2014/2015 Brief 01 – The Minimum Number of Lines – Notational Systems

Notational Systems are codified graphic systems used to describe the world. Examples include, the alphabet – a system of graphic signs that transcribes speech, itself a codification of oral sounds physiologically produced, into a repeatable form. Another well known is example is musical notation, a system that transcribes musical sounds into a kind of language that allows for its reproduction.

One with which we are especially familiar is the system of lines, symbols, fills and protocols [plans, sections & elevations] which we use to describe, in it’s physical absence, architecture. All of these are codified systems, which are representational, and as such, they can only approximate reality.

In the gap between representation and reality, there is much room for interpretation. For example, as any actor will tell you, the written word can be spoken in an infinite number of ways. Similar a musical score can have endless interpretations and architects will constantly complain about how clients, planners and contractors misinterpret their drawings.

However, there are also two other important considerations. One is that the relationship between notational systems and the reality they seek to capture is arbitrary. For example there is no intrinsic relationship between the letter “a” and the sound it represents. The second is that established systems tend to be deterministic. Language notational systems encourage, in turn, particular grammatical structures, such as sentences, punctuation, and forms of narrative which do not necessarily correspond to speech. Musical systems promote particular harmonic systems that favour tonality. And architectural drawings suggest a diagrammatic reality that focuses on organisation, constructional technique and the visual.

Architectural drawing tells us little about social patterns of occupation and events and nothing about other sensory experiences such as sound, smell or touch, all of which are important parts of environmental experience.

There are many examples of artists in different fields who have tried to overcome what they have seen as the deterministic characteristics of notational systems. Examples include James Joyce’s invented language in Finnigan’s Wake and the new, open-ended music notations of John Cage, Morton Feldman and Cornelius Cardew, to create entirely new experiences in literature and music. Figures such as these act as our guides.

Part 1

You’ll need a copy of the I Ching. There will be a short demonstration. Using the I Ching as an oracle, devise a series of questions that will allow you to develop a notational system of 25 characters. Using the I Ching, randomly select 3-5 media in which to work; for instance – wax crayon, Rotring pen paint, pencil,Polyfilla, computer programmes, dirt or anything else you can think of.

Ask the I Ching what to do next. How you do this is up to you, but for instance, you might assign values in different categories to the 64 hexagrams. For example, in respect of drawn lines, you might think of types of line or objects [straight, wiggly, scribble, heavy, light, long, short, pencil, ink, paint, geometric, free-hand, vertical, horizontal, angled, colour, doodle, drawing done with eyes open or closed etc].

In another set of questions you might assign categories such as line, shape, found object or image, scale, number of times whatever it is occurs, ordered or random and so on.

Another example might be type of backdrop [size, shape, blank, coloured, found image, newspaper page, book, smooth paper, crumpled or folded paper, or three dimensional surface] or position and length or size of mark/object/image/shape on the backdrop.

In some instances you might assign 64 values in correspondence with the 64 hexagrams. In others, you might only assign 8 values in correspondence with the 8 trigrams, or your moves might be developed into compound moves determined by the combinations of each set of 2 trigrams found in each hexagram.

Simpler binary outcomes might be determined based on whether the resultant trigrams constitute an odd number or an even number, or whether there are more or less broken and unbroken lines.

When, in obtaining your outcomes through the tossing of coins, you get changing lines, this might become a determining element in the way you make the drawings, images or objects. For example, the transformation from one hexagram to another might constitute an instruction, or the positions of the changing lines might be assigned determining factors.

The values you assign may, or may not, be related to the titles, associated values [see the structure of the hexagrams in Book II of the I Ching] or associated texts of the hexagrams. On the other hand, they might be completely random or related to something else entirely [e.g. the titles of the first eight books on the third shelf on your bookshelf, what you have eaten in your last 64 meals, the current league table for the Estonian football league]. Perhaps you should ask the I Ching how you should approach each of your categories.

All of the above are just suggestions. How you do it is entirely up to you. We are of course interested in what the notations will be like, but perhaps more importantly at this stage, is how you develop a methodology of chance operations through interpretation of the I Ching. We will be asking you about this so perhaps it would be wise to list your categories, make a table, or have some form of recording your process as it develops.

As far as possible we would like you to avoid making preconceived personal judgments on the work. We don’t want you to be doing something because you think it is better or nicer or more beautiful than something else. All of your work will be beautiful and ugly, good and bad, interesting and boring, succeeding and failing, all at the same time.

We want you to enjoy it, be bored by it, understand it, not understand it, love it and hate it, all at the same time.

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