Willats Chapter 3

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S.R. If you look on this piece »Homeostat drawing no. 1«, for example book »eugenic exercise No. 1« you find this systemic thinking in a very simple diagrammatic form; it's looking very theoretical but it's as a drawing it's very simple but it's containing so much philosophical background and work of thinking. Maybe you can say something about the approach, how you start to work something like that. Is it much more coming in a process, in an epistemological process or is it... that you make the concept to make ten works of that?

S.W. The way in which I was approaching ideas at this time which has subsequently changed to a certain extent but the idea I had of any kind of intervention really but any kind of planned intervention such as the development of art practice by an artist – could exist at different levels of resolution. So I saw that in a way you could have a conceptual model, a representation of an idea which could exist in a kind of abstract form and contain sort of philosophical ideas, and then it was a kind of operational model; which is where the philosophical ideas were taken into the idea of operation of a work of art in a particular context. And then it was a pragmatic model which was necessary to actually make this thing work. You have different languages, I mean this is sort of... also relates to the works I did in Artificial Intelligence. You have different languages at different levels of resolution; you might be talking about the same thing. We might be discussing a table, about its existence, its function, its material fabric. We are talking about the same thing but we are generating different frameworks of reference, which are cross-connected, so you are in a sort of a matrix. A lot of these drawings of this period were... just sort of philosophical ideas ... which were thought of in an abstracted form but in fact were dealing with society. This particular drawing you are referring to here... is the idea of, which was very important at the time, a network of relationships in society where all nodes were of equal importance to all other nodes and information was universally shared throughout the structure. If anyone of these nodes gets a value, such as a 4 or something like that, the baseline of the whole system rises up, there is no hierarchy in this network. This was a sort of scene, the idea of a social model of mutuality, a recognition of the complexity and of people around you; different from talking about people as objects or reductive models of society. This is the idea of going in the other direction towards complexity and recognizing that within complexity there is a richness, and also complexity in itself generates more... heuristics which are more likely to be able to succeed. So this was a sort of idea at that time that I was generating all kinds of these drawings from 1962; this diagrammatic drawing, which was using early semiological ideas to analyze objects on the table; it's like a still-life. But instead of drawing what one might have done in 1962 as a pictorial representation, I looked at the different relationships these objects had on the table using varieties of medium to kind of denote the possible connections; each of these marks is made in a different medium – ink, pencil, charcoal, whatever. – This is another drawing from the early 60s; again this is an »all-over democratic surface«, that's what I called it at the time. The viewer was able to wander over it and create their own relationships and their own meaning. This is a central idea that we generate ourselves, the meaning of reality; we have referential experiences where people tell us about things, but in the end it's us that's ordering the world around us.

Stephen Willats »