1. In George Quasha's axial video, fingers are holding graphite in the process of doing two-handed axial drawing, and in the actual process and movement they embody a configurative state somehow equivalent to the drawing itself. This embodiment of configuration (a state between figuration and abstraction) is visually and aurally accessible only under the specific intimate condition of video slow-motion, as a time/space-based art/music. By focusing below the frame rate threshold (30 fps) the piece exposes the otherwise invisible gaps between rapid actions and invents its own strange beauty in which space itself is figurative and image is temporalized to the point of abstraction. Recorded on Amtrak train between Rhinecliff and NYC in 2005.

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  2. Artist's statement: In the work I call "axial video" there is a species I name “verbal objects”. It implicitly raises questions like: In what sense is a verbal construct an object? Do our verbal projections objectify reality more that subjectify it? Is language more like an object or a living organism? If the latter, is “understanding” language the truest or most powerful way of relating to it? In the video pair titled "I Don’t Understand Language"—a logic-challenging statement that some would classify as nonsense—the complexity of understanding in language shows up in singular ways, and the object status of verbal reality is axialized, freed-up in the core of speaking.

    "I Don’t Understand Language" [I] (2005) (15 min. 49 sec.) presents 9 year-old Marie Uridia, born in the Republic of Georgia and living in Barrytown, New York, saying “I don’t understand language” in English and in Georgian. The sentence, like the Liar’s Paradox (“This is a lie”), is self-negating, yet has a non-rational logic of its own, especially when spoken aloud by a person. The statement is replayed 12 more times (eventually going below the frame rate of 30/sec.), each slowed down by 10%, then to 5%, then to 1%. The original statement of approximately 6 seconds at a speed of 1% takes some 8 minutes. At what point does the statement cease to be perceived as language (whereupon it becomes “logically” true but incomprehensible)? Liminality: There are thresholds, for instance, where one unconsciously begins to supply the meaning to what is heard because one knows it already, or where one stops doing that because the sound is interesting or odd or menacingly animal-like, even verging into the non-terrestrial. At some point the face is more “linguistic” than the sound, perhaps increasingly, as qualities become visible only under the artificial condition of slow-motion with its eerie beauty. If you gaze into the eyes in the slower speeds, you can see something like preverbal brain activity communicating below the threshold of cognitive registration. There are evidently micro-mind-events we never “see,” although perhaps they are unconsciously registered by the brain of the observer only to come forward as language in states of stepped-up intensity. Here they are visible, and art shows us something about ourselves that is literally inaccessible otherwise. (Original video from 2001.)

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  3. Artist/poet George Quasha's axial video, "Pulp Friction" (2003, v. 4): a non-narrative, material, bodily, performative engagement with “art pulp” (strange paper, specially created by Fluxus artist Alison Knowles for sound performance [for which she has used this video and title]). The result—“sculptural video,” “configurative erotics,” “abstract concretion”—effects a loud, frictive manipulation of translucently textured “sounding papers.” Intimate play as biomorphogenesis. Performed/filmed/edited by George Quasha.

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  4. "I Don’t Understand Language" [II] (2009) (6 min. 21. sec) with performers David Arner, Alan Baer, John Beaulieu, Jenny Fox, Jan Harrison, Alana Siegel, Charles Stein, and Sherry Williams, created for the occasion of “Talking Tongues and Other Organs,” a performance in Woodstock, New York, at the Kleinert Gallery, February 26th, 2009. The apparent nonsense of the statement uttered by eight adults (artists, poets, musicians, and an architect) is played out in various states of expression, performative of its own liminality between serious claim and absurdity—a sort of agonizing play as self-fulfilling prophecy. It holds us at the threshold between understanding language and the impossibility of language. Many voices saying what even one voice can’t entirely say. The words become a voiced site of physical interaction around a charged axis, belonging to all as much as any one, and therefore none. Trans-comprehensible language momentarily passing through, and possessing, eight people.

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  5. George Quasha's "Axial Hands (Somamudra 1)" (2007): a non-narrative, bodily, performative engagement called "Somamudra." Developed for performance in conjunction with the poetic work "Somapoetics" (1973) and used in performances with Gary Hill and Charles Stein. Intimate play as biomorphogenesis. Performance, editing: George Quasha. Camera: Sherry Williams. Special edit for the Dorsky Configuration of "Axial Objects" installation in the 2007 Sameul Dorsky Museum one-person show at SUNY New Paltz, New York. See quasha.com.

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Axial Video

George Quasha Plus

George Quasha’s axial video comprises a range of works, including “verbal objects,” “axial objects,” and “axial landscapes.” Among the works are: Pulp Friction, Confingering Figures, Training Light, and I Don’t Understand Language. They aim to transport…


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George Quasha’s axial video comprises a range of works, including “verbal objects,” “axial objects,” and “axial landscapes.” Among the works are: Pulp Friction, Confingering Figures, Training Light, and I Don’t Understand Language. They aim to transport the viewer by way of the "axial principle"– sometimes abruptly, sometimes incrementally through a series of barely perceptible thresholds – from the realm of ordinary time, perception and expectations, to that of the axial, where figuration gives way to the configurative, and openness is the operant dynamic. To be at the threshold--the limen--of the emergent event and experience the possible release into singular presence.

If the act of seeing something turns the thing seen into an object, looking long and hard at it can transform it beyond recognition. Becoming openly configurative, it generates its own further nature. As William Blake said, “The eye altering alters all.” “Objects” are perceptual, cognitive, and linguistic configurations. Neither fixed nor stable, perceived reality may be free to turn on an invisible axis. That objects – whether words, sounds or images – are only liminally what they seem can be frightening and disorienting, but when viewed consciously they become intensifiers… or perhaps intentional objects, instances of stepped-up intensity that reveal mind as excitable in its nature.

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