Jeffrey Strayer: The Haecceities Series

November 10, 2012 - December 02, 2012

As stated in Subjects and Objects, no artwork can lack an identity. That is, for any artwork there must be some thing, some entity of some kind, that the work is meant to be. The particular thing that a particular artwork is meant to be will have a particular identity, a haecceity,that every other object lacks. (See the video On Haecceities: Essentialism and the Limits of Abstraction.)

That one must use language to identify the limits of Abstraction in art is recognized in Subjects and Objects, and the use of language to determine limits of Abstraction is carefully considered in Haecceities: Essentialism and the Limits of Abstraction. Language that is used to single something out with which all or part of an artwork is meant to be identified I call a ‘specification.’ The specifications that I have written to identify limits of Abstraction I call Haecceities. (See the video On theHaecceities Series.) So Haecceities is the title of the book pertaining to Essentialist artworks, and the specifications on which the more Abstract artworks depend are themselves called Haecceities.

Apprehension of an artwork’s identity depends on a public perceptual object. The consciousness of such a perceptual object creates an artistic complex with certain essential elements. Essentialist Abstraction investigates how a specification – a Haecceity – can address as it utilizes essential elements of an artistic complex to effect the identification of all or part of an artwork with an object as that identification is indexed to, or depends on, elements of an artistic complex in which the identity of the whole or the part of the work is comprehended.

For reasons given in Haecceities: Essentialism and the Limits of Abstraction, language that is used in an effort to determine a limit of Abstraction must be visual. Visual language that is used in the service of Essentialist Abstraction has an intellectual and aesthetic power that auditory language would lack were one to attempt to put it to the same use. However, using visual language in two-dimensional space presents problems to which I refer as the problems of number, figure and ground, distribution, and asymmetry. (See the video On the Haecceities Series.) All of these problems can be solved for linear specifications by using an algorithm that I discovered for distributing tokens of a specification in either two sets or four sets of different correlated pairs of matrices. The same set of problems appears for circular language, but can also be solved for such language in ways exhibited in certain works of the series.

Jeffrey Strayer is an artist and philosopher and is the author ofSubjects and Objects: Art, Essentialism, and Abstraction (Brill, 2007). Strayer has been an invited speaker at both domestic and foreign universities and is a frequent presenter at national and international conferences. He is at work on a series of artworks called the HaecceitiesSeries that investigates the limits of Abstraction in art and the conceptual and aesthetic possibilities of Essentialism. A companion volume to Subjects and Objects titled Haecceities: Essentialism and the Limits of Abstraction is a work-in-progress that pertains to the works of the Haecceities series and examines a number of things that are of aesthetic, artistic, and philosophical interest to the project of Essentialist Abstraction. Strayer is a Continuing Lecturer in philosophy at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne