The Expansive Contract

ARCH 528C – Drawing Cultures – Prof. Pete Goche

Within the evolution of Western global imaginings has been the precarious boundary between known and unknown space. On a flat map, the known can be extended to the very edges of representational space, leaving implicit the question what lies beyond the frame. From antiquity the bounds of the earth have been drawn to distinguish humanity from the rest of nature and to register imperial claims over both natures and peoples.


And yet, with historical distance and perspective an alternate reading is made obvious: the discovery of the ‘New World’ as seen through these maps signals a self-undermining consumption of spiritual resources. It was not the horrors of the unknown, that blackness of fear that was pushed towards the edges of the world, but rather the systematic devouring of an edible pscyhoplasm; a sacral feast, as physical as non-physical, seen through this shrinking fog of mysterious nourishment. One can only imagine the adventurous and devoted men nibbling at the edges, attacking from all directions, conquering a bit of truth here, a bit of truth there, only to find their appetites grown larger and more difficult to satisfy. When nothing is ‘sacred’ to the enlightened consciousness anymore, it becomes greedy, a world of instruments lies at the feet of this amorphous and imprecise greed, but it finds no real enjoyment in them.


The Expansive Contract (triptych below) imagines a post-enlightened civilization where a deliberate obfuscation has visually re-sealed the landscape. This reversal imagines darkness as utopia: as a means to recast symbolic meaning, mystery, and intimate presence through void and in-articulation.

(The following is a collage of images I’ve constructed over the semester with text from Peter Sloterdijk on intimacy and ‘being with’.)

Entering the Fetal Night
Entering the Fetal Night
The black of the eye has to expand for sight to be maintained in the dark. If the dark grows as deep as in the exquisite night, it would be helpful if the black of the eye could become as large as the eye itself. Perhaps such a spheric eye would be ready for the journey through a black monochrome. If the subject in the dark had become wholly a pupil, the pupil wholly a tactile organ, and the tactile organ wholly a sounding body, the homogenous massif of that orb of blackness could unfold into landscapes already sensed.

The Black ArchipelagoThe Black Archipelago
Suddenly a world before the world begins to transpire; a vague, ethereal universe taking shape, as delicate as breath, pre-discrete. The salty night remains safe in its unspeakable density, and its circle sealed with no possible exit; and yet organic somethings begin to stand out, like sculptures of black mercury against a black background. Within the undifferentiated, sketches of areas diverge, and in the intimate closeness a first yonder polarizes itself, enabling an incipient here to return.

Fortress of Truth
Fortress of Truth
As a black basalt ball, my being is an uncreased heaviness. I rest within myself, brooding in my milieu as if it were a night made of stone. And yet, as self-sufficient as I might be, some inkling of difference must already have dawned inside the dark fortress in which I live and weave. If I were merely a basalt black, how could it be that a vague sense of being-in is taking root within me? What is the meaning of this feeling, this floating bulge? If my black were seamlessly joined to the fortress’ eternally dead interior of the same black, why would I feel a hasty beating stirring within me, and above it the slower distant drum? If I were indistinguishably merged with the black substance, how could I already be something that senses a space and makes movements within it? Can there be a substance that is simultaneously sensation?

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