Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Mystery of His One Two, One Two

On the track of Williams' play with numbers, which might give us a sense of his theory of sexuality (reducing, difficultly, notions of sex to epiphenomena of mathematics), I've happened upon a "number" of secondary sources that philosophize the one, the two (and multiples beyond) in a similar spirit. I won't go into the passage I originally intended to comb through for this entry, the passage on pp.17-18 of the two girls and their hair and the ribbons of their hair (in the air of the falls), because I thought it would be easier just to excerpt a part of our discussion at the VSW about it here. Nevertheless, here are the chance finds that accompanied me as I started philosophizing the one and the two that underpin Paterson's "elucidation by multiplicity:"

1. Saul Anton's new book, Warhol's Dream, which contains a fictional conversation between Robert Smithson and Andy Warhol about the important difference between a single Empire State Building and the Twin Towers, in a discussion of infinity, time and space. (Williams, of course, was a big influence on Smithson, so the resonances here come as no surprise.)

2. Italo Calvino's t zero, short comedies of cosmogony--the originary split of the one into multiplicity at the beginning of the world. (When he talks about the one and the city, Williams seems like he's attempting modern urban technogony.)

1. Elisabeth Tonnard's The Two of Us: an artist's book made here at the VSW, based off the Selle collection, an abandoned ocean of street vendor photography from Fox Movie Flash, taken in the 40s and 50s. There are literally a million images, saved from the dumpster, with each roll containing 1500 pictures (the process was a hybrid of flash photography and film), and I was able to see the numbered rolls in their drawers, where they share a toxic, moldy storage room with castaway magic lantern slides and other dead media. The past is not for the faint of heart, not only because of the air quality with which any tomb raider must reckon, but also because projects like Tonnard's interface an archival substrate so vast as to verge on the unknowable (even though, technically, it can be "counted": there is a good essay on the aesthetics and philosophy attending the sheer numbers of these photos by Christopher Burnett in Afterimage 35.3 called "The Streets of San Francisco: Encounters with the Selle Collection of Street Vendor Photographs"). Tonnard's The Two of Us is based on a simple organizational premise: collect pictures from the relatively small number of those digitized (18, 000) that hold within their frame the figure of the "double." So this fiction of two--an unsettling two--holds off the infinity of actual, material everyday (which may constitute its "virtuality") that is the difficult substance of which both this project and Williams' Paterson attempt oblique knowledge.

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