Drawing Ambiguity (2015) Introduction

— this was one of the recommendations from the last tutorial and I have been reading the Introduction along with a couple of other chapters so far. The introduction stands out for me for a number of reasons, here are some of my excerpted notes on it (the page numbers do not refer to the printed book but a manuscript on academia.edu).

a. the ubiquity of drawing gestures: what in this is accidental, what purposeful, but in particular what is the status of a drawing: part working out, part worked out; part private, part public.

b. the relationship between drawing marks and writing

c. immediacy and mediation take place at once and rely on each other; similarly: it always involves bodily gestures (however these are mediated)

d. the emphasis of the production of knowledge in the process of drawing: of working things out, of seeking agency (see in relation to the gap between digital/analog, it also being a gap concerning agency)

e. the discussion of how this alters, shifts, remains in the context of networked images: the role of the screen as interface (and again: what is mediating, what is being mediated)


Horton, D. (2015). Drawing Ambiguity: Introduction. In R. Marshall & P. Sawdon (Eds.), Drawing Ambiguity (IB Taurus Press, pp. 1–11). London.

Notes: p.2: The very fact that we all draw opens up another ambiguous space, that between the private and the public; between the intimate actions of reflection and ‘working out’ and the calculated production of images made to be seen. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.2: And even when drawings are made to be seen, there can be something about the directness and private nature of the act of drawing that allows artists to give free reign to fantasy, or give vent to unspoken desires, or simply to reveal other more innocent or mundane thought processes, that makes us feel that we are looking over their shoulders, privy to their intimate thoughts. We have been invited in to another’s world, given room to make our own sense of what is going on in it. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p. 2: And in another twist of the ambiguous relationship between language and the visual, when the articulation or expression takes place through writing, we are back to drawing again – because, in the form of drawing we call writing, words are never independent of gesture.2”

Footnote 2: At least since synthetic cubism introduced fragments of type into the picture plane, it has been commonplace for written language to function as a compositional element in art works. By the 1960’s it was not uncommon for language to be the subject matter of art, and indeed its matter – the material from which it might solely be made. Language as art had to wait for the twentieth century, but as drawing it is as old as the earliest writing. To write by hand is, unavoidably, to draw. The conceptual separation between the two grows with our familiarity with any given written language, but all we have all experienced ‘drawing’ writing when we first learn to lay down the strokes of an unfamiliar form, whether as a child first writing ‘a, b, c’, or, for example, as an unfamiliar adult learning to write Arabic or Chinese characters. Capturing or reproducing a letter-form with a line is arguably no different to capturing or reproducing any other form with a line. The arbitrary connection between the shape of a line and a vocal sound is culturally defined and becomes fixed only up to a point, leaving room for considerable variations in spelling and pronunciation. Similarly, the meaning we attach to other kinds of line that function for their makers (the ‘drawers’ of the lines) as approximations of their visual experiences of the world around them (or even as attempts to create new visual experiences in the world) leave an ambiguous space in which new meanings are made.

>> this also speaks and relates back to Kittler’s argument how the typewriter radically alter our understanding of writing as set in blocks rather than in handwritten form.

p.3: My focus here is on a viewer’s interpretation of, for example, a drawing, and the meaning that might be made of its relation to the wider world — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.3: Another perspective might emphasise the reflexiveness or otherwise of the maker of the drawing in relation to her intention (or lack of one), and the extent to which the making is considered, planned or known. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

<< examining different perspectives and engagements with the drawing.

p.3: [Leszek] Kolakowski suggests that inconsistency is, ‘an awareness of the contradictions in this world’, and, ‘a consciously sustained reserve of uncertainty’.3 — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

<< this quote references similar Marxist arguments about being contradictory in a contradictory world (not sure: Benjamin, Adorno, Brecht?)

p.3: But by impelling us to interpret situations for ourselves, — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.4: encouraging us to grapple conceptually with ideas, systems and contexts, it can be intriguing and rewarding, allowing us a deeper and more personal relationship with the meaningsoffered by exactly those ideas and systems and their contexts. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.4: Drawing combines the effect of immediacy (in a reciprocal relation of hand and eye) with the fact of its mediation (the use of the hand, or its disembodied digital equivalent, to materialise an image). — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.4: What might it mean to draw in the Internet age? — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.4: Avant-garde impulses of the last century, such as fragmentation, collage and chance procedures, have been fused with the technologies of the present, resulting in an expanded field for twenty-first-century drawing. Not bound exclusively to the surface of a substrate, it continually morphs from the manual to the digitised, from printed page to web page, from studio and gallery to screen and street, from private to published, and from social space to virtual space. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.5: Whether in the digital context referred to already, or in its older and more obviously manual manifestations, drawing exists at an interface: the interface of an idea and its representation; of the hand and the trace of its action; and of the image and its viewer. This interface is a place with its own autonomy, its own ability to generate new results and consequences, essentially an area in which choices are made, not a simple and transparent site, but a fertile nexus, ripe with ambiguities. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

<< that is where the drawing is productive; it is also open, vulnerable. What questions does this raise for the idea of ‘success’? what is the role of experimentation, rejection, refinement?

p.6: The idea that the window is transparent but passive (you merely need to look through it to see the information contained in the space behind it), whereas the door is opaque and requires you to be active (it conceals the information in the space behind it until you open the door to access it), is really useful for understanding those differences. The idea of the screen adds another dimension to this, perhaps, through its double meaning involving both visibility and invisibility – a screen is a thing behind which something might be concealed, but also a thing that you can project something onto. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

From the DIC essay on public/private, here Dewdney (2012) on the role of the TV screen:

For Dewdney (2012, 100) the key change of the status of the networked photographic image lies in its relationship to the TV monitor, notably,‘[u]p until this moment the ontology of photography, largely taken to be discrete and technical, has been the guarantor of the coherence of the individual subject, whilst the ontology of television has been the guarantor of the coherence of the existence of public space. It is the distinction between public and private, interior and exterior, held in place by the general representational system, which is now in a crisis produced by networked behaviours, globalized modes of production and transcultural subjects.’If the biggest change lies in the circulation of images and less so its modes of production, we need to ask how such anticipated circulation along re-configured public/private boundaries already impacts on the intent and procedures of conceptualising images (and thus becomes effective long before the image then circulates). I will do so by outlining a series of implications as they relate to the relational triangle of the networked image.

p.6: The relationship between the visual and conceptual interface of the screen (the interface of eye and mind with the visual information projected on it and the digital data hidden behind it) and the physical or manual interface of the keyboard and mouse or the touch-screen (the interface of the body with the mechanical manipulation required to activate and access digital information) demonstrates that the body is always central to the process  — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.6: sfumato was one of the four canonical drawing and painting modes of the Renaissance (the other three being cangiante, chiaroscuro and unione). Sfumato comes from the Italian sfumare, ‘to tone down’ or literally, ‘to evaporate like smoke’. — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.7: To return to the notion of the interface, further layers of ambiguity are uncovered if we reflect on the relationship between the surface on which these drawn marks are made and the succession of other surfaces that might in turn support it. Georges Perec reflects metaphorically on this in his Species of Spaces when he muses: I put a picture up on a wall. Then I forget there is a wall. … The wall is no longer what delimits and defines the place where I live, that which separates it from the other places where other people live. It is nothing more than a support for the picture. But I also forget the picture. I no longer look at it. I no longer know how to look at it. I have put the picture on the wall so as to forget there was a wall, but in forgetting the wall, I forget the picture too. There are pictures because there are walls. We have to be able to forget there are walls, and have found no better way to do that than pictures. Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures.8 — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

<< such excellent section about what Perec’s work can do in the context of what I am doing; also: in relation to interior spaces!

p.8: This blur, as a visual metaphor for ambiguity, is also central to the long history of argument about art and science — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

p.8: As all these examples suggest, looking at the role of ambiguity across different disciplines is therefore a way of considering the relationship between them. Meaning is seldom revealed explicitly — Highlighted 22 Jun 2018

Reflection on tutorial feedback for A2: a photocopier manual

The tutorial is already almost eight weeks ago and I am only now sitting down to write up my reflections on it (the tutor report is in this post here, the assignment submission here). The time distance blurs some of it while it also shifts into focus some other issues.
What sits at the fore of my mind is the suitability of site: to make a working environment the subject of my investigations and what that allows for but also what is or becomes problematic in this. — That came up in the first tutorial and has remained a question for me, mainly in terms of access, being inside but also about hiding/visibility and notions of professionalism. They are all issues that have concerned my work for some time, so they are not unusual questions and still I hope that throughout this course some will become clearer but also for me to leave some of the sheltering that I have tended to seek out for my work.
What I have taken serious is the idea to keep devising my own inquiries and I have done so, notably with Green. The tracing paper project still remains to be done, I hesitate over it as to the visibility it will mean for my body as drawing tool.
The tutorial itself was really good and inspiring. The mode of conversation was unexpected, it seemed like a shared enquiry, and I felt my academic, professional interests could come to the fore and inform my drawing enquiry. In that, I also felt that some of the doubts I keep having as to whether my work constitutes drawing have both been able to become articulated but also put to rest.
As to the submitted work, the discussion we had about individual parts of the Manual was useful and insightful, notably the feedback as to where I took risks in feeding different analog processes into the performance and thus moving away from a self-referential system. Also the recognition of humour (and play) as elements of my work. The two critiques of the manual concern the choice of book to take the rubbing from; and the closing point (the broken printer), for both, he usefully linked the work to a wider socio-political context, the Luddites and I think that particular contextualisation is really insightful, and similar to A1, also allows a point of refinement, conclusion. (At the same time, it was really good to hear that his concern at this moment isn’t so much a neatly refined submission but a rather systematic, expansive testing of thoughts, materials, processes, and I realise that his pointers for further development are pointing towards doing more of that (possibly rather than settling too closely on a particular project?)
I had expected to have to move much faster or explicitly with both the critical review and the parallel project than the timeline that Doug suggested towards the end (to have a clear sense of project for either by assignment 4). I found it extremely helpful how attentive Doug would pick apart my positioning and articulation (notably about Generative Systems as focus for the CR) and to point out that my work sits elsewhere, provides more agency, has a more performative element to it and his encouragement to keep attending to that (also in distinction to e.g. some of Karen Barad’s work). — I think that level of critical engagement has been new in my tutorial interactions and is extremely valuable. Re-reading the feedback, the areas of development and pointers for next assignment are all to the point and very helpful (see below).
The encouragement to explore further and become clearer about interdisciplinarity in my work but also the relationship between theory and practice is great to see and receive. I feel it is that kind of focus which will help me to integrate not only the photography and expanded drawing field but also to allow for a more confident grounding of my artistic practice within the academic and theoretical fields (and e.g. writing practices) of mine.
— there are more posts to come as a follow up, I will link to them as I write them
Pointers for the next assignment (tutor)
  • Reflect on this feedback in your learning log. (done)
  • Test processes of making like using the tracing paper on a window that I suggested. (done both inside corridor and outside)
  • Continue to think about your personal approach to making and theory; this will help you as you progress towards the end of this unit. (ongoing, note/reflections generally included in various posts)
  • Continue to identify artists that interest you/are related to your interests, see if there are any shows/performances that might ad (done and included in the outline post for the assignment)
Strengths Areas for development
 Your creative learning across both subjects of photography and drawing is evident and clearly of benefit.  Continue to develop your interdisciplinary creative thinking as part of your work.
 Strong creative approach to theory and practice in the creation of your drawing piece.  Allow yourself time to experiment/test other processes as well as consolidating ideas into a final piece.
 Very strong approach to analysis of contextual research.  Develop your own line of enquiry that if needed moves away from Barad towards themes we have been discussing.

Reflection on assessment criteria for assignment 2: a photocopier manual

This post reflects on the assessment criteria for the submission of assignment 2: a photocopier manual.

[I seem to struggle considerably, untangling the different elements of this project, so am currently presenting it as a single text]

Following the first tutorial feedback I proceeded with the range of sketches and observations around the office space that I had started the course with: they consist to a large extent of notes, short videos as well as some performative gestures and installations. They attempt to take serious the office environment (in tool and rationality) while also extending beyond it.

To do so, I devised a few of my own projects, and continued the corridor placement series too. Out of these interactions/ engagements, the photocopier/ printer unit emerged. I explored a range of possible avenues (duplicating, wrapping) but then settled on the image production unit, the photographic lens and photocopy plate and how to interact with this (notably because of one printer was routinely out of order and thus ‘interaction’ could not happen in the intended way).

In this, myself as drawing tool as performative gesture/ modality is more strongly foregrounded than before (and is part of the Parallel project).

Not all conversations/ performances are included (e.g. the paper jam is only recorded as part of the preparation); the ones I included are the ones that demonstrate an outcome in form of photocopied paper. As before, there is a systematic pursuit of the parameters as well as reflection and refinement of these throughout the series over 4-6 weeks, and then some final development in the days before submission.

The form of the submission is strongly related to the office environment, its modalities and its tools: in this sense the ringbinder and polypocket assemblage is deliberate in its insertion into the office environment and at once transcends it: it produces an anonymous and non-sensical tool: it is not a manual, you can’t follow it, or perhaps: if you follow it, you don’t end up with a copy, a true likeness of one document embodied in another and facilitated by the tool of the photocopier, its photographic unit and its copy plate.

The transposition of ‘photocopying’ to ‘performance’ to ‘conversation’ to ‘drawing’ presents a major insight for me in this submission: hence, the initial sketchbook instruction: ‘write out: does writing constitute drawing?’ makes not only the claim that writing constitutes drawing but enacts it (which allows the statement chain above to prove true in the other way also, from drawing to photocopying). It also connects out and into a wider body of conceptual artistic practice, which is already visible in the Copy Art of the 1960s and onwards: questions about immateriality, the absence of an art object as well as institutional critique.

This submission is situated within the Part 2: Material Properties. As much as with my drawing practice in Part 1, the ‘material’ of this part is relatively muted, insubstantial in the sense that it produces ‘flimsy’ objects and is largely constituted by a performative act. None of this is as such immaterial, yet: presence/absence hover throughout the project: its questions over the nature of an art work, an art practice but also very practically in the investigation of a functioning office tool, the role of the copy plate and the cover to exclude light, as both excess light and any distance between plate and object undo the process of producing a true copy of the original document.

A Photocopier Manual

A Photocopier Manual, as the project submitted as Assignment 2, Material Properties, presents a loose-leaf A4 folder which covers a series of discrete sections, each separated by a sheet of a photocopied instruction of ‘how to copy’ from the main drawing tool of this body of work: a Canon C5240i office colour printer.

Over the course of a couple of months I devised, conducted and recorded in various means a series of performances that centred on the C5240i, situated in my workplace, as well as my own home inkjet printer, a Canon MB5300. The performances notably worked with the photocopy plate and process, to a lesser extent they also included the printing process alone (printing captured images, on iPhone 7plus).

I consider these drawings as performances, more specifically: as conversations. I do so in order to foreground the interaction between human and photocopier, myself making a series of decisions to feed, alter and interact with the photographic unit of the photocopier.

Notably, the distinct sections, performances, interactions are as follows:

  1. Instruction to self and others (photographed, then printed, then copied notebook page)
  2. Feuer im Paradies (rubbing of book cover on tracing paper, photocopied and re-photocopied)
  3. Indexical tracing  (rubbing of MB5300 plate and surface on tracing paper, scans of the ongoing process, scans of the final state, photograph of the final state)
  4. Feeding and drawing (two line drawings of C5240i, one photograph of performance, one collage print)
    [I explore the actual machine in line, similar to the drawing of the filing cabinet here; and proceed by finding placements/positions between photocopier and myself, notably when feeding copies back into the paper tray]
  5. Blocking out (two photocopies)
    [tracing, and failing to do so, the translucency of my sketchbook: the photographic unit of the photocopier returns 100% opacity, no see through at all]
  6. Add and erase (three photocopies of one amended collage are altered with Tippex pen, then photocopied; one of the originally altered Tippex, and double-sided, collage is held against a glass and photographed)
    [following an invitation to participants in a study day to amend, alter a collage, I proceed by investigating what were originally mine, what others’ marks by taking away marks with a Tippex pen, only to find that the pen adds new marks, which show against the light but not through the photocopier.]
  7. The ringbinder concludes with a clear copy of ‘how to copy’ followed by a photograph of a found printer, broken, on the kerbside


The Manual is presented in a clear ringbinder with cover image (only denoting title and a document identification number, of an earlier journal article of mine, to give ownership and shift register, into the academic institutional space in which this is originates and is re-inserted into). Each sheet is a photocopy of the ‘originals’ as above and inserted into a polypocket for protection. The ringbinder format mimicks instruction manuals as well as allowing for amendments and additions. The backcover of the binder is a copy of a photograph which is taken of the 3 Indexical tracing performance while the photocopy unit produces a copy from the other direction.

With this format, identical copies of the ringbinder are placed next to the two main photocopiers of the office space, without any further explanation. As such, it becomes part of the Corridor Placement series that has been ongoing since September last year.

The following video shows the content of the ringbinder:


Alongside this assignment submission entry, the following blog posts are relevant:

The category preparatory work (a2) collates all preparatory work

The contextual influences for this work are notably

  • Copy Art/ Xerox Art (see post here)
  • There is a continuation of the theme of office spaces and office equipment going on
  • The role of performance in this work?
  • The parallel project as well as a first outline of the critical review also present contextual references for this work (see respective categories on the main menu, left hand side)

A reflection on the assessment criteria is in this post here.


Various issues to consider for further discussion/development.

  • I photocopy the whole set of ‘originals’ once through the C5240i; which means, they have been exposed all at least once under the same photographic unit.
  • With the participatory performance, I keep losing track around what constitutes original, what copy, and with which I should proceed. It is interesting and replays the issue about ownership. I end up with a complex set up on a large table to keep track of the relevant copies.
  • There are two Canon colour printer models in the department, I copy one set on one printer, then proceed to the other and find it copies somewhat darker. This points towards a number of variables and parameters that I have not investigated yet.
  • I decide to also feed the colour photographs (printed on the same printer) back through the photocopier (rather than printing them anew for each binder), it seems important to have the final set of sheets all having been through the photocopier process as such; is this good enough reason?


The task for this assignment consists of producing a drawing, or series of drawings which use the object of the drawing as drawing tool, i.e. a looking, referring back of object to method.