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Listen to/download audio only (.mp3) Nina Samuel (Berlin, Humboldt) "Die Bildszene" ("The Drawing- or Image-Scene"): Otto Rössler, Chaos and the Materiality of Thought

The emergence of a theory of complex dynamics in the 1970s would not have been possible without both analogue and digital computer technology as instruments of experimental visualization. Nevertheless, the pencil did not function merely as a supplementary tool of investigation but played a pivotal role in the formation of theories in this field. It was not in spite of but rather because of the emergence of computer-generated images that the pencil became an indispensable tool in the process of extracting a theoretical idea from the bulk of visualized data. In many cases it is the drawn line that enables the passage from experimentally-generated images to a concept: the linear was needed to understand the non-linear. This specific function of drawing is exemplified in the working method of the late French mathematician and eminent specialist in this branch of complex dynamics, Adrien Douady. With respect to his techniques, it can be asked to what extent the multi-faceted mannerist term disegno could be applied tentatively to different types of mathematical computer images and their interaction with drawings made by hand. In contrast, the use of drawings of German chaos researcher Otto Rössler seems to be far more radical. In some cases he even considers it to play a primal role in the computer-generated visualization. According to Rössler, a dynamical chaotic shape (or “Gestalt” as he calls it) has to be initially, “forced onto the paper, a process that can be compared to catching prey. When you are doing a drawing on paper, at some point something snaps into place in an almost audible way.” “Force – snapping – death bite”: Rössler uses dramatic and violent terms to describe the moment of finding the form. Only a process of taming creates the conditions for a reconciliation between material and analytical mind. After the adequate form has been found by means of drawing, subsequent analytical reasoning proves to be trivial and simple. Rössler, himself a professed critic of the digital image, used paper and pencil in an accentuated physical and experimental way when developing his concepts on chaos and hyperchaos. He felt that the fingers’ contact with any materiality and the pencil’s abrasiveness on the paper function as material thresholds for thought (“Denkschwellen”) that, in a performative way, can have a retroactive effect on creative ideas, whether artistic or scientific (like a feedback loop). In the process of drawing, thoughts can crystallize that defy the control of analytical intelligibility since their shapes relate to a realm of intuition beyond calculus. Accordingly, obtaining knowledge – and this also holds for mathematical knowledge – must be considered as a process that is dependent on both the materials and the media of representation. In modification of a famous saying of Friedrich Nietzsche, I would like to suggest for Otto Rössler that „drawing utensils co-operate our thoughts“. To point out the role of materiality in the writing process, Friedrich Kittler called the scene of the scribbling Nietzsche an „Urszene“. Rüdiger Campe later described this constellation emblematically in terms of a „writing scene“ („Schreibszene“) that is historically and individually constituted within the framework of semantics, instrumentality (technology of writing) and gesture (the body who writes). Against this background I would like to introduce the notion of a „drawing scene“ or „image scene“ („Bildszene“) that will be devoloped with reference to the epistemic practices of Otto Rössler. The analysis of the interdependency of gestural, material and calculated images in Otto Rössler’s work will be complemented and extended by results from research in the private visual archives of Benoît Mandelbrot (Harvard, IBM, USA), Yoshisuke Ueda (Kyoto, Japan) and others. More generally, the presentation aims at a juxtaposition of what could be called a “thinking with the hand” in complex dynamics with Joseph Beuys’ corresponding notion of a “thinking with the knee”, and their mutual contribution to an understanding of a performative model of thinking. However, the assumption of an autonomous mental inner “world” independent of the realm of sensuality, and of ideas, or concepts, which can be “retraced” independently of their material expression, seems to fall slightly short, especially when observing the practice of such a traditionally-abstract science as mathematics. One of the questions discussed at the conference could also be the function and responsibility of media questions and theories derived from current art historical studies outside the assumed „traditional“ field of art.