Digital art has come to focus, and rightly so, on the interactive meeting point between the viewer and the art object, the way the viewer becomes an agent of change and participator by using interactive technologies. This is of course necessary to explore one of the intrinsic characteristics of new media. But in doing so there’s also a focus on singular moments extracted from time. Other definitions might give way to how the metaphors and models could integrate how art can evolve over very large temporal spans. There’s slowness on the border of inertia in the way the city of Abadyl develops. Involving many actors in the process develops nodes of expressions that may have meaning for the actors themselves in their work. That meaning gears into other levels and speed, when put together with other nodes from other actors. The exhibition situation is one such moment when the speed of the artifacts implodes. They enter into a realm where they can be contemplated and juxtaposed into new stories for the viewers. The term ‘floating work of art’, with references to Eco maybe better depict this openness, not only in directions of the narrative but also the character of work-in-progress (Dinkla, 2002). Fieldasy01, the exhibition, does not increase speed going from object to signs and representations. It stops time to put forth material objects that are generative rather than produced. Generative in the sense that they have nor original nor final form. They are sprung out of a chain of association that generates new forms, which in its turn re-combines into new stories by the side-stepping act of the viewer.

Against the self-evident – a thorough indefiniteness, a defined obscurity

Where there is architecture there is nothing else. And this “Nothing else” is spreading. The built buildings, the layed out streets and marked out parking spaces are not just taking place, they take over the place. As we, in Walter Benjamin’s words, usually experience architecture in a distracted way at that, the result is a universe which in its persistent presence excludes, even precludes, all kinds of other things. A kind of everyday totalitarianism, whose frontier towards the potential is not a ban, but a persevering negligence. The frontier towards what’s difficult to imagine is drawn as narrow as what’s self-evident is the only conceivable thing. I am driving down this street, parking in this space and entering this building, not because I wish to, but because obviously there are no other alternatives than not doing this. If nothing else, then a conspiracy of the safe and snug against… well, against what? Maybe the never realised. Even frustration and expectation are channeled into ever-narrowing and ever more directed furrows. I want/don’t want (to do) this, turns into a choice between total acceptance of the given and militant extremism against it. What this given is or could be must not be a question of doubt. That the conjugations “be (it so)” and “were (it so)” in just two generations have achieved a ring to them so antiquated that they hardly can be casually pronounced, demonstrates how fast it works. Because what has become antiquated is nothing less than the ability to think “something else”, within that which is apparent. The Utopia is forfeited, whether it is unthinkable for historical reasons, or because it is realized in history.


But what if what’s difficult and potential is in a tight spot, how manage (one’s) resistance then? In the present situation, the flat nay of the avant-garde no longer seems to be the most rewarding method. Partly since it is no longer flat, the “white cube” art room is no neutral or timeless setting. But also since its radicalism, today is completely and smoothly incorporated in the “architecture” of the art world. I go to this art room, I see an exhibition and I expect to have some limits trespassed. That is to say, this is conventional. Whether this trespassing does appear as extremism, or as total acceptance of the stipulated fashion of performing “the crime”. More rewarding, or at least more fun, seems to us a subversive touch based on undermining the (already) known, rather than on trespassing and “novelty”. This undermining can be performed in many ways, and this is not the place to enter deeply in every possibility at hand (deconstruction, actualization, ostranenie, modality, etc), but briefly to suggest that what they all have in common is the performing of their critical operations within the given, rather than beyond this. Undermining, loosening, breaking up that whose rock solidity lies in the self-evident.

The method we mostly employ here refers to what Claude Levi-Strauss was calling bricolage: a thinking-experimenting which rather than devising something brand new, is solving problems by re-organizing what is available, at hand. An approach by which objects are not expressly defined and reduced to a sole function, but continually can be made to generate something else, develop hidden potential. A method whose applicability in no way is confined to resolute, practical problems, but which can well be used theoretically, poetically, hypochondriac, hallucinatory, phantasmatically.

A “wild thinking” aiming to undermine the present and prevalent must nevertheless have a starting point and a location in which to perform its laboratory work. Such a location was placed unintentionally on the map of the possible in the mid-seventies when Swedish Public Broadcasting, educating their listeners how to manage the new stereo technique, we’re establishing that:

my voice will now be coming from the right

my voice will now be coming from the left

my voice will now be coming in between the loudspeakers

my voice will now be coming from an indefinite location in the room.

This indefinite location in the room is something completely different than the outside location of the natural sciences, the point from which reality is measured and translated into objectivity. Then instead an indefiniteness within the room, and a voice imperatively calling forth its own elusive presence. Within the room but not clear where, in many ways resembles the location of the potential in the prevalent, given. A floating possibility is hidden in the persistently present.

Our voice is now supposed to come from an indefinite location within the room.

This location is The City of Abadyl.

The project was initiated around 1997 as an investigation of a series of locations all having in common their state of being established by recognizable senders – dictatorships, religious and political ideologies, different kinds of utopias realized, or at least regarding themselves as realized. This work underway, the idea materialized to somehow be able to destabilize these implemented utopias without destroying their utopian qualities altogether, their boldly thrown out suggestions of something else. To save these utopias from themselves by reprogramming them, introducing a constant distortion in their implementation. We chose to digitally reconstruct these locations, “erect” them as 3D models. Partly because this in fact, is and is not implemented, but most of all because it rendered us the possibility of hands-on experimentation with these architectonic manifestations, joining them and exposing them to practical philosophy (or for that matter, some kind of living ). And through the utopias (always pointing too toward the prevalent) and the virtual tools a way of engaging in dialogue with the world, examining its possibilities as well as those of the tools, without replacing presence with another as determining presence.

This experimenting-thinking within the potential can be summarized in the term “fieldasy” – a coinciding of field study and fantasy, an expedition out of the actual actual and into the actually possible.

Building a world

Even if the intention was not the establishment of a so-called great narrative, inspiration has been retrieved from the art of novel writing and its practice in constructing worlds. In “Postscript to the Name of the Rose”, Umberto Eco writes on the generative logic he has adopted, a logic both limiting and expanding creativity. The fundamental parameters guide what can and what cannot be included in a fictional but historically plausible universe. A detective story in medieval settings requires shrewd index-construing and an advanced enough semiotics, this being developed by Roger Bacon and the Ockhamists – thus it must be no earlier than the 12th century. To work out the reference to the blood at the second trumpet blow of the Apocalypse, a pig must be slain – pigs were only slaughtered during winter, but since Michele of Cesena already in December is in Avignon, the story must occur in November etc. In The City of Abadyl we have chosen to focus more on the generative itself in this logic; that is to say, it is not about parameters resulting in a watertight consistent universe, but the main interest is in what can be generated from a large number of predetermined parameters.


View of the score/partitur for the City of Abadyl


Comprehensive parameters: 16, 7, 100 plus “keywords”

16. The locations constituting the starting point are sixteen in number and were initially held apart. But as the reference bulk was collected and travels increased, the idea emerged of uniting these enclaves into a connected city. As joining infrastructure a series of sixteen Formula One- tracks was chosen, piled on top of each other to a joint figure. Hence aiming to expose architecture and cityscape to extreme strain (= life, unpredictability).


7. To subsequently fill the city with objects and create a disposition, a system was installed, a scale classification by the following:


Scale 1-7 theory

  1.     Environment: to display an area that contains an accumulation of objects. For example: houses, trees, stars, grains of sand, molecules.
  2.     Building: to display an object that has an outer shell that can be entered and is made by a human hand.
  3.     Room: to show off in a room you can be in. An artificial staging where you can exclude the upper scales.
  4.     Object, eg: table: an object that is on the same scale as the body, but in nature on a field biologist’s level, the scale can be slightly larger.
  5.     Objects, eg: bottle: this includes all objects that can be placed on a table.
  6.     Objects, eg text: this includes all objects that you can read from an arm’s distance.
  7.     One idea: this includes all abstract, philosophical and scientific notions of the world, true and false

100. In the various quarters of the city 100 objects would be found, each devised in a way that constituted an elegant description and was manifesting the aspects of their very own district. In this way we happened to examine our original objects once again, when we were depicting them in every detail. To be very thorough in investigating its form, visualises other layers in the object and creates conditions for both deconstruction and new narratives. To force out its meaning by depicting/modeling – to sort of philosophizing from the street up.

In each quarter focus is set on a certain individual, a destiny. Each of these characters is equipped with a keyword list, features which she/he will be exposed to and relate to.


I would not be able to draw out on the map the road to these harbors and neither would I be able to determine the time for arriving there. Sometimes to me it’s enough with a short perspective, opening in the middle of the landscape and not belonging there, a light being glimpsed through the fog is enough, that I hear part of a conversation between two people meeting in the crowd, to make me think that taking this as a starting point I will be able to piece by piece combine the perfect city, of fragments blending with each other, of moments divided by intervals, of signals sent by someone not knowing who is going to receive them. If I tell you that the city, to which my journey is due, has interruptions in space as well as time, that it is sometimes more sparse, sometimes dense, you should not believe that one could stop looking for it. Maybe it is growing up as we speak, somewhere within the borders of your realm, you will be able to trace it, but only in the way I have told you.

Italo Calvino; Invisible Cities

This part of The City of Abadyl was smartened up by Niklas Söderberg  and then translated into English by Sofi Meijling

Michael Johansson 2003-11-24