Drawing a Hypothesis
DRAWING A HYPOTHESIS
A publication project by Nikolaus Gansterer
Drawing a Hypothesis is an exciting reader on the ontology of forms of visualisation and on the development of the diagrammatic perspective and its use in contemporary art, science and theory. In an intense process of exchange with artists and scientists, Nikolaus Gansterer reveals drawing figures as a media of research which enables the emergence of new narratives and ideas by tracing the speculative potential of diagrams. Based on a discursive analysis of found figures with the artist’s own diagrammatic maps and models, the invited authors create unique correlations between thinking and drawing. The book is a rich compendium of figures of thought, which moves from scientific representation through artistic interpretation and vice versa. Central hypotheses of the publication were later re-transformed into installations and/or performance lectures and presented in various occasions and formats.
"The idea for this book originated during a two-year research project at the Jan van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands. My longheld fascination for diagrams, maps, networks and the graphical forms of visualising complex associations prompted me to approach the field from an artistic point of view. How could these visual artefacts be comprehended? This book has arisen from a five-year exchange with theoreticians, scientists and artists on the question of the hypothetical potential of diagrams. Here I sent my drawings to various interpreters with a request for a written interpretation (micrology), so that in turn I could react to their texts with diagrammatic drawings and models."
"The process worked until the potential for action was exhausted. Through this intensive exchange of thoughts, the most varying ideas, hypotheses, theses and interrelations developed, eventually achieving the form of captions, (sci-fi)stories, and longer essays on the themes of figure, drawing, hypothesis and diagram. The resulting contributions are of very different kinds, reflecting their authors’ particular fields of knowledge in the fractious borderland between art, science and fiction. The design of the book was developed by Simona Koch reflecting the language of classical scientific formats of publications and enquiring how a specific appearance influences the perception of the content itself."
Table of Contents:
Index of Figures. - Drawing a Hypothesis (Preface), Nikolaus Gansterer. - A Line with Variable Direction, which Traces No Contour, and Delimits No Form, Susanne Leeb. - I Must Be Seeing Things, Clemens Krümmel. - Subjective Objectivities, Jörg Piringer. - Grapheus Was Here, Anthony Auerbach. - Asynchronous Connections, Kirsten Matheus. - Distancing the If and Then, Emma Cocker. - Drawing Interest / Recording Vitality, Karin Harrasser. - Nonself Compatibility in Plants, Monika Bakke. - Hypotheses non Fingo or When Symbols Fail, Andreas Schinner, - Wiry Fantasy, Ferdinand Schmatz. - Reading Figures, Helmut Leder. - Collection of Figures of Thoughts, Gerhard Dirmoser. - Radical Cartographies, Philippe Rekacewicz. - 3 Elements, Axel Stockburger. - Dances of Space, Marc Boeckler. - Collection of Emotions and Orientation, Christian Reder. - On the Importance of Scientific Research in Relation to Humanities, Walter Seidl. - Interpersonal Governance Structures, Katja Mayer. - The Afterthought of Drawing: 6 Hypotheses, Jane Tormey. - The Hand, The Creatures, The Singing Garden & The Night Sky, Moira Roth. - The Unthought Known, Felix de Mendelssohn. - Processing the Routes of Thoughts, Kerstin Bartels. - An Attempted Survey, Section.a. - The Line of Thought, Hanneke Grootenboer. - Strong Evidence for Telon-priming Cell Layers in the Mammalian Olfactory Bulb, M. L. Nardo, A. Adam, P. Brandlmayr, B. F. Fisher. - Expected Anomalies Caused by Increased Radiation, Christina Stadlbauer. - On Pluto 86 Winter Lasts 92 Years, Ralo Mayer. – Appendix: Personalia. Subindex. Index of Names. Colophon. Notices.
Book presentations with a performance-lecture and/or installation:
– 22 Sept 2011: MHKA, Antwerp, Belgium.
– 27 Oct 2011: KNAW, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
– 18 Nov 2011: Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway.
– 23 Nov 2011: Kunsthalle Project Space, Vienna, Austria.
– March - April 2011: Galerie Lisi Haemmerle, Bregenz
– 02 Feb 2012: "Die Materialität der Diagramme", NGBK, Berlin, Germany.
– 03 Feb - 14 March 2012: Archive Books in Berlin, Germany.
– 16 March 2012: "Leipzig book fair", Leipzig, Germany.
– 13 April - 12 May 2012: "A study on Knowledge", Forum Stadtpark, Graz, Austria.
– 20 Sept 2012: Lehrerzimmer, Bern, Switzerland.
– 9 Nov 2012 - 27 Jan 2013: "Schaubilder", Kunstverein Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany.
– 17 Nov 2012- 24 Feb, 2013: "World Book Design" exhibition, Printing Museum, Tokyo, Japan.
– 20 March 2013: Subnet Talk, at the KunstQuartier, Salzburg, Austria.
– Sept - Dec 2013: 4th Athens Biennale, Athens, Greece.
– May - Sept 2013: "When Thought becomes Matter...", Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna, Austria.
– 2014: "Inventing Temperature", KCC, London, UK.
– 2014: "My Brain is in my Inkstand", Cranbrook Museum, Detroit, US.
"Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought", Springer Verlag Wien/NewYork, Edition Angewandte, 1st Edition, 2011.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011927923
"Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought", De Gruyter Berlin/Boston, Edition Angewandte,
2nd corrected edition, 2017.
352 p. 202 illus., 42 in colour. 1 folding map, Softcover
Book concept: Nikolaus Gansterer
Book design: Simona Koch
Cover design: Simona Koch and Nikolaus Gansterer
All drawings by Nikolaus Gansterer, 2005 - 2011.
Translation: Veronica Buckley, Aileen Derieg
Proofreading: Dorrie Tattersall, Petra van der Jeught, Michael Karassowitsch
Image proofreading and technical assistance: Jo Frenken
Typesetting: Simona Koch
Photography: Nikolaus Gansterer, TimTom
Keywords: Artistic research; Drawing; Diagrams; Figures of thought; Speculative Thinking;
The publication "Drawing a Hypothesis" won the bronze medal at the annual book design competition “Best Books from all over the World ”. The ceremony took place on the 16th of March 2012 at the Leipzig book fair in Germany.
Reviews (click to download files):
– "Strukturbilder", Marie Beschorner, Vira Haglund, Cynthia Krell, Oliver M. Reuter, Lars Zumbansen, in: Kunst+Unterricht Nr. 376, Friedrich Verlag, Velber, 2013.
In advance of the third program in The Drawing Center’s Drafts series, Curatorial Assistant Nova Benway speaks with Vienna-based artist Nikolaus Gansterer about the generative potential of diagrams at the The Bottom Line Blog.
Nova Benway: You just had an exhibition in Germany at the Kunstverein Bielefeld titled Schaubilder. Since your work deals with visibility and invisibility, let’s start with the question of what you showed.
Nikolaus Gansterer: I was showing work resulting from my project Drawing a Hypothesis – Figures of Thought (excerpt). For years I have had a strong fascination with diagrams (in German “Schaubilder”) and I was questioning how these relational visual artifacts—graphic forms visualizing complex associations—could be comprehended from an artistic point of view. In an intensive exchange with artists and scientists, I developed new forms of narratives and hypotheses by tracing the speculative potential of diagrams. Based on a discursive process, I sent my drawings to various interpreters with a request for a written interpretation (which I call “micrology”), so that in return I could react to their texts with diagrammatic drawings and models. In 2011 a publication resulted from this five-year exchange of figures of thought and figures of speech, describing, from various angles, the reflexive and dynamic character of diagrams.
My work shown at the exhibition at the Kunstverein Biefeld bears the title Table of Contents—literally displaying an arrangement of key figures of thought distilled/resulting from these inspiring conversations and transferred into fragile materiality. Here, drawing plays a crucial role in producing and communicating our knowledge(s), due to its ability to mediate between perception and reflection. For me drawing is a way to watch the mind working in the making of ideas, revealing thinking as an inter-subjective and translational process. It’s a balancing between visibility and invisibility.
NB: What constitutes a “figure of thought” for you? Does this form have definable parameters, or is it something more vague and intuitive?
NG: For me a “figure of thought” describes something dynamic and flexible, shifting rather than solid and static. My conception of the figure and figuration is deeply rooted in the Greek understanding of the term, which has a choreographic and performative notion, like “a body’s gesture caught in motion.” (See also Roland Barthes: A Lover’s Discourse, 1979.) It is both an elusive and highly lively form and, for me as artist, also a method to frame, name, and question a phenomenon by entering the field of my inquiry with a specific attitude, attention, and awareness. Due to the ambivalent character of the figure of thought, it’s interesting to use it as a vehicle and specific set of frames—maybe comparable to a system of lenses—to operate with.
NB: Can you give examples of interpretations your collaborators made for Drawing a Hypothesis that were particularly interesting to you?
NG: The multitude of explanations was most striking to me. In this project the potential of drawings and diagrams to activate the mind comes clearly to the forefront. I would argue that a diagram is a reflexive sign, empowering the reader in the process of reading and sense-making as it functions in a non-linear way. Thus it is probably closer to the nature of how our mind is organized and operates. Here again the performative character of diagrams plays an essential role. For example, the artist and theoretician Jane Tormey allowed herself to delve with all senses into the drawings and started living within and between the drawn lines. Letting herself be guided by the lines of thought, she directly inscribed her reflections onto the drawings and thus avoided simplistic description.[i] On the contrary, the radical cartographers Philippe Rekacewicz and Marc Boeckler individually delineated a set of witty captions, reflecting on our basic need for spatio-temporal representations by deconstructing mapping as a practice of topological narrations. The writers Moira Roth and Ferdinand Schmatz wrote beautiful poetic micrologies on modes in-between seeing and sensing. Systems analyst Gerhard Dirmoser developed an extensive alphabet of figures of thought—which I re-translated into a fold-out map. All these written hypotheses served for me as another starting point to develop new drawings, models, installations, or a series of gestures.
NB: What kind of new knowledge do you think was produced?
NG: In my work, the intuitive part of knowing is as vital as the so-called cognitive part. Drawing—which is for me always a performative act in time and space—offered a way to combine these modes of thinking and sensing (in) correlations. Based on my method of “reverse engineering a theory” (by initiating the process of knowing through a speculative approach to reading diagrams, inferring the information they represent), the resulting hypotheses are naturally of very different kinds, reflecting their authors’ particular fields of knowledge in this fractious zone between art, science, and fiction. Each collated reflection—be it a theoretical essay, a poem, or a drawing—produces a very specific form of knowledge, revealing an enticing glance into our sub/consciousness and the possible mental spaces between recognizing and naming. For me “not-(yet)-knowing” is more exciting and inspiring than mere knowing.
NB: You have also done this kind of interpretation live, correct? How does that change the process?
NG: In the last few years I have collaborated with theoreticians and artists in a series of performances which I call TransLectures. Often a text, a drawing, or a material marks the starting point for different layers of interpretations and re-translations. Here drawing—for me a medium of high immediacy—could turn the subject into a score, an ad-hoc diagram, a makeshift model, or an instruction for taking action. Within these performances the process of “drawing beyond drawing” is central and extended along the categories of time, space, and movement: a line of thought becomes a line on the paper, a line in space, a line verbalized, or even a line drawn with the whole body. Together with the writer Emma Cocker I developed a series called Drawing on Drawing a Hypothesis. Using processes of cross-reading and live drawing, we dissected my publication Drawing a Hypothesis in the search for key words and phrases and evocative fragments in order to re-edit its content live.
I am now preparing for the next step of TransLectures, which will take place in July at a performance festival in Berlin called Foreign Affairs. Invited philosophers, sociologists, and economists will discuss the omnipresent phenomenon of betting and the desire for speculation, but also the enormous impact of the idea of “futures” on social interrelations. Parallel to the lectures I will be live transforming the speakers’ ideas into ad hoc diagrams and daring card house models (“bodies of theory”) by translating their ideas into fragile forms of materiality.
NB: Your work sounds perfectly suited to Drafts, the program series at The Drawing Center you’ve recently taken part in. Can you describe your participation, and what was interesting for you about the process?
NG: It was indeed a very exciting process. I felt familiar with the rather associative approach of the “cadavre exquis” applied to Drafts through my research into diagrams. It was fascinating to find new visual material relating to explanations and visualizations in the archives of the Reanimation Library. In my first investigation I felt drawn to figures that are rather abstract and open. In my intense exchange with Kaegan Sparks, we worked on a set of figures which, in the end, contained both movements: an “informed openness” combined with a specific speculative and poetic potential.
[i] “If I enter the drawing and start living in this world, I can describe this other reality as if I were looking at the ‘scene’ as it unfold before me,” Jane Tormey, “The Afterthought of Drawing: 6 Hypotheses” in Drawing a Hypothesis, pp. 241-258.