Irrational Environments

Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
Sol LeWitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969)


Today’s world strikes me as a place where orderly control and chaotic aleatory forces coexist. As an artist, I exploit this paradoxical coexistence to shape destructuring structures and develop irrational environments.

The irrational comes from the excessive repetition of simple processes. Such an activity is very similar to that of human thought. A human brain is actually made of neurons and neurons, in turn, are made of microtubulae. These tubulae work as automated cellular agents with an algorithmic mode of functioning. Derived from medieval arithmetics, an algorithm has been understood since the nineteenth century to be « a series of explicit operating rules », in other words, it is a set of instructions designed to achieve something, for instance « Drawing a segment of a straight line 10 times and changing its orientation and dimension after each inscription ». A computer is the ideal tool to execute an algorithm ; as a matter of fact, it is the only thing it can do. By executing the operation « drawing a segment of a straight line 10 times and changing its orientation and dimension after each inscription », one comes to a structure visibly made of 10 straight lines. Yet, when repeated one million times, the same operation does not produce one million straight lines but an altogether different environment in which the mere notion of ‘straight line’ disappears to let other signs emerge. The resulting space is unpredictable, unstable and dynamic. Visual forms appear – they are not intentionally programmed – out of the excessive enforcement of autonomous and simple rules. I do not consciously conceive a structure in advance. I lay down simple rules and let them go through serial interaction. Where I find myself then – the environment in which I am – becomes my working space (where I do what W.S. Burroughs calls « the job of the cosmonaut of inner space »).

Nevertheless, when accumulated or brought together in networks, the microtubulae of the brain’s neurons are responsible for all the non-algotithmic possibilities of the human brain. The simplicity of the basic data is important. That is why I use arbitrary geometrical or typographical signs – rather than representational elements or pictorial fragments – so as to reach more complex, richer, and less reasonable environments. With digital tools, it is often more tempting to go for what is sophisticated rather than for what is simple. My own way of working with computers is simplistic ; I try to make the most of it as a computational tool for its capacity to ceaselessly repeat the same task. No more, no less. It gives access to different sensational environments (vertigo, serenity, vortex, spell, curse, alacrity, infinitude, dejà vu experiences of non structuring structures) which are not solely caused by optical or geometrical illusions or – paradoxically – by purely technological artefacts. This is why my artistic practice is a neverending experimentation with what is still un-known or un-thought.

The line-ridden irrational environments with which chance surrounds me – and later authoritatively shaped by me – are not completely unlike from the Songlines of Australian Aborigenes. They too convey a vision of the world in terms of itinaries and displacement, offering another kind of mapping in which networks get into the picture. It is my job to confront the human viewer with their own primitive irrationality through my artworks, artworks that result from an abuse of technological processes.


Pascal Dombis


Translation Didier Girard