In my research project Doing the Crease: Text as Subject in a Liberation of Folds, I work with the idea of the fold as a method to investigate how text appears ‘subjecty’. The project comprises a collection of sculptural, textual and aural works intending to take text as a subject and fold it away from narrative into presence. Starting out, I write folded fictions that tend to be minimal and spacious at the same time. Using sculptural methods, I seek to merge visual means with these fictions not to underline their story but rather the abstraction through which they present meaning.

Folds in clothing mediate the relationship between the fabric of a garment and the shape of a body, as if the fabric is not only subordinate to the form of the body beneath, but also has a certain independence contributing to its shape. Not surprisingly, Gilles Deleuze links the fold to subjectivation: in thinking, one folds their thoughts around a matter to bring it inwards, and a gesture is a fold to the outside (Deleuze, 2006, pp. 27-28). Especially during the Baroque period, folds, like those portrayed in painting, increasingly took on a life of their own.

Seen as ‘bizarre’, the Baroque was not appreciated by contemporaries; the ‘excess’ of elements was considered ‘empty’ and ‘meaningless’. However, in the 19th century, the Baroque was called ‘emancipated decoration’ (Hills, 2007, p. 55). Emancipation is the power to cast off old, imposed meanings and create a new, self-serving story. Deleuze introduces the Baroque as ‘an operative function’ that ‘endlessly produces folds’ (Deleuze, 2006, p. 3). It is about making the fold independent, liberated from its substrate. This comes back in my work: combining text, image and speech, I explore if the process of folding allows language to emancipate away from narrative into a multidimensional form in which paper, sculptural materials and voice join into a new syntax.

Interestingly, emancipation can also be found in comedy: a humorous situation breaks away from status quo and laughing is the result of shattered expectations. Perhaps this is why, for some, my methods lead to a humorous experience. Although this outcome is never the aim, it has led me to investigate how the slapstick method can be used as an editorial device to help emancipate text and meaning.

Slapstick characters do not end up on the floor because they are stupid, but because they are too invested in their actions. They show 'extreme care' (Dillon, 2007, p. 214). It is an exaggeration of the ‘mechanics of thought as such — the (perfectly rational, therefore idiotic) decisions’ (Dillon, 2007, p. 213) that leads to a mutation of normal behaviour. Similar to how Baroque artists paint robes with an appropriate shape, colour and texture, the slapstick mutation is subtle. The difference is in the folds: where the Baroque painters release additional, defiant creases into their compositions, a slapstick character expands the details of a gesture. With this in mind, the main research question is whether language stages ‘subjectness’ through its materiality and structure. I mostly want to find out how text connects to subjectivity in its composition and presentation, how it 'behaves', and subsequently: how it can be liberated.

The described works are accompanied by an essay that addresses subjectivation, folding and creasing through an examination of mutant flowers, slapstick comedy, art, writing and ball games. With the Arpels’ garden in Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle (1958) as its departure point, the thesis also takes a close look at a selection of film scenes and stills with the intention of folding away from the overarching narrative of the chosen films.

Cited references

DELEUZE, G. (2006) The fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. (T. Conley. Trans.). London and New York: Continuum Publishing Group. (Original work published 1988).

DILLON, B. (2007) Another fine mess: nine theses on slapstick. Frieze. Vol. 110, pp. 212-17.

HILLS, H. (2007) The baroque: beads in a rosary or folds in time. Fabrications. The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand. Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 48-71.

TATI, J. (1958) Mon Oncle. [Motion picture]. Produced in France by Specta Films.