a beginner's guide to quantal strife

of 84 /84

Upload: marc-ngui

Post on 11-Apr-2015




1 download

Embed Size (px)


Based on the Exhibition Quantal Strife this guide presents entry level conversations about contemporary art.Art is an invitation. Art is for everyone. If you like art, video games, brain teasers, graphic novels, zines and thinking about how the world works, this is a contemporary art show for you.Scott Carruthers draws... and draws, and draws. Working fast to bypass moments of self-censorship, he fills the walls with immersive, potent iconography.Crystal Mowry is creating her own miniature version of the gardens of Versailles. A small camera travels through the installation, broadcasting the hypothetical point of view of tiny people, riding in a tiny carriage, through this fabrication of a fabricated landscape. Marc Ngui, known primarily for his work as a graphic novelist, has been making drawings based on concepts in the hefty theoretical tome A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. All the works in this show are signposts to a thought process, a body of knowledge, or a frame of reference. This book is an invitation to explore the private and public mechanisms we all use to discover meaning in the world.


Page 1: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife







��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� �������








ISBN 0-7727-5401-2

Page 2: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

© Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 2006

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

McKay, Sally. A beginner’s guide to quantal strife: oscillating dichotomies, cognitive assemblages and the multivalent nature of communication when people look at it: but without all the big words. Essay by Sally McKay; round table between the curator, Sally McKay, and the artists, Scott Carruthers, Crystal Mowry and Marc Ngui. Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Jan. 19-Mar. 5, 2006.

ISBN 0-7727-5401-2

1. Art, Canadian--21st century--Exhibitions. 2. Carruthers, Scott,1961- --Exhibitions. 3. Mowry, Crystal, 1977- --Exhibitions. 4. Ngui, Marc, 1972- --Exhibitions.

I. Carruthers, Scott, 1961- II. Mowry, Crystal, 1977- III. Ngui, Marc, 1972- IV. Doris McCarthy Gallery V. Title.

N6545.6.M325 2006 709’.71’074713541 C2006-900072-7

Designers: Sally McKay and Marc NguiIllustrations: Marc NguiCopy Editor Alana WilcoxDirector/Curator: Ann MacDonaldCuratorial Assistant: Erin PeckPrinter: Kromar Printing Ltd.

Page 3: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

QuantalA Beginner’s Guide to

Page 4: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 5: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 6: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 7: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

Table of Contents

Introduction by Ann MacDonald, Director/Curator Doris McCarthy Gallery UTSC 7

Quantal Strife by Sally McKay, illustrations by Marc Ngui 8-46

Scott Carruthers, Out Of Time Or Out of Space? 17 Crystal Mowry, Ongoing Ideal Forms (After Versailles) 27 Marc Ngui, A Thousand Plateaus Drawings 37

Round Table with Scott Carruthers, Sally McKay, Crystal Mowry, and Marc Ngui 48-75

Alfred Jarry 50 Sir Thomas Phillips 52 Marx and Freud 55 Google’s Information Network 57 Milstein Hall of Ocean Life 58 Aerial Points of View 60 Tao Te Ching 62 Rabbit Diorama by Walter Potter 64 Sharpie 65 Marc, can you walk us through one of your diagrams? 66 Crystal, why did you pick Versailles? 70 Scott, why do you do so many drawings? 74

Artists’ Bios 76

Acknowledgements 80

Page 8: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Page 9: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Introductionby Ann MacDonald, Director/CuratorDoris McCarthy Gallery

The Doris McCarthy Gallery is pleased to present the Quantal Strife exhibition and accompanying catalogue. Sally McKay, Scott Carruthers, Crystal Mowry and Marc Ngui have embarked upon a collaboration that reveals a shared commit-ment to the value of intellectual curiosity and sense of wonder. Their investiga-tions open up a world of enquiry that is ardently shared with the reader/viewer in an invitational manner that encourages the ongoing quest to seek and create meaning.

Sally McKay’s essay introduces and translates complex ideas into a readable voyage, offering theory as adventurous discovery after discovery. The round table discussion, where the participating artists were asked to bring in a person, place and thing, and to answer a simple question about their work, paradoxically both demythologizes the artworks and opens new realms to marvel about, evoking un-limited considerations. The exercise serves as a generous acknowledgment of the inherent reciprocity involved in making and in viewing art. Elemental to this book are Sally McKay and Marc Ngui’s collaborative and insightful design and Marc Ngui’s thoughtful illustrations.

The exhibition itself is intertwined with the ideas discussed in this book and offers intense visual satisfaction in many forms: Carruthers’s unstoppable images — each embedded with an imperative sense of uncensored honesty and immedia-cy, Mowry’s skillfully-crafted version of Versailles — a multi-layered investigation of memory, ornament, and shifts in perspective, and Ngui’s graceful and sweeping schematics that develop new visual thoughts based on a text that is described by many as ungraspable

I am grateful to the curator and to each of the artists for their dedication to their productive obsessions and for sharing their fluid ability to move between inner and outer worlds.

Page 10: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Quantal Strifeby Sally McKay, with illustrations by Marc Ngui

Art is like people. Ever found yourself attracted to someone you think is ugly? Or compelled to interact with the person who gets on your nerves the most? Ever look up in a crowded room and meet a stranger’s eyes, knowing that you’re sharing something in that moment but never really understanding what it is? Of course, art and people can be predictable: a kind friend can give you comfort, and a cold-hearted enemy can do you wrong. But it’s the more complicated relationships — the ones that make us feel like there is something else we need to say, or something else that can’t be said — that keep us coming back for more.

All three of the artists showing in Quantal Strife have complicated relationships with their work. Scott Carruthers attempts to bypass his own consciousness, dumping hundreds and hundreds of images from the nether regions of his mind out into the external world where he must then contend with them. Crystal Mowry’s project is a personal recreation of a very famous place that she has never seen. Marc Ngui shows a work in progress, a series of drawings designed to help him understand a complex philosophy book. All of these works are investigations, the projects are ongoing, and the art itself is the by-product of a larger quest. Like an interesting new friend with hidden depths, the art in Quantal Strife is an invitation.

Looking at art happens in a public context, but it is very personal. The active ingredient of any art experience is the viewer’s mind. Without interested people, nothing interesting happens: paintings sit on walls, sculptures inhabit

Page 11: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


three dimensions, video screens spit photons into an empty room. In a very real way, art is the ideas in the minds of the people who see it. Luckily, people are good at sharing ideas, and so we have a cultural context, developed over history, that lends meaning to everything we do; from playing video games to studying philosophy to cooking noodles for dinner and shopping for shoes. The images of fashion, religion, television, product design, textbook illustrations, newspapers, birthday cards, and websites all combine into a shared language that is nuanced and historical. This context of daily life is the same context that art comes from, making everyone, regardless of education, a qualified, expert art viewer.

Art is different from most other fields of study because, unlike biology or engineering, it is possible to be an artist without any training whatsoever.

Page 12: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Nonetheless, there are a lot of rigorous theoretical and historical studies of art available to us if we choose to turn to them. Most art can be appreciated on many levels without much background information, but sometimes the background helps us find new mental connections that we wouldn’t otherwise make. Some people go to school for years and years to study art theory, some people pick up what they need from books and websites, some people ask questions of friends and colleagues. Sometimes art gallery staff can provide bits of knowledge that add to the experience of an art show; sometimes there are publications — like this book. The purpose of all this information is not to explain the art or nail it down to any one meaning but rather to add more ingredients to the mental stew.

Why is this show called Quantal Strife? We chose the term “quantal” because all of the artworks involve two or more ways of seeing the world at the same time. According to the Collins English dictionary, “quantal” means “something that is capable of existing in only one of two states.” It is related to “quantum” which means a very small quantity, such as an elementary particle. One of the key ideas of quantum physics is that as we attempt to determine and measure reality, we see that mutually exclusive states must both exist at the same time. This acceptance of conflicting realities is something that contemporary art and quantum physics have in common. Each of the artists in the exhibition is striving to grasp a breadth of information that is probably impossible to fully communicate. Each of the projects fails and succeeds at the same time. Scott Carruthers is attempting to draw everything, to somehow encapsulate all knowledge. Crystal Mowry is trying to physically manifest an impression of a historically loaded tourist destination. Marc Ngui is trying to make a visual version of a multi-layered text. Each of the artists is consciously pushing the relationship between personal knowledge and shared cultural information. The conflict between internal and external states remains unresolved and it is this strife that gives the work its tension. Carruthers

Page 13: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


could never actually draw everything, but his installations propose the possibility. Mowry cannot deliver a full perception in material form, but she can try. Ngui cannot produce a visual image of a theory of nonlinearity, but he can make a close analogy using diagrams and symbols. All of the artworks are simply signposts to the mental processes that they ignite.

The strange conflicts in quantum physics are specific to the location and momentum of particles, and so we should be careful not to make too many philosophical connections, but the ideas do feel familiar to contemporary daily life, especially in culturally diverse environments such as cities and universities where people of all backgrounds find ways to interrelate. We proceed with respect, knowing that we cannot climb inside each other’s minds to share a point of view, but when we all acknowledge that we don’t know everything, we can begin to open up and share a lot with one another. This frame of reference, the turning away from the authority of absolute truth in favour of a more open-ended process, also occurs in art theory.

Postmodernism is a difficult phrase that few people really understand. It is useful, however, as a catch-all for some cultural shifts that have been happening throughout the 20th century. If you could rip art out of its context and jam it in a

Page 14: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


nutshell, an over-simplified version of recent Western art history would look something like this: Modernism was the evolution of a formal language for art, separate from daily life. In some contexts, this is seen as freeing. Artists at the end of the 19th century started allowing gestures into their paintings, letting the paint itself and the energy of the brush strokes carry some of the meaning, rather than leaving it to the narrative content of the picture. Abstraction developed further until recognizable pictures were no longer necessary at all; the meaning was embedded in the shape, colour, line, and presence of the work. Eventually, even the material of the art was discarded in favour of the idea. This was the beginning of conceptual art. With this new focus on the idea, the viewer suddenly became a key

Page 15: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


player whose own thoughts and preconceptions would necessarily contribute to the meaning of the work. Since there are as many different minds as there are different people, we must accept that the experience of art will be somewhat different every time. In this model, the meaning emerges from the complex cultural contexts that people bring to the work rather than emanating from the inert object itself; this shift is sometimes called postmodernism.

We see this postmodern shift not just in all the arts but also in many other areas of our culture in the form of open-source technology, knowledge sharing, and community-initiated projects, for instance. But for all this communal cultural activity, each of us can still feel like an isolated individual, locked inside the private world of our own mind. Throughout history, artists and philosophers have struggled to define the dynamics between the interior world and the exterior world. Artists often wonder “Does my work need to be recognized by the external world in order to be art?” Philosophers often wonder “Can we be sure that the external world exists at all?”

In recent years, the study of consciousness has become quite popular due to technological and economic interests in artificial intelligence.

Page 16: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Understanding the human mind might help us understand computers, and vice versa. In the old days, common sense dictated that the mind, so different from matter in every way, must exist on a separate, special plane. Now, philosophers and scientists pretty much agree that the mind is a functional aspect of the material brain. Various patterns of brain activity directly correlate with various feelings and experiences; but the relationships are not one-to-one, nor are they entirely predictable. As the brain is mapped in greater and greater detail, consciousness is revealed to be more and more complex. As in other fields, linearity breaks down in favour of multi-layered networks.

Page 17: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Philosophers and neurologists use the term “the explanatory gap,” which means that no matter how much we understand the function of the brain, we can never see inside another person’s mind. You and I may agree that cherries are red, but we can never prove conclusively that what you see as red is the same as what I see. Through language, myth, and communication, we negotiate the meaning of the world together. Art gives us the opportunity to pry into the mechanics of meaning.

All three of the artists in this show are exploring the relationships between language and thought. Art provides a rich territory for this sort of investigation, because visual languages can do things that written languages cannot. When we

read a text, our eye travels from left to right, and we can only absorb the information over time. But when we look at an image, we take it all in at once, and the data hits the rhizome of our brain in a single download. Then our synapses go to work, firing all over the place, and we see an open-ended myriad of connections — strange, sur-prising and infinite.

Meeting the complex challenges of a human relationship opens new territories for us to explore within ourselves. The meanings of artworks are as different as the people who make them and the people who see them. Unlike mass media, which is hampered by the need to communicate broadly, art can be surprising, challenging and reciprocal in very intimate ways. The artwork in Quantal Strife may not be easy, but it is friendly. The complexity is an invitation to explore your own private and public mechanisms for creating and discovering meaning in the world.

Page 18: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Page 19: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Scott Carruthers’s installation Out of Time Or Out of Space? may be disturbing to some people. As with most of his installations, he crams the walls with graphi-cally potent icons and pop-culture dystopias, offering too much to see at once; the effect is overwhelming. The images are private, like our own strange thoughts and nightmares, but culturally familiar at the same time, like extreme graphics from comic books and video games. Temples crumble while naked hordes stand expres-sionless in the public square. A pair of bloody dismembered forearms types at a keyboard, giant eggs drop from the sky and crush a city, a werewolf in restraints reads the morning paper, a baby growing a five o’clock shadow floats like a balloon on the end of his umbilical cord — each image is individual and unique, but there is a sense that the collection depicts a shared body of knowledge, almost as if Carruthers were channelling our collective unconscious.

Scott Carruthers, Out Of Time Or Out Of Space? (detail), black marker on transparent mylar, 2006

Page 20: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 21: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


One writer, Von Bark, said this about his work: “Carruthers re-creates the fragile first moments when language choked out of us, from when we first came together from disparate hunter-gatherer tribes to form organized hierarchical societies, from when we first experienced confidence and delight with the new technologies with which we could more efficiently exploit each other. Scott Carruthers evokes the age we live in now.”

- excerpt from Von Bark’s essay for Scott Carruthers’s exhibition, Beyond The Scope, shown at TRUCK Gallery, Calgary, 2005

So, where do these images come from? The process is frenetic: Carruthers draws scene after scene, fast and furiously, on sheets of Mylar with indelible markers. For consistency he only uses one kind of marker, the medium Sharpie, and tries to get as many different marks and lines as he can out of the single-sized tip. He draws quickly to conjure up images from deep in his own brain before the self-censoring parts of his consciousness can stop them. Flow is everything. He explains, “I’m always striving to come up with a different image each time, and that’s a challenge. Sometimes a drawing will look familiar so I’ll erase it. Of course, sometimes they do repeat. I’ll realize later that I did the same drawing three years ago. It’s an impossible task, a bit like a game.”

Here is an artist, influenced by both Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx (see Round Table Discussion, pg. 55), who is intentionally tricking his brain into cough-ing up deep personal imagery, then applying his learned manual skills and shared cultural knowledge to render those images in pictures that the rest of us out here in the external world can relate to. Daniel C. Dennet, philosopher of conscious-ness, might be very interested in this project: Dennet believes that consciousness is a multi-layered continuum, that the mind is constantly spinning multiple ver-sions of our experience. Our memories draw and redraw connections, allowing narrative threads to emerge and then to continue to change as memories fade, and suggestions, fictions, and dreams combine into the “official” life story as it accumulates.

There are earlier 20th-century artists whose work relates to Carruthers. The painter Philip Guston springs to mind because of his thick, black, energetic lines

Scott Carruthers, Out Of Time Or Out Of Space? (detail)

Page 22: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 23: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 24: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 25: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 26: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


and dark, personal subject matter. You could also look to the American painter Leon Golub, who depicted images of violence from mass media in a personal and aggressive painterly style. But the real artistic friends and relations are video games. Although Carruthers’s drawings are technically static, the effect of looking at them is immersive, disorienting, and dynamic. Carruthers makes us dizzy on purpose, intentionally creating a physical experience of vertigo for the viewer. Be-cause the drawings literally fill up the room, and because each little frame has such potent narrative impact, we have to navigate them, as in a video game, charting our own path through the imagery. Unlike a video game, however, which usually follows a linear narrative, this experience is open-ended. No two people will make the same set of connections or link the images into the same story.

Above and preceding pages 20-23: Scott Carruthers, Out Of Time Or Out Of Space? (details)

Right: Scott Carruthers, The Dangers of Time Travel (installation view), black marker on foam core panels. Solo exhibition, Katharine Mulherin Gallery, Toronto, 2002

Photo by Peter MacCallum

Page 27: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Page 28: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Scott Carruthers, All At Once (installation view), black marker on transparent mylar.Solo exhibition, Hamilton Artist’s Inc.,Hamilton, 2004

Carruthers’s artwork is satisfying as pure entertainment and as social com-mentary, documenting the oppression, violence, despair, humiliation, and humour of our world in a recognizable way. The installation is also a physical experience, more interactive than most artworks, despite the fact that there are no moving parts. Conceptually, Carruthers’s mesh of potent, activated nodes is a model of the human brain itself.

For more on Scott Carruthers’s work in his own words, turn to page 74 in the Round Table section of this book.

Scott Carruthers, Beyond The Scope (installation view), black marker on transparent mylar.Solo exhibition, TRUCK gallery, Calgary, 2005

Page 29: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Crystal Mowry models information the way some people sculpt with clay. She is making her own model of the Gardens of Versailles, titled Ongoing Ideal Forms (After Versailles). Mowry has never been to Versailles, but that doesn’t hold her back. In fact, it’s the point.

The gigantic palace at Versailles is a symbol of power and decadence, of the extreme disassociation between the ruling class and the people that eventually erupted into the French Revolution. Hundreds of acres in size, the gardens show na-ture tamed and cultivated with abstracted, ornamental designs: a hedge-trimmer’s paradise. Rife with historical significance and a legacy of subjugation, it is a world famous tourist destination that still has the power to strike awe in its visitors.

Crystal Mowry, Ongoing Ideal Forms (After Versailles) (detail from work in progress), foam, flocking, sponges, sand, paint, plaster, toothpicks, soil, spices, dried plants, resin, plastic, glue, model

railroad track, wireless camera, and miscellaneous electronic and motorized components. Dimensions variable, 2006

Page 30: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 31: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


How would you model the Gardens of Versailles? An obvious method would be to start with a map or aerial view, make a scale grid and then block it in. Mowry’s process, however, is completely different. She does not use overviews, but instead starts with various clippings and magazine photographs, mostly shot at an angle, slightly from above, or at head height. She makes a corresponding floor panel for each image to represent the visual information that she chooses to include. Using hobbyists’s modelling materials, she fashions tiny trees and hedges and arranges them in ornate patterns. The scale of each panel is different, and so is the point of view. Mowry’s Versailles will be somewhat different every time it is installed, as the panels can be assembled in any configuration. A low, tiny camera circles the di-orama, broadcasting to a nearby monitor the view you would see of Mowry’s strange gardens if you were a very small aristocrat, riding in a very small carriage.

Mowry’s point of view is partly influenced by taking road trips as a child with her family. Imagine a thoughtful child gazing out the window as unknown land-scapes zip past her eyes. Her mind is free to wander as she watches, but beyond her imagination there is little chance to grapple with the meanings of the places as they pass. In one sense, this detachment remains in Mowry’s work. After all, she has never been to Versailles! It’s the idea of Versailles, the cultural construc-tion, that engages her imagination. To engage us as well, Mowry shows us many steps between the original gardens and her gardens. The point of view includes a concept of the garden itself, the camera that photographed the source image, the photograph published in a magazine, Mowry’s eye looking at that image, her concept of the garden, her hand applying her modelling craft, the physical model she created, the tiny camera that spins around that model, and the image it broad-casts to the screen. Unlike the child in the car, Mowry’s adult investigations are fully engaged: researching, reading, looking hard at images and gathering content as she goes.

Essential to Mowry’s point of view is the investigation of scale and the role of miniaturization. In her MFA thesis, Mowry wrote

“...I want to evoke Wonder for the visitors, but also to demarcate it from Awe. Awe, as I have come to understand it, is inertial understanding. It permits speechlessness, but more importantly cognitive miserliness.

Crystal Mowry, Ongoing Ideal Forms (After Versailles) (detail from work in progress)

Page 32: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 33: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 34: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 35: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 36: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Wonder, though it may be instigated by similar stimuli and have the same sensory effects as Awe, might be thought of as a state of falling into. When in a state of Wonder I may be speechless, but only because I am too busy thinking about what was beyond immediate understanding for Awe. Wonder neither rests at the surface nor refrains from criticality.”

Mowry is a rigorous thinker and her artwork is complex. There are many fascinat-ing writers whose works relate to her projects, and a few of them, coincidentally, have names that start with B: Jean Baudrillard, who wrote on simulacra — mean-ing constructed ideas or things that stand in for original ideas or things, some-times obscuring them; Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote a story in which a country set out to make a map in such elaborate detail that the scale grew until the map itself physically obliterated the country it was designed to describe; Roland Barthes, who explored in poetic detail the ways that our minds use myths to process; and Gaston Bachelard, philosopher of science, who decided that poetic thought was essential to scientific discovery and who valued poetic imagery as another kind

Above and preceding pages 30-33: Crystal Mowry, Ongoing Ideal Forms (After Versailles) (details and screen shots from work in progress)

Right: Crystal Mowry, The Airport Imagined (After LAX) (detail), paper, acetate, reclaimed packaging, balsa wood, styrofoam, glue and pins. Dimensions variable.

Exhibited at the ODD Gallery, Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Dawson City, YK, 2005

Page 37: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 38: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Crystal Mowry, Inverted, Shrunken, and Reorganized (after the parking lot at West Edmonton Mall) (installa-tion view), 20, 000 hand cut pieces of paper (each approx. 1” x .5”), and tape. Dimensions variable. Exhibited at the ODD Gallery, Klon-dike Institute of Art and Culture, Dawson City, 2005

of understanding, one that involved letting go of literal knowledge in favour of something more instantaneous and transcendent. Another influence is the femi-nist art critic Lucy Lippard, with whom Mowry shares an analytical understanding of the political implications of imagery. Both are skeptical about big spectacle.

Unlike the original Gardens of Versailles, Crystal Mowry’s installation is not designed to overwhelm and belittle us. Instead, it is an open invitation to let the mind speculate and roam, to flex the brain itself a little and see what brilliance might result.

For more on Crystal Mowry’s work in her own words, turn to page 70 in the Round Table section of this book.

Crystal Mowry, Sprawl, (detail: map of Eastern Massachusetts),polystyrene, Sharpie markers, pins. Dimensions variable. Exhibited at String Gallery, Toronto, 2004

Page 39: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Marc Ngui is skilled at compressing basketloads of data into his images. Though multi-talented, he is primarily a graphic novelist, diagram expert, and comic artist. (He drew all the cartoons and diagrams in this book and collaborated on the overall design.) He has created many characters, including Lordie Jones, the boy with a pig living in his ass; Boy Ugly, a cheerful round guy who is battling globalization; and Baby, an existential creature who speaks in rhyme.

Ngui’s ambitious project, A Thousand Plateaus Drawings, is a work in prog-ress. He has been reading one of the most challenging books of postmodern theory, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix

Marc Ngui, intro-paragraph 26 (detail), drawing from the text of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari)

coloured pen on paper, 14”x17”, 2006

Page 40: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 41: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Guattari. Ngui has been making schematic diagrams as he reads in order to help him understand the text. At the time of writing, Ngui has completed approxi-mately fifty drawings, which takes him to page 36 of this 600-page book. It may seem like he hasn’t gotten very far, but, like the book, each drawing is multi-lev-elled and conceptually complex.

A Thousand Plateaus begins with the concept of the “rhizome.” This is another key phrase in postmodernism, and it plays directly into many aspects of contempo-rary life. The term comes from biology, where it means a root system or a network that is laterally connected. Think of a web, or mesh, or any other structure that has many interconnected nodes, and you are picturing a rhizome. The internet is a rhizome. Deleuze and Guattari wrote this book as if it were a rhizome as well.

“In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentar-ity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deter-ritorialization and destratification. Comparative rates of flow on these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or, on the contrary, of acceleration and rupture. All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage.”

- Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of Minnesota Press,

Minneapolis, MN, 1987, pgs. 3–4

The writing is full of paradox and it references a wide range of cultural sources. It is rewarding, but daunting. There is a lot of text, and each sentence requires all of

your attention. Luckily, Marc Ngui is not afraid of paradox, and he is a patient man. Rather than rushing to finish the task, he is digesting, ex-ploring, and thinking, giving each paragraph as much time as it takes before he is ready to move on. Why hurry on to something new if the place you are in seems to offer endless possibilities?

Marc Ngui, intro-paragraph 25, drawing from the text of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Page 42: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 43: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 44: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

Preceding pages 40-41: Marc Ngui, intro-paragraph 16, drawing from the text of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Below: 1914-paragraph 14

Right: 1914-paragraph 15 (detail)

Page 45: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 46: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


The drawings were initially done as a tool for understanding. Now that they are in a gallery, there are many nested ways to read the work. You can literally de-cipher each drawing as it relates to the ideas in the original text; this will introduce the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari, and it will also make you somewhat aware of the shape of Ngui’s internal world. Each of us would draw these paragraphs differently, according to our own internal lexicon of imagery. By following an art map like this one we get a hint of how another person’s thoughts are structured. Just as Crystal Mowry’s version of the Gardens of Versailles is a new creation, Ngui’s drawings are

Above: Marc Ngui, legend for drawings from the text of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Right: Marc Ngui and Magda Wojtyra, Love, Peace and Unity: Typical Robot Landscapes, Soft sculpture

and digital print installation, 30”x30”. Digifest, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, 2004 inset top row: front view of installation and detail of interior

inset second row: detail of interior, background: detail of drawing

Page 47: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 48: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Marc Ngui, Velo-city (detail), digital collage, 22” x 9”Published in Spacing Magazine, 2005

not so much illustrations of the text as they are a new instance of ideas, and they have an internal coherence that doesn’t necessarily require the source text to back it up. Ngui provides a legend to explain his symbols, but the viewer may choose to forego a literal reading and simply gaze at the pictures to see if they spark any new shapes, associations, or conceptual trajectories. While Deleuze and Guattari ask us to see their book as a web of connections, Ngui’s drawings may achieve that goal better than the text itself. Each drawing only represents a small piece of the whole picture, but the overall structure may be embodied in the parts.

The explanatory gap in philosophy dictates that we can never really know what is inside another person’s mind. In this project, however, Ngui works with the words of Deleuze and Guattari to give us a hypothetical model for the shape of the human mind. While neurologists plot out the physiological networks of the brain, artists like Ngui (as well as Carruthers and Mowry) study and model the shape of thinking. Personal stories and images mingle with cultural knowledge and shared iconography to hint at underlying psychic structures, too complex and multi-dimensional to pin down, but exciting to explore.

For more on Marc Ngui’s work in his own words, turn to page 66 in the Round Table section of this book.

Marc Ngui, Enter Avariz, 112 page graphic novel, published by Conundrum Press, Montreal, 2000-2003

Page 49: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Page 50: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Round Table

The following pages are excerpts from a round-table discussion held by the artists showing in Quantal Strife and moderated by Sally McKay. The discussion began with a show and tell for which each artist was asked to bring a person, place, and thing. Then the artists answered simple questions about their work.

Page 51: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 52: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Marc: The person I chose is that Alfred Jarry dude. He was a French writer at the turn of the century. These three books, Exploits & Opinions of Dr. Faustroll Pataphysi-cian, The Banquet Years, and Alfred Jarry, The Man With The Axe really got me thinking. He’s a very eccen-tric character: he spent a lot of time in brothels and he spoke like a robot all the time. Eventually, he drank himself to death. And he invented the character of Pere Ubu when he was in high school! I think he’s an early in-stance of Monty Python–type sat-ire, over-the-top and ridiculous stuff. He influenced the Dadaists and the Surrealists.

Scott: I read a comics biography of him, and he seemed to believe in what he was doing.

Marc: He came up with this thing called pataphysics, which is the science of imaginary solu-tions. It’s brain-bending surreal-

ism. For example, in this book, Doc-tor Faustroll gets evicted from his

house, and he sets sail on a golden sieve through the streets of

Paris trying to avoid the bailiff. There’s a baboon named Ass-

Face (that’s Bosse-de-Nage in French) who rides with him.

The imagery is wonderfully psychedelic; it’s all bright

and colourful and shim-mery and strange, and

nouns are verbs and verbs are nouns.

Scott: In what way has this influenced your


Marc: It’s just a very complex sense of the absurd. It’s subtle,

refined, able to deal in paradox without blinking an eye. When

I was first reading it in 1997, I was just thinking, “Wow,

this is really trippy... I love it.” And then over the years I started thinking

more about Jarry’s work and trying to understand it. Ri



e sc


d fr

om R









rs, V


ge B


, New


k, 1


Alfred Jarry

Page 53: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 54: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Crystal: My person is Sir Thomas Phil-lips, a 19th-century book collector. I came across him when I was reading about collections and ec-centrics a few years ago. He also collected maps and all sorts of paper ephemera. Some of the details of this story may be fuzzy, but that’s the way it is with storytell-ing. He was a nutty col-lector and he would pur-chase anything he could find. His interest wasn’t so much in reading to understand the information as it was an issue of just being able to have it...all. He was a member of the minor no-bility, not a significant knight or any-thing like that, but he ended up with a large estate home and he filled it with books. By the time he died, he had one of the largest book collections known in the world. They had to clean it out with wheelbarrows. He’d pilfered away all his earnings on these books, and he’d driven away his family. At the point when his wife and children left the house, they had been living in the

kitchen because all the other rooms were so full of books and paper that they couldn’t move around.

Scott: That’s insane!

Crystal: When he died, there was the hope that the collection would re-main intact because it was an incredible representa-tion of first-edition pub-lications, especially given the time that he died.

Marc: When was that?

Crystal: He was born in 1792, and he died in the late 1800s. The mature collection consisted of approximately 120,000 pieces. This was just after the Industrial Revolution. His collection ended up getting dispersed because nobody could afford to take the whole thing. I think about him from time to time whenever I come close to acquir-ing too much paper [laughter], but also I like the idea of understanding something just by acquiring an object and having it near you physically. Ri


Sir T


as P



in 1


Sir Thomas Phillips

Page 55: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Sally: When were books themselves available?

Marc: Soon after the printing press.

Scott: I think it took a long time for books to get into the middle class’s hands.

Crystal: I wonder how long it would’ve taken for literacy to develop beyond the upper-class nobility.

Marc: Oh, that’s true! People would’ve had a very limited vocabulary.

Crystal: I wonder if literacy, and the fact that people could get access to words on a page, changed the way they understood those words?

Marc: It’s almost like a feedback loop: you see something on paper and it goes into your brain. That gives you an idea, you put it on paper, and then someone else reads it and it goes into their brain. It expands from the peo-ple who had the original idea.

Scott: It’s a definite change from an oral tradition. Putting it into a tangi-ble form abstracts it. That can expand the meaning.

Crystal: The meaning also becomes informed by the ornamental aspects of typography.

Marc: Graphic design is another stage of the development of that original written language. There is informa-tion in the way things look.

Crystal: The most universally success-ful graphic design is the creation of symbols that we recognize across the board, regardless of language. Like the man and woman icons for washrooms.

Scott: I always mix them up. [laughter]

Scott: In web design, you have to con-vey information so people can use it intuitively.

Marc: I get excited thinking about the archetypal web page layout, with the repeated information/menu struc-ture. I wonder if this is how our brain likes to think about things.

side topic: books

Page 56: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Scott: The most interesting interfaces are in games. A lot of websites are bor-rowing from the work that’s gone into making games intuitive. No one reads manuals in games! You expect what’s in front of you to tell you what to do, to guide. It’s a different language.

Crystal: I’m probably going to be the least vocal per-son here, because I don’t have the game experience.

Sally: It’s not all about games.

Marc: It’s about the point of view.

Crystal: Well, I don’t like video games but I do like board games.

Scott: I recently played my favourite non-video game. It’s like charades but you make stuff out of play dough as fast as you can. Half the fun is just mocking the amorphous piece of crap that your teammate expects you to interpret.

Crystal: I have a game called Taboo which is similar. If you are paired up with someone you speak to of-ten enough you can skip some of the steps. But if you’re playing with some-one you don’t know very well then you have to use more generalized language to describe the secret word.

Scott: Those are interesting communi- cation games, where you

have to hope that you are on the same wave-

length. It’s amazing the number of jumps you can

make where the other per-

son guesses something you’ve only

hinted at.

Marc: It would be interesting if some-one studied the fastest ways to convey information in every particular media, like clay, drawing, speech, charades. They’d develop this ultra-efficient lan-guage, and they’d just go “beep” and you’d receive two paragraphs worth of information.

Crystal: It’s the same people who are coming up with icons in airports. [laughter]

side topic: games

Page 57: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Scott: Okay, it’s not really a person. It’s a drawing [holds up drawing, see illustra-tion pg. 56]. I don’t know if you can guess who these two gentlemen are, but —

Crystal: It’s Marx and..

Sally & Marc : ...Freud.

Scott: Yes! These guys are the grand-fathers of 20th-century thought. I was thinking about how much they’ve influenced me, and that I hadn’t re-alized it until recently. I read a lot of Freud when I was in my 20s, and I read a lot of Marx when I was in my 30s. I haven’t read either of them since. But I was using these two to work out art problems. I respect both of them and their works, and they were very influ-ential conceptually — but mostly just thinking about these two thinkers has advanced my work.

I should define what I found im-portant about them: they are both materialists. Freud has this very down-to-earth idea of how the psyche works, based on the physical processes that they knew of at the time. Marx is a materialist too. He took Hegel’s ideas

of the dialectic and he applied them to the ways that he thought capitalism and society worked.

I perceive both of them to be say-ing that the truth underneath is dif-ferent from appearance. Marx was talking about what appears to be a fair deal between the capitalist and the worker. Freud was talking about what appears to be a joke or a pun. He brought it all down to these primal impulses that were quite the opposite of what you would say or how you would perceive something. I like read-ing books about things that debunk other things, and these two guys were the greatest debunkers.

What it came down to with enhancing my work was that I was making images I felt were completely subconscious but at the same time I was developing a vocabulary — com-ics were the perfect venue — to use more universal symbols. I was trying to make an image that was completely personal and at the same time looked like a political cartoon, or some-thing someone could read and apply a meaning that was of the world and not psychological.

Marx and Freud

Page 58: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

Marc: That’s cool. Coming from a comics background, I find that politi-cal cartoonists and personal autobio-graphical cartoonists are from oppo-site ends of the spectrum. One is deep in the mind and the other one is look-ing at the big picture. Putting them together does nice things to my head.

Scott: Well, that’s why I drew these two [Marx and Freud] this way; it’s almost like they’re chained together. Each of my drawings is about trying to do a distilled version of these two impulses.

Scott Carruthers’s drawing of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud

Page 59: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Google’s Information Network

about it. They just said something like “we don’t know anything about that” or “that’s not our priority.”

Sally: Classified.

Marc: I recently got a laptop and we were looking at Google Earth. That’s mind expanding.

Scott: I wish I could get that on my Mac!

Marc: Well, Google is my “place.” I know it’s a stretch.

Scott: No no, it’s cyberspace. That stretch of making a whole bunch of information into a perceived space is pretty mind blowing. It’s something we could never have imagined in the 60s and 70s.

Marc: This is where I stretch the defi-nition of place, because my place is a thing. [laughter] I chose the network of information that Google is assembling, which makes me totally freaked out.

Crystal: Vertigo.

Marc: Yeah. When I step back and see everything that they’re doing, the things they’re connecting, the impli-cations, it gives me a weird buzz. Re-cently, there was a story that I thought was very funny, about this A.I. intel-lectual, George Dyson, who went to visit Google. One of the technicians, talking about Google Print, told him, “We’re not scanning the books for hu-mans to read, we’re scanning them for an A.I. to read.” It freaked this guy out and so he asked a Google higher-up

Page 60: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Crystal: For my place, I could just say all zoos and museums, but I think spe-cifically I’ll cite the Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I didn’t bring a picture, but I like the possibility of just telling you guys about this space. The Hall has a scale model of a blue whale, and it’s massive.

Marc: It’s a one-to-one model?

Crystal: Yes. It was initially made from visuals of a dead blue whale. It’s the largest living animal, so nobody ever really sees all of it when the animal is moving around. There were certain as-pects of this big model that were not true to how the blue whale looks alive. There was something about the eyes — they were bloated — so recently they remodelled it. Anyhow, it’s in this space that has a mysterious, dramatic light-ing, very theatrical. And they have a huge collection in which they try to rep-resent every organism living in oceanic waters. All these models are around the perimeter of this huge, vaulted space.

Marc: Are they all one-to-one?

Crystal: I don’t know, but the whale sure is. You all know how huge a blue whale is. When you walk in, the sensa-tion is overwhelming. You just think, “Wow there’s all of this.” This massive whale is suspended from the ceiling — it’s quite an impressive feeling to walk into that space and see all the oceanic wildlife. There’s a sense of vertigo in the possibility of all of this being there without anyone knowing it. We don’t live in oceanic waters, we don’t live in that landscape, and we don’t see that stuff first-hand.

Tanya Read [Scott’s partner and also an artist]: I’ve been scuba diving, and you can only go down about 30 metres. If you start going down any further you need special equipment, and you might not have enough oxygen to get back up. It’s dark, and you don’t know what’s down there. You get this feeling that you just want to keep going and going down to the bottom of the ocean, but you can only stay in this upper crust of the ocean. It’s overwhelming.

Crystal: And even being in that upper crust already seems in itself quite cap-tivating and overwhelming because

Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

Page 61: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


you know that you aren’t even see-ing everything that’s there. You can’t imagine there being so much more.

Scott: It makes me think of archaeo-logical reconstructions of human be-ings and dinosaurs from fragments of bones. You imagine the model chang-es constantly as it develops — “Oops, we found another jaw.” Based on the knowledge we have at hand, we try to make these whole models. Kids read about dinosaurs in books and say “that’s what they looked like,” when potentially they could have been a whole lot different.

Sally: Crystal, how much of your in-terest in this place has to do with the

whale being first represented as it was dead, and then revamped?

Crystal: It doesn’t have as much to do with the dead whale. My experience of wonder was more to do with how the space was constructed, the theatrical elements and the scale of everything. That museum is a fantastic example of a natural history museum. They have the oldest dioramas on the continent and they are in absolutely impeccable shape. The presentation is very thor-ough and all the cabinetry is just so.

Sally: It’s really old-fashioned, true to that old-style museology.

Scott: It’s a diorama museum. [laughter]

Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City.Photo © D. Finnin/AMNH

Page 62: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

Scott: I couldn’t think of a place, so instead I thought of a viewpoint that really intrigues me: an aerial map. Google Earth makes me want to buy a PC so I can spend entire evenings tracking down the minutiae of To-ronto, or describing to Tanya where I went when I was doing deliveries that day [Scott is a bike courier]. That’s what I’m like. If someone is telling

an anecdote and they’re describing a street corner, I have to ask them which way they were facing and what they were looking at. It’s just because I do what I do. When I’m working, I often have the impulse to go into really tall buildings. I’ll just stand there for fif-teen minutes—even if it’s busy—and I’ll look down. It’s very comforting for me to see things on the level of a

Aerial Points of View

Below and Right: details of Scott Carruthers’s collage of his drawings inserted into an aerial map

Page 63: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

grid. So what I did for today was put my drawings into a map.

Sally: Oh my god...

Scott: Not everyone says my work looks like maps, but once a courier I know went by when I was doing a real-time drawing in the window, and he said later, “Oh, I was really busy but I went by the window and you were drawing a map.” I always tell people the simplest interpretation of my work is that the lines are the streets and the boxes are the buildings and they have people inside. I’m being a bit facetious; it’s not the main focus of my work, but it is a way that I like it to be seen.

Crystal: That’s really interesting, considering that each one of us picked people from the 19th century, which was the time when there would have been a lot of attention paid to stereo-scopes and panoramas and all kinds of devices for shifting our sense of perception.

Marc: That’s right. Those people had to deal with a scale shift in our understanding of the universe. Sud-denly they’re saying, “Oh, there’s so much more there — how do we make sense of this?”

Page 64: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Marc: My thing is a book, the Tao Te Ching. That’s the thing for me.

Sally: Okay, can you summarize that really quickly? [laughter]

Marc: Well, the Tao Te Ching prepares you for not understanding. And that, for me, is really crucial. It presents a vision of reality that is filled with paradox, and it puts you at ease with uncertainty. This is a good version because it breaks it down in a number of ways. [flips to a page with a big chart] Here it gives you the character and its Chinese pronunciation. Then it’s like a thesaurus, because each character has about six meanings. That’s what doesn’t translate well: the idea that the characters have multiple really subtle nuances. In this book, they give twelve translations of the first verse, so you get different points of view. The Victo-rian translation, for instance, tries to make it Christian. They basically talk about the Tao as God.

Tanya Read: It’s almost like all the ver-sions of the bible condensed into one.

Marc: It’s a fluid text that’s been com-bined and recombined over centuries.

Scott: Does anyone know which lan-guage is commonly thought to be the easiest to learn?

Marc: I took a few Man- darin lessons and the gram-mar is really easy, but not the accents. You can have these words that look the same on paper, but there are so many different ways for the accent to go: up at the end, down at the end... The grammar is simple: you just throw

all these words together and because you know what they’re talking about, because you know the context, you can understand what’s going on. I think. That’s pure speculation... al-most. [laughter]

Scott: I like that! “Pure speculation...almost.”

Tao Te Ching

Page 65: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife



t: p



of L

ao T





g: th

e de


ve e


n —











n St

ar, J


y P.





, New


k, 2


Page 66: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

Crystal: This is a postcard of a di-orama by Walter Potter. He’s another 19th-century guy. Potter used to make little dioramas with domestic animals that he’d set up in these very Protestant-looking scenarios. This one is the rabbit school, and there are all these little rabbits sitting at desks. He was another dude with weird collections and he was rather

eccentric. When he died, his collec-tion was auctioned off and dispersed. There used to be a small museum that had a number of the dioramas, but the collection has been sold off. The most popular one, apparently, is The Kitten Wedding, which is a bizarre scene with these little cats getting married. It’s so strange to see the activities of hu-mans placed on animals in this way.

Rabbit Diorama by Walter Potter

Walter Potter’s diorama The Rabbits’ Village School, 1888 From A Case of Curiosities, www.acaseofcuriosities.com/potter.html

Page 67: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Scott: The thing I chose is my Sharpie marker. I use only this type of marker in my drawings and I can’t use any-thing else. I get a lot of utility out of it; you can make a lot of variation with the tip.

Sally: He’s got a lot of Sharp-ies, all at different stages of bluntness.

Scott: I waste a lot of them be-cause I leave the caps off. It’s a given that when I’m working I’m going to wreck some.

Marc: So, you’re after the Shar-pie because of the ink flow, because the ink never stops.

Scott: It’s like graffiti for some-one who is actually too scared to go outside and deface other people’s buildings. But you’re right, I can’t work with some-thing that I have to constantly dip. I like the idea of just using one material and trying to get as much variation out of that as possible. I was thinking I might ask them to sponsor me.

Marc: It should be called the Kitten Massacre.

Crystal: I know! It’s a massacre. But there is still a quirky sense of humour.

Scott: Okay, here’s the joke that I see: they’re doing division, but rabbits multiply.

Crystal: In the context of my work, what I’m interested in is the absurdity of human activities being placed on nature.

Scott: Anthropomorphizing.

Crystal: It’s the discrepancy between what’s considered civilized and the ridiculousness of making these ani-mals do it!

The Kitten Wedding, c.1890. From A Case of Curi-osities, www.acaseofcuriosities.com/potter.html


Page 68: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Marc: It’s tricky because each drawing builds on the others. That’s the way the book [A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari] is structured. The introduction describes the “rhizome” by using different images and meta-phors, like memory or the ways that plants and wasps function. In this part, they are talking about the dif-ference between long-term and short-term memory. This is paragraph 16 of the introduction. Here’s the picture. [laughter] [pg. 68, colour version on pg. 40]

Scott: You do like Monty Python.

Marc: It’s pretty obsessive stuff. I’ll read a couple of sentences. [A Thou-sand Plateaus, pg. 15]

“Neurologists and psychophysiologists distinguish between long-term mem-ory and short-term memory (on the order of a minute). The difference be-tween them is not simply quantitative:

short-term memory is of the rhizome or diagram type, and long-term memory is arborescent and centralized.”

Throughout the whole book, they make differentiations between a rhizome and a tree. A tree comes from one stem and it

branches out — bifurcation. But the rhizome is a con-tinual relationship between everything all at the same time.

“Long-term memory is ar-borescent and centralized,” so it’s like a tree.

“Short-term memory is in no way subject to a law of contiguity or immediacy to its object; it can act at a dis-

tance, come or return a long time after, but always under conditions of discon-tinuity, rupture, and multiplicity.”

I’ll describe what the symbols are in the picture, then I’ll continue read-ing. Each of the frames (fig.1) is like a movie frame or a comics panel. There’s a person here, same person, same per-

Marc, can you walk us through one of your diagrams?

Page 69: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


son. In this symbol here (fig.2), the bar is on the right side of the circle, in the middle, or on the left side of the circle. These represent three different seconds of time, same person. These brown square boxes (fig.3) represent long-term memory. It starts here and branches out. The long-term memory goes back to the past and connects to everything. This box is not directly connected to that box, it has to go through a chain or series. These green circles (fig.4) are the plateaus or the nodes of the rhizome. They exist in the moment. The frame on the right is the present, although it looks like the future. [laughter]

The green river (fig.5) is one node. The blue lines (fig.6) refer to the lines of flight, which is another relationship, or action, in the authors’ definition of reality, or, rather, their definition of how we understand real-ity. As I read the text, the drawings build up a vocabulary. I should make a legend. Basically, these frames are the moments in time, this is the same person, the tree-like bit is long-term memory, and the short-term memory is spread out all at once and has these lines that connect to the past. But you know what? I should change this drawing. [laughter] Just imagine that these connections between the green ones are a continuous mesh. That’s







Page 70: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


my understanding of it now. Anyway, I’ll read a couple more sentences and see if anything clicks.

Scott: Or snaps.

Sally: Can I ask you a question first? Is this red stuff indicating the present?

Marc: This red line (fig.7) was devel-oped in another series of drawings and it just represents life, or con-sciousness.

Scott: Have you ever contemplated using a legend before?

Marc: Not until this very moment, ac-tually, when I tried to explain it.

Scott: It wouldn’t oversimplify your work, it would just add another level. There’s so much ambiguity here, and people would still want to read it in their own way, but the fact that you do conceptualize these images would add another element.

Marc Ngui, intro-paragraph 16, drawing from the text of A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. For colour version see pg. 40

Page 71: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Marc: I think it would be very useful, and I think it would definitely further the communication. A legend already exists in my head. Each thing means something in particular.

I’ll read a couple more sentences and see if anything comes together in your head.

“Furthermore, the difference be-tween the two kinds of memory is not that of two temporal modes of appre-hending the same thing; they do not grasp the same thing, memory, or idea. The splendor of the short-term Idea: one writes using short-term memory, and thus short-term ideas, even if one reads or rereads using long-term memory of long-term concepts. Short-term memory includes forgetting as a process; it merges not with the instant but instead with the nervous, tempo-ral, and collective rhizome.”

That’s why I would add lines to the drawing.

“Long-term memory (family, race, society, or civilization) traces and trans-lates, but what it translates continues to act in it, from a distance, off beat, in an ‘untimely’ way, not instantaneously.”

Long-term memory is always ref-erencing the past, while short-term memory is more in the moment. The key thing is that the short-term memo-ry isn’t tree-like. It’s always expanding and relating. I could do an animation possibly. It’s interesting that, looking at

this now, I realize I could probably make this drawing more accurate, which is maybe something I should do.

Sally: No, I don’t think so.

Scott: I think you should! Go ahead. It should be more accurate.

Marc: I think so too, because the more I read, the more I understand.

Sally: It’s a question about your project, though. I don’t really think that you did this necessarily as a finished work.

Marc: No, it’s more for learning.

Sally: If it’s a tool for understanding, then even if it doesn’t exactly reflect the text it has done its job.

Scott: But if you’re doing it for those reasons then you should redraw it in or-der to pursue your idea. These are very engaging but they completely baffle me. It seems to me that you’re trans-lating time into space. I am intrigued by diagrams that attempt to convey something about time but they have to translate it into space. You do it by using three-dimensional lines in this case. In reading this, and studying the text, it’s very rich. Whatever your pro-cess is, if you think you could make it more accurate, then do it, absolutely.

Page 72: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Crystal: I was in New York for a dog show. The Westminster is the larg-est dog show in North America and the oldest one in the world. I was interested in finding a way to de-scribe everything that was happen-ing there in a distilled, elegant, simple language. Eventually I created balsa wood structures that represented groups of dogs in the show, according to their population numbers. While I was in New York, I only had time to do a whirlwind tour. I really wanted to see a panorama of Versailles that they had at the Met. It was one of the few examples of a really good early panorama. But I ended up missing it, and so I became fixated. I did a bit of research and found that there used to be a menagerie at the Gardens of Versailles which was organized in a very similar way to a panoptic sta-dium: the animals were arranged in cages all around a central viewing point. Louis XIV and his court could go in to see the animals all around them and get a centralized perspec-tive on biodiversity.

Scott: So they wouldn’t have to move.

Crystal: They wouldn’t have to move! The world would come to them.

Scott: [drawling] Wipe my ahss while I view these ahnimals.

Crystal: Right. So then I became in-terested in the conundrum of under-standing a different species through viewing. I started to think about Versailles itself in this way. I was re-ally interested in finding a way to describe this place I had never been, in a visual language that I could un-derstand. It would function as a tool for me because I would have a legend, and I would know where each hedge might be. But for anyone else it would become more of an ornament, just compressed green lines on a surface. I started making it in sections and found that it was really hard to make something that is so expansive, that’s supposed to occupy 2,000 acres in a space that’s equivalent to 300 square feet. I’ve been making it in my very small apartment in sections that can be assembled and reconfigured in dif-ferent situations. That’s something I do in all my work, it can always be

Crystal, why did you pick Versailles?

Page 73: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


rearranged. I’m interested in the po-tential for reconfiguration.

Marc: It’s kind of like a DJ resampling culture, but you’re doing it with the Gardens of Versailles.

Crystal: I was interested in the pos-sibility of describing something that’s constantly changing, and working with images that are taken from all different times and all different perspectives.

Sally: What are some specifics of your source material?

Crystal: I’m working pretty much entirely from photos, and there’s al-ways this problem of perspective. The photos are taken at angles that are not entirely aerial, but just aerial enough that you can get a sense of the design. The hedges and trees of a certain panel make up what you would see in one photograph, or what I think is the

Crystal Mowry, Ongoing Ideal Forms (After Versailles) (detail from work in progress), 2006

Page 74: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


relevant information in the photo-graph. I’ll decide on site how they’ll be assembled.

Marc: Are you avoiding looking at a floor plan of the whole garden?

Crystal: I have looked at them, but I find that when I look at plans, I lose the potential for intimacy within the space, because of the all-encompass-ing viewpoint. I don’t get a sense of the scale.

Marc: You become disconnected from the experience.

Crystal: Yes, because it’s too much information for me. I need to be able to access these smaller samples, and then re-situate them for myself. Part of that experience of seeing and un-derstanding space comes from the road trips I used to take with my fam-ily when I was younger. We never flew. I didn’t experience what the ground looks like from the air until I was in my early twenties.

Lately, I’ve been more interested in sights I haven’t been to, and being able to remove them one more step from seeing them in photographs. I want to describe them in a different

language. It’s like using balsa wood to describe an event, or furnace fil-ters to describe a waterfall, or paper to describe a parking lot at the West Edmonton Mall. Those are some of the other routes that I have taken.

Sally: When this piece is done, will you consider it a description of Versailles? Is that how you think about it?

Crystal: For in-house purposes, I think of it as description. I use that language when I’m not at a state of completion yet. Things are still shift-ing, I’m still trying to get the ideas in a physical form. But when it’s com-plete I think of it more as a work, or an object, or a set of coordinates that can be reconfigured to create a certain experience.

Marc: I have a question. Do you think the Gardens of Versailles particularly lend themselves to this type of exer-cise, or do you think it could have been done about anything?

Crystal: Versailles is a particularly good place for this type of investiga-tion because it is already so cultivated. It’s already an ornament in itself. And it’s gone through years and years of change. I’m interested in things that

Page 75: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


already have their own history and have already seen a bit of evolution. I take that and play with it one more step. In the gardens, which are 346 years old, certain areas have burned out and new areas have been built. The aerial maps that you see of the gardens from the time of its inception are different that what you would see now. The geography of the garden is not really reliable. That unreliability makes it interesting.

Marc: It’s interesting to me that you’ve got the hand of man involved. It’s an ideal. There’s intention behind generating it, and that intention has to do with an increasingly civilized in-cursion into nature.

Crystal: It’s the height of the formal French style of gardening, as well. English style is different, more wild. Versailles is also the height of deca-dence in horticulture. There’s a lot of plants imported, whole forests were uprooted and transplanted because those particular trees were wanted by the king.

Sally: It’s that collecting thing.

Crystal: Yes, the element of collecting and preservation, and the problem of

knowing through collecting. And I am totally aware of the problem of me be-ing involved in this...

Sally: You have a bit of that avarice yourself.

Crystal: I know! The attempt to de-scribe for myself in a visual language places I’ve never been is part of that.

Scott: Do you collect anything?

Crystal: I don’t. I’m drawn to objects that have their own stories. But I’m also interested in scale and finding ways to miniaturize and make tangi-ble a lot of the more overwhelming or sublime instances of landscape.

Scott: Can I ask about the camera? Does it show a first-person perspective?

Crystal: There isn’t a consistent scale, but I use a bit of conjecture to keep the point of view somewhat consis-tent. It’s kind of a compromise, my own version. The track for the camera gets assembled on top of the panels. The perspective is a little higher than human size. It’s just a security camera, it’s a bit fuzzy. I like the possibility of that being taken as a nostalgic view on something that’s already quite specific to a particular period of time.

Page 76: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Scott: Formally, I find a certain level of pleasure in viewing tons of infor-mation at once. I find it tactile. The whole idea of massive drawings came from crazy people’s writings, like this. [holds up example] We found this taped to a lamppost. The idea of a sign is that you communicate as simply as possible, but this person has got the whole page covered with all this infor-mation. It creates a really nice tactile pattern. When I made paintings they were the chunkiest things — very, very painterly. Now when I make drawings, that’s still what I’m attempting to do. I like looking at them from far away.

Also, the way information is conveyed to us these days is all frag-mented; there’s tons of it, and it’s all broken up. It’s a no-brainer to put my work in that format.

I also like letting the viewer do a lot of the work. This way, the viewer can make a lot of connections and par-ticipate a little bit more than if they were looking at something they think they’ve got to solve. They can make their own bridges between things.

Marc: Each panel is sort of like an im-

pressionist dot. And the thing you’re creating is an idea that’s created in the person’s head. You’re just giving them some stimulation.

Scott: I do work really hard at my im-ages and try to make them better, but at the same time I try to dismiss that and just think of an overall experience that I want people to have. It’s pretty abstract, I suppose.

Marc: I like the way that when you get back really far from the drawings, they have the same sort of feeling as a map, like those aerial views. You see the densities of the lights and the darks.

Scott: I want people to have a fairly in-tense visual experience, and also a fairly intense conceptual one. It’s restless.

I’m always striving to come up with a different image each time, and that’s a challenge. Sometimes a drawing will look familiar, so I’ll erase it. Of course sometimes they do repeat. I’ll realize later that I did the same drawing three years ago. It’s an impossible task, a bit like a game.

Scott, why do you draw so many pictures?

Page 77: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

The work has changed a lot. I used to draw on foamcore and you couldn’t change it. In some ways I miss that, because it was more pure, but there was a lot of filler. No one comes up with a great image every single time. Now I draw on plastic, and I do a lot of erasing [using Ajax to remove the indelible marker from the mylar].

Marc: You’ve got your rules.

Scott: I had rules when I was a painter too. I would throw on the paint, and any time I made something that looked like a line I had to destroy it. I work with these self-imposed structures. Francis Bacon would do the same thing — he’d throw a paint-filled rag at the canvas whenever it became too illustrative. I structure these rules that I attempt to adhere to, but they’re impossible. Any-how, that’s me. I’m done. [laughter]Left

: Sco

tt C



s, O

ut O

f Tim

e O

r Out

Of S


? (d


l), b




on tr



t myl

ar. D



s va


le, 2


Page 78: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Scott Carruthers is an artist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He graduated from the Ontario Col-lege of Art and Design in 1995 and Sheridan College in 1999. Since then, he has been active in the Toronto art community. He was a cofounder and exhibiting artist in the Impure collec-tive, a group of artists who organized exhibitions in Toronto between 1994 and 1998. In 1999, he and Tanya Read opened Fly Gallery, a storefront win-dow which functions as an alternative exhibition space for artists. The Fly Gallery continues as an ongoing proj-ect. He has worked as a bike courier in Toronto since 1988.

Crystal Mowry is an emerging artist currently residing in Guelph, Ontario. She is a graduate of the On-tario College of Art and Design (AOCAD, 2000) and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (MFA, 2002). Her work has been in-cluded in exhibitions at the Art Gal-lery of Calgary, The Khyber Centre for the Arts (Halifax), Queens Park (Toronto) and the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture (Dawson City). Her recent projects include collaborations with Panya Clark Espinal (as Liminal Solutions) for the Manchester Lether-

ium Ideas Competition exhibited at Cornerhouse Gallery (Manchester, UK) and “The Terrarium Project” at Harbourfront Centre (Toronto) in 2006. When not exploring subjective cartographies, she is the Curatorial As-sistant at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Her work examines wonder, scale, and knowledge in fictitious ver-sions of tourist-destination landscapes. Crystal Mowry is grateful for the Canada Council’s suppport of Ongoing Ideal Forms (After Versailles).

Marc Ngui (b. 1972, Guyana) is a graphic novelist and artist whose work is firmly rooted in DIY/zine culture. He recently realized that he is on a lifelong exploration into the mechanics of visual communication. In the past year he has worked in illustration, comics, storyboards, animation, video journalism, exhibition design, sign painting, maps, diagrams, pictograms, and icons — all for reputable clients (or so he says). He is currently trying to balance an overwhelming surge of technology-inspired optimism with an understanding that the polar ice caps will no longer be frozen in the winter time by the end of this century. More information about his work can be found here — www.bumblenut.com.

Artists’ Bios

Page 79: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 80: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 81: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife
Page 82: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife

Many thanks to our funders, particularly the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for their generous support of the Quantal Strife Field Guide and exhibition. We are grateful to Alana Wilcox for her keen editorial eye, and to the generous individuals who donated time to help with this publication: Rick Conroy, Hannah Evans, Nancy MacDougall, Sandra Rechico, and especially Magda Wojtyra.

University of Toronto at Scarborough

Page 83: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife


Page 84: A Beginner's Guide to Quantal Strife







��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� �������








ISBN 0-7727-5401-2