Thought Surfaces and Thought Depths


Printed in an accompaniment pamphlet for Zin Taylor‘s exhibition The Story of Stripes and Dots (Chapter 5) (September 27 – March 23, 2013) at The Fogo Island Gallery.

As an artist, Zin Taylor does his job by making a kind of formally whimsical meta-art. Each work he makes never exists on its own but instead fits into a bigger conceptual framework Taylor has invented. His artwork constructs meaning while at the same time reflects on how that meaning is made. Individual works are subsumed within titles that tilt to the meta (i.e., A Haze of Influence Choreographed into an Arm, Pts. 1-5) to connect each one to the larger territory of his practice as a whole. What this indicates is that Taylor works with ideas as much as things—but then often the things are the best guide to what the ideas want to be. This going backwards and forwards through the materials towards the ideas and back again dramatizes something fundamental to art making—how does what you’re thinking about when making art translate into what the art becomes? Or conversely, once the art’s made, what does it make you think? Philosophically, Taylor’s work has been described as having a “flat” ontology, where every thing is mobile and interchangeable—a gesture, an idea, a way, a process, indeed any thing is regarded in the same manner as any other thing. Some things will be better for some jobs than others, but what happens if we employ one thing for the task commonly associated with another? What obtains if instead of using X for Y we use it for Z? What are snakes for? Who are dogs? 


Taylor’s exhibit for Fogo Island Arts walks us through this path frontwards and (if we’re going to continue this spatializing metaphor) backwards. Frontwards, coming let’s say from the path that leads to the front door, is an existing body of work, a set of existing concerns, ways of thinking about things and doing things—and all these mental “things” come with the Artist when he appears. Coming through the back at the same time are some real things—artworks—to be experienced. Each one carries within it ideas and possibilities, each suggesting and implying other things, a whole history of habits and approaches, existing procedures, new additions, old animals, the earth’s first inhabitants—everything walks in through the back. Through the front door comes a series of conceptual ideal things, moving towards an encounter. Through the back door, things that already exist mass to enter and meet the ideas the artist proposes as possible. They come together in this weird place, an imaginary space where all the things, whether physically tangible or not, are the same kind of thing.


Taylor brings with him a body of work exploring the most basic immanences in art making, stripes and dots; the planar, narrative, the conceptual and ideal vs. event, moment, diversion and new beginning. These immanences are suspended in and around each other. Every line starts with a dot. A dot, viewed in three dimensions might be an orb or it could be the end point of a line. Lines define a horizon, dots stand against horizons. Activity occurs in time: if you zoom in to the timeline the activity is a line, but if you zoom out the activity is a dot. In arriving to the remote site of his studio on Fogo Island, the artist—his existing project, already well underway—is the dot, landing on the horizon stripe of a distant (from Belgium at least) place. The place has been there for a long time (stripe) but the building he arrives at is new (dot). One thinks of the Merleau-Pontyean knot—one of your hands “palpating” the other—in which the bridge between interior and exterior is overcome as you touch yourself as surface, feeling in your own flesh the pressure of your touch.  


Yet, we are not just held by ourselves but by others. At this point in this story we have to introduce The Lichen. The Lichen is ancient; it is a biological metonym for the “primordial ooze” presumed to have engendered all the life on Earth. In its way, perhaps by virtue of its foundational position, it conforms to the stripe/dot logic (each cell of the organism is a dot; lichen on a rock, viewed from the side is a line) but also it resists this. The Lichen is a surface, an excellent surface of prehistoric depth but also of absolute simplicity. Time, we can’t help but feel, is a line or stripe, but how does time feel to The Lichen? Will this be the moment when an art practice, a flat ontology, crashes into an ahuman slime, one that, since it exists as the memory of all life, provokes a crisis, a “Real” too real for this game of human combination?


Consider some earlier samples of Stripes and Dots: 2012’s A Structure to Filter a Room (Two Snakes and a Dot), a mobile where the categories of Stripes and Dots are conceptually reconsidered through their enactment in sculpture. A long, snake-like (or line-like) form is covered with spots; the spots are on the surface of the snake-thing-mobile. The binary opposition between event vs. context dissolves when confronted with the proposition of form. Form obscures and hides as well as displaying and showing. If the snake has dots on the surface, what is it like inside? What shape is it from a distance? Is there a front to that snake-shape? Of course, thoughts, not just things, have surfaces as well.  

So here we are.



Steve Kado is an artist, composer and writer born in North York. In 2003 he founded the Blocks Recording Club. His public speaking, installation and image work have been presented widely at venues such as Tate Britain, Machine Project, The Department of Safety, Gambia Castle, Y3K and the Statens Museum for Kunst. He has co-hosted The Talking Show, a radio program dedicated to talking and recorded-speech-as-art, on Los Angeles’ KCHUNG radio for the past two years and is the editor at large for the art journal Prism of Reality. Occasionally, he contributes to Artforum. Recent bookworks include October Jr. and Six of one Half a Dozen of the Other, Strata and Horror Vacui