Thematic and Dramatic Artist examples

Justene Williams

Justene Williams

Nat Randall's The Second Woman
Justene Williams: The National  and Crutch Dance
Fondue Set, The Hoofers
Brown Council, One hour laugh
Daniel Buren, Child's Play, Barbara Cleveland


Kim Schoen: “The Expansion of the Instant: Photography, Anxiety, Infinity”

It begins with death and so on and on.

The paradox of death, that opening to it is pure essence of the possible. Heidegger and Foucault agree that death opens to possibility, but we infinitely stall a way of prolonging and staving of the inevitable. We try everything, “thickening and doubling and mirroring”. The reduplication (creative work) becomes its own thing. This essay engages Foucault’s conception of infinity via photographers— “This linear infinity idealizes by imagining the same thing, as a unit, repeating ad infinitum, rushing forward in time, relying on a hypothetical notion of self-sameness to carry it forth.” (Schoen)

Foucault’s concept of infinity is made possible because of death rather than in denying death. Using examples to infinite play— Kippenberg’s self portrait mimicry of famous works (I’m not so sure we are seduced by these images), demonstrating both shame and shamelessness; Stanya Kahn injury videos; Zoe Crosher and Michelle DuBois ‘perpetual present’ and constant re-working of subjectivities; Tacita Dean’s photographs which will have a life of their own someday (as Foucault talks of about books)—memory in present and future tense; and finally Rosalind Nashashibi’s anxiety and confrontation with the problem of linearity.

I'm glad to have read this last, it helped crystallise the theory of Lingis and Foucault, giving excelelent concrete examples. 

Michael Foucault, “Language to Infinity”  

Foucault and the importance of the written word as a discourse. Language begins as a 'gift from the gods' and ends in possibility, that death offers us creative possibility, infinite space. Speech is the self representation of language, death then is the most essential of the accidents of language. Alphabetical writing too is a form of duplication, because it represents phonetic elements signified, striving after speech ceaselessly. Using Sade as an example, Language, Foucault purports, seeks limits of the possible, in order to birth infinitely extendable configurations.

The book becomes a paradox, we make books to tell stories, but does the book tell its own story? Literature then becomes the site where 'books are all recaptured and consumed: a site that is nowhere..." The Library, he concludes, is infinity where 'language is left to its own devises', and postpones death indefinitely by ceaselessly opening the space where it is always the anologue of itself" (p86). 

Alfonso Lingis, on Heidegger in ‘Deathbound Subjectivity’: “The Origin of Infinity”


James P. Carse, “No One Can Play A Game Alone,” in Finite and Infinite Games.

I found this the most challenging of the reading, having never read Lingis before. Husserl’s notion that Western mind, Lingis argues, promotes subjectivity, in its history to become the absolute form of being. Man over nature. The subjugation of nature to our own needs, then becomes part of what it is to be human. History he says pursues the West, when Western history alone is really historical. The West’s ideas of subjectivity is without end, this infinity is pursued—Infinite truth. Western religion (and I read here Christianity) is the worship of the infinite. This idea has given the West permissions to enforce it’s imperialisms, expansions and control, a way of transcending all finite structures. This theoretical truths becomes unconditional, a truth that remains sacrosanct. Lingis suggests that infinity then is not only in the subject but the object as well. The infinite then is build into Western science (as opposed to mere observation).


Another fascinating, dense read. It reminded me of the best idea behind design thinking. Designers and artist by their nature are Infinite Players. They are happy to sit in the funk of uncertainty and to play, to surprise.  The difference between goals and vision.

There are two types of games: those finite and those infinite. The finite is for those who wish to win (adults)  and infinite, those who wish to play (children). The decisive winners are decided by the referees and the spectators.

Makes perfect sense that an finite games must have boundaries, as well as beginnings and ends and an opponent. But is it true that whoever plays, plays freely? If they must play, they cannot play? 

Games are required to be externally defined: both in membership and place. We may enter a game not expecting to win, but expecting the highest rank possible.

Infinite players do not care when the game began, as it is not bounded by time. This type of play is intended to be infinite, without boundaries or barriers. Internal vs external. Finite games can work within infinite games, but not the other way around. 

There are 'rules of the game,' that must set conditions/contracts of the finite play. They must be observed or threaten the game. Rules are "valid only if and when players freely play them."

Rules and the setting of them is the big distinction between the finite and infinite. The rules of infinite must change in the course of play. Winning is not necessarily the importance of the infinite, just brining people on board. Grammar versus debate. Grammar is essential for us to continue to communicate and understand one another, rules of debate are constant. Rules are made to fend off threats to ending infinite play. Finite within, Infinite without boundaries.

Other conditions: finite players are selected, and must continue to perform according to their set roles. Finite means someone must win. Sometimes with stakes as high as life or death. Limitations of finite play are self-limitations. Finite players keep their own person distinct from the role. We live one life and perform another when we play finite games. 

To be playful is open to surprise, everything that happens is of consequence. Infinite games cannot be abstracted.

Finite games=theatrical—Infinite games=dramatic. Script is a record of exchanges between players, not the rules. Can 'surprise' work in all instances of finite play? Infinite players wish to be transformed by surprise. To be prepared for surprise is to be trained. "Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future. (love this).

Validation of titles and their infinity of recognition.
Death in life (ceasing to play) vs Life in death (titles not forgotten). Life and death: slaves and medical strategies for life-threatening illnesses (be interesting to see what Carse make of plastic surgery and body modification, so popular today, fighting ageing—aka death). Immortality is serious business and not playful n the least— a state of unrelieved theatricality. Immortality is a life one cannot live. Finite's play for immortality, Infinite's play as mortals. Contradictions versus paradox.

Infinite play is joyous in that something is started they cannot finish. The titled are the powerful. Finite players have power, Infinite players strength. (Power brings past to an outcome settling the unresolved; strength carries past forward, with none of its issue solvable). What has happened vs what is yet to happen. Power is restricted to a small number, anyone can be strong.

Evil terminates infinite play, not finite. It's an expression of power. Evil is a contradiction of terms.


No one can play alone.  Entertainment, amusement diversion. Bismarck described politics as possibility: possibility within fixed limits, within social realities. Contained. War must be contained to terms of the conflict. Infinites attempt to offer continuity and open-endedness in place of the 'heroic last scene'. Culture is not an open-ended activity, but designed to serve societal interests. It is an "enterprise of mortals, disdaining to protect themselves against surprise." 

Patriotism, sexism chauvinism, racism, etc ingredients of social play, work to sustain the permanence of the whole. Society is a manifestation of power. Deviancy is the very essence of culture, following the script means you are culturally impoverishment. Infinite play is not repeatable, the character of culture.

One does not win by power; one wins to be powerful. Property is an attempt to recover the past. Wealth to infinite is performed, not possessed. The importance of poiesis, is that they remember what is forgotten. Conflict with other societies is a way to restrains its own culture.  Original thinkers are suppressed or encouraged to praise the societal heroes. Famously rich buy art, protecting the people from it.

Infinite players have rules: but understand they are an expression of an agreement, not a requirement. Art has no scripted rules. It cannot be looked for, it must be surprise. Society by boundaries; Culture by horizon. A boundary is a opposition. Patriotism is the desire to contain finites, where the horizon can not be seen clearly— it opens up to what lies beyond it. We can never reach a horizon, hence infinite play. We enter into an existing context and alter it. War is a means of self identification, not self protection.


No one determines who audiences will be. Unity of an audience is vital. Finite games need an audience, but we need a theatre of finite lay to remain a world. Finite player must have freedom of time. Time viewed not lived. Infinites generates time, not consume it. A finite puts play into time. And Infinite puts time into play. Eternal birth.