I’m reading Andrew Hugill’s 2012 book, ‘Pataphysics: A Useless Guide. I’m curious about ‘pataphysics because:  When I first read Jean Baudrillard’s essay Pataphysics (1952), written when he was 21, I felt like I was finally getting to the source of his strange opaque use of language, which itself has been so influential on “international art english”, and  pataphysics is frequently defined as “the science of imaginary solutions and the laws governing exceptions”, which makes me think of the way Dana Schutz sets herself the challenge of making an image for a (ie. the idea of a person eating their own face, in her painting Face Eater).
I haven’t finished Hugill’s book, but already he’s mentioned a lot of potentially Schutz-esque visual ideas and symbols: “disembraining machine”, “Ma Ubu gives birth to an archaeopteryx”, and “the work of art is a stuffed crocodile” (p.7); “the dog faced baboon” (p.11); “the Painting Machine” (p.16); “inexhaustible sexual activity fuelled by ‘Perpetual-Motion-Food’ and … a race between an express train and a six-man bicycle team which is won by the latter when one of their number dies and goes into a kind of mechanical rigor-mortis while strapped to the pedals” (p.18); “a cylindrical glass chamber housing a floating apparition of a giant ear which plays the violin” and “a device which extracts the dreams of bees and displays them in glass jars” (p.31); “a delirium of stucco and cardboard” (p.40).
Hugill also mentions the symbol of a “green candle”, which reminds me of this collage that I made recently. A coincidence.
From what I’ve learnt so far, the primary symbol of ‘pataphysics seems to be the spiral, and the primary figure, Ubu Roi, is pictured with a spiral on his belly. This reminded me of a painting by Hernan Bas, one of his largest and most ambitious. I had another look at it, and sure enough the title of this Bas painting is Ubu Roi (the war march) (below).The most prominent figure (above) appears to be based on a woodcut picture of “Monsieur Ubu” (c.1896) (below) made by Alfred Jarry, who is the originator of the term and philosophical concept of ‘pataphysics.
A lot of projects that are called (or call themselves) “pataphysics” strike me as very silly, trivial, indulgent endeavours, and yet I’m still curious about the subject. I have the same conflicted curiosity about the work of Michael Krebber, and now I see that his 2003 exhibition title “Here It Is: The Painting Machine” echoes (and perhaps is a reference to) “The Painting Machine” described in Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician (1911), also by Alfred Jarry.So far, I think what interests me most about pataphysics is the role of imagination, which seems important to me in regard to painting as a process of creating images. I neglected imagination last year (2016), in favour of exercises intended to develop my technique and just learn how paint behaves. Now, in this new year, I’d like to redress that, and put technique in the service of imagination.