Sketchbooks are a reflexive space where ideas and visual language connect and evolve. My work focuses on the explorative aspects of drawing — the performative and processual — threading together the digital, physical and conceptual realms. I use drawing as both support and primacy medium. It is my code, a subjective system for making sense of, and engaging with the world around me. The sketchbooks are ongoing tests for my projects, as they are for many creative practitioners; they also become projects in their own right. For example, my recently published book MOUSE is a gathering of a years worth of drawings, each a calendar page. The very act of gathering information into a book codifies it and brings significance.|
Can information be expressed and recoded through drawing? Code is as an underlying system of rules used to convert information into another form or representation. The function of a code is to 'communicate, clarify or obfuscate'1 especially when spoken or written language is inadequate or impossible. Drawing is a gestural re-presentation of the world that seeks to simultaneously define and blur the agreed world.
Luhmann writes of code as 'a systems basal structure' — It must correspond to the systems function, must be complete rather than distinguishing just anything, must be selective with regard to the external world, must provide information within the system and should be open to modification and reflection on its values.2 I use a sketchbook to codify, to select and generate. What materials will be used? how will the mark(s) be made? what form are the mark(s)? etc… All these values are to be composed into a functioning coherent system.
Sketchbooks begin with textual or visual research relating to an idea or set of propositions that I wish to explore further. Often related to the human/digital connect. These evolve into experiments with forms of mark making and systems of working. Conscious intellect in symbiosis with unconscious intuition.3 Gesture becomes language. As a project develops, the sketchbook reinforces its central role as a database of research, ideas and propositions. Information is added in the form of quotes, significant words, theoretical references, drawings, sketches, research images, colour swatches, calculations, doodles, scribbles and notes. These books have several outputs. For instance pigment and pixel fuse into hybrid constructions that become animated sonnets and installations. A pen attached to a computer mouse becomes drawing, becomes a book, meets databending and becomes net art. A simple algorithm becomes drawing. An unsecured mobile phone becomes photography. An ISBN4 becomes…
Throughout a project there are points of departure in which I will make a work to test the assembled information. These usually result in some kind of failure in which a flaw or weakness is exposed. However, failures provide essential feedback for the direction of a project, and often lead to new avenues of thought and investigation. Testing my ideas and propositions, they begin to gather coherence. Those that remain sound provide further clarity and reinforce the direction of a project, whilst misunderstandings or slippages are used as new boundaries for the known. To Virilio the accident can 'reveal something absolutely necessary to knowledge'. It is 'hyper-functional', as it shows a system in a state of entropy and so aids in revealing 'something important that we would not otherwise be able to perceive'.5
The private space of my sketchbook speaks to me of exploratory play and speculative enquiry. It provides me with continuity and purposefulness, although the continuity and purposefulness are not fully understood. This is my safe-space, space walk, my space of possibility…
Darren Marsh, 2016
1 Casey Reas, Chandler McWilliams, LUST, Form + Code In Design, Art, and Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010) p. 11.
2 Niklas Luhman, Art As A Social System (Stanford University Press, California, 2000) p. 185-186
3 Anton Ehrenzweig, The Hidden Order of Art, (Weidenfield and Nicolson, London, 1967) p. 44
4 ISBN (The International Standard Book Number) is an international numbering system for books
5 Sylvère Lotringer / Paul Virilio, The Accident of Art (Semiotext(e), New York, 2005) p. 63