Between Limit and TransgressionThe Play of Meaning at the Image’s Edge ----- Matthew Lee firstname.lastname@example.org Chapman, J. & Chapman, D. (2000) Exquisite Corpse. ----- MA DIGITAL ARTS (VISUAL ARTS), 01 DECEMBER 2010 Course Leader: Jonathan Kearney Supervisor: Andrew Stiff Camberwell College, University of the Arts London
2 Abstract --- How can the frame of the two-dimensional still image instigate a tension between presence andabsence, and a play between limit and transgression? A frame, by conventional definition, is an assertion that the edges of the still imageare necessary for containing and restricting representation. As a self-contained semiotic device,the frame presents to the viewer a sign, or a collection of signs, surrounded by an indeterminablenothingness, which can never come into view. The image frame’s purpose, then, is to make theworld it contains ‘ordered and rational’ (Friedberg, 2009, p.42), by structuring, limiting andclosing the field of two-dimensional representation with the intention to fix meaning and contextneatly within its four borders. This inquiry, however, challenges the notion that the frame presents fixed and stable meaning;instead the frame is a device that is capable of facilitating a dialogue between inside/ outside,presence/ absence. It is this indeterminable space outside the frame that the first part of thisinvestigation looks at in depth. Examples from drawing and photography demonstrate instanceswhen the edges of the image support a tension between what is present or viewable in the image,and what is absent, unseen, out of view, beyond its borders. Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the ‘out-of-field’ provides the theoretical basis for an exploration into how the still image is able to signifya “somewhere else” in space and time outside the frame (Deleuze, 2005, p.18). The investigation then goes on to explore other ways in which the still image is able totransgress the fixity of the frame. The Exquisite Corpse and patchwork quilt exemplify a frame orgrid with possibilities for limitless spatial expansion. In these procedural activities, the grid is theunderlying ordering and sequencing mechanism, which structures a ‘dynamic tension’ between‘rules and transgression’ (Kern, 2009, p.5). An examination of these ideas is then explored inrelation to the pixel-based digital image, with its potential for infinite compositional transformationand spatial development. This inquiry determines that the still image frame is capable of instigating a dialogical play orirresolvable tension, between what is present in the frame, and what is absent, beyond itsborders. This inquiry also shows that the frame or gridded mechanism in dynamic spatialdevelopment facilitates a ‘movement of a chain’, a transformative process in which meaning andcontext are inherently boundless (Derrida, 1980, p.292).Key words: Frame, Representation, Presence/ Absence, Semiotics, Play
3 Between Limit and Transgression The Play of Meaning at the Image’s Edge --- The four fixed borders that frame a conventional still image function to demarcatethe space available for representation while limiting the domain available to the artist, and, inturn, what is presented to the viewer. The frame may have a material thickness, as in thestructural gilt frame around a Renaissance painting, or it may be an immaterial border, as in theedges of a photograph. However, the essential definition of a frame is to contain and restrict. Theframe of the painting and the frame of the camera ‘always leaves out more of the world than itcan fit in’ (Hedges, 1991, p.xvi); compelling the artist to make critical choices between what isincluded and excluded from the visual plane. Michael Carter takes this further, observing that ‘thefundamental characteristic of the visual image is that it has an edge, it stops. Unlike reality whichappears as unbounded, the image constantly displays to its viewer the fact that it is different fromreality by having an edge’ (Carter, 1990, p.149). The purpose of this edge is to distinguishdifference, not only between what is included and excluded from within representational space,but also between representational space and real space. Framing is a fundamental necessity forcomprehension, because without it, differences between these dualities become problematic:‘framing always supports and contains that which, by itself, collapses forthwith’ (Derrida, 1987,p.79). The frame then, attempts to make the world it contains ‘ordered and rational’ (Friedberg,2009, p.42), by structuring, limiting and closing the field of two-dimensional representation inorder to fix meaning and context neatly within its four borders. Does this conventional definition of the frame encompass all two-dimensional images? Arethere not examples of images that transgress strict framing rationale? One such example of transgressing the frame may be the Exquisite Corpse (Cadavre Exquis), acollaborative game popularized by the Surrealists in which the frame continually extends,incorporating more and more content to a potentially ever-expanding composition. The processfor this game begins with one person drawing some visual material across a delimited section ofpaper, which is then folded over so that the next contributing artist can only see the very end ofwhat had been drawn. The second person continues the composition, joining the ends of theprevious unseen section with his own contribution; this is again folded over and hidden from theview of the next contributing artist. The game continues in this manner, with all previous sectionsremaining hidden from view until the game is considered over, all connecting sections are thenunfolded, revealing a string of heterogeneous visual material. It is at the end of the game when the work is unfolded that the mechanisms of the ExquisiteCorpse are fully observable. At the micro level it is revealed that the final image is comprised of aseries of delineated sections, with each of these demarcating (framing) the space within whicheach contributor has drawn his part. It is also apparent that each artist has joined his contributionwith the previous input and that the image parts have come to connect across the divide between
4 these sections. At the macro level however, this content, which has continually transgressed aseries of gridded sections, has now become static, fixed within a rigid frame, encompassing allparts that make up the whole. In the end, there is no way for the still image to break free fromframing convention. In the Exquisite Corpse there is a play between limit and limit’s transgressionas more and more content comes into view, into presence, during the game; but once ended, thework reaches its boundary, it too becomes framed like any other image. Chapman, J. & Chapman, D. (2000) Exquisite Corpse. The four edges of the artwork are then necessary for structuring, limiting and closing the fieldof representation, ‘[allowing] us to experience the artwork as unproblematically present’ (Duro,1996, p.5). Though the frame usually does not draw attention to itself, it has an essential role infocusing the viewer’s gaze towards the meaning it presents and privileges above what is exterioror excluded from view. As Roland Barthes states in Image, Music, Text: The tableau…is a pure cut-out segment with clearly defined edges, irreversible and incorruptible; everything that surrounds it is banished into nothingness, remains unnamed, while everything that it admits within its field is promoted into essence, into light, into view. (Barthes, 1977, p.70) Here Barthes defines the tableau (frame) as a rigid, clinical and absolute structure thatoperates as a delimiting boundary between what is present or viewable in the image, and what isabsent, unseen, out of view beyond its borders. He establishes that the frame forms a ‘clearlydefined’ divide between dualities of presence/ absence, acknowledging that to limit, is to alsoimply there is something beyond limit, which has been rejected. Essentially, Barthes regards thestill image frame as a self-contained semiotic device, one which presents to the viewer a sign, or acollection of signs, surrounded by a nothingness, which can never come into view (Manovich,2001, p.104). In Cinema 1, Gilles Deleuze extensively critiques this indeterminable space, whichhe refers to as the ‘out-of-field’ (hors-champ) – that which exists in space beyond the frame that
5 ‘is neither seen nor understood, but is nevertheless perfectly present’ (Deleuze, 2005, p.17).Unlike Barthes, who refers to this unseen space as absent nothingness, Deleuze instead claimsthat the ‘out-of-field’ has a persistent presence in dialogical relation with the image: In one case, the out-of-field designates that which exists elsewhere, to one side or around; in the other case, the out-of-field testifies to a more disturbing presence, one which cannot even be said to exist, but rather to ‘insist’ or ‘subsist’, a more radical Elsewhere, outside homogeneous space and time. (Deleuze, 2005, p.18) This concept of the ‘out-of-field’ then challenges the idea that the frame presents fixed andstable meaning within its borders. This ‘radical Elsewhere’ outside the image also has semioticvalue; it functions as an interpretive space and is set in motion by the viewer’s imagination,making ‘the image into a mental image, open…on to a play of relations which are purely thought’(Deleuze, 2005, p.19). This idea can be seen at work across a variety of Edward Gorey’sillustrated stories, where the ‘out-of-field’ has a prominent role in the delivery (or non-delivery) ofthe macabre tale. In Gorey’s abecedarian book The Gaschlycrumb Tinies what is not seen in theframe becomes the significant focus. Each singular illustration is accompanied by a line of textthat tells us of an absent event which has either already happened and is now out of the frame: ‘Kis for Kate who was struck with an Axe’, or is about to enter the frame in the imminent future: ‘Vis for Victor squashed under a train’. Here, the text and image signify a “somewhere else” in spaceand time outside the borders of the frame. Gorey does not present a fixed image of the eventitself, but with just enough contextual information for the viewer to form a mental image of theincident. In Story For Sara, Gorey uses text this time to describe what is happening outside of theboundary of the frame at that given instant: ‘The cat didn’t care a bit; he swallowed her in onemouthful‘. Here, the tail of the cat can be seen just in the right of the frame, but all else has beencensored from view. The specific context is then established through the text – If this text werealtered, then naturally so would our perception of the action implied beyond the frame.Gorey, E. (1963) The Gaschlycrumb Tinies. Gorey, E. (1971) Story For Sara.
6 Gorey, E. (1968) The Other Statue. One illustration from The Other Statue presents a group of onlookers whose inquisitive focusleads the viewer towards the lower left of the image edge. Here are two legs of a figure lying flaton the pavement, the rest of the body cropped out of the frame. The scene provides us with morequestions than answers; to whom do the legs belong? Why are they lying there? Is the persondead, asleep, or just observing cracks in the pavement? Neither image nor text provides sufficientinformation to answer these questions. As Wim Tigges says, ‘The terrible things happen justoutside the framework of the picture, and so Gorey suggests that they happen just outside theframe of the texts as well’ (Tigges, 1988, p.189). In semiology, a sign is considered to be involvedin a two-part relationship, between a present signifier and an absent signified. Pictures (and text)are then ‘signs which can evoke the image of, or refer to, absent objects’ (Nöth, 2007, p.61). InThe Other Statue, Gorey’s framing of the situation forces a semiotic gap in the narrative scene,which denies the reader the ability to comprehend the ‘full picture’. This however allows theviewer to interpret the event, forming a mental image or multiple mental images that go beyondwhat is present in the frame. What is essential in many of Gorey’s illustrations is that the edges ofthe frame have an important role in creating a dialogical ‘tension between presence and absenceof meaning’ that remains ultimately irresolvable (Tigges, 1988, p.52). Gorey’s open compositions, in which elements are cut by or extend beyond the edges of theframe, seem to take inspiration from the delimiting characteristics of the photograph – It is almostinconceivable to imagine the creation of these works prior to the invention of the camera.However, Stanley Cavell explains an important distinction between the frame of the conventionalpainting and the frame of a photograph, which, in turn, implicates our reading of the ‘out-of-field’: You can always ask, of an area photographed, what lies adjacent to that area, beyond the frame. This generally makes no sense asked of a painting. You can ask these questions of objects in photographs because they have answers in reality. The world of a painting is not continuous with the world of its frame; at its frame, a world finds its limits. We might say: A painting is a world; a photograph is of the world. What happens in a photograph is that it comes to an end. A photograph is cropped, not necessarily by a paper cutter or by masking but by the camera itself. (Cavell, 1979, pp.23-24)
7 The technical and material limitation of the camera forces the photographer to select a finitesection from infinite space, but this restriction also acts as a compositional device, allowing thephotographer to purposefully limit what is ‘framed and fixed for the viewer’ (Friedberg, 2009,p.129). Unlike in painting, the world actually continues beyond the spatial confines of the two-dimensional photograph, but the viewer can still only imagine or presume what elements exist infront, behind, above, below or to the sides of that contained within the frame. The photographic work of Martin Parr, whose portraits make use of the delimiting edges of thephotographic apparatus to play with notions of identity, also uses framing as a subject itself.Parr’s compositions often focus on the subject’s midriff, with the head usually cropped out of theimage. This limiting of visual information forces the viewer to make judgments based on what heor she can only assume – with the subject’s clothing in a given context, now serving as thesubject itself, facilitating stereotypical notions to form the basis of these judgments. Another ofParr’s photographs features the image of a tourist who is in the process of taking a photograph,but the delimiting edges of the spatially flattened image restrict from view the tourist’sphotographic subject. Again, the viewer can only form assumptive propositions based on thecontext presented within the frame. What is clear, then, is that though the ‘out-of-field’ beyondthe photograph may generally have ‘answers in reality’, this space beyond the finite cut still allows‘room for thought’ (Cavell, 1979, p.24).Parr, M. (2007) Dubai. Parr, M. (2002) Mexico. Deleuze’s concept of the ‘out-of-field’ brings into question the notion that the frame constrainswhat the image may signify. This unknown, indeterminable space beyond the fixed image is opento a degree of interpretation. The image may then operate within the fixed parameters of a frame,but its meaning, in correspondence with the ‘out-of-field’, is able to transgress what is merelyvisible. There is always involvement from the outside: the ‘closed system is never completelyclosed’ (Deleuze, 2005, p.18). Herein lies the problem; a frame is a fundamental necessity forstructuring, limiting and closing the field of representation, which seeks to but ultimately fails topresent fully-fixed and unequivocal meaning within its four demarcating borders. The edges of theimage then, provide an array of opportunities for visual artists to foreground the frame; using itsrestrictions purposefully, to support a dialogical play or irresolvable tension between what is
8 present or viewable in the image, and what is absent, unseen, out of view beyond its borders.Deleuze continues his interrogation of the ‘out-of-field’: When a set is framed, therefore seen, there is always a larger set, or another set with which the first forms a larger one, and which can in turn be seen, on condition that it gives rise to a new out-of-field, etc. The set of all these sets forms a homogeneous continuity, a universe or a plane [plan] of genuinely unlimited content. (Deleuze, 2005, pp.17-18) Here Deleuze presents a potentially unlimited process for the framing and continual reframingof space: ‘The closed system refers in space to a set which is not seen, and which can in turn beseen, even if this gives rise to a new unseen ‘set’, on to infinity’ (Deleuze, 2005, p.18). When thephotographic apparatus comes to incorporate a larger ‘set’ of visual information, the meaning ofthe in-set becomes recontextualized, forming a continuity with the larger ‘set’ that was previouslyunseen. This process can be seen in Takashi Homma’s series of five photographs for Jesus Jones’Perverse album artwork, which operate as an example of how a meaning of a ‘set’ is affectedwhen space is dynamically framed and reframed. Homma’s first photograph in this sequencepresents a close up of two formidable masked wrestlers. In the second photograph the ‘set’ isextended to show that the wrestlers are in fact holding hands. In the third photograph they areshown to be standing in a front room, joined on either side by two women in pink leotards. Whenthe ‘set’ extends again, a tripod comes into view, foregrounding the artificial and self-referentialnature of the setting. In the fifth and final photograph the scene is framed by another in-set frame– the outside brick wall and window of an English Victorian house. Homma, T. (1992) Perverse. Across Homma’s series, the four delimiting edges of each photograph are decisive in thecontextualizing and then recontextualizing of content. The work operates as an example of how‘the value of a sign is affected by the presence of other signs around it’ (Crow, 2003, p.48), withour perception of the scene changing each time a new set of visual signs comes into view. Whenspace is continually reframed, the meaning and context are also in constant transformation. InHomma’s series this transgressive process stops at the fifth photograph, however it is conceivableto imagine a process that continues to add larger and larger ‘sets’, recontextualizing meaning andreframing space, onto infinity. This idea finds its theoretical correlation in Charles Sanders Peirce’sconcept of ‘unlimited semiosis’, a semiotic process where the interpretation of one sign leads toanother sign, onto infinity. As Winfried Nöth explains:
9 Since every sign creates an interpretant which in turn is the representamen of a second sign, semiosis results in a “series of successive interpretants” ad infinitum. There is no “first” nor “last” sign in this process of unlimited semiosis…The continuous process of semiosis (or thinking) can only be “interrupted,” but never really be “ended”. (Nöth, 1990, 2.4.2) In his essay, “Structure, Sign & Play,” Jacques Derrida also discuses a semiosis of infinite playthat precludes fixed meaning, stating that: ‘the absence of a transcendental signified extends thedomain and the play of signification infinitely (Derrida, 1980, p.280). Put simply, there can beneither ultimate presence nor fixed and final meaning in a semiotic process that is in continualtransition. In such a process there is a ‘play of presence and absence’, between all that has been,and all that is yet to come (Derrida, 1980, p.292). Derrida calls this operation a ‘movement of achain’ (Derrida, 1980, p.292), which evokes quite literally the process–based mechanism of thecollaborative Exquisite Corpse game. The Exquisite Corpse drawing continually extends its spatialframe, incorporating more and more disparate visual material to a potentially ever-expandingcomposition. Each time an artist adds a contribution, a meaning is unpredictably transformed –‘the turtle becomes a jigsaw becomes the loin of a beast’ (Laxton, 2009, p.34). This game however, is essentially comprised of a series of repeated gridded (folded) sections,which are the underlying framework for ordering and sequencing the collaborative activity. Thegrid does not formulate an image with a center or a privileged hierarchical order, but a list ofvisual parts, which generates ‘an arbitrary assemblage of attachments from one signifier toanother’ (Kern, 2009, p.7). The divide between sections marks differences between parts,however, these parts are also joined together by the ‘smooth transition of line’ that moves across,from one section to another (Laxton, 2009, p.32). The string of connected visual parts then worksin compliance with a gridded mechanism, which structures and paradoxically orders the play itsimultaneously allows to happen. In the context of this investigation, “play” refers to a meaning,which is in constant movement – in either a dialogical tension, or in boundless, ever emergingtransformation. In the Exquisite Corpse there is a dialogical play of meaning between griddedparts, and also a transformative play of meaning along a linear sequence.Breton, A., Camille, G., Prévert, J. and Tanguy, Y. (1927) Exquisite Corpse Drawings.
10 The Exquisite Corpse, with its gridded repetitions and transitional visual elements would then bean example of a ‘smooth’ form, which moves through ‘striated’ gridded space. In their essay“1440: The Smooth and the Striated”, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari discuss these notions ofthe ‘smooth’ and the ‘striated’ space: The striated is that which intertwines fixed and variable elements, produces an order and succession of distinct forms, and organizes horizontal melodic lines and vertical harmonic planes. The smooth is continuous variation, continuous development of form; it is the fusion of harmony and melody in favour of the production of properly rhythmic values. (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004, p.528) Deleuze and Guattari examine these ideas of ‘smooth’ and ‘striation’ in relation to thepatchwork quilt, which, like the Exquisite Corpse, consists of repetitions in structure (striation)and continuous variation in its visual elements (smoothness). The patchwork quilt is made up ofmaterial fragments that vary in size, shape, colour, pattern and texture. These juxtaposingelements are sewn together to form a square, which is then stitched to other opposing squares toform a grid. As Rico Franses explains: ‘it appears that the vast majority of quilts evidence acareful play between order and random “unstructure.” Straight lines and squares often lurkbeneath the visual turbulence above’ (Franses, 1996, p.316). Like the Exquisite Corpse, the quilthas no center or hierarchical order; each square has the same value as the next. The gridspatially organizes and structurally frames the material fragments, but as the quilt maker keepsadding more and more squares to the extending grid, there is also clear potential in the quilt forinfinite spatial expansion. As Rico Franses again explains: ‘It is the endless nature of the grid thatallows simultaneously for a framing function of individual units (the squares), and the infinitereplication of these, which leads not to chaos but to boundless structure’ (Franses, 1996, p.259).Like the Exquisite Corpse then, the patchwork quilt is both framed and frameless. The grid is thenecessary ordering mechanism of these procedural activities, which structures a ‘dynamic tension’between order and disorder and ‘rules and transgression’ (Kern, 2009, p.5). Barnes, N. (1900-1920) Crazy Quilt.
11 These characteristics of ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space can also be evidenced in the two-dimensional digital raster image. At the micro level, the digital still image consists of pixels(picture elements) – a finite number of abstract squares, each with its own ‘distinct color or tonalvalue’ (Manovich, 2001, p.53). These single point units of information form an underlying grid foran image composition, which at ‘actual size’ may appear smooth and seamless. Framedmicroelements then exist within the virtual frame of the digital raster image: Visually, these computer-generated or manipulated images are indistinguishable from traditional photo…images, whereas on the level of “material” they are quite different, as they are made from pixels or represented by mathematical equations and algorithms. (Manovich, 2001, p.180) As Lev Manovich notes, pixels are numerical representations of an algorithmic code. Thesemathematical equations can be altered; which means that each individual picture element, whichcomprises the digital image, is ‘subject to algorithmic manipulation’ (Manovich, 2001, p.27).Digitization then allows a flexibility or variability that is not possible in traditional still imagemedia. For example, The GUI (Graphical User Interface) actions and commands of AdobePhotoshop allow the user to continually modify the image composition: content fragments from avariety of sources can be added, deleted, combined, manipulated, layered, cut, copied, rescaledand rearranged. The image file can then be reworked an infinite number of times, and saved inlimitless versions and in a variety of file formats. This technical and material flexibility within therepresentational field also extends to the compositional frame itself, which can be proportionatelyresized, or an area of the ‘set’ selected and cropped. Furthermore, canvas space can also beadjusted, reshaped or the amount of picture elements extended, thus giving the artist choicesthrough which to modify what is seen or not seen in the picture plane. The computer displaywindow, which is the frame around the canvas, also allows for mobility: actions such as zoom-in,zoom-out and scrolling, allow for an image to be viewed as a whole, or in fluid, dynamic parts.These navigational capabilities then fundamentally change how an image is read or explored by a‘viewer-turned-user’ (Friedberg, 2009, p.232). What is essential is that these variable and mobile characteristics of the digital still image allowboth the artist and the viewer/ user to explore a variety of open compositional framings. Theedges of the digital image are still essentially a boundary, which orders and demarcates insidefrom outside, however, unlike the frame of the traditional painting or photograph; the digitalimage is ‘not something fixed once and for all’ (Manovich, 2001, p.36). The implied action ‘out-of-field’ can remain permanently outside the frame, but in some instances it can also be revealed. InNew Philosophy for New Media, Mark B. N. Hanson discusses this capacity for the digital image totransgress the fixity of the frame: the set of elementary numerical points comprising a digital image contains within itself, as alternative permutations of these points, all potential images to follow, and since therefore, any point whatever can furnish the link to the next image, the digital image explodes the frame. (Hansen, 2004, p.35)
12 The numerically constructed and gridded digital image then has the potential for infinite spatialand compositional transformation. This idea of a dynamic space in which an image’s meaning orcontext is in constant process is again reminiscent of Peirce’s concept of ‘unlimited semiosis’ orDerrida’s ‘movement of a chain’. These ideas can in turn be seen in Gridcosm, an onlinecollaborative project set up by Ed Stastny, founder of SITO art collective in 1997. The process forthis participatory activity is explained on the project website as follows: Gridcosm is a collaborative art project in which artists from around the world contribute images to a compounding series of graphical squares. Each level of Gridcosm is made up of nine square images arranged into a 3x3 grid. The middle image is a one-third size version of the previous level. Artists add images around that center image until a new 3x3 grid is completed, then that level itself shrinks and becomes the "seed" for the next level. This process creates an ever expanding tunnel of images, the newest level a direct result of the previous level which is a result of the previous level...and so on. (Gridcosm, 1997) Stastny, E., Oast, E. V. & Oast, J. V. (1997) Gridcosm Levels 3491, 3490 and 3489. Each Gridcosm level consists of 450x450 pixels, which is divided into a 3x3 square grid. Again,the grid is the underlying mechanism for ordering and sequencing this process-based, activity.Each individual contribution is first created in an image editing software to a scale of 150x150pixels and is then uploaded to its designated grid position on the project website. When all ninesquares of a level are complete, the overall effect created is one of ‘shared difference’: fragmentsof photographs, drawings, text, appropriated material and individual graphic styles appear to both‘join and separate, couple and divide’ (Laxton, 2009, p.34). Sometimes there are unexpectedjuxtapositions between distinct squares, while other times there is a unity, especially in instanceswhere artists have attempted to blend their delimited section with that of the surrounding, alreadycompleted sections. Regular collaborators often work together, in an attempt to make the overallimage appear ‘smooth’ and seamless, continuing the theme and colour scheme, sometimes acrossseveral levels. In these cases, ‘striation’ acts as a restriction, but also a challenge to overcome. Gridcosm then, is comparable to the Exquisite Corpse game; both are collaborative activitiesthat operate through a gridded mechanism, with inherent possibilities for infinite spatial expansion
13 and compositional transformation. However, unlike the Exquisite Corpse, this project does notextend its spatial frame at the four outer edges, but rather forms a tunnel of images, that recedestowards a single (vanishing) point at the image center. What marks Gridcosm as fundamentallydifferent from the Exquisite Corpse is that the viewer is able to witness the collaborative processin real-time, as artists add their sections, and as the meaning and context of the work changes. Inthe Exquisite Corpse one only sees the drawing at the end of the activity, when the work is fixedand bound within its final frame. In contrast, Gridcosm allows the viewer to navigate through itslevels, traversing through space and time, clicking on each compounding layer. In this way, theviewer/ user is able to see a ‘chain’ of meaning production as it has been unfolded and willcontinue to unfold. The traditional Exquisite Corpse, as played by the Surrealists, involves a set number of players,working in one location, on a single sheet of paper. In contrast, there are currently 3491 levels inGridcosm, created by over 300 artists, across a span of 14 years (Gridcosm, 1997). Thesematerial, time and player limitations do not apply to this online platform, which allows forcontinuous and open collaboration over distance. These technical and material differencesbetween the Exquisite Corpse and Gridcosm prove that the digital domain is not just anothermedium, but the next logical step for further enabling a potentially limitless transgression of theframe. It is this theoretical idea of infinity, which is fundamental to the transgressive process.However, there still remains the practical impossibility that anything human-created can everreally be infinite. There may be no foreseeable finality to Gridcosm; but if (or when) thecollaborative project becomes inactive, the work will then become fixed and bound to a framethat, by conventional definition, delimits inside from outside and presence from absence. In closing, it is also important to recognize that while the digital image has the inherentcapacity to transgress the fixity of the spatial frame within the computer window, it is stillhowever inset within the four fixed material borders of the computer display screen. This masterframe is a necessity for ordering and demarcating real material space from the immateriality ofvirtual space (Friedberg, 2006, p.6). However, even then, according to Mark B. N. Hansen, thedigital image ‘need no longer be so bounded’ to the screen (Hansen, 2004, p.31): Regardless of its current surface appearance, digital data is at heart polymorphous: lacking any inherent form or enframing, data can be materialized in an almost limitless array of framings; yet so long as it is tied to the image-frame [screen]…this polymorphous potential will remain entirely untapped. (Hansen, 2004, p.35) Hansen’s assertion that the digital has ‘polymorphous potential’ presupposes the fracturing ordissolving of divides between dualities of inside/ outside, real/ virtual and sender/ receiver. Thisraises interesting questions in relation to framing, which becomes invariably complex in thedematerialized, multiform and multidimensional digital domain.
14 Conclusion --- The four edges of the still image are a necessity, required for structuring, limitingand closing the field of two-dimensional representation and also for distinguishing difference,between what is included and excluded from the visual plane. The image frame’s purpose, then, isto display the artwork as ‘unproblematically present’ (Duro, 1996, p.5), with the intention to fixmeaning and context neatly within its demarcating borders. Deleuze’s concept of the ‘out-of-field’however challenges this notion of fixity; while the frame presents a still image within itsboundaries, it is unable to present a fully-fixed and unequivocal meaning (Deleuze, 2005, p.18).Instead, meaning is able to transgress the formal and material limitations of the frame, bysignifying a “somewhere else” in space and time. The ‘out-of-field’ also has semiotic value; itoperates in dialogical relation with the image and is open to a degree of interpretation. The edgesof the image then, provide an array of opportunities for visual artists to foreground the frame;using its restrictions purposefully, to support a dialogical play or irresolvable tension betweenwhat is present, in the image, and what is absent, beyond its borders. The Exquisite Corpse and patchwork quilt exemplify a frame or grid with possibilities forlimitless spatial expansion. In these procedural activities, the grid is the underlying ordering andsequencing mechanism, which structures a ‘dynamic tension’ between order and disorder and‘rules and transgression’ (Kern, 2009, p.5). In the example of the Exquisite Corpse, the griddedmechanism facilitates a ‘movement of a chain’, a transformative process in which meaning andcontext are in constant spatial development (Derrida, 1980, p.292). This is then comparable tothe numerically constructed digital image, which has an intrinsic flexibility or variability. Thedigital image may still adhere to the basic principles of framing, but it also has the capacity to notbe so limited by a rigid, fixed frame. The implied action ‘out-of-field’ can remain permanentlyoutside the frame, but in some instances it can also be revealed. The technical and material flexibility of digital space enable individual artists or collaborators tocreate process-based works, where space is in dynamic development, and where meaning andcontext are in infinite transformation. It is this theoretical idea of infinity, which is fundamental tothe transgressive process. However, there still remains the practical impossibility that anythinghuman-created can ever really be infinite. Even in the digital domain framing limitation is enforcedwhen the project is no longer active, the image file closed, or printed on a material surface. Theplay between limit and limit’s transgression then comes to an end, and the artwork becomesbound by a fixed frame, which by conventional definition, delimits inside from outside and what ispresent from what is absent.
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