Coercing Constellations: Space, Reference and Representation in Fareed Armaly.


“For Armaly as well, from the very beginning the issue was conceiving interdisciplinarity not as a mere adjacency of various cultural areas, but as something relational, where precisely the multiple forms of linkage and exchange become the starting point for one’s own work. This can be best understood as a search for the interstices and fissures in the structure of urban, institutional, and media systems where the artistic interest can be attached to—without itself becoming an intervention of an exclusively urban, institutional, or mediated character. In so doing, Armaly’s art often appears so much like architecture, design, the media or theory as to be confused with these disciplines, while nonetheless remaining categorically different from them. While in Dan Graham, art and text along with the various disciplines addressed still remain separate from one another; these kinds of borders begin to dissolve in Armaly’s work. Increasingly at issue is how art as a general category can be referred beyond the specific forms of the traditional arts to the production of texts, illustration, or sounds, and how in so doing references to various forms of popular culture can be negotiated. Armaly’s work touches on the questions that lie at the foundation of any aesthetics of content, and hence also the fundamentally difficult relationship between art and critique. What indeed can be treated or claimed as art, instead of under another name? How can a link be established between the various ideological levels, and how can their pattern be made comprehensible in terms of a representational critique? And how in the end can these references be experienced in an artistic way, and at the same time allow for a critical reading? This demand can lead to potentially hyper-complex systems of reference in the works, allowing the method to seem like an almost paranoid forcing of constellations, and allowing it in particular therefore, to address the highly mediated as the symbolic reality of today’s social in a very direct way.”1


“While in New York it [his work’s inner logic] still worked in a clearly secessionist mode—Terminal Zone and R.O.O.M. were projects that simply sought to set themselves categorically apart from the dominant world of gallery production—in Europe it proved more focused on conflict. Actively engaging with the new situation and the Bohemian surroundings of the rapidly expanding Cologne art scene, synergies as well as tensions emerged that did not go without effect on his work.”2


“Armaly also increasingly showed an interest in building his own structures, expressed in a kind of informal consulting, for example, concerning the program of Galerie Nagel or later for the Unité Project in Firminy. In the course of the 1990s, the work itself took on the character of an agency (Raumplan, Generali-Foundation, Vienna, 1994 – 95) or a curatorial program (haus.0, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, 1998–2002).”3


“To locate it [Armaly’s methodology] more precisely in historical and thematic terms, it might be helpful to refer to the Gilles Deleuze’s aesthetics, as reconstructed by John Rajchman:

“Deleuze makes this question of a work—of its space of construction and of what can yet be constructed through it—central to his aesthetic. He doesn’t think the question over and done with, despite the well-documented agonies of the endgame of a reductive, purifying abstraction and the postmodern depression that follows upon it. He thinks that even ‘modern’ works play another kind of game, work through another kind of abstraction. ‘Minor’ literature, ‘figural’ painting, ‘smooth’ music, ‘time-image’ film—in these cases abstraction functions not through self-referential code but through informal diagram, not by emptying all contents, but by releasing other spaces, mapping other territories, not by reducing sense but by multiplying it, densifying instead of rarifying, lightening instead of purifying, complexifying rather than reducing. In such abstraction it is not a matter of architectures that refer back to their own rules of construction and nothing else. Rather it is a question of constructing free spaces of unregulation, undetermined by any prior plan, which so loosen an arrangement as to allow for sensations of something new, other effects, other percepts. It is a question of an operative abstraction working within an incomplete ‘virtual’ architecture always to be invented anew.”

This paragraph can in fact be read as a good description of Armaly’s way of working, the way in which the artistic ‘work’ can be understood as a construction and “operative abstraction” on various levels.”4



  1. Helmut Draxler, Coercing Constellations: Space, Reference and Representation in Fareed Armaly, (Berlin: b_books, Reihe PoLYpeN, 2007), 150.
  2. Ibid., 135.
  3. Ibid.
  4. ibid., 146.