.

Koolhaas was largely with her on this; but just as her name shares the same initials with Kristeva, it does not share the same number of syllables – there is no similarity without difference. The significant shift in Koolhaas’s thought comes with partly embracing the world-awash-with-imagery as a positive force for identity as much as a negative one for psychological maladies. On this level, our ‘productionist onto-political aesthetics’ is technologised. Today, the real potential in an artist or writer is not in the solitary realms of their ‘genius’ or any ‘treatment’ by a psychoanalytic or other therapeutic practitioner such as Kristeva. Koolhaas recognised long ago that appeals to the body were insufficient appeals for combining aesthetics with politics when both are social experiences. It is perhaps now, in an age of social media by default, that this approach to art truly comes of age.

Both the production and consumption of art and culture are a social process. The private experiences of the garret and the analyst’s couch are artefacts from an authoritarianism that our contemporary bent for the curatorial would have us set within its context/s.

Revolt today, far from being intimate, is shared. The flattening of hierarchy by technology has mutated Foucault’s celebrated ‘technologies of the self’ to the institutional level.

The problem this faces us with is language. The term long favoured by many artists, ‘private language’, is a right that finds itself, paradoxically, a new social responsibility. To explain this paradox we need to turn to a key Koolhaasian phrase:

‘Responsibility means flaunting your rights.’ (Koolhaas forthcoming, 2016)

The above statement is a veiled reference to Sartre exhorting the writer to reveal people’s freedom (Sartre 2001). However, in Koolhaasian terms, authorship now belongs to everybody, not to the mid-20th century bourgeoise privileged with a publishing contract. In this sense, authorship is a universal and unspoken social contract with a ‘duty to reveal selfhood and all its entitlements’, making society the ‘sum total of me, me, me, me, me.’ (Ibid)

This thought goes beyond the ironic appropriation of a hackneyed phrase about selfishness. When creativity is liberalised through proliferating art institutions, its online presence is only ever a click away from new political powers: ‘me’ is infinite. Joseph Beuys’s assertion that everyone is an artist is so familiar as to raise a shrug these days; yet he went on to make the less familiar assertion that the art of the future is about self-determination and participation in culture and democracy (Beuys 1973). Digital authorship en masse is the realisation of this. It is the greatest ever challenge to received wisdoms about what it is to even ‘challenge’.

For example, radical theorists and artists will instinctively recognise how changing the world through traditional means such as ‘good works’ runs the risk of propping up ‘charity’ as a fig leaf for the globalised late-capitalism that causes problems to begin with. Good works, like charities and NGOs, have already been co-opted. What is desperately needed is a new class of artist whose language is incommensurable with the same institutional and corporate governmentality that hosts their art. The outsider / insider is therefore tomorrow’s unacknowledged legislator. The paradox of the insider / outsider parallels the paradoxes that ‘responsibility means flaunting your rights’ and society is the ‘sum total of me, me, me, me, me.’

And encapsulating these paradoxes are the many paradoxes of language. Koolhaas is a lucid illustration. Many readers will find her a difficult thinker and writer. Their temptation will be to lean on my introductions for support. Yet the idea that language (whether hers, mine or anybody’s) communicates ideas from one head to another is a prejudice that anyone familiar with the basics to Media or Communication Studies will have no doubt already encountered. There are countless assumptions at play. Before we even regard the meaning of addressor, addressee, and the myriad contexts affecting communication and its ‘reception’, there are traps that befall us with just language alone. It is easily assumed that letters, words, and syntax all point to a world ‘out here’ in a clear and crisp way.

Anyone who has had to translate anything from one language to another knows all too well how concepts such as ‘understanding’ and ‘meaning’ have underlying factors that are mired in life, history, and climate. In short, you do not have to read linguistic philosophy to appreciate how material reality condemns language to contradiction and aporia (de Man 1986).

Nevertheless, today’s student in art and its theory needs to be equipped to ‘get on’ in (and I daresay, suffer) ‘the culture industry’. Koolhaas wrote densely along the borders defined by the tyranny of grammar. There is something dangerously continental about that to the Anglo-American ear. Yet she never indulged in wordplay for its own sake like Derrida. Nor did she lapse into the cultural pessimism of Baudrillard. And as much as she was influenced by continentals like them – those popularised theorists who were attacked by critics poisoned by career jealousy – she was, before the term was even invented, post-postmodern, if we are to take this to mean post-exhaustion, or, dangerously, ringing with confidence that the next generation is there to shock by doing things differently. That, in a nutshell, to her, was the very spirit of modern art.


  • There is a debate that comes and goes between some artists and galleries over whether an artwork should be signed on the back rather than the front.

Opponents often misunderstand Duchamp because they do not take the time to read him. Alas, many proponents also neglect his writings. The short extract ‘The Richard Mutt Case’ (Duchamp 1917) is a simple and easily available starting point for engaging with his thought.

*** Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of this division as a mark of distinction through cultural capital (Bourdieu 2010[1984]: 24-7) seems, however pioneering and influential, rather outdated.

Introduction to ‘The Concept of the Problematic’

Quite why Koolhaas chose to (dis)organise her thoughts on Twombly as a set of interconnected short texts is a question that can only be answered in relation to the theorist whose work she drew on: Deleuze.

In fact, it is only with today’s electronic publishing formats that the organisation of her texts makes any sense at all (though we shall return to the notion of ‘sense’ later). For each text within this essay should not be assumed to follow on from each other. In fact, the searchability of this text enables the reader to read any section in any order. This plan was implied in the marginalia in the original manuscript. Each section frequently infers links between other sections in the spirit of Deleuze & Guattari’s (D&G from here on) thought. This structure refuses the idea that the essay should be read hierarchically from top to bottom – what D&G would have called ‘arboreal’, or tree-like – insisting instead through interconnectedness that arboreal order is power and violence, while anarchy – what D&G would have called ‘rhizomatic’ – is like the roots of a tree, an organic process without leadership or centralisation.*

Yet D&G continually undermined the very furrow they ploughed by placing it under interrogation; oppositions were, in their thought, something we should seek to complicate. Out titular ‘concept of the problematic’ then, if we are to do it a violence by summarising it with something ‘snappy’, could be said to be that which allows for an aversion to a problem / solution false dichotomy, or what Koolhaas called ‘inherently unstable polarities’. D&G’s thought, she proposes, is a potential line of flight for artistic endeavour that is ahierarchical by way of breaking reality down into equally treated ‘segments’.

Dispersed, the automatised artist in potentiality traverses and becomes within this segmentarity along with the Deleuze and Guattarian lexicon of plateaus, interconnected multiplicities, strata, molecular chains, circles of convergence, assemblages as semiotic flows etc. The ‘segmentary’ serialises life; spatially and socially it composes proceedings one after the other, one preceding the other; family, school, and army are interbound (Deleuze & Guattari 1988: 230; Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 124). It is, in modern societies, ‘exceptionally rigid’, arborescent in that its circularities are concentrically formed into an all seeing eye that reaches with its unitary (monetary) translatability across private property, wages, production and consumption (Deleuze & Guattari 1988: 231-4). Politics divides into the micro and macro, the molecular and molar, (see again * below) but in a continuity of effects (235).

It is from within these effects that Koolhaas suggests that artists can emerge from within themselves; the machineries of oppression and standardisation are the selfsame machineries that today’s smartest artists are learning to colonise in a reverse movement that throws power back onto itself. The real terror represented by the Jihadist today is the terror that, as Beuys envisioned, everybody realises their creative potential. Working at the margins as a culture jammer therefore demands sophistry with language. An excellent example can found in one of the Twomblys in both the Koolhaas estate and her essay here.

The title of the painting under discussion, Crisis in Poetry, is a reference to Stéphane Mallarmé’s essay of the same name (1886). Mallarmé claimed that language is unable to capture the ‘essence of things’ or anything we can call ‘the truth’, and that this is a crisis for literature (Mallarmé 1956: 34, 37–38, 40). The poets he associated himself with, the Symbolists, rejected traditional approaches to poetry in favour of a freer style that could be described as ‘word paintings’ of emotional states rather than describing reality or ‘things out there’. He even thought that the variety of languages was evidence of the outright failure of words. On the downside, this represented for him a loss of a ‘true’ language; on the upside, this was an opening for a new kind of poetry to fill the gap.

Why Twombly was interested in his poetry is obvious from the word-like nature of his mark-making; equally, why Koolhaas was interested in them both is obvious from the way her fanciful and opaque theory evokes sensual understandings rather than anything we could reduce to mere ‘grammar’ or even ‘sense’.

For example, in one of her passages in English, she puns on Twombly’s name by turning the word ‘clarity’ into the anagram ‘Cy trial’. The word ‘clarity’ links Twombly with a trial in, ironically, a far from clear way. Is this trial something his work is subjected to? Perhaps it is a trial for the artist himself? Is it something we undergo as viewers? Many answers suggest themselves without firm commitment.

In other passages we encounter Walter Benjamin. His theoretical edifice is rarely scaled by art writers, let alone students: his essay on art in the age of mechanical reproduction, though important, is both the first step and the typical limit. Yet, as Koolhaas suggests, there is an intensity in his analyses that takes on art and its power to take on power itself. He is the essential problematiser who has:

‘[…] gained a problematic status in contemporary theorists (from the Frankfurt School onwards) for whom all subjective experience is always already a problematic of ‘Ideas’.’

The ‘problematic’, if we are to try and locate its ‘centre’, is something that the crisis to Twombly’s painting addresses itself. The question is whether that crisis should (or indeed can) be resolved? Not so, Koolhaas seems to intimate; the intensity to the art experience is, for Benjamin:

‘not necessarily a personal subject. It can only (be)come about as ongoing experience, as something experimental, something always temporary in dramatisations of how experience can be expected against the abundance of images’

Art is ever the problematic of art, ever a multiplicity of forces. Hence, if marks fail (or, for that matter, succeed) as language that can point beyond language, then we risk profaning the transcendent. It is therefore crucial to hold on to some religious quality to those marks lest they amount to nothing more than the religious commodified into a secularised fetishism. And this critique of capitalism cannot itself escape this critique. The mark marks Marx, as Koolhaas observes. In other words, the power of the symbolic is a power greater than the power of the political: aesthetics precedes politics, making art (and art making) ‘first philosophy’.

  • The opposition is also referred to as molar / molecular.

Notes on the Texts in the Series

If I were to conform to the typical style that brief introductions have for a series on art and its theorising, then I would provide inset boxes explaining ‘basic ideas’, or some précis of movements in art or thought. But I will not do this (you may be relieved to hear). I make only the following set of propositions. They encapsulate – and perhaps explode – the logic of having a totality to the book that can be neatly subdivided as though Koolhaas’s thought can be likewise structured.

What is structure? Is the text it attempts to contain separate from the text outside it? How are they then connected? Where is the margin to marginalised thought such as hers? Is it inside or outside any inset box? And why do we talk of one to begin with, when, if we are honest, we are perhaps trying to contain theory whose business is with refusing containment? Anyone studying and /or practising art will instinctively understand what I am talking about here. There is a conflict to be negotiated when, on the one hand, we talk about or make art, and on the other, report on this within an academic context. For talking and making art are activities that lend themselves to testing and bending rules, while the academic context in which art and its theory are taught endangers reducing what is going on to a mere game. The Koolhaas art theory reader will therefore find one aspect to this series both philosophically interesting and possibly unique.

A fellow alumnus who completed his languages PhD in the same year as myself and took his talents into the world of cyber-security told me something curious about Koolhaas’s texts. The reason, he says, that anti-plagiarism software used by educational institutions ignores files that contain her writing is that her grammatical evasiveness appears to the software as directory listings. She would doubtlessly have rolled her eyes at being professionally overlooked, as ever (even by computers!). She would also have been privately delighted: she remains technologically and defiantly under the radar – her essays literally do not scan. However, digital invisibility carries two implications for the Koolhaas reader.

The first is that there is a spirit to imbibe. The essays in the series refuse absorption into the capitalist education business machine, and in so doing, help others to learn to slip past its defences. Anti-plagiarism software is a corporate tool against what is a rising and global tide of resistance. Copying and pasting from her books therefore ducks surveillance and disrupts an educational system she considered to be stuck in the 19th century.

However, the second implication of her unscannability is with citations. While you are welcome to directly copy anything from any Justice Koolhaas book without citation, and while passing her work off as your own offers an opportunity to cheek authority, in the balance you are more likely to get better marks for simply adding citations. Universities and colleges typically reward students who show an understanding of and adherence to academic conventions.

This suggestion may seem a double-standard. As you will notice, and as is explained in detail in Creative Theory, Radical Example, little of Koolhaas’s writing makes explicit citations, circumnavigating reference points with allusion and paraphrasing instead. I have therefore resisted cluttering her original texts with citations that were omitted unless absolutely necessary. To counterbalance this, uncited works are listed elsewhere under the Textual Connexivities chapters. These include sufficient background reading that will help to elucidate the context to the essays as well as provide starting points from which the intrepid reader can embark on personal excursions.

From from to from, each essay contributes new thoughts and terminology that any reader – student or not – will find new and rewarding. How can art be ‘infoversial’? When is culture ‘infra-modern’? What are the horizons to a ‘semiosphere’?

It is my hope that this series can, through clear and concise presentation, help readers to think differently about art, find new things to write about it, and enrich their experience of it through cutting-edge theory.

Koolhaas’s writings on art are themselves an art form at a time when art has truly become an industry. In this sense, Koolhaasian regrounding is ripe for the thousands of seminars, workshops and other text-based art events that are integral to that industry. Only through critical discussion can art hope to change the minds that change the world.

Koolhaas always wanted students to bring radical theory to bear on the world by turning the written and spoken word into an avant-garde art performance. Art practitioners arguably have the most potential in this. What Koolhaas’s essays question, above all, is any need for separation between art theory and practice. The truly radical practitioner will grasp the absurdity in how, while art practice has been undertaken in so many challenging forms, its theory has remained within the confines of the traditional essay format. One day – and perhaps this is an idle dream – will art theorists work with poetry slams, ranting, or who knows what? The ultimate challenge then for the Koolhaas reader is whether to take the plunge and present work that is as opaque and resistant as hers.

C. M. Cohen, Lausanne 2015.


The Concept of the Problematic

This essay was originally written in 1975 for an unfinished book on Deleuze and revolutionary art.

This translation is from the 2005 revisions of the 1995 manuscript.

[C. M. C.]


‘Ideas’ in art practice – an historical interruption of contemplative interiority – are tensions that suggest axes of inherently unstable polarities. These require methodologically to be set against measuring. What Barthes called ‘the process of manipulation’, what Baudrillard referred to as the object produced in a system, begging the question ‘What is real’; these are the coordinates for how Twombly’s works after 1952 were emblematic, in that the reference became less explicit. But it is still necessary to note that this notion of art practice is autofictional. Developing an autofictional diagram in some lateral fashion, from one resemblance to another, is a conscious trap or trace to get hold of in the process of emerging, of Becoming itself. So rather than imitative recognition patterns, Twombly’s emblematic signifiers specify hidden signifiers of the body: brown for defecation, curves for ejaculation, and Other marks tracing the ontological such as blindfolded desire to ‘continue with what I do’. Contextualizing this may require methodologically to be very accurate in any description of art as research. Any movement toward conceptualisation of what appears to emerge intuitively can be mapped and described, as though a plane that passes through oneself; however, intuition itself can become method – differentiations in time as duration, which such experiences provide, according to Deleuze and Guattari, an autofictional me from within the artwork:

‘We get composite works in which we move about a great deal in search of a father who is found only in ourself’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2003, 170).

However, an artist, as a philosopher, needs to create concepts outside of significations i.e., from the inside of univocity, which dissolves the transcendental Idea of God.

God Objects

The potential of ‘profaning’ those dynamics follows, in a visual way, Deleuze’s dealings with the figure of Christ. At the extremes of experience – suffering, delirium, synesthesia – is the ecstatic at the heart of Deleuze’s thought. Where he observes the irretrievable loss of experience (which coincides with the decay of the transitional stage that eliminates cultic ferments), the stolid and the homogenous produces for the viewer the various strands the viewer combines, to use the French term, jouissance, or ‘enjoyment’, ‘orgasm’, where ‘jouir’ means ‘to come’. Lacan discusses jouissance especially with substituting subjective input in art practice with viral transformations of technology of reproducibility, which will absorb and transform the cult-object-related crisis.

In philosopher Bernard Cache’s idea of the ‘objectile’ as ‘a very modern secularised’ thought of Deleuze, hermeticism takes on drawing after completing the connection between flux and fragment. Cache argues against a subject-centred image of a continuously destabilised differentiation, aiming ‘at a more radical differentiation because of an expectation for default options, signs of disaffection, as it would signify the contingency of self- and supplementing sight.’ It produces for its viewer a jouissance by juxtaposing rhetoric alongside perspectivism to fathom ‘truth’ through a shift from optical perception to an appropriative ‘close-up’ where traditional ritualistic ‘distance’ is held at bay.

Myth ILLogical

In immanence, none of the concepts which rise from this network of non-hierarchical involvement will allow any following of those lines of flights which deterritorialise the literalness of the Mark-Marks-Marx complex. Mature Deleuze & Guattari does juxtapose artistic practice with material and social contents from the angle of immanent univocal differentiation. And the axes explored allow for experiments and fragmentation. However, the tensions require methodologically for a connection between these inherent forces and the name that houses their conjunction: a mythological figure as much as a composite of myths.

Second Coming

Like in Twombly, their work builds less systematically than the differentiating tendencies that must live with the awareness of how to respond creatively (actively). Philosophically, intuition as method, and as proposed and applied by Henri Bergson and Deleuze, strives for the artistic field to Become the virtual, without forcing this, and to infuse it by repeating itself in an ‘eternal return’ and its problematic of affirmation of that which eternally repeats itself as a differentiation which does not depend on its being for motifs.


For Benjamin, crisis with its attachment to interiority cuts across the redemptive potential of the intervention of Truth in time, marked by a poignant threshold, which reflected in art practice, as such, could be an indicator for pointing to relevant research for a thorough revaluation of ‘death’ and thus ‘fear’. Composed of singularities, their relations are Becomings, their events individuations without any subject within ‘smooth’ space/times (heterogeneous, and not not); this corresponds to the position of some ‘philosophical stone’, which, so it can be felt in Crisis in Poetry, juxtaposes ‘images’ and their ‘historical index’ to Heidegger’s ‘historicity’. Most probably, Benjamin’s profane illumination is a true and creative overcoming of religious illumination, a materialistic and anthropological inspiration. Based on this speculation, death might be a reality to acknowledge whose concerns are foremost about ‘mapping’ and finding lines of flight which destabilise the metaphysics of representation developed in (thought) images.

Becoming / Outcoming

This reveals an unexpected encounter between Deleuze’s and Benjamin’s concepts of time. These extend and refine earlier results of an extension of experience and experiment into heterogeneous, not necessarily ‘bridged’ zones: the dynamics of intuition as practice and method, here both affecting and affected by the crisis that pervades practice and the philosophical as interwoven elements of each other. Avoiding obscure neologisms, in the fountain of its always already liquefied conjunction, and as an inseparable flux of gold and black, we come to a standstill when a work like Crisis in Poetry ‘feels’ a becoming (it is easy to criticise corporate ‘outcome’ culture, yet a becoming is an outcoming). In hindsight, the ‘outcome’ might reveal entirely unexpected yet fixed and manageable states of transformation.

The Deleuzian Twombly

As a painting, Crisis in Poetry has strands of the ‘affective, intensive, and anarchist body that consists solely of poles, zones, thresholds, and gradients’ (Deleuze 1998: 131). As a Body without Organs, it stands thus ecstatic as an impulse, or rather, in the process of painting, to run a gamut of states of affairs so as to isolate itself as a concept.

A philosopher, according to Deleuze & Guattari, needs presencing. It is certainly true, for our research here, that this involves experientially analog reproductions, that, as Brian Massumi emphasises, are the analog that may be digital. This latter point of meaningful differentiations interrupts what Bill Nichols called the ‘fetishisation of processuality’ which, in contrast to the lines that already traverse the transcendental Idea of God, is without having, so as to foreclose its problematic as an ‘illusion’ into the immanent processuality of auto-affirmation. Rejecting ressentiment about art finds us with ‘Deleuze’s insistence upon the nature of thought as spiritual ordeal, as a transformative encounter with nature’ (Ramey 2012: 218). The individual and their subjectivation, possibly with a chance of crossing the line of force beyond power means, especially, substituting subjective input in art practice with viral transformations of the signifying system. So far so bad? After quoting Empedocles’s famous lines from the guardian back to the risen figure, and interweaving both intrinsically into one movement differentiating itself, verticality is thus not merely between Deleuze’s claim and any actual regress into new hierarchies between ‘pure’ forces and our historical/social reality.

For Benjamin, crisis with its attachment to interiority cuts across the redemptive potential of the intervention of Truth. For Deleuze, the caesura is ‘pure present’ (this means he transports a marker of language, the ‘pure word’, as it becomes its metamorphosis, and it is a curious aspect that, as an unfinished metaphor as metamorphosis) that keeps itself to itself in an abstract concept. So is it possible in Deleuze or Benjamin that the addition of Confucius can contextualise feelings? In a conference talk, Deleuze once introduced links between ontology and classical Chinese thought, and the sense of bridging and mediating of the various strands of a continuously destabilised differentiation aiming at a disturbance which starts with beneficence. In other words, my eye should not depart deprived of joy. Here, affirmation points to Jung’s theory of ‘questioning’ in the unconscious. And here, the conception of the unconscious is as though it schizzes into an objective dimension. Differentiation refers thus to differentials as ‘portions of the difference’, a ‘reciprocal determination’ or virtual ‘differentiation’ from ‘differenciation’ into the actualised, ‘real’ thing, but more profound than the resulting oppositions that were its conditions of coming into being.

Deleuze, writing about the untimeliness of the Frankfurt School to Hardt and Negri, claimed that all subjective experience is always already in language, so writing and art especially offer challenges to break through the cycles of conventions. But such a concept of the problematic misses exactly its positive potential, its connection to Becoming and differentiation, which, in a computer virtuality is limited to the realisation of a computational possibility, which equals a mere repetition. Nevertheless, the reality of increasingly personal, disturbing, non-visual and at the same time, creative potential of Becoming, is an echoing of the material differentiations of a Becoming that traverses a field of immanent production of desire fleeing into art, taking refuge in art, and of all those positive deterritorialisations that never reterritorialise on art, instead sweeps immanence aside.

None of the concepts which rise from this network of non-hierarchical involvement will ever copy virtual intensity, but rather, something that emerged out of it by becoming-different. Thus, an innocence is presented as a struggle, an unresolved necessity, which may be thought of as a simulation of negative capability through metonymic ontology of immanence. However, a connection, which will be explored briefly in the next paragraphs and before introducing Deleuze’s Becoming in Twombly, can actualise virtual yet immanent and forgotten heterogeneous potential with the support of the sensation of a profane(d) crisis. His thesis is a multiplicity of exteriority, of simultaneity, of juxtaposition, of order, of quantitative differentiation, of difference in degree; it is where numerical objects of observation, represented by space, and differentiating quantitatively in measured value, are the representation of a heterogeneous, qualitative, creative duration, a philosophical intuition that captures what is vital before its dispersal into the images captured.

Folds / Event

However, in Deleuze’s fold, there is no real iconographic consistency here, no recurrence to ‘nature’, but a ‘new’ productivity, and with it a conceptual revaluation within a philosophical framework of metaphysics where art creates outside of systems based on their origin. As such, the new image is likely to embody a ‘simulacrum’, not as ‘degraded copy’, but as a fold.

The two non-essential sides of its inherent opposites [conjunctio oppositorum], being in a movement of (further) differentiation, are a conjunction of forms and yet, simultaneously, their dissolution, leaving the ‘Great Work’, the ‘exhibition-value’, if you will. And not for the unfolding of further rhizomatic potential or the connective ‘plug-ins’ of deterritorializing potential either. Being is the ‘event’.*

While simultaneously castrating its real experience, the event is, exactly because of a necessary loss of control during the process, an experience of confusion, juxtaposition, and the disorientation to unexpected interventions into differentiations, i.e. a place for ‘a people to come’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2003: 218) in the sense of traversing differentiation ‘not [as] the fulfilment of exteriority, of simultaneity, of juxtaposition, of order, of quantitative differentiation, of difference in degree; it is a numerical multiplicity, discontinuous and with transcendence to be found for Becoming’s specific ambivalence and state of being in between. But being what? What has traditionally been named a ‘god’?

  • Some useful background to Koolhaasian thought on the relationship between art and event can be found in my introductory comments in (Koolhaas 2015).


The associations of reflexive practice are silent-explosive / explosive-silent differentiations, the true, creative overcoming of religious illumination.

The Problematic Becoming / Becoming Problematic

A materialistic, anthropological inspiration is based on this speculation. It might enter the concept of the problematic through the concept of history. Thus, ‘the crisis’ is given over to us via Twombly’s method of facture. Any confusion between an already coded facture and the predetermination in perception is that of how an imperfect fit constitutes aesthetic experience. The concept of imperfect fit involves the relationship between consciousness and aesthetics. This relationship is paravalent to that between the rising sun and photosynthesis. The artistic agent’s work needs to be seen alongside the lines that already traverse experiments with movement and the dynamics between uniqueness and dissemination, between flux and fragment: in other words, that which touches on the question of itself temporally i.e., as a differentiation between Being and beings simultaneously dissolving the separated Being/beings into univocity.

Being, with its affirmed infinite chain of ‘birth’ and metamorphosis, absorbs ‘origin’ by spreading across a plane that passes though me at several places. However, it needs to be conceptualised as a continuously differentiating movement of the infinite. Deleuze uses for this resistance the verb ‘to immanate’, or ‘that which is underneath’, referring to Heidegger.

Being, then, lies before us in contrast to itself as an appropriated object as fetish; with a fetishised process, the somewhat concealed operation of its simulation as an output of the ‘new’ at the fold of reflexive practice suggests a ‘processual direction’, as Guattari says, ‘in the existential sense of auto-affirmation’ (Guattari and Ettinger 2002: 244) which, rejecting ressentiment as either a strategy or a desperate move supports Heidegger’s move of freeing difference from its subordination to opposition, resemblance, identity and analogy. When differentiations in time as duration, which such experiences provide, are mapped and described, a method concerned with the visualisation of a reality is experienced.

Twombly, as a Philosopher, therefore developed his concept of the physical world as an attempt to combine incompatible positions suspended between a pre-individual plane of a continuous variation of matter as a continuous development of form. From this perspective, which implies a temporalisation and vectorialisation of the actual, his paintings provide illuminations which communicate destabilised identities and divisions. Their ‘echo’ is an oscillation, an echo of Becoming. Their continuous, never static fold then echoes itself, only by disguising itself.

However, their self-intuition can become method. Deleuze developed an intricate network of innovative concepts that practice-based research can use in any process of painting/drawing/editing in connection with Becoming and differentiation. An encounter with such art might trigger an impulse in an individual from its de-framing power. Perceived as crisis, the impulse occurs when the viewer responds to the intensities the source holds. This involves new metamorphoses, acknowledging simulated alterations of immanence, new ways of visualising and conceptualising a notion that, since Walter Benjamin, has gained a problematic status in contemporary theorists (from the Frankfurt School onwards) for whom all subjective experience is always already a problematic of ‘Ideas’.

The Problematic Becoming / Becoming Problematic Again

Part of the problematic is definable where Twombly practices and Deleuze grounds his intentions theoretically. The determination or relations between their differences in contrast to quasi-Neoplatonical theories of the unconscious come from instincts and intuitions, experience (such as of love, intoxication, the esoteric, breakdowns, dreams and nightmares). All these involve dramatisations of ‘the artist’ as someone who does not depend on their being pictorial. This point elucidates an intellectual constellation between Twombly and Deleuze that the conservatively minded will find untenable.

From the angle of ‘Tradition’, the price of art created in ‘social conditions’ allows for less and less hope that experience will come into art in a ‘natural’ way. Aware of this aspect, which in my research here appears as the problematic of flux and fragment, the power of Deleuze’s ontology of immanence is in its connection, explored briefly elsewhere in this essay, with the problematic of ‘introducing’, whether Deleuze, Benjamin, ‘Becoming’, or anything. What can be clearly ‘identified’ let alone ‘introduced’ in the current fetishisation of art objects as commodities without making paintings museums in themselves? The danger is in reducing Twombly to mere quotation. This relates to a fracture in modern consciousness, a wound that Deleuze associates with the beginning of the liberation of art from the homogenous. Art’s multiplicity is in its exteriority, its simultaneity, its juxtaposition, its disorder, its quantitative differentiation, its difference in degree; its closeness in contrast to the distance framed by computer or TV screens.

Benjamin’s prescient analysis of a continuous variation of matter as a continuous development of form implies that intensity is not necessarily a personal subject. It can only (be)come about as ongoing experience, as something experimental, something always temporary in dramatisations of how experience can be expected against the abundance of images, or, better: simulacra of simulacra.

Ever The Problematic

The potentiality of temporal differentiations reach beyond any ascertained subjectivity into assemblages or ‘styles’ that are open enough for the forces involved to initialise further changes. Painting in this multiplicity of forces of ‘chaotic variability’ can provide the potential for that differentiation and actualisation of the real as a world of experience unto itself. A transcendental field of singularities, a pure stream of a-subjective consciousness, a pre-reflexive impersonal consciousness; all these meet to represent art itself, since the subject intuits itself, not directly, but through links to this ‘wound’ (of identity). In art practice as research, this wound navigates and guides a contorted translation of divine Law in Deleuze’s understanding of language. Furthermore, and in Deleuze & Guattari, language and especially writing, challenges the break between subjective experience and the concept of the problematic represented.

Difference as Problematic

In an early text on Bergson, as we may recall, Deleuze asserts that intuition is the jouissance of difference. This suggests an intention of coinciding differentiation with transgressing immanence. However, none of the concepts which rise from this network of non-hierarchical involvement will collapse at any time. For example, Jung interprets patterns and shapes as originating from the square; this refers, more broadly, to the alchemical in an artwork, and, if we understand ‘elements’ as the components of matter, perhaps we might understand them also as Deleuze’s differential processes?


The following fragments, cited in Benjamin, build on picture sources from the Renaissance, provide a link to crisis in a framework of immanent Becoming, and elucidate an overview of a Deleuzian problematic.

The Benjaminian Problematic

Back to the initial questions: what are the reasons for the reservation about how crisis misses exactly its positive potential, its connection to Becoming and differentiation, which, in an encounter with art, might trigger an impulse in the opposite direction in a scatter equivalence? For Twombly in the 1970s, this regrettably missed out on what lies at the foundation of both its own permanent characteristics and its changing circumstances; is it possible to contextualise feelings about mark-making? Marks have a presence we eternally return to as a repetition of differentiation. That presence is augmented here to the unconscious, assumes it to be creative, and challenges a subject’s prevalent rational position with a ‘psychoidal’ and teleological model of the future with inherently restricted possibilities (in contrast to potentialities that jeopardise the teleological objective); thus, if crisis mediates progress, then it is potentially the heart to the aestheticisation of politics (Benjamin 2002: 106).

Simultaneously, Benjamin reviews and develops a reading and visual ‘mapping’ of crisis in the framework of Deleuze’s (and Guattari’s) ontology of immanence where difference pervades both in a series of differentials as living, creative and problematic folds. Applied to the reality of an individual, a philosopher, according to Deleuze & Guattari, needs to create concepts that are able to describe the constellations of events where ‘cultural value’ relates to pre-industrial life and strands of the new. Can reading crisis in this way be called a profanation? Agamben distinguishes between profanation and secularisation; the true, creative overcoming of religious illumination, and a materialistic, anthropological inspiration. In other words, he remains ambivalent. He half-heartedly reduces crisis’s conceptualisation to a ‘divisible’, which gives Being its ‘as if’ presencing.

By fully conceptualising the Real as univocity, Deleuze & Guattari make it accessible, and dissolve this dialectical contrast between two figures of contemplation. If the melancholy to a mark would be virtuous, would it have to transcend its iconographic past to become ‘larval’, as Deleuze would say? When your art is made as a Body without Organs, then you will have delivered it from the unfolding of differentiation; not a completion which would arrest in stagnation and exclude any ‘newness’, but as the elusive and alchemical mediator that actualises and, simultaneously, sabotages the brevity of clarity.

Benjamin alludes to a possible interweaving of paradoxical strands in a simultaneity of opposites. For him, the technologically advanced methods and particular perspective of the practice element to art has its sources from the Renaissance. Practice provides a link to the problematic of virtual multiplicity, which, as in a line of flight, traverses the multiplicity of a subtle body accessible at the extremes of experience.

An ecstatic concept of crisis therefore misses exactly its positive potential: our encounter with art might not only concern religious signifiers, which are gained from applying representation onto what continuously differentiates, but also a surrender or reserve that can appear as incompatible, a medium associated with ‘uniqueness’ because it is a medium of inherent and instant dissemination. Then, the effect of source images, which themselves contain fragmented and contemporary appropriations, are the new appropriations that submit (to the digital). Our entire research here is in how drawing and paintings, indirectly – via projections of digitised sources onto canvas or paper, digital photographs in an undisturbed environment, and a prepared range of colours – can be a longer waiting place where aesthetic experience meets crisis. Their attachment to their own interiority cuts across the redemptive potential of the intervention of Truth, which in this sense, is autofiction. Such a concept of crisis, which, in how it is effectuated, does not have its spatiotemporal coordinates in equilibrium with multiple polarities or syntheses, which, instead, stay open as multiplicities in movement with their either/or options of each spontaneous perspective possible.

The Cy Trial within Clarity, or rather: The Problematic Benjaminian

Between their two architecturally conceived floors, fixed and manageable states of transformation, which are stored digitally as striated, fixed versions of a film, and as a painting or metamorphosis encompassing crisis’s and intuition’s involvement with immediacy and duration, the practice dimension to any Twombly theory reflects the strands of the unfolding of differentiation, not a completion which would arrest in stagnation and exclude further ‘newness’. The elusive alchemical mediator is what actualises and simultaneously sabotages what is brevity’s ‘brief’ and the ‘Cy trial’ within clarity. Yet, this problem does not contradict Benjamin’s previous or later work. On the contrary, it seems to mark a transition between the emergences or ruptures of such dynamics into new and open constellations. From this perspective, the separation between an artist’s subjectivity and their mediating of the various strands of a continuously destabilised differentiation is arguably beyond mediating between nature and reason.


The globalisation of the artist, which does not depend on art being the pictorial, is a point elucidated by Benjamin on how Bergson’s ‘durŽe’ and the way that memory can lift past events into the present as present, as coexisting movements, ‘the one beneath the other, and not the one after the other [at] different times, the present being the various and unpredictable’


When when we say masculine or feminine dominants obtrude themselves in the course of many centuries, a virtual /differential transformation shows how the patronymic creates an atmosphere contrasting with moving abstractions.


It it like when music starts very suddenly after a period of silence and a film (on a screen) ‘serves’ representations of that music. These representations are taken out of context and build, while chained to each other, towards their own radicalised concept of difference. When Deleuze refers to Heidegger’s ‘turning’ beyond metaphysics, which supports his own move and perspectives, what can be derived as a psychoanalytic-materialist projection of incomprehension, in my view, is Other layers: a zone of associations drawn from properties of immanence in the crystal-image. Although Deleuze never makes such connections himself, the lumen naturae to Twombly’s art is in a proposed structure of a transformation with its implied teleology from its alleged start to its end, in which the newly evolving highlights form an interweaving complexity into single pictures with symbolic composites drawn from heterogeneous elements that split the present in two heterogeneous directions, one of which is launched towards the face and facialisations to become obsolete, while the Other is based on the conceptual move towards the simulacrum. The latter arises as image of thought from difference and differenc/tiation, while the former is a Becoming whose coordinates are that of a rhizome determined not by universals, but by a pragmatics composing multiplicities of their own categorised differences. Being is a fragment of this process of differentiation, which creates an outside of its systems based on its origin. As such, the new image is certainly a speculative, contentious step; however, fertile ‘contamination’ of the commodity/celebrity-crisis in art occurs in a moment heterogeneous to the ‘media-archaeological record’ of immanence, which Deleuze conceptualises as the actualisation manifest as words or signatures-becoming-flux inherent to darkness and always already an experience grounded in physical reality and the body. Thus an experience, simultaneously symbolic and the actualisation manifest, is historically and ideologically appropriated by religious interpretation. In contrast, the present paper attempts to find what lies at the foundation of both its own permanent characteristics and its changing circumstances. Contextualising practice like this with Crisis in Poetry and its – albeit different formal qualities – becomes the half which cannot account for itself without prior appeal to the process of its own differentiation from itself.

The Great Work

What can be derived from such a psychoanalytic-materialist projection of democratic developments is the underlying representation of knowledge and power as the ‘modulator’. According to Deleuze, the lines that already traverse the night are a spark without which art cannot account for itself without prior appeal to the process of differentiation (Deleuze 2005: 84). For Deleuze, the cult-object has a related crisis whose closeness is to the aims of terror, whether political, such as with the Third Reich (see Bacon’s war paintings), or the shock in Twombly’s marks and how they can be ascribed as complex projections signifying the process of individuation anchored in ‘eternal’ forms while being limited to intersubjective development. However, being a movement of (further) differentiation, this conjunction between forms is simultaneously its dissolution, leaving the ‘Great Work’ always suspended.

To sum this up along a different segue, Twombly’s ((therefore) re)marks are a continuously broken and fragmented teleology, so that, as with Bacon, their ‘[…] knowledge comes only in lightening flashes. The agent of this process, its Mercury, an auratic harbinger in the framework of social construction’ ibid. Without denying the potential and significance beyond this framework, we might, secondly, assign an ethical status of psychiatric intervention, a sort of Politics of Experience for professional social constructionists. Recent commentary uses information derived from the picture plane without specified contextual support. All discourses derived intrinsically from Twombly’s surfaces are indissolubly involved in art-practice/research as in(ter)vention. That which refers to already acquired options, and that which connects to the emergence of the new that actualises, is, at least what seems on the surface, a ‘solution’. But it is also its own failed project (a play or symphony never ‘finished’): the crisis of this conceptual poetic persona is, for intuition, the close encounter. The only true method for this research into Twombly folds both practice and writing for both the researcher and their object of study (i.e. the object at the level of ‘mark-making’).

Mark Marks Marx

The mark provides an augmented field for a ‘complex act’ against any acquired (homogeneous) style: as ‘appropriating depropriation’, repeating here Agamben’s paradoxical paraphrase of Deleuze – those lines that traverse – how the mark signifies its own power and omni(/im)potence in signification. For whether with or without representation, the mark – and as Twombly shows, this can be simply pencil lines – by applying mark onto mark, what continuously differentiates is both a surrender to and a reserve from communication.

Communication and control systems, which in the beginning may have related to strategy, are prone to finish as a subjective experience.

Textual Connexivities

Agamben, Giorgio. 2007. Profanations. New York: Zone.

Baudrillard, Jean. 1994 [1981]. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Michigan: Ann Arbor The University of Michigan Press.

Baudrillard, Jean. 2005. The Conspiracy of Art: Manifestos, Interviews, Essays. Trans. Ames Hodges.New York: Semiotext(e).

Benjamin, Walter. 2002. Selected Writings Vol. 3 1935-1938. Cambridge, Mass. & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

Benjamin, Walter. 2003. Selected Writings Vol. 4 1938-1940. Cambridge, Mass. & London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

Beuys, Joseph. 1973. ‘I am Searching for a Field Character’ in Art in Theory. 1992. Charles Harrison & Paul Wood (eds.) London: Routledge. 902-4.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2010 [1984]. Distinction. Trans. Richard Nice. Abingdon: Routledge.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1988. A Thousand Plateaus – Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Vol. 2. Trans. Brian Massumi. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles, 1998. Essays: critical and clinical. Trans. Daniel W. Smith, and Michael A. Greco. London: Verso.

Deleuze, Gilles & Félix Guattari. 2003 [1994]. What is Philosophy? Trans Graham Burchell. London: Verso.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2005. Francis Bacon : The Logic of Sensation. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet. 1987. Dialogues II. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. London and New York: Athlone Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 2001 [1967]. Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. London and New York: Routledge.

Duchamp, Marcel. 1917. ‘The Richard Mutt Case’ in Art in Theory. 1992. Charles Harrison & Paul Wood (eds.) London: Routledge. 248.

Foucault, Michel. 1982. ‘The Subject and Power’ in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Guattari, F. & B. L. Ettinger. 2002. ‘From Transference to the Aesthetic Paradigm.’ In Massumi, B. ed. A Shock to Thought : Expression after Deleuze and Guattari. London and New York: Routledge.

Koolhaas, Justice. 2015. Creative Theory, Radical Example: Criticisms and Essays for Culture in the Digital Paradigm. Trans. C. M. Cohen. https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/533504

Koolhaas, Justice. 2016 forthcoming [1969-73]. Con-Texts: Journal Articles 1969-73. Trans. C.M. Cohen.

Kristeva, Julia. 1995. New Maladies of the Soul. Trans. Ross Guberman. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kristeva, Julia. 2000. The Sense and Non-Sense of Revolt: The Powers and Limits of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 1. Trans. Jeanine Herman. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kristeva, Julia. 2002. Intimate Revolt: The Powers and Limits of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 2. Trans. Jeanine Herman. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lacan, Jacques. 1998. Encore. On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge. New York and London: Norton

Lacan, Jacques. 2001 [1967]. Écrits: a Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Routledge.

Laing, R. D. 1967. The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise. London: Penguin.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1969 [1949]. The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Trans. James Harle Bell, John Richard von Sturmer, and Rodney Needham. Boston: Beacon Press.

de Man, Paul. 1986. The Resistance to Theory. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. 1956. Mallarmé: Selected Prose Poems, Essays & Letters. Trans. Bradford Cook. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Ramey, J. A. 2012. The Hermetic Deleuze : Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press; Chesham: Combined Academic.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. 2001 [1948]. What is Literature? Trans. Bernard Frechtman. London: Routledge.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1959 [1916]. Course in general linguistics. Trans. Wade Baskin. New York: Philosophical Library.

Sjöholm, Cecilia. 2005. Kristeva & the Political. London and New York: Routledge.

Also by Justice Koolhaas

Upcoming Essays on Modern Art

Upcoming Essays on Modern Art will include the art of: Bastiaan Johan Ader, Marinus Boezem, Georges Braque, Martin Creed, Hanne Darboven, Ger van Elk, John Hoyland, Mary Kelly, Martin Kippenberger, Yves Klein, Barbara Kruger, Jules Olitski, Cindy Sherman, and Hannah Wilke – to name but a few.

2016 will see a special publication on contemporary British art.

Creative Theory, Radical Example

Creative Theory, Radical Example gives a detailed introduction to the work of Justice Koolhaas. It is available for free in eBook format through most outlets.

Essays on Modern Art: Andy Warhol

Koolhaas’s essay on Warhol is short and sits alongside an artwork that she obtained on condition that he disowned it. ‘Warhol’s Difference Engine’ is a full-on verbal rodeo that rides bareback on the cult of the cowboy in his work. It embraces the self-actualising elements from pop art and takes Warhol as a philosopher who defined the new by ambivalently fiddling with its copy.


The Summer of 2016 will see the publication of Marginalabia.

Set within the maelstrom of Paris 1968, Marginalabia, written in a frenzy over a period of 27 days, follows the fortunes of Elle, a young revolutionary who embarks on a rampage of sex, drugs, and self-destruction. From the ashes of both the old regime and its new pretender emerges a woman whose critical journey beckons new understandings of ‘revolution’.


Essays on Modern Art: Cy Twombly - Criticisms and Essays on Previously Unseen Ar

Justice Koolhaas’s Essays on Modern Art are reproduced alongside at least one of each artist’s works that she owned. Unusually, these works were discards; even more unusually, she obtained them on condition that each artist signed a statement disowning them as artworks. Her theory work, a refusenikism written in deliberate opacity, is inspired by her collection of art refuse. Twombly is explored through Walter Benjamin, Deleuze & Guattari and Stéphane Mallarmé. The painter’s interest in the latter’s poetry is obvious from the word-like nature of his mark-making; equally, why Koolhaas was interested in them both is obvious from the way her fanciful and opaque theory evokes sensual understandings rather than anything we could reduce to mere ‘grammar’ or even ‘sense’. Her circumlocution suggests that artists can emerge from within themselves; the machineries of oppression and standardisation are the selfsame machineries that today’s smartest artists are learning to colonise in a reverse movement that throws power back onto itself. The real terror represented by the Jihadist today is the terror that, as Beuys envisioned, everybody realises their creative potential. Working at the margins as a culture jammer therefore demands sophistry with language. An excellent example can found in one of the Twomblys in both the Koolhaas estate and her essay here. C. M. Cohen’s comprehensive interpretations mean that the uninitiated Koolhaas student can pick and mix material from this book to suit their purposes without feeling pressured to grasp everything at once.

  • Author: Justice Koolhaas
  • Published: 2016-04-15 16:50:09
  • Words: 9477
Essays on Modern Art: Cy Twombly - Criticisms and Essays on Previously Unseen Ar Essays on Modern Art: Cy Twombly - Criticisms and Essays on Previously Unseen Ar