ISSUE 8 /seconds - On Curating: Mad Love, Orphan Letters, Open Archives

/seconds invites submissions from artists and non-artists alike to unpack and release unseen, unheard or unpublished material. From the studios, archives, libraries, plan chests, or storage containers, to act, in other words, in a spirit of openness.

In ‘Mad Love’, André Breton’s poem of 1937, the line 'my own openness' might be ascribed as 'useful' both as an action and an indifference in the disclosure of unreconcilable and beloved material; these unseen artists’ works and collections interpolate through 'mysterious communication' without cause into self-invention. Presenting a manual of instruction for rethinking acceptable notions of egality as perhaps suggested in the title ‘La Pensée Sauvage’ (Claude Levi-Strauss’ 1962 anthropological work, translated into English by a double meaning of ‘The Savage Mind’, ‘Pansies for Thought’ or more strangely ‘Wild Pansies’) an encounter with mad love's disembodied voices, orphan letters and open archives presents us with something conceptually 'uncompatable' with given data - what Jacques Rancière names as 'literarity' – the ability to disturb the existing circuits of words, meanings and places of enunciation.

The problem within any action of love, to offer provocative, powerful, and novel definitions of democratic politics and of art, is whether the taking-part of those who have, or have had no part, is specified. What is proper to art, and nameable, is its identity with non-art. The configuration and conflation of art into 'democratic politics' must be itself ideologically 'unpacked', however, if the distribution is not to be absorbed into a prevailing regime. It is instead the practice of politics itself, where the latter can be defined as the conflictual meeting of two heterogeneous logics -- the logic of domination and the logic of equality. The 'given' data of an 'egalitarian' regime, or its utopian aspiration (of art, love and friendship such as offered on the web, e.g. MySpace, or Facebook) is only a provisional form of equality. Strictly speaking the egalitarian regime of the sensible can only isolate art's specificity at the expense of losing it. We return happily, if empty handed, back to the André Breton's inviolable Mad Love.

'The key issue consists in thinking love not as destiny, but as encounter and thought, as an asymmetrical and egalitarian becoming, as the invention of oneself.' (From Chapter 11, 'Avant gardes' in ‘The Century’, Alain Badiou, March 2000 translated by Alberto Toscano)

'A pox on all captivity, even in Montezuma's gardens of precious stones! Still today I am only counting on what comes of my own openness, my eagerness to wander in search of everything, which, I am confident, keeps me in mysterious communication with other open beings, as if we were to suddenly called to assemble, I would like my life to leave after it no other murmur than that of a watchman's song, of a song to while away the waiting. Independent of what happens and what does not happen, the wait itself is magnificent.' (From Chapter 3, in ‘Mad Love’, André Breton, 1937, translated by Mary Ann Caws)

'If I want to imagine a fictive nation, I can give it an invented name, treat it declaratively as a novelistic object, create a new Garabagne, so as to compromise no real country by my fantasy (though it is then that fantasy itself I compromise by the signs of literature)....' ('Faraway', ‘Empire of Signs’, Roland Barthes, 1970 translated by Richard Howard)


('It is necessary to dream') slogan / caption from ‘Histoire[s] du Cinema’ (video, Jean-Luc Godard, 1988, Gaumont Pathé Archives); also as a pun in ‘(Il) Faut Rever Mozart’, read in English as ‘Forever Mozart’ (1996), 35mm film by Jean-Luc Godard, concerning the performance in troubled times of Musset’s play "On Ne Badine Pas Avec L'Amour" (One mustn't trifle with love") in Sarajevo by a group of young (amateur) actors.

'There is no meta-language of Art' Alain Badiou

'Thoughts are a dice-throw' Mallarmé, concerning the poem 'Un Coup de Des Jamais n'Abolira le Hasard' ('A Throw of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance')

'Moreover, doesn’t the pathological peculiarity of the capitalist machine consist in its ability to do just this: convert random empirical facts into new axioms? Integrated global capitalism is constitutively dysfunctional: it works by breaking down. It is fuelled by the random undecidabiities, excessive inconsistencies, aleatory interruptions, while it continuously reappropriates, axiomatising empirical contingency. It turns catastrophe into a resource, ruin into opportunity, harnessing the uncompatable.' (From 'Remarks on Subtractive Ontology' Ray Brassier, in ‘Think Again, Alain Badiou and the Future of Philosophy’, Edited by Peter Hallward, 2004)

Thinking through the Algorithm

Collected together these excerpts might suggest an affirmation for subject's actions availed paradoxically of the digital immediacy and excess of the World Wide Web, (capital ‘fusing’ through technology). In the open assembly with others with respect to the operation of randomness, we might propose a form of art out of ‘given’ algorithmic data. (As perhaps anticipated in the archival instructions and notes by Marcel Duchamp, that break the seal on his hermetic work ‘Etant Donnés’ or ‘Given’. (See Duchamp, Marcel. Manual of Instructions for Étant Donnés: 1º La Chute D'eau 2º Le Gaz D'éclairage. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1987), to connote a contradictory relation that chance is both given, and not given at the same time); of many contradictions concerning things ' abstraction; writings, tapes, photographs of studios, rooms designated to shelving systems; books, manuals of instruction, selected notes, drawings, documents, home-made films, videos, montages, scrapbooks, cut-ups, letters, collected decorative objects, fetishes, etcetera, which in a digital archive, can be assembled together to index a co-extensive yet blind production as the self-evidence of love's indifference to any set destination.


/seconds. is an online publishing project supported by an international editorial and advisory board of academics, artists and curators. The project acknowledges support from Leeds Metropolitan University. A new issue of /seconds. will be published every three months and will include text, visual material (including moving image) and sound-based work.

This is an invitation to contribute in open response. All media formats accepted. Deadline: Wed 5 Mar 2008. Please send submitted material to or
ISSUE 8 /seconds

What: ISSUE 8 /seconds - On Curating: Mad Love, Orphan Letters, Open Archives
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Deadline: Wed 5 Mar 2008