Three weeks after our interview, while editing this essay with your brother Barnaby, I received the message that you had been involved in a tragic bike accident in London. I flew over a day later. Three days later you died. In the following weeks, being with your family, I slept in your studio. Surrounded by your art I felt as if you were still with us. Your insatiable love, your contagious energy is present and will be carried on in the myriad, unique artworks, you created. You were truly inspiring in your unconventional way of being in this world, in which you touched and lightened so many things and souls.
You are loved and missed so dearly, Joshua.
Joshua Hopping 19 March 1990–9 October 2020
Greetings from don’t look back you’re not going that way
On transversal trajectories, resistant waste dumps and a new new romanticism
Thoughts on Joshua Hopping’s Partial Heart
by Imke Gerhardt
Fig. 1 Joshua Hopping, Partial Heart (Greetings from don’t look back you’re not going that way), 2020. Photograph: Joshua Hopping.
To create a space is to determine its outside. To define them separately is to negate the conjunctive traffic in between. Between separating definitions, the search for alliance becomes an act of resistance.
Capitalistic control is the arrangement of spaces and the positioning of the clock on the wall. It is an artificial spatial and temporal formation, which in the process of its naturalisation, made nature its artificially enclosed counterpart. Putting into opposition what is in relation, the control-mania, driven by the phantasm of unambiguous designations, fully loses its mind in ambiguity. A reactionary conventionalism, calling for clear classifications, a desperate fixation on everything which is supposed to be fixed, is simply the indirect and unintended affirmation of the trans-formative power of the in-between.
On identities for sale
& unexpected supply difficulties of the in-between(er)
The West’s moral “superiority” is an economic derivative. Deriving comfort from one’s liberal tolerance, neoliberalism’s pluralisation of identities, their celebrated increase has inevitably an economic connotation. What we see is the accumulation of hermetically sealed identity-containers.
Piled up, like on a cargo ship, a container is only valued in its strategical relation to the sum.
When the inner form is normed, the outer layer can be liberal. A superficial plurality, celebrated, as long as it is economically navigable. Compactness is efficiency and allocation is the power of disposition. The opacity of substance matches capitalism’s preference for outside identification. Labelling becomes the prevention of loss. Lost in unidentifiability, the non-classifiable, which becomes the unsellable (identity) container, is distracting capitalistic rhythms of value creation.
The hermetically sealed container, its enforced, imposed solid state of aggregation, is the fear of the plasma, blustering between their niches. Or to put it differently: As long as a clear attribution is possible and an identity thus sellable, capitalism is very much in favour of their pluralisation. But, as soon as a clear difference is lost in a blurry in-between, making any identification impossible, an intolerable question arises: What to sell when no label can be applied?
Plasma is like a physical non-form. As the fourth state of aggregation (alongside solid, liquid and gas) it dissolves structural solidity in a highly energetic play of whirling free electrons. In its instable energy level, plasma has the power to significantly alter the surface condition of the solid matter with which it collides. (Dis)charged in an in-between state, it is a transformative power, constantly re-structuring what is sought to be ordered and complete.1
In the context of languages, one speaks of metaplasm as the alteration of a structure or of the sound of a word, indicating again that there is a close link between formation and connotation in the Western world. Donna Haraway picks up the grammatical term to describe the corporeal changes of bodies of higher developed species, relating to or impinging upon each other in overlapping times and spaces. The constant movements and changes, happening on a microscopic level, indicate that every creation is necessarily based on relations. There are always multiple connections, linking complexities.2 However, to reduce or negate the internal links for reasons of clarity is the method of the Western thought-system, which not just equates knowledge and order, but also tries to cement the latter by making it synonymous with security.
Linearity is clarity and clarity is order.
Better build a security fence!
Insecurity is the feeling of losing both ends, which created linearity. The danger of stumbling into an unpredictable, contingent future and the fear of losing a fixed origin. Contingent foundation and multiple outcomes.3
Losing linearity is seen as a loss of direction. The beauty of non-linearity is only admirable on the CV of the anarchist, doubting to find orientation or direction in progression alone.
If orientation is dependent on the power-relations, to which it aligns, then disorientation can be an in-between stage through which the existing conditions can be criticised. Chosen disorientation as a counter-hegemonic strategy? As a possibility to meander without a pre-given vanishing-point, to be out of sync to capitalistic rthythms, which construct historically specific relations of time and space.
Here, the term liminality is apt. As the by-product of a ritual process, liminality, defined in anthropology, describes an in-between condition. It is a state of being temporally disoriented, detached from the social order into which one is re-integrated as a transformed self.4
But wishing to leave behind imposed certainties always goes along with the likelihood of getting dizzy in the vortex of them suddenly being whirled up. There is a clear difference between searching for disorientation in a ritual, employing it consciously as a counter-hegemonic strategy, and the involuntary experience of disorientation, perceived as being lost in the abyss.
But maybe this supposedly clear difference can equally blur? By acknowledging an in between, we can override the distinction between control and non-control completely, which has been a false presupposition from the outset. This new acceptance of an in-between in-betweenness would reject the illusion of the omnipotent human, traditionally conceptualised as having control over (nature, animals, the world) — and it would accept that there never is any moment of full mastery, but always a necessary embeddedness in contingent, multiple relations, on which we depend and through which we become who we are, anything, but never complete.
In love with a Partial Heart — A new new romanticism5
Wholeness is a romantic idea and the heart could invariably be its symbol. Beating desire, the rhythm of origin and end. Of the individual in creation. Indeed, romanticism fetishised the individual, the artist genius, creating from his imagination alone, the original work.
Deiform creation ex nihilo.
Joshua Hopping’s Partial Heart, Greetings from don’t look back you’re not going that way (fig.1) is fractured wholeness and collapsed linearity. Not a closed heart, but one “open to the outside,“6 permeable. Its singularity is external plurality. Found and collected uniqueness in interchangeability. A new new romanticism.
Greetings from a compartmentalised nostalgia. The collected memory fragments of the unknown, unclassifiable multiple other become a perforate shell for the emptiness inside its frames. Like a rudiment of the past, the tail of this hybrid being called Partial Heart curls inwards, desperately in search for a union with its head, which has its disdain for the latter written on its forehead: Don’t look back you’re not going that way — the progression-imperative of the rational mind, calling for linearity.
But the tail, marking a past origin, and the head in its strive for the future are already collapsed. A reared up linearity, denying the sequential ordering of time and clear directions. A twisted spine, the turning of buttocks and face towards each other. A linearity, collapsing inwards is what is creating plasticity here. Yet a plastic without totality-claim. No inner integrity, but constant integration — of a supposed outside, of past and future, of what is distant and what is close — overlayered in the incomplete form of the present.
No completeness, says Joshua, but consistent updates. The convergency of past and anticipated future, but no closed cycle of repetition. In fact, a “fractured ouroboros”. No cyclical model of history, but no teleological, linear conceptualisation either. Rather a sensitivity for the contradictory forces, the multiple layers, the coincidental conjunctions and divisions of what is meant to be discrete, independent parts, each supposedly fixed in their entirety.
“[T]he object is almost held together by desire and the disparate nature of its surfaces really is about wielding, embracing and highlighting many tensions,” says Joshua.
The mostly found material surface carries stories of different times and places, carries a “situatedness.”7. By becoming integrated into new relations, without giving up its former voice (discontinuity), the situated material illustrates the multitude of contingent encounters, of temporary partial connections and creates a living organism in the first place.
The uniqueness of Joshua’s art lies in their love and appreciation for the material, whose selection becomes central to the form itself: Partial Heart does not come into existence through a subtraction process — a homogeneous material reacting to the operating hands of the artists — but through a complex addition method, in which the heterogeneous addends do not dissolve in the sum, but stay visible as its constitutive parts. Resistant summands take agency themselves by influencing the new form through their old shape.
The co-existence of addend and sum is the indistinguishability of material and form and equally of outside and inside. The constitutive parts (summands) are the inner organs and its outer appearance (sum) at the same time: “I am resistant to the idea of depth,” says Joshua.
But is the heart not synonymous to the core and the core is depth? Metaphorical expression of the intimate, the innermost, the most fragile. Equated with the singular individual, the heart is representative of an integrity — intact wholeness. A hole, cardiac defect, premature death. Conceptualisation of the individual as an unbroken entity. But I, is already many and possessing one’s body, is just a fiction created by white men, who, not fearing dispossession, are the only ones having the privilege to make it their reality. — You stole my heart!
Between push and pull there is no mastery
Joshua’s work is partialised wholeness, outside inwardness, un-possessive permeability, personal alienness.
Being torn apart between moments of the past, the remote (greetings from) and an anticipated future (don’t look back), is a disruption, which the faculty of memory — bringing here together the antithetical (head and tail) — tries to fuse. Demanded to carry on, but a turning inwards instead. Crumbling linearity, a breakdown of orientation. The coming into existence of an inner emptiness, which is depression. A collapse of internalised outer expectations (like the linear CV), a contraction, triggered by the hard-hitting beats of progressive capitalistic rhythms. This is involuntary disorientation, a liminal experience, like being lost in the abyss.
But depression is also resistance, as Fahim Amir notes, a body and a mind resisting its functional adjustment and the clocking of efficiency.8 To withdraw one’s presence from a time and space, which capitalism ordered, is to resist exploitation to survive. Partial Heart is a form of resistance. Its incomplete shape, along with its empty inside, constitutes the temporary product of its practice. Two antagonistic forces in an infusible tension: A diverging force, trying to order origin (greetings from), future (don’t look back) and everything in between in a sequential linearity and at the same time converging energies, which in desperate desire uprise against the flatness of the straight line to form an incomplete, a fragile heart. This is voluntary disorientation, a liminal experience, like a counter-hegemonic strategy.
There is no difference between involuntary or voluntary liminality in Joshua’s Partial Heart. It is inescapably both: a new in-between in-betweenness, a new new romanticism — no omnipotent subject, no glorification of the artist genius.
Its creative principle of origin denies a clear differentiability between un/controlled liminality.
Overcome is the idea that either the rational human being has full control over its surroundings, allowing him/her* to then lose the latter in a controlled setting (voluntary liminality), or he/she* fully loses their mastery in catastrophic situations like floods or earthquakes, when passively pushed into an unchosen state of liminality. Partial Heart is rather the understanding of an embeddedness in the plethora of fluid relations, it is the expression of a sensitivity for the continuous (re)shaping of incomplete entities, which do not exist prior to their multiple encounters, influencing each other’s infinite becoming. Meaning: Partial Heart and the process of creating it are neither just chosen disorientation in order to escape capitalistic reality (liminality, counter-hegemonic strategy) nor expression of an involuntary liminal experience – a collapse, caused by outer expectations. But, in fact, it overcomes dichotomy by negating that a clear difference between outside and inside is possible. By negating that there is no either/or, having control or non, but inevitably both. As to become is to be in relation. Thus, not just push and pull between the subject and its outside, but an interaction on a constitutive level. The singular individual (the hermetically sealed identity container) is capitalistically conceptualised in independence from their surroundings – from which the arrogant idea of having domination over derives. But there is no complete entity and never just an extrinsic outside like there is no artist genius (romanticism) just creating ex nihilo. “It is its own thing […] it isn’t a representation of me […] it’s vitality,” says Joshua. The partiality of Partial Heart does not mean the fraction of a presupposed wholeness, but an additive coming into existence as the sum of contingent encounters. What is thought to be enclosed in the core is nothing but its outside and what is thought to be external is already internalised.
Airtight packaging — Thoughts on morphology
Partial Heart is a composite, a hybrid creature without a master nor a signature marking its finish. Yet, in staying incomplete the artwork finds its completion, meaning that the problem is not completion but the notion of the ‘incomplete’ and therefore the unsatisfactory definition of the latter: The equation of total, perfect, absolute, positive and real with the former and deficient, imperfect, inadequate and lacking with the latter, indicates that there is the persisting illusion of a completable form, like there is the illusion of self-contained identities (identity-containers). Both correlate with the idea of separable units of time and clearly divisible spaces.
On the contrary, everything which is termed incomplete, which is partial, in-between or trans becomes negatively connoted.
Partial Heart is incomplete completeness, imperfect perfectness. It is total in its void. The inner emptiness of the heart is filled by opening up to the outside world. A constant exchange of inside and outside or better its inseparable simultaneity. “I don’t see the work as holistic because I want it to still open further.”
Indeed, one could ask, when is something seen as complete? When is something perceived as a form? Gaseous matter fills up the void, given by the outlining solid matter. What even is Partial Heart? The positive material or the negative, the hollow inside? Again, the wrong question indicating its descent from a Western dualistic system of thought. Its form is inseparably both. A fluid interaction between gaseous and solid matter, their reaction over time: oxidation — material change.
These ignored but ongoing micro-processes of (ex)change are the reasons for the West’s pedantic conservation of art. Again, an indirect affirmation of the trans-formative power of the in-between – you remember that sentence? My text is a “fractured ouroboros,” too.
The Western fetish to preserve art is the idea of conservable and separable units of time. To collect these units, and to bring them into an artificial linearity, to invent epochs, to decontextualise, to singularise and to label is the violence of the Western thought system with an obsession to classify and order — in order to make sense.
How the West defines art as unique singularity correlates to how it celebrates identities. Both are affected not just by the Western obsession to register and order, but also by its power to decide what or who is represented. Labelling is violent attribution based on appearance. Violent for all, suffocating from the tightness of their label, for all, not fitting in the structure in the first place. All the forgotten, the unrecognised, the invisible of the in-between.
The worst-case scenario for the image-archive is similar to the one for the cargo ship: A non-identifiable image or a lost label; an intern(al)-mistake is nearly like losing an artwork. Not classifiable means not representable, which in turn means not valuable. Disruption of capitalistic rhythms, like the stream of visitors who are only attracted by the big selling names.
Whether a non-imputable artwork or a lost identity-container: [If] any identification [is] impossible, an intolerable question arises, of what to sell when no label can be applied?
Diagnosis: OCD past cure
Disproportionate overproduction of the labelling machine is capitalism’s desperate answer. A violent and pedantic pasting over: clear, unconnected block letters overpowering that which resists clear readability through the fluidity of their multiple connections. Capitalism’s obsessive-compulsive disorder causes the imposition of a rigid order (though everything is in motion) and the relentless supervision of its maintenance. The result is constant obsessive cleaning with caustic detergents. Dirt is a constructed social category,9 it is relational in its definition. Dirt is not intrinsic to anything, but an outer attribution. It is the unwanted by-product, produced by the pedantic mind in an attempt to establish a logical order: Dirt is anything understood to be at the wrong place.10 The racist implications are blatant: black is synonymised with dirty, white with pure.
Everything has its right place suggests the rational voice of capitalism’s pedantic classification system: “There are beggars and buskers operating on this train, please do not encourage their presence by supporting them.”11 Imperatives generate the ambient sounds of the London Underground and CCTV safeguards their compliance. “Stand on the Right!” and other ‘functional’ imperatives repeat the efficiency of capitalistic rhythms — the ordered chevy of the commuter traffic — become morally charged. Left-standing beggars are in that regard even worse than graffiti. Moving smudges, constantly escaping the purging control. Despite inhumane Muzak underground and anti-homeless spikes overground, they tirelessly resist their expulsion from the sanitised areas of downtown London. 627,707 CCTV cameras in the city12 are not sufficient, every further eye is needed to surveil the cleanliness of the discriminatory capitalistic order established. The tube announcement continues: “See it. Say it. Sorted.“ To sort out means to solve a problem by bringing something in the right order again. Order, synonym for security. The calculated whipping up of fear and disgust, aiming to reproduce the discriminatory division of morally charged spaces, is disciplining denunciation. The corruption of affects, pervaded by the tentacles of a horizontal capitalistic power, allows the latter to be voluntarily realised by the ‘subject’ as its devote vehicle. The infinite subjectivisation/subjection is performed in a historically specific capitalist arrangement of time and space, which is thereby as much internalised as confirmed. Only through the fully arbitrary division and violent definition — arrogated by the white man — of who/what belongs where in his artificial classification system, the disruptive element can be successfully detected and identified. Who is allowed to enter, what has to be removed? CCTV’s automatic face detection — iPhone X’s face ID: their cooperation (Snowden is expulsed from the Western space forever!).
Expulsion of all these potential offenders, standing on the left (hand) side, of all the dirty disruptive elements, uglifying the clean appearance of aseptic spaces of capitalistic consumption.13 Dirt is thrown out things. Things out of order, disrupting the order of things of the consumer society. An order which is spatially rigid, but simultaneously penetrated by the accelerated rhythms of production/consumption. Early expiry dates, planned technical obsolescence, shredded poults. Capitalism controls value by controlling all life cycles. The megalomania of the human being is the denial of their own mortality while arrogantly trying to define the finiteness of everything else. Control of cardiac rhythms.
Partial Heart, a cardiac defect? But neither a controlling pacemaker nor a premature death. Rather a new longevity, which is enabled by resistance against capitalistic cycles of reproduction and by a new attribution of its value, not measured in the monetary sign, but in paying attention and taking care of what is seen as dead already (the trashed shoe). ‘Attention’ and ‘care’ are essential to their creative practice and are equally the essence of knowledge, Joshua explains. Therefore, not the reproduction of a Western knowledge, based on a clear ordering of time and space together with the determination of its temporally designated ‘inhabitants’ (chickens, not outside their cage! Deformed apples, not in the supermarket-shelf! Women, not in the boardroom! Foreigners out!) but a breakup with its discriminatory linear rigidity: “By following a process indebted to encounters, to change and contingency.” (Joshua). The potential becoming of a hybrid creature. Partial Heart, pieced together by its surroundings, is carrying a heaviness of dispersed times and places, meant to be temporally discrete and spatially apart — and the easiness of their playful interaction, muddling up the linear order. Usually expulsed from the aseptic consumption areas that fetishise controllable short lifespans, the declared dead survives outside its capitalistic determination.14
In order to live an organism always depends on the close, often invisible connections to its environment, simply ignored by the hubris of the Western individual proclaiming independence. However, between supposedly complete entities there is conjunctive traffic, which – taking into consideration Joshua’s practice of ‘paying attention’ and ‘taking care’ – can show new forms of alliance, resisting ordered expectations. Partial Heart, this relational being, displays a new in-between in-betweenness and a new new romanticism, an alternative love story where the heart just comes into being through the incorporation of the disparate and where the flourishing of its love is not decaying of, but rooted in its incompleteness, its boundless opening up to the outside world.
A heart is a muscular, hollow organ. With every contraction it nourishes its surrounding organs and with every release it absorbs the outside to share anew. A living organism depends on the rhythms of its heart that guarantees circulation which puts the disparate organs in relation. Partial heart came into existence in Tbilisi, Georgia, and lives on in London. At arrival it was in a state of contraction, but ready to release. Ready to be filled and then share love again with every heartbeat.
Fig. 2: Joshua Hopping, Partial heart (Greetings from don’t look back you’re not going that way), summer 2020, after it arrived in London. Photograph: Joshua Hopping.
Imke Gerhardt studied Politics and Art History at Freie Universität Berlin, where she’s currently finishing her Masters in Art History. Focussing mainly on Modern and Contemporary Art, Media and Performance, Imke is interested in the entanglement of power relations and visual regimes. As a dancer she especially likes to question the latters effect on the body, its ways of expression and perception. Very much attracted to poetry, too, Imke likes to explore a more experimental style of academic writing, believing that a critique can just take effect, when the structure of language and communication is challenged, where ideology resides.
1 “Plasma, der vierte Aggregatzustand,” Plasmatreat, accessed 8 November 2020, https://www.plasmatreat.de/plasmatechnologie/was_ist_plasma.html#:~:text=Plasma%20%E2%80%93%20der%20vierte%20Aggregatzustand&text=Durch%20Energiezufuhr%20%C3%A4ndern%20sich%20die,Plasmazustand%20als%20vierten%20Aggregatzustand%20%C3%BCber.
2 Donna Haraway, Das Manifest für Gefährten. Wenn Spezies sich begegnen – Hunde, Menschen und signifikante Andersartigkeit, trans. Jennifer Sophia Theodor (Berlin: Merve Verlag, 2016), 26-28.
3 Judith Butler, “Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the Question of ‘Postmodernism’,” in Feminist Contentions: A Philosophical Exchange, ed. Seyla Benhabib et al (New York and London: Routledge, 1995) pp. 35–58.
4 Victor Turner, “Liminal to Liminoid, in Play, Flow, and Ritual: An Essay in Comparative Symbology,” Rice Institute Pamphlet – Rice University Studies, 60, no. 3 (1974): https://hdl.handle.net/1911/63159.
5 The doubled “new“ demarcates Joshua’s style from the New Romantic Movement of the late '70s.
6 If not noted otherwise, quotes are from an interview with Joshua, Berlin, 17 September 2020.
7 Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (Autumn 1988): 575–599.
8 Fahim Amir, Schwein und Zeit. Tiere, Politik, Revolte (Edition Nautilus: Hamburg, 2018), 74-75.
9 Amir refers to anthropologist Mary Douglas who defined dirt as a social category. Ibid, 89-91.
11 May Bulman, “London Underground criticised over ‘heartless’ announcements telling passeners not to ‘encourage’ beggars,” The Independent, 16 February 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-underground-tube-beggars-homeless-people-announcement-a8214601.html.
12 “CCTV Installation Experts,” CCTV, accessed 9 November 2020, https://www.cctv.co.uk/how-many-cctv-cameras-are-there-in-london/.
13 Amir, Schwein und Zeit, 85-90.