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Impossible to Name

Impossible to Name

Performing the Ineffable

(p.103) 6 Impossible to Name
Ribbon of Darkness
Barbara Maria Stafford
University of Chicago Press

We are entangled in an ineffable new reality that eludes representation. It can only be obliquely performed, not adequately spoken or described. From Robert Irwin’s and James Turrell’s radiant installations to Jeff Wall’s semantically-elusive staged photographs, to the reign of unseen networks and concealed data structures, a fundamental incommensurability exists between making, imaging, and speech. In the wake of this shift into the elusive, this essay explores the desire to turn wordlessly wild by literally becoming a burrowing badger or a grazing goat. This preoccupation with achieving a transcendent oneness with a non-human agent reaches its apogee in downloading our sensing and affective capacities into a robot, that is, by sinking into a seductive technological object.

Keywords:   Becoming Wild, Ineffability, Non-Human Agents, Performance, Representation, Robert Irwin, Robotics, James Turrell, Jeff Wall, Wordlessness

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