The Play of The World
Jean Fisher, 1998
Gabriel Orozco, Piedra que cede (Yielding Stone), 1992
(Page 3 of 5)
Thus, whilst gravity holds the resting pendulum-ball at the centre of the table, the 'event' —the blow— obliges it to swing out of field, such that the orbit of the periphery comes to undermine the influence of the gravitational 'centre'. In any case, wasn't this 'centre' always a hegemonic conceit, an elision of the infinite and equal, shifting perspectives produced by the earth's rotation? There are other points of view: "Nature is an infinite sphere, whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere," quotes Borges from Pascal, tracking the metaphor through an esoteric labyrinth of references in an infinite temporal regression that characteristically goes nowhere, but leads us back to Oval Billiard Table.
Orozco's decentring operation produces a compelling analogy with current cultural debates on centre-periphery relations. In a deterritorialised world that no longer possesses a centre (a telos —an organising principle such as God, the Imperium, or even the gentleman's club), there can be only a multiplicity of inflections or contingent points of view.
We have seen how, in Oval Billiard Table, the swinging pendulum-ball challenges the authority of the gravitational centre —a position which we cannot occupy. Moreover, unlike the regular billiard table, Orozco's pocketless ellipse provides no privileged position from which to survey the field, but an indefinite number of equally tangential points of view. And perhaps significantly, it in itself does not present a game of elimination (no balls or players are knocked out of play) although the relations of its parts may change; in other words, displacement is an event inherent in the work's internal relations as well as those with the spectators or players.
"...an infinite line would be a straight line, a triangle, a circle and a sphere."
Borges ("Avatars of the Tortoise", ibid)
Orozco's predilection for curves, spheres and ellipses —all present in Oval Billiard Table— could be restated alternatively as a reticence towards rectilinearity; the point is that these two geometries suggest rather different relations of bodies to space-time. At base, it is the Cartesian grid which seems to be incompatible with the sensibility projected by Orozco's work, not simply because the grid tends towards fixity as opposed to the sphere's infinite movement of inflections; but also because it maps the world-as-object from the perspective of a coherent, centred subject, one that the artist's work consistently resists. Nothing could be less 'Cartesian' than Línea perdida (Lost Line), 1993, a plasticine ball whose circumference is irregularly criss-crossed by threads of cotton, disappearing here and there into the surface, and seemingly without beginning or end.
In the rationalist ordering of the world, the grid divides and sections space-time, positioning and organising subjects and objects within it in a hierarchy. It is not difficult to see this as a cartographic manoeuvre under the direction of a colonising gaze. The violence of this gaze was captured by Carl Andre when he described his sculpture as a 'cut' in space. A question of semantics, perhaps, but nonetheless indicative of the ambivalence of the grid in American minimalism and the extent to which it remained attached —however unconsciously— to the Cartesian subject despite its shift towards democratising the object.
 Jorge Luis Borges ("The Fearful Sphere of Pascal" in Labyrinths, eds Donald A. Yates & James E. Irby, London: Penguin Books 1962) ↩
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This essay is taken from the Artangel publication for Empty Club available from Cornerhouse.org