Sonja Briski Uzelac: Softness as a dispositive in the mode of visual production, 2019

Softness as a dispositive in the mode of visual production

Sonja Briski Uzelac


There is no sky for concepts. They must be invented, made, or more precisely created (and would be nothing without the signatures of those who create them).

Gilles Deleuze, What is philosophy

Many words, terms and concepts are difficult to define due to their multidiscursivity, diffusion and circularity and their complex relationships. This is especially true within intentionalism, which is not interested in "purely" aesthetic or artistic-historical properties, attitudes, and concepts. The contemporary methodological and epistemological shift from a disciplinary analysis of the hegemony of historical universality to metadisciplinary research into the genealogy of spatial "scattering" leads to the localization of approaches and themes that reveal "local archives" that store individual and social practices, institutions and discourses. Such frameworks of dispositional intentionalism inevitably include the position of the experiential subject because space is not some a priori and homogeneous, complete and clearly demarcated entity that would exclude a heterogeneous view. This view, of course, is not merely informative, it is constitutive and therefore its dispositional certainty is crucial for experience and concepts that unite perceptual, sensory and material features in the mode of production. In this spirit, it seeks to actualize and develop the term and concept of softness in the expanded field of artistic production (which is here phenomenologically and paradigmatically associated with textile art), and focus and contextualize it in the field of contemporary visual practices.

The etymology of the word itself speaks softly, as an adjective, of one "who is soft, light" or one "who is not too strong, bright colors", of course, as opposed to "one who is strong, firm, hard" ( hard). In different linguistic and semantic combinations, in different professional and cultural fields, for example from modern new technology to music and film, the sign soft always indicates a certain openness of the software "operating system" which is still integrated and systemic, or is "softer". in other words, based on a more sensory “arrangement” of production that contextually “localizes” the concept. Contrary to the "strong" modernist paradigm of the masculine approach as an epochal generalization of the mode of aesthetic production ("formation", "style", "movement"), it stands out, already historically within the same (modernist) paradigm, as a specificum of means or complex (even "Tangled") the internal economy of the mode of production itself, which we denote by the term softness,

As a concept of "framing" (Gestell or setting, in Heidegger's sense) it refers to a set of sensory peculiarities, but not so much in terms of "establishment" (herstellen) as in terms of "exposure" (darstellen) of one's own phenomenology which allows what the representation emerges from secrecy and becomes relationally or contextually visible.

This concept of the mode of artistic production in a substantially vague way retains for itself a special rhetorical privilege, we might say, thus losing its ontological support, but gaining a constitutive relationship with the production of positions of locality in the dramatically delocalized visual world of modernity. This privilege manifests itself as a complex phenomenological feature that perceptually arises in the construct of a series of connections and relationships between encounters of different views and media, technologies of interactivity and relativity of context, archives of visual memory and new approaches. Such encounters imply specific conceptual and material forms of connection between the discovery and sensitivity to the place (locus) of a new individual / social closeness in the processes by which the phenomenology of locality is produced. However, also, only a slight emphasis on the dimensional aspect of locality through the use of various opposing tropes (small and large, then and now, before and after, limited and unlimited, solid and fluid or soft and hard) can remain just a model, like a shell, if it does not contain a critical relationship with the situation itself that invokes its otherness.

Therefore, when we emphasize the shift from the mode of artistic production that aestheticizes its perception by evoking in it the "beauty of self-exposure", "sublime influence" or "instructive power", it is actually a shift from a passive, receptive approach to the mode of "artistic" production as "mere means ”of symbolization, both representation and presentation, of course, with all its social and technical relations. It is, therefore, a transition to the "parallel work" of constant production of differences, the conceptualization of art creation as the production of the mode of production itself, as "dispositional theses" for its modalities that shape a new reflexive, sensory or pragmatic sensibility. These are also ad hoc policies and positions of action or identification with the process of creation, with, of course, very specific (hybrid) forms of visualization and simultaneity of contingent connections (archives, context, exchange, mobility, fluidity, multilayered, fragmentary, event).

The concept of softness as a "sustainable" theoretical framework of the postconceptual mode of artistic production thus creates new patterns of action for new practices in the "dynamic field of meaning." They "soften" it in joints and boundaries, make visible its "other side", the one behind the initial visual situation and in the "excess of the imaginary" create the event of the "other beginning".


Photo: Ive Trojanović

* The text is part of the research work on the project: BoSA - Briefing On Soft Arts / BoSA - according to the questioning of soft arts, cimo, 2019, and was published in the publication on the occasion of Dino Zrnec's exhibition: zrenez zernez zernetz, Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, Zagreb 2019

* The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and the City Office for Culture, Education and Sports of the City of Zagreb, for 2019.

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