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Ornament and Order

For my parents

Ornament and Order

Graffiti, Street Art and the Parergon

Rafael Schacter
University College London, UK

Rafael Schacter 2014

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.
Rafael Schacter has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act,
1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
Published by
Ashgate Publishing Limited Ashgate Publishing Company
Wey Court East
110 Cherry Street
Union Road Suite 3-1
Farnham Burlington, VT 05401-3818
Surrey, GU9 7PT USA
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Schacter, Rafael.
Ornament and order : graffiti, street art and the parergon / by Rafael Schacter.
pages cm. -- (Architecture)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-4724-0998-0 (hardback) -- ISBN 978-1-4724-0999-7 (ebook) -- ISBN 9781-4724-1000-9 (epub) 1. Decoration and ornament--Social aspects. 2. Graffiti--Social
aspects. 3. Street art--Social aspects. I. Title.
NK1520.S33 2014
ISBN 9781472409980 (hbk)
ISBN 9781472409997 (ebk PDF)
ISBN 9781472410009 (ebk ePUB)


Grooves repeated in succession mans first aesthetic expression betray a

sense of order, symmetrical grooves show even a certain incipient sense of
balance, cogitation and repose which to this day is the ethical basis of art.
Alphonse Marie Mucha, 1966

This page has been left blank intentionally


List of Figures



Part I: Ornament



Consensual Ornamentation


3 Agonistic Ornamentation


PART II: Order




Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


Play, Risk and the Picaresque





Ornament and Order





List of Figures

Black and White

P.1 Cripta Djan at work, So Paulo, Brazil, 2012
P.2 Chu, Untitled, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2013
P.3 3TTMan and Remed, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2009
P.4 Nano4814, San, and others unknown, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2010
P.5 Noviciado Nueve (and friends), Belvs, France, 2012
P.6 Noviciado Nueve, Madrid, Spain, 2012


I.1 The Leake Street Classicist, London, England, 2011

I.2 The Leake Street Classicist, London, England, 2011
I.3 Eltono, Untitled, Beijing, China, 2012
I.4 San (Daniel Muoz), Untitled, Catania, Italy, 2010
I.5 Akim One, Untitled, Odessa, Ukraine, 2013


1.1 Nano at work, Madrid, Spain, 2009

1.2 Nano, Untitled (Choquito), Madrid, Spain, 2007
1.3 3TTMan, Untitled (Carteles) [detail], Madrid, Spain, 2008
1.4 3TTMan, Untitled (Carteles), Madrid, Spain, 2010
1.5 Neko, Untitled [Acid Etching in process etchings also visible in
surround], Madrid, Spain, 2010
1.6 Momo, Untitled, London, England, 2008
1.7 Katsu, Untitled, New York, USA, 2011. Katsus figurative icon,
produced in one pure movement, functions both as an image of a
skull whilst also containing the word tag hidden within it
1.8 Spok, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2007
1.9 Image destruction or buffing in Madrid, 2010
1.10 The agency of the image. Madrid window of fame, 2010. Image
includes tags by Buni, Hear (Alone), Ring, Spok, Nano4184, Neko,
Dier, Remed, Shit, Garr (Garrulo Koas), Parse, Suee, Til, Tonk,
Los del rodillo, and unknown others




Ornament and Order

1.11 The image as mind trap. Revok, Untitled, Los Angeles, USA, 2010
1.12 Graffiti as parerga, as frame and content in the same moment.
Vova Vorotniov, Spray as Index 1, Warsaw, Poland, 2011
1.13 Embellishing the painted-out remnants of his old works after they
had been erased by local authorities, Homer added what he terms
subcultural nuances to these ghostly, blocked-out markings,
decorating the scars that remained from his earlier efforts.
Homer, Post-Buffing, Kiev, Ukraine, 2009
1.14 Zedz and Maurer United Architects (MUA).
Rendering by
1.15 Remed, Untitled, Leon, Spain, 2011
1.16 San, Untitled, Besanon, France, 2011
1.17 San, Untitled [detail], Besanon, France, 2011
1.18 The logical corollary of showing graffiti within the gallery space.
Akim, Leistungsschau Part 3, Berlin, Germany, 2011


2.1 Remed, Amor Al Arte, Madrid, Spain, 2012

2.2 3TTMan, Viva la Calle Libre, Madrid, Spain, 2010
2.3 Eltono, Untitled, Utrecht, Netherlands, 2013
2.4 Unknown Artist, Mi Vida Es Como La Tuya, Madrid, Spain, 2007
2.5 An example of the propositional rather than perlocutionary
intentions of Consensual Ornamentation. Remed, There Is Something
Else, London, England, 2010
2.6 An example of the propositional rather than perlocutionary
intentions of Consensual Ornamentation. Remed, There Is Something
Else, London, England, 2010
2.73TTMan, Ceci est mon cuerpo, Palma, Spain, 2009
2.8 Eltono and Nuria, Untitled [Signboard project], London, England, 2008.
Not only acting as a performative signature, the signboards which
Eltono and Nuria installed in London, Madrid and Stockholm, were
later gifted to whomever found them, an explicitly anti-commercial
tactic once more linking them to Habermass common concern
2.9 El Mac, El Corazn de un Sueo, Havana, Cuba, 2012
2.10 Filippo Minelli, Could you please suggest to me any revolutionary act?,
Tudela de Navarra, Spain, 2011
2.11 Escif, Art Vs Capitalism, Grottaglie, Italy, 2011
2.12 3TTMan, Untitled [Fill in the Blanks], Madrid, Spain, 2012
2.13 Remed, Amor Al Arte, Madrid, Spain, 2012
2.14 Remed, Blanco Ante Gris [Gracias por tus mensages],
Madrid, Spain, 2011
2.15 3TTMans Viva la Calle Libre (Madrid, Spain, 2010) after a half-hearted
(or perhaps 2/3-hearted) erasure by local authorities, an attempted
erasure only serving to give the original work more prominence
2.16 Eltono, Untitled, Utrecht, Netherlands, 2013
2.17 Eltono, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 1999 
2.18 Eltono, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 1998








List of Figures

2.19 Homer [Sasha Kurmaz], Illegal Inscription, Kiev, Ukraine, 2010

2.20 Erosie, I Hereby Apologise for the Damage Done, Eindhoven,
Netherlands, 2007
3.1 Nano4814, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2009
3.2 Spok, TBC, Madrid, Spain, 2009
3.3 Belas Artes Invasion, So Paulo, Brazil, 2008
3.4 Neko, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2009
3.5 La Mano and Zosen, Untitled, Barcelona, Spain, 1997
3.6 Remio, Untitled, So Paulo, Brazil, 2012
3.7 Katsu, Fuck You, New York, USA, 2011
3.8 Nov York, Untitled, New York, USA, 2010. Novs work here is a classic
example of this movement over, rather than with the surface,
the piece seamlessly moving from wall to glass to the wall again,
then moving beyond even the edge of the building itself
3.9 Nov York, Nov York Needs Release, New York, USA, 2010
3.10 GPO, Doing Graffiti 4 The Crime, Athens, Greece, 2010
3.11 Turbo, Untitled, Paris, France, 2008
3.12 Turbo, Untitled, Paris, France, 2007
3.13 Mathieu Tremblin, Tag Clouds Colombier Optique, Rennes, France,
2010. Whilst the translation Tremblin here undertakes can provide
an amazing insight into the scopic abilities of the agonistic artist,
their capacity to so clearly decipher this ostensible pollution,
Tremblins highly astute work is unable to account for a vast
amount of information a seasoned agonistic practitioner would also
perceive information pertaining to issues such as style, technique,
experience, mind state etc.
3.14 Mathieu Tremblin, Tag Clouds Colombier Optique, Rennes, France,
2010. Whilst the translation Tremblin here undertakes can provide
an amazing insight into the scopic abilities of the agonistic artist,
their capacity to so clearly decipher this ostensible pollution,
Tremblins highly astute work is unable to account for a vast
amount of information a seasoned agonistic practitioner would also
perceive information pertaining to issues such as style, technique,
experience, mind state etc.
3.15 Read More Books, Untitled, Brooklyn, New York, 2008
3.16 Nano4814 at work, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2009
3.17 Nano4814 at work, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2009
3.18 Nano4814 at work, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2009
3.19 Nano4814 at work, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2009
3.20 Spok, TBC, Madrid, Spain, 2009
3.21 Spok at work, TBC, Madrid, Spain, 2009
3.22 Eltono, Pixo Gratis, So Paulo, Brazil, 2008
3.23 Eltono, Pixo Gratis, So Paulo, Brazil, 2008
3.24 The Belas Artes Invasion. So Paulo, Brazil, 2008
3.25 Eltono, Pinto Gratis, Madrid, Spain, 2004







Ornament and Order

3.26 Neko and Jaime, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2009




Spok on the tracks. Madrid, Spain, 2008

Spok at work. Madrid, Spain, 2008
Spok at work. Madrid, Spain, 2008
Formal, traditional, yet unique. Untitled collage by Momo, 2009
Invariant, rule governed, yet distinct. Untitled collage by Momo, 2009 141
Remio at work, Los Angeles, USA, 2010
Remio at work, Los Angeles, USA, 2010
Nano4814, Alone, and Brk at work. Vigo, Spain, 2009
Slave Cave Collective, Nazca Lines, New York, USA, 2012.
The Slave Cave Collective piece depicted here not only has links to
the traditions and history of the graffiti discourse (paying homage
to a work which any true adherent to the discourse will instantly
recognize) but also linking to the theme of sacrality, pointing quite
overtly to something beyond itself
Invariant yet idiosyncratic 1. Katsu, Untitled, New York, USA, 2012 151
Invariant yet idiosyncratic 2. Eltono, Untitled 1, Untitled 2,
Beijing, China, 2012
John Fekner, Self Portrait, New York, USA, 2012
Filippo Minelli, Democracy, Nouadhibou, Mauritania, 2008
3TTMan, Remed, and Fefe Tavelera at work. Madrid, Spain, 2009
The arrival of the poli. Madrid, Spain, 2009

5.1 3TTMan, Fighting Peacefully, Tenerife, Spain, 2012

5.2 Carrying the cartons. Madrid, Spain, 2007
5.3 A litro to celebrate. Madrid, Spain, 2007
5.4 Collecting the carteles. Madrid, Spain, 2007
5.5 The Pied Piper of Malasaa. Madrid, Spain, 2007
5.6 Society in the subjunctive.
Nano4814, Liqen, Pelucas and Brk at work
5.7 Nano4814, Liqen, Pelucas and Brk, Untitled [detail],
Madrid, Spain, 2009
5.8 Lush, Untitled, Melbourne, 2011
5.9 Pelucas, Serpiente escalera, Mexico City, Mexico, 2012
5.10 Neko, Untitled [Los Veo y Subo I See It and I Get Up],
Madrid, Spain, 2009
5.11 On the way to paint (plastic bags full of paint not groceries),
Madrid, Spain, 2008
5.12 To unsettle, not destroy/To function in a different register.
Three untitled posters by OX from Genevilliers, Paris and Arcueil
(France), 2012
5.13 To unsettle, not destroy/To function in a different register.
Three untitled posters by OX from Genevilliers, Paris and Arcueil
(France), 2012




List of Figures


5.14 To unsettle, not destroy/To function in a different register.

Three untitled posters by OX from Genevilliers, Paris and Arcueil
(France), 2012


6.1 Nug, Territorial Pissings, Film Stills, Stockholm, Sweden, 2008.

Image courtesy of artist
6.2 Portrait of 3TTMan, Madrid, Spain, 2010
6.3 Getting in 1 and 2. 3TTMan in Action. La Palma, Spain, 2009
6.4 Getting in 1 and 2. 3TTMan in Action. La Palma, Spain, 2009
6.5 Under the tarpaulin. 3TTMan in Action. La Palma, Spain, 2009
6.6 3TTMan, Resurreccioname Por Favor, La Palma, Spain, 2009
6.7 3TTMan, Resurreccioname Por Favor, La Palma, Spain, 2009
6.8 Read More Books, Read-Up, Nashville, Tennessee, 2010
6.9 Text as a struggle over inscription. Madrid, Spain, 2007
6.10 Nano4814, Eternal Present (An Endless Void), London, England, 2008
6.11 3TTMan and Remed at Play. London, England, 2010
6.12 Petro, Untitled, Newcastle, England, 2012
6.13 The Montaa Monster, Madrid, Spain, 2009
6.14 The Montaa Monster, Madrid, Spain, 2009
6.15 Monsters and Mayhem, Madrid, Spain, 2009
6.16 Monsters and Mayhem, Madrid, Spain, 2009
6.17 (Con)-Artist Zone. Madrid, Spain, 2009
6.18 Remio, Untitled, San Francisco, USA, 2012


C.1 Sam3, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2010

C.2 Nano4814, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008
C.3 Eltono, Untitled, Bogot, Columbia, 2008
C.4 Goldpeg, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008
C.5 Goldpeg, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008
C.6 Sixe, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008
C.7 Sixe, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008
C.8 3TTMan, Untitled, Tarifa, Spain, 2012
C.9 The Leake Street Classicist, London, England, 2011
C.10 GPO, Untitled, Athens, Greece, 2010


PS.1 Gone but not forgotten. Destruction and reappearance.

Madrid, Spain, 2007
PS.2 Jurne, Untitled, California, USA, 2012
PS.3 Remed, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2011
PS.4 Alone [Hear], Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2012


Colour Plates

Eltono and Momo, Untitled, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2011

2 Eltono, Untitled [Coriandoli Graffiti], Turin, Italy, 2009


Ornament and Order

3 Nano4814, Elijo Irme [I choose to go], Aranjuez, Spain, 2011

4 3TTMan, Untitled [Cement Graffiti], Madrid, Spain, 2010
5 Remed, Untitled, Leon, Spain, 2012
6 Remed, Untitled, Marakkesh, Morocco, 2012
7 Spok, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2008

Spok [background by Yesk], Untitled, Turin, Italy, 2012


Dr Schacter asked me to write this foreword because he knows that for over
20 years I have been OCD with graffiti. I started young like many practitioners and
I performed the rituals that are expected of the young. I never could explain to
people outside of the culture the genius that I knew graffiti was, the rebellion and
the structure that formed and informed it. Dr S. has done just that with this book, he
has united what has always been maligned as a violent and destructive act against
society with intense theories and thoughts that help to reveal this spray-painted
rose from the dark leaved brambles that lobbyists against graffiti have covered it
in since its inception. Those special interests have a lot to gain by quashing graffiti
and yet counter intuitively a lot to lose by suppressing it. The deep journey that
this book is brings us to a place that uncovers that binary and allows the readers to
decide for themselves what they think about graffiti in their cities.
In New York City, multi-national corporations, wealthy interests and corrupt
politicians have stolen the city from the inhabitants and made it almost impossible
for the majority of folk to get ahead. They have raised the prices and changed
the rules, effectively downgrading the people who built and toiled for their
lifetimes there. The tactics used by multi-national conglomerates and corrupt or
inept politicians that have profit rather than the people as their bottom-line have
marginalized and militarized many in the urban tribe. Neo-martial law and policestate behavior, where imprisonment is seen as a necessity for anyone dissenting
against the regime, have increased war-like behaviors from the people precipitating
stronger responses from the government. Ever since 9/11 total police control and
the fascist-like imposition to respect the authority of the police and state has been
on the rise, as they connect those corrupt forces as our only hope to be saved from
the artificial threat of terrorism. When revered journalists are easily manipulated by
government lies and an imposed classist culture forces all relationships to be based
on commerce, graffiti may be one of the last options of public criticism and dissent
left (yea I said it, all hope for the future depends on graffiti). I saw the connection
of this rise of global fascism masked by a neo-liberal ideal of hyper-capitalism with


Ornament and Order

the duty of the graffiti writer to dissent loud and clear when Dr S. wrote about
Habermass description of the refeudalization of public space at the end of the
19th century. This book has parts that stand out to me as a clear call to action.
Maybe. Or thats just the innate selfish radical in me, blind to other ideas,
projecting all that I want graffiti to be, only seeing my own reflection where ever I
look. Based on my coup dtat understanding of what graffiti is, Dr S. would group
me in his copyrighted academic term Agonistic Ornamenter, placing me neatly in
a row and column, setting me aside for further study.
With the Agonistic sided for the moment, Dr S. delves deeply into what he terms
the Consensual forms of graffiti, the ones that many can agree on, the pretty stuff,
the ironic pieces that make the disillusioned masses giggle. The pretty stencils and
the posters and the re-appropriating of pop culture icons to make a message, Stop
Racism!, but in fact say nothing because of the inherent consensuality. The so-called
art that actually serves the capitalist captains by prettying up the hood and raises
rents and dislocates the inhabitants; the happy agreeable work that the masters
allow for now and will buff once you turn your back, the egotistical sell-out work
that you mask in benevolence toward mankind and justify by claiming outcomes
of quasi-social justice yet the only tangible product being a clean quality of life
corner so the next corporate pig can plant their businesss flag. Ouch, thats harsh,
as if I were judging the Consensual and its recent strangle hold on the conversation
of graffiti and it seems like Im saying that this consensual emperor is wearing no
clothes. The Consensual Ornamenters make real pretty work and even better by
the accepted premise of the day, they make that money. Who am I to be such a
smug judge of others hard work? Dr S. talks about this too when he writes on the
increasing manufactured polarization of our world views. He alludes to the fact
that media and television are owned by a few wealthy special interests and they
have framed all debates into this bi-polarity of you are either with us or against us,
choose a side, leaving no room for meaningful dialogue of any type, which leads
me to believe that all forms of graffiti can function as the proverbial Lithium for the
masses when notions of right and wrong are so strictly defined. Graffiti can be seen
as a temporary anonymous break from the strictly defined roles that are set for all
members of society and a way to stray from the script we were all given at birth.
Perhaps. In this book we learn of the Ancient Greek spaces that were
architecturally open and by design meant to foster free argument and debate
and they are juxtaposed with the walled off city of today that no one is allowed
to touch unless they pay the fee to advertise their wares; the closed off spaces
that are only welcome to paying customers and the many private spaces taking
over our cities that are intrinsically divided by race and class. Now consider those
physical barriers in position to the philosophical barriers that the capitalistcultural
world-elite has instated via idolizing Mr Ai Weiwei who vandalized Han dynasty
vases and thereby questioned current policies in slave-labor Asia versus the strict
dyslogistic narrative set up against any vandalizing dissenters questioning the
Global North Empire. Everybody else in the world is fair game and encouraged to
destabilize their notions of religion, governance and financial structures in order to
keep them unbalanced, yet once we the people attempt to destabilize the Global



North then we are cast out to the dark corners of the culture and no longer able to
partake in the freedom. When double standards aint seen as double standards, the
propaganda machine is working well. Dr S.s book says to me graffiti can be a way
around the propaganda industrial complex.
And yet there is something problematic in Dr S.s thesis. He divvies up graffiti
into those two modalities, Agonistic and Consensual, and claims that the Agonistic
mode of graffiti is exclusive (amongst other issues) by virtue of the letters being so
hard to read and the practitioners saying that they only do it for those in the know.
He seems to have in some part fallen for the macho braggadocio that so many
insecure practitioners of the Agonistic act out in public which disguise our truth
as much as the seeming unintelligibility of our tags. He and many practitioners
have accepted other peoples definitions at face value for lack of understanding
that they could come up with their own explanations of their actions. When a vocal
few assign a label to a group, even when false, parts of that label start to become
the groups identity. After realizing ones identity has been fixed by outside forces
rather than ones own truth, those identities can be rethunk.
A meditation on graffiti writers: graffiti writers do, as Dr S. claims, make up the
Parergon of the city as canvas, that is graffiti writers make the frame of the painting
that is our urban existence, yet it is a philosophical frame in as much as a Tibetan
Buddhist Mandala is a philosophical work of art. Just as with the Tibetan Buddhist
Mandala, graffiti is not meant to last long but instead its function is wrapped up
in ritual and deep understanding that all is temporary and life is but a dream.
This tag too shall pass. Its rather freeing to think tagging the walls of your city is
a path towards enlightenment. What seems like agonistic aggression is in fact the
acceptance of difficult truths and the physical reality and actions that go along
with that acceptance.
Maybe. The more you look around the world at the graffiti on the walls the more
you realize graffiti has no owner, no one truth and no definition, this painting on
walls thing belongs to the people, no one subculture can claim it. Just because New
York City and Subway Art made that type of graffiti look cool does not mean New
York City owns it or can even set rules for how it is to be expressed; and if they try
to then those rules must be broken. To hell with rules when you seek the freedom.
Graffiti is for all, it is made by soccer hooligans and hipsters, it is performed by thugs
and antifa political activists, it is used as propaganda for and against the regime
all over the world, its a way of writing racially charged misogynistic scribblings
in toilet stalls and for bringing a community together around a simple message;
spray cans in peoples hands is a being of its own. This book remains faithful to
a particular narrative about graffiti, the same one that I was raised with but it is
certainly not the only narrative out there.
Dr S. does hint at this openness when he brings up Mouffe and her idea that
agonism is not the struggle between enemies but rather competitors, competing
to express the truth as they know it. Competitors who join the game of their own
volition, with varying reasons behind their motivation, competitors participating
in the game of words, letters and colors; competitors interested in dialogue, not
domination. When looked at like this graffiti is quite simply a public debate, not

xviii Ornament and Order

the hate crime it is made out to be. Graffiti is open to all and not an inaccessible
subculture that outsiders would box it in to serve their agenda. It can be political
or far removed from politics (which is more revolutionary than joining in their onesided, always-the-same-outcome political games to begin with). Graffiti is a free
democratic tool for bringing freedom to the world so that the world can be free.
Maybe. Its been a tough task for me to write this foreword. I get furious styles
when I think about graffiti. I can politic on it but Id rather just shut up and do it.
Talking about graffiti in an intelligible manner is counter-intuitive to the unspoken
religion of graffiti. I prefer grunts in a circle of fellow practitioners, no philosophical
talk just performance and wonder. As an outsider to many other subcultures I too
enjoy reading theory on those subcultures and to ponder on the hidden-in-plainsight worlds all around me. Dick Hebdiges Subculture introduced me to a few
subcultures I never thought about, mainly the Mods, Punks and Teddy Boys. And
just as Punks and Mods would not want to read theory about their reality because
they live it daily, I cant stand to read any ideas on my subculture. It feels wrong to
me because I perform the rituals, I cant talk about the rituals, that would go against
the ritual. The ritual is the truth of graffiti, and that truth shines bright when one
performs the rituals correctly. It is not to be spoken of or asked questions about,
it is solely to be performed. This book is well thought out and genuine to Dr S.s
experiences yet I as one so immersed in this repetitive doodling on walls feels the
less we say about it the better.
And so by writing this text is Dr S. legitimizing graffiti? Has he just gone and
ruined graffiti for the practitioners? Well I suppose everything must change. No
need to hold on to the past as a zealot and yearn for the good-old days when things
were pure Cornbread-Dondi style. No need to remain fixed in a single identity
becoming the joke that cedes power to the capitalizers by playing into their hands.
Is this book then the definitive approach to graffiti? Impossible. Graffiti is more of
a phantom after reading this book, that is, as much as you write about it as much
as you chase it, you just cant capture it. More doors are opened more revelations
appear, less concrete anything is left because graffiti has this intangible spiritual
connection to it that just cant be contained. This book does not legitimize graffiti
or even set out to capture its pure essence, this book instead gives philosophical
weight so open-minded well-read academics like yourself can see beyond the
repetitive refrains of graffiti being immoral, of it being just about money or just
about crime, just about masculinity or just about risk. This book is an opening,
maybe a door for graffiti writers who are struggling with their own 20-year long
fixed identities and are attempting to break into academia, or the reverse, a door
for academics who want to understand what those writings on the wall are and
seek to put in rows and columns that which is outside of their intelligibility. Though
mostly this book is a tool for slowing down and looking closely at what has been
taken for granted, by outsiders and the practitioners as well, and an opportunity to
begin deconstructing more conventional dogma.
Dumaar Freemaninov,
author of Nov York.


The tale of graffiti and street-art or what I will here term Independent Public
Art1 is a sea unspeakably vast. Although less than 50 years old in its modern
incarnation (and widely argued to have emerged on the East Coast of the US in
the late 1960s), this vernacular art-form has been transported to nearly every
corner of the globe, spawning hundreds of distinct styles (from the traditional
technique of spraycan art to various highly conceptual modes of urban
installation), generating thousands of local approaches (from the pixao of
So Paulo see Figure P.1 to the Salvajismo of Buenos Aires see Figure P.2),
eliciting innumerable committed adherents to its cause (of every possible class
and culture). Whilst its status as the worlds most practiced form of outsider art
is I believe unparalleled, Independent Public Art as a distinct aesthetic genre has
only very rarely been subject to any vigorous form of academic examination; in
fact with the exception of Jean Baudrillard and Roland Barthes whose brief
remarks on the practices of graffiti are in my opinion the most insightful and
profound on the genre as whole has so far garnered2 its scholarly analysis
has failed to produce a study investigating the dense materiality of the images
created, their status when examined from an explicitly materialcultural position.

Independent Public Art, a term first brought to my attention by the theorist Javier
Abarca, is an umbrella label which incorporates all forms of autonomously produced
aesthetic production in the public sphere. It thus naturally encompasses practices which
have been called graffiti or street-art yet also includes actions which may exceed these
traditional designations, building an assemblage out of variance through its intentionally
broad nature. What is crucial, and quite clear by the term itself however, is that it does
not include works produced in the interior domain, works outside of what could be
considered as public space.
See both Baudrillards essay Kool Killer (1993 [1976]) and Barthes text entitled
Cy Twombly (1991 [1979]).

P.1 Cripta Djan at work, So Paulo, Brazil, 2012



Though there have been texts focussing on issues such as gang graffiti,3 youth
subculture,4 criminality,5 and the culture and history of New York spraycan art6
(as well as a myriad of illustrated coffee books which are almost totally devoid
of rigour), what I argue has been missing is an approach examining the formal,
intentional, and practice-based aspects of these contemporary epigraphs, one
which ethnographically explores both the images and their modes of construction,
the product and the performance, the relic and ritual, the ornament and order.
Teasing out the aesthetic and material relationships which emerge from
the realm of Independent Public Art, Ornament and Order will thus focus on
this global aesthetic movement as it stands today, exploring the plethora
of acts which emerge from its field of practice. Based on a multi-sited, two
year period of fieldwork embedded with an artistic collective in Madrid
(a dialogical project which is in fact still ongoing), a wider research project
conducted with over 100 artists worldwide7 as well as a number of high
profile curatorial projects, the data collected incorporates the entire range
of possible actions within the Independent Public Art movement: my closest
group of informants the collective Noviciado Nueve with whom I undertook
my in-depth period of fieldwork perfectly encapsulate this wide scope.

See Wallbangin: Graffiti and Gangs in L.A. (1999) by Susan A. Phillips.

See The Graffiti Subculture: Youth, Masculinity and Identity in London and New York
(2001) by Nancy Macdonald.
See Crimes of Style: Urban Graffiti and the Politics of Criminality (1996) by Jeff Ferrell.
See Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York (1984) by Craig Castleman and Taking
the Train: How Graffiti became an Urban Crisis in New York City (2001) by Joe Austin.
An illustrated biographical reference text entitled The World Atlas of Street Art
and Graffiti (Schacter 2013).

P.2Chu, Untitled,
Buenos Aires,
Argentina, 2013


and Remed,
Untitled, Madrid,
Spain, 2009

Ornament and Order

Containing five key members, 3TTMan, Eltono, Nano 4814, Remed, and Spok,
the individuals within the group produced work which extends from the most
apparently artistic (such as a form of contemporary muralism see Figure P.3) to
the most seemingly vandalistic (such as the bombing8 technique of traditional
graffiti see Figure P.4), working in what I will come to term the most consensual
to the most agonistic styles of public ornamentation. They thus provide an almost
perfect distillation of the Independent Public Art movement today and are used
to move outward from concrete specificities to broader theoretical discussions.
Moreover, these same five actors were embedded within a global network
of Independent Public Artists which I argue functions akin to the associated
fraternities formed by medieval guilds (Sennett 2008: 60). These dense webs of
relations not only helped me to gather numerous other informants within Madrid
(such as the artists Nuria Mora, Daniel San Muoz, and Suso33), in Spain as a
whole (such as the twins Pelucas and Liqen from Vigo, Sixe Paredes from Barcelona
and Dems33 from Elche), as well as all around the globe (such as MOMO and
the legendary Cap in New York, Los Contratistas in Nuevo Leon, the collectives
Doma and Fase in Buenos Aires, and Gold Peg and Petro in London). What
unites all these various individuals however, as all the various informants whose
stories and practices have been incorporated into this text, was their equivalent
and unconditional commitment to the practice of Independent Public Art.

Bombing is a technique in which an area is rapidly suffused with simple, quick

images rather than more complex pieces. Quantity here is quality.

P.4 Nano4814, San, and others unknown, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2010

xxiv Ornament and Order

Nueve (and
friends), Belvs,
France, 2012

These were not part-time painters or hobbyists, not neophytes or novices. They
may have embraced the passion of an amateur, the search for pleasure rather
than gain that the enthusiast evinces, but these were actors whose commitment
to autonomous aesthetic production in the public sphere came to supersede
(as this book will here argue) the often quite divergent formal aesthetics they
constructed. The group of individuals with whom I conducted my fieldwork were
thus part of a tightly linked worldwide network of comparable practitioners, fulltime members of the global Independent Public Art world who engaged within it
as an all-embracing way of life, who established a communal bond through their
embedment within this visual regime. Yet, even as this is the case, the majority
of the arguments made within this book still function for the vast majority of
Independent Public Art seen on our city streets as a whole, for the multitude
of acts which have been produced by part-time practitioners, by enthusiasts
and devotees who may find other methods of sustaining themselves outside of
the wider art world; they follow the formal, intentional, and ritual aspects of the
discipline that are in many ways immutable, they follow the aesthetic and ethical
characteristics of the practice which abide irrelevant of the level of expertise
that the practitioner in question may possess. And they can thus reach out from
the tangibility of local action to address more global concerns surrounding
Independent Public Art, speaking not just for the group with whom I undertook
my study but for the discourse as a whole.
Located in Madrid for the majority of my research, my fieldwork did also take
place further afield, travelling with my highly itinerant informants as they conducted



projects across the world. Journeying from Mallorca in Spain to Monterrey in Mexico,
from New York to London and back again (as well as meeting artists from all over
the world in Madrid itself the studio my informants occupied providing a basecamp for countless visitors to the city), it was my informants reaction to space that
became key to my study, their understanding of the various urban environments
they inhabited that became indispensable to my understanding of their practices.
Whilst there are of course crucial material divergences within the various cities they
occupied (London and Madrid, to take a brief example, having highly variant artistic
modus operandi due to the overabundance of CCTV in the former site, the highly
permeable boundary between faade and street that is so common in the latter),
what remained congruent was the obsession and fervour for the public sphere
that all my informants displayed, a commitment to concrete action in the street,
to physical performance in public space, which remained consistent wherever in
the world they were. Rather than any specific location in itself then, the boundaries
of the community examined within this text were delineated by practice rather
than place, bounded by an understanding of space rather than space itself. It was a
community of practice rather than a physically bound community that I was hence
immersed within during my fieldwork (without suggesting that any community
can be truly delimited by a circumscribed field), a multi-sited project in which I was
rooted with specific people rather than within a specific place. The principal fieldsite relevant to this work if any that is could thus be argued to be the street in the
contemporary global city (or in the alpha city as they have been called). The street
was the place where the overwhelming majority of my fieldwork took place, where
I would both watch and partake in my informants very public way of life, in their
daily enacting of what they would term street-life (I can only think Randy Crawford
was to blame for this). And thus even whilst this focus on the street means I lose out
on a huge amount of site-specific data which I collected throughout my fieldwork
losing out on discussing the intricacies of place which anthropology is a discipline
so famed for what I believe I gain is a more comprehensive understanding of
Independent Public Art as a whole, a practice produced by highly cosmopolitan,
highly itinerant social actors. Following James Cliffords (1997) imperative to focus
on hybrid, cosmopolitan experiences as much as on rooted, native ones (ibid.: 24),
this monograph will thus take our understanding of Independent Public Art away
from many of the established and singular locations in which it is often examined
and instead push into the more global, connected networks that this aesthetic
discourse truly resides.
Focussing on the work my informants produced in the public sphere itself, this
text will thus concentrate on what I define as a practice of urban ornamentation,
an aesthetic working through an equally adjunctive and decorative essence,
one which can only exist amidst the dirt and noise of the street itself. Whilst my
informants had numerous skills and worked in a multitude of visual arenas then
(from design work and illustration to commercial muralism and contemporary art),
these other, subsidiary practices will be set to one side within this book: although
this could seem to in some way suspend my informants lives, to exclude many of
its more mundane aspects, this suspension will enable a clearer focus on the way

xxvi Ornament and Order

the images they produced in the public sphere themselves function, giving us the
depth to examine them as both material deposit and ephemeral trace, as objects
within a latent capacity to attract and hold our attention. As such, issues such as the
(now waning) interest in street-art from the conventional art-market, or the (still
growing) popularity of street-art guided tours will be purposefully disregarded
within this text: both of these markets (the artistic as much as the touristic) are
governed by forces which flow beyond the agency of my informants themselves,
forces which may in fact often run contrary to the wishes of the individuals in
question. And thus question of whether or not artists can be blamed for gentrifying
low-income or industrial areas of the city then (Zukin 1993),9 the subject of whether
or not they can be labelled as the archetypal post-Fordist workers due to their fluid
working status (Gielen 2009), are issues which I have no desire to directly address
within this book. Rather than flowing directly toward the relationship between
capital and culture (a relationship which I would suggest the inalienable products
of Independent Public Art are inherently disconnected from),10 it is the continued
need to produce this form of work irrelevant of base financial gain (and often at
considerable cost and danger to the actor themselves) that I am more interested
in here exploring, a desire, an addiction, which cannot be explained by the force
of the market alone.11 Whilst the various ethical paths my informants were often
forced to navigate will be at points examined then, it is the factor that demarcated
them as a coherent social group their practices of urban ornamentation which
will be the main focus of this text, their insurgent production in the public sphere
which will be at the nucleus of all that follows.

Gentrification is an issue which is becoming more present within the

Independent Public Art world, muralism often being utilized by local government or
other such organizations to boost the perceived allure of an area. However, it seems that
in many cases, this overt push toward utilizing Independent Public Art for gentrification
is being widely noted, and critiqued. In fact, in two recent cases in London and Athens
(see and the clearly instrumental agenda of the
organizations involved has become all too visible and thus backfired upon them.
Of course, and quite famously, many works produced on the street by artists
such as Banksy and Faile have been physically removed from their sites to be latterly sold
in auction houses around the world. Yet whilst these street removals are in themselves
often illegal, more significantly the artist or artists in question gain no direct financial
reward for the entrance of these objects into the wider art market (and as such, any works
removed from the street are never officially authenticated). Independent Public Artists
may often choose to enter the market then (and quite often under different names), yet
their Independent Public Art in itself must always be considered an inalienable product.
As Boris Groys (2010) has convincingly argued: There is no doubt that in the
context of a contemporary civilization more or less completely dominated by the market,
everything can be interpreted as an effect of market forces in one way or another. For
this reason, the value of such an interpretation is null, for an explanation of everything
remains unable to explain anything in particular [] Art was made before the emergence
of capitalism and the art market, and will be made after they disappear (ibid.: 1718).

Preface xxvii

Nueve, Madrid,
Spain, 2012

Rather than the traditional focus on themes of vandalism and art, gangs and
pollution, this study will present two central (and eponymous) arguments: In the
first section of the book entitled Ornament I aim to take very seriously the
suggestion by the architectural theorist Jonathan Hill (2006) that [g]raffiti and
sgraffito ornament a building, that graffiti is in fact additive rather than reductive
(ibid.: 176): As artefacts which are both adjunctive and decorative the technical
prerequisites of all ornamentation Independent Public Art will be judged to be
archetypically ornamental, a factor which not only bestows upon it an equivalent
power and precarity, but which places it within the wider debate (and wider
anxiety) over ornament in the architectural canon as a whole. Examining the
meanings my informants ascribe to their images as well as the communicative
schemata emerging out of their very form, the practices will be split into two
further subdivisions (termed Consensual and Agonistic Ornamentation), subsets
which will come to reflect two quite distinct politico-aesthetic responses to the
city itself, which focus on the discursive potentialities of these figural artefacts.
In the second section of the book entitled Order it will be the immaterial
residue of my informants spatial acts (rather than the material remnants), the
explicitly performative, practice-based elements of their aesthetic production
which will be examined. The section will thus move away from notions of
meaning examined in the preceding chapters and attempt to track how my
informants cultural production comes to both reflect and actively structure their
moral and social worlds. As practices which are embedded within such issues
as formality, performativity, traditionality, and play, the social and moral chaos
they apparently present will be interpreted as a set of highly framed, orthopraxic
gestures, ritual acts in which commitment to the group envelope is physically
instantiated, engraved onto the skin of the city. It is hence Independent Public

xxviii Ornament and Order

Art as a system of communication and a system of action, its meaning and its
practice I intend on examining within this text. Utilising both ethnographic and
critical tools, employing artefactual case studies and fieldwork vignettes, it is an
aesthetic which both encodes symbolic propositions about the world as well as
intends to change the world itself that we will explore, an aesthetic which is both
ornament and order at the same time.


It transforms order into ornament, the cosmos into a cosmetic.

Jacques Derrida

The actual order of things is precisely what popular tactics turn to their
own ends [] Though elsewhere it is exploited by a dominant power or
simply denied by an ideological discourse, here order is tricked by an art.
Michel de Certeau

The Leake Street Classicist

On the morning of 1 April 2011, the architect Francis Terry (son of Prince Charless
neo-classicist of choice and chief architect for the renovation of 10 Downing Street,
Quinlan Terry), entered the unfamiliar territory of Banksys Tunnel in Londons
Leake Street to perform what could quite conceivably appear to have been an April
Fools hoax (Art Below 2011).1 Using, as the press release continued, his knowledge
of Renaissance ornament and proportion, Terry spent the whole day treating the
graffitied walls as a classical faade, attempting to bring harmony and order to
the chaos and confusion that pervaded the space (ibid.). Alongside the BBC News
crew who appeared to capture the work in progress, Ben Moore (founder of the
organization Art Below who had commissioned the work), declared the scene to be
wonderfully ironic Classicists are usually seen as being quaint and conservative,
and the graffiti world is the polar opposite but somehow by Francis Terry doing
a piece in the tunnel [it] ends up being the most revolutionary act of all (ibid.).

What is termed Banksys Tunnel is the original site of the Cans Festival of 2008.
Please see for a video of Terrys

I.1 and I.2 The Leake Street Classicist, London, England, 2011


In its charming hue of (concrete) grey,2 Terrys renegade mural (or perhaps his
traditionalist trompe loeil), reinstated what was a manifestly moral3 order within
the tunnel, an ornament attempting to counter the debauched mayhem that
surrounded it. It presented a neo-classical critique of what was deemed a pollutive,
lawless visuality, an ornamental construction implicitly deriding (and yet, as we will
see, implicitly fearing) the scopic order that it expunged.
Not only deeply condescending of course the first time, as the press release
clarified, that a qualified chartered architect has done a piece in the Leake Street
Tunnel (Art Below 2011), a work produced with the explicit desire (as noted in the
BBC interview) to rehabilitate the minds and hearts of the graffiti artists who would
encounter it the painting completed by the Leake Street Classicist will in fact
here be seen to be inadvertently illuminating. It will be seen to allude toward the
irrevocably intertwined relationship between ornament and order, between ethics
and aesthetics, between our material and social worlds; it will be seen to allude to
the inherently ornamental status of all Independent Public Art itself (as equivalently
ornamental as Terrys neo-classical representation), toward the phobia and unease
that these insurgent ornaments bring forth (and thus the common necessity for
their destruction). And, as such, the revolutionary act that Terry provides us with
will not only serve as a prime example of the Latourian iconoclash which surrounds
the aesthetic we will here be examining the fact that images are continually
involved in the destruction of other images, yet that this very destruction only
gives rise to yet more of them but can act as the perfect starting point for our
examination of the convolved relationship between ornament and order, the
binary pairing which will come to frame this work as a whole, the binary pairing
held within what Jacques Derrida would call a parergonic embrace.

An Architectonic Public
Ornament and order are inextricably linked. Not only counterparts for thousands
of years within the annals of architectural history (from Vitruvius to Alberti, from
Sullivan to Venturi and Scott Brown), the words themselves, as the philosopher
and metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy has argued (1939), are in fact
etymologically coupled through the Greek word kosmos: primarily meaning order
[] with reference to the due order or arrangement of things, and, secondarily,
denoting ornament, whether of horses, women, men, or speech (ibid.: 380). This
intertwined derivation can be understood to lead to a number of other logical
corollaries; the original basis of Greek architectural terminology, the designation
of the Doric etc. orders [] the connection between an original order and a later

As opposed to the polychromatic order which Gottfried Semper (2004 [1863])

suggested that classical architecture was subject to, ancient stucco, as he says, being
inconceivable apart from painting, acting as the base for wall decorations and
monumental polychromy (ibid.: 384).
The concurrence here of the laws of art with those of morals, despite their
logical distinction, is remarkable (Coomaraswamy 1939: 381).

Ornament and Order

ornament (ibid.: 380); the significance of the term the conferring of an order
such as a knighthood, an OBE etc. or a decoration by another name (ibid.: 378);
the metaphor of putting ones hair in order to adorn, to beautify it a matter, as
he continues, of an innate decorum (ibid.: 380); the link between the Sanskrit term
for ornament, aram (denoting preparedness, ability, suitability, fitness), and its
usage in reference to the due ordering of the sacrifice, rather than to its adornment
(ibid.: 377). What we thus have is a whole host of associations that Coomarawamy
teases out in an attempt to disparage the aesthetic view of art, to separate the
confusion between the (objective) beauty of order and the (subjectively) pleasant
(ibid.: 3812). Ornamentation, decoration4, terms that are most often (and most
often mistakenly) understood as something adventitious or luxurious, added to
their utilities but not essential to their efficacy, must therefore be seen to have
implied a completion or fulfillment of the artifact or other object in question
[] to decorate an object or person originally meant to endow the object or
person with its or his necessary accidents, with a view to proper operation; []
the aesthetic senses of the words are secondary to their practical connotation;
whatever was originally necessary for the completion of anything, and thus
proper to it, naturally giving pleasure to the user (ibid.: 376).

Decoration was thus here conceived as having classically denoted an order of the
most literal kind, not something disconnected, additional, or purely aesthetic (in
the anaesthetizing sense, following Susan Buck-Morss), not something produced
from an intention to please, but from an intention towards utility, intelligibility,
essence, through completion, communication, orderliness (ibid.: 3812). Not only
do we have the established etymological links between ornament and order
however, there is also, as Gottfried Semper explained (1856), a deep connection
between ornament and the creation of a larger, divine harmony, the rich and
precise Hellenic language connecting adornment to the highest law of nature and
world order, connecting it to the creation of a sacred order (Semper in Mahall and
Serbest 2009: 39). As Antoine Picon (2003) has gone on to suggest, prior to the 18th
century, ornament, working in a parallel modality to both order and proportion,
was understood to have expressed the fundamental regularity of the universe,
and above all, its fecundity (ibid.: 298); having no connotation of gratuity, of
supplementarity, it sprang from necessity, giving evidence of both the creativity
and the beauty of the cosmic order (ibid.: 298). Much like John Ruskins ornamental
ideal, his ornamental morality, ornament was understood as a reflective emblem,
representing a divinely ordered natural world and the fundamental tenets of

The difference between ornamentation and decoration is a slightly thorny

issue. Whilst David Brett (2005) argues that ornament can be understood as applied
decoration, especially of the three-dimensional kind such as we find in architecture,
but also on clothing and many other locations (ibid.: 4), James Trilling (2003) suggests
that ornament is decoration in which the visual pleasure of form significantly outweighs
the communicative value of content (ibid.: 23). I remain more comfortable with the
generality of the former statement than the specificity of the latter one.


Christian doctrine (Schafter 2003: 4). It was considered to be a deeply ethical,

deeply spiritual issue, ornament as a literal expression of mans delight in Gods
work, as a manifestation of divine laws the laws of the Ten Commandments
rather than those of the five orders (Ruskin 1868: 259).
Going beyond the etymological link between ornament and order , beyond its
relation to the spiritual or mystical, what has also been commonly argued is the
strength of relationship between ornamentation and our very cognitive ways of
being: as Mary Carruthers has suggested (2000), ornament, in its use within Roman
rhetoric, was used to slow us down, make us concentrate, [to] set up moments of
meditation and so help us to think and remember, an emotionally affective form
of practice which functioned through the ordering of our cognitive procedures
(ibid.: 1312). By putting the mind in play, ornament thus acted not merely as a
frill but played the essential role of catching the attention of a reader and orienting
his/her cogitative procedures [] acting as a marker on the texts surface of
matters that might especially require attention, concentration (ibid.: 122). Even
more significantly perhaps, and as Ernst Gombrich famously argued in his seminal
work The Sense of Order (1984 [1979]), ornament could be seen as a manifestation
of a deeply embedded psychological urge to classify and regulate, an urge to
order ones surroundings, a compulsion which he believed to be deeply rooted in
mans biological heritage (Gombrich 1979: 60): within the struggle for existence,
organisms thus developed a sense of order not because their environment was
generally orderly but rather because perception requires a framework against
which to plot deviations from regularity (ibid.: xii), the mind necessitating the
formation of an equilibrium between intricacy and simplicity, a structured balance
amidst the chaos in which it existed. For Gombrich, therefore, humankinds innate
need to create harmony fashioned both a material, architectonic order, as well as
an immaterial, social one. It generated a state through which visual forms could
serve as both signs of, and actually engender, a particular type of societal structure,
through which the close interaction between social and aesthetic hierarchies
could become visibly manifest (ibid.: 33).
In the context of Madrid, Jesus Escobars investigation into the most celebrated
and principal public square in the capital, The Plaza Mayor and the Shaping of
Baroque Madrid (2003), further binds together our key themes of ornament and
order. Within his architectonic and historical account of the very fabrication of
the city, he claims that policia (a term generally related to urban aesthetics but
often directly evocative of the political mechanisms by which a state of good
government can be attained [Escobar 2004: 367]), and ornatto (a term translated
as embellishment [] of visual objects as well as speech [ibid.: 368]), were the
critical concepts emerging within 16th-century Spanish political literature on
public space, the key ideologies that imbued the burgeoning planning policies of
the emergent capital. The terms were, as he reveals, used consistently in the era
to give shape to an urban vision of Madrid (Escobar 2003: 202), a vision within
which their coupling was sustained through an insistence on built form as a mode
of bodily regulation, on built form as a practice shaping a wider social body.

I.3Eltono, Untitled, Beijing, China, 2012


As Escobar goes on to explain, however, the use of the term ornatto by sixteenthcentury Spaniards a word, as detailed above, typically denoting decoration and
beautification was in fact equally understood through a sense of creating order
as well as embellishing the city (ibid.: 204). For instance, as Escobar continues, in
1544, Prince Philip argued the importance of opening a new street from the Alcazar
to the center of Madrid claiming that it [serves the] ornatto of this town and [is] a
public work (ibid.: 203), a use of the term stressing structural cohesion rather than
aggrandizing enhancement. In a similar way, policia, understood in more robust
terms as civility, was likewise used to express the pursuit of grandeur, or authority,
in urban form:
In some instances, as when Sotomayor [the corregidor, or chief magistrate of
Madrid] writes that demolishing a block of buildings will serve the ornatto
and policia of the Plaza Mayor, the term seems to be equated with a sense of
formal order. Yet when he claims an enlarged bread market will serve the good
governance and policia of Madrid, policia, is more correctly equated with a
notion of social order that is achieved by a well-organized polity (ibid.: 204).

Entirely intermeshed with one other then, able to both substitute and reinforce its
accomplice, policia and ornatto functioned quite clearly as two parts of a whole, as
principles which could both reflect and uphold one another. Through their material
enaction, the topography of Madrid became permeated with what Escobar (2004)
terms the principles of good government, providing a physical and metaphorical
representation of the beneficence of the king (ibid.: 369). The very structure of
the city, its architectonic ornamentation (such as seen within the uniformity of
the architectural elevations in the Plaza Mayor), was hence able to advance the
Hapsburg ideological message of political order in spatial terms (Escobar 2003:
205), policia and ornatto coming to establish an immaterial social order through a
materially formal one.
Of course, the entangled relationship between ornament and order can be
traced back much further in the historical record than the Spanish Renaissance,
being an attachment most prominently celebrated during the era of the Greek
city-states.5 Often explored through the central presence of the agora (a term
literally translated as to gather together or place of assembly) a site which
contained few visual barriers between events occurring at the same time, a site in
which one did not experience physical compartmentalization (Sennett 1998: 20)
and could thus experience synoikismos (an incorporation of social groups into
a cohesive civic union) this locale is believed to have refined and shaped the
potential for free argument and debate within ancient Greek society as a whole,
a space which did not simply reflect the democratic ideal, but in fact physically
enabled its formation. It was thus the surfaces and the volume of the agora

As Josef Chytry has argued however (2004), the Eurocentric obsession with
Ancient Greece (that I myself can be seen to be beholden to) eschews many other
locations where civic space and civic justice are intertwined, namely sites such as
Islamic Andalusia (al-Andalus), the Ancient Mexican city-states, and the cosmic-states
of classical HinduBuddhist kingdoms in south and southeast Asia (ibid.: 102).

Ornament and Order

themselves that fostered the notion of participatory democracy (Sennett 1994:

55), promoting a notion of simultaneity, a tolerance of difference which stimulated
citizens to move beyond their personal concerns and acknowledge the presence
and needs of others (Sennett 1999: 68). Contrary to the emphasis placed on
rhetoric within the theatres of Ancient Greece, where spectators would passively
imbibe the words of a solitary orator, the agoras open, orthogonal design and
exposed columns meant that societys troubles, as Andy Merrifield continues
(1996), could be confronted full in the face, in the public light of day, it meant that
they could be argued about from different perspectives, thought through, and
contested (ibid.: 58). The ornamental colonnades within the agora were hence
much more than simple load bearing structures, much more than stanchions for
mere reinforcement and stability; they were symbolic, concrete, rhythmical, and
functional expressions of balance within society as a whole, ornamental devices
replicating and reinforcing the strength of the demos.
Whilst the agora provided an open forum for debate, a centre for mercantile,
political, and judicial affairs in Ancient Greece, its complementary (or perhaps
contrary) zone was that of the acropolis, a site that served mainly a militarily
defensive and spiritual purpose. This was a location habitually situated on high
ground (compared to the flat of the agora), a geographic division separating
human and divine spaces, democratic and aristocratic zones. The numerous
temples which would be positioned amidst the acropolis also used a quite
divergent form of ornamental design to that used within the agora, a more overtly
flamboyant model of embellishment. Yet what would seem from a formal sense as
something more ostentatious, something done for reasons of pure beauty, can in
fact be argued to be nothing so (literally) superficial. George Hersey, in his study
The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture (1988), suggests that the ornamentation
of Greek temples represented the remains of trophies of sacrifice, decorative
forms signifying reconstitutions or reformations of the remains into images of
victims (ibid.: 45). Following the Renaissance scholar and architect Francesco
di Giorgios contention that the Greek columns and colonnades contained
the remains of enemy prisoners, Hersey goes on to discuss the likelihood that
living people themselves may have been fastened to the colonnades of the
temple as sacrificial donations (ibid.: 125), captured warriors being forced into
service as architectural supports (ibid.: 107). One can then come to understand
the freestanding columns prevalent throughout the Ancient Greek and Roman
landscape (built to commemorate military victories as well as ancestral justice
against treachery) as acting as hidden or metaphorical colossal statues wrapped
in bindings (ibid.: 126), as visually condensed caryatids or telamons, architectonic
forms standing as trophies of the battle against civil disorder (ibid.: 126).6

Indeed, it has even been argued that the famous Parthenon frieze, rather
than depicting a festal procession as often thought, in fact portrays the sacrifice of
the daughters of the Athenian king, Erechtheus (the key foundation myth of Athena).
As Joan B. Connelly has explained (1996), the very name Parthenon can be seen to
have emerged not from Athenas epithet Parthenos, but from the term the maidens
quarters, or the place of the maidens (in reference to the sacrificed virgins), further

I.4 San (Daniel Muoz), Untitled, Catania, Italy, 2010


Ornament and Order

The association between oblation and ornament can hence be grasped to

have been implicit within the Ancient Greek era, what Hersey (1988) terms as
stylography, literally teaching or demonstrating via columns (ibid.: 126), grasped
as a fundamental rudiment of architectural construction. Both within the agora
and the acropolis, amidst both civil and religious realms, ornamentation was
hence understood as an influential mode of social practice, as perhaps the key
means of creating order, of producing citizens (both spatially and materially)
through the physical body of the city. Ancient Greek society was thus able to
develop not simply as a religious culture, but as an architectonic public, a public
formed and informed by its physical milieu (Murphy in Chytry 2004: 85), a public
connected through an architectural formation of kosmos.

To Fix and Unsettle Borders

The ground I am trying to set in place, the basic starting point from which I hope
to continue this study is now, I hope, slightly clearer. What I want to re-affirm at
the very beginning of this work is the power of ornament to not simply reflect
but to create order, the power of the built environment to produce social as
much as structural formations. Whether taking on repressive or emancipative
configurations (such as the Haussmannization of Paris or within Jeremy Benthams
infamous panoptican in the former case, within Yona Friedmans Ville Spatiale or
Ebenezer Howards garden-city in the latter), it is the power of the material body of
the city to effect the material body of the person that I mean to maintain here, the
status of ornament not only as something good to think with, but as something
that effects the very way we think in itself. Our built environment will therefore be
understood not simply to involve argument but to be, at bottom, about argument,
to both enable and constrain it, to mould both the production and reception
of social discourse (Fleming 1998: 1478). And the ornamentation of our urban
realms will be understood to both evidence and engender a particular order, to not
simply contain a second-order significance as a mere reflection of some other more
important determinant, but to have both agentive and transformative abilities
(Pinney 2002: 1345), an ability not only to remodel our physical environment, but
to reconstruct our understanding of the world itself.7

demonstrating, as she continues, the relationship between mythical tombs and

historical temples (ibid.: 76).
Even as our contemporary cities megalopolises have come increasingly to
be formed and shaped through the power of finance and privatization then (the
re-conquest of the city by commodity and capital as Erik Swyngedouw and Maria Kaka
term it [2003: 12]) a top down, hegemonic imposition which seeks compliance over
defiance, passive rather than active citizens, the global uprisings that we have over the
last few years in Tahir Square in Cairo and Wall Street in New York, on Avenue Habib
Bourguiba in Tunis and Puerto del Sol in Madrid, can only reinstate the potential of the
city to act as a site of resistance, a site of conflict and debate in which intimations of
other worlds can be detected.



Through focusing upon the ornamentation and ordering of the city from a
grassroots8 rather than institutional standpoint however, focusing on a form of
architectural appropriation assumed by civil or informal actors, social actors
coming from outside the official institutionalised domain of urban planning
and urban politics, it is the organic evolutions that these groups produce that
will now be followed, the evolutions which come to embody a different notion
of urbanity from that which is evident in planned developments (Groth
and Corijn 2005: 506). Rather than examining the hegemonic impositions of
order as undertaken by individuals such as the Terrys (both father and son),
it is a practice which comes to question and subvert the conventions, codes
and laws of architecture (Hill 1998a: 36) that I now aim to follow, a mode of
illegal architecture, a civic practice that functions through the public domain
of the street rather than the private realm of a familiar building site (ibid.: 11).
Examining a popular aesthetic practice which comes to insert itself into contested
territorialized spaces (Spyer 2008: 525), a border aesthetic that inhabits a place
at authoritys edge (ibid.: 546), in which pleasure is derived from the mis-use
of form (Hill 1998a: 48) we will then find a modern practice of epigraphy which
is inseparable from the modern polis, both physically ingrained onto its body
and enmeshed within its very idea. Whilst these practices may be of what at
first seems a transgressive nature, they will come to be seen to flow from the
same civic essence as many of their more institutional relatives, to contain a set
of ethico-aesthetic principles which link to wider notions of the good city as
well as to the specific complexities of the group dynamic itself. And it is thus an

Or what the artist Akay would call the mud-level.

I.5 Akim One,

Untitled, Odessa,
Ukraine, 2013


Ornament and Order

ethnography of a group of insurgent architects that will now be undertaken, a

group who attempt to generate alternative visions as to what might be possible,
who desire, think and dream of difference (Harvey 2000: 237). It is an exploration
of a literally marginal aesthetic, an insurgent architecture9 which can come to
fix and unsettle borders (Spyer 1998: 3), a modern form of parietal writing ever
present within our contemporary cities and streets.

Whilst there are a number of artists within the Independent Public Art sphere
whose work commonly involves the construction of built architecture (such as Akay
and Adams & E.B.Itso amongst others), I will be bypassing this style of practice in order
to concentrate on the more habitual material forms which emerge from this aesthetic
milieu. Nevertheless, and as I will go on to argue in the next chapter, as all the works
discussed here are considered to be architectural ornamentation, all their producers
will be seen as insurgent architects.

Part I

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The man of our times who daubs the walls with erotic symbols to
satisfy an inner urge is a criminal or degenerate [] With children
it is a natural phenomenon: their first artistic expression is to scrawl
on the walls erotic symbols. But what is natural to the Papuan and
the child is a symptom of degeneration in the modern man.
Adolf Loos

[W]e are all of us criminals by instinct. It is part of our very nature [] If we act
in defiance of custom or reinterpret custom to suit our private convenience we
commit a crime; yet all creativity, whether it is the work of the artist or the scholar
or even of the politician, contains within it a deep-rooted hostility to the system
as it is. On that account creativity is mad, it is criminal, but it is also divine.
Human society would have died out long ago if it were not for the fact that there
have always been inspired individuals who were prepared to break the rules.
Edmund Leach

Los Choquitos y los Carteles

Nanos choquitos, or little squids, are all over Madrid. Not just Madrid in fact, theyre
plastered over every place he visits. Remnants of himself on the walls of the city.
Manifest traces of his personhood materially covering the world. These plump,
innocent looking cephalopods, floating around the metropolis, spraying the city
with their dense, sepia ink. When I think of Nano theyre one of the first things to come
to mind. An image of him leaning on his bike, surreptitiously inscribing his mark on
to the wall, a smooth flowing movement of his arm and like magic they appear.
I just need to do it, hed say, never feeling able to fully explicate why, even when
I work with bigger institutions, in galleries or inside, I just feel this constant need
to get back to the street and to bombing Its the same feeling I give everything,


1.1 Nano at
work, Madrid,
Spain, 2009

Ornament and Order

a tag,1 an installation, whatever. Never for self-promotion, but for self-expression.

So there they sit, his choquitos, amongst the grime and coarseness of the stone,
like a metaphor for the writer in the street he once said; I was thinking about the
way they both moved around quietly at night, the ink they both use, it just seemed
like the perfect symbol. There was a huge choquito I remember seeing the day I
arrived to meet Nano in Berlin, a massive bright orange squid spurting black ink all
over the walls and the surrounding imagery. I was searching for him and Eltono, the
battery on my phone had died, I was without a map and only had the address of the
warehouse where they were working and some pretty appalling German. On seeing
the image I remember feeling a visceral relief, almost as if Id seen Nano himself.2 It
meant simply that he couldnt be too far off, that at the very least he had been there
previously Nano was always crafting these choquitos, painting them everywhere
he went. In phone boxes and on lampposts. In doorways and on shop-grills. In
underground tunnels and on 12th-storey window ledges. Always on something.
Always working with the physical medium at hand. Working around the tags, the
signs, the dirt, the contours of the surface, with the shapes and the form of the city.3

A stylized written signature generally produced in one colour with a marker or

spray paint.
For more on these notions of artefactual agency and animacy, see Schacter 2008.
As much as Nanos choquitos were a key part of his creative oeuvre, perhaps the
most common element in his public, spatial production, they must be understood as just
one aspect of what is an extensive aesthetic arsenal, one including large scale murals,
small scale tags, complex installations, traditional paintings, warped sculptures, handmade fanzines, and absolutely everything else.

1.2Nano, Untitled (Choquito), Madrid, Spain, 2007


Ornament and Order

Youd turn around and he would have disappeared, only to then spot him lagging
behind in a doorway marking up the final arrow or filling in the last bit of ink. A
final flourish with the implement at hand (whether a marker, a can, a key), and
then an immediate departure from the scene.
Untitled (Carteles)
[detail], Madrid,
Spain, 2008



With 3TTMan4 its the carteles that first spring to mind,5 these unmissable,
uncompromising, polychromatic collages which he would produce in the very
centre of the city. On Gran Via, on San Bernado, huge 20-foot-long productions
lining the key arteries of the city, works formed on top of the densely packed
palimpsests that were the (semi-legal) bill-posters which consumed nearly every
single vacant or neglected edifice in the city. For 3TTMan, it was considered to be his
first successful venture in the street, by no means his earliest artistic foray into this
arena, but the first project he thought really connected, that he was fully content
with. Unlike Nano whose City-Lights project (see Plate 4) had in fact been a huge
inspiration for 3TTMan in his search for a new way method of production in the
city 3TTMan disliked working directly on the surface of the citys walls (the stone
is good hed say, it doesnt make sense for me to work there), his previous works
thus for the most part having been produced on what is termed street-furniture,
on traffic signs, recycling containers, concrete bollards and the like. It was not that
he disliked other forms of illicit visual production that worked directly onto the
street, simply for him it did not feel like the right surface for his work.6 In coming to
use the bill-posters as a site of production,7 however, an already present addition
to the city, an already present canvas to be re-worked in situ, 3TTMan managed to
find a site he felt fully liberated to work upon. He would thus play with both the
words and the imagery, destabilizing and challenging them, trying to make people
enjoy rather than just disdain or ignore the posters. It was not simply a project
aimed at questioning notions of consumption and consumerism that 3TTMan
aimed to produce here, it wasnt a direct form of adbusting or culture-jamming
however; the work on the carteles was about taking a form of communication
imposed to your eyes, something outside the field of relationality, and turning it
into something you could connect to, something that you could think about in a
more interesting way. As he once told me, I just want to make the people who pass
by laugh, to turn the carteles into something you can interact with, to put some life
back into the space. It was thus all about the medium and the location for 3TTMan,
all about playing with what was at hand; it was about working with, dtourning the
very materiality of the city.
This pseudonym, meaning three-headed man (Trois-Tte-Man), also acts as
an almost omnipresent image within 3TTMans public work. Meant to suggest the
manifold possibilities of every situation (or as he describes it, three ways of thinking in
the same body), it works against the dichotomy of good-bad and instead suggests a
more equivocal state.
As previously said with Nanos choquitos, please see the carteles as just one
element of 3TTMans all-embracing oeuvre.
And not that this meant he never worked on this particular plane, recently
finding ways to work around that specific prohibition; for example, painting upon
the temporary breezeblock barriers that were used to prevent access to abandoned
buildings, working within deserted building sites, on sheet-metal, and, of late, working
by adding cement to a wall (again always of an abandoned building, or one in a state of
deep disrepair) and then carving away an image from that newly lain surface (see the
image on the front cover as an example).
Or postproduction as Nicolas Bourriaud (2002) would perhaps term it.


Untitled (Carteles),
Madrid, Spain,

Ornament and Order

Adjunctive and Decorative

Be it Nanos choquitos or 3TTMans work on the carteles (or, for that matter,
Eltonos geometric designs [see Plate 1, alongside the artist MOMO], Remeds
mystical murals [see Plate 5], or Spoks multilayered street tags [see Plate 8]),
these unequivocally spatial works existed within the medium of the street, amidst
the dirt, the cacophony, the very concreteness of the citys walls. They were not
produced on a neutral surface (on a pristine canvas or from moulded clay), not
presented on a discrete tabula rasa (formed from scratch, or ex nihilo). They were
not created within a separated studio space (within a disconnected, insular,
private zone) nor within a detached white cube (within the disinterested, passive
milieu of the gallery). These material acts were engraved onto the very surface of
the city, scraped onto previously constructed forms. And, in this way, these works
thus comply quite succinctly with the first part of the Oxford English Dictionarys
definition of ornament, functioning as an accessory or adjunct a secondary
element on a primary surface, an auxiliary element on a customarily architectural
plane. As sgraffito (etymologically originating from the Italian graffio, a little
scratch), these objects can only be truly apprehended in connection to what
they were scratched upon, always, by their innate status, being produced upon,
within, or fixed to a secondary surface. They thus exist as a literal mura rasa, a
scraped or scratched wall, the what of the image (in this case either Nanos
choquitos or 3TTMans collages), being steered by the how in which it transmits



its message (Belting 2005: 304), through their being scored onto an architectural
body (in the former case) or a palimpsestic commercial residue (in the latter). To
ornament, as Oleg Grabar has suggested (1992), the act of putting something on
something else rather than a term attempting to describe the specific nature
of what is put (ibid.: 22) can thus here be seen to be exactly borne out. These
sgraffitos (whether the most elementary tag or the most complex mural, whether
a kinetic installation or a wheat-paste poster), are all material forms placed upon
supplementary surfaces, and must therefore be primarily understood through
their additional, subsidiary nature. Consequently, what I will first be arguing
within this chapter is that all my informants public aesthetic production must be
understood to be fundamentally ornamental in this adjunctive sense, they are
works which only exist through the body of a secondary medium and are hence
steered, activated though the how of the city itself.
Furthermore, be it again Nanos choquitos or 3TTMans carteles (or for that
matter 3TTMans further work on concrete [see front cover], Nanos City-Lights
project [see Plate 4], Eltonos confetti graffiti [see Plate 2], Remeds polychromatic
calligraphy [see Plate 6], or Spoks futuristic, comedic murals [see Plate 7]), these
now unambiguously adjunctive artefacts all functioned within the sphere of the
decorative, of the beautiful, within the realm of what Brett (2005) has termed visual
pleasure.8 Working thorough both a public and yet simultaneously intimate
form of visual pleasure, a material sensuousness and playfulness which may act
as a marker of social recognition, perceptual satisfaction, psychological reward
[or] erotic delight (Brett 2005: 4), these artefacts embraced the captivation and
gratification that the figural admits, the enchantment that both the production
and consumption of images provide. Whether in their most overtly aggressive
or vandalistic form such as a throw-up,9 an acid etching (see Figure 1.5),10 or
a keyed insignia or in their most apparently amicable or decorative state
such as an elaborate mural, an abstract poster (see Figure 1.6), or a calligraphic
message on a wall all of these forms of cultural production were created within a
complex tradition of visual dexterity and physical skill, containing a quite defined
notion of aesthetic value and beauty at their core (even if a naturally subjective
notion of beauty of course). Qualities such as order or unity, proportion,
scale, contrast, balance and rhythm (Moughtin, Oc and Tiesdell 1999: 3)
elements understood as the key principles of decorative production were
fundamental to these particular designs, basic tenets which determined their
latter formation. Even if they were constituents that these practitioners sought
to establish only so as to later defile, if they were used to form a contrast to,
or a coherence with their architectural surround, the basic structure of all the
public works my informants produced could only become visible through
working with and through these underlying decorative principles, principles
which formed distinct styles irrelevant of their perceived aesthetic acceptability.

Not in the scopophilic sense meant by Laura Mulvey (1975), however.

Throw-ups are two colour tags (a fill-in and outline) in which the artists name is
commonly contracted to two letters Neko becoming KO, Jaime JA for example.
A tag or design produced onto glass with the use of an acid solution or paint


Ornament and Order

1.5Neko, Untitled
[Acid Etching in
process etchings
also visible in
surround], Madrid,
Spain, 2010

These were decorative criteria meant to make the object selectable,

meaningful, affective and complete (Brett 2005: 64), qualities meant to enliven
the objects on which they appeared. And what I will thus secondly argue within
this chapter is that the material practices described above were all produced
specifically to decorate, adorn, embellish [and/or] beautify their surfaces, and
thus all comply quite faithfully with the second half of the OEDs definition of
If we very briefly explore one of the most prominent examples of
Independent Public Art then (and one often thought of as the most artless or
lowest by those outside of the discourse itself ), this being the commonplace
practice of tagging, we can see how this oft described scribbled mess, this
supposed territorial pissing, is in fact a doubly ornamental practice. Whilst its
negative appreciation may be due to the innate lack of curatorial delimitation
within Independent Public Art, the fact that the work of the neophyte and
the expert is equivalently available to public view, one can find an almost
perfect coherence between this notional pollution and what is deemed
as more classical calligraphy. Emerging through both their formal as well
as conceptual nature through the crucial elements of unity, proportion,
scale, contrast, balance and rhythm that are paramount in the production of
every example (as we will see specifically in our case studies on pp. 7886,
11526), through the linguistic discourse and legendary masters that both
groupings contain, through both practices attempt to supplement and
embellish standardised typography these two forms of beautiful writing
(in their Greek etymology) can be seen to be fundamentally indistinguishable.

1.6Momo, Untitled, London, England, 2008

1.7Katsu, Untitled, New York, USA, 2011. Katsus figurative icon, produced in one pure movement,
functions both as an image of a skull whilst also containing the word tag hidden within it



Untitled, Madrid,
Spain, 2007

Yet as earlier suggested, tagging can not only be seen to be ornamental through its
status as an adjunct and adornment of the letter form, it can so too be seen to be
acting adjunctively upon its architectural surround as much as the word, the what
of the image the written name guided through both the how of the letter as well
as the how of the city itself. It is thus doubly ornamental, embellishing typography
and architecture, supplementing the word and the wall. And even though often
deemed incomprehensible, as Grabar (1992) suggests almost all calligraphy is,
these written texts can thus come to elicit a very special response from viewers, an


Ornament and Order

emotional or psychological reaction (ibid.: 589) culminating either in pleasure or

disdain, the pleasure of the aficionado or the disdain of the authorities (yet either
response being a successful one of course). Just as calligraphy is understood as one
of the archetypal forms of ornament, so too tagging must be seen in the same way,
as an accessory and an embellishment to a secondary structure, as an adjunctive
and decorative aesthetic.11
Not only tagging but all the illicit artefacts that are to be discussed within
this text are thus, I would strongly argue, the perfect examples of the applied
decoration that Brett argues is the essence of ornament (ibid.: 4). They are
decorative markings working through what Tom Phillips sees as the elementary
foundations of all ornament: form, line, tonality, material, disposition, [and]
colour (Phillips 2003). They are ornaments which function as intermediaries
through which messages, signs, symbols, even probably representations are
transmitted, consciously or not, in order to be most effectively communicated
(Grabar 1992: 227), markings which act to transmit both ethical and aesthetic
values. And this, in fact, is perhaps the key proposition that I aim to make within
this work as a whole, or, at the very least, a proposition which will simultaneously
order and enrich the rest of this work itself: whether constructive or destructive,
these illicit artefacts are both decorative and adjunctive, they are accessories to a
primary surface, forms of embellishment upon an ancillary plane, and hence objects
with a fundamental ornamental status.12 This ornamental condition will not only

Grabars description of calligraphy (1992) can in fact be seen as a perfect

description of tagging: Letters can be modified, extended, looped, shortened, thickened;
dots and diacritical marks float around letters rather than help fix their specificity []
while correct orthography is frequently violated for the sake of the composition
(ibid.: 106). There cannot be a more consummate elucidation of the richness of tagging
than this.
This connection between ornament and graffiti is also supported by a number
of other theorists. Whilst I have noted Jonathan Hills argument on p. xxvii, the architect
Robert Venturi (2004) has also suggested that graffiti on ordinary or, lets say, generic
buildings can be richly decorative [] We finished a campus center at Princeton, the
Frist Campus Center, and on the walls inside we have what we call ornamental graffiti.
These are sayings by famous Princeton graduates John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, people
like that. Thats a form of graffiti thats valid. Theres a tradition of classical buildings having
words on their faades. Whilst Venturi does not explain exactly why this ornamental
graffiti is more valid than traditional graffiti (and I suspect he would backtrack from these
plainly reactionary comments if pressed), the linkage between decoration, ornamentation
and graffiti is made quite clear. In more overtly supportive terms, the renowned British
artist Tom Phillips has claimed (in his treatise on the subject), that Ornament cannot
die. It invents new projects and can spring up in unexpected areas. The most recent of
these is the work, often ephemeral, of graffiti artists. Without reward (and often at the
risk of the opposite) these prove the imperative of ornament for ornaments sake []
The use of calligraphy in ornament is as old as writing itself and the graffiti artists of the
late 20th century especially in New York brought calligraphic expression to a new height
comparable with the best of Islamic letter-based art or mediaeval illumination. Phillips
judicious and provocative hypothesis (perhaps unsurprising from an artist who has often
worked within the public sphere) will be, I hope, fully born out within this chapter.



be argued to function for almost every single manifestation of Independent

Public Art however,13 to serve to remove these practices from many of the
traditional, and now hackneyed themes so oft brought up in their discussion; it
will also come to expose many of the reasons behind the anxiety and fear these
artefacts so often invoke, its ornamental condition being both a cure and a curse,
both remedy and poison. What we must now briefly examine is thus the tortuous
history and complex status of architectural ornamentation itself, the intractable
imbroglio between ornamentia and ornaphobia as Frank Lloyd Wright put it
(2005 [1932]: 348), a still existent battle whose exploration will give us a clearer
understanding of both the entrenched potential and perception of Independent
Public Art today.

The Principle Part of Architecture?

The basic drive, the human need to decorate (as amply demonstrated by my
informants, the term addiction being the most commonly used expression),
can be seen as an imperative common to man throughout history.14 Termed
Kunstwollen by Alois Riegl, usually translated from the German as artistic will or
will to form, this compulsion was understood as the cognitive and psychological
drive to give form to sensible material, a drive through which three dimensional
items or states of affairs are projected in a two-dimensional plane on the basis
of inscriptions or marks that resemble those kinds of items or states of affairs
(Crowther 2002: 140). Rejecting formal aesthetic hierarchies and focusing on
traditionally low forms of art such as folk-art and craftwork, Riegl claimed that
mans relationship to his sensible surroundings, his material making of the world,
did not simply develop as a consequence of brute mechanical might or utilitarian
technical solutions but instead indicated the presence of a greater cultural force.
Decorative production (such as architectonic ornamentation), was thus believed
to be a physical illustration of otherwise concealed social arrangements, the
overall characteristics which make-up a given works identity being both as much
a product of a specific cultural or historical trend as a portrayal of the cumulative
self-consciousness of that society (Ostrow 2001: 8). Though critics such as Erwin
Panofsky claimed that Riegls methodology was in fact untenable in the face of

Only in very rare cases is Independent Public Art not ornamental: the German
duo Wermke and Leinkauf, for example, produce projects in which it is the feeling, rather
than the product of graffiti that is the main focus of the work. More akin to performance
art, there is often no artefactual residue and no ornament as such. However, one could
argue that this form of bodily performance itself is ornamental: as a performance
produced within and upon the body of the city (as Wermke and Leinkaufs urban
explorations can be seen to be), performances which would mean nothing without the
city, they could be seen as highly ephemeral ornamental acts in which the body itself
acts to ornament the city.
In fact Donald Brown includes the decoration of artefacts as one of his six
human universals alongside gossip, lying, making metaphors, binary distinctions, and
a fondness for sweets (Brett 2005: 6).


Ornament and Order

any kind of reductive analytic logic (Elsner 2006: 760), Ernst Gombrich going
as far as to warn of the ideological potential for determinism and collectivism
implicit in Kunstwollen (ibid.: 763),15 Riegls great accomplishment (as equally
acknowledged by Gombrich) was to give significance back to superficial16
ornament and decoration, to enable a bridging of the aesthetic, cultural, and
structural characteristics of any given object (not only high art but any form of
craft) from any time with the broader cultural aesthetics of its time (ibid.: 750).
Regardless of these critiques, Riegls famous claim that the urge to decorate []
is one of the most elementary of human drives (1992 [1893]: 31) was, and still is, a
widely accepted contention. Yet this acceptance did not stop it from also being a
highly contentious pronouncement within the modernist era, not because of any
questioning of the drive itself, but as to whether or not this compulsion could be
deemed culturally or aesthetically acceptable within the modern age, whether to
ornament was moral or criminal, purity or danger. Whilst John Ruskin famously
claimed that ornamentation was the principal part of architecture (1899 [1853]): 89),
a manifestation of what he termed divine laws (Ruskin 1868: 259), Adolf Loos, in his
infamous essay Ornament and Crime (2002 [1908]), argued conflictingly (or perhaps,
more correctly, correspondingly), that decoration was primitive, regressive, that the
evolution of culture was in fact synonymous with the removal of ornamentation from
objects of everyday use (ibid.: 30). For the followers of the South Kensington School,
then, ornament was seen to be a pivotal tool for reflecting the spirit of a culture
(Sloboda 2008: 230), yet for the adherents of the International Style, the inclination
toward decoration was, as Loos basely put it, excrement; he insisted (in what we
could in fact say was more ornate terms than others had used), that breaking oneself
of this habit was as necessary as toilet training (Buck-Morss 1995: 14). The eventual
victors in this modernist struggle over ornament are (ostensibly) clear to see, yet
this has not stopped its re-emergence and the attendant renewal of its vilification
within contemporary architectural practice. Thus while architects such as Jacques
Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have attempted a contemporary ornamental renewal,
forming a new style of sgraffito embellishment in direct critique of Loos unadorned
modernism (Hill 2006: 177), the art critic and historian Hal Foster has reengaged
with the Loosian perspective (2002), claiming that with the return to prominence
of design (a quality that is all image and no interiority [ibid.: 25]), the aesthetic
As Ja Elsner notes (2006), quoting Gombrich, in many ways the whole of Art
and Illusion is a sustained Popperian attack on all the implications of evolutionism,
historicism, collectivism, and determinism that Gombrich saw lurking in the mythmaking and mythological explanations, in which the Kunstwollen becomes a ghost in
the machine, driving the wheels of artistic developments according to inexorable laws
(ibid.: 762).
As Daniel Miller has illustrated (2005), the very conception of superficiality
showing only insincere or inconsequential realities is not a clear-cut one: as Strathern
(1979) argued for Mount Hagen [] and I have argued for Trinidad (1995) other people
simply dont see the world this way. They may regard the reality of the person as on
the surface where it can be seen and kept honest because it is where the person is
revealed. By contrast, our depth ontology is viewed as false, since for them it is obvious
that deep inside is the place of deception (ibid.: 32).



and the utilitarian has become not only conflated (as within Art Nouveau), but
subsumed in the commercial, the semi-autonomy of architecture and art sacrificed
to its manipulations (ibid.: 1718).
Ornament can thus quite clearly be seen to present us with the archetypal
example of what Bruno Latour (2002) has termed an iconoclash, the endless cycle
of fascination, repulsion, destruction, atonement that images have so often come
to provoke, the state in which despite their common removal, they always return
again, no matter how strongly one wants to get rid of them (ibid.: 15). It can be
seen to stand directly at the point where one does not know, one hesitates, one is
troubled by an action for which there is no way to know, without further enquiry,
whether it is destructive or constructive (ibid.: 16), being both crime and custom,
deviance and divine. Yet how did this seemingly innocuous appendage, this entity
that cannot even be defined by a particular object, a particular era, or a particular
style, something that can be, in effect, practically anything (as long as it is both
adjunctive and decorative), come to achieve this entirely befuddled status? What
truly is it about ornament that has made it such a divisive concept?

A Mania, A Tedious Repetition

Whilst we have seen in our introduction how ornamentation was used in Madrid
to create a specific form of social order, a specific type of Spanish citizen, how it
was used in ancient Greece to emphasize and communicate both cosmological

or buffing in
Madrid, 2010


Ornament and Order

and sociological meaning, its latter-day usages were understood by many late
19th-century critics (William Goodyear17 here serving as a paradigmatic example)
as mere empty decorative effects, trappings tending to divorce the system of
ornament from the system of construction (Goodyear 1894: 68). Whereas the
Romans were understood to have built sensibly and artistically, without claiming
or showing the higher refinement of the Greeks (ibid.: 67), the engaged
columns, the simulated entablature and pediment used within the decadence
of Renaissance architecture, was considered to have been a mania, a tedious
repetition, a mechanical and life-less formula (ibid.: 68). Once the separation of
structural and ornamental systems had ensued, there was believed to have been
no bound to the license of arbitrary forms and lines, and what emerged was
thus a colder and more mechanical execution of decorative details (ibid.: 69).
The Renaissance reconstruction of classical Greek architecture and ornament
in particular was hence understood to have created a more formal and rigid
application of the Orders to wall surfaces, the outcome of which, Goodyear
conclusively declared, obliterated the general correspondence between form and
use, creating a more fretful, more anxious, less suggestive form of architecture
(ibid.: 69). Taking this argument even further, Hersey in fact suggested that in
many of the translations of architectural treatises undertaken in the early part
of the quattrocento Greek words were manhandled or else omitted entirely,
despite the fact, as he remarks, that the results were nonsense (Hersey 1988: 77).
He argued that even Alberti and Filarete paid scant attention to the original
terms used in Vitruviuss18 analysis of the origins of the orders and the meanings
of ornament within the Ancient Greek system, both of them further omitting his
(for Hersey vital) accounts of the legends of the Caryaen women and the Persian
captives (ibid.: 79), the meaning of which gave ornament its ability to mediate
and resolve both ancestral and contemporaneous societal discord (ibid.: 75).
In Herseys denunciatory summation, then, architects and artists continued
to exploit the ritual complexities of classicism even after all consciousness
of sacrificial meaning has ebbed away (ibid.: 2), the Greek revival aesthetic
becoming superficial ornamentation in the worst sense of the term: it was simply
form without function, ornamental orderliness without true order.
Yet it was not only neo-classical ornament which necessitated expulsion
during the modernist era however. For Loos and his many followers decorative
form in its entirety was ripe for extinction, representing backwardness or even a
degenerative tendency (Loos 2002 [1908]: 32), being for people and nations who
have not reached [our] level (ibid.: 35). Humanity was thus made to groan under
the slavery of ornament (ibid.: 30), the master of structure in constant threat
from its subaltern adjunct, made to groan under a form which did immense

Goodyear was entitled Americas first art historian in his 1926 entry in the
National Cyclopaedia of American Biography.
Hersey argues that Vitruvius, even though living during the Roman era, was
steeped in Greek culture: For though he is so often called Roman and linked to Augustus,
Vitruvius was trained in a Hellenistic tradition carried on in the name of Hermogenes.
Nor does he cease to remind us that his culture is Greek (Hersey 1988: 3).



damage and devastation to our aesthetic development (ibid.: 31). Decorative

form was thus, irrefutably, matter out of place, a contravention of the desired
order, a symbolic appearance of dirt (Douglas 1966). It was a fetish that one must
be free of in order to be enlightened (Foster 2004: 79), a fetish, as Mark Wigley
(1992) continues (in a perceptive critique of David Harveys condemnation of
ornament in The Condition of Postmodernity), that convolutes the distinction
between structure and ornament (ibid.: 1014). However whilst Loos presents us
with an ostensibly functionalist argument, ornamentation being both wasted
manpower, wasted health, wasted material, and wasted capital (ibid.: 33),
whilst he seemed to espouse a form of architectural social Darwinism which led
onwards and upwards to the pure and unadorned, he can in fact be understood
to have been more concerned to discipline, rather than truly rid himself of
ornament. It was not that ornament was inherently depraved, but simply that
it moved too fast; what Loos required was a restrained ornament, one which
would free architecture from the ephemeral, innately feminine, hurried fashions
of the time (Wigley 1993), one that would be led by an aristocratic, rather than
bourgeois force (Stewart 2000). Embracing the subtle, staid fashion of the English
gentleman then, as opposed to the transient and colourful fashion of women or
dandies, Loos yearned for a return to an exclusive conservatism which upheld
difference through the display of fine distinctions, through a display of nonconspicuous conspicuous consumption (ibid.: 129). He desired an ornament so
refined that it could almost be seen to have disappeared entirely, an ornament,
a surface, working as an elaborate method for concealing and preserving, if not
constructing, identity (Wigley 1993: 35).
The vehement condemnation of ornament by modernist practitioners can
hence be seen to have been a disguise for its almost inconspicuous application
(to all but the most discerning, superior eye of course). It was, as Boris Groys has
termed it (2010), the creation of another, revelatory layer of ornament [which]
guarantees the unity of the ethical and the aesthetic that Loos sought (ibid.: 26).
It was a recoding of ornament, a reinvention, as James Trilling has noted (2003),
which gave it a completely new character and direction for the twentieth
century (ibid.: 134), an ornament without images, patterns, motifs, or history,
an ornament cloaked in a diatribe against ornament itself, an ornament which
we could pretend was no ornament at all (ibid.: 136). Surfacing directly from the
natural materials themselves, from the spontaneous patterns of stone (ibid.: 212),
the decorative grain of wood, the abstract veining of marble (ibid.: 222), Looss
ornament was hence a decorated austerity, surface pattern and motifs emerging
from the expensive and rarified materials themselves. It was, as Trilling continues,
a creation of a (seemingly oxymoronic) modernist ornament (ibid.: 211), a feat of
self-deception that shapes our visual culture to this day (ibid.: 136), a cultural
hokum of the very highest order (ibid.: 211). Venturi, Brown and Izenour make
a similar point (1972), noting that the censure and denunciation of ornament by
Modernist practitioners was simply a denial in theory of what they were doing
in practice (ibid.: 114), a construction of a surrogate ornament, an architecture of
ornament. Famously differentiating between what they termed decorated sheds
(in which systems of space and structure are directly at the service of program,


Ornament and Order

and ornament is applied independently of them [ibid.: 87]) and ornamental

ducks (a kind of building-becoming-structure, in which the architectural system
is submerged and distorted by an overall symbolic form a form named in
honor of the duck-shaped drive-in, The Long Island Duckling [ibid.: 87]), Venturi et
al. claimed that the duck is the special building that is a symbol, their decorated
shed the conventional shelter that applies symbols (ibid.: 89). Within the duck,
then, structure and ornament were fused, in the shed, conditional, the models
thus fitting to the modern (the former) and postmodern (the latter) stereotype
of design. The denial of ornament in the modernist era whether through its
perceived falsity or degeneracy could hence be seen as a denial of the true
status of the architecture that it inspired, a hopeless plea, a disavowal of its implicit
ornamentality. And Looss very own structures could therefore be appreciated as
the very decoration it thought it had thrown out (Brett 2005: 12); they were the
ducks in which the entire structure was ornament.

Tactile Adhesiveness
If, as now seems the case, the rejection of ornament solely leads to the production
of a new style of applied decoration (the iconoclash par excellence), what is it
that creates the anxiety that so palpably surrounds the ornamental discourse?
What is it that makes ornament so irrepressible, so tenacious even in the face
of its abhorrence?19 The answer, for Alfred Gell (1998) at least, centres on the
notion of artefactual agency. Whilst the most committed aesthetes are far from
keen on riotous decoration then, it can be understood to have survived and
prospered, even in the face of aesthetic condemnation from on high, because it
is socially efficacious (ibid.: 82, emphasis added). As a social technology, surface
decoration was believed to encourage and sustain the motivations necessitated
by social life through producing a vigorous attachment between persons and
things (ibid.: 74), an attachment bound through the social complexity of these
artefacts. Art objects, and likewise ornamental artefacts, were thus understood
to act as indexes of their producers agency, vehicles of their personhood
(ibid.: 81). They were seen by Gell to behave in many quite logical ways as
the person who formed them (as he explains through examples as diverse as
anti-personnel mines and the oeuvre of Marcel Duchamp), to be fragments of
primary intentional agents in their secondary artefactual form (ibid.: 21).
Just as Maussian gifts can be understood as physical traces of persons then,
as a method of binding persons through the transference of agentic objects
(a continually imbalanced transference which can never be completed), decorative
technologies were thought to act in an entirely analogous way, actors compelled
to load surfaces with decoration in order to draw persons into worldly projects, in
order to mediate social agency back and forth within the social field (ibid.: 812).


As Brett has argued (2005), the impulse to decorate and to find sensuous pleasure
in materials cannot be denied; IT WILL BREAK OUT, COME WHAT MAY (ibid.: 208).



Akin to Sempers suggestion that by adorning anything, be it alive or inanimate,

I bestow upon it the right of individual life (Semper in Collins 1998: 124), the
agency of the ornament is grasped by Gell to be innately held, figured through
its web like patterns, its webs of relationality.
Not only materializing through its indexical status however, decorative efficacy
was further understood to emerge through the pleasurable frustration of our being
trapped within a rhythmic surface (Gell 1998: 80), the mazy dance in which our
eyes become readily lost (ibid.: 76). The complex animation of a decorative design
functioned as what he termed a mind trap, a technology of enchantment which
blocks our process of pattern reconstruction, leading us to be drawn into the pattern
and held inside it, impaled, as it were, on its bristling hooks and spines (ibid.: 76).
Pattern thus works to make objects come alive in a non-representational way
(ibid.: 76), our captivation and fascination forming through our inability to mentally
rehearse their productive origins, our inability to follow the sequence of steps in the
artists performance (ibid.: 81) and the difficulty we have in grasping the geometrical
or performative genesis of a complex pattern through mere visual inspection. Our
inability to untangle them thus forms what Gell terms unfinished business, a delay,
or lag, between transactions meaning the object is never fully possessed but always
in the process of becoming possessed (ibid.: 8081 my emphasis). It forms an uneven
exchange in which the viewer is forever entangled in its materiality, hooked, or stuck

1.10 The agency

of the image.
Madrid window
of fame, 2010.
Image includes
tags by Buni, Hear
(Alone), Ring,
Spok, Nano4184,
Neko, Dier, Remed,
Shit, Garr (Garrulo
Koas), Parse,
Suee, Til, Tonk, Los
del rodillo, and
unknown others


Ornament and Order

within its body (ibid.: 812), a quality not only meaning that it remains out of our
grasp, but that it forms an inexhaustible bond between index and recipient, object
and beholder. Just to look at decoration, as Wigley continues (2011), is thus to be
absorbed by it. Vision itself is swallowed by the sensuous surface (ibid.: 132). Merely
resting our eyes on the ornament is a profound danger (as Gell discusses at length in
terms of apotropaic art), us being caught within the material residue of performance,
in the literal animation of the image, captivated by its magical power.
This Gellian way of comprehending patterned form can, I believe, start to explain
the deeply phobic, deeply iconoclastic attitude so often displayed toward ornament,
the iconoclastic attitude revealed not only towards Art Nouveau and the decorative,
rather than fine arts, but that displayed toward the illegal ornaments here described.
It is their deeply agentic quality, this attachment in which persons or social agents
come to be substituted for by art objects (Gell 1998: 5), which comes to exacerbate
their fear, this individuation, the biographical relation created between decorated
index and recipient (ibid.: 80), which becomes the very cause of the contamination
they generate. The phalrophobie of the Modernists (as well as the anti-graffiti
authorities) is thus directly correlated to the stigma of personhood each sign elicits,
their status as in some way alive. As discussed at length in Schacter (2008), the way
both producers and consumers understand these images, the metaphors used as
well as the reactions prompted, consistently return to notions of agency, to the
living quality of these supposedly inanimate objects. And that the word tacky, as
Gell continues, was chosen by severe modernism to condemn the popular taste
for riotous ornament and other lapses of taste, can hence be seen to be rather
interesting in itself, tactile adhesiveness (as he narrates following Mary Douglas),
being something which attacks the body/world boundary (ibid.: 823), which
contains a viscosity, an adhesion, literally attaching the material world to ourselves.
Ornamentation, as Grabar has similarly argued (1992), cannot therefore simply be
understood as a category of forms or of techniques applied to some media but is
rather an unenunciated but almost necessary manner of compelling a relationship
between objects or works of art and viewers and users (ibid.: 230), a relationship
established through what he has elsewhere termed their demonic power. And it
is this agency which thus necessitates the fear that surrounds it, that necessitates
its removal; it is the wanton subjectivism (Foster 2002: 17) of these artefacts which
lays at the centre of this ornaphobia. Looss utopia (and, concomitantly, the utopia of
the anti-graffiti authorities) would have streets which would glisten like white walls
(ibid.: 77), streets devoid of all smearing, all tattooing, all sgraffito, all selfhood; theirs
would be a city devoid of the embedded social relations that ornament contains, a
state of total white-out (Wigley 1993).
The unease and angst that emerges at the sighting of Independent Public Art,
of commonly found examples of graffiti and street-art, can hence be understood to
emerge not simply through their contravention of legal codes; it can be understood
to emerge through their providing evidence of an embedded form of sociality,
expressing the evident personhood of their producers, eliciting an evidentially
animative quality. Through tattooing walls, as Jean Baudrillard remarked (1993
[1976]), graffiti free[s] them from architecture and turn[s] them once again into living,
social matter (ibid.: 36); it turns each tag, each poster, each mural, each marking in the
city into a material substantiation of an individual, a personhood revivifying a physical



space, an animative relationship set in an indefinite process of consummation.

The decorative nature of ornament, the what of the image, can thus be seen to be
as powerful as it is pollutive, to have an ability to attack and repel in quite equal
measure. It can be seen to trap and captivate its recipients, to draw them into their
world irrespective of their desires.

The No-Place of Abjection

Not only due to its falsity however, its defilement of the pure or its sticky personhood,
ornaments anxiety-producing status can be understood to emerge through its
confusing status in physical terms (explicitly confusingly, from its Latin root confundere
to mingle together), its placement both attached and detached from the integrity of
its primary structure. As an archetypal example of a parergon a Greek term whose
literal meaning is beside, or additional to the work (famously illustrated by Kant by
the frame of a painting, but also by clothing or architectural columns), yet a word
which Jacques Derrida (1987) has explained must always be understood through its
integral relation rather than separation to its ergon ornament can be seen to be
neither inside or outside, neither above nor below (ibid.: 9), to have a thickness
separating it from the constitutive and the peripheral in the same moment:
The natural site chosen for the erection of a temple is obviously not a parergon.
Nor is an artificial site: neither the square, nor the church, nor the museum, nor
the other surrounding works. But drapery or the column, yes. Why? Not because
they are easily detached; on the contrary, they are very difficult to detach.
Without them, without their quasidetachment, the lack within the work would

1.11 The image

as mind trap.
Revok, Untitled, Los
Angeles, USA, 2010


Ornament and Order

appear or, what amounts to the same, would not appear. It is not simply their
exteriority that constitutes them as parerga, but the internal structural link by
which they are inseparable from a lack within the ergon. And this lack makes
for the very unity of the ergon. Without it, the ergon would have no need of a
parergon. The lack of the ergon is the lack of a parergon, of drapery or columns
which nevertheless remain exterior to it (Derrida 1979: 24).

It is this quasidetachment as Derrida terms it, the inherent impossibility of

disengagement that makes the parergon so fascinating, so elusive, its positionality
meaning that it acts not only as the supplement, but also as the surplus that exposes
the lack within the interior, the innate fissure within its adjunctive partner. Ornament,
in accordance with the general principle of supplementarity (as explained by Derrida
in Of Grammatology [1998 (1967)]), thus comes to reveal its inbuilt, irreconcilable
double-bind, its status as both replacement and addition, exposing both the
shortcomings of the whole as well as the natural deficiencies of its own form. This,
then, is its inherent paradox, ornaments status, as Mark Wigley (1992) has suggested,
as something that destabilizes the very structure that it at once supplements and
makes possible (ibid.: 1014), its ability to disrupt what previously seemed to be the
clear distinction between ergon and parergon, structure and ornament. Much like a
tattoo then (an artefact explicitly presented as the ur-ornament by Riegl [Canales
and Herscher 2005: 246], as well as one directly related to graffiti by Baudrillard
[1993 (1976)] and Fleming [1998] amongst others), we can see ornament as both on
the body (metaphorically and physically) and at the same time external to it, integral
to the structure whilst simultaneously extraneous. Yet, if it is separated or detached,
it no longer remains what we understand it to be; the structure, the body, must be
destroyed. Lodged on the border between inside and outside, the tattoo, as Juliet
Fleming notes (2001), occupies the no-place of abjection (ibid.: 84); like ornament
(and like, as she contends, medieval graffiti), it is a creature of, as it is a disturbance
to, its very surface (ibid.: 85), a substance that is both in and out of place, included
and excluded, within and without, a substance that can in fact be defined not by its
materiality, but by the inherent difficulty of identifying its boundaries.20
Ornament can hence only ever be understood through the relationship to its
other, it can only ever be seen as the outsider that always already inhabits the
inside as an intrinsic constituent, the subversive alien, the foreign body that already
inhabits the interior and cannot be expelled without destroying its host (Wigley 1987:
160). Like the fetish then, it is first and foremost a question of place, only existing as
such when it both occupies and veils a space not properly its own (Wigley 1992: 103).
Ornament thus territorializes, unsettles, displaces, and reaffirms, it comes to both fix
and unsettle borders, confounding clear-cut boundaries among things and between
persons and objects (Spyer 1998: 23). And the parerga can thus also be connected to
Derridas analysis of the pharmakon, the perplexing word used by Plato in the Phaedrus
which simultaneously denotes a remedy, a poison, a drug and a philter, substances
that could seemingly not be more distinct yet are still somehow intrinsically coupled.

And I believe it is no coincidence that an extremely high proportion of graffiti

artists have gone on to become professional tattooists.

1.12 Graffiti as parerga, as frame and content in the same moment.

Vova Vorotniov, Spray as Index 1, Warsaw, Poland, 2011


the painted-out
remnants of his
old works after
they had been
erased by local
authorities, Homer
added what he
terms subcultural
nuances to these
ghostly, blockedout markings,
decorating the
scars that remained
from his earlier
efforts. Homer,
Post-Buffing, Kiev,
Ukraine, 2009

Ornament and Order

Like the parergon, the pharmakon contains within it the complicity of contrary
values (Derrida 1981 [1972]: 126), it elicits no pure, fixed identity; it is not merely
an ambiguous term, a term from which we could further appreciate the richness,
subtlety or scopeof Platos text (Norris 1987: 37), but a word that denotes ambivalence,
that defeats all attempts of placement and can be understood as an external threat
to its own internal purity. This is what gives ornament its friction, its danger. As with
frames and fetishes, tattoos and sgraffitos, ornament acts both as a part of the whole
and apart from it, blurring the boundary between interior and exterior, licit and illicit,
primary and secondary, inside and out. And whilst these objects are nominally seen
to merely delimit, they must in fact be grasped as highly porous surfaces, they are
borders rather than boundaries areas not acting as a limit but an edge, a site which
is a highly active zone of exchange (Sennett 2008).
The deep-seated iconoclash we find present within the discourse of ornament,
within the discourse of Independent Public Art, can thus be seen to emerge
through the curious status of ornament itself, through its ability to destabilize
the distinction between primary and secondary, ergon and parergon, through
its ability to unveil the deep lack of the concrete surface its lack of protection,
lack of colour, lack of personhood. The bare, incomplete wall can thus be seen to
call out for its ornamentation, the sparse structure begging to be etched upon,
revealing a cenophobia, a fear of the empty that only decoration will alleviate.
The essential addition, the ornament, the how of the image, thus not only
implies a constitutional deficiency within the ergon but at the same time in some
way satisfies that lack, re-establishing a harmony within the whole. Every act of
aesthetization, as Boris Groys has noted (2010), is thus always already a critique of



the object of aesthetization simply because this act calls attention to the objects
need for a supplement in order to look better than it actually is (ibid.: 42). It not
only points toward the originary want that the supplement fills, but destabilizes
the very notion of primary and secondary, supplement and structure, ornament
and order. What can be understood to constitute graffiti then, as Roland Barthes
outlined (1991 [1979]), is in fact neither the inscription nor its message but the
wall, the background, the surface (the desktop); it is because the background exists
fully, as an object which has already lived, that such writing always comes to it as
an enigmatic surplus: what is in excess, supernumerary, out of place (ibid.: 167).
Paint not only lies on the surface of the wall, it embeds itself within it, it infuses into
its surface, the removal of this insurgent ornament hence necessitating a form of
destruction, the erasure of the addition always entailing the scarring of the surface.

Made Servile to Structure

The uproar Independent Public Art so often arouses is not simply due to its illegality,
to its status as an art form which contravenes the laws of public space. It is its
fundamentally ornamental nature that causes much of the anxiety which surrounds
it, which is, I would argue, in fact at the root of the iconoclash in which it exists. It is
Independent Public Arts decorative and thus agentic nature, its adjunctive, and thus
parergonic status, which acts as the causal factor provoking the fear of these urban
ornaments, it is their tactile adhesiveness and lack of fixity that provokes the unease.
If we examine two other aspects of our contemporary visual culture, we can in fact
see how this twofold ornamental anxiety is born out. Bill posters, for example, are,
like graffiti and street-art, similarly illegal, similarly part of our contemporary visual
culture, yet they do not cause the palpable dread that the sighting of graffiti so often
generates (if they cause any disquiet at all).21 They may be adjunctive, they may be
parerga, but they are objects not containing any individual agency, they are objects
manufactured by corporations not persons and thus do not contain the residual
smudge of the individual, the marking of a body; they are not decorative, not agentic,
and thus not feared. In an equal and opposite way, graffiti images on canvas cause
no panic, they cause no innate alarm. They may be decorative, they may be agentic,
they may be formed from the individual markings of a hand (and formally identical
to images found on the street), but they are objects contained within a physical frame
(rather than existing as a frame), the anxiety thus dissipating from the piece, moving
from the centre to its newfound edge; they are not adjunctive, not parergonic, and
thus cause no concern. Even more suggestively, the recurrent erasure of legal graffiti
(Independent Public Art produced with explicit permission), as well as the habitual
unease even generated by officially authorized graffiti sites (such as legal hall of

In the same way, a vast number of the advertising hoardings (and other forms
of street furniture) which exist in our cities are illegally erected. The money spent on
tackling these illicit visual artefacts, as well as the penalties given to their constructers,
is however, significantly less than those meted out to individual contraveners of laws
over public space.


Ornament and Order

fames), only comes to further instantiate this argument. And whilst of course I would
not contest the fact that some amount of fear is generated by the basic illegality of
many of these ornaments (due, most likely, to their recurrent linkage to more violent
or invasive crimes by the now widely discredited Broken Windows theory of Wilson
and Kelling [1982]), this does not explain why other illicit aspects of our environment
do not generate the same level of fear and loathing. It is simply these ornaments
bicameral dimension, their adjunctive and decorative fundamentality, which I argue
is at the centre of the iconoclash they are surrounded by, the phalrophobie, the
ornaphobia, the anxiety they bring forth. It is the tension between the ornament and
the architecture which bestows Independent Public Art its vitality and its vilification,
its decorative, sticky agency which grants it the power to both bind and repulse.22
For all these reasons then, ornament, as Wigley has argued (1988), has always
been conceived of as potentially dangerous, potentially chaotic, something which
must be made servile to structure precisely because [it] lies in the dangerous realm
of representation and can mislead us, take us away from the natural presence of
harmony and order (ibid.: 52) the same harmony and order as we saw earlier with
Francis Terry of course. As architects have habitually attempted to tame ornament
then, to make it represent structure, to articulate structure, the core structure
in itself has for the most part, been protected from interrogation (ibid.: 52),
kept sacrosanct, inviolable. Yet as Wigley continues, if one can produce a form
that changes the condition of ornament, if ornament is articulated as a critique
of structure, then the status of your theoretical position changes as well; anyone
who launches the interrogation of structure, by definition, changes the status
of theory. If it is the case that the whole discipline is set up to protect this view
of the object, to enable the whole of our culture to maintain its traditional
ways of operating, to maintain its security, then any architectural theory that
tampers with that view is not just tampering with descriptions of architecture; it
is also tampering with the way we construct ideas. So there is a kind of circular
argument here: if we could successfully change the way we conceive of the object,
change the status of the object, then we will have changed the status of theory.
Theory is constructed on the basis of a certain view of the object (ibid.: 52).

As I hope now to advance, it is this particular modality of ornament, a form in critique of its
very own structure, a form that aims to question that which it is positioned within, that
acts as the archetype for the practices of Independent Public Art I seek to explore here.23

On the occasions that Independent Public Art does become venerated on a more
popular level, however, this often has much to do with perceptions of wider market value.
Of course, many architects have attempted to disrupt the structure/ornament
dynamic. Distinguishing between decoration and ornament, Herzog and de Meuron, as
mentioned above, have attempted to produce a style of ornament which is not simply
something additional, but something which is integral to form. As Herzog has suggested
(2006), When ornament and structure become a single thing, strangely enough the result
is a new feeling of freedom. Suddenly, you no longer need to explain or apologise for
this or that decorative detail: it is a structure, a space. In actual fact, I am not particularly
interested in either structure or ornament or space as such. Things start to get interesting
when you bring all these elements together in a single thing, and if you can experience it,



1.14 Zedz and

Maurer United
Architects (MUA).
Rendering by

Not only coming to create a form of voluptuousness in the midst of cultural

aridity, fashioning a form of embellishment which can counterpoint a dominant
set of signs, these ornaments construct a new sense of order within the city,
physically scoring an idea, a concept of civility onto its material surface. And
just as tattooing can work, as Alfred Gell has again show (1993), as an influential
form of bodily practice, as a mode of honourable degradation (ibid.: 207), so too
these ornaments which tattoo the skin of the city work as an influential form of
social practice, a means of re-forming the city, re-negotiating the symbolic and
formal expressions of built form, re-framing the very meaning of the space they
inhabit. Their supplementarity can thus expose the immanent tensions within
by moving through the building, by using it. In their design for the Ciudad de Flamenco in
Jerez de la Frontera, Herzog and de Meuron in fact utilized a design composed of abstract
tags used to create a highly decorative pattern. As Luis Fernndez-Galiano explains in the
official bid document (2004), the design provides a guiltless decoration whose necessary
and aleatory geometry reconciles Arabic-Andalusian imagery with urban graffiti, and
this skin of cement, sensually scarified by the formwork and the passage of time likewise
amalgamates the rhythmic roughness of flamenco with the tactile violence of tattooing.
Linking ornamentation, graffiti and tattooing, this description tallies perfectly with the
argument I seek to make here. In an even more overt connection with graffiti, the world
renowned graffiti artists Delta and Zedz, working in collaboration with the architect
Marc Maurer as part of the design team delta-maurer-zedz, attempted to confront the
structure/ornament dynamic directly through transforming their graffiti images into
graffiti architecture. Rather than simply tagging upon a building then, their designs of
the buildings themselves emerged through their typography, Zedz and Deltas designs
forming large-scale environments in themselves, ornament and structure being entirely
fused. The traditionally tense relationship between architecture and ornament was thus
transformed in this project from a negative to a positive; neither order nor ornament, wall
or graffiti, coming to dominate the other (see Figure 1.15).


Ornament and Order

our metropolitan environments, reveal the double-bind encased within the

concrete walls of the city, expose the various conflicts around notions of public
and private space, of use-value and commercial rights. Its ornamental, parergonic
logic demonstrating the shortcomings of structure, whilst, at the same time, in
some way completing it.

Agentic and Parergonic

Whilst at the beginning of this chapter I argued that all my informants public
aesthetic practices were of an ornamental nature, being both decorative and
adjunctive (and using Nanos choquitos and 3TTMans carteles as archetypal
examples), it would seem apt to now present some instances of work that function
within the agentic and parergonic state that this ornamental status bestows upon
them, to present some examples of Independent Public Art that exhibit these
specifically Gellian and Derridean characteristics.
First then, lets take this eponymous (and untitled) work by Remed (see
Figure 1.15): an abstract, multi-coloured tag bearing the five alphabetical
characters which make up his name as well as an incorporated heart shape in
its very centre. We can quite clearly see from the image that it is a) adjunctive, a
secondary addition (coloured pigmentation) to a primary surface (built form),
a painted figure on concrete ground, a material production formed on to the
already-present architectural body of the city. It is a work which is fused on to
a surface (the paint binding itself to the wall), a work that can only function
through the medium it is attached to (the what of the image the tag itself
steered by its how the wall through which this message is transmitted),
and thus a quintessentially supplementary form. Moreover, the image is also
b) decorative. It is, in its role as a chirographic artefact, quite clearly working within
the previously alluded to elements of order or unity, proportion, scale, contrast,
balance and rhythm (Moughtin, Oc and Tiesdell 1999: 3). It can hence be seen
to create a particular unity out of a diversity of elements (ibid.: 4), the different
letters forming a cohesive, integrated whole; a proportion giving due weight to
the compositional elements (ibid.: 4), each element being both commensurate
to its neighbour and to the entire piece as a whole; a scale relative to the entire
building (ibid.: 5), neither too large nor too small for the space in which is lies,
fitting almost perfectly within the remaining tiled surface on the wall; a contrast
denoting the triumph of unity over chaos (ibid.: 10), or, perhaps more aptly, of
a perceived chaos over an acknowledged order; a balance between complexity
and repose (ibid.: 10), neither overly obfuscatory nor idle in its design; and, finally,
a rhythm, a pattern imposed by the mind onto an outward surface (ibid.: 9), a
pace directed, slowed, quickened by the overt markings, the originary tempo
and flow of Remeds performance visible in its material remains.
The decorative status of this marking, its technology of enchantment, is not
produced to be merely attractive, as mere ornament however. Its function (that
which is present in all decorative markings), is to attract, to entice us within its web.

1.15Remed, Untitled, Leon, Spain, 2011


Ornament and Order

Remeds work not only provides evidence of an individual then, leaving a

distributed aspect of his self, a fragment of his agency his very name in fact, his
personhood on the body of the city. It also embeds a form of sociality within the
wall it touches, opening a network between objects and persons (the attachment
engendered between writer and reader, the relationship which Remed seeks
to instantiate with the recipients of his work); it acts as a mind trap, its evident
animation forcing us to follow its meandering lines, to mentally rehearse its
performance (the twists and turns, the mazy dance this pattern presents). And it
thus attracts to trap, it engages to enthral, its decorative functionality revivifying
the city in quite literal terms. Like the prow-boards and other famous indexes
Gell discusses (1998), Remeds work thus contains a twofold social efficacy,
one emerging both through its agency and its animation, its urge to form a
relationship with both the city and its inhabitants, to intertwine his self with their
skin. At the same time however, its thoroughly indeterminate status (the tension
inherent within all ornamental form), immediately emerges when we realize the
bond made between wall and paint, the near impossibility of ever separating
the two. Once applied to its surface again, much like a tattoo the paint can
only be removed through damaging the primary surface itself, being blotted out
entirely by anti-graffiti advocates and thus creating what has often been called
accidental or abstract graffiti (the erased markings of Independent Public Art
which often occur in a different colour to the wall itself see Homer, Figure 1.13,
as an example),24 as well as often returning to haunt their sites through the failure
of the overpainting to entirely hide the original mark (in what are commonly
termed graffiti ghosts, instances when the original marking bleeds through the
paint which attempted to remove it). Remeds marking not only makes the innate
porousness of the wall clear then. It displays its primary lack, its double-bind as
both perfectly in, and perfectly out of place, its ability to entirely transform the
nature of the ergon, to allude toward another order existing within the city.
With Sans untitled work produced in Besanon, France (see Figure 1.16),
a mural scratched (in a literal enaction of the Italian word graffiare) directly
onto the surface of the door which it embellishes, we can grasp its evidentially
ornamental status (in its technical terms), its standing as an auxiliary support to
a primary body, its keenly decorative pattern functioning through all the basic
principles as outlined with Remeds work above. With this image in particular
however, it is not merely its agency which stands out but the inability for
us to reconstruct its performance; whilst the weaving pattern of Remeds
tag may confound our eyes, may index its dance like bodily performance,
the astonishing intricacy of Sans work, its knot-like complexity, can bedevil
our attempts to imagine its genesis, and thus to gain mastery over the work.
Whilst often produced by council graffiti removers (as we can see on 3TTMans
image on p. 81), these removals are also often produced by outraged members of the
public. One such famous iconoclast (or perhaps outsider artist) is Fred Radtke, also
known as the Grey Ghost, whose grey graffiti removals have come to exist almost like
an abstract tag, directly, agentically linked to his self.

1.16San, Untitled, Besanon, France, 2011


Ornament and Order

1.17San, Untitled
[detail], Besanon,
France, 2011

Yet, furthermore, in Sans scratching we can also detect the major/minor, master/
slave positionality so inherent to ornamental form its state within the very
structure while being innately disconnected from it, its concurrent attachment and
detachment from the whole, wedded yet divorced, supplement and surplus clearly
functioning here to disturb the probity, the very cohesive state of the supposedly
primary body. Sans work is thus both on the door and yet it is not the door, it is on
the surface yet cannot be separated from the surface itself. And as the archetypal
example of a foreign body that already inhabits the interior and cannot be expelled
without destroying its host (Wigley 1987: 160), it again exposes the incompleteness
of the intact state, the parergon working alongside its ergon without being a part
of it and yet without being absolutely extrinsic to it (Derrida 1987: 55). Our artefact
here can hence unveil the deep lack of the its surface (its lack of protection, lack of
pattern, lack of personhood), its engrained status thus functioning contrarily to
the colonnades that Kant saw as insuring the integrity and purity of the parerga to
succeed only in disrupting this dynamic. The bare surface, the untouched door, can
thus be understood to call out for its ornamentation, a horror vacui, or, as Gombrich
perspicuously notes (1984), an amor infiniti (ibid.: 80), that only ornamentation will
relieve. This insurgent form of ornamentation, like Independent Public Art as a whole,
can thus be seen as the archetypal example of a parergon in critique of its ergon, a
decorative pollution, a Loosian crime of style. It can perfectly illustrate the force of



Riegls Kunstwollen,25 the Latourian iconoclash, both Hersey and Coomaraswamys

notion of ornament not simply as a facile (or perhaps fascial) beautification, but as
a form of votive offering.

Uses and Abuses

While all my informants public practices like the two shown above will be
understood as ornamental ones then, ornamental forms with agentic and
parergonic qualities, there are two quite contrasting modalities that can be detected
within these practices as a whole. These, what I term Consensual and Agonistic
Ornamentation practices which will be explored in depth over the next two
chapters are actions broadly divorced through gestures of consent (in the former
case), and dissent (in the latter), gestures separated through a binary opposition,
which, although cam seen be seen as an overly simplifying dichotomy (especially
in reference to many urban practices26), broadly elucidates the intentional schemata
and receptive outcomes of these most public of aesthetic practices.27 What are more
usually (and often incorrectly) defined as street-art practices aesthetic practices
occurring illegally in the street and subsuming techniques such as wheat-pasting,28
muralism, and freehand drawing will thus predominantly be located within the
term Consensual Ornamentation, alongside the various and diverse images and forms
that these actions inevitably engender. As we will come to see, these actions will all
be linked by a desire for inclusion within the public sphere as a whole, by a certain
conceptual openness that seeks a harmonious relation with its recipient, and a visual
decipherability (rather than visual fixity) which often (but of course not always) works
through a figural rather than textual modality. On the other side however, what are

I need to do it, I have to do it, I cant live without it! These were some of the
most common responses to the habitual question, so why do you paint? It seemed to
be a flawless example of Riegls Kunstwollen, a perfect example of elementary urge to
decorate (Riegl 1992: 31).
G. Thomas Goodnight for example (1997), argues that many attempted
conceptualizations of action in the public sphere are habitually bedevilled by a
withdrawal into overly reductive oppositions (such as I have used here perhaps),
oppositions eluding the real complexity of the practices themselves: To read publics,
not in the mix, match, and multiplicity of symbolic activities, but through the framefrozen binaries of con(dis)sensus is likely to diminish learning from rhetorical models
by overdetermining presumption and by masking risks encountered in enactments of
public discourses, discussions, and performances (ibid.: 220). Whilst I hope, of course,
to stress the palpable complexity of both discourses being discussed, I will still be
persisting simply due to the ethnographic reality encountered with this broadly
dichotomous thesis.
As is examined on pp. 1268, this division between harmony and dissonance
can be seen to relate to various institutional aesthetic discourses which follow similar
conceptual lines, artistic gestures which seek either to reject or to embrace an engaged
A technique of postering which uses a liquid adhesive made from flour and


Ornament and Order

more usually (and again, often incorrectly) defined as graffiti practices aesthetic
practices likewise occurring illegally in the street but here subsuming techniques such
as tagging, throw-ups, and etching29 will by and large reside within the assemblage
of Agonistic Ornamentation, as will, of course, the attendant images that these
practices necessarily generate: here we will find a desire for a very partial rather than
wholesale inclusion in the public sphere, a conceptual and formal obfuscation which
if not simply dissensual, illustrates a combative modality of communication, and a
style which often (but again not always) works through textual rather than figural
form. Formally elucidated through specific examples (see pp. 7886, 11526), these
two ornamental approaches will be conceptually illuminated through the political
theories of Deliberative Democracy and Agonistic Pluralism (in particular through the
work of their theoretical forefathers Jrgen Habermas and Jean-Franois Lyotard),
theories which come to clarify these aesthetic discourses through their somewhat
surprizing congruence with my informants quotidian cultural production.30
What must be made clear, however, is that neither of the modalities being
delineated is able to be disassociated from its original sites of application, its prime
mediumistic locale from the public space of the city where it appears. As forms
of ornamentation, once removed from their surround, from their carrier, these
artefacts naturally go through a radical transformation, and must be assessed
through a new set of criteria (a set of criteria unrelated to the narrative of this story).
Of course this does not mean that the practitioners of these ornamental forms
cannot produce legitimate work (as seen by their peers that is) within a gallery
or institutional setting. It simply means that when produced within a different
surround, a different medium, the terms of discourse themselves must be similarly
reworked, it must be governed by an entirely different set of aesthetic, ethical,
political principles. The final production can hence be considered as exciting,
interesting, or enveloping as anything produced within its original setting (within
the medium of the public sphere), but will be a different form of cultural production
in toto.31 The white cube may hence be understood as ornament (a decoration, a la
Loos, without decoration), but will be seen to preclude the production of ornament.

The use of either acid solutions to indelibly imprint ones tag, normally onto
glass, or a key or knife to cut the same into other surfaces.
I must state here that the relationship between these political and aesthetic
discourses was not one I went to the field with. Far from it in fact. Whilst I understood
that there were two broadly different forms of cultural production occurring, I had no
previous schooling in the theories of democracy which they are here linked to. The
connection to these Habermasian and Lyotardian theories became apparent only after
the continual evocation of both democratic and communicative ideals by my informants,
their evocation of themes related to consensual and agonistic perspectives. Whilst in
Part I I will be examining what are broadly visual forms of cultural production through
theories which emerge from the realm of language then, this is supported through my
informants concentration on notions of transmission, through the meanings that my
informants themselves attached to their works.
Although, Ruskin (1859) would probably disagree: [P]ortable art, he argued, art
independent of all place was for the most part ignoble art. Your little Dutch landscape,
which you put over your sideboard to-day, and between the windows to-morrow, is



1.18 The logical

corollary of
showing graffiti
within the gallery
space. Akim,
Part 3, Berlin,
Germany, 2011

Of course, I realize that by initially relating these neologisms to two previously

recognized disciplines (street-art and graffiti), their usage could perhaps seem
extravagant. I need, therefore, to make clear why the terms I have chosen are
of benefit, why they are more appropriate than their more commonly used
designations. Primarily, I would suggest that the primary terms (graffiti and streetart) have been used to signify so many different and variant practices, so many
different and variant practitioners, that they have come now to signify little or
nothing at all; they connote so much, they denote almost naught, and my continuing
use of them would merely add an additional shade to their already elusive, already
muddied meanings. Furthermore, in their most habitually understood senses, I
would suggest that the terms build up a division between these visual discourses
based on a wholly unwarranted either/or position either innovative (street-art)
or traditional (graffiti), either inauthentic (street-art) or authentic (graffiti), either
positive (street-art) or negative (graffiti), clean (street-art) or dirty (graffiti)
pigeonholing these practices into zones that are in fact more complex and messy
than these polarities suggest. Whilst I have signified the initial binaries relating
to these idioms then (the relation between Consensual Ornamentation and what
is often termed street-art, between Agonistic Ornamentation and what is termed
graffiti), one could easily introduce purported examples of graffiti that sit more
comfortably within the Consensual category, just as one could discover ostensible

a far more contemptible piece of work than the extents of field and forest with which
Benozzo [in producing his famous frescoes] has made green and beautiful the once
melancholy arcade of the Campo Santo at Pisa (ibid.: 80).


Ornament and Order

cases of street-art that reside more easily within their Agonistic counterpart.32 It is
hence both the overburdening and underwhelming form of signification prevalent
within the initiatory taxonomies that I want to dispose of; an often deeply-misplaced
meaning that precludes any multi-layered understanding of these particular
discourses that leaves the original terms inadequately placed to delineate their
true distinctions.33 The term Consensual Ornamentation thus aims to describe many
of the actions of (what might often be termed) street-art, without reducing it to
the common inferences that it now typically elicits, the themes of (purportedly,
and most probably fleetingly) acceptable art, of gentrification and institutionality
that it commonly signifies. Likewise, the term Agonistic Ornamentation aims to
depict many of practices of (what might often be called) graffiti, without reducing
it to the frequent presumptions that it typically adduces, without diminishing it
to the themes of vandalism, masculinity and gangs that it habitually connotes
suppositions that, for both of the categories, simply lessen our ability to interrogate
them more astutely.
Moreover, and as has so far been elided, all the above mentioned issues fail to
mention the very basic fact that my informants themselves shunned their branding
as either graffiti-writers or street-artists (even the term artist being for many of them
difficult to accept), labels that they saw as depreciating the divergent and often very
contradictory forms of cultural production that they generated, that simply turned
them into one-dimensional artistic caricatures rather than embodied, complex
actors.34 Whats more, they felt that when the terms were used, they were often
abused by many of their contemporaries, artists (or, more often, the institutions or

Stephen Powers, perhaps more commonly known as ESPO for example, who is
without doubt a classic New York style graffiti writer (see his book The Art of Getting Over,
[Powers 1999]), currently produces works that function within the realm of what I term
Consensual Ornamentation outward looking, legible, community-embracing visual
designs. Although he may or may not define this work purely as graffiti (he has been
known to call it emotional advertising), Powers is a fierce and notable critic of street-art
and would see graffiti as a directly hereditary movement to his current practice. Thus,
this could be a purported instance of the Agonistic working within the realms of the
Consensual. Likewise, La Mano, an artist from Barcelona, whose eponymous ideogram
of a raised fist could put him firmly in the realms of street-art (many seeing the original
disjuncture between graffiti and street-art emerging from the movement from letterbased to image-based tags), could be quite easily understood to work within the realm
of the Agonistic. As a defiant, overtly seditious image, one locating itself within all the
traditional spaces of graffiti production (including the all-important trains), his work
could be seen to move effortlessly between these two visual spheres of the Consensual
and Agonistic (see p. 98 for an example of his work).
As James Elkins has argued in terms of the concept of the gaze (2007), the
original expressions are both overdetermined (burdened by contradictory theories)
and radically underdetermined (worn too thin to have much purchase on individual
artworks), and thus necessitate removal.
Thus, as Louis said to me before I finally returned to London, just dont talk
about street-art! Please! Its not about that. Its about everything that we do. Nano, in a
similar vein, told me of course, graffiti is massively important to me, to all of us. I know
its history, its birth, Ive done it and lived it and I do share many of the points of view that



galleries that spoke for them) inventing a famed history of graffiti by the practitioner
when in reality they had only ever painted a single tag, inventing a fertile narrative
of cultural production on the street when in fact they simply craved a route into the
gallery or contemporary art world as (and again, quite antithetically) a street-artist.
This was considered to be a fraudulent but all-too-common process of induction
that my informants wanted no part of.35 None of them felt that their actions could
comfortably subsist within these extant terminologies; they felt trapped within the
idioms, at once too broad and too narrow, too spacious yet specious.36
By using the terms Consensual and Agonistic Ornamentation, then, the spatial
practices my informants undertook will be described through their method, their
medium of production and intrinsic technique adjunctive/decorative and thus
ornamental as well as the politico-aesthetic foundations that maintain their
inherent distinctions as I will now go on to delineate, a practice of agonism versus
a practice of consensuality. It is these forms tangible, material and ornamental
values (their working as decorative supports to a primary structure) as well as their
intangible, immaterial and conceptual values (their working as theoretical supports
to an ontological structure) that I want to establish, the interaction between form,
intention, and practice (Holston 2006: 35), the complex interweaving of meaning
and performance. First following the native exegesis the interpretations and
significance my informants themselves attribute to the artworks they produce
it is hence the communicative intent of these aesthetic paradigms that will now
be explored, two modalities of public, insurgent ornamentation which, as we
will now come to see, come to define a very particular way of understanding the
contemporary city.

go with it. But Im not going to play the part of a real writer because thats not the only
thing Ive lived. Its part of me, but its not possible for it to be everything.
It was not that commercial success was looked down upon by my informants,
nor was gallery or institutional work in itself. This was understood as part of an artistic
career, just something to be managed correctly if one wanted to keep on steady
ethical grounds. It was simply the bogus history used to convey some sort of renegade
artistic past that was disparaged and dismissed. Tono, for example, now called himself
a public-artist to disassociate himself with the hoards of non-street street-artists
who had emerged into the public eye; Maybe I should start calling myself a bakerartist he once joked, I worked in a bakery for like two weeks when I was 16, so yeah,
that must make me a baker-artist!. Yes, it could be argued that there was a degree of
competitiveness over the notions of authenticity that emerged here. But more than
this, there was a simple frustration over the utilization of the street under false pretence,
for instrumental, rather than inspirational purposes.
Spok might disagree with me here. He would, first and foremost, describe
himself as a graffiti-writer. But there were other aspects to his creative output that he
likewise embraced, and he readily saw the contradictions both in his own practice as
well as those exposed by friends trying to keep it real. Graffiti was a core part of his
life, but only he understood the term itself, and it was one working in almost direct
opposition to its popular understanding.

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Consensual Ornamentation

[U]nder conditions of the large, democratic social-welfare state, the

communicative interconnectedness of a public can be brought about only in
this way: through a critical publicity brought to life within intraorganizational
public spheres, the completely short-circuited circulation of quasi-public opinion
must be linked to the informal domain of the hitherto nonpublic opinions.
Jrgen Habermas

Man is a political animal, in other words an animal

that exists in a polity, a public space.
To put it more precisely: Man is an animal, that by virtue of being from the very
outset embedded in a public network of social relationships, first develops the
competences that make a person of him [] We humans learn from one another.
And that is only possible in the public space of a culturally stimulating milieu.
Jrgen Habermas

Now that both the adjunctive and decorative constituents of Consensual

Ornamentation have been clarified (along with all the various issues that this
ornamental status raises), in what way am I trying to describe certain types of
my informants public aesthetic production as something consensual, if, and
again following the OED, we understand consent to mean to agree together,
or with another, to act or be affected in sympathy? Whilst I have explained
the basic conceptual outline of these artefacts what I argue to be their
open, communal desires, their desire for harmony and accord while I have
indicated the physical forms that they often manifest being artefacts which
for the most part work through a figural medium, ones which are both formally
decipherable and outward looking I need to make clearer why the term
consensual is so relevant, and, moreover, where this term itself emerged from.

2.1Remed, Amor Al Arte, Madrid, Spain, 2012

2.23TTMan, Viva la Calle Libre, Madrid, Spain, 2010

Consensual Ornamentation


Untitled, Utrecht,
Netherlands, 2013

Focussing on Jrgen Habermass hugely influential work on the public sphere

and rational communication in particular two of his most renowned projects,
his early (and perhaps most famous) work The Structural Transformation of the
Public Sphere (1991 [1962]) and his later opus The Theory of Communicative Action
(produced in two parts, Reason and the Rationalization of Society (1987a [1981])
and Lifeworld and System [1987b (1981)]) it is a distinctly Habermassian notion
of consensus that I seek to link with what I term Consensual Ornamentation, a
practice in which open civic dialogue and rational consensus are key. Habermass
lifelong commitment to what he termed the conceptual triad of public space,
discourse and reason (Habermas 2004: 2), will thus be seen to exactly mirror
the desires of the practitioners of Consensual Ornamentation, to mirror their
desire for harmony, communion, for an intersubjective relation with the wider
public sphere. Before we delve into Habermass work in more detail however,
I want briefly to present three, archetypal images of what I argue Consensual
Ornamentation to be, three examples which I will leave suspended as the
theoretical argument builds. These three Remeds Amor al Arte, 3TTMans Viva
la Calle Libre and Eltonos Untitled will later be used as distinct case studies to
analyse the argument being made, representative instances which will come
to support the relation I now seek to make both with Habermass theory of
the public sphere, as well as his thesis concerning consensual, communicative
rationality. As for now, however, it is the specifics of these arguments that must
be determined, and it is to Habermass magnum opus that we now proceed.


Ornament and Order

In Clear Contrast to the State

The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere presents us with Habermass
account of the emergence, transformation and disintegration of the bourgeois
public sphere (McCarthy 1991: xi). It is a dense, thick description of the rise and fall
of the coffeehouse culture of 18th-century liberal-democratic Europe (specifically
Britain, France and Germany), an account of the initial formation and later ruin of
a political space (one existing in both physical and metaphysical sites), shaped by
a group of disparate and heterogeneous social actors. Habermass public sphere
was a location within which reasoned discourse could be rationally debated,
argued through and contested in an open, unrestricted environment, a sphere
in which individuals could come together to shape communal opinion within
a growing market-based, metropolitan environment. It was a setting where
difference and disagreement could be discussed within an amicable, uninhibited
forum, a location from which a new form of political practice, one resisting the
previously overpowering hegemony of public authority (Habermas 1991: 2)
the inequitable manifestation of state power could be physically enacted and
Habermas argued that this emergent public sphere was formed through two
simultaneous, and quite crucial constructions: on the one hand, a newly built
spatial habitat a physical milieu comprising of freshly constructed lecture halls,
museums, public parks, theatres, meeting houses, opera houses [and] coffee
shops (Boyte 1992: 342) and on the other, a newly built infrastructural backdrop
a material environment in which social communication could develop, and thus
emergent from publishing houses, libraries [and] clubs (ibid.: 342). Through this
twofold arrangement through not only the formation of new political spaces
but also the provision of a new form of material culture, the newspapers and
moralistic and critical journals that came to be discussed in the coffee houses
(Habermas 1974 [1964]: 52) an environment was created in which private
citizens could come to together to discuss issues of importance to society at
large, determining these matters through logical argument and critical choice.
Habermass public sphere, in Douglas Kellners terms, thus presupposed freedoms
of speech and assembly, a free press, and the right to freely participate in political
debate and decision-making (Kellner 2000: 264). It mediated between the private
concerns of individuals in their familial, economic, and social life and the demands
and concerns of social and public life (ibid.: 263), giving these autonomous
actors a space within which they could meet under a notion of shared common
values, challenging one another as equals rather than adversaries. It allowed the
emergent bourgeois movement to overcome private interests and opinions to
discover common interests and to reach societal consensus (ibid.: 263), enabling
this growing social stratum to come together as a significant political entity. The
emergence of this new public sphere not only undercut the principle on which
existing rule was based (Habermas 1991: 28); it was able to stand in clear contrast
to the state (Habermas 1974 [1964]: 52), to place itself as a political body working
against the public authority itself (ibid.: 52).

Consensual Ornamentation


However, Habermass analysis is set out (as the title would have it) on the
attendant transformation of the state of the public sphere, the weakening of this
previously described harmonious (and perhaps utopian) state of affairs, as well
as, latterly, discussing the potential for its contemporary reformation. Habermas
thus goes on to describe the so-called refeudalization of the public sphere by
the end of the 19th century (ibid.: 54), a state through which the titans of industry
and other domineering corporations came to control and manipulate the media
and state (Kellner 2000: 264), and the state itself (through the burgeoning
welfare system and the massive increase of bureaucratization) began to play
an increasingly important (and for Habermas, increasingly negative) role within
civil society in general. The overbearing role of state and corporate action thus
diminished the shared, involved nature of participatory citizenship. It meant that
the bourgeois public came to act as consumers rather than citizens, dedicating
themselves more to passive consumption and private concerns than to issues of
the common good and democratic participation (ibid.: 265). Communal opinion,
rather than being rationally debated and argued then, ended up being managed
and controlled by political, economic, and media elites, hegemonic forces who
directed opinion as part of systems management and social control (ibid.: 265).
The previously venerated public sphere thus became a field for the competition
of interests, competitions which assume the form of violent conflict (Habermas
1974 [1964]: 54), and the decrees and regulations that previously came about
through rational public discussion, could now, with the collapse of the public
sphere, scarcely still be understood as arising from the consensus of private
individuals engaged in public discussion (ibid.: 54).
The original emancipatory conception of the public sphere that Habermas
described thus mutated into its almost direct antithesis, a state within which
mass media distorted the previously liberating media forces, where they had
become subject to political dominance and influence, where it became a site
for mere commerce, consumption and commercialization, rather than a channel
for rational and reasoned discussion of matters of true import. The communal
opinions generated by the public sphere thus decomposed into the informal
opinions of private citizens without a public, being now solely generated
through formal opinions of publicistically effective institutions (Habermas 1991:
247). The very thing that initially enabled the development of a cohesive public
sphere, the expansion of free, open, mass communication, came to be that which
in fact brought about its ensuing disablement; the bourgeois public became
compliant and docile consumers of messages, inert spectators of a partisan
media discourse, rather than recalcitrant, active participants in an independent,
impartial public arena. The very concept of the public sphere, as Habermas
decisively concludes (1974 [1964]), a concept which calls for a rationalization of
power through the medium of public discussion among private individuals, came
to be in peril of complete disintegration due to the structural transformation of
the public sphere itself (ibid.: 55). Only through a complete reconfiguration could
its affirmative values be renewed, only through what Habermas describes as


Artist, Mi Vida
Es Como La
Tuya, Madrid,
Spain, 2007

Ornament and Order

a rational reorganization of social and political power under the mutual control
of rival organizations committed to the public sphere in their internal structure as
well as in their relations with the state and each other (ibid.: 55), could the public
sphere return to a state of serving its populace, from the prevailing situation of
its populace simply serving it.

Forced to Participate
Habermass later work, The Theory of Communicative Action (1987a, 1987b), sought
to develop a model moving away from his previous focus on negative dialectics1
in a linguistic turn2 towards language and communication that attempted both
to critique the destructive hegemonic structures he saw intensifying through the
public spheres continuing entropy and to encourage a new form of social action that

Critiquing the ideology of society in terms of the actual social reality.

Barbara Fultner (2002) argues that this turn was initially motivated by
the conviction that a critical social theory required a sound methodological and
epistemological foundation: hence the project of providing a linguistic grounding for
sociology (ibid.: xxii).

Consensual Ornamentation


enabled a recuperation from this collapse. The theory, based upon the key notion
of communicative rationality, and much in debt to J.L. Austins work on speechacts, examined a form of interaction that was oriented to achieving, sustaining and
renewing consensus, a consensus that rested upon the intersubjective recognition
of criticizable validity claims (Habermas 1987a: 137). It meant to establish clear
grounds from which to critique hegemonic practices (both state and mercantile)
that gained authority solely by inhibiting any educated, informed opinion, that
gained authority by impeding authentic public participation. What Habermas
thus suggested was that only genuine communicative action contained the
intrinsic rationality that could, returning to the words of Douglas Kellner (2000),
generate norms to criticize distortions of communication in processes of societal
domination and manipulation, and, in this way, could then cultivate a process of
rational discursive will-formation (ibid.: 271). Through the use of language oriented
towards two key concerns understanding and consensus participants would
be able to produce validity claims (propositional truth, normative rightness, and
subjective truthfulness), which could then be embodied in both linguistic and
non-linguistic symbolic expressions (Habermas 1987a: 75). These three validity
aspects normative rightness, the normative suitability of any claim within the
shared social world (adjudged through what was considered to be morally correct
behaviour); subjective truthfulness, assessed its sincerity within the internal,
subjective world (thus perceived valid if honest); and propositional truth, considered
the assumed existential presuppositions of any assertion within the sphere of the
external, objective world (that is, whether or not something in fact corresponded to
reality)3 were seen to be implicit characteristics of any speech-act carried out in
an attitude oriented to understanding (ibid.: 306). Yet what was key for Habermas
was that these validity claims were orientated towards understanding, that they
implicitly renounced any strategic, or perlocutionary communication where
effects were produced external to the meaning of what is said (ibid.: 291) and
instead insisted on the sole pursuit of illocutionary aims (ibid.: 295), whereby
effects are produced from the very meaning of what is said in the manifest content
of the speech act (ibid.: 290). Illocutionary force was thus understood to involve
the establishment of a relationship between speaker and listener through rational
speech; perlocutionary force, on the other hand, sought simply to bring about
a desired end through which speakers might strategically manipulate listeners
into agreement through the use of variegated, emotional, rhetorical forms of
speech4 (Drexler and Hames-Garcia 2004: 56). Strategic action, parasitically using
Maeve Cooke (1997) translates these three realms into three statements: the
social, a claim to normative rightness, Abortion is morally wrong; the subjective, a
claim to truthfulness, I have a headache; and the objective, a claim to propositional
truth It is raining outside (ibid.: 11).
While Habermas agrees with Searle (1974) that perlocutionary acts may
function through illocutionary ones, that by arguing I may persuade or convince
someone, by warning him I may scare or alarm him (ibid.: 25), he disagrees on the
level of intentionality linked to this. As he suggested (2000): Someone who makes a
bet, appoints an officer as supreme commander, gives a command, admonishes or


Ornament and Order

illocutionary force to proceed, saying one thing but indirectly (or duplicitously)
meaning something else, was hence recognized to be not only coercive, but also
wholly external to the validity claims raised by an utterance, and, therefore, not
subject to contest and challenge in discourse (Markell 1997: 390).
What was thus vital for Habermas was that the orientation to agreement must
arise from a specifically independent, uninhibited state, a site from where social
actors are free to contest and challenge any truth claims. The very possibility of
consensus hence presupposed that those acting communicatively are capable
of mutual criticism (Habermas 1987a: 119), that every communicative act, while
aiming for understanding and agreement, became a discursive offer that could
lead to resultant consent or dissent, that through the act we find ourselves, whether
agreeing or not, forced to participate (ibid.: 119). Consequently, as Markell argues
(1997), to be oriented toward agreement an actor need not have agreement as
the goal of his or her action or speech, nor must the action or speech be likely
to produce agreement (ibid.: 391); the search for understanding simply entailed
a foreswearing of the mechanisms of coercion and influence a foreswearing of
perlocution [] and a corresponding commitment to provide reasons for ones
claims if they are challenged (ibid.: 391). Following John R. Searle (1969), perhaps
Austins most famous devotee, illocutionary acts were thus understood as acts
completed when we succeed in doing what we are trying to do by getting our
audience to recognize what we are trying to do (ibid.: 47, emphasis added). The
latter effect on the hearer was not meant to be a belief or a response, but simply
that that the hearer understand the utterance of the speaker (ibid.: 47). Within
this reading, then, the notion of consensus is based solely upon an affirmative
attitude anticipating a final accord, one which has the procedural potentiality to
achieve this ultimate understanding, but does not automatically necessitate the
reaching of this conclusionary state. Illocutionary practices were a vital element of
Habermass theoretical reasoning, the key, in fact, to communicative action itself;
however, a final agreement from the practices initiated was not the requisite climax
of the communicative process.5
warns, makes a prediction, tells a story, makes a confession, reveals something, and so
forth is acting communicatively and cannot, at the same level of interaction, produce
perlocutionary effects at all. A speaker can pursue perlocutionary aims only when he
deceives his counterpart concerning the fact that he is acting strategically when
for example, he gives the command to attack in order to get his troops to rush into
a trap, or when he proposes a bet of $3,000 in order to embarrass someone, or when
he tells a story late in the evening in order to delay a guests departure, and so on. It is
certainly true that in communicative action unintended consequences may occur at
any time but as soon as there is a danger that these will be attributed to the speaker
as intended effects, the latter finds it necessary to offer explanations and denials, and
if need be, apologies, in order to dispel the false impression that these side effects are
perlocutionary effects (ibid.: 128).
I do of course realize that the term illocutionary as used here may seem to have
the almost exactly contrary meaning to that ascribed by Maurice Bloch (1975). This
issue, however, will be dealt with further below (on p. 203); suffice it to say that for now
we will put Blochs claims out of mind.

Consensual Ornamentation


As we have already seen through the examination of Structural Transformation,

however, Habermas is not one to eulogize about the past without critiquing the
present, and the complication emerging within this particular text is encapsulated
through the abovementioned distinction between communicative and strategic
action. Through what Habermas (1987a) saw as the eventual degeneration
from the former to the latter form of interaction, we are led inexorably towards
the colonization of the lifeworld (ibid.: 356) by what he terms steering media
(a matrix shaped through the financial clout of private sphere industry and the
administrative power of the state), and the concomitant expansion, as David
Ingram continues (1991), of economy and state into areas of everyday life
family, school, culture and so on that are not inherently disposed toward
profit maximization (ibid.: 77). This colonization not only hinders the capability
of citizens to enter the spheres of debate themselves, however, but, through
the heightened specialization of political culture in general, encourages a
more passive, non-participative public arena. And, by evading the consensusoriented communication central to what Habermas called the lifeworld (our
socio-cultural environment), steering media, producing public opinion without
the indeterminate reflexivity of public discourse, come to foster what G. Thomas
Goodnight (1992) terms a technicizing of the lifeworld as these delinguistified
media promulgate an ever greater variety of subsystems to take over functions
formerly located in the activities of communicative action in private and public life
(ibid.: 249). The strategic, instrumental, success orientated choices formed hence
transform the previously powerful public sphere into a mere space for solving
public relations problems, a variable in assuring mass loyalty and governmental
legitimacy (ibid.: 249), and authentic speech-acts, authentic communication,
come to be increasingly difficult to obtain. The public citizen is simply reduced
to a client of state programs, the private person merely to a consumer (ibid.:
249), and the role of the public sphere and the public citizen lost further to the
power of strategic action.

Achieving, Sustaining and Renewing Consensus

What I now want to propose is a twofold thesis. Firstly, I would like to explore
Consensual Ornamentation as an enormously elongated Habermasian 18thcentury coffeehouse, albeit with a slightly different conversation taking place and a
somewhat altered location of practice. I would thus like to suggest that the practices
being undertaken by a core constituent of my informants can be understood
within the mode of embodied rationality which Habermas claims was lost with the
transformation of the public sphere, a mode that can, however, be seen to be living
on in this somewhat unexpected way. It is therefore not the use of public space as
an alternative or replacement to the Habermasian model that I aim to explore here,
not a counterpublic as understood by Michael Warner (2002) for example (a notion
we will see more closely within Agonistic Ornamentation below), but a construction
that can in fact be seen to closely replicate the mechanics of the classic archetype.

2.5 and 2.6 An example of the propositional rather than perlocutionary intentions of
Consensual Ornamentation. Remed, There Is Something Else, London, England, 2010

Consensual Ornamentation


Crafting an open arena for rational, cogent, public argumentation and debate,
the producers of Consensual Ornamentation can thus be seen to be re-working
the original conception of the public sphere in what is now an illicit manner, an
illicitness transgressing commercial law and private property but not societal
wellbeing, an illicitness that aims to serve the public, not despoil it. Like the practice
of reasoned discourse that founded it, then, this mode of public ornamentation
will be grasped as a practice based upon the intentions of private individuals to
rally together, shaping communal opinion within an open, public environment. It
is an act signifying the presence of a community of discussants, a community of
actors sharing and conversing within the public sphere of the city. And, working
as an ensemble, synergically, coming together as a stylistic family, all of these
public accomplishments are aimed at addressing communal opinion collectively,
attempting to counter the beliefs, judgements and outlooks of hegemonic
institutions by proposing an alternative, by displaying a diversity, by setting out
a statement of intent in direct contrast to the manipulative, instrumental effects
of the existent visual culture in the city. Working in direct contrast to the current
media discourse, it is thus the simple offer of a proposition rather than mendacious
persuasion which is desired by my informants, a proposition intent on receipt,
intent on attention not acceptance, on recognition over submission.
Secondarily, I want to propose Consensual Ornamentation as a discourse
working towards the realization of consensus through communicative rationality,
a rationality aimed, at its very core, at reaching a dynamic plane of understanding
with its public audience, at reaching a form of understanding with the entire city
at large. It is thus a practice oriented toward the construction of a direct social
relationship, constructed with an overt desire to create a purposeful rapport with
its requisite viewer that I believe is taking place here. And I will hence be arguing
that the ornamental productions of my informants can be conceived as fully
Habermasian illocutionary utterances, as acts not only where the speaker in saying
something also does something, but where they act as a warranty of commitment,
a warranty that can provide reasons in support of the validity of the claims, as
Maeve Cooke explains (2000: 8). They are utterances free from any form of strategic
manipulation, utterances that form a state of consensuality that does not confine
plurality, does not limit any conception of difference, but attempts to pull people
together rather than draw them apart. This approach aligned toward achieving,
sustaining and renewing consensus (Habermas 1987a: 17) can be demonstrated
not only through Consensual Ornamentations desire for decipherable, visually
articulate images the aesthetic forms, as we will discuss further below, working
through either simplicity or legibility, being shaped directly so as to be part of a
wider social discourse, to be understood by as wide a sphere as possible but
also through its medium in the most open of museums, in the city itself, which,
following Mieke Bal (who we will hear more from below), I will suggest is the
archetypal space of expository, discursive acts. Due to this desire for connection,
then, this desire for an effusive union with their public counterpart, an authentic
form of understanding can be seen to be formed through the simple enunciation
of a statement of intent. And the harmony desired by Consensual Ornamentation is


Ornament and Order

thus not attempting to compel or force agreement, it is not consensus in its liberaldemocratic conception, a deadening middle-ground where there is nothing but
a notional consensus, but a form resting upon the intersubjective recognition of
criticizable validity claims (Habermas 1987a: 137). It was a discourse taking place
within conditions of free determination; autonomy from any internal or external

Readers, Listeners, Spectators

Critically, however, for Consensual Ornamentation to successfully operate within
these two overarching propositions it must be seen to meet both the three
institutional requirements for the fully functioning, rational public sphere that
Habermas set out in Structural Transformation those of a common humanity, a
common concern, and an inclusive public (Habermas 1991: 367); as well as the
three validity aspects detailed in Communicative Action, the contestable facets of
any speech act carried out in an attitude orientated to understanding (Habermas
1987a: 306) namely normative rightness, subjective truthfulness and propositional
truth. These requirements were pivotal to each of Habermass theses, determining
factors in the success of their respective discourses, and must therefore be equally
applicable to these ornamental forms themselves.
The first injunction, then, the foundation of what was termed a common
humanity, entailed a total disregard of entrenched social status, a collective ethos
in which each citizen could communicate in equal terms with any other person in
society. In the salons and coffee houses where the public sphere emerged, egality
was not simply presupposed, but concepts of rank altogether disregarded, social
hierarchy trumped by the authority of the better argument (Habermas 1991: 36).
Not only were economic dependencies totally without influence, but both the
laws of the market and laws of the state suspended (ibid.: 36), nothing being of
more importance than debate, discussion, and equitable social intercourse. In the
same way, the discourse produced within Consensual Ornamentation can be seen
to have been designed, first and foremost, to be transmitted to the entire public
at large, not to a predefined section of the community (to those who had received
an education in the arts, whether an education in the fine-arts at art school or in
the low-arts in the street), but to everyone who participated in the life of the city.
Being consciously produced for a diverse and disparate group of people then
for the affluent public who would normally only encounter art within gallery
shows in the exclusive parts of the city, for the low-income inhabitants who
would normally never set foot inside one, for the art-educated public who craved
a new model of aesthetic experience, for the drug-addicts who wandered the
streets in a dazed stupor6 these works can thus be understood to have aimed,
When I once questioned the placement of one of Eltonos street installations, it
being in a backstage location habitually used by drug-users and sellers, he looked at me
indignantly and told me art is for addicts too you know! There was no irony or cynicism in
his statement, it simply being another example of the adherence to art for all.

Consensual Ornamentation


as Habermas pronounced, at transcending the barriers of social hierarchy (ibid.:

345), at being open and accessible to all members of the social world. Working
through what was an attempt at a legible form of visuality a visuality produced in
either a lucid calligraphic form (such as we can see above in Remeds Remed ama
la calle), a visuality of commonality which often used popular, low imagery rather
than highbrow aesthetic (as we can see below 3TTMans Ceci Est Mon Cuerpo), an
aesthetic of simplicity, a visual sparseness acting as a performative signature (such
as in Eltono and Nurias Untitled signboard adjacent) all these works explicitly
attempted to open up a discourse with the public at large, to initiate a conversation
irrespective of the status of their recipients. These ornaments hence aimed for a
parity which held elitism in contempt, they aimed for a coequal discourse which
as we will see in the case studies below, would often obtain this literal response.
And just as in Habermass definition of common humanity, within Consensual
Ornamentation economic dependency was irrelevant one did not have to pay to
encounter these work and thus their recipients could come from any background;
so too the laws of the market were upturned the artefacts being produced for
experiential rather than instrumental values; likewise the laws of the state were
rejected the conversation continuing in total contempt of legal regulations.
The value of an open, egalitarian and consensual form of visual communication
was always and already paramount in the producers minds. It was an aesthetic
discourse which had common humanity embedded within its designs, an aesthetic
discourse with an unending desire to speak with the entire city as a whole.
Habermass second key requirement, common concern, demanded the
problematization of areas that until then had not been questioned (ibid.: 36),
the transformation of issues which had previously been in the sole possession
of public authority into a more universal domain. Through the rational

2.73TTMan, Ceci
est mon cuerpo,
Palma, Spain, 2009


2.8Eltono and
Nuria, Untitled
project], London,
England, 2008.
Not only acting
as a performative
signature, the
which Eltono and
Nuria installed in
London, Madrid
and Stockholm,
were later gifted to
whomever found
them, an explicitly
tactic once more
linking them
to Habermass
common concern

Ornament and Order

communication engendered by this new public sphere, meaning, which

previously had been filtered through the lens of either Church or State, was
reshaped into something created by the public itself, the previous monopoly of
interpretation (emerging not only from the pulpit but in philosophy, literature,
and art), reclaimed through the ability of this public to determine, interpret, and
express opinion on their own. In the same way, I would argue that quite implicitly,
Consensual Ornamentation is able to question and interrogate notions which
otherwise remain imperceptible, bringing to the surface issues which otherwise
remain unspoken and undeclared by working in the very centre of the public
arena. By working in this space without authorization, critical attention naturally
becomes centred upon the very nature of public and private rights within the
city, the very nature of public and private liberties. By using the street as a
site for uninhibited creative production, by going against instrumental reason
and working there freely7 and spontaneously, not only does the work bring
Of course, it could be argued that the short-term losses of working without
financial compensation were due to the long-term (perceived) gains of latter institutional
success. However that mode of thought (although posisbly the case for a number of
now successful street artists), went against the experiential need to work in public
space that my informants both enunciated and enacted, the urge to communicate with
as wide a sphere as possible meant a natural movement to what they often termed the
largest gallery in the world. Their public work was often in fact a financial burden rather
than gain, harsh fines let alone the losses in terms of opportunity cost becoming an

Consensual Ornamentation


to light issues of the contrived meanings of vandalism and defacement, of the

valid place for a public-art in the city, it also rescues these issues from institutional
containment, returning them to matters of common, civic concern. Like 3TTMans
carteles project earlier discussed, it was about stating explicitly what precisely
in its implicitness for so long could assert its authority (ibid.: 37), explicitly
commenting on the implicitness of the billposters (all this information, all this
shit just trying to make you unconsciously do something, to buy something),
voicing concern regarding the implicit regulations of the city as a whole (of
where one can and cannot write, can and cannot play). Yet while in the classical
public sphere it was the Churchs and courts publicity of representation, the
loss of their aura, the profaning of their once sacramental character (ibid.: 367)
that led to the flowering of common concern this occurring in part through the
commodification of artworks, the extraction of these artefacts from sacramental
and auratic realms and into the specifically cultural milieu of the aesthetic that
enabled this within Consensual Ornamentation it is the non-commodification
of art works which leads to this common concern, which wrestles art from the
institutions which have taken control of its meaning. The aura and sacramental
nature of contemporary art then, its commonly obfuscatory nature (and the
common fear of voicing the wrong opinion, the wrong meaning), is displaced
by the discursive openness of these ornaments, their literally touchable, public
status, their rejection of the trappings (the protection, the self-importance, the
physical and metaphorical framing) of capital A art. And just as Habermas argues
that the rise of the salons enabled the creation of art critics (for good or for bad),
so too Consensual Ornamentation turns the public at large into potential critics,
each able, like the Kunstrichters Habermas describes (ibid.: 4042), to form a lay
judgement which encounters no greater authority to meaning than their own.
The last of the tripartite principles that make up the Habermasian public sphere,
the inclusive public, is understood as a public that could never close itself off entirely
and become consolidated as a clique, a community that always understood and
found itself immersed within a more inclusive public and thus established itself
institutionally as a stable group of discussants (Habermas 1991: 37). The notion
of inclusivity here is thus concerned with the ability of the public to participate
as readers, listeners, and spectators within matters of public debate (ibid.: 37), a
truly egalitarian community which can be seen to be similar to the contemporary
concept of open access. This model, as conceived of by the leading scholar of open
access Peter Suber (2005), is one which is free of charge, and free of most copyright
and licensing restrictions, a communicative realm unencumbered by price
barriers and permission barriers, a communicative realm ensconced in the public
domain (ibid.: 231). Whilst common humanity functioned through social parity
then, this institutional requirement functioned through social access and through
Consensual Ornamentations expository placement in the centre of our urban
conurbations, through its inherently legible existence within these sites, I would
argue that it can be conceived of as an aesthetic modality adhering to these basic
premises, a practice open not merely in its meaning, but in its physical placement.
ever present concern. Working in the street was simply a necessity for their moral way
of life, not a strategic investment in futurity.


Ornament and Order

2.9El Mac, El
Corazn de un
Sueo, Havana,
Cuba, 2012

The issues these practitioners interrogate thus become general not merely
in their significance, but also in their accessibility, becoming general because
everyone is able to participate (Habermas 1991: 37), because the simple
witnessing of these images turns their public into the readers, listeners, and
spectators the inclusive public needs. My informants explicit desire was simply to
create a discourse with their recipients, to provoke a relationship between viewer
and image, an aspiration for comprehensibility from people who may have no
previous knowledge of any formal, artistic discourse within which the work may
be set within. This was a search for communion, for consensus, for understanding
and, opposed to the profound (and intentional) indecipherability of the soon to
be discussed Agonistic Ornamentation, its profound (and intentional) isolation
into a clique, the work produced within its Consensual counterpart was formed
with lucidity, physical accessibility, and inclusivity at its heart.8
Through following these three institutional requirements, Consensual
Ornamentation can hence be seen to be reintegrating the classical desires of the
public sphere within the contemporary city, a state in which only in the light of the
public sphere did that which existed become revealed, where only in the light of
the public sphere did everything become visible to all (ibid.: 4). It is therefore fully
If we place Agonistic Ornamentation within these three institutional requirements,
the divergences to Consensual Ornamentation become very clear. Within the Agonistic
partner then, common humanity is disregarded in favour of an intentionally constrained
social discourse, common concern (whilst met in questioning previously disregarded
issues) is not addressed in terms of the wider public as a whole, and an inclusive public
revoked, as mentioned, in favour of the clique itself. This is not to in any way disparage
the contribution of Agonistic Ornamentation, merely to note its failure to comply with
Habermass standards for an open public sphere.

Consensual Ornamentation


coherent with the key technical prerequisites of a rational civic arena; a space where
meaningful democratic practice is enacted through the medium of open discursive,
public interaction; a practice shaped towards the establishment of a shared public
bond; an action in which each person must be accountable for their own beliefs.
Through its common humanity (its total disregard for social status), through its
common concern (its problematization of unquestioned issues), through its inclusive
public (its refusal of the clique), Consensual Ornamentation embraces the commons,
the quotidian, the universal, embracing not only self-expression, but an arena in
which one can freely present their ideas and opinions. And whilst it may be illegal,
it can still be understood to function as an immanent critique, one which avoids
fetishizing existing rules and at the same time does not dismiss the essence of these
rules (Thomassen 2010: 55). Whilst it may work through a material violence, this is
a demonstrative violence (one that brings attention to arguments) rather than a
base violence and vandalism in the traditional sense of the terms (ibid.: 55). Like
the newly surfacing spatial constructions and infrastructural habitat that enabled
the evolution of the bourgeois public sphere then, the mass availability of the
spraycan can be understood to have functioned like the incipient printing presses
of the 18th century (or the developing availability of tea, coffee and chocolate), the
very walls of the city acting like the clubs or coffee houses where people openly
exchanged thoughts and ideas, facilitating a body of practices intent on resisting
public authority, resisting the rising passivity engendered through the latter
transformation of the public sphere. Consensual Ornamentation is thus here seen
to both undercut the principle on which existing rule [is] based (Habermas 1991:
28) using an adapted spatial medium with which to promote ideals contrary to the
instrumental rationality of the city and the state and to use the very principle of
publicity against the established authorities (ibid.: 56) utilizing an unconventional,
illegal medium to promote issues contrary to the prevalent systemic values. It will
hence be understood as a domain battling against the shaping, constructing, and
limiting [of] public discourse to those themes validated and approved by media
corporations (Kellner 2000: 265), a domain advancing an alternative mode of
discourse not based on strategic factionalism or base economic gain. And acting
as a rival organization (Habermas 1974 [1964]: 55) as an organization committed
unhampered communication and public rationalcritical debate (Habermas 1991:
209) we thus find the practitioners of Consensual Ornamentation to be invested
totally in the survival of the public sphere, totally dedicated toward the practice of
public discussion amongst private individuals (Habermas 1974 [1964]: 55). We find
them totally dedicated toward rational public discussion within the modern polis.

The Apostrophe in Poetry

Before going onto discuss the technical requirements of Communicative Action, I
need to make a brief aside. Just as aesthetic judgements due to their supposed
subjectivity could be understood in Habermassian terms as invalid forms of
argumentation owing to what was believed to be their non-contestability (their
lack of a specific claim), so too within the three validity claims of Communicative


Ornament and Order

Action, only one was thought to be strictly relevant to aesthetic critique. Whilst
theoretical discourses were thought to engage propositional truth, practical
discourses normative rightness, aesthetic criticisms were argued to be the sole
arena for subjective truthfulness (ibid.: 23). It was thus understood to be only
through formal language, through literal speech-acts, that subjects could
ever come to a truly mutual understanding, non-linguistic forms having an
orientation towards understanding only if the interactions produced could be
fully mediated via linguistic channels. The aesthetic was understood to be solely
concerned with the authenticity of feeling produced through an engagement
with an object, sincerity as realized within the internal, subjective world, and thus
unsympathetic to its effect upon either normative rightness or existential truth (its
moral correctness or faithfulness to reality). Whilst Habermas did suggest that
aesthetic productions could at some points be seen to supplement speech-acts,
poetic, fictive, and other aesthetic languages were still understood to be on the
whole parasitic on communicative action, uprooting them from their normative
use (Ingram 1991: 80).9
However, I will argue that we can in fact find a way out of this ostensible bind
by analysing these particular ornamental works not as indirect adaptations of
speech-acts but directly analogous to them, not merely supplementing speechacts but, through acting as forms of public exposure, functioning as speech
acts in themselves. Through this transference aesthetic products can then be
understood, following the work of Mieke Bal (1999), to articulate an argument
with all the communicative possibilities that language offers (ibid.: 7), to
articulate an argument to its fullest, communicatively rational extent. Tracing
back the origin of the Greek verb apo-deik-numai, Bal, translating the term as
publicly demonstrating, uses the (providential) example of a graffito to explore
a form of visuality which acts as its archetypal form, a form which is at the same
time an exposition, expos and exposure (ibid.: 4):
[T]here, on a city wall, for all members of our present, multicultural society to see,
to see and hence to read, to read the handwriting on the wall. It is an exhibit; it
is on show; and it shows itself, shows its hand, its presence. And in its capacity as
visible exhibit, it exposes itself and what it has to say (ibid.: 4).

Habermass later work does seem to come to an understanding of aesthetics

that has a more ambivalent view towards the rigidity of these discourses and their
relation to each validity claim however, an approach that sees the three claims
being metaphorically interlaced (Warnke 1998: 95). Following Albrecht Wellmer,
who himself combined Adornos aesthetic theory with Habermass communicative
one, the work of art, as Donald Burke explains (2007), expands the communicative
potentials of recipients, it participates in communicatively shared meaning (ibid.:
234). Yet even as this approach could make my argument much easier, I will continue
to insist (mainly through Mieke Bals work above) that aesthetic acts can still deliver all
three of Habermass original validity claims, with or without this Wellmerian approach.

2.10 Filippo Minelli, Could you please suggest to me any revolutionary act?,
Tudela de Navarra, Spain, 2011


2.11Escif, Art
Vs Capitalism,
Italy, 2011

Ornament and Order

Bal argues that expository discourse was apo-deictic: affirmative, demonstrative,

these gestures of showing deemed performances best considered as (or
analogous to) speech acts (ibid.: 7). Similar to Roy Rappaports (1999) examination
of the indexical relationship between dancing and pledging (ibid.: 81),10 ritual,
aesthetic acts like conventional speech-acts could here be considered as
profoundly performative, working in an illocutionary vein to bring an event into
being through a performative enunciation. A Maring dance ritual (a procedure
utilized in times of war), thus explicitly communicated to all present a promise to
fight when necessary, an action functioning through its formality, solemnity and
decorum, an action infusing whatever performatives the ritual incorporates with a
gravity that they otherwise might not possess, making it clear to all the participants
just what it is they are doing (ibid.: 116). To dance, for Rappaport, was thus quite
clearly to pledge (ibid.: 57), a communicative, performative act working through a
strictly a non-linguistic modality, an act that in fact produced a stronger illocution
through its refusal of language (ibid.: 21), a refusal of the mendacious potential
that language brings forth. Whilst clearly not always purely linguistic in medium
then, these forms of public exposure, as Bal continues (1999), whether in the form
of a dance, a graffito, a museum, or novel, can accordingly exist as a speech-act
in its purest form: direct address, to you and me in the present but loaded with
pastness, carrying along the tradition of apostrophe in poetry (ibid.: 78). As with
her discussion (1996) of Foucaults reading of Las Meninas, what must hence be
grasped is the interpretation of painting as a proposition, as a visual work that has
something to say (ibid.: 30). And what I will hence argue here is that Consensual
Ornamentation can function within all of Habermass validity claims, its expository
nature, its status as public exhibit, its illocutionary nature (as discussed below),
bestowing upon it a quite clearly propositional quality whether in the form of a

Rappaports work will be examined in more depth in Chapter 5.

Consensual Ornamentation


direct textual proposition as in Filippo Minellis image (Figure 2.10) or in a more

figural state as in Escifs quite clearly propositional image (in its interrogation of
the relationship between art and capitalism) which we can see in Figure 2.11.

Not Interwoven, But Extramundane

Now that this argument has been put forth, we must still, however, come to analyse
Consensual Ornamentation through Habermass previously stated validity aspects,
the validity aspects through which all communicatively intended speech-acts may
then be accepted or rejected. The first of the claims then, normative rightness, gauges
whether or not the declaration prepared conforms to wider societal norms, whether it
is an acceptable form of communication in its particular context. This validity claim is
hence about the appropriateness of the specific statement, it being considered valid
simply if the recipient can acknowledge the right of the agent to offer this statement
rather than its relevance per se (Cooke 1997: 87).11 What is thus crucial for normative
rightness is that this appropriateness is simply understood in terms of the speakers
attempt to establish an interpersonal relationship with the hearer(s) (ibid.: 88), its
validity questioned through the speakers entitlement to raise that particular claim to
that particular hearer in that particular context (ibid.: 60), rather than the perceived
truth or sincerity of the statement (as examined within the next validity claims). Like
a speaker having a right to perform an act in a given context, like an author having
a right to inscribe it, this claim made towards normative rightness by the producers
of the illicit ornaments examined here is hence passed if they can be understood to
have an equivalent right to incise their messages within their medium of the city,
if they can argue that their messages even if one may not agree with them are
appropriate, acceptable, allied to their settings. By disregarding their official status in
the eyes of the law then (the fetishization of rules as Thomassen terms it above), how
can we argue that the agents who produce these artefacts have therightto offer them
to us? Primarily, we can suggest that the acceptability of Consensual Ornamentation
emerges through its formal, contextual suitability, the explicit desire of its producers
to work within, rather than contrast against their architectonic surround, to produce
artefacts (such as 3TTMans project Fill in the Blanks see Figure 2.12 a project in
which he repaired the broken Madrileo pavements with his cement designs) that
enhanced rather than disfigured their surrounds; as Eltono once told me, in a quote
which could in fact be representative of Consensual Ornamentation as a whole, my
work, I think its really about order; its not disturbing its space, its following the
lines, its order, even its a new order [] I think actually sometimes my work stays
up because its in place, its working with the architecture around it, not against it.

As Cooke argues (1997), Were participants in conversation always concerned

with the effective exchange of information, the need to be relevant would certainly
be more important. However, conversation is in fact usually not concerned with this
conversations seldom have any well-defined goals. It is precisely because the concerns
of the participants in a conversation are usually ill-defined or nonspecific that a
contribution to a conversation can rarely be dismissed as irrelevant (ibid.: 88).

2.123TTMan, Untitled [Fill in the Blanks], Madrid, Spain, 2012

Consensual Ornamentation


The frequently prolonged existence of this form of work, then, the common
hesitancy for the removal of these ornamental artefacts from the city especially
when placed in a comparative temporal framework to Agonistic Ornamentation
can thus be seen to allude to its hazily accepted state, its contextual rightness, this
state where the iconoclasts cannot be sure, where one hesitates (Latour 2002: 16); it
points towards the fact that much of the work does not seek to aggressively confront
its medium, does not mean to violently assail its viewer, but simply intends to initiate
a conversation within what can be deemed as an aesthetically, conversationally
acceptable modality. Moreover, each act, each ornament can be seen to attempt
to initiate a direct interpersonal relationship with their viewer, its decorative status
attempting to snare its associate viewer, being explicitly produced to elicit a response.
This was the main reason for working in the public sphere, to create a connection to
people who they may otherwise never encounter, to create an alliance with those
whom they lived amongst. The practitioners of Consensual Ornamentation thus
emphatically wanted their work to be deemed acceptable. They wanted to reach out
to the public with their images; they believed their work was more appropriate, more
social, than the vast majority of visual culture that lay within the street: their work was
meant to be there. And that is exactly why 3TTMan was so happy to argue with the
police when they tried to prevent him working (as they often did, 3TTMan choosing,
for the most part, to work openly during the day exactly because he believed what
he did was right, licit or not), that is why he was so eager to refute their (fetishistic)
laws; the exact point of his practice was to create a relationship with his viewers, to
ameliorate the environment, to be in place. His work, as with the other producers
of Consensual Ornamentation, was thus the very definition of normative rightness,
the production of an act deemed appropriate within our shared social world, the
production of a contextually acceptable act.
The second claim, subjective truthfulness, has its specific aesthetic validity
confirmed in Habermass original thesis referring to the authenticity of feeling
or desire, to the inner experience one often encounters in art a conception of
sincerity covering expressive self-presentations in which acceptability depends on
the unspoken assurance that the speaker can sustain any validity claim (Habermas
1987a: 17). It aims, therefore, to prove the authenticity of the expression pronounced
by the claimant, defending it in reference to their beliefs, intentions, feelings [and]
desires (ibid.: 307); to provide an intersubjective commonality through a mutual
trust in subjective sincerity (ibid.: 308), a simple belief that what is said is honest,
open and candid. In terms of Consensual Ornamentation, I would argue that this
validity claim is straightforwardly obtained through the basic and inherent danger
contained within its productive process the danger of both incarceration and
pecuniary penalty through police action, the danger of physical harm emerging
through its often hazardous means of construction risks directly alluding to the
commitment needed just to embark on the communicative process. Sincerity
is thus proven through this commitment, a commitment which cannot be ironic
or feigned, a commitment which underscores the seriousness and earnestness of
the producer.12 Moreover, the further fact of working free-of-charge, of seeking no

This notion of risk and commitment will be discussed in depth through Leo
Howes work, pp. 192203.


Ornament and Order

financial benefit for the hours (weeks, years) spent working in the city, can be seen
to reiterate this basic sincerity: why would one go to so much effort if not being
truthful? Why would one bother if disingenuous? The long-term strategic goals
suggested by some as the cost-benefit for the loss of any immediate reimbursement
(whether of a strictly economic or else cultural capital), simply does not corroborate
with the base need to paint in the streets, the base need to be productive in public
space that my informants displayed on a daily basis. The failure of these actors to
rigorously document their work (hence my original use-value as a photographic
participant observer), or to use their public engagement as a simple marketing tool
(inscribing their work with a website address, for example, a common street-art
technique that was explicitly critiqued by my informants), implicitly attests to this
fact, rejecting any suggestion of instrumental motivation. The reasons for painting
were communicative, experiential, experimental rather than strategic. And thus
whether true or not (as we will see in the following and final validity claim) there
could thus be no suspicion regarding the subjective truthfulness of the speaker
(Cooke 1997: 60). This was a compulsion not born of future desires, but a present
moral obligation.13
The last of the remaining validity aspects, propositional truth, considers the
factuality of any assertion within the objective world (as opposed to the subjective
world encountered through truthfulness and the social world confronted by
rightness). It thus examines the existential content of any statement depending on
two particular conditions: first, that it must be grounded in experience; that is, the
statement may not conflict with dissonant experience; and second, that it must
be discursively redeemable; that is, the statement must be able to hold up against
all counterarguments and command the assent of all potential participants in a
discourse (Habermas 2002: 89). What is important for us to note here however is
that Habermass notion of truth is implicitly fallibilist, one continuously open to
renegotiation through the medium of action. To distinguish true propositions
from false ones then, as Habermas has suggested, one must take recourse to
the judgment of others that is, of all others with whom I could ever enter into
discourse (ibid.: 89), a consensually motivated truth coming to be fruition through
what he considered to be the ideal speech act. When examining Consensual
Ornamentation, one could therefore argue that this appears to be the hardest claim
(in truth) to fulfil, requiring a more precise look at the particular claim made by
the exact work in its extent setting; its veracity or mendacity, therefore, whether its
claim is justified or unjustified (Habermas 2000: 91), could potentially be possible
to discern only through an examination of each unique performance.14 Yet equally,
Thus, whilst all of my informants did desire some measure of success, this success
meant solely the ability to continue with what they loved doing, which (in a circular
argument) was working within the street! As discussed earlier, the argument toward
strategic aims falls flat when one realizes the innumerable ways these actors could
increase their economic or cultural capital in a more effective (less time-consuming,
less dangerous, less expensive) manner.
As Hugh Baxter has explained however (2011), while all communicative acts
raise all three validity claims, traditionally only one claim is thematic; truth claims
can thus often be seen to work in an indirect or subordinate manner: We would not

Consensual Ornamentation


we could assess Consensual Ornamentations claim to truth as functioning explicitly

through the mediation of what Habermas (2003) terms performative certainty and
warranted assertibility (ibid.: 253), the mediation of action and discourse, theory
and practice. Whilst all my informants practices are grounded in experience then
their daily experiences of life in the city, the years of producing work within the
street their discursive validity, their redeemability, is likewise assessed through the
habitual confrontations emerging in its production, the customary confrontations
with police, passers-by, with fellow practitioners, confrontations leading to a
process of argumentation in which their claims can be rationally debated, where
one must justify ones truth against the objections of others. This conception of
truth is thus not only fallibilist, changing as their aesthetic productions changed
(perhaps, as is common, from Agonistic to Consensual Ornamentation, or simply
through processes of production attempting to relate more directly to a concept of
community), not only open to the judgement of others (working innately through
a modality of exposition), but comes to emerge directly through communicative
action, through public debate and complete inclusion of all those affected,
through equal distribution of the right to communicate, through both the force of
the better argument and the sincerity of how all those affected express themselves
(ibid.: 37). Propositional truth can thus be seen to be validated through my informants
experiential and discursive acts, yet agreement by the respondent, by the hearer
or viewer is still not a required conclusion to the proposition that was formulated.
In its simplest terms, as Maeve Cooke explains (2000), communicative action is
action whose success depends on the hearers responding to the validity claim
raised by the speaker with a yes or a no (ibid.: 3), not necessarily agreement with
the claim proposed, but merely a critical stance, an intersubjective recognition
(Habermas 2003: 76). It is a practice of argumentation where one is as much
willing to convince one another of their views as they are willing to learn from one
another (ibid.: 77), a practice of mutually constitutive discursive rationality which
Consensual Ornamentation can be seen to evoke.
After all this dense textual analysis, it now seems an appropriate time to
return to the images which I suspended at the very beginning of this chapter to
Remeds Amor al Arte, 3TTMans Viva la Calle Libre and Eltonos Untitled to bring
back these archetypal examples which will stand-in for the practice of Consensual
Ornamentation as a whole. Which of these, then, could we say is a more, or less,
propositional variety of Consensual Ornamentation, which provide an example
of an imagistically illocutionary act? How do these images function within the
realms of common humanity, of common concern, of an inclusive public? How do
they comply with the notions of normative rightness, subjective truthfulness, and
propositional truth?
ordinarily say, for example, that a speakers request for a glass of water raises a truth
claim that she claims it to be true that a glass of water can be obtained and brought
in a reasonable amount of time. More likely we would say that she presupposes
these factual circumstances (ibid.: 12). In the same way, the truth claim of Consensual
Ornamentation can be seen to be presupposed, the untapped potential of the city,
for example, the instrumental suffusion of the street, being seen to be the basic and
indirect proposition of each work.


Amor Al Arte,
Madrid, Spain,

Ornament and Order

Amor Al Arte by Remed

Love of Art. Boldly written in white chalk in a large, handsome, calligraphic script
and set at eye-level upon an orange and grey stone wall. A simple sentiment, an
uncomplicated statement: three words, a pulsating heart, an infinity symbol, and
Remeds eponymous ideogram (the small figure at the far right of the image).
Being illegally produced, using the traditional medium (city wall) if not a traditional
tool (spraycan) of contemporary graffiti, I need first briefly explain why this image
is not here being taken as a manifestation of street-art or graffiti, why I believe
it constitutes an example of Consensual Ornamentation. To reiterate, then, by
shifting our focus away from the idioms of both graffiti and street-art, idioms that
an image such as the one above would nominally be inserted within, we can then
move away from the habitual themes of gangs, crime, illegality, vandalism, art and
gentrification, themes that fail to address both the patently ornamental and overtly
communicative aspects of the work itself. Even more importantly, however, is the
fact that Remed himself would reject the placement of this image within either
of those originary terminologies, neither of which can come to elucidate the true
import of the image itself. Whilst it is easy to reject this image as an instance of
either street-art or graffiti then, I must still explain how Remeds work corresponds
to the ornamental constituent of Consensual Ornamentation. We can quite clearly
see that this work is a) adjunctive, an addition (chalk) to a surface (brick wall), a
figure on the ground, a mura rasa; and b) decorative, to once again be working

Consensual Ornamentation


within the base elements of unity, proportion, scale, contrast, balance and rhythm
(Moughtin, Oc and Tiesdell 1999: 3), acting decoratively through its calligraphic
status. It not only matches the basic definition of ornament, but much like the tags
previously discussed, Remeds work can in fact be seen to be doubly ornamental,
as an addition and embellishment to the letter and an addition and embellishment
to the city in the same moment. Whilst this ornamental status alludes to a clear
personhood intertwining Remeds body with the body of the wall whilst it
can be understood as inherently ambiguous like chalkboard markings, never
being able to be fully erased in what way can we deem this work as something
consensual, something working within Habermass notion of embodied rationality,
within his conception of communicative action?
Firstly then, we can see this work, through its overtly textual status, to be explicitly
stating something; it conforms to a literal vocabulary and grammar, it has a definite
sense and reference. And propositional? It acts to convey information, to remark upon
some specific matter, making a concrete, attestable statement working, as Bal would
put it, through the medium of a text-image (Bal 1999: 4). Not only producing a factdriven declaration however, it can equally be considered an illocutionary act, a fully
performative action; the loving of art is being enacted through the writing upon the
wall of the city, the very act of performance an act of love, the meaning and the action
of the statement signifying the very same thing. It can thus be seen as both a literal
pronouncement and performative enunciation of Remeds love of art. Yet how does
it correspond to the tripartite procedural notions required in Habermass analysis of

Blanco Ante Gris
[Gracias por tus
mensages], Madrid,
Spain, 2011


Ornament and Order

the public sphere? First, in terms of a common humanity, Remeds work can be seen
as an act that, through its unrestricted presence in the public domain, disregards any
notion of social status; in terms of common concern, it can be seen as a statement
broadcasting itself outside of the traditional media, working against public authority
through its independent production and against the pure instrumentality of the visual
culture of the city through its non-strategic demands; and in terms of the inclusive
public, it enables pure accessibility to the public of readers, listeners and spectators
through its legibility, its inclusivity, through its refusal of the clique. As a rationally
communicative form it can also be seen to conform to the notion of normative
rightness. Its acceptability as a form of communication in its particular social situation
is attested not only by its clearly supportable statement, not only through Remeds
attempt to establish an interpersonal relationship with his recipients, but is made
manifestly evident by the literal response that Remeds work elicits; as we can see in
Figure 2.14, Remeds messages are often subject to literal responses Gracias por su
mensajes ;), Thank you for your messages rejoinders which proved the contextual
acceptability of his initial proposition. As an example of communicative action it can
also be seen to conform to the notion of subjective truthfulness. Remeds perceived
sincerity can thus be proven through the illicit performance and attendant risk this
produces, through the basic lack of instrumentally motivated gain the message
attempted (proven through the lack of identifying name or website attached), a
sincerity which Remeds resultant response A ti para sentir los!, to you for feeling
them!, can be seen to reinstate. And as an ideal performative act it can conform to
the final validity claim of propositional truth. Its acceptance within the sphere of the
external, objective world being shown through its very discursive redeemablity, the
propositional counterargument to Remeds initial statement being refuted through
its very existence.
Its simple. I paint in the street because I want to have one pure moment. One
moment where I can express myself simply and clearly to everyone who passes in
the street. Ive always painted on canvas, and Ive always been able to show my
studio art to a gallery, but the work in the street is like the sum of all my knowledge,
all my life, all the evolution I have had. Its all of that together put in the street. I
mean it works both ways, the street influences the studio and the studio the street
of course. But my expectations, and maybe with 3TTMan and other friends, is to
get closer to the condition of the studio when we paint in the street. That is the best
gift I can give to myself and the people. To be true in the streets, to be as dedicated
there as I am in the studio. Thats what I think people deserve. Not to sound
egotistical. But they dont deserve just a tag. I mean I LOVE tags. Because I know
them, I understand them, I read them, I write them. But when Im painting in the
street its for the universe, the whole city, not just for the ones that are making tags.
Im painting for your mother and mine, Im painting for everyone I have never even
met. So I have to make it touchable. I want people to see it and understand what
Im saying. I just try to make something beautiful that will talk without me having
to be there to explain it [] Now my paintings, in the street people see it and I dont
have to say anything. With all of them I think people can understand it straight
away through its simplicity. I love that. It makes it all more simple, more direct, it
allows me to get a true feedback. I can really communicate with people. I know they
will see it, I know they will understand it. And it gives a real communication to the
street, to all the people in it (23/8/2008).

Consensual Ornamentation


Viva la Calle Libre by 3TTMan

At one stage removed from our first example, what we have depicted here contains
both figural and discursive elements, components of both overtly textual and
representational content. On the left and right hand side of this triptych we can
thus find 3TTMans eponymous hero bursting in and out of the wall in which he
lays, diving through the brick in a dramatic manner; and within the central panel
we have four words, Viva la Calle Libre, Long Live the Free Street. Set on a prominent
corner in the centre of Madrid, beseeching all who pass it. Again, illegally produced,
again using the medium (city wall) but not tools (cement) of traditional graffiti, and,
once again, being neither suffused within the realm of graffiti nor street-art. Having
already explored the ornamental constituent of Remeds work above I will here
forgo any lengthy analysis of this aspect here (if I still have to convince the reader
at this stage I am fighting a losing battle), only to stress its nature as secondary
substance (cement) on primary surface (wall), its explicitly adjunctive status, its
innately decorative, agentic endeavour (3TTMan not only producing the work but
being represented within it), and its indeterminate condition both attached and
detached to its surface.
Yet its locutionary, illocutionary, its propositional status? Well we could firstly
quite clearly see the work to be saying something (and thus be locutionary), working
through a certain force, through a lucidity in its statement; Viva la Calle Libre thus not
only provokes a relationship between speaker and listener via clear, rational speech,

Viva la Calle Libre
(Madrid, Spain,
2010) after a
(or perhaps
erasure by local
authorities, an
attempted erasure
only serving to
give the original
work more


Ornament and Order

it acts as a wish, a prime example of an illocutionary utterance, a statement and

an action at the same time. Moreover, as an explicit performative, Long Live the
Free Street, like Long Live the King, is a statement in which the act of wishing is
fulfilled through its own utterance, the utterance not narrating something true or
false but something felicitous or infelicitous, something which functions through its
ability to successfully perform the act in question. Yet aside from these conventional
locutionary properties, I would also move to argue that the images themselves,
devoid of their central text, function in very way as the above illocutions. The
eponymous three-headed figure thus works not just to substantiate but to visually
pronounce, to perform, to assert the very statement itself, the image representing
the freedom 3TTMan embraces, representing the literal breaking down of barriers.
Yet does this image correspond to the vital Habermasian technicalities of common
humanity, common concern and inclusive public? Being present, available to all those
living in the city in the openness of the street, it can be understood to implicitly
disregard entrenched social hierarchy, to be legible, and thus open to all possible
readers, listeners, viewers, to form a legitimate topic of discourse, a legitimacy
registered through its vocal support of an open public sphere. Yet does it work within
the communicative validity claim of normative rightness? It is here proven through
its status as an acceptable gesture, a declaration which is appropriate to make
within the city itself (in a city increasingly subject to restrictions and limitations),
with is appropriate if not relevant to societal norms. To subjective truthfulness? Here
ably demonstrated through its illicit, non-remunerative status, the sincerity of the
statement proven by the act itself. And propositional truth? Here established through
its ability, like all of 3TTMans works, to stand up to counterarguments (down with
the free street), to cohere, to obtain within its particular truth, the truth of 3TTMans
total support of the continual vibrancy of the street.
What first gave me the idea of doing the project was seeing a wall on which
children had drawn their names, their declarations of love, when the cement
was still fresh. It felt raw and natural at the same time. I became more and more
fascinated by these interventions in the street because they seemed to reveal a
more spontaneous expression than when someone is consciously working in
public space, like a purer form of communication I dont like something just to
be good, to be beautiful, to be good for its own sake. For me its a way to express
yourself, but as you express something you create something which can touch
others. At the end, what we do is for people to see it, and so I like to send messages
in it. The saturation of information in the street today makes all those who use
public space as a medium of communication whether thats advertisers, graffiti
writers, architects to seek visibility at any cost. What I love is that with the cement
however is such a rudimentary technique can have more impact than these huge
marketing campaigns. Theres no need to have permission, in fact the technique
allows you to work in the center without authorization. You get around the need
to do something for any reason than itself. Like with the Fill in the Blanks project
[see Figure 2.12, a project in which 3TTMan used his cement technique to repair
potholed pavements all over the city] I felt the responsibility to do that, to pick
up what the City Council had dropped, to improve the city for everyone. I felt the
civic rumble in my soul! I dont want to impose my ideas on people and say yeah,
you have to think this way, for me, thats too much of an imposition. I want to do

Consensual Ornamentation


something fun, respectful, honest. And you could see people really understood it.
Theres a direct relation and reaction Theres no other art that works in this way,
with no intermediary. I mean I dont pretend to be a type of social artist that causes
a revolution in the people, and brings up the masses against the government, for
me that cause is too high. I just want to have a relation, a connection with the
people, I actually think that is worth a lot more. I just want to provoke a thought,
to put it there, and then let people see what they think about it, not force them to
think something (23/8/2010).

Untitled by Eltono
The tuning fork. Eltonos iterable, always evolving design. Situated at the furthest
end of our three examples in purely textual to expressive terms, in levels of overt
propositionality to ambiguity, and thus possibly the most difficult to coincide with
the strict technicalities of Consensual Ornamentation. Although I will argue that this
image is still one searching for a consensual response, here we have no textual
elements. A form of almost total abstraction. We have seven discrete, sharp lines
set out in white, red and blue, alongside three matching triangles set in red and
blue: figures which snake around each other to form Eltonos eponymous shape.
Situated upon a black, painted wooden board set within a red-bricked wall (acting
as an almost perfect canvas) and adjacent to a tag-covered electrical box and an
advert-covered general store. Again, illegally produced, again using the medium
(street wall) but not tools (acrylic paint) of traditional graffiti, and again, for the
final time, working in an entirely different way from either what are too commonly
termed either graffiti or street-art.
Untitled, Utrecht,
Netherlands, 2013


Ornament and Order

As previously justified, I will not trouble to investigate the ornamental aspect

of the work, save to say adjunctive element (paint) on primary surface (wooden
board), to stress once more its obviously decorative, maze-like form (and thus to
allude toward all the tension-fuelled discourses which are allied to this ornamental
status). But its potentially locutionary, illocutionary, propositional standing
becomes presently the more complex element to unwrap. As discussed, being a
publicly accessible form we can firstly conclude that it is an inherently expository
one, it is saying something (whether in purely linguistically comparable terms or
not) by just being there, on the public wall of the city. But could we not simply
see this as a Lyotardian sensual, figural message (as we will come to explore in
more depth within the next chapter) rather than a more literal one? The image is
obviously operating in a communicative way, it is exposing itself to us as a viewer,
but can it be understood as having any rational, discursive potential? Although
I could move to suggest that it is working within a specific graphic vocabulary, a
vocabulary based on simple geometrical shapes, or perhaps one working within
the grammar of the architectural construction it is situated within, this would still
be a purely metaphoric analysis. So what real linguistically viable issue does this
work attempt to explore?
Untitled, Madrid,
Spain, 1999

Consensual Ornamentation


Untitled, Madrid,
Spain, 1998

What I want to argue here is that, as a speech act, Eltonos image can function
through the means of what Michal Ephratt (2008) has termed an Eloquent Silence
(ibid.: 1909), a silence not denoting an absence of meaning but one that is fully
part of communication (ibid.: 1910), not silence as a pause for speech, nor silence
as a method of generating power over another, but as an active means chosen by
the speaker to communicate his or her message (ibid.: 1913). In this manner, silence
can take on referential roles, one can make claims and proclaim propositions using
eloquent silence (ibid.: 1916) such as a collective silence which can express a
negative answer or such as the famous blank page in Laurence Sternes Tristam
Shandy which informs us of Yoricks death. And thus working against both the licit
and illicit images which it lies beside overtly echoing the operational modality,
mimicking the medium and techniques of each I will here suggest that Eltonos
work can be understood to be proposing a form of simplicity, a sense of quietude.
Working against the violence of the official signs as much as the violence of graffiti,
it can be seen as an example of what Bal (2001) terms speech-art, images which
seem to say look! while often implying Thats how it is (ibid.: 165), a visual
performance of something new in the street urging us to see the very street in
a correspondingly new way. Working through a visual simplicity, a visual order,
it can be making a proposition through its being rather than through its saying,
through a refusal of the noise we are so often forced to encounter. As Eltono
himself suggested, his move away from traditional graffiti was undertaken in order
to encounter a wider public audience, produced so as to find a harmony with
both the material and social body of the city (integrating both its architectonic
and societal elements in a more consensual manner). It was an explicit search
for the notion of common humanity, where every member of the public domain
was invited into the discourse (enacted through its visual simplicity); a search


Ornament and Order

for common concern, approaching issues important to members of society as a

whole (critiquing the cold, strategic functioning of the city itself ); a search for an
inclusive public, where its simple presentation necessitated a form of dialogical
interaction (where consensus was based upon the search for understanding, the
repudiation of coercion). And it was something also produced directly within the
notion of normative rightness, its acceptability reached through a harmony with
the space itself, an image working explicitly with, not against, the lines of the
city; with a sense of subjective truthfulness, a sincerity reached, as stated earlier,
through its illicit and non-remunerative performance; and with the conception of
propositional truth, the factual honesty of the claim a statement on the existential
nature of the city. Eltonos image, for its all abstraction then, is an image which
explicitly attempts to form a consensual relation with all those who see it, built in
order to communicate with its recipients, to suggest another way of seeing the city.
Even as it may seem to present nothing but form, nothing but shape and colour, it
is an image produced with a proposition at its heart, an existential need to present
his way of understanding the city to its inhabitants as a whole.
At the beginning I wanted to change, I wanted to try something new, to modify
the way I worked in the city. But the way of thinking, the way Id learnt to relate to
the street through graffiti, I needed to keep that because I loved that interaction
with the city. So I tried to find a way of working in a more involved way, to try
and find a real interaction with people. When youre doing graffiti the rest of
the people dont care that much, its only for the small group youre in, the other
writers in the city, but I got to the stage where I wanted to reach other people,
to communicate with everyone in the street. What I realised with my work when
I stopped painting letters is that I could reach another kind of people. I saw old
men or kids appreciating my work, stopping and looking at it. They probably
appreciated the fact that I respect the place, Im not covering it, Im not destroying
it, Im working, playing with it. Its easier to appreciate than big silver fat-cap
tags, less aggressive. The thing with graffiti is that its just communication
inside graffiti, its graffiti for graffiteros. And the rest of the city doesnt see it,
doesnt read it, doesnt care. They hate it and thats it. And thats fine, thats also
important. But I realised with my work that I was able to communicate with
everybody. Working in the street is simply the most democratic way. Of course
some people wont get it, not everyone will understand what I am trying to do.
But I still want to put art into places it doesnt normally go, so people will bump
into something new and unexpected. To make people interact with the city in a
different way. Its like a beautiful kind of secret, people see it and may think about
it, it creates an intimate relationship. They see it and they think, who did that?
What is he trying to say to me? Its a powerful media because you can make
people stop and really question their whole environment (23/8/2008).

A Unity of Form and Function

Consensual Ornamentation can thus be understood as a discourse shaped to
facilitate an intense communal transaction, an act orientated, at its very basis,
towards the reaching of an understanding, a sympathy and intersubjective
relation with its public accomplices. Rather than being merely a discourse oriented

Consensual Ornamentation


towards the attainment of perceived success, it must be seen as a communicative

platform attempting to confront the misrepresentations of steering media, a
counterinstitution (through its solicitation toward understanding, not simply
gain) from which actors can critically assess the distortions present within
modern media forms. Akin to the rival new social movements that Habermas
discusses (2002), movements that have the potential to foster the revitalization
of possibilities for expression and communication that have been buried alive,
so-called counterinstitutions that are understood to evade the clutches of the
steering media (ibid.: 3956), Consensual Ornamentation can hence be seen to
reject the instrumentally motivated direction of the public sphere in preference
for a more human form of communication, to create a new form of participation
which increases rational discourse and debate, a form of critical publicity
which attempts to return to free deliberation and contestation. All the works of
Consensual Ornamentation are thus meant to be seen, to be interacted with,
formed in order to integrate with the public space of the city. And hence whilst
illicit, they simply aspire to elicit a response, to function through an exposition that
transgresses law but not perceived rights, that transgresses prevalent hegemonic
codes but not prevailing social ones. The illegality of production can thus be
seen as a stance which enables a space from which to work against Habermass
steering media; it must not be understood as a straightforwardly aggressive or
antiestablishmentarian tactic but instead as a new stage from which to enter public
debate, a new location from which to penetrate into the public sphere as a whole,
a new site from which one can critique hegemonic practices and develop what
was considered as an authentic, non-perlocutionary mode of public participation.
The collective adherence to images with the potential for open interpretability,
images that never produced a brash conclusive statement (a finality occluding
impending discourse) but which instead opened a path to discourse, was in fact
used by many informants as a technique to both combat the perceived aggressive
admonitions of much of the visual culture in the public sphere (whether classical
public art or advertising, both seen as a perlocutionary visuality with indirect,
instrumentally motivated intentions buy me, stop here, do this or do that), to
insist upon the interactive, responsive nature of traditional discourse. Whether or
not a final consensus was eventually achieved, as previously discussed, was thus
not the imperative issue; rather, the desire was simply for genuinely illocutionary
communication, a manifest not mendacious message where the beholder could
then make up their own mind, where they could be (at the very least) party to
an attempt at rational communication. It was about the performance of an act
(Austin 1962: 99) rather than their consequential effects (ibid.: 101), a technique
highlighting the disparity between convincing, persuading, deterring, and even,
say, surprising or misleading and acts such as informing, ordering, warning,
undertaking, etc., i.e. utterances which have a certain (conventional) force (ibid.:
108). A performative utterance could thus be completed without the intended
result of anything other than recognition of its existence, without anything more
than their counterpart understanding, rather than agreeing with, the particular
statement presented (Longworth 2006). And it is simply this orientation, this
bearing toward rational assertion, that defines communicative action, and thus
that defines Consensual Ornamentation at its very core.


[Sasha Kurmaz],
Illegal Inscription,
Kiev, Ukraine, 2010

Ornament and Order

In all three of the specific case studies presented above, then, in all the images
and artefacts discussed within this chapter as a whole, I would argue that we can
see an ornamental form enmeshed within the very centre of the public sphere,
an ornamental form in fact moulding a coherent public sphere through its very
existence. I would suggest we can distinguish an aesthetic searching for agreement,
searching for accord and union with its surrounding community, a style of parietal
writing striving to act in an open manner within its available surroundings
irrespective of its officially permissible status and willing to rationally debate
this standing. As clearly ornate additions to architectural facades, as productions
transcending the very impermeability of their now porous walls, these ornamental
forms both embellish and beautify their surfaces in their own idiosyncratic ways,
they form a unity between expressive meaning and construction, a unity of form
and function that makes the images produced far from the empty decorative effects
created by many modern forms of ornament, modern forms that replicate a past
ornamental structure with no understanding of their initiatory purpose. Here, I would
contend, we can find an unmitigated correspondence between appearance and
use, between representational and architectonic meanings, the designs acting as
performances of thought, of the argumentative impulse, the social beliefs of the very
producers themselves. Even as the experience of production itself is a key element
within the productive process the jouissance, spontaneity, and simple corporeal
interaction with the city that will be discussed in Section 2 it is these intentional,
communicative values that I believe uphold the core distinctions between
Consensual and Agonistic Ornamentation, this communicative search for consensus
on the one hand and dissensus on the other that defines them at their very base.

2.20Erosie, I Hereby Apologise for the Damage Done, Eindhoven, Netherlands, 2007


Ornament and Order

Habermass work, then, despite the numerous and often impassioned critiques set
against it,15 can thus still be seen to hold a key place within the timeless search for a
liberating model of a public sphere. Understood through the medium of Consensual
Ornamentation, we can perceive a clear continuance of the enduring search for the
good life, we can see the abiding desire for an authentic way of communicating in
the modern, complex city. And seen through this Habermasian lens, we can see
Consensual Ornamentation striving to re-work both the conceptions of the classic
public sphere a place where one can discuss issues away from the demands of
the state or the market as well as the concepts of communicative action where
we can then discuss these issues rationally, openly, where everyone can partake in
discourse. We can find an ornament with a consensual order at its heart, a form of
public, insurgent ornamentation with both a communicative interconnectedness
and openness imbued within it.

Critiques often based on a descriptive analysis of his work, an assessment
of whether there ever actually was the equality of class, gender and so on that he
contended, rather than an argument of a prescriptive nature that I am attempting here,
a discussion of the subjunctive, utopian, philosophical project that he proposed

Agonistic Ornamentation

If one is pagan, it is certainly not because one thinks that one game is better
than another; it is because one has several kinds of games at ones disposal []
One can introduce into the pragmatics, into our relations with others,
forms of language that are at the same time unexpected and unheard
of, as forms of efficacy. Either because one has made up new moves
in an old game or because one has made up a new game.
Jean Franois Lyotard

The position of art is a refutation of the position of discourse.

The position of art indicates a function of figure, which is not signified,
and this functions both at the edge of and within discourse.
It indicates that the transcendence of the symbol is the figure, that
is, a spatial manifestation that linguistic space cannot incorporate
without being shaken, an exteriority that cannot be interiorized as
signification. In its alterity, art is posed as plasticity and desire, curved
extension, opposed to invariability and reason, diacritical space.
Jean Franois Lyotard

Outmoded and Suspect

As with its Consensual partner, what I must first here outline is the full importance
of the Agonistic part of the neologism which this chapter eponymously takes as its
title. With its ornamental criteria satisfied (outlined again in their specifics within
the case studies below), I must explain why I am trying to describe this particular
aesthetic domain as something agonistic, if (and once more) following the OED,
we understand the term agon to mean both an Ancient Greek public celebration
of games and a verbal contest or dispute between two characters in a Greek play,


Ornament and Order

the term agonistic to mean polemic, combative, striving to overcome in argument.

Whilst the conceptual borders of this discourse have been previously outlined
the closed, intentional fractured cultural approach they take on, the desire
for disharmony and discord they prompt while the material forms they most
commonly exhibit have been briefly laid out a practice by and large based in a
calligraphic form, one embracing an often intentionally impenetrable appearance
and an inward-looking approach I need to make clear why this agonistic term is
so pertinent, and, moreover, where this very expression emerges from. In order to
further my particular argumentative thrust, then, I will be examining the work of
two key agonistic theorists, the French philosopher Jean-Franois Lyotard and the
political theorist Chantal Mouffe (both of whom will be ably assisted by figures such
as Homi Bhabha, Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche). Each of these individuals
has utilized the classical Greek notion of the agonal spirit, seeing the competitive
agon, rather than the consensual agora, as key to the wellbeing of the public sphere.
Each of them have focussed on the Homeric impulse toward contest and competition,
where struggle is both means and end, where true freedom in understood in terms
of strife, discord and disputation. And although their at times variant understandings
of agonistic practice do on occasions clash (in what could be seen as a classically
agonic manner), it is through their combined elucidation that we will come closer
to a definition of Agonistic Ornamentation, that we will be able to grasp the types
of practices, rather than forms of argumentation, that agonism demands. Like in
our previous chapter however, before we begin to probe the theoretical basis of
this aesthetic discourse, I want again to present three, archetypal images of what I
argue Agonistic Ornamentation to be, three examples which I will for a second time
leave suspended as my argument builds. These three Nano4814s Untitled, Spoks
TBC, and the Choque Gallery Invasion/Belas Artes Invasion (orchestrated by Cripta
Djan and Rafael Pixobomb)1 will later be used as distinct case studies to analyse
the argument being made, representative instances which will come to support
the relation I now seek to make both with Lyotard and Mouffes theory of the
agon. For now, however, we must depart from the artistic field as discussed in the
previous chapter, a field that believes in its transformative potential, in its potential
to provide a consensual ground for public acts of political speech and resistance,
we must depart from a zone within which consensus and collectivity are valued
positively as instantiations of democratic relations between the artist, the viewer,
and the artwork (Hinderliter 2009: 17). Instead, it is toward a regime that sees the
very idea of consensus as an outmoded and suspect that we will now progress
outmoded, because the condition of postmodernity is characterized by the plurality
and incommensurability of language-games; and suspect, because the pursuit of
consensus does violence to this plurality and thereby constrains possibilities for
authentic political action (Markell 1997: 377). It is toward an arena attempting to
emphasize the innate heterodoxy, the irrepressible difference of the public sphere
that we must now move to encounter.

Permission to reprint images of the Choque Gallery Invasion, I have been, very
regrettably, unable to obtain. The Belas Artes Invasion depicted here, an event also
organized by Critpa Djan and Rafael Pixobomb, is thus used as a visual illustration of a
similar act. For the actual images of the attack at the Choque Gallery, please see here:

3.1Nano4814, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2009

3.2Spok, TBC, Madrid, Spain, 2009

3.3 Belas Artes Invasion, So Paulo, Brazil, 2008

Agonistic Ornamentation


The Impossible or Unforeseeable Move

At its nucleus, the theoretical landscape we are here exploring is one based on a
resistance to everyday normativity; an incredulity toward metanarratives, in the
famous words of Lyotard (1984: xxiv); a permanent provocation, in those of Foucault
(1982: 790); a cure and an aid in the service of growing, struggling life, in the poetic
expression of Nietzsche (2001: 234). It is an approach encompassing a wide range of
contestational procedures, one laying weight upon the boundlessness of injustice,
upon the basic impossibility of ever reaching a fully inclusive and unfettered state.
For agonistic theorists, conflict and disorder are seen an inherent part of democratic
existence, as a way, in fact, to expand and develop the practices of an egalitarian
public sphere. Autonomy from the search for accord and an embracement of
dissension is believed to develop a position from which hegemonic power can be
confronted and interrogated, a location from which these authorities can be defied,
there statutes revised. Disagreement and disputation are thus recognized to be
necessary, rather than negative components of political and social life, constituents
that are at the foundation of an active, vigorous instantiation of citizenship.
Within the agon then, nothing can remain unchallenged: boundaries and borders,
inequities and imbalances. All are subjects not to be finally agreed upon, but to be
consistently disputed about, issues that should remain within a continuous cycle
of friction. Agonistic space can therefore be understood on the one hand as a truly
competitive one, a space in which one competes for recognition, precedence and
acclaim (Benhabib 1992: 78), yet on the other as a space in which one does not battle
in search of the truth but its direct defiance, a truth marked and informed by the
ambivalence of the process of emergence itself, a truth marked by the productivity
of meanings that construct counter-knowledges in medias res (Bhabha 2004: 33).
For Lyotard, as he suggested in his ground-breaking text The Postmodern
Condition (1984), invention itself was understood as something always born of
dissension (ibid.: xxv), authentic communication likewise born of a recalcitrant will.
As he went on to pronounce, to speak is to fight [] and speech acts fall into the
domain of a general agonistics (ibid.: 10). Language was understood to be in a state
of continuous tension, a condition of unremitting civil war (Lyotard 1988: 141), and
thus whilst Lyotard was of course (notionally) supportive of Habermass attempted
resistance towards the instrumentality so prevalent within the public sphere, he
fiercely critiqued the Deliberative Democrats conviction in the democratizing
ability of consensuality and discursive reason, an outlook that he in fact argued
was parasitic upon an Enlightenment metanarrative of emancipation (Villa 1992b:
716). The general acquiescence to hegemonically inspired truth was, naturally,
considered to be of profound danger for a truly emancipative society; however, the
idea that a model of argumentative rationality and agreement derived from science
could bestow a context-independent criteria of validity was vehemently dismissed
by Lyotard (ibid.: 716). Scientific knowledge of the type espoused by Habermas
where a scientific statement is subject to the rule that a statement must fulfill
a given set of conditions in order to be accepted as scientific (Lyotard 1984: 8)
was thus contrasted with what Lyotard termed a narrative knowledge one that
certifies itself in the pragmatics of its own transmission without having recourse


Ornament and Order

to argumentation and proof (ibid.: 27) a crucial distinction which he believed

protected the true heterogeneity and multiplicity of the social world, a distinction
which could stand in contrast to the dictatorial metanarratives. The result of this was
the emergence of so-called petits recits, little narratives, local, first-order utterances
that could denote a radical difference and that could resist incorporation within the
totalizing histories of the metalanguage. Acting figurally, as the unspeakable other
(Readings 1991: xxxi), working both within and against normative discourse, these
little narratives were understood to displace any scientific claims to narrative theory.
The paralogical space they opened paralogy indicating a sensitivity to differences,
an ability to tolerate the incommensurable (Lyotard 1984: xxv) was one which
did not aim for consensus but rather for its own displacement, aiming to create a
horizon of dissensus (Lyotard 1984, cited in Readings 1991: 51), a space where there
could be no narrative to put an end to narratives (ibid.: 51).
In the agonistic realm Lyotard recounts there were thus no metaprescriptions
with any universal authenticity, no discourses with any unifying authority. And
through the subsequent collapse of prevalent notions of truth, discordant language
games could then emerge, games that Lyotard maintained could open the way
to forms of political practice and judgment freed from the tyranny of science or
episteme (Villa 1992b: 716). These language games would have three key facets:
1) their rules would not carry within themselves their own legitimation, but be the
the object of a contract, explicit or not, between players; 2) if there are no rules,
there is no game, that even an infinitesimal modification of one rule alters the nature
of the game; and 3) every utterance should be thought of as a move in a game
(Lyotard 1984: 10). No language game could thus supplant another, could force the
other out of the dialogue. And only by agreeing on the rules of every individual
interaction could the field come to any sense, could one recognize the basic
alterity of every interaction, each contingent game coming to form a new mode of
communication, exemplifying the novatio, the increase of being and the jubilation
which result from the invention of new rules of the game, be it pictorial, artistic, or
any other (ibid.: 79). Consensuality was simply understood to come to regularize
the moves permitted (ibid.: 66), doing violence to both the heterogeneity of the
agonic contest as well as the heterogeneity of the players. It was grasped, quite
plainly, as a flattening, antiagonistic, antiinitiatory model of political practice (Villa
1992b: 716), an abhorrent ideal that Lyotards postmodern philosophy sought
to radically displace. Through the arts, the arts as understood as a series of little
narratives (Readings 1991: 73), we could then come to critically assess (and then
expel) the deeply entrenched societal assurances of truth and meaning, come to
oust the pervasive metanarratives that dominated contemporary Western thought.
As the very field of a resistance to metalanguages (ibid.: 72), the aesthetic could
renegotiate our understanding of what cultural transformation might be, advancing
the postmodern conception of culture as incomplete, disconnected, discontinuous.
This appeal to a pagan politics (Lyotard 1985: 75), the turn to the dominion
of the Sophists (what he calls the strength of the weak [Lyotard 1978, cited in
White 1994: 482]), endeavoured to break with all attempts to ground action and
practical decision in a theoretical discourse of legitimacy (Johnson 2006: 143).

Agonistic Ornamentation


Untitled, Madrid,
Spain, 2009

To be pagan was to fully partake in these language games, to play moves, to

develop ruses, to set the imagination to work (Lyotard 1985: 61). And a preeminently pagan aesthetic could emerge not when aiming at mimetic fidelity
(i.e. telling the truth), not when aiming at a subjective will (creating a new truth
of the imagination, a Utopia), but simply when aiming at producing effects, at
provoking more art, more invention (Readings 1991: 54). Art was hence not merely
in the service of cultural transformation but was cultural transformation (ibid.: 54),
paganism an insistence on art against knowledge, on art as discovery rather than
truth. Within it one could then invent by instituting new rules, one could seek the
move that will displace the rules of the game, the impossible or unforeseeable
move (ibid.: 55). And hence we can then come to find the distinction, as explicated
so cogently once more by the late Bill Readings, between Lyotards conception of
modernist and post-modernist forms of art, between the innovative function of art
espoused by modernism, and the true paralogism of the postmodern:
Innovation seeks to make a new move within the rules of the language
game art, so as to revivify the truth of art. Paralogism seeks the move that
will displace the rules of the game, the impossible or unforeseeable move.
Innovation refines the efficiency of the system, whereas the paralogical move
changes the rules in the pragmatics of knowledge. It may well be the fate of
a paralogical move to be reduced to innovation as the system adapts itself
(one can read Picasso this way), but this is not the necessary outcome. The
invention may produce more inventions. Roughly speaking, the condition of art
is postmodern or paralogical when it both is and is not art at the same time []
If early modern aesthetic innovation sought a new truth or a new way of telling
the truth, if late modernist innovation sought a new truth to the experience
of telling, postmodern art does not seek a truth at all but seeks to testify to an
event to which no truth can be assigned, that cannot be made the object of a
conceptual representation (ibid.: 55).


Ornament and Order

3.5 La Mano and

Zosen, Untitled,
Spain, 1997

For Lyotard then, truly paralogical art would bear witness to the differends2 so
present in society, the instants wherein something which should be able to be put
into phrases cannot be phrased in the accepted idioms (Lyotard 1988: 56), where
one is forced to find a way to phrase the silence that cannot be phrased (White
1994: 490). Yet not only should art evoke or testify toward these differends, it must
exacerbate them so as to resist the injustice which silences those who cannot

Lyotard gives this visually forceful example of an archetypal differend: Lets

accept now that you are beginning to play with the [aforementioned] tennis balls in
someones company. You are surprised to observe that this other person does not seem
to be playing tennis with these balls, as you thought, but is treating them more like
chess pieces. One or the other of you complains that thats not how you play the game.
There is a differend (Lyotard 1993, cited in Grebowicz 2007: 20).

Agonistic Ornamentation


speak the language of the master (Lyotard in Readings 1991: xxx). Through all these
techniques, through petit-recits, through language-games, through paralogy, one
could then become released from what Lyotard termed as the American position,3
one could come to see consensus solely as a particular state of discussion rather
than its end (Lyotard 1984: 656). Through the fluid space of the agon, through the
disruption of all truth, all metanarratives, one could form a space which could battle
the pernicious faade of harmony and consensus, which could refuse efficiency
and embrace sensuality, refuse homogeneity and embrace multiplicity; one could
create a wild, creative energy which could never become bound to a single logic or
discursive form (White 1994: 48082), one could form a boundless contest in which
it was not resolutions but utterances, not deductions but moves which were of the
utmost importance.

The Register of Legitimacy

Emerging from this dissensual field, Chantal Mouffe represents probably the
most overtly political theorist of the agon, the thinker who has most successfully
rearticulated agonistically philosophical tracts by theorists such as Nietzsche
and Lyotard into a more engaged, contemporary, social policy. For Mouffe
(2005a), one of the principal errors made by Deliberative Democrats (specifically
Habermas, but so too John Rawls) was their avoidance of the deep-seated tension
between the logic of democracy on the one hand and the logic of liberalism
on the other (ibid.: 93), a tension she discusses using the work of the German
political theorist (and National Socialist) Carl Schmitt. Examining the conflict
between homogeneity on the one hand and the eradication of heterogeneity
on the other (Schmitt 1926, in Mouffe 2005a: 38) a situation where the state
needs a certain inequality to produce the very notion of equality (for equality to
have any political meaning that is), where it needs to promote an inherent logic
of inclusion/exclusion, of us/them Mouffe argues that there is an insuperable
opposition between liberal individualism, with its moral discourse centered
around the individual, and the democratic ideal, which is essentially political,
and aims at creating an identity based on homogeneity (Mouffe 2005a: 39). Our
modern conception of liberal democracy thus contains an inbuilt aporia between
a liberal tradition dedicated to human rights, the rule of law and the concept
of liberty, and a democratic tradition committed toward notions of popular
sovereignty and equality. The promotion of consensuality, however, initially
encouraged so as to manage the burgeoning plurality of society, had tipped
the fine balance of these (conflicting) logics away from democracy and towards
liberalism, the careful poise of the fields now surging away from the demos and
toward the hegemony of (neo-)liberal forces, the hegemony of a market-based
form of instrumentality. Whilst the two components of liberal democracy had

As Grebowicz (2007) notes, American here includes Japan, as well as political

thinkers like Jrgen Habermas, and refers generally to a formulation of democracy
where dissent is to be negotiated away (ibid.: 28).

100 Ornament and Order

previously stabilized through constant political tension between contending

forces then, today, with the dominance of the third way and middle-ground
diplomacy, Mouffe argues that we have become entrenched in a state that,
whilst being a quite arbitrary historical contingency, has led to the very idea of a
possible alternative to the existing order to any alternative to the hegemony of
neo-liberalism being dangerously and totally discredited, the prevalent system
becoming in fact naturalized and made into the way things really are (ibid.: 5).
As a result, not only does any alternative to the existing configuration of power
disappear, but so too does the very possibility of a legitimate form of expression
for the resistances against the dominant power relations (ibid.: 5). Deliberative
democracy thus means that groups existing outside of the notional consensus
(and there will always be a constitutive outside to any consensual process)
have no place from which to even enter the debate, directly counteracting
the true egalitarian nature of a representative democracy. And thus while the
interconnection between liberalism and democracy was still seen to be pivotal,
it was only through the embracement of the inherent tension within it (rather
than its negation), through an embracement of its friction that we could then
confront the basic impossibility of establishing a consensus without exclusion
(Mouffe 2005a: 105).
For Mouffe, what was thus paramount was a method of intervention which
ferments dissensus, that makes visible what the dominant consensus tends
to obscure and obliterate, yet a dissensus which did not work through pure
transgression or denial, one which would not simply form a total break with the
existing state of affairs in order to create something absolutely new (Mouffe
2008: 1213). This was dissensus as improvisation rather than innovation (as we
discuss further on pp. 21719), a form of dissensus which attempted to eliminate
the us/them dichotomy (a modality following Schmitts concept of friend/
enemy) and instead convert the them from an enemy to be destroyed into an
adversary, transform the them from a social other into a social partner whose
ideas we combat but whose right to defend those ideas we do not put into
question (ibid.: 102). Whilst Deliberative Democracy simply removes recalcitrant
actors from the field of play, Agonistic Pluralism sees others as opponents
not merely further competitors, as opponents with a shared adhesion to the
ethico-political principles of liberal democracy (ibid.: 102). They may disagree
on the precise implications of liberty and equality, yet they accept that these
differences cannot be determined by rational discourse. This all then leads to
what for Mouffe (2002) is the crucial adaptation of antagonism into agonism,
from a struggle between enemies to a struggle between adversaries (ibid.: 9),
an adjustment creating space for a battle of ideas where ontological differences
are in themselves incontrovertible. Unlike a purely antagonistic relationship,
then, one where opponents have no common symbolic space (Mouffe 2005a:
13), within an agonistic bond rivals share a common space of representation, a
symbolic space that can lead to a vibrant instantiation of the public sphere, a
dissensual arena filled with (affirmative) conflict and confrontation. As Mouffe
(2001) maintains:

Agonistic Ornamentation


If there is a vibrant, political public sphere where this kind of confrontation can
take place, it is less likely that there will be confrontations about non-negotiable
issues or essentialist identities. What Im arguing is that this form of agonistic
public sphere is not something that should be seen as negative or threatening for
democracy. On the contrary, it is what can keep democracy alive and impede the
danger of extreme right-wing movements that could mobilize passions in an antidemocratic way (ibid.: 124).

Whilst forcefully disregarding Carl Schmitts argument that liberal democracy is

a doomed paradigm that, as Mouffe paraphrases, liberalism wholly negates
democracy as democracy negates liberalism (Mouffe 2005a: 9) any rational
resolution to the paradox was understood as a vain attempt to insulate politics from
the effects of the pluralism of value, of trying to fix once and for all the meaning
and hierarchy of the central liberal democratic values (ibid.: 93). Only by putting
an emphasis on the types of practices possible within a new model of democratic
citizenship, rather than particular forms of argumentation, could the democratic
deficit be truly tackled (ibid.: 96). Rational argumentation and ideal discourse were
strategies understood to simply preclude the possibility of contestation (ibid.: 92),
to preclude differing political practices, merely replacing the dominant means/
ends rationality of the aggregative model (the pre-consensual paradigm of
Anthony Downs4 et al.) with yet another rational form, this time a deliberative and

Downss rational choice theory was specifically critiqued in William E. Connollys

Neuropolitics (2002).

Untitled, So Paulo,
Brazil, 2012

102 Ornament and Order

communicative one (ibid.: 95). The aim towards a universal consensus was thus seen
as the real threat to democracy, one that could lead to violence being unrecognized
and hidden behind appeals to rationality, one disguising the necessary frontiers
and forms of exclusion behind pretences of neutrality (ibid.: 22). By privileging
rationality, as Mouffe continues to argue, both the deliberative and the aggregative
perspectives leave aside [] the crucial role, played by passions and emotions in
securing allegiance to democratic values (ibid.: 95). And thus through focusing on
desire, on fantasies, on the corporeal force of the everyday, Mouffe comes to find
a notion of citizenship firmly opposed to mere interests, opposed to the notion
of rational economic man, ones returning the passion that had been eliminated
from the private sphere by the magnitude of consensuality. The aim of an agonistic
democracy must therefore be to speak to people about their passions in order to
mobilize them toward democratic designs (Mouffe 2001: 123), to advocate an ideal
of the public sphere that rests upon the notion of a fervid agonistic confrontation.
Only by separating the notion of politics an ensemble of practices, discourses and
institutions seeking to establish a certain order and the notion of the political the
dimension of antagonism that is inherent in human relations (ibid.: 101) can we
then can start to construct a democratic sphere able to place the notions of power
and conflict at their centre, perceiving every act of power to show the traces of
exclusion (Mouffe 2005a: 99), every act of power to be an exclusion. Only then will
we see how politics has always attempted to placate, to domesticate conflict, the
exclusion predicated by consensuality being what Mouffe terms an eradication of
the political (ibid.: 101).
The political hence becomes a space from which to elude the populist zeal
engendered by the democratic deficit, to combat the perception (and often the
actuality) that there is no contestational space from which to put forward ones
opinions, to curtail the natural movement toward extremisms, which we have
seen steadily rising within Europe and the US (where this third-way consensual
politics has grown so strong). Mouffe thus aims not to resist or oppose any specific
institution, class or group, but simply any technique of power. Political struggle is
seen as a movement toward the possibility of self-overcoming, of self-creation, the
Nietzschean moment of genuine freedom fulfilled through the ability to declare
ones otherness (Villa 1992a: 290). And while agonism is thus generally construed as
a struggle against, here it can more profitably be seen as a struggle for (Hillier 2003:
43), a place where agonistic tension can act as both a barrier of protection against
the totalitarian imperative and the first line of attack toward the establishment
of new social formations. Foucaults suggestion (1984) that just as one must not
be for consensuality, one must be against nonconsensuality (ibid.: 379) can thus
be seen in a clearer light; contestation is about the transgression of power, the
affirmation of negation (Pickett 1996: 451); it is not simply conflict for conflicts sake,
not dissensus as a wild instability, or anarchic nihilism. It means, as its Latin root
dissentire would suggest, simply to differ in sentiment; a spirited opinion acting in
non-conformance with the whole. It is a movement which can hence undermine
or at least weaken any given set of limits in order to attenuate their violence (ibid.:
451), a movement through which one can make both real changes to domineering
societal powers while simultaneously creating new forms of progressive subjectivity.

Agonistic Ornamentation


3.7Katsu, Fuck
You, New York,
USA, 2011

The agonistic struggle must hence be conceived as never-ending, a struggle

to confront truth and power at every level. It is an inexhaustible mode of
commitment emerging through a continual strife, emerging through a continual
contest over all meanings, all morals, all rights.

A Pressure and a Presence

Following this agonistic analysis, I want to make two broad arguments. Firstly,
I would like to suggest that Agonistic Ornamentation can be understood to
function within the paralogic, pagan tradition as espoused by Lyotard, acting
as a technique of trouble (Bhabha 2005: 374) through which to combat the
deadening vacuity of the ostensibly public sphere. Invoking what Michael
Warner (2002) has termed a counterpublic, a group constituted through
a conflictual relation to the dominant public, a group making different
assumptions about what can be said or what goes without saying (ibid.: 423),
it can be seen to summon a conflict that extends not just to ideas or policy
questions, but to the speech genres and modes of address that constitute the
public, a conflict which attempts to disrupt the deeply ingrained hierarchy
among media (ibid.: 424). Working through disputation not discourse, through
contest not consensus, Agonistic Ornamentation can thus be understood through
the modality of language games and petit rcits that Lyotard examines, revealing
local narratives, revealing the differend through every instance and exposition.

104 Ornament and Order

3.8Nov York,
Untitled, New
York, USA, 2010.
Novs work
here is a classic
example of this
movement over,
rather than with
the surface, the
piece seamlessly
moving from wall
to glass to the
wall again, then
moving beyond
even the edge of
the building itself

And whilst like its Consensual partner, Agonistic Ornamentation sets out a statement
in direct contrast to the manipulative, instrumental effects of the existent visual
culture in the city, whilst it seeks to provide a direct contrast to the current media
discourse, it functions not through a proposition but a battle, not discourse but
utterances, through games intent on friction and tension as much through their
very form as their reception.
Secondly, I want to propose Agonistic Ornamentation as a discourse working
through Mouffes concept of Agonistic Pluralism, a discourse aiming not to develop
types of argumentation but types of practices, one working through agonism
not antagonism, an ethos of contestation and engagement which reveres rather
than reduces true multiplicity. Focusing on the passionate and fantastical over
the rational and deliberate, Agonistic Ornamentation can then be linked to the
constitutive outside of our current political system that Mouffe argues truly critical
practices evoke, shirking politics and embracing the political through the creation
of agonistic public spaces. Rather than the visually decipherable images we find in
Consensual Ornamentation then, it is an intentionally narrow wide public Agonistic
Ornamentation seeks to address, it is difference, fracture they seek to display. It is
not simply a violence, a so often depicted anarchy that these cultural producers seek
to ferment (an impulsion which in fact more often comes from the suppression of
difference [Connolly 1995: xxi]) but sooner a pressure, and a presence, that acts
constantly, if unevenly, along the entire boundary of authorization(Bhabha 2004: 156).

3.9Nov York, Nov York Needs Release, New York, USA, 2010

3.10GPO, Doing Graffiti 4 The Crime, Athens, Greece, 2010

106 Ornament and Order

Rather than the order of Consensual Ornamentation then, the working with as seen so
clearly in Eltonos work (as elucidated in his quote on p. 86), Agonistic Ornamentation
is a practice that works against, working over surfaces not with them, working to
resist our architecture not to enhance it, using the public sphere not simply as a
canvas but as a more multidimensional site of practice.
Both Lyotards theoretical and Mouffes applied frameworks will thus be argued
to align with the firm belief in a vociferous, contestatory mode of social practice
espoused by the practitioners of Agonistic Ornamentation, to complement its
valorization of struggle and dissensus, of contest and dispute. Attempting to found
not agreement, but a state of deep plurality, it will be seen as an aesthetic realm
promoting notions of difference, disequilibrium and heterogeneity, a discourse
intent not on replacing one order with another but instead on undermining,
negating the notion of order itself. Just as in our previous chapter however,
these broad arguments must now be more specifically and clearly delineated; I
must show exactly how these theoretical and aesthetics discourses come to so
unexpectedly converge.

Haunted by the Figure

As a quintessential illustration of Lyotards petit recits, his little narratives, Agonistic
Ornamentation will be understood to work through an always specific, localized
presence, through a figural status, through a technique which functions both
with and against normative discourse. As an aesthetic form (the archetypal state
of the petit recits), which substantiates the incommensurability of postmodern
existence through the revealing of localized narratives (via each individual,
named, agentic act of writing, tagging, ornamenting), which makes no claim
to universality (not attempting to be read, to be comprehended, received by
a singular public but by disparate publics), which functions through discrete
games relating solely to their fractional, and factional participants (to the closed
fraternity of fellow calligraphers), Agonistic Ornamentation can be understood to
reject overarching metanarratives and instead adopt the role of the instable, the
poetic, the marginal. Acting as a cultural event through its status as performance
(rather than simply acting as a representation of this event), as a very literal
site of transformation and dispute (Readings 1991: 47), it can be seen as a
practice in which action is espoused over theory (an act that certifies itself in the
pragmatics of its own transmission without having recourse to argumentation
and proof [Lyotard 1991: 2]), an act which is almost purely about utterance and
action. Producing these works in the city is about the undertaking as much as
the resultant image, it is about the doing, the execution, the act. And the illicit,
contestatory epigraphical markings making up Agonistic Ornamentation come
to act as a visual representation of this simultaneity, this plurality, becoming a
visual representation of dissent. Just as little narratives in no way aim to tell the
story, to put an end to narrative, but rather evoke new stories by the manner in
which in its turn it has displaced a preceding narrative in telling a story (ibid.: 51),

Agonistic Ornamentation


so too each act of agonistic, ornamental cultural production can thus be seen
to function as a steppingstone toward the completion of the next whilst also
serving as a reference to the previous; each tag, each ornament, working to
push the boundaries of the last, the intention simply being constant aesthetic
exploration rather than culmination or conclusion. Agonistic Ornamentation
can thus be seen as a quite literal example of what Lyotard (1989) termed an
imaged text (a calligraphic ornament, a figure working as text and non-text); an
image that surprises the eye and the ear and the mind by a perfectly improbable
arrangement of the parts (one that instigates inconceivable relations between
shapes and forms); an imaged text that, like poetic language, is possessed, is
haunted by the figure (ibid.: 2930) (a text, a signature, a name, which is elevated
beyond itself, beyond the literal and into metaphor). It is a dissident narrative
enacted on the public surface of the city.
Moreover, Agonistic Ornamentation can likewise be seen to converge quite
directly with the procedural workings of Lyotards language games, the games, or
perhaps utterances, defying the dominant discursive fields, the phrase regimens
which allude toward the innate diversity of potential meaning. Forming a
knowledge which is not simply a tool of the authorities quite clearly working
directly against law and order but instead a figure that can come to refine
our sensitivity to differences and our ability to tolerate the incommensurable
(Lyotard 1984: xxv) its openly visible exhibition of the literal antithetic forcing
its viewers into an encounter these recalcitrant ornaments form a separation
from the dominant language itself, they form islands of language, each of them
ruled by a different regime, untranslatable into the others (Lyotard 1993: 20).

Untitled, Paris,
France, 2008
Untitled, Paris,
France, 2007

108 Ornament and Order

As prescribed by Lyotard then, like these language games Agonistic Ornamentation

can first be seen to contain basic rules, ones internally decided upon by the
community in question (to be the the object of a contract, explicit or not,
between players (Lyotard 1984: 10). Each act of ornamentation can hence be seen
as subject to numerous regulations defined by other practitioners of kalligraphia
(as seen in more detail in Chapter 4), to be working within the same regime of
contest as his ornamental partners and thus aware of where one can write (on all
public space), what one can write (ones name or ones community), how one can
write (within the various genres of the aesthetic), who one can write upon (a fact
dependent on the outcomes of previous contests). Following the second rule of
language games, each move within Agonistic Ornamentation obeys certain rules
(if there are no rules, there is no game), the game itself open to modification and
alteration as the moves themselves progress (an infinitesimal modification of one
rule alters the nature of the game [ibid.: 10]). Whilst the rules (as set out above)
are vital, they are clearly not sacrosanct however; as the game changes (take the
increasing erasure of graffiti on trains by anti-graffiti authorities for example) so
do the techniques (the respondent use of tools such as paint-stripper and acid
by the writers themselves, tools whose markings are even more difficult to erase),
the game progressing and modifying as the utterances themselves change. And
thirdly, every utterance should be thought of as a move in a game (Lyotard
1984: 10), every act understood as a natural progression of the contest: each act
of ornamentation can thus be seen as part of a wider network, functioning as a
system that naturally reproduces itself every inscription generating a further
inscription, every invention producing more inventions (as Spoks case study on
pp. 11720 clearly proves).
The agonistic element of these language games thus emerges not only
through pure confrontation with ones agonic competitors, an attempt to defeat
a competing challenger through the power of ones design, but through a fight
with the very terms of the discourse itself, a fight to disorientate, to work against
the accepted paradigmatic state. Agonistic Ornamentation is not undertaken
simply in order to win therefore, but more often for the sheer pleasure of []
invention (ibid.: 10):
Great joy is had in the endless invention of turns of phrase, of words and
meanings, the process behind the evolution of language on the level of parole.
But undoubtedly even this pleasure depends on a feeling of success won at the
expense of an adversary at least one adversary, and a formidable one: the
accepted language, or connotation (ibid.: 10).

The vernacular aesthetic that Agonistic Ornamentation reveals can thus be

understood to act as a proclamatory challenge to the state of language itself,
subverting typology, unsettling the everyday use of writing, undermining the
accepted language (the most formidable adversary), through the joy, the delight
taken in finding new ways of disfiguring and distorting the hegemonic language.

Agonistic Ornamentation


Trying to find new solutions to letter forms (as the artist Petro termed it), trying
to find new ways of playing with the same 26 archetypes was understood as an
illimitable, irrepressible task. The scripted enunciation of ones chosen name,
morphed, stretched, elided, repeated a thousand times through incessant
invention (an innovation not refining the systems efficiency but revivifying
the truth of art, an invention producing more inventions, one changing the
pragmatics of knowledge [Readings 1991: 55]), thus comes to function through
a dual mode of contestation, initially contestatory through its very ornamental
state (as an illicit act at its core, fraught through its very placement), and latterly
contestatory through its clash with the accepted language itself, a use of language
that wrestles with its natural state, an artistic signature that is both means and
ends in itself. As Baudrillard suggested, the very pseudonyms employed within
this calligraphic framework meant that indeterminacy was set against the
system itself, these scripts resisting every interpretation and every connotation
(Baudrillard 1993 [1976]: 30). Tags thus functioned to derail the common system
of designations (ibid.: 30), bursting into reality like a scream, an interjection, an
anti-discourse (ibid.: 30). And through the discovery of these new forms, these
new subtexts to previously agreed upon texts, Agonistic Ornamentation can thus
separate language from itself, shatter it from within in order to discover new
rules, new possibilities.
Yet aside from the disputes Agonistic Ornamentation enacts upon spatial
surroundings, upon formal language, upon the fellow participants of the language
game, there are further ones provoked with their very selves, an exterior struggle
through a classic agonic contest (through a battle to invent new moves, new
rules) and an interior struggle to simply produce more, to push ones practice
to the very edge. We can thus find an infinite cycle of repetition, modification,
transformation, a search for the perfect form which the practitioners themselves
acknowledge will almost certainly never be reached; we can find a game
functioning against the privacy of the wall, against the architecture of the city,
against the use of language, ones adversaries, ones competitors, oneself. And
every action, every marking can hence be grasped as an illustration of the novatio,
where the text he writes (the postmodern artist or writer that is), where the
work he produces are not in principle governed by preestablished rules, where
the artist and the writer [are] working without rules in order to formulate the
rules of what will have been done (Lyotard 1984: 81). Agonistic Ornamentation can
thus be understood as a discursive intervention within language, a disruption
which takes root through contesting rules, forms, principles and positions (Best
and Kellner 1991: 163); it is an interruption of the metanarrative which takes root
within the porous walls of the city itself.
It is hence not only the basely dissensual positionality of the practitioners
discussed here (their desire to work against the norms of the city), their explicit
attempt to form an innately partial, divided text (one visually embracing alterity),
but their deeply pagan movement, their attempt to radically transform the rules of
the city, the rules of law, the rules of art, to form an energy unbound by instrumental
logic, that places them directly within Lyotards understanding of agonism.

3.13 and 3.14Mathieu Tremblin, Tag Clouds Colombier Optique, Rennes, France, 2010. Whilst the
translation Tremblin here undertakes can provide an amazing insight into the scopic abilities of the
agonistic artist, their capacity to so clearly decipher this ostensible pollution, Tremblins highly astute
work is unable to account for a vast amount of information a seasoned agonistic practitioner would
also perceive information pertaining to issues such as style, technique, experience, mind state etc.

Agonistic Ornamentation


3.15Read More
Books, Untitled,
Brooklyn, New
York, 2008

The basely aneconomic condition of the artefacts produced then, their lack of
a bottom line (ibid.: 55), means that the artistic innovation which takes place
produces nothing but a continuous displacement; it refuses to make the system
more efficient (in fact attacking this instrumental efficiency through their
inalienable status), refuses to supply it with new products (the products that the
insatiable art market needs to survive5) exemplifying the continuous struggle
over meaning within all language, the struggle emerging through the innate
polyphony of our social body. Agonistic Ornamentation is thus an emblematic
instance of an aesthetic practice that both is and is not art at the same time (ibid.:
55), a practice whose very practitioners themselves often refuse this label, who
aim at producing effects rather than producing art, who aim always to find the
move that will displace the rules of the game, the impossible or unforeseeable
move (ibid.: 545). And, as such, every example of this illicit ornament evokes
a basic differend, testifying to the injustice of modern neo-liberal space, the
impossibility of legally entering into the domain of representation without capital
or power. As a confrontation of imagination and reason, Agonistic Ornamentation
is thus suppressed, repressed due to this differend, it is marked as vandalism not
art, as dirt, pollution, and the purity of the increasingly privatized public sphere

Agonistic Ornamentation, unlike spraycan-art, unlike street-art, can thus

never be co-opted by the museum nor made into a product as it can only ever take
place in public space. Many practitioners thus see themselves as amateurs (as well as
fully acting in this manner), undertaking these tasks solely for fun. They might make
a living through sidelines such as graphic or commercial design, art-direction, graffiti
workshops, etc., but their street-work will be a separate discourse, never merely bought
or sold, implicitly inalienable.

112 Ornament and Order

The Ever-Present Possibility of Antagonism

In terms of Chantal Mouffes theoretical programme, Agonistic Ornamentation
can be seen to coalesce with this contestatory model through its focus on the
passionate and fantastical over the deliberative and rational. With dissensuality
and dispute so clearly entrenched within these images within the overt refusal
to follow the rule of law (their demand to appear within the space of appearance
at any cost), within their twisted, intentionally obfuscatory form (their demand to
push typology and the letter-form to its edge) they can be seen as ornaments
who reveal an order outside of the everyday, who reject the consensual
framework of the modern public sphere. It is these practitioners who focus on
types of practices rather than types of argumentation however, their expansion
of the possible field of action through founding an alternative framework of
engagement (rather than merely working within the said framework), that pushes
them within Mouffes framework of a critical art practice; Agonistic Ornamentation
does not seek to enter into debate with the public, to enter into a discourse,
a field of argumentation with those outside the language game it brings forth.
Focussing on practices which lay on the exterior of these boundaries, practices
which elude value, which elude the market and traditional circuits of exchange,
these practices thus embed the outside within the inside (like ornament in itself ),
they establish an alien, foreign presence within the very centre of the city. By
situating itself within and upon the hallowed surface of private property, Agonistic
Ornamentation can be understood as a place of difference and otherness, as the
space of the adversarial, yet also, as Homi Bhabha has stressed (2004), as a system
that is never entirely on the outside or implacably oppositional (ibid.: 156).
Whilst working to ferments dissensus then a dissensus quite clearly
proven through the harsh reaction these ornaments generate working to
makes visible what the dominant consensus tends to obscure and obliterate
(ibid.: 12) through its presentation of individuality, its rejection of prevailing
notions of property rights Agonistic Ornamentation presents a discourse which
competes, rather than overturns that which already exists, competing with the
advertisements, the official graffiti of the everyday as Hermer and Hunt (1996)
term it, the regnant visual culture of the city. Acting as a visible schismatic
discourse, an ocular exemplar of a competing force within the city, an alternative
to the existing social contract in terms of aesthetic values, in terms of spatial
use, in terms of perceived rationality, Agonistic Ornamentation exposes and
thereby reaffirms the innate heterogeneity of the public sphere, yet it does
this through the shared, space of the city walls, through the common symbolic
space which can turn enemies into disputants. Working through agonism, not
antagonism then, Agonistic Ornamentations status in the heart of the public
sphere is crucial. As a practice functioning within a multiplicity of discursive
surfaces (Mouffe 2008: 10), surfaces such as the very loquacious walls of the city
themselves, as a practice attempting to widen the field of artistic intervention by
intervening directly in a multiplicity of social spaces (ibid.: 7), these ornaments
engage directly with the city, even if functioning in a militantly combative

Agonistic Ornamentation


way. Establishing the boundaries of the community from where they emerge,
Agonistic Ornamentation thus expresses a plurality yet, through their innate
visibility to those on the outside of this community, at the same time transforms
a conflictual relation into a relation of exchange, even if that relation is a
relation infused with tension. Refashioning the common spaces of the city,
reforming everyday culture (ibid.: 7), eluding the grasp of value and market
exchange, Agonistic Ornamentation thus reveals alternatives to and discrepancies
within the prevailing system, questioning the norms and nature of contemporary
city life.
Moreover, through providing a space for political dissent even while not working
with any overtly political intent, Agonistic Ornamentation works directly against
the apparent escalation of the democratic deficit through its demonstration of
a passionate form of popular action, working not through the deadening space
of politics but within the potentiality of the political. Shirking away from any
superficial political posturing such as sloganeering or overt political imagery
for example, the often quite antiestablishmentarian stance of their producers is
reflected through the intensely political medium these ornaments utilize rather
than any nave political message, the very materiality of their works bestowing
a potent sectarian intensity upon them, a clear ideological framework. As Mouffe
has indicated (2001), any attempt to make a distinction between political art and
non-political art becomes a fruitless venture when we recognize that every form
of artistic practice either contributes to the reproduction of the given common
sense and in that sense is political or contributes to the deconstruction or
critique of it (ibid.: 100). Every form of art, as Mouffe continues, thus has a
political dimension (ibid.: 100), not a politics that solely consists in domesticating
hostility and in trying to defuse the potential antagonism that exists in human
relations (Mouffe 2005a: 101), but the ever present possibility of antagonism
inherent within the political, a form of political inquiry involving decisions which
require us to make a choice between conflicting alternatives (Mouffe 2005b:
10). Agonistic Ornamentation can thus be seen to locate itself within a setting
where the post-political consensus celebrated as a great advance for democracy
can be critiqued, where artistic practices can disrupt the smooth image of
contemporary neo-liberal urbanity (Mouffe 2008: 13). Through resisting the
established patterns of city life, through setting up a visual alternative a visual
disturbance , it promotes a notion of public space in which conflict, division,
and instability do not ruin the democratic sphere but instead become part of
the very conditions of its existence (Deutsche 1998: 289), in which the refusal
to follow the normative patterns of city life takes on an innate, rather than overt
political status.
Working in a quite obviously divergent way to Consensual Ornamentation then,
Agonistic Ornamentation discourages any attempt to settle disagreement and
disputation through a regression to a balanced consensus, it spurns the aspiration
toward openly discursive means of action. And rather than the reformation
of the Habermasian public sphere as we saw recreated in the former chapter,
Agonistic Ornamentation evokes a discourse constituted not merely through a

114 Ornament and Order

3.16 and
at work, Untitled,
Vigo, Spain, 2009

different or alternative idiom, but one that in other contexts would be regarded
with hostility, or with a sense of indecorousness (Warner 2002: 424); working
within the space of the adversarial, upon the border-line between outside and
inside, upon the literal surface of protection, reception and projection which
mark the boundary zones of our cities (Bhabha 2004: 156), it thus treats artistic
performance as a never-ending contest, as a site in which friction is not tolerated
but advocated. We can thus see these patently ornamental, calligraphic practices
to be functioning within the tensions and ambivalences of a counter-authority
(ibid.: 33), we can see how these practices enacted through the dynamics of
writing of ecriture (Bhabha 1988: 8), can come to reveal the ambivalent and
fantasmatic texts that make the political possible (ibid.: 10), to reveal the alterity
confronted through the very witnessing of these illicit, fantasmatic images.
Yet, and once again, after more of this dense textual description, I want now to
return to the images which were suspended at the beginning of this chapter, to
revisit these examples which will be seen as representative instances of Agonistic
Ornamentation. Which of these, then, could we say works within Lyotards
conception of language games, petit rcits or the pagan? Which function within
Mouffes conception of the political, of the movement from antagonism to
agonism? Which embrace the counterpublic, the anti-discursive, the contest of
the agon?

Agonistic Ornamentation


Nano4814 By Nano 4814:

Nano again, half way up a wall, caught in the process writing his name, or his
pseudonym to be more exact. A star, an n, a conjoined a, another n, a large o,
followed by his four eponymous numerals (interweaving in a downward motion
from the position of his right hand), completed by an arrow merging into the
final number and some flourishing stars overlaying the entire piece. An intricately
lettered inscription situated amidst both a set of other, smaller looking agonistic
efforts as well as an overtly lucid text situated beneath the piece The Globe School
of English looking particularly stark as set against the explicit clarity of each
letter produced within the official text, the very basic, undemanding legibility it
I believe that the ornamental status of this work is now pretty much
beyond doubt, suffice to bring up its adjunctive, decorative status, its agentic,
parergonic essence, so too the reasons I want to examine this image away from
the discourses of graffiti and street-art now quite clear. The ornamental artefact
we can see here, then, this purportedly agonistic archetype, is one that I would
suggest visibly emerges from an aesthetic order quite clearly divergent with
normative modes of urban visual culture, an aesthetic that alludes (in terms of
it playing toward, alludere, rather than merely suggesting indirectly), to certain

3.18 and
at work, Untitled,
Vigo, Spain, 2009

116 Ornament and Order

spatial tensions present within modern urban life. Its passionate inscription
produced in defiance of instrumental reason, formed in lieu of any payment, in
full understanding of the potential danger implicit in its performance can thus
appear as a practice in direct defiance to the staid homogeneity of the rational
public sphere, allied to emotions and sensations forged outside of the everyday.
It is not only a clear language game then, a game played within certain modifiable
rules, a contest with a set group of participants, a move or a ruse which works
through the imagination and produces effects rather than truth; but its
individuality, the stain of personhood which it elicits, places it as a distinctly
localized, petit recit; it is a singular act speaking to a singular public, an imaged
text which forces us to acknowledge a foreign body in the city. Set within an
ideal of publicity that offers opportunities of identification around democratic
political alternatives (Mouffe 2002: 11), within an idea of publicness that creates
an empathetic relation with the others who uphold a belief in disputative
expression, Nanos image not only signifies an alternative to the norm then,
but works through a distinctly agonistic, rather than antagonistic frame. Being
produced within the common symbolic space of the city (Mouffe 2005a: 13),
it challenges the other visual culture which it surrounds, engaging in a contest
with their rational understanding of the city rather than refusing to participate
in the city at all. And as what would appear to be a clear agonistic intervention
in public space, we can thus see this image unveiling what is repressed by the
dominant consensus (Mouffe 2008: 1213), unveiling a constitutive outside, an
undercurrent, a minority set against the sterile, lifeless state of the public sphere.
Playing with the city then, using the barred windows as a climbing frame, the
blank walls as a place of communication, Nano acts politically not through any
explicit political message, not through any institutional aesthetic, but through
the reconstitution of the written form, through the re-appropriation of public
space. And, much like Mouffes discussion of the contemporary post-political
attempt to deal with the problem of political extremists (by placing them in what
she terms a cordon sanitaire), a tactic that endeavours to deal with them solely
on a moral, rather than political level, the attempt to deal with the problem of
these illegally produced images so too follow much the same pattern.6 Agonistic
Ornamentation is hence placed outside of politics through its depiction as an
evil other, an immoral sphere of activity, a discourse in need of banishment from
the collective moral register. Yet in practice, giving a voice to all those who are
silenced within the framework of the existing hegemony (Mouffe 2007: 45),

As she continues, frontiers between Us and Them are constantly being
created; but, since the Them can no longer be defined in political terms, these frontiers
are drawn in moral terms, between us, the good and them, the evil ones. My concern
is that this type of politics one played out in the moral register is not conducive to
the creation of the agonistic public sphere which, as I have argued, is necessary for a
robust democratic life. When the opponent is defined not in political but in moral terms,
he can be envisaged only as an enemy, not an adversary: no agonistic debate is possible
with the evil them; they must be eradicated (Mouffe 2002: 15).

Agonistic Ornamentation


giving a voice to those who desire to participate in the public sphere, images
such as Nanos in fact render their deep commitment to the city, forming a visual
indication of the agon, a critique key to the maintenance of an emancipative
When Im in the street, I see traces of all the people who pass by, tagging,
stickering, postering, whatever, I see something there. But I also see all the hidden
spots in Madrid, the places you have to really know the city to get to, places that
are also being hit [utilized] by a lot of people. And I like that. Maybe the street
is not always being used in the best way, but at least its being used, and thats
positive for me. Its kind of like more hidden and endogamic, from me to my peers
instead of for the general public. Compared to other cities especially, its not as in
your face as Berlin, or how Barcelona used to be with tagging everywhere, but its
a more pure essence of how the streets used to be. Its like a conversation between
the people that are actually using the streets, more than the public itself. Of
course they see it, but they dont really understand it. And I love the feeling that
things are happening in the street but not for everybody. Its our private world in
the center of the city. Were talking to each other, we have a real dialogue going
on. And it makes me feel real active because I can feel the city [] Of course, at
the bottom of everything there is some rebellion, with all of us I think. But it turns
into something much more. Now its not really something I think about. All the
things I do in the street are part of me, and Im not gonna suddenly change. I just
have to do it no matter what happens (28/7/9).

TBC by Spok
TBC. Spoks crews moniker emblazoned across a group of three shutters, an
acronym whose meanings could fill the rest of the page (Tpico Barrio Centro,
The Best Choice, The Business Class being just three that first came to mind).
A bold, rudimentary inscription covering an opaque palimpsest of further
images, a palimpsest with three key stratums that I wish to unpack. The first (Layer I),
the shutters themselves, imprinted with a legal graffiti commission produced by
Spok himself for the clothing store Sfera, a photorealistic production now only
partially visible in the blue and black background to the edges of the shutters.
The second (Layer II), a group of throw-ups produced on top of this original
production, Buse and Zoan from the FTS crew (Fuck The System) being the chief
perpetrators (the Bus of Buse visible on the far left of the shutter, Zoan still partially
evident to the far right). And the third (and here final) reclamation by Spok himself
(Layer III): a brazen white splattering of paint formed over the entire faade, a
production formed (and unmistakably so, to those for whom it was produced)
with a paint-fuelled fire extinguisher, the most violent form of graffiti tool
available. We thus have Spok. Buse and Zoan on top of Spok. Spok on top of
Buse and Zoan on top of Spok. And clear to all involved that this final layer had
been produced by Spok and no one else (because the original layer had been
produced by him), clear, that is, to the other participants of this language game
in the city, to those who understood this dense jumble of coloured pigmentation
as a multilayered surface of meaning, a surface of material communication.

118 Ornament and Order

TBC, Madrid,
Spain, 2009

We know from my previous reasoning my argument for seeing this work as an

instance of Agonistic Ornamentation and not just graffiti, we can by now appreciate
my arguments concerning its obviously ornamental quality; but what of the purely
agonistic charge, how does this exemplar comply with this particular framework?
Primarily, then, we evidently have a public contest taking place, an agonic contest
occurring within a number of arenas. We have Spok in a personal test of his own
strength (Layer I), struggling with his own capabilities in producing something in
careful balance between classic graffiti and commercial art (using elaborate letter
forms alongside photorealistic imagery to accomplish this), producing something
that will be respected (and thus untouched) by other kalligraphos, which whilst a
commercial undertaking will continue to uphold his reputation as a leading exponent
of the aesthetic form.7 We have Buse and Zoan in direct competition with Spok
(Layer II), critiquing him (through their very overdrawing) for his active participation
in legally produced work, diverging with the conviction that being produced by a
classic writer, these pieces should be left untouched (and these works did, for the
most part, remain unscathed by the tagging that enveloped the majority of these
commercial premises). We have Spok reclaiming his status against Buse and Zoan
(Layer III), displaying his thoughts on their critique in no uncertain terms, displaying
his fundamental agonistic predisposition with his third-level overpainting.

This careful treading of the fine-line between commercialization and purity

was most intelligently exposed by Spok in a piece produced on Gran Via (the central
thoroughfare of Madrid) for the company Sephora. Whilst to non-participants of Agonistic
Ornamentation the piece would simply seem to display the name of the store, for those
indoctrinated into the form, it would quite clearly read SPOKONE. Whilst working for
commercial companies then, Spok continued to embrace the duality within this very task.

Agonistic Ornamentation


Finally we have both camps competition with the city itself, using their aesthetic tools
in a dynamic substantiation of their citizenship, battling to take part in the public
visual culture of the city at whatever cost. We thus have a contest being enacted
upon the city in two quite differing modalities, the first, with the vast majority of the
public (in general, but of course not always) appreciating their ornaments only as
a mass of pollution and dirt, a visuality functioning as a proclamation of difference
but no more; and the second, between the agonistic participants themselves (to
the almost total ignorance of the general population), appreciating the minutiae
of challenges and interrogations, of responses and ripostes, a visuality functioning
through an incessant aesthetic encounter. Using the public space of the city as an
open stage for their physical performance, then, promoting open disputation and
conflict as part of a committed, participatory relationship to the street itself, we can
hence see this realm functioning in a way as far from the traditional gallery system
as one could imagine; the conflation of finance and fine-art revoked in exchange
for a presentation of a Foucauldian permanent provocation (provocation in
terms of its original Latin meaning provocare, to challenge or call forward), the
patterned markings being generated embracing competition as both means and
end, embracing contest as an indispensable rudiment of social life.
This image thus illustrates the local narratives, the moves, the ruses, the rules as
seen in Lyotards discordant language games, the contest which comes to produce
effects, to provoke more art, to provoke more ornament. It sets itself directly
within Mouffes search for agonistic engagement, something outside the centre,
something outside the sphere of accepted politics, an insurgent practice which
signifies plurality. It this signifies the remainder left behind by consensus, an agonic
zone where difference is decorated and scratched onto the city. And it can be seen
as a combination of both the discursive and figural which transforms a physical

3.21 Spok at
work, TBC, Madrid,
Spain, 2009

120 Ornament and Order

battle into that of an aesthetic contest, an image with disputation and struggle
embedded into its form.
It was all about us. We were writers. And the only thing I wanted back then was
to communicate with the other writers in the street. We knew everyone in the city
would see it, we knew they wouldnt understand it my parents, your parents
but we were only doing it for those who knew. I would think about it every day.
Painting, painting, painting, painting. You needed to paint more and better than
the rest. To get known, because no-one knew you at first, you had to be known
and then known as the best, the most dedicated and the most stylish. So it wasnt
only about vandalism. We wanted to evolve, ourselves, our style. Constantly.
For me the best thing to do was to evolve your style, never to do the same thing
again and again, because we wanted to do something bigger than graffiti, but
at the same time its the biggest thing you could ever do! Just catching a tag for
example, its the most perfect thing. You wouldnt believe it. The flow, the style,
and you show people that youre still alive [] Its like being fit. I really want to
be fit because I want to show that Im still in it, that I can still compete. I want to
show that Im still here. And graffiti is like that. You have to constantly push it to
maintain []
You cant imagine how good the feeling is. Illegally creating something. Can you
imagine what an amazing concept that is! We went there, to the street, to the
subway, to the yards, and we were young when we started, its a scary thing to do,
the adrenalin is pushing to the limit. And it was something totally out of nothing.
I remember everything. A thousand different stories. The pieces, the sensations.
Like when we got into a chase, the world just completed stopped. There was
nothing apart from that. And I would never enjoy a mission fully if it didnt finish
running! Like a game. Us and them. We want to paint, theyre trying to stop us,
but were going do it whatever. So it was something to fight against things, but to
create things at the same time. Creating something out of nothing. Nothing for
me can be more important that that (27/7/9).

Pixo Gratis/The Attack at the Galeria Choque Cultural8

The final of our examples, a paired set of images, presents us with what I will
argue to be a perfect contrast between Agonistic and Consensual Ornamentation.
The first, an image of an Eltono street poster Pixo Gratis I paint (or, more
correctly, I pixao) for free, pasted on a wall on the streets of So Paolo, Brazil;
the second, an image of a gallery being defaced (or perhaps refaced) by a black
clad figure, the walls covered in posters of a similar format to Eltonos original
print as seen above. And the link? Um dos motivos da fria The reasons for our
fury: an enigmatic riposte which needs a more thorough explanation.

Once again, please note that the images depicted here are of the Belas Artes
Invasion, not the Choque Cultural invasion. See footnote 1 in this chapter for more

3.22 and 3.23 Eltono, Pixo Gratis, So Paulo, Brazil, 2008

122 Ornament and Order

3.24The Belas
Artes Invasion. So
Paulo, Brazil, 2008

On 6 September 2008, a group of 30 pixadores9 invaded the Galeria Choque

Cultural10 in central So Paolo. Armed with an assortment of spraycans and
markers, and protesting at what they described as the commercialization,
institutionalization, and domestication of street culture (Pixobomb/Djan 2008),
the pixadores coated the entire building with their tags, messages and inscriptions
(the flyer for the attack, depicted below, suggesting the use of the slogans long
live pixao, art as crime and crime as art), enveloping paintings, magazines, walls,
prints whatsoever lay in their path with torrents of paint and ink. While the
gallery termed the defacement a neo-Nazi action, arguing that the pixadores were
both calling people to destroy everything whilst harking back to an illusionary
nostalgia of the underground times (Ribeiro 2008), the assailants, as the flyer
proclaimed, stated that it was a total protest, an art attack, a path to revolution
(Pixobomb/Djan 2008). It was a symbolic statement against what they considered
the exploitation for profit of an underground movement, a literal statement of
intent on the walls of the gallery itself.

Pixadores are practitioners of pixao, a distinctively Brazilian form of illegal

street inscription. It is a tagging style which, in overly general terms, utilizes both highly
elongated letter forms (said to be descendent of metal-band insignias from the 1980s),
and highly impressive locations of practice (often at an extreme height and seemingly
impossible to reach). It has become a renowned style of underground urban visual
culture, working under the umbrella of what is generally termed graffiti.
The Galeria Choque Cultural (Culture Shock Gallery) is a small independent
gallery which exhibits what they term as pop, outsider and young art, but what most
pixadores or graffiti-artists would term street-art. The gallery, quite conspicuously, does
not use this now loaded term.

3.25Eltono, Pinto Gratis, Madrid, Spain, 2004

124 Ornament and Order

Unwittingly, Eltono, who a few months prior to the attack had produced
a poster in conjunction with the gallery Pixo Gratis (I mark/I paint/I write for
free) soon became embroiled into the affair, his image the point of ignition, the
final indignity, the fury (as explained on the front of the pixadores webpage,
before its subsequent removal by the host Flickr), that provoked the pixadores
assault on the premises. For them, Eltonos poster was another example of the
co-option of pixao for what they deemed purely pecuniary purposes (it being
for sale in the gallery itself, as well, quite crucially for Eltono, being widely and
freely distributed in the street), another example of the appropriation of what
they believed was their pure, inalienable aesthetic. Whilst Eltono had produced
the print in total support of the pixadores, simply referencing (as much of his
work did)11 the indigenous visual culture of the region where it was produced
using the original techniques of lambe lambe12 hand-set letterpress posters
(in fact printed with some of the last remaining master craftsman of this form),
being affixed, illegally, all over the city (referencing the non-merchantable nature
of both pixao and illicit street images in general) for the pixadores its open,
communicative intentions was too much to bear. Even as he was attempting to
describe the core graffiti or pixao ideology (the posters themselves intoning
sem aviso sem permisso, without permission without notice), the tension
emerged through the differing discursive intentionality of these forms, through
the respectively inward and outward looking desires of Agonistic and Consensual
Ornamentation coming into direct confrontation.
The invasion of the Choque Gallery thus perfectly illustrates the differences
between these two practices of insurgent ornamentation, a state of deep (but,
as we will come to see, not irreconcilable) difference between a system seeking
centrifugal motion on the one hand and centripetal movement on the other;
between a system aiming to reach the entire demos through its ornamental
practices and one aiming to confine itself to its own restricted fraternity; a system
seeking a culture of harmony in the first case and a culture of opposition in the
second.13 Whilst Eltono wanted to talk about pixao with the entire public, the
pixadores desired only to talk about it amidst the privacy of the counterpublic.
Whilst Eltono sought legibility and simplicity, the pixadores craved inscrutability
and obfuscation. Whilst Eltono desired discursive communication, the pixadores

Eltonos earlier project Pinto Gratis (I Paint for Free) project undertaken
in Madrid and replicating the miniature household painter-and-decorators sticker
advertisements placed all over the city can be seen as a first stage of the Pixo Gratis
project, one equally extolling the aneconomic nature of illegal street painting. See
Figure 3.25 for an example.
Lambe lambe is an autochthonous print system used in Brazil (and in So Paolo
especially), mostly utilized to publicize traditional local music performances.
These types of confrontations have occurred all over the world; in London (with
Banksys work being defaced by the graffiti artist 10Foot), in New York (with Failes
defacement by the Splasher), as well as in sites from Madrid to Melbourne, Buenos
Aires to Berlin.

Agonistic Ornamentation


fought for figural sensation. Yet what frustrated Eltono the most, as we will see
below, was the simple impossibility of discussing this issue with his opponents,
the refusal of the pixadores to enter into a rational discourse with him. And whilst
this may not have been the intractable differend we see emergent between the
gallery and the pixadores, it was still a blockage to communication which Eltono
was attempting to specifically counteract in his work, an obstruction to open
communication which had led to his original movement away from agonism and
towards consensuality (as he explained on p. 86). Both practices may have been
attempting to negotiate and access the public sphere, then, to engage within the
democratic process, yet they undertook this task through almost exactly contrary
ways; one through disorder and disruption, the other accord and agreement.
They were both insurgent ornaments, but ones with very different notions of
order embedded within them.
Yeah, I was suddenly kind of in the centre of this big trouble because of the
pixao poster. Which was saying pixo gratis, I paint for free, or I do graffiti for
free. Its I write, its I paint pixao, I paint graffiti. So the idea of the poster
was a project Ive been doing for years,14 but they [this group of pixadores] didnt
understand, maybe they didnt try to understand. So they were saying that I
was using pixao to make money, but of course it wasnt like that for me. It
was totally the contrary to what they were thinking. I was actually apoyando,
supporting the pixao, its something I love and respect. Its an incredible
movement. But there was no sense to what these guys were doing. If they
went to a big gallery [to paint over it] and they did the same thing, it could
have made sense, perhaps, I dont know. If they went to a big commercial store
like Nike, where they are using pixao to sell their product, I would definitely
understand.15 But that gallery, made by people just like you and me, in their
mind [the pixadores] they think its just people using graffiti to make money, but
its just people that are helping young artists, people that want to live through
painting. None of us want to work with the big commercial galleries. We dont
want to sell our work to big companies. This is a place for people like us, that
just want to have a different life than the typical nine-to-five. And it doesnt
make sense to me to try hard to be a true and original pixador or graffiti writer
and then work every day in a factory! We need places like Choque that help find
projects so you can make a living with painting. It just doesnt make any sense
to fuck these guys [the Choque Gallery]. They are not like the big art rich guy,
theyre not using pixao to make money [] Ive been painting like this for
years, in the street, for free, no money, painting graffiti, painting public art, all
for free. Even when I work with the galleries I would never just paint my street
work on a canvas and sell it, it makes no sense to me. I always change my work
when its inside, and I always try to have that link with the outside. But with this
[the pixadores issue] I couldnt talk directly with anyone, I tried, they sent me


Such as the Pinto Gratis project discussed in footnote 9.

This was in fact the third attack by this group of pixadores, the first occurring at
the So Paulo School of Fine Arts, the second at the So Paulo biennale.

126 Ornament and Order

some messages on my website, but they were all anonymous, they left no emails.
I was replying okay, give me your email, lets talk, I can explain to you what Im
doing, it looks like you dont understand anything, but they never replied, and
that lack of dialogue was maybe the most difficult thing for me (12/07/09).

Dialogical and Antidiscursive/Interruptive and Assimilative

Agonistic Ornamentation can thus be understood as an aesthetic working at the
edge of discourse, an aesthetic alterity in which dissensus is paramount. Not a
counterinstitution in the Habermasian mould, it is a counterpublic in the Warnerian
one, a public which structured by different dispositions or protocols to the rest
of society, a public which comes into being through an address to indefinite
strangers (Warner 2002: 4234). In all three of the examples presented above we
can find the combative, polemical stance which Agonistic Ornamentation upholds,
the games and the moves, the ruses and the politics which they nurture. And
thus rather than seeing both these seemingly antithetical ornamental discourses
through the lens of art and vandalism, rather than seeing them through the
reductive filters of street-art or graffiti-art, these insurgent practices can be more
fruitfully understood through the political theories of Deliberative Democracy
and Agonistic Pluralism that I have recounted, through the Habermasian and
Lyotardian philosophical confrontation, through a modernist theory of democracy
espousing communicative discourse on the one hand and a post-modernist theory
encouraging confrontational dispute on the other. Whilst the consensualists
continue to be critiqued by the agonists for their apparent belief in a transparent
public sphere (an approach found only to confirm rather than resist the status quo),
the agonists dismissed by the consensualists for their usage of critique without any
standard of rationality to base it from (a theory which can be considered as irrational,
dangerous and even neoconservative [Habermas in Rorty 1984: 4]), social actors
continue to produce material culture which can be seen to reflect these political
theories, not only within the public realm as described and illustrated here but so
too in a more institutional milieu. The debate between Agonistic and Consensual
Ornamentation thus far outlined can hence be seen to echo the struggle between
what Grant Kester (2004) has called dialogical and antidiscursive art practices
(between practitioners such as Jay Koh and the Wochenklausur collective in the
former case, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman in the latter); to reflect the collision
of Nicolas Bourriauds (2002) Relational Aesthetics (most often represented by artist
Rirkrit Tiravanija and Liam Gillick) and Claire Bishops (2004) Relational Antagonism
(which she illustrates through the work of Santiago Sierra and Thomas Hirschhorn);16
to restate the confrontation between Miwon Kwons notion of interruptive and
assimilative sculpture (and artists such as Richard Serra in the former case and John
Ahearn in the latter).

Whilst Bishops theory is by no means as fully developed in comparison to

Bourriaud or Kester, it nonetheless serves as an acerbic critique of both their models.

3.26Neko and Jaime, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2009

128 Ornament and Order

Yet just as these models can serve as institutional reflections of Consensual and
Agonistic Ornamentation (and their trenchant critiques of each other thus equally
resonating back onto these insurgent discourses), the existence of the ornamental
practices discussed here outside of the space of the white cube (in comparison to
the models presented by Kester, Bourriaud and Bishop), their existence away from
the institutionalized control of publicly funded site-specific art (in terms of the sitespecific art discussed by Kwon), can be seen to embed both of these ornamental
practices more deeply within the public sphere as a whole,17 to embedded them
within the quotidian space of the mudlevel. Thus, whilst acknowledging the
critique of public art that Miwon Kwon (2004) has famously outlined a critique
of a site-specific art that has been uncritically adopted, that has been embraced
as an automatic signifier of criticality or progressivity by artists, architects,
dealers, curators, critics (ibid.: 1), a public art that comes to be simply a means to
extract the social and historical dimensions out of places to variously serve the
thematic drive of an artist, satisfy institutional demographic profiles, or fulfill the
fiscal needs of a city (ibid.: 53) I would suggest that through emerging under
the radar of authorization, through eluding the power of the arts administrators
and funding organizations Kwon discusses (ibid.: 1), these ornamental, insurgent
practices here described can serve to similarly elude many of the key pitfalls of
site-specificity she points out. The co-option and domestication of much publicart can thus be understood, as Kwon herself argues, to be more often the result
of institutional intervention and pressure than individual malpractice, the
habitually reductive and equalizing association drawn between an artist and
a community group a reductive association as epitomized by Fosters artist
as ethnographer and an equalizing one exemplified by Kesters community
delegate hence not always the work of a self-aggrandizing, pseudo-altruistic
artist but rather a fashioning of the artist by institutional forces (ibid.: 140).
It is thus a curatorial and institutional delimitation which often reduces and
sometimes stereotypes, the identities of the artist and the community group
(ibid.: 141), an institutional delimitation that the inherently informal, deeply
vernacular, non-institutional art discussed here can escape from.
Agonistic and Consensual Ornamentation can thus be understood as practices
which are set within a quite distinct opposition to one another, practices that may
function through similar processes of application, that may function in similar
sites and take similar risks, yet ones that emerge through quite varying politicoaesthetic frameworks. Yet now that these variances have been outlined, we need
move from image to performance, from artefact to ritual, ornament to order.

Whilst Kwon argues (1998) that all art, whether in a museum, a gallery, or a
public street is art in the public realm the street must be seen as inherently more
accessible than any institutional arena. I am not attempting to set in place a base
dichotomy of street = good / museum = bad; of course, an interior space is merely
another site to work within, another space from which to provoke, to question. I am
merely suggesting that this innately public, insurgent visual form cannot be avoided
or evaded as museum or gallery art can.

Agonistic Ornamentation


We need move from an exploration of a politico to an ethico-aesthetic. Rather

than the objects themselves then, it is the practice, the ephemeral action that
will now be analysed, the immaterial residue of my informants spatial acts rather
than their material remnants which we will encounter. And, in so doing, I hope
to untangle the knot which has now been set up, to explain how it is that one
particular collective, that one distinct group (the Nov Nueve collective with whom
I completed my fieldwork),were able to remain so cohesive, so united, whilst
having practitioners from both these distinct camps housed within the very same
space. Exploring the various rituals and rites, the practices and performances
these artefacts are submerged within, we will then be able to see how the group
comes to be reconciled and reunited: We will come to understand the overriding
balance between the agonistic and consensual, the particular order of these

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1 Eltono and Momo, Untitled, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2011.

Image courtesy of the artists

2Eltono, Untitled [Coriandoli Graffiti], Turin, Italy, 2009.

Image courtesy of artist

3Nano4814, Elijo Irme [I choose to go], Aranjuez, Spain, 2011.

Image courtesy of artist

43TTMan, Untitled [Cement Graffiti], Madrid, Spain, 2010.

Image courtesy of Alberto de Pedro

5Remed, Untitled, Leon, Spain, 2012.

Image courtesy of artist

6Remed, Untitled, Marakkesh, Morocco, 2012.

Image courtesy of the Wackybrothers

7Spok, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2008.

Image courtesy of artist

8 Spok [background by Yesk], Untitled, Turin, Italy, 2012.

Image courtesy of artist


The ritual act, this is to say, does something, it is an action that is meant
to affect the world and it is likely to do so. To act in a drama, in contrast, is
not to take an action affecting the world, but only to imitate doing so.
Roy Rappaport

The contexts in which ritual practices unfold are not like the props
of painted scenery on a theatrical stage. Ritual action involves an
inextricable interaction with its immediate world, often drawing
it into the very activity of the rite in multiple ways.
Catherine Bell

Sacred, Yet Not Religious

Having now demarcated the specific forms of cultural production that are being
constructed within the aesthetic realm of Independent Public Art, it is the more
practice-based elements related to these urban artefacts that I now wish to explore,
the distinct processes through which this group of actors actually produce these
ornamental forms which must be examined. To undertake this task I aim to work
through the broad anthropological theme of ritual, a subject matter that, although
often wrongly seen as the domain of traditional or spiritual societies, is one which
acts as a dominant framework within my interlocutors modern, areligious social lives.
Examining these specifically secular, although deeply sacred practices,1 we will then

Moore and Myerhoff, in their edited text Secular Ritual (1977), attempted to more
thoroughly delineate these eponymous terms. As they argue, if sacred is understood in
the sense of unquestionable and traditionalizing, then something may be sacred, yet not
religious (ibid.: 20). Bruce Kapferer similarly claimed (within the same volume) that the
sacred/profane dichotomy is often so fused in the manipulation of symbolic object[s] and
symbolic action that they become confused and difficult to distinguish (Kapferer 1977:
116). Notions of sacrality will hence be seen to be not only implicitly contextual, but also

134 Ornament and Order

find them to be infused with such notions as traditionalism, formality, performativity

and liminality, instilled with such themes as commitment, transgression, play, risk,
and uncertainty, all fields which I would suggest are key to the workings of what
has been classically termed ritual within anthropology. Rather than the semantic,
communicative meaning of my informants practices as previously examined, it will
be the affects and effects that these processes generate, the power of these corporeal
processes to mould (rather than simply reflect) social experience, the base (dis)order
that they evince (for their participants, spectators and environments) that I now wish
to more thoroughly explore. And through highlighting the tangible systems that
bring these various images, actions and events into existence, I will not only reveal a
heightened performative process that suspends and surpasses everyday normativity,
but one that facilitates a reconciliation between the potentially incongruous modes
of aesthetic production arising from within the group. Explaining how this unified
collective of actors can contain proponents of both consensual and agonistic types
yet not simply implode through schismatic pressures, explaining how the group
envelope is kept cohesive through my informants shared implication and imbrication
within the ever-changing physicality of their immediate urban landscape, the
focus on ritual will also uncover a practice which works not simply by subverting
or inverting the dominant narrative of contemporary city-life, but which works by
a more ambivalent mode of deconstruction. And it is thus through seeing these
ornamental forms as both conventional signifiers (as so far discussed in Part I) and
also embodied traces of an event (as now to be examined in Part II) that will enable
us to find a more holistic understanding of the insurgent artefacts here discussed,
an understanding of ritual, of order, which acts as the balance of the ornament itself.

An Initial Lexicon
As this vignette, I hope, comes to intimate, the furtive performances that were
so often undertaken in the production of these ornaments were highly ritualized
undertakings, ones immersed in a strongly ceremonial, deeply prescribed, intensely
sacred atmosphere. Whether consensual or agonistic (and whilst these different
approaches did, as we will see, provide different types of events) I will argue in this
chapter that all these acts, all these practices worked through the archetypal ritual
fields of action as understood anthropologically. Yet if I am attempting to frame
these various ornamental practices in this way, to place these singular and plural
moments of painting, sculpting, scratching away at the body of the city within the
realm of rites, I need first, of course, come to explain exactly what I understand
as the term ritual itself. As a word that has been employed by various different
scholars in quite variable and differing ways, a term much like the previously
discussed graffiti and street-art which is as over as it is underdetermined, I must
clarify what this very label means before I start making such sweeping claims.
not the exclusive site of the magico-religious; not only are technology and magic, for us,
as Alfred Gell has argued (1988), one and the same (ibid.: 9) but magico-religious actions,
as Bourdieu suggested, more often simply matters of practice (TMS Evens 2009: 119).



4.1 Spok on the

tracks. Madrid,
Spain, 2008

Intersection I: Field Notes, 08/10/08

[] I pulled up on my bike and saw Spok stood there waiting (at a little after one in the
morning), leaning against a wall at the side of the station, a small tote over his shoulder (sprays
I guessed), dressed head to toe in black. Black t-shirt, black shorts, black trainers. I felt suddenly
conspicuous in my bright white sweatshirt, which I took off and placed in my backpack. I went
over to greet him, a cheeky smile emerging on his face as per usual, he joking and laughing
at my obvious concern over the sweatshirt blunder X arrived a few minutes later, an old
friend of Spoks from his crew TBC, likewise all in black, likewise with a backpack slung over his
shoulder (again, I supposed, full of paint), looking a touch tense as he pulled on a cigarette.
Low-key greetings were made and we started to walk, down past the station, along a quiet
looking road by the side of the tracks. The two of them were talking almost inaudibly between
themselves, catching up on the months since they had last met, yet seeming perhaps a touch
preoccupied with other matters. They were sharing all the basics of information, the essential
facts of what had been happening in their respective lives, but they appeared to me to be a
touch disconnected, Spok most definitely not his normally effusive self.
We arrived at a small plaza and wandered over to three further characters sat within it (two of
them looking a little incongruous on a seesaw, the other resting on his bike), only one of whom
I had met briefly before (a famed writer in the city). Again, all dressed in black bar one (there
seemed to be a definite pattern emerging). The familiar greetings were again performed and
once more we set off, leaving the plaza by way of a winding footbridge running adjacent to the
railway lines. Coming back round towards a desolate-looking pathway, Spok abruptly hurdled
the handrail without a word of warning, landing flawlessly maybe six feet down onto the narrow
conduit adjacent the trackside fence. I looked down at him, watching him then scamper up and
over the barbed-wire palisade, reaching the other side like a certified professional in about five
seconds flat. I had previously thought we were going to be painting a wall around the back
of the station, but, obviously, somewhere along the lines plans had changed. One of the guys
from the plaza (the only one in the non-black top) said his goodbyes and then cycled off
leaving me a touch more uneasy the remaining three then reproducing Spoks silky smooth
movement on to the tracks, pulling themselves up from the side of the fence, resting their foot
on the wall by the bridge, then vaulting themselves up and over the top. By the time I reached
them (the entrance for me being a touch more difficult even with prior direction from Spok
of an easier, but of course longer route) there were hushed discussions stirring on the topic of

136 Ornament and Order

4.2 Spok at
work. Madrid,
Spain, 2008

placement, who would go-over whom and where. [They were painting the walls by the side of
the tracks (track-sides as they were called in the not too difficult to gather vernacular), and, as
was the case in Madrid, every trackside within miles of the centre (literally miles in any direction)
was covered end-to-end in graffiti. Naturally, therefore, one would be forced to paint on top of
another graffiti-writers previous work a potentially precarious act for an inexperienced writer
who was not yet respected, but a fairly habitual act for the writers whom I was with]. Once
organized and the sites of practice preliminarily marked out (by a line incised with the edge
of a can), the four took their positions and set to work almost immediately, placing down their
bags, selecting their cans and then proceeding to outline their pieces. The first burst of noise
from the normally innocuous sounding spraycans seemed incredibly loud, piercing the hushed
air with its crisp, penetrating resonance. I had never before considered how shrill the sprays
actually were (like white-noise exploding from a detuned radio-alarm clock), every shake of the
can penetrating the stillness that otherwise enveloped us.
I shuffled around behind them as they continued to paint, looking for a good shot, trying to find a
makeshift tripod having foolishly failed to bring mine with. Without being able to use a flash and
with the painting progressing in near total darkness (solely by the light of the bordering streetlamps), I crept over the ballast with care, not wanting to disturb the feeling of intensity exuding
from the collective work. Each of them were now in full flow, the paint emanating from the flow
of their bodies, smooth, swift movements followed by an occasional pause, squatting down by
their collection of cans guessing at their colours, squinting to try and make them out, going with
the instinct developed from a hundred other nights just like this. There seemed to be a fairly set
routine they were all generally following, starting by outlining the core structure, the perspective,
the fill-in, shadows, key-lines, the piece slowly building up, the assorted parts coming together
to suddenly reveal the unexpected whole. While there was an intense communal concentration
formed through the transfixion with ones own piece, within the rhythm, the seams of the letter
forms, there was also quite clearly a further preoccupation with the spatial surroundings as a
whole, each of the practitioners alert, sensitive to the point of clairvoyance towards any unfamiliar,
foreign sound, any indication of potential danger. And thus, at 10, maybe 15-minute intervals, an
abrupt internal whistle1 would ring out, a hand in the air denoting silence, 30 seconds of total
quietude, every sinew straining for sound then the sharp hiss of the spraycans would again
reignite, the air filling with their unmistakeable, saccharine aroma.

They all used this particularly marked whistle, made by sucking air into their mouths rather than

blowing out. It had a remarkable effect, able both to cut through the densest cacophony and to be used at



4.3 Spok at
work. Madrid,
Spain, 2008

Around 40 minutes in (time, to be honest, being particularly hard to gauge), I managed, once
again, to trip over an empty can at the side of the tracks, still searching in vain for the perfect
image. Spok came over to me with a slightly pained expression on his face. Mira, he murmured.
Three exits only [pointing at the steps crawling up the poles of the overhead wires at our left,
our right and our centre], and five of us. He paused. Be ready. Because were ready to go at
any time. This isnt the city centre ok? They guard the tracks here. And we dont wait around to
chat to them como 3TT y Remed2 Whether or not he was being a touch dramatic seemed
irrelevant. Whether just trying to keep me vigilant, ready to run, or attempting to explain
something more significant, the tension in the air was irrefutable. All of the guys were in a
heightened, adrenalin-fuelled state, ready to move whenever necessary. [Undoubtedly, now
thinking back, I think Spok was making a point, he was trying to make me not just see the
differences between the afternoon evening events, but feel them, to make me embrace the
uncertainty that was so palpable. At the time, however, he just made me nervous. But of course
it was a form of anxiety which, as Spok had often emphasized, had its obvious pleasures]. He
walked back to his piece, getting right up to the surface and then leaning his body back from
it, cocking his head to take it all in, working with his customarily balanced, fluid movements;
as he proceeded to execute the final highlights (his favourite part of the practice, bringing the
letters to life he used to say), his hand and the can seemed almost one and the same, a bodily
technique so oft repeated that the vehicle seemed almost inseparable from the operator.
Soon after the task was almost complete, each of the guys starting to settle back from their
pieces, gather up their tools and converge together about 20 feet from the wall. A brief appraisal
and they were ready to go, no lingering around for a moment more than necessary. Four classic
graffiti pieces had been produced, multi-coloured, multi-dimensional, multi-layered four or
five letter monikers, all working within different styles and designs, each working within a
set tradition yet attempting to constantly mould and shape that convention. Four artefacts
working within a particular mode of rhythmic formality yet demanding, necessitating a mode
of performative improvisation, four artefacts following the regulations of their discourse
acutely muted levels. It was also a style used by many of the graffiti artists in the city. You could pick them out
on the street from this single acoustic attribute, this single bodily act, a sound of imminent illicit activity.

Spok and I had earlier been with Louis and Remed as theyd been painting illegally in the city during

daylight hours and, customarily, had entered into a debate with the police over the acceptability of their

138 Ornament and Order

while, communicating innumerable things the physical status of the artist, of their wider
environment, the presence of others, a questioning of public space itself I grabbed a couple
of final snaps with the flash on my camera at last, all of us then climbing back up and over the
fence (infinitely easier exiting than entering). As soon as we were on the other side I felt the
mood manifestly alter, the guys now beginning to relax, to joke around, smiles I had never seen
on the faces of these writers now starting to emerge; I had initially felt they were acting aloof
(me being unknown to two of the four), but it now seemed this had nothing to do with it. It
was the event itself that led to this perceived detachment, its basic protocols necessitating a
total absorption in the moment, a total immersion, almost meditation within the flow. It was
an utter contrast to just a few minutes earlier; the mission now complete they could lighten up,
laugh, exit the frame. We walked back up to the station, Spok catching a few quick throw-ups
on the walls as we went, the group of us finally entering a 24-hour caf up by the station for
a quick caa and a couple of bocatas to end the night. Drinks and food finished, emails were
exchanged, promises of forwarding photos made. I shook hands with the new guys, hugs with
Spok, arranging to meet him at the studio the next day []
[On reflection, this was the night that I really came to terms with the procedural formality of the
ornamental process, the specific forms of clothing, language, bodily techniques, which were all
crucial to the completion of these aesthetic acts. Not only was this moment a symptomatic example
of a practice that nearly always took place within a group setting, within a specifically egalitarian
setting, it was something that involved an overt commitment to risk, to a heightened sensation
garnered through a test of ones aesthetic/athletic abilities. It was thus a defined bodily practice
in two senses, not only through the production of the image, but also through the awareness and
spatial sensitivities which were required during the entire period, from meeting to departure. It was
also a night that made me start to think more about the notion of creativity. While working within a
set discourse, one whose boundaries were so highly regulated, what room for experiment was there,
how much space lay within the margins?]

Of those who have attempted to pin down the precise meaning of the term
ritual, the late Roy Rappaport possibly stands as the theorist who has most lucidly
unpacked the entangled meanings set within it. For him, ritual was humanitys
basic social act (Rappaport 1999: 107), a site within which logic becomes
enacted and embodied is realised in unique ways (ibid.: 3). Coming to define it
through the underlying concepts of performance, formality, invariance, inclusion
of both acts and utterances, and encoding by other than the performers (ibid.:
24), Rappaport suggested that, when used collectively, a ritual state could then
give rise to a multitude of outcomes, engendering the possibility of an
establishment of convention, the sealing of social contract, the construction of the
integrated conventional orders [] the investment of whatever it encodes with
morality, the construction of time and eternity; the representation of a paradigm
of creation, the generation of the concept of the sacred and the sanctification
of conventional order, the generation of theories of the occult, the evocation of
numinous experience, the awareness of the divine, the grasp of the holy, and the
construction of orders of meaning transcending the semantic (ibid.: 27).

Ritual was thus understood as something that could, in a trivial sense, have
both social and material consequences, consequences that may or may not be
functional (ibid.: 27). It was something that contained a number of stipulated
attributes, then, sensible features common to rituals always and everywhere,



features that (crucial for this work), may in fact, lead us to recognise events as rituals
in the first place (ibid.: 26), yet these aspects could never be thought as inimitable
to what he understood as ritual itself. What Rappaport was at pains to insist was
that, more than anything, ritual was simply a category of action (ibid.: 26). People,
objects and places could thus become sanctified or legitimated through various
rites and ceremonies, yet in itself, ritual had no singular, distinctive trait. It was
hence, and perhaps perplexingly, considered to be a unique structure, although
none of its elements performance, invariance, formality and so on belongs to it
alone (ibid.: 26), a practice that was on the boundary, whose very definition could
make it disappear as a conceptual category itself.
This potentially vexing point, its innately overlapping, polythetic condition
(Needham 1975), was taken up further by the theorist of religion Catherine Bell in her
seminal text Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions (1997), a text in which she critically
examined the various changes and paradigms formulated within the study of rites
over its (relatively) short intellectual history. In her estimation, however (seemingly
following Jack Goodys adage, [r]ituals, more rituals, yet more rituals [] there is
little to be gained either from the term itself or from further subdivision [Goody
1977: 26]), the very idiom had become an almost futile label, a marker that could
ostensibly fluctuate in almost every feature; there could thus, in her mind, not only
be no intrinsic or universal understanding of what constitutes ritual (Bell 1997: 164),
but very few cultures were even understood to have had a term for ritual that means
exactly what is meant by the English word (ibid.: 164). While still outlining what she
argued to be the six prototypical archetypes of communal, traditional rites (these
being rites of passages, calendrical and commemorative rites, rites of exchange
and communion, rites of affliction, rites of feasting, fasting and festivals, and finally
political rituals [ibid.: 94]), Bell, in a similar move to that made by Rappaport, thus
sought to move the terms of reference away from ritual and towards ritualization,
to what she saw as flexible and strategic ways of acting rather than specific acts
in themselves (ibid.: 138). This adaptation of idiom enabled her to explore ritual in
terms of its concrete practice, as a way of acting that distinguishes itself from other
ways of acting (ibid.: 81), a practice that sets itself aside from the norm, detaching
itself from the quotidian, rather than merely attempting to further demarcate a
now seemingly nebulous term. It was thus a focus less on the matter of clear and
autonomous rites and more on the various methods, traditions and strategies of
ritualization that Bell wished to uphold, a focus on the body moving about within
a specially constructed space, a body at the same time defining (imposing) and
experiencing (receiving) the values ordering the environment (ibid.: 812). Moving
away from universal, overly generic themes, with ritual as an overall concept, and
toward the specific, calculated modes of action that gained significance through
the delineation of specific physical, spatial and temporal procedures, Bell thus also
sketched some key modes of ritual-like action, an initial lexicon encompassing
the themes of formalism, traditionalism, disciplined invariance, rule-governance,
sacral symbolism and performance (ibid.: 138), a lexicon slightly modifying but in
practice mainly concurring with Rappaports ritual requisites (traditionalism acting
as a simple alternate for encoding by other than the performers, sacral symbolism

140 Ornament and Order

traditional, yet
unique. Untitled
collage by
Momo, 2009

more-or-less approximating acts and utterances,2 and the sole addition of rulegovernance moulding into Rappaports invariance).
Formalism, to start off with, one of the most frequently cited characteristics of
ritual (ibid.: 138), was understood by both Bell and Rappaport as a method of setting
up a distinct contrast with unceremonious, quotidian, casual activities. Through a
sliding scale of procedurally organized movement (from excessively technical to
moderately so), it was believed to set up a division between the ordinary and the
extraordinary, the usual and unusual, typical and atypical, formulating a mode of
behaviour that had an implicit structure. Practices undertaken would thus often
tender a more restricted mode of communication than normally observed in
everyday interaction (a constraint examined in depth on pp. 2036 through the
work of Maurice Bloch), the limits or curbs placed upon how something can be
expressed understood to simultaneously influence what can be expressed as well
(ibid.: 139). Yet these apparent restrictions could also be argued to allow a more
intense performative meaning to emerge, one where understated deviation, rather
than radical innovation, was grasped in a more discriminating way by the sensitive
ear of the participants. While often taken to simply denote adherence to form, then,
for Rappaport, formalism must quite crucially not be taken to inevitably signify any
notion of restraint or politesse; the greeting behavior of teenagers, he warns, is formal
in that it is stereotyped, but it is not particularly decorous (Rappaport 1999: 33).

Rappaport, unlike Bell, consciously shirked from the usage of the term
symbol: That ritual is not entirely symbolic is one of its most interesting and
important characteristics, for through ritual some of the embarrassments of symbolic
communication (notably the two vices of language, lie and the confusions of Babel)
may be ameliorated (Rappaport 1999: 26).



rule governed,
yet distinct.
Untitled collage
by Momo, 2009

Ritual formality could thus often subsume or even specify, comic, violent, obscene
or blasphemous behavior (ibid.: 33), behaviour of an apparently transgressive
modality, all the while retaining a strictly ceremonious, expressive characteristic.
Traditionalism, the attempt to make a set of activities appear to be identical to
or thoroughly consistent with older cultural precedents (Bell 1997: 145), functions
through a bond to a set historical discourse, an apparently unbroken lineage
making each ritual element part of a wider whole. Actions undertaken were thus
understood to be not entirely encoded by the participants themselves, but to be
part of an adhered-to set of passed-down messages or techniques, procedures
of course liable, as we will see, to potential manipulation and modification.
Any deliberate or calculated invention of ritual was hence seen to be a rarity
(Rappaport 1999: 32). Even while the invention of tradition was a trait understood,
as Hobsbawm and Ranger famously explained (1983), to be widespread within the
modern era, these were sets of practices that sought to inculcate certain values
and norms implying a direct continuity with the past (ibid.: 1), even if this was in
fact a highly constructed, romanticized past. While often seen to be the preserve
of primitive societies, then, societies naturally at odds with modernity (Bell 1987:
138), the manifestation of traditional ritual (as detailed by Mary Douglas (1966) in
her renowned grid/group schema), can be attributed more to the basic principles
of social organization (the importance of group allegiance and hierarchical roles,
for example), than to any primordial belief system (ibid.: 99); movements away
from tradition can thus be understood to be prevalent as much in primitive as in
modern societies, the Mbuti Pygmies as studied by Turnbull acting as the classic
example of a seemingly primitive group with a highly modern, aritual sensibility,
a religion based on internal feeling, not external sign (Douglas 1996 [1973]: 14).

142 Ornament and Order

Invariance, somewhat like traditionalism, works through a meticulous

concentration on repetition and control. It is hence a technique stressing the
careful choreography of actions, a balance between the self-control required by
the actor and a distinct rhythm of repetition in which the orchestrated activity is
the most recent in an exact series that unites past and future (Bell 1997: 150). Rather
than traditionalisms attempt to protect a particular historical lineage, however,
invariance is more concerned to efface temporality, a regimented system of action
that can close the distance between the doer and the deed through its perceived
timelessness, through its unchanging procedural form (ibid.: 151). Nonetheless, and
far from simply initiating a mechanistic replication, these strategies of invariance
can transform the precise and deliberate gesture into one of perfect spontaneity
and efficacy (ibid.: 151), a form of creativity that, rather than extinguishing
personhood, works through anticipation and improvisation, a fluency that can in
fact free the practitioner from the perceived constraint (Hughes-Freeland 2007).
Moreover, as Rappaport highlights (1999), ritual must be understood as more or
less invariant rather than comprehensively so (ibid.: 24). There is thus always room
for logically necessary or deliberate variation, different performers as well as
different performances naturally varying (even if only minutely so) each specific
occurrence of the rite (ibid.: 36). Whereas the canonical element of ritual (the
messages concerning the wider environment, society and cosmos) was hence
understood by Rappaport to be highly invariant, the self-referential aspect (the
messages concerning the individual actors and their experiential existence)
can be seen conversely (or correspondingly) as necessarily variant (ibid.: 329).
Rituals can thus adjust and transform within their very invariance, even as they
may be understood (and perceived) to specifically attempt not to. Their unique
significance, in fact, can be seen to emerge through the very relationship between
variations in representations indicating the current states of participants and the
constancy of the order in which they are participating and which they are thereby
realizing (ibid.: 328).
Rule governance, like invariance, can be detected through the distinct,
regimented composition of each particular rite, most easily (and often)
distinguished within the various ritualizations attached to sporting activities
(events where violent chaos is barely held in check by complex codes of
orchestration [Bell 1997: 153]). Working within the wider realm of play, actors are
restricted to various set patterns of interaction, patterns that are often seen to
reinforce wider beliefs of approved, proper behaviour. Regulated engagements
of violence and disorder or ritualized combat (such as perceived in a wide-range
of activities, from football to fox-hunting, boxing to bull-fighting), thus often
contain distinctive modes of dress, speech and gestures (ibid.: 153), features
that in themselves permit the commencement of the particular activities.
Adherence to these regulations thus connects ritual to the sphere of morality, a
field where, through specific acts and utterances, order can be imposed upon a
disorderly world, structure domineering chaos. Yet while games and ritual have
sometimes been contrasted (by, as Levi-Strauss argued, separating participants
out into winners and losers, rather than, as rituals should do, establishing a unity



[Rappaport 1999: 44]),3 play, as a distinct entity to gaming, can be considered to

have strong link to festival rituals such as carnival, a clear attachment to both a
specifically ordered chaos and rule-governed yet licentious play (as seen most
clearly in rites of inversion, which we shall discuss in Chapter 5). Play is hence
distinguished as a type of action marked out from the everyday, marked out as
ritual through its highly directed yet non-instrumental objectives, its contests
working within a framework of distinct and regulated parameters.
The penultimate element, sacral symbolism incorporates various symbols
that embody values, feelings (Bell 1997: 156), objects whose sacrality is formed
through their separation from the world of the everyday. As previously noted,
however, this notion of sacrality does not simply connote activities with an
explicitly supernatural context; objects such as national flags and historical
monuments, ancient images and objects (with either mythical or authentic value),
are often overtly understood to be holy, evoking both sentiments and taboos
common to many religious artefacts.4 These are forms understood to materially
extend, to contain meanings beyond their constrained physical form, evoking
and expressing values and attitudes associated with larger, more abstract, and
relatively transcendent ideas (ibid.: 157). And, as almost all rituals include acts
and objects as well as words, they are then able, as Rappaport emphasizes
(1999), to communicate in what he terms a digital rather than analogical mode,
in a manner more expansive than bare, conventional linguistic disclosure5 (ibid.:
22). By working through physical display rather than mere text, these artefacts
cannot be taken to be solely symbolic; as he continues, when what is signified
is incorporeal, like worthiness or influence, its representation may have to be
material if it is to be taken seriously, a materialization giving visible substance to
aspects of existence which are themselves impalpable, but of great importance
in the ordering of social life (ibid.: 141).

Howe (2000) critiques this view, however, by noting the unpredictability of
some rituals, their ability, like games, to finish with winners and losers (ibid.: 76).
The recently reported incidents (and consequent furore) of the defamation of
war monuments in the UK by drunken (and urinating) youths serve as an illustration of
the evident sacrality bestowed upon these ostensibly secular sites.
Speaking roughly, Rappaport argues, the distinction between analogic and
digital is that between measuring and counting, the former referring to entities and
processes in which values can change through continuous imperceptible graduations
in, for instance, temperature, distance, velocity, influence, maturation, mood, prestige
and worthiness, the latter referring to entities or processes whose values change not
through continuous infinitesimal graduations but by discontinuous leaps, such as the
beating of the heart and changes in the size of animal populations (Rappaport 1999:
87). Ritual is thus understood to work digitally through its material representation
(ibid.: 88). Prestige or influence, transmitted through such ritual indices as pigs, coppers
and blankets, which help to define make definite important but vague aspects
about the world (ibid.: 87), are hence accounted for by material, not solely linguistic
properties. Ritual can of course contain analogic processes as well, but these are often
overridden or suppressed by their digital ones (ibid.: 140).

4.6 Remio at work, Los Angeles, USA, 2010

4.7 Remio at work, Los Angeles, USA, 2010

146 Ornament and Order

The final, and perhaps most important of Bell and Rappaports ritual stipulates,
performance, acts as the overall framework within which all the other categories of
ritualization can ensue; it is hence the most evidential and vital of rituals features.
Working on a multi-sensorial stage, it is understood to function through the ritual
participant not simply being told or shown something so much as being led to
experience, a participatory, corporeal knowledge understood to shape ones
understanding of the world (Bell 1997: 160). Without performance, as Rappaport
conclusively asserts, there simply is no ritual (Rappaport 1999: 37). Whether of an
ephemeral or enduring kind, elaborate or austere, whether it is conducted on an
individual or communal basis, the rite must be performed. Descriptions of ritual,
no matter how detailed, no matter how intricate, are not in themselves ritual acts.
And any performance must therefore be grasped primarily, as Edward L. Schieffelin
noted (2005), as a living event, an event that when over is forever gone (ibid.: 81);
there may be another similar performance tomorrow if it doesnt rain, but that
is another performance (ibid.: 81), each act, through its latent. 153), having the
possibility of a multitude of meanings. Rituals are thus realized made into res
only by being performed (Rappaport 1999: 37), and the unique, active undertaking
of each individual rite, the very manner of saying or doing understood to
be intrinsic to what is being said and done (ibid.: 38). Whilst performance is
links ritual to the world of theatrical presentation and classical drama, then, the
deliberate self-conscious doing of highly symbolic actions in public (Bell 1997:
160), for Rappaport (1999) this connection must be seen as familial rather than
integral. Although both forms of exposition reflect upon a notion of wider order,
ritual, unlike drama, not only represents action, but creates and fulfils it. It works
directly within the Austinian realm of the illocutionary, of explicit doing, rather
than solely communicating (ibid.: 86).
Ritualized behaviour can thus be seen as a practice which works within a sliding
scale of formalism (from unstructured to structured), yet one always marked out
by a manner of differentiation; to refer to an enduring tradition, or, at least very
least, appealing to discourse that goes beyond the lives of the ritual practitioners
themselves; to function within a seemingly repetitive, invariant framework, within
what could be described as a mania for a non-instrumental precision; to operate
amidst a system of rules and regulations, an arrangement of play as an inversion
or potential subversion of everyday social life; to be produced in order to be seen,
to work through both innately affective or expressive and intrinsically analytic
or communicative symbols; and to employ a multidimensional, performative
framework, one in which all members participate in the proceedings, whether
through practice or spectatorship.

Multiple Sensory Modalities

All of these ritual components described above are, as I mean now to outline,
fundamental to the process of aesthetic production my informants undertook,
fundamental to the procedural formation of what I have termed Consensual and
Agonistic Ornamentation. They are aspects without which these artefacts could not



be revealed, without which style, structure, order would be entirely absent. Both
of the ornamental practices described in the previous chapters thus worked, first
and foremost, through contrasting themselves to those of the everyday, creating
a set of formal characteristics, a formality of stereotyped elements (Rappaport
1999: 33), that designated them as something different, something unique, their
performative routines separated from quotidian habits. Primarily, and quite
unmistakably, one is not supposed to draw, write, paint, modify, install, or scratch
upon public surfaces. There are not only implicit, but also clearly prescribed
social contracts proscribing these acts edicts working through all of our key
social institutions, through the family,6 the education system,7 the judiciary8
quite recent social contracts in fact (as shown through the work of Juliet Fleming
[2001]), whose violation immediately sets the actions off in contrast to informal,
commonplace ones (from commercial advertising to institutionally acceptable
public-art). The very medium of production, the spatial location of these acts, thus
places these acts as something special, something framed, something denoting
this is ritual (Bateson 2000 [1972]: 182). And just as ritual (and of course ritual
transgression) has been shown to work within varying degrees of formality, so
these violent, obscene (Rappaport 1999: 33), taboo-breaking ornaments can be
seen to function in the self-same variable way, levels of convention, detachment
and heightened physical elaboration fluctuating between exceptional and
moderate formality. At the furthest end of this scale, during a painting mission
for example (such as described in Intersection I), the practice would most often
occur within a bounded location (outside the space of the everyday within a
train yard or aside a train track, a building site, a rooftop, or simply any other
surplus, backstage locale [Goffman 1959]); conduct and deportment would
be overtly discriminating (movements being highly measured in terms of both
the precise medium being worked upon, but also the wider landscape, each
ritual actor constantly on the look-out for potential danger, authoritarian or
otherwise); activity would generally take place nocturnally (a liminal time in
which the world of work is seen to lose its hold [OConnor and Wynne 1996: 162]);
clothing would be regulated (muted colours the norm); verbal communication
kept to a minimum unless otherwise necessary (silence thus reigning apart
from various cautionary colloquialisms9). Tension was thus heightened,
actions highly regulated, and there were thus innumerable indiscretions one
could make, many things one (as an ethnographer in particular) could trip up
on literally, such as the disused can discussed previously, or metaphorically,

The proscriptions emerging through childhood: painting being regulated to

specific media, with household walls being harshly prohibited. Colouring-in books,
another common tool, can equally be considered as media restricting painting to
highly proscribed boundaries.
The proscriptions emerging throughout the school system and centring on the
prohibition against writing on school property.
The proscriptions against writing or drawing within public spaces.
Such as the previously described internal whistle or other colloquial sayings such
as su padre (your father), denoting approaching police or other institutional authority.

148 Ornament and Order

through the accidental use of a camera-flash, through talking noisily,

disturbing concentration, or simply being unconscious of ones wider
surroundings (especially of law enforcement). Yet even more significantly than
all these potential indiscretions, one blundered simply by not painting. Everyone,
even a youth, should have the ability to paint. At the other end of the spectrum
however, within a generalized display of tagging for example, one would find
an activity undertaken within the normalized spaces of the everyday (a site
which one would not specifically go to but already be amongst), one where

Alone, and Brk
at work. Vigo,
Spain, 2009



movements, conduct and deportment were interwoven with more habitual,

unstructured activities. Action would hence occur rapidly, it would emerge out
of more quotidian ones (such as just being on the street, or making a journey
from one place to another); physical gestures, although highly measured while
actually forming the images, being generally less considered; tension not
exceptionally heightened. There would be an obvious frisson created through
its basic formality, its separation from normalized activity, its inherent illegality,
but, being interlaced with everyday behaviour as it was, a more commonplace
action occurring on innumerable occasions, it did not have the intensified
procedural regulation of its more extreme relation. Thus, the practice was one
within which improprieties were naturally harder to make (as one was not so
explicitly obliged to participate), yet one that was still, crucially, understood to
be in contrast with prevalent societal strictures. It hence contained a level of
formality, a rituality derived in main through the explicit act of writing (and one
linked to more classic calligraphic processes with their concern over the freedom
of the line, the appropriateness of the tools utilized), but a procedural constraint
working in a highly different mode to the first described. It was a contrast, in
fact, that perfectly replicated Spiro Kostofs (1992) depiction of the street as the
site of solemn ceremony on the one hand a nocturnal painting mission and
improvised spectacle on the other a diurnal practice of tagging (ibid.: 243).
Both modalities (and all those working in between) could be seen to display a
form of expressive simplicity however, the ornamental artefacts working within a
restricted code, an aesthetic idiom prone to various rules and regulations: They
can hence be understood to work within a set framework of tradition.
The ornamental practices my informants undertook alluded quite clearly
to a continuing historical convention, every work referencing (in some way at
least) previously accomplished images, every work situated within an emplaced
tradition; they thus inhabited a realm where each act manifestly exceeded the

4.9 Slave Cave

Collective, Nazca
Lines, New
York, USA, 2012.
The Slave Cave
Collective piece
depicted here
not only has links
to the traditions
and history of the
graffiti discourse
(paying homage
to a work which
any true adherent
to the discourse
will instantly
recognize) but
also linking to
the theme of
sacrality, pointing
quite overtly
to something
beyond itself

150 Ornament and Order

sole author or participant themselves, gaining authority from a folk-history of

previous originators. Each of my informants were thus highly schooled in the
history and customs of their relevant practices. Whether through the reading
of the liturgical prayer book or bible (as it was commonly known) Subway
Art by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant10 through the sharing of (badly
photocopied) images via the postal system in the days of their youth to the
contemporary distribution of images over the internet, through the untold hours
spent talking about past and present images and image-makers, the nights
discussing the merits or shortcomings of one aesthetic school over another, all
my informants were connoisseurs, specialists in the history of these insurgent
ornaments. It was a crucial part of ones (unrelenting) education, to know who
had done what, where they had done it and when. And there were, of course,
certain ritual experts (such as Alone/Hear amongst my informants in Madrid),
experts who would be turned to in times of debate, authorities who would
pride themselves on being able to name every king from every era, who could
describe the subtle differences between the various intra-aesthetic movements
occurring in countless distinct global locales. Customs were hence vindicated
through the understanding that they were following an ancestral lineage, one
provoked even further by the customary elder/neophyte, master/apprentice
relationship which was fundamental to the process of learning. This turn to
tradition did not simply mean that the forms, the images, were in themselves
unchanging and predictable; while working within particular visual regimes, the
ornaments produced were still clearly mutable and fluid artefacts, and one could
break out (or perhaps work through) these paradigms to form new arrangements
and styles. Any break could then be placed as another point in an undeniable
flow, one expressible through a teleological family tree of practices. Any break,
(as discussed further in the discussion of creativity on pp. 21719), could only
emerge through a form of critical improvisation rather than pure innovation
(unadulterated novelty often being deemed unacceptable even in the most
avant-garde of circles, unacceptable because of its sheer incomprehensibility),
a development naturally placed within the historical framework which already
existed. Traditionality, then, seen as something that was always already modern
(Kapferer 2005: 47), can be considered as a factor that could facilitate creativity; it
need not only be invented (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983) but also exist in a state
of continuous fluidity.

It is really hard to overestimate how important the books Subway Art and
Spraycan Art have been to the progression of graffiti culture. On one occasion, Sixe, in
reference to the almost ridiculously elevated veneration of Subway Art and the authors
Chalfant and Cooper in particular (the lionized progenitors of the liturgy but not the
practice), satirically stated Jesus, Cooper y Chalfant, rather than the customary Jesus,
Maria, y Jos after someone sneezed. This was by no means a critique of these authors
who were held in the upmost respect, but simply a commentary on the encompassing
traditionalism that he and his fellow practitioners worked within, the sacred status not
only of the individual pieces within these books (which were treated as hallowed) but
so too the saintly status of the producers of the bible themselves.

4.10 Invariant yet idiosyncratic 1. Katsu, Untitled, New York, USA, 2012

152 Ornament and Order

yet idiosyncratic 2.
Eltono, Untitled 1,
Untitled 2, Beijing,
China, 2012

Through this obeisance to tradition, both Consensual and Agonistic

Ornamentation can then be seen as incessant, cyclical, unremitting acts, to
seem to function amidst an endlessly rhythmic, disciplined invariance. Image
making occurred on an almost daily (or perhaps nightly basis), actors using
both recurrent motifs recurrent designs as well as undertaking what could be
deemed an excess of exactitude. Tagging, again, can here be taken as a prescient
example, produced at a somewhat unbelievable rate, on an equally unbelievable
scale, working in what is commonly (although, as we will soon see, incorrectly)
perceived to be a monotonous, almost mechanical form of repetition. Inscribing
only ones chosen appellation, chosen icon, or ones associated crews acronym
(with an occasional addition of poetic phrases or overt messages to other writers,
as well as the dedication of an associates name), writers could construct tens of
tags in a night, hundreds in a week, thousands upon thousands in a year. Less
obviously agonistic forms also worked within this reiterative framework. Images
would work through their related geographical locations (using similar sites such



as the doorframes often used by Eltono), through related techniques (such as

the carteles or concrete method used by 3TTMan), through related modes of
pattern (such as Remeds focus on geometry), particular styles, particular modes
of neatness, boldness of contrast etc. (Bateson 2000 [1972]: 135) which would
give the works their conspicuous, singular character.
Invariance, in both consensual and agonistic modalities, does not therefore
simply denote an unthinking, perfunctory action; it can be viewed simply as a
restriction of ones potential palette, rather than ones potential possibilities,
a restriction that can be seen to actually produce possibility (a contention explored
further on p. 142). Even the apparent invariance of a tag the most seemingly
invariant of all the ornamental forms discussed was fiercely repudiated by the
practitioners themselves; Spok would maintain that the probability of even two
tags being exactly the same was close to zero, each performance understood to
be laden with possibility, each occurrence a chance to improvise from within the
innate structure.11 Like the iterability of performance itself, each physical act was
always bound by external factors, the physical medium, the existential state of
the practitioner, the wider social milieu it was embedded within. And aspects
of creativity, spontaneity and efficacy were thus all intertwined through a very
specific form of cadenced bodily practice, a practice through which one would
become fully integrated into the task at hand, inducted within the instinctive
flow of heightened action (Csikszentmihalyi 1992). All inscription, as we will
examine below through Leo Howes work (2000), will thus be grasped as an
innately indeterminate business, one re-performed (and thus re-directed) every
time enacted. Its predictability is hence highly relative, an invariant action with
unavoidably variant aesthetic outcomes a canonical element that retains the
same message, that remains wholly invariant no matter its apparent variance, a
referential one that corresponds to the exact state of the practitioner at the time
of its production, a wholly variant, idiosyncratic marking.12 The invariance which
ritual displays or even flaunts thus manifests or represents a specific order to which
individuals ipso facto conform in performing them (Rappaport 1999: 41); the
incessant, rhythmical nature of painting, its physical practice, directly referencing
an urge, a combined ethic, which each individual tacitly accepted through the
very act itself. Whilst the act of production was seen to be both fixed and fluid then,
all forms of work functioned within a quite set structure of rules and regulations.


Ive done a thousand pieces, ten thousand tags he once told me, and they
might have a similar style but theyre never the same. Its impossible for me to even
catch two tags the same. Whilst to my eye they may have looked identical, the trained
practitioner could see the infinitesimal differences that the hand must always make.
All of the ornamental forms discussed contained both self-referential and
canonical information, aspects through which, in the former case, you could re-trace
its physical production, analysing the particular physical, psychic or social states of
individual participants (Rappaport 1999: 53), while, in the latter, grasping its more
general, universal meanings. The differing aspects were not merely two sorts of
information, however, but part of a complex in which the two classes of messages are
dependent upon each other (ibid.: 58).

154 Ornament and Order

This rule governance, a crucial element of my informants ornamental practices,

could be detected in nearly every aspect of their work. Regulations over when, what
and where one could paint even as the works flouted other more authoritative
conventions created fixed aesthetic patterns within which one was obligated to
proceed. For the most part then, both consensual and agonistic practices were
completed at night; undertaking ornamentation during the day was considered
to be foolhardy, possible, but generally imprudent. Only if you actively wanted to
encounter authorities (as with 3TTMans practice) was working during the day a
viable option. Whilst these when regulations were prescriptive, advice set mainly
for protective purposes, the regulations of what were of a more clearly proscriptive
nature. Agonistic Ornamentation, for example, with all its attempt to break external
regulations, to break out of the status quo as discussed in Chapter 3, can hence
be seen as a discourse whose internal regulations are bound to (comparatively)
strict conventions.13 Whilst innovation did continually occur, it was only through
these practitioners intricate knowledge of the regulations themselves that this
improvisational form of creativity could transpire, a knowledge that would then
allow one to bend and mould these regulations and found a new ground from
which to proceed. Whilst aesthetic experts could then play with the form then,
neophytes would often quite slavishly follow convention in order to develop both
their techniques and knowledge base. And it was thus often acknowledged that
aesthetic freedom only emerged for those at the very beginning of their practice
(for those who had no concept of these regulations), and for the masters who had
reached the point where all regulations were a framework rather than a mandate.
Whilst some practitioners of the form were thoroughly conservative then
following the Subway Art, New York tradition of practice in an entirely subservient
manner the highest esteem was almost always bestowed upon those who formed
the new wave, the avant-garde which then became part of the mainstream.14
Within the regulations overwhere, we can find numerous distinctions between the
types of surfaces that were deemed acceptable or unacceptable for ornamentation.
Differentiating between what were considered private spaces religious sites, home
residences, monuments, which would never be touched by committed practitioners15
and what were recognized as public spaces shop front grills, street walls,
street-furniture and so forth, which were seen as clearly open, receptive targets
practitioners would follow these regulations to protect themselves both from ridicule
from other followers of the practice as well as from direct targeting by authorities.

Wherever practiced, [ornamentation] is a highly conservative art, bound by a

network of conventions [] Innovation is almost always a matter of reinterpreting or
recombining them (Trilling 2003: 289).
This argument can also be quite easily mapped onto the sphere of Consensual
Ornamentation. Just as conservative or neophyte practitioners in Agonistic
Ornamentation will follow the regulations of the New York school, their consensual
opposites will often become one of the hundreds of adherents of the school of Banksy,
reproducing his satirical stencils in a similarly slavish fashion.
Esposs rules of graffiti puts it well: Dont write on houses of worship, peoples
houses in general, other writers names, and tombstones. Writing on memorial walls
and cars is beef beyond belief (Powers 1999: 1545).

4.12 John Fekner, Self Portrait, New York, USA, 2012

4.13 Filippo Minelli, Democracy, Nouadhibou, Mauritania, 2008

156 Ornament and Order

Ritual prohibitions, then, the sanctified proscription of physically feasible activity

as Rappaport terms it (1999), can hence be seen to be formed with the knowledge
that they can (and will) be ritually broken, contraventions which come to dominate
relations between principal antagonists (ibid.: 2068), between rival clans,
adversarial classes and, in our current case, between artists and authorities. And not
only linking my informants practices (in both their consensual and agonistic
dimensions), back to the realm of the agon the connection between regulations
and games emerging, via the Olympics, to the realm of agonic battle and Greek
ritual combat (Cornford 1912) rule-governance can equally link the idea of
competition, of ritual battle within set rules, together with the realm of the sacred.
Sacral symbolism, the production of a valued, affective symbology, a sanctified
imagery, was a further aspect of these ornamental practices. My informants
clearly distinguished between sacred and profane sites, locales where one was
obliged, or prohibited from practising; between sacred and profane artefacts,
images which elicited respect due to their locations, their innate styles, as well,
of course, as the status of the individual practitioner themselves (and artefacts
thus being subject to vastly differing temporalities dependant on this overall
reverence). Works were also habitually considered as animate, their locales
brought to life through utilization (both oft repeated metaphors, works
being alive, places often dead until ornamentation transpired). While not
following any appeal to the supernatural, images were understood as physical
manifestations of the producer, an attack on the image thus akin to an attack
on the person, a violence that necessitated recompense with paint if not blood.
Acting as distinct indexes of their artists agency, as vehicles of personhood
(Gell 1998: 81), each tag, each poster, mural or marking, was seen not only as
a visible sign of the undercurrents of the city, a sign of the other, but also as
a substantiation of an individual, a material personhood that could revivify a
physical space. Yet the images were also understood to surpass the importance
of the producers themselves, transcending the immediacy of the individual
piece; they could denote a moral discourse, a virtuosity (in both senses of
the term) through the very structure of the ritual itself, encoded through the
breaking of taboo that this action constructs, through the illicit bodily action that
formed it. The sacred could hence not only be found in the images agency but
through their ability to point to something beyond itself, through its evoking
and expressing values and attitudes associated with larger, more abstract, and
relatively transcendent ideas (Bell 1997: 157). Through internal substantiation
and external transcendence, these ornamental expressions could thus link the
intimate and personal to the cosmic and impersonal (ibid.: 159), existing as
mediums of sacrality through their quality of specialness, their meaningfulness,
their ability to evoke emotion-filled images and experiences (ibid.: 157). As
Rappaport continued to argue (1999), it was this very material rather than textual
or semantic rendering that gave ritual the ability to signify these incorporeal
ideals, to signify ideals of value that cannot merely be communicated by
words, but need to be visually experienced, physically known (ibid.: 141).

4.14 3TTMan, Remed, and Fefe Tavelera at work. Madrid, Spain, 2009

4.15 The arrival of the poli. Madrid, Spain, 2009

158 Ornament and Order

But of course, this sacrality, as with all of the other five themes so far discussed,
could only ever function through the all-pervading jurisdiction of performance,
bringing these ornamental artefacts back to the world of exposition.
Public performance was a fundamental constituent of my informants very
outward, prominent, ornamental displays. They were acts which converged
directly with Richard Baumans definition of performance (1992a), a display which
is aesthetically marked and heightened and also framed in a special way, a
practice which acts both as a mode of communicative behaviour and a type of
communicative event (ibid.: 41). Not only literally marking their medium through
aesthetic means, forming an event filled with colour, tension, movement, not
only literally producing a frame, a parergon, an event attached yet separate to
the everyday, these ornamental forms communicated in literal and performative
modalities. Performances were thus not only distinct, individual productions,
ones working within particular aesthetic genres, but also expressive, discursive
procedures, public ritualizations that yearned for intersubjective responses. They
were ones in which both actors and audience could be mutually affected, in which
both had their specific tasks and roles, where both were vital to the final efficacy of
the ritual. By simply viewing these forms (whether intentionally or not), recipients
would be drawn into these traps. They would be forced to recall the genesis of
the objects, to play out their origin-stories mentally, reconstructing their histories
as a sequence of actions performed by another agent (the artist) (Gell 1998: 67);
their very witnessing (as I have previously suggested in Schacter 2008) was thus
infused with a sense of corporeal illicitness, a visceral reaction provoked by the
congealed residue of performance and agency in object-form (Gell 1998: 68),
their viewing a recreation of the action through which they came into existence:
The performative process, functioning through multiple media, through multiple
sensory modalities comprising specific smells (the unmistakable paint fumes),
particular sounds (the shaking and hissing of the cans) and characteristic sights
(the burst of colour onto the wall); comprising specific bodily actions (the balletic
movements of hand to wall), particular risks (from both the precarity of the acts as
well as their institutional illegality) and characteristic times and locales (nocturnal,
liminal) was thus fully embedded within the image itself, fastened to its later
existence, ensuring not only that the participants experience the event intensively
and with heightened effect(Tambiah 1996: 222) but a profusion of variables through
which the work could then be understood within a wider, participatory, collective
context. Outsiders, as Gerd Baumann has discussed (1992b), can thus become
implicated in these ritual in a varying set of ways, the bystanders, spectators,
invited guests, competing participants, validating witnesses, or even beneficiaries
of these very public acts considered as fully active members of the process, the
viewer, the eraser, the neighbour, all having a role within the performative process,
the practice moving beyond the individual applicant and enlisting a wealth of
further claimants (ibid.: 110). In its movements, its presentations and its dramas, the
practice of ornamentation here discussed must be understood to be ensconced
within a performative framework realized in the moment of creation and yet still
extant within its transient material state, a performative essence resonating from
the moment of production to the moment of reception. It was an overarching



performative context in which actions were not just illustrated but performed,
where experience emerged through corporeal knowledge, where it was through
deliberate, purposeful action that the ritual itself could emerge.

(Un)Civilizing Rituals
The physical practice which brought these insurgent ornaments into the world,
the material acts through which they became manifest, were thus ones which I
would argue were unmistakably linked to the realm of ritual, to a framework
of ritualization itself connected (as we will see in the upcoming chapters) to a
distinct notion of order. Through the embracement of a performative formality,
a set aesthetic tradition, a mode of performative invariance, an assemblage of
aesthetic regulations, a group of affective and communicative symbols, and an allencompassing performative modality, my informants produced a mode of secular
ritual (Moore and Myerhoff 1977), a set of what from the outside could appear
to be uncivilized rituals (in a corruption of Carol Duncans expression [1995]), but
rituals nonetheless. Rather than mindless vandalism, this was a practice enveloped
in history and tradition, one which took a long-standing education to perfect,
which contained ritual experts and neophytes, contained correct and incorrect
modes of action.16 And together it thus formed a mode of ritual in which public acts
of ornamentation what Tambiah (1995) would term as ritual saying could act
performatively in the Austinian sense acting as ritual doing, a process whereby the
structure of ritualization is existentially or indexically related to [its] participants, a
practice creating, affirming, or legitimating their social positions (ibid.: 156).
Whilst Mary Douglas (1966) famously argued that rituals of purity and impurity
create unity in experience (ibid.: 2), social boundaries coming to be protected
and preserved through the regulation of what was commonly considered as
pollution, within the ethnographic context here described group boundaries
were defined and group members unified through an avidity towards, not
an avoidance of pollution, rites purposefully producing what was commonly
considered as dirt, purposefully forming the famous matter out of place (ibid.: 36).
Social boundaries were hence regulated through the contravention, rather than
protection of physical boundaries, through rituals of pollution, the network of
adherents explicitly demarcated through the violation of the normative taboo


As noted on the website Hurt You Bad, one of the most witty and at the same
time perspicuous graffiti related websites: Some things that were/will be asked of you:
Have style. Learn history. Be respectful. Paint subway trains. Bomb. Rack. Travel. Dont
snitch. Handle beef. Write for 10+ years. If one wanted to become a (ritual) expert, these
were the steps that had to be undertaken. One needed to embrace a unique technique
(Have style), to be steeped in tradition (Learn history), to be mindful of all regulations
(Be respectful), to accept risk (Bomb. Rack), to remain steadfast to the subculture
(Dont snitch. Handle Beef. Write for 10+ years), if one ever wanted to be accepted as a
true member of the wider network of practitioners.

160 Ornament and Order

system.17 It was thus a form of ritual, as Douglas continued, that provides a

frame (ibid.: 78), and yet at the same time a ritual that produced one, a ritual that
in itself was the parergon. Coming to destabilize boundaries in a spatial sense
(disrupting notions of public and private, inside and outside), in a material sense
(disrupting notions of intrinsic and extrinsic, art and pollution), in a temporal
sense (disrupting notions of wasting or losing time, of nocturnal and diurnal
norms), in a symbolic sense (disrupting notions of centre and margin, subversion
and docility), these ornamental forms also had an ability to destabilize boundaries
in an overarching ritual sense: They contained embedded links (as we will see
in the next two chapters) to the realm of carnival, to clowning, to tricksters, to
the picaresque, fundamentally intermediate zones that were full of chance, of
indeterminacy, full of the controlled uncertainty that is found in certain public
events (Handelman 1998: 66). It was thus not my informants working upon the
threshold that I want now to go on to explore in the next chapters but their
working experientially within it. These were practices that had an active effect on
the world around them, an entangled, inescapable influence on their immediate
environment. And it was thus a practice of ritualization which functioned in the
interstices of their structures in both literal and metaphoric terms, between the
inside and outside of their physical structures (as exemplified in Chapter 1) as
much as between the inside and outside of their societal structures (between
human beings in the here-and-now and non-immediate sources of power,
authority, and value [Bell 1997: xi]). It was a ritual which may have worked against
normative societal codes but will in fact come to be seen to have emerged from a
distinctly civic disposition, an insurgent ritual with a civil order at its core.


Eltono related this to me quite clearly, the true connection within the group
being, in his opinion, instantiated through their joint adherence to working in the
street, their joint commitment to these rituals of pollution.

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion

[M]asks, disguises and other fictions of some kinds of play are devices
to make visible what has been hidden, even unconscious [] to let
the mysteries revel in the streets, to invert the everyday order in such
a way that it is the unconscious and primary processes that are visible,
whereas the conscious ego is restricted to creating rules to keep their
insurgence within bounds, to frame them or channel them.
Victor Turner

Because of their obvious sensuous character and their strong element of play,
carnival images closely resemble certain artistic forms, namely the spectacle.
In turn, the medieval spectacles often tended toward carnival folk culture,
the culture of the marketplace, and to a certain extent became one of its
components. But the basic carnival nucleus of this culture is by no means a
purely artistic form not a spectacle and does not, generally speaking, belong
to the sphere of art. It belongs to the borderline between art and life. In
reality, it is life itself, but shaped according to a certain pattern of play.
Mikhail Bakhtin

Now that my informants public aesthetic practices have been shown to function
within the elements which together comprise what is generally understood as
ritual, it is the overarching ritual framework, the specific ritual archetype these
acts lay within which I wish to come to explore. This, I hope, will then help us
understand why my informants pursue these often dangerous practices, it will
help us to identify what their enacting truly comes to achieve. Following what
Catherine Bell (1997) has termed rites of feasting, fasting, and festivals, and, in

162 Ornament and Order

Fighting Peacefully,
Spain, 2012

particular, the subcategory of carnival1 which lays within this ritual schemata,
the ornamental rituals which have thus far been examined will now come to
be explored as ones in which participants are particularly concerned to express
publicly to themselves, each other, and sometimes outsiders their commitment
and adherence to basic religious [or any other binding] values (ibid.: 120), in which
participants utilize what may appear to be forms of social chaos and licentious play
(ibid.: 126) in order to publicly express their beliefs. Surveying some of the classic
examinations of the carnival rite then a public ritual not only encompassing a
myriad of aesthetic standards such as spectacle, transgression, humour, excess,
play, risk and creativity, but also being one of what John Kelly and Martha Kaplan
termed the three most important anthropological images of ritual2 (Kelly and
Kaplan 1990: 121) we will find a practice which functions through a disruptive
modality yet which can simultaneously, in the terms of Edward Muir (2005), be
considered as a distinctly civic ritual. Carnival will thus be understood as a space
within which social actors could gain access to forms of taboo breaking, to spaces
where one could turn the usual values of normal life upside down (ibid.: 1045), yet
at the same time as a state that can perpetuate certain values of the community
(ibid.: 100), where one could challenge authority through creative experimentation
and through the exertion of a particular moral conviction. Where public authorities

Carnival, as understood here following Peter Stallybrass and Allon White (1986),
will be seen as a discourse able to reveal itself as much within particular symbolic
practices, images and discourses as within the specific calendrical ritual occurring around
February each year (ibid.: 15). It can be seen to function both as a public exhibition of
licentiousness a ritual spectacle and a lived-through, strategic, hybrid aesthetic
practice (Bakhtin 1984a: 4). Carnival will here be recognized as a space not only where
traditional hierarchies such as rich/poor or male/female can be set in confrontation, but
one in which polarities such as inside/outside or public/private can similarly be provoked.
The other two being the divine king and the cargo cult (Kelly and Kaplan
1990: 121).

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


may solely see criminal behaviour then, for carnival participants actions may be an
expression of deeply held beliefs (ibid.: 100). They may be a performance of virtue,
an act of probity, a public presentation which works through liberating rather than
destroying societal statutes (ibid.: 100). The upturning of normative systems can
thus serve to instantiate, rather than simply reject, a form of embodied citizenship,
a transgression which emerges from a will to order not a wilful chaos, from a desire
to question rather than overturn. And carnival and order can thus be seen to be
close companions rather than direct opponents, to be linked through their joint
adherence to the cosmetic (in the original sense of the term), linked through the
intertwined levels of cosmos.3
Just as carnivals overtly liminal structure seems to have the innate capacity
to disrupt everyday habitus however, many theorists have also ultimately come
to see it as having a regulatory function, a dogmatism working to fortify rather
than undermine social norms. Through working, as DaMatta writes (1991), in
direct opposition (as an inverted image) to daily life, carnival can be seen as
something which merely reinforces the everyday world (ibid.: 62), something
which follows the normative pattern of structure and thus simply upholds it.
It can be seen as a discourse of antithesis which vindicates its contrary form, a
practice creating a negative logic which functions through reaffirmation rather
than revolution (Handelman 1998: 52).4 Whilst some theorists see carnival as a
method of revivifying the social sphere, others thus argue that it merely reinforces
social norms, the former group appreciating the carnival modality as a method of
(subversive) rebellion, the latter seeing it as a discourse of (inversive) reflection.
It is a debate, then, which not only contains many similarities to that previously
analysed between Habermas and Lyotard (between a consensual modification of
norms and an agonistic displacement of them), but which can similarly be analysed
through the work of two other giants of social thought, through the work of the
anthropologist Victor Turner and the literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin on carnival.
Whilst for Turner, attempting to enhance Max Gluckmans work on rituals of
rebellion (1963), carnival was understood as something experimental, subjunctive,

Gottfried Semper in fact links carnival and cosmos through their etymological
joining in the cosmetic, an embellishment with which the Greek woman adorned
herself to make her body appear (Mahall and Serbest 2009: 40). For Semper, the
cosmetic provided the haze of carnival candles; it connected cosmetics to carnivals
dressing and masking and both to a method of inventing (ibid.: 40). Whilst masks are
thus often seen to conceal, here they more rightly re-order.
This argument is taken up even further by Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1993),
suggesting that carnival in Brazil is indeed as much a ritual of intensification as a ritual
of reversal (ibid.: 482), a practice accentuating rather than contesting everyday social
realities. For her, carnival was a time when people were only too aware of their own
exclusion, marginality, sickness, and debt, the play of carnival doing the dirty work
of class, gender, and sexual divisions, which by means of grotesque exaggeration are
etched even more deeply into the individual and collective bodies (ibid.: 482). Rather
than carnival transgressing social norms, rather than it simply reflecting them, ScheperHughes thus suggests it works to actually deepen them, these rituals of reversal being
themselves reversed (and all the more powerfully for that).

164 Ornament and Order

yet perhaps a not truly contestational realm, a Dionysian force acting as the
balance, not the challenge, to the Apollonian side of life (Kelly and Kaplan 1990:
137), for Bakhtin, whose outwardly historical work on carnival also functioned as
a subversive critique of the Stalinist era he lived through, carnival was a corrosive
parody emblematic of radical social transformation, a discourse that acted as both
the limit and opponent of official structure (ibid.: 137). So does the carnivalesque
play which we will find emerging from my informants practices simply give rise to a
Turnerian critique, a ritual of inversion, or a stronger Bakhtinian notion of creation,
a ritual of subversion? Do their aesthetic, seemingly transgressive practices stay
within the realm of structure, merely experimenting with it, or break away from
this self-same structure, attempting to eliminate it? And can, in the very first case,
these acts be considered rituals of the carnivalesque at all, to be practices which
function within the formerly mentioned rites of feasting, fasting, and festivals,
within the public display of religiocultural sentiments (Bell 1997: 120) that these
rites instantiate.
Intersection II: Field Notes, 12/06/07

[]We were sat in the kitchen at the studio. Eltono, 3TTMan, Luciano, Manu,1 Tika2 and myself
relaxing in el local3 after another blazing summers day, drinking, smoking, chatting, listening
to music just being together in the pleasing freshness of the night. It was nothing out of the
ordinary, a group of friends just hanging out, joking around, and it seemed things were settling
down for the evening. Yet at around midnight everyone suddenly arose from their chairs and
started making for the door, motioning me to come with them. I hadnt noticed any earlier talk
of arrangements (it was just a Tuesday night after all), and although I initially thought that work
on an impending show was due to start (a small exhibition taking place at an independent
gallery managed by friends of theirs a space, in fact, just round the corner from where we sat),
now didnt seem like an appropriate time to put that into action.
We filed out the kitchen Manu running back to quickly grab a couple of litros4 from the
fridge before we left, Luciano laughing and pushing 3TTMan along the corridor collectively
rambling downstairs and on to the street. My eyes adjusting to the orange sheen of the
Madrileo night, I saw Eltono walking a little way down the road, ending up outside la frutera,
standing meditatively amidst the remnants of the days trade. He bent down, carefully shifting
the black bags of rotting fruit, picking up a pile of 10 or so wooden fruit cartons (the typical
stackable crates that you find in every city of the world), loading them up, high over his head.
Still chatting, the rest of the team followed suit, picking up the boxes, carefully removing the
detritus and then progressing up the street, seemingly knowledgeable as to where we were
going.5 Moments after we were outside the gallery, Eltono, proceeding to lay his collection

Manu was Nanos primo, an unofficial cousin through strong family ties in Vigo. As well as being a

photographer he was at that time working as a lighting director for a local theatre.

Tika was a friend of Eltonos, an artist originally from Zurich but at that time living in So Paolo.

Theres something about the Spanish word local (meaning premises, place, workshop and local)

that was perfectly apt. I think its just the fact that it quite clearly took all four meanings at once.

Litre bottles of beer.

The cartons were to be used as part of an installation Tono would later produce in the gallery

space. They were a common medium of his, always easy to find wherever he went, pretty cheap for what you
got (something for nothing) and always carrying a sign of their locality on their form. It was not meant as a
particular comment on recycling or environmental sustainability (although of course implicit in the material),

5.2 Carrying the cartons. Madrid, Spain, 2007

5.3A litro to celebrate. Madrid, Spain, 2007

166 Ornament and Order

of cartons down on the curb, fished a huge set of keys out of his pocket and opened up the
doors. We all piled in, laying down the crates in the corner, taking a quick peek around and then
swiftly returning outside. Mission one complete; time for the first break. A litro was opened to
celebrate (woops from the crowd), a pass of the bottle about the circle, a customary swig for
everyone and we were off.6 Tika was bouncing down the street ahead of us, tagging every other
doorway with a thick black marker, Manu beside her cursively scanning the area for potential
danger while simultaneously pestering her for a go. 3TTMan and Eltono were lingering at
a nearby skip,7 searching within it then furtively grabbing some clear plastic sheeting from
inside; stealthily coming up on Luciano from behind, they managed to then wrap him up totally
within it, laughing and pointing at the newly mummified creature who lay within. The whole
group was marching down the middle of the road, shouting, hooting, enjoying the moment to
its utmost potential.
3TTMan was now leading the way, winding his way through Malasaa, navigating the narrow
backstreets that formed this densely packed neighbourhood.8 We emerged at the next stage
of action after a few minutes (and another swiftly consumed litro), a huge abandoned shopfront (maybe ten metres by three?) made up of literally hundreds of billposters, a densely
packed palimpsest almost 40 or 50 thick in places. It was a prime example of one of the most
pervasive forms of visual culture in the city, an illicit but seemingly hegemonically accepted
form of commercial advertising.9 Here is perfect, 3TTMan said, seemingly to himself, then stood
back, surveying the posters for a moment. Discarding his mangled roll-up he reached back and
pulled a Stanley knife out from his pocket, leaned up to the wall and started cutting, selecting
a fragment of text, an image, and swiftly detaching it from the surface in four or five sharp
movements. I looked down at the posters now lying submissively on the floor, turning back
to find 3TTMan really starting to get into it. Cutting soon became hacking, hacking turning
into ripping, ripping into a full-frontal assault on the posters, a no-holds-barred attack on the
felonious carteles. By the time I had reached for my camera the rest of the crew was helping
pulling, wrenching, tearing away at the posters, holding each other up high against them,
clinging to the uppermost sheets, forcing them off the wall in an orgy of destruction, an
ephemeral occurrence of (dis)order, a fleeting instance of (con)fusion in the city. Eltono and
Manu were jumping up and down on the posters on the floor, diving on top of them, suddenly
then dragging one another around the street while they lay prostrate like kings on these newly
created forms of transportation. Out of nowhere a passer-by joined in the mle, rugby-tackling
Eltono onto the posters and straight into 3TTMan and Manu (who were themselves now down
there play-fighting on the ground), speedily disappearing laughing into the night (followed by
both comical shouts and a theatrical waving of fists from the wounded soldiers). People were

more simply indicative of an approach to the utilization of the street by my informants in a more general way
finding things from the place you treasured, and simply reprocessing them within another context. It was
a way of bringing the city into the gallery space without simply replicating ones street production in what
was a very different context.

Like all resources, drinks were always shared amongst the group. Whether an expensive seven-

euro copa at a bar or, more habitually, a one-euro street-beer, drinks would be immediately passed after a
mouthful taken. This seemingly banal, quotidian act of group participation was something that undoubtedly
shone a light on the rest of the collectives activities. Common engagement, cooperative contribution was
simply a more effective way of being in the city.

Skips, which were plentiful in the city, were always given a quick once over. One never knew what

potential riches or resources lay within.

In fact, the entire area of Malasaa was made up of these backstreets, tiny roads with space

enough for one car and an almost redundant pavement on each side. This very redundancy meant that the
streets were actively shared, vehicles and citizens in a constant dance of interaction.

Billposters were in fact a seemingly semi-legal form of advertising in Madrid, and thus consumed

nearly every single vacant or neglected structure.

5.4 Collecting the carteles. Madrid, Spain, 2007

5.5 The Pied Piper of Malasaa. Madrid, Spain, 2007

168 Ornament and Order

walking past, smiling, laughing (perhaps a touch uncertainly), not truly understanding what
was going on (much like myself in fact) but able to sense the intense joyfulness of the moment.
After every last obtainable scrap of paper was prized off the wall, 3TTMan piled together the
sheets and started leading the way back, dragging the posters along the road behind him with
us following at the rear [for some reason I remember thinking he seemed somewhat like the
Pied Piper of Hamelin, the posters a substitute for the pipe, us for the children of the town].
Mission two (nearly) complete; time for the second break. The posters were parked by the
side of the road and we darted into a bar for a free chupito (3TTMan having been promised
free drinks by the proprietor having recently painted the exterior facade of the venue). Down
the hatch, a five-minute dance and we were gone. And within a moment we were back at the
gallery, helping 3TTMan haul the posters inside. Someone grabbed a couple of chairs from
the outer courtyard and hauled them out to the narrow street at the front of the gallery. We
sat down, took a breath, and once more I thought the night was perhaps slowing back down,
drawing to a close. Little did I know. A loud whistle cut through the air and Spok appeared from
down the street, wandering down from his apartment on the opposite corner towing a small
roller bag behind him.
He broke into the circle, grabbing the litro, then knelt down and unzipped his bag, pouring out
an assortment of cans onto the curb. So what do you want me to paint? They laughed. He
stood there thinking, draining the cerveza, then laid it on the floor and got to work, peeling off
the old bits of paper and paint from the outside wall of the space, smoothing down its rough
surface with his hand. He took a quick picture of Luciano and Eltono on his phone-camera and
was set, ready to work, beginning to outline their portraits on the front of the building. Ive
been painting with sprays for eight years, said Ekta (who too had just arrived, direct from the
airport with a rucksack, a small holdall and a big smile), and I have no idea how hes doing that.
Its like were using totally different tools. They loved how he worked, the ease he could almost
photographically reproduce an image with his cans, without light, without planning, but Spok
was nonplussed. If youd painted as many pieces as I have he trailed off. Soon finished, he
moved across to the other side of the street and threw up a couple of quick tags, seeming
almost desperate to get them out, a tension released with their emanation on the wall. He
loved the freedom of tagging. The photorealism was great, he knew it was impressive, but it
was, as he said, just a trick. The joy of a tag, the immediacy. That was the best.
Eltono and Tika had moved just around the corner by this point, set up directly in between
the gallery and the studio. They had a nice spot (Id noticed them checking it out earlier in the
day), a building almost opposite Eltonos window, an old bar which had been sitting empty
for years, covered now in innumerable tags, stencils and throw-ups. They were sat at the edge
of the street, mixing their colours, chatting quietly between themselves. Things were getting
late, it must have been by now two, three in the morning, and everything felt calmer, quieter.
This wasnt the rabble-rousing excess of earlier but a more measured, more focussed approach.
Eltono was down on his knees taping out his design, marking out the negative space of his
image; Tika, having pulled herself up onto one of the ever-present dustbins (the always readily
available stepladder), setting out her background in white. Spok and 3TTMan had by now
come down from the gallery (having locked it up for the night) and were wandering back to the
studio, standing with me on the corner, watching the process while finishing the final litro of
the night. Quickly putting his knife and tape back into his back pocket, Eltono started walking
quickly away from his piece (which he had yet to start filling in), whistling towards us while
heading away from the studio and into the side-road. I stood their confused, while Spok and
3TTMan swiftly ushered Tika down from her spot, dashing the litro, a small bottle of rum, the
paint and some contraband behind the bin as they did. I was totally perplexed until the two
undercovers ordered us against the wall. I stood still, feeling taken aback. The possibility was of
course always there but it was something I had simply not been expecting. Flashing blue lights
then reflected off the wall and three vehicles pulled up, discharging 10 or so uniformed officers.
Manu had by now come over, assertively confronting the police while 3TTMan pleaded with

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


him to calm down. Empty your pockets and place them by your feet. ID cards face up. Manu
continued to berate them: slow night? Nothing better to do? They looked irritated, but also a
touch uncomfortable themselves, like theyd come to the wrong place at the right time [which,
according to the guys later, was probably the case]. They checked the cards, the collection of
materials on the floor, the quietude (apart from the still aggravated Manu) broken by the sound
of the principals radio. It looked like they had more important business to attend to. A couple
of stern sounding words (the meaning lost on me) and they departed, almost as quickly as
theyd materialized. It seemed somewhat farcical. Theyd neither taken the paints, the drink, nor
the contraband. It was a result. Back to the studio for an hour and Tika and Eltono crawled out
again. Never leave a job half-done []
[I think this was the night I first truly realized that the street was something that pervaded my
informants entire lifeworlds, something not solely connected to what was considered to be their
overtly aesthetic production. It was an understanding of the street in which transgression of the
norms of the city was a key aspect, a transgression not only pursued through a purely artistic process,
however, but one concerned with undertaking tasks in a way opposed to habitual conceptions of
public and private, dirt and pollution, order and disorder. And it was this particular disruption, this
disturbance of the everyday, one undertaken as a whole, as a collective, that made me realize the
importance of the realms of play, of risk, of a framework going far beyond the discourses of art and
vandalism, the bounded dichotomy to which it was so often related].

Transformative Performance (Or a Turnerian Inversion)

Turners understanding of the carnival dynamic, the creative anti-structure of
mechanized modernity as he termed it (Turner 1983: 124), held considerable space
in his examination of contemporary ritual as a whole. Seeing it as the dominant
mode of ritual for proto-feudal, feudal and early modern societies (Turner
1979a: 468), a mode of ritual more flexibly responsive to social and even societal
change than its traditional archetype (ibid.: 475), Turner understood carnival as
a quintessential mode of public liminality (ibid.: 474), as the denizen of a place
which is no place, and a time which is no time, even where that place is a citys main
plazas, and that time can be found on an ecclesiastical calendar (Turner 1983: 103).
Exploring ritual as what he termed a social drama, a distinctive form of communal
action that could reveal the major classifications, categories, and contradictions
of cultural processes (Turner 1977: 77), Turner argued that though often initially
incomprehensible (to the outsider if not the participant themselves), rituals were
forms of public reflexivity, performances of disclosure through which a group or
community sought to portray, understand, and then act on itself (Turner 1979a:
465). They were moments where the very structure of society would become
visible, where performance could enable the creative reproduction, rather than
mere replication, of cultural processes. Moreover, through the liminal condition of
almost all ritual, their status betwixt-and-between the normal, day-to-day cultural
and social states and processes of getting and spending, preserving law and order,
and registering structural status (Turner 1979a: 465), rituals such as carnival were
understood to grant a specific mode of intensified experience which could negate
the life of the everyday. This encounter with the threshold not only enabled actors
to experiment with social order however but also came to establish what Turner
famously termed communitas. This was a notion that explored the particular mode

170 Ornament and Order

of comradeship, the creation of a community or comity of comrades and not a

structure of hierarchically arrayed positions which emerged amidst the liminal
state (Turner 1967: 100). Not simply a Durkheimian solidarity shaped through
confrontation with an outside force, communitas was a structure in which free
relationships between individuals become converted into norm-governed
relationships between social personae (Turner 1995 [1969]: 132), a structure that
was not merely instinctual but that involved consciousness and volition (ibid.:
188). It was a state provoking an effortless amity that could flood across structural
boundaries (ibid.: 188), a state of being whose maxim was each for all, and all for
each (Turner 1967: 101).
Although often labelled structural functionalist in its leanings, Turners work on
these liminal rites can thus be seen to have demonstrated a concern with themes
of social experimentation and transformation, an understanding which saw the
ritual of carnival as society in its subjunctive mood (ibid.: 103). Within rites of the
limen groups could thus work through a deconstruction and recombination of
familiar cultural configurations (ibid.: 10), they could but come to cut out a piece of
itself for inspection [] set up a frame within which images and symbols of what
has been sectioned off can be scrutinized, assessed, and, if need be, remodeled
and rearranged (Turner 1979a: 468, emphasis added). It was an understanding
that thus stressed the capability of ritual to dynamically act upon society. Rather
than simply being a passive, solely reactive model, a mechanism for reproduction
or prop for social conservatism, boundary-transgressing performances such
as rites of inversion (the archetypal structural base of carnival) contained the
possibility not just of social aggregation but of social revolution, a space where,
through a transformative performance, one could reveal the major classifications,
categories, and contradictions of cultural processes (Turner 1977: 77). This
processual rather than representational understanding of ritual, one focusing on
its potential for becoming in preference to merely reflecting, thus aimed to dereify
all collective representations (what were perceived to be the overarching shared
understandings of a particular society or group); it meant to explore how groups
could maintain or retain, modify, or subvert social meanings, the various ways
ritual could, through its constant dynamism, change the character and structure
of common sense (ibid.: 634). Contemporary carnival could hence never be
considered simply as a Gluckmanian safety valve then, a cathartic act of equilibrium
working to preserve and strengthen the established order (Gluckman 1965: 109).
It was instead more profitably understood as a period of communitas weighing
structure, sometimes finding it wanting, and proposing in however extravagant a
form, new paradigms and models which invert or subvert the old (Turner 1979b:
474). Rather than a mere machine for social reproduction then, a mechanism for
maintaining the cosmological and cultural categories of meaning within which
persons and their social relations were constituted, these momentary periods of
what he called anti-structure were capable of reforming the very ground of being,
capable of generating new knowledge, new cosmological states (Kapferer 2005:
38). The carnivalesque was thus a form resting at the potent points of transition,
transformation, and creation (ibid.: 38), a field in which the experience of pure
communitas had the potential to change the very structural bases of society.

5.6 Society in the subjunctive. Nano4814, Liqen, Pelucas and Brk at work

5.7 Nano4814, Liqen, Pelucas and Brk, Untitled [detail], Madrid, Spain, 2009

172 Ornament and Order

Yet as something understood to be resolved eventually into what he termed

societas the fusion of structure and anti-structure within their potentially adjusting
and variable proportions (Turner 1975: 238) this key Turnerian duality (not merely
a distinction of the secular and the sacred, of politics and religion, but, like figure/
ground, a mutually determinative relationship between the two basic modalities of
society [Turner 1995 (1969): 92127]), has been suggested to be an alliance unable
to ever truly dislocate itself from the inherent relationships of power it subsumed.
Hence, while the legal, political state of the everyday (a differentiated segmented
system of structural positions [Turner 1975: 237]) was understood by Turner to
be tempered by the all-embracing fraternalism created through a moment of
pure equity (society as a homogeneous, undifferentiated whole [ibid.: 237]), the
placement of societas as the baseline of all social activity, the site where communitas
would always and already eventually return (from structure to antistructure and back
again to transformed structure [Turner 1983: 110]), meant that liminal ritual could
only seem able to stabilize, rather than truly subvert hegemonic discourse; it could
only ever balance, rather than surpass the norm. The social (dis)order of communitas
would thus inexorably return to the pre-existing structural order, the reaggregation
coming to form an inevitable part of the whole. Thus even as Turner seemed to reject
the common functionalist understanding of social structure, imagining it as one part
of a dichotomous whole rather than society in-and-of-itself, the supposed freedom
of the carnival moment, due to its intensely knotted, indivisible relationship with its
base-line structure, can be seen to have compelled carnival precisely to reinforce,
and compensate on another plane, the particularism, hierarchy and inequality
of everyday life (DaMatta 1991: 434). For all its processual potentiality, then, as
an innate requirement for the stable functioning of societas, the liminal world
of communitas could be understood to simply retreat back to an almost purely
functionalist state, to become merely a function of the rigid social position of the
participating groups and segments in the everyday world (ibid.: 43). As Zygmunt
Bauman (1995) forcefully argued, the commanding position of structure over
anti-structure was simply reconfirmed (albeit obliquely), within the very logic of
explanation, anti-structure (carnival at its very essence) making its appearance solely
as the handmaiden of structure, not a brute fact of social life or a truly distinct arena
of existence, but a slave to its master form (ibid.: 118). Only by conceiving marginal
ritual as a phenomenon in its own right and of its own, autotelic significance (ibid.:
118) could it ever shake off its yoke, could it ever surpass its innately subservient
status; only by working as a unique practice rather than one side of a bipartite state
did Bauman believe it could gain the ability to reach beyond its purely dichotomous,
innately deferential state.
While carnival may thus seem to be more flexibly responsive to social and
even societal change (Turner 1979a: 102), while it may seem to attempt a
form of subversion that (in a paradoxically Habermasian manner) functioned
through a rational critique of the established order, a sensibility exposing
the injustices, inefficiencies, immoralities [and] alienations generated by
mainstream modern economic and political structures and processes (Turner
1979b: 117), Turners overall project was argued to have been unsuccessful
in allowing a space for a fully lived alternative to hegemonic structure.

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


It failed, as Raymond Firth suggested, to take note of the true agency of the social
actor, seeing action taking place through a preordained mental pressure, a force
placed upon individuals by codes of their society that they hold to be axiomatic
(Firth 1974, in Bornstein 2006: 97). Even as Turner came to transcend Gluckmans
catharsis thesis, then, seeing within carnival a depiction of the underlying conflicts
present within a group, there was, as Donald Weber has suggested (1995), an
ultimately ahistorical and apolitical lacuna within his work (ibid.: 530), a lacuna
failing to contest the deep-seated relations of power endemic within society. While
carnival was understood to enable the weak to curse and criticize then, to set limits
on the power of the strong to coerce and ordain (Turner 1979b: 105), its implicitly
consensual dimension suggested an inability of the weak to go beyond the limits of
the strong, an inability to contend with the disputative, charged political reality of
the everyday (Weber 1995: 530).5 And it was thus, ironically, the resistance towards
communitas that Turner somewhat perplexedly noted within Dramas, Fields, and
Metaphors, a resistance displayed by the marginals who somehow refuse[d] to join
the ritual consensus, which Weber sees to mark out a true encounter with identity
politics and the border, a resistance to the dominant culture formed through
a defiance towards the very framing of communitas itself (ibid.: 530). It was the
actors that came to resist incorporation, that resisted the darker, mechanistic
steering dimension residing in the processual model of incorporation, that were

As Turner himself argued, social drama was understood to convert particular

values and ends, distributed over a range of actors, into a system [] of shared or
consensual meaning (Turner 1979: 92, emphasis added).

5.8Lush, Untitled,
Melbourne, 2011

174 Ornament and Order

understood to demarcate a truly radical, truly liminal domain (ibid.: 531). Only,
as Don Handelman continues (1998), through the construction of a falsified
inversion, then, an inversion going beyond its pre-established structural limits,
could discourse ever come to be truly invalidated (ibid.: 52); only then could it
become no longer an inversion, but another phenomenon in its own right (ibid.:
53), a potency established when the carnival trope exceeds itself, when it breaks
its connectivity to the phenomenon it inverts (ibid.: 53).

Corporeal Poetics (Or a Bakhtinian Subversion)

Whilst Turners model of the carnivalesque can be seen to resemble the consensual
archetype as previously discussed, aiming to reform, rather than replace the
everyday, Bakhtins model is often placed as its agonistic foil, a framework which
seems to have an orientation toward revolution and escape embedded within
it. In Bakhtins belief, as Muir here explicates (2005), carnival was a fully selfdetermining, autogenous system, a genus possessing a life and logic of its own,
one acting as a kind of separate reality, entirely independent of the world of
hierarchy and authority (ibid.: 99). It was the setting where a new mode of mans
relation to man could be elaborated (Bakhtin 1984a [1968]: x), a space of play
within which a world of ideals could take residence, a space beyond mere theatre
(and the separation between performers and spectators that the footlights
engendered), inhabiting a peculiar mid-zone, a world as festive life (ibid.: 710).
The key text from Bakhtins writings on carnival, Rabelais and his World (1984a
[1965]), attempted to establish a connection between the Renaissance polymath
Franois Rabelaiss literary production and the popular culture of his era in more
general, seeing carnival in a twofold manner, as both a literary modality and an
embodied way of life, as a construct set, in both these conceptions, in opposition
to everyday norms. Carnival for Bakhtin was hence an embodied articulation
of pure freedom not a spectacle seen by the people but one that was fully
lived, one in which everyone participates because its very idea embraces all
the people (ibid.: 7) as well as a distinct linguistic construction embracing a
special type of communication impossible in everyday life engendered through
special forms of marketplace speech and gesture, frank and free, liberated from
norms of etiquette and decency (ibid.: 10). The extravagant and licentious texts
Rabelais produced however (exemplified by the series Gargantua and Pantagruel)
conjoined the two modes. It formed a corporeal poetics, an expressive stylistic
working as a counter-tradition to the epic (classical) line of European prose
(Lachman 1989: 119), a style which was considered by Bakhtin to have been
idiomatic of the centrifugal mode of discourse emerging from the folk culture
of the Middle Ages in general, one transmitted to, and highly prevalent within
Renaissance aesthetics (and thus as much present within Shakespeares and
Cervantes work as Rabelaiss [Bakhtin 1984a: 52]). Yet the force of this tradition,
one intent on promoting ambivalence and allowing openness and transgression
(Lachman 1989: 116), one aimed at subverting apparently rational viewpoints,

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


was seen to have been undermined during the later Romantic period, joyful
laughter turning into cold humour, irony, sarcasm, the positive regenerating
power of the carnivalesque reduced to a minimum, turning fearlessness into
fear (Bakhtin 1984a: 389). The championing of impropriety that Bakhtin so
eulogized, the embracement of a folk cultural practice exposing the contradictory
and double-faced fullness of life, one acting as both a negation and destruction
[] inseparable from affirmation (ibid.: 62), came to be transformed from both
a popular and literary practice to one solely occurrent in a textually mediated
form, an auxiliary medium for the carnivalesque after its bodily form had been
emasculated, usurped by a legislative license. While traditional carnival had thus
become institutionalized, turned into mere parades, while its utopian character
oriented towards the future, was gradually transformed into a mere holiday
mood, its true spirit remained indestructible, continuing to fertilize various
areas of life and culture (ibid.: 334). This carnival spirit, this spirit attempting to
reveal the possibilities that lay beyond the visible horizon of official philosophy,
that attempted to dislocate meanings, superimpose new ideals, to find a
position permitting a look at the other side of established values (ibid.: 272), was
hence understood to be found not only in the zone of riots and revelry, of the
feast and the fair; for Bakhtin it could emerge in speech and images, the body
and literature, within areas that attempted to relentlessly relativize that which
represented itself as absolute and complete (Hall 1996: 297).
What was key for Bakhtin then was the conscious embracement of hybrid
constructions, the embracement of words or images, as Stan Mumford (1989)
explains in his rich, Bakhtinian analysis of the lamas and shamans of north central
Nepal, that were saturated with contested and unfinished meanings, words and
images left open to interpretation through their purposefully ambivalent nature
(ibid.: 29). Within this carnival underlayer, one could then dissolve the either/
or and assert both/and, one could erode the artificial barriers between artistic
styles and between self-enclosed systems of thought (ibid.: 21). The carnivalesque
strategy of demasking bifurcated and bounded images thus helped to keep
the potential for dialogue alive beneath the official monologue (ibid.: 21), a
potential that could burst forth through an explicit interillumination between
cultural voices (ibid.: 158). The language of carnival was thus understood to be
an intensely rich one, an idiom full of heteroglossia, parody, laughter, one able
to shift experience from a mundane to profound context, one able to displace
knowledge through the carving-out of a living image of another language (Bakhtin
1981: 361). And, akin to the parallel between Turners work and Habermass,
Bakhtins embracement of heteroglossia (or differentiated speech) can be seen
to correlate to Lyotards embracement of language games and petit-recits, the
carnival ideal being grasped to function as an instantiation of plurality which
promotes a narrative diversity, an aesthetic with a detotalizing, critical function
(Carroll 1993: 73). While master-narratives (whatever their political frameworks),
always attempted to limit, control, and repress any notion of difference (ibid.:
74), both Lyotard and Bakhtin could be seen to focus upon a plurality that no
single genre, metadiscourse, or master-game [could] encompass (ibid.: 80).

176 Ornament and Order

Serpiente escalera,
Mexico City,
Mexico, 2012

And like the Lyotardian figure, a realm surpassing, exceeding discourse, a form
unable to be rendered or translated into conventional language, the carnival spirit
was understood by Bakhtin (1984b) to induce a language that could not
be translated in any full or adequate way into verbal language, and much less
into a language of abstract concepts, but is amenable to a certain transposition
into a language of artistic images that has something in common with its
concretely sensuous nature; that is, it can be transposed into the language of
literature. We are calling this transposition of carnival into the language of
literature the carnivalization of literature (ibid.: 122).

This moment of excess, of contradiction, this public challenge to bureaucracy,

was seen to function most clearly through the modality of laughter, the ur-theme
not only of Rabelais, but an important constituent of another of Bakhtins great
works, his Problems of Dostoevskys Poetics (1984b). Here, ritual laughter was not
only directed toward a shift of authorities and truths, a shift of world orders, but
combined themes of death and rebirth, negation (a smirk) and affirmation (rejoicing
laughter) (ibid.: 127). It was an assertion of equivocation that could grasp and
comprehend a phenomenon in the process of change and transition, that could
fix in a phenomenon both poles of its evolution, all the while not permitting a
single one of these aspects of change to be absolutized or to congeal in one-sided
seriousness (ibid.: 164). The laughter of the carnivalesque was hence considered
to be not only the laughter of the people, not just universal in scope, but crucially

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


ambivalent: it is gay, triumphant, and at the same time mocking, deriding. It

asserts and denies, buries and revives (Bakhtin 1984a: 12). The playful hilarity of
the carnival modality could thus, as Carroll observed (1993), be considered more
fundamental and subversive than dialogue, or perhaps more accurately, to be the
most radical form of dialogue, for it is laughter that resists and even undermines
the power of all political-religious-philosophical systems and institutions and
thus makes dialogue possible, even within monolithic, authoritarian, totalitarian
structures whose function it is to exclude or repress it. Laughter indicates that
dialogic interaction is still possible even in the most repressive of situations; it is
an indication of sociability, of community, of a nondetermined relation to the
other, even at those moments when community is most threatened (ibid.: 79).

The carnival rite (Bakhtin 1984a: 200) could hence refute the very jurisdiction of
dominant institutions, acting not simply as catharsis, as satire (a laughter that does
not laugh [ibid.: 45]), but instigating a complete exit from the present order (ibid.:
274); laughter not only revealed the unofficial, the clandestine and surreptitious, it
reveals a truth that rejects all truth, a potential without limits.6 And carnival could
therefore challenge norms through revealing laughter to be as important as truth,
as a method of confronting all truth from the position of the everyday, from the
realm of the marketplace, the low-culture displacing the power of the high.
Just like the critiques placed against Turners inversive theory of the carnival
however, Bakhtins focus on subversion has also been suggested to be one which
functions in a more equivocal manner, working not as a resistance to power,
but rather as an instrument and also a sign of power itself (Bristol 1993: 636).
The New Historicist theorist Stephen Greenblatt, in his celebrated essay Invisible
Bullets (2004 [1985]), thus argued that the production of subversion was the very
condition of power (ibid.: 455), order, as he continued, being neither possible nor
fully convincing without both the presence and perception of betrayal (ibid.: 450).
Demonstrated through a reading of Shakespeares Henry plays (Shakespeare, as
previously noted, viewed by Bakhtin as a primary exponent of the carnivalesque),
Greenblatt suggests that actions that one would have thought would have had the
effect of radically undermining authority turned out in fact to be the very props of
that authority (ibid.: 451). The inclusion of what were deemed to be destabilizing
elements within the hegemonic system simply meant that any true challenge to
prevalent power relations was precluded, made redundant through their already
apparent existence, these works functioning through both the production
and containment of subversion and disorder (ibid.: 443, emphasis added). The
subversiveness which is genuine and radical, which is sufficiently disturbing so
that to be suspected of such belief could lead to imprisonment or torture, was thus
at the same time contained by the power it would appear to threaten; in fact, it was
the very product of the power and furthers its ends (ibid.: 439). Social drama, like
the theatre itself, therefore had the power to be seemingly relentlessly subversive,

Bakhtins focus on laughter was also a subversive attack on the perverted

concept of folk culture that prevailed in the Stalin era, a culture that was decreed from
on high and that in reality offered no alternative to the official one (Lachman 1988: 118).

178 Ornament and Order

because the form itself, as a primary expression of Renaissance power, contains

the radical doubts it continually provokes (ibid.: 455).The previously venerated
possibility of subversion could thus be seen to contain an embedded reverence
towards, not against authoritarian form, an insidious formation of resistance that
sought to protect power through its apparent openness to dialogism; it prevented,
through its simulation, or, perhaps more rightly, through its entrenched hegemonic
license, any truly subversive practice.
Whether one followed techniques of inversion or subversion then, both
modalities could be understood to contain the potential to work toward the
reinvention of authority (albeit in different guises) (Newman 2001: 5). Both
techniques could fall afoul of the same trap, the same logic of place (ibid.: 5), failing
to radically destabilize prevailing conditions in any comprehensive way. And it was
thus simply an affirmation (inversion) or a rejection (subversion) founded and
hence always subject to exactly that which they sought to exclude.

Rites not Wrongs

Of course, it is only by examining the specific and individual processes of
transgression, the moments when rituals, as Stanley Tambiah put it (1985), either
move towards the left when there is a deliberate attempt to coin new doctrinal
concepts and mold new rituals bursting with meaning or towards the right
coming to serve mainly the pragmatic interests of authority, privilege, and sheer
conservatism (ibid.: 1656) that we can then come to uncover the true dialectic of
antagonism (Stallybrass and White 1986: 16), the precise nature of the frameworks
that uphold these ritual, ornamental practices. As Stallybrass and White have
argued, it thus makes little sense to fight out the issue of whether carnivals are
intrinsically radical or conservative
for to do so automatically involves the false essentializing of carnivalesque
transgression (White 1982: 60). The most that can be said in the abstract is that
for long periods carnival may be a stable and cyclical ritual with no noticeable
politically transformative effects but that, given the presence of sharpened political
antagonism, it may often act as catalyst and site of actual and symbolic struggle
(ibid.: 14).

As Muir continues to sustain (1999), carnival cannot be seen to function in any single
way, either reinforcing or subverting authority, but can instead evoke multiple
meanings, meanings that depend on changing contexts and conditions (ibid.: 348).
It can be understood to be as much about contest and struggle as about power and
order, as much a powerful mode for reproducing the reality effect of the natural,
as a way to contest and even appropriate that reality itself (Dirks 1994: 5012).
Carnivals can hence start out as inversive practices and mould into subversive ones.
They can move, as Lucia Folena (1989) has shown, from serving to appropriate
and neutralize disorder (as revealed within the medieval and Renaissance
language of inversion [ibid.: 226]), to become synonymous with subversion

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


(as revealed within the language of carnival in the Jacobean era [ibid.: 226]) the
elite-serving, legitimizing, negative symmetrical rituals of rebellion which emerged
within the Elizabethan period latterly coming to be appropriated by the radical [and
truly subversive] discourse of Puritan revolution (ibid.: 226). As highly contingent,
idiosyncratic, conditional forms of social action then, rituals of the carnivalesque
must be examined in all their specific glory, the ethnographic reality of each instance
coming to define its potential turns to the left or the right. Yet before we can even
begin examining these peripatetic movements, to explore which way the rituals of
ornamentation discussed in this book themselves turn, I must first advance the status
of both Consensual and Agonistic Ornamentation within the rites of Feasting, Fasting
and Festivals that I previously mentioned (Bell 1997: 120), the ritual processes in
which there may be little overt testimony to the presence of deities but a great deal
of emphasis on the public display of religiocultural sentiments (ibid.: 120), in which
practices are intended to express publicly to the ritual practitioner, to their social
partners, to an amorphous public other an allegiance to the basic values of the
group from whence they emerge.
What I want to primarily make clear in this chapter then is that the production
of these ornaments acted both as a physical illustration and bodily instantiation of
the doctrines and creeds of the group with whom I was working. These were acts
which thus functioned not only as a visual depiction of a moral code, as a reflection
of morality, but were corporeal performances which underwrote these ethical
principles. Each marking must therefore be understood to emphasize my informants

Untitled [Los Veo y
Subo I See It and
I Get Up], Madrid,
Spain, 2009

180 Ornament and Order

belief in the transgressive utilization of public space; each image making known,
revealing their unremitting desire to play a part in the public sphere (to play in the
public sphere); each addition presenting their existential need to communicate with
the city (whether in its consensual or dissensual patterns). Performing in the public
was thus an ethical principal which could only be upheld through concrete action.
Ones dedication to the values of the group were made clear solely through ones
physical performances. Yet these were practices that acted transgressively as all
carnivalesque practices must through disturbing the binaries of inside/outside
(inciting the impassioned discourse around the rightful place of these ornaments),
of public/private (inflaming the disputes over the true location of these fields), of
art/vandalism (provoking the intense debates over the very designations of these
artefacts), rather than through solely confronting the base polarity of legal/illegal,
licit/illicit. Functioning through the breaking of taboos rather than laws, through the
innate contravention of prevalent socio-ethico conventions, these were public rituals
formed with an explicit cognizance of the moral underpinnings of their crimes,
an overt infringement of legal codes that was about justice not statutes, rights
(and rites) not wrongs. To act morally, one must thus act through the violation, or
more correctly the appropriation of public space. And just as we can see in Muirs
description of carnival (2005), ostensibly criminal behaviour could here be more
correctly understood as the expression of deeply held beliefs (ibid.: 100): This was an
insurgent aesthetic practice linked to the strongly civic convictions of my informants,
their pure need to utilize, play, inhabit, communicate with the public sphere. These
were forms of the carnivalesque working as types of images rather than calendrical
festivals, as forms of discourse, as lived-through practices (Stallybrass and White
1986). These were civic rites where space (rather than class or gender) was radically
decentred, where norms (not just laws) were radically destabilized, where a corporeal
entanglement with (rather than estrangement from) the city was instantiated. These
were carnivalesque practices in which my informants could express to themselves, to
other members of the city, to outsiders from their practice, their total commitment
to the values of the group.
Whilst clearly set within the Feasting/Fasting/Festivals archetype then, and,
in particular, within the carnivalesque ritual framework, many of the practices of
Consensual and Agonistic Ornamentation seem to quite clearly function within the
purview of Turners work on carnival (or ritual anti-structure as he has termed it). The
understanding of the contemporary ritual of carnival as a practice that aims to act
upon the injustices, inefficiencies, immoralities [and] alienations of the modern city
(Turner 1979b: 117), as something not merely reflective but also reflexive, clearly
combines with the civic desires of these insurgent actors; their search for new
social relations in the city (whether centrifugal or centripetal), their rejection of the
increasing instrumentality of our urban visual culture (to not replicate but exceed the
mendacity of advertising), their search for a moral way of utilizing its surfaces (their
agentic markings revivifying public space). Like the public liminality of carnival then
(Turner 1979a: 474), when these insurgent rites transpire the streets become a place
which is no place (even where that place is a citys main plazas), a time which is no
time (even when that time can be found on an ecclesiastical calendar) (Turner 1983:
103). It becomes a site in which normative rules of time and space are decentred,

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


where one wastes time through working for free, where one rejects the normative
use of space through turning the private back into public, the public back into private.
The liminal moment thus becomes one in which all normative functions of the city
are upended where its usage for mere getting and spending is rejected in favour
of giving and sacrifice, where its usage for preserving law and order is rejected in
favour of its usage for experience and flow (Turner 1979a: 475). And the city thus
becomes a time and a space in which the meaning and potential, the use value of
ones surroundings became radically altered. It becomes a time and space where a
dustbin became a ladder, where a wall becomes a canvas, where the city becomes a
plaything, where law and order becomes a mere imposition to moral action.
Furthermore, the deep egalitarianism, the comradeship and conscious bond
of amity which was so present within my group of informants a fellowship
which was a constant source of amazement to me, in which it was not favours but
responsibilities that were enacted7 could be seen to have a direct link to Turners
famous notion of communitas. The intensified experiences which they shared within
these ritual acts enabled this comradeship. Painting together, painting as a group,
painting with full comprehension of the risks that lay within the act (whether acting
in a metasocial context and thus performed in full view of everyone, or in a more
clandestine, covert site set off from the routine world [Turner 1979a: 467]), created
an experiential bond which could only ever be substantiated through this very
act itself. It formed a conscious kinship which flowed back from these moments of
liminality into the everyday, pervading their lifeworlds as a whole. It meant that one
took on responsibility for one-anothers wellbeing (from working together as a group
to entirely rebuild their studio, from being available for physical or mental exertion,
from helping to undertake tasks whenever and wherever), a responsibility that was
enacted without consultation and deliberation, that was crucial to the survival of
the group as a whole. Turners contention that ritual set[s] up a frame within which
images and symbols of what has been sectioned off can be scrutinized, assessed, and,
if need be, remodeled and rearranged (ibid.: 468) can thus appear to be especially
prescient here. The production of the parergon, the disavowed, forbidden ornament,
the generation of images which are constantly repositioned, reordered, reorganized
by their producers, can thus be seen to act as the quintessential example of a liminal
ritual, a ritual liminal within both its material and performative positions, a practice
which sets up a ritual frame through the production of a physical frame itself.

This egality could be demonstrated in thousands of small ways; from the

lending of a hammer to the breaking of bread; from the weeks spent away from ones
own projects (so as to help on anothers) to the refusal to ever refuse. There were no
leaders within this collective. Each member was on equal ground with the other, each
individual showing a responsibility to the group without which he could never have
become a member in the very first place. If one needed help, it was granted without
equivocation. It was never about who did this or did that (I never ever heard but I did
this or I did that), this sort of individualism rather than individuality a challenge to
the very existence of the group itself. Turners principle each for all, and all for each
(Turner 1967: 101) could thus almost seem to be the guiding principle of the group
itself. Without this, everything would shatter.

182 Ornament and Order

5.11 On the
way to paint
(plastic bags
full of paint not
groceries), Madrid,
Spain, 2008

As for Bakhtin, his conception of carnival as a fully separate reality also appears
to function in direct accordance with my informants ornamental practices.
As autonomous, self-supporting, self-governing practices, they are primarily
independent, as Muir explained (2005), from the world of hierarchy and authority
(ibid.: 99); they are practices which refuse the boundaries of the institution, which
rest in the independence of the street. Equally, these are rites in which everyone
participates because its very idea embraces all the people (Bakhtin 1984a [1965]: 7),
in which participation is a prerequisite so as to belong to the group itself, the
practice and the people in fact inseparable they are Independent Public Artists,
they practice Independent Public Art. And as prototypical examples of what is
considered to be low-culture, a form of marketplace speech which rejects
prevalent societal norms of etiquette and decency (ibid.: 10), both Consensual
and Agonistic Ornamentation can in fact be seen as prototypical Bakhtinian acts.
They are forms of outsider art which took joy in embracing the vernacular, which
attempted to speak in the colloquial slang of the street rather than the obfuscatory
dialect of the fine-arts. Moreover, the fusion of artistic techniques that these
ornaments provoke the intertwining of calligraphic, performative, site-specific,
public, installational, and environmental-arts their erosion of the very notion of a
stable, timeless art (an art which is left to decay rather than anxiously conserved)
can be seen to follow Bakhtins famous focus on hybridity. Distorting the set
language from within language, eroding established barriers through working
within the barriers, it can be seen to set up conflictual relations to art through the
very language of art itself. These insurgent acts use one voice to critique that same
voice, using the city to critique the city, using art to critique art, setting up various

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


arguments (as most perfectly seen in 3TTMans eponymous character) within one
unique position, different modes of understanding for something often thought
of as fixed. And this intentional, rather than organic hybridity, this intentionally
contestatory hybridity, can thus demask the normative mode of the city, demask
its increasingly denatured status, keeping the potential for dialogue alive beneath
the official monologue (Mumford 1989: 21). Working as part of a wider process
of erection, erasure, and erosion, an inexhaustible process in explicit discourse
with city authorities as with the numerous other architects of the ornament, there
was thus an open-endedness to these works which was overtly present within the
image, a visual notion of the carnivalesque employed through a dislocation rather
than concretization of meaning. It was an ocular heteroglossia, a dialogism always
in the process of change, modification, metamorphosis, one that visibly attacked
the notion of any authoritative language. It was a practice in which words or images
were saturated with contested and unfinished meanings (Mumford 1989: 29),
a practice which was always in the process of remaking and remodelling, not
only due to its base ephemerality but so too as part of a perpetual, interminable
game. The practice of ornamentation thus promoteed an ambivalence allowing
openness and transgression (Lachmann 1989: 116). Like the licentious of Rabelais
it aimed to provide an instantiation of the carnivalesque through the means of
the pen, a practice working not as a spectacle but as an embodied practice. And
what these epigraphical inscriptions embodied was thus a carnival spirit which
consciously and clearly dislocated stable meanings, inscriptions which promoted
the other side of established values (Bakhtin 1984a: 272). It was a modality that
literally transgressed its concrete media (its concrete edifices), that materially
transgressed space, that instrumentally transgressed time. It was a practice of
ritual laughter that transgressed both the concrete media in which it expresses
itself and the historical space and time in which it is actualized (Lachmann
1989: 133), a laughter that could negate and affirm, that could renegotiate the
understanding of the city itself.

An Interval between Two Marks (Or a Derridean Perversion)

Of course, and as suggested above, the Turnerian focus on subjunctivity,
liminality, and egality, and the Bakhtinian emphasis on hybridity, dialogism, and
laughter could be seen to function with aspects of both Consensual and Agonistic
Ornamentation as previously described. And it could naturally be argued that
the formers focus on rational critique (the desire for a relationship to society as a
whole, the desire to reform rather than repeal order), as well as the latters desire
for radical transformation (for a relationship to a minor realm, for a rejection of all
norms), could place these understandings of carnival back within the Consensual
(Turnerian/Habermasian) and Agonistic (Bakhtinian/Lyotardian) frameworks as
previously analysed. Yet rather than strictly following these inversive and subversive
strategies, rather than seeing Consensual Ornamentation as an inversive practice
which preserves the binary structure it transposes, rather than seeing Agonistic

184 Ornament and Order

Ornamentation as a subversive practice which serves to replace one form of

hegemony with another, it is in fact a third-way which I want now to posit, a thirdway which I believe more accurately sets out my informants ritual positionality.
And the theoretical method release from these seemingly irreconcilable positions
will, once again, return us to the realm of the parergon as understood by Derrida,
the parergon which holds such a critical place in both the practical and theoretical
elements of my informants work.
Derridas search for the radical outside of discourse for the outside which
is simultaneously embedded within the interior sought not the inversion of
discourse (to turn inside out, to function as a simple change or reversal in the
terms of any given hierarchy); nor did it seek the subversion of this same discourse
(to turn under, to act as a suppression of all hierarchy which simply suppresses
other subjectivities); rather, what Derrida aimed was the perversion of discourse
(to turn it aside, to elicit a transformation of the hierarchical structure itself (Derrida
1978, in Newman 2001: 5)). Tracing a line between inversive and subversive
categories, what was foremost for Derrida (2004 [1981]) was the ability to unsettle,
to destabilize both sides of the spectrum through what he famously termed a
double writing [] a writing that is in and of itself multiple (ibid.: 38), a writing
which could come to challenge metaphysics from within its own language, a
writing which could dismantle the system from within the system itself (Holquist
1986: 141). Through the play of this interval between two marks, through a double
movement in which one first inverts the traditional hierarchy (where one operates
an overturning deconstruction), before transcending the hierarchy itself through a
positively displacing, transgressive, deconstruction (ibid.: 56), one could then reject
base oppositions, refusing the dichotomy of construction/destruction, inversion/
subversion, inciting an alteration that both reverses an opposition and reworks the
terms of that opposition so that what was formerly understood by them is no longer
tenable (Johnson 1987: 13). This form of critique created by the limits of the inside
itself could then enable us to find a space which did not simply restore the place of
power, that did not come to reaffirm exactly what one resists (Newman 2001: 11).
Rather than an absolute transgression or an escape to an absolute outside, a
deceptive flight to an extramuros site that only serves to place it more obstinately on
the inside, safe within the intramuros (ibid.: 12), deconstruction neither affirms nor
destroys the limit it crosses; rather, it re-evaluates it, reinscribing it as a problem, a
question (ibid.: 12). It is thus a method which resides in the intermuros not outside
(extra), not inside (intra) but within (inter) the walls. It bisects the strategies of
inversion and subversion, forming a periphery within the very centre, a constitutive
outside that refuses to reinforce that which it opposes.
Of course, this double movement, this move toward the perverse, is one
which we have examined at length in terms of the ornament in itself, in terms
of its status as the Derridean parergon, the indeterminate, the quasi-detached.
And, following this same approach, what I want to contend within this chapter
is that my informants ritual practices are ones which come to balance between
these aforementioned Turnerian and Bakhtinian paths, balancing them
through the perversive, betwixt-and-between status of the parergon itself.

5.12, 5.13 and 5.14 To unsettle, not destroy/To function in a different register.
Three untitled posters by OX from Genevilliers, Paris and Arcueil (France), 2012

186 Ornament and Order

Inhabiting the already presiding structures of our cities (rather than operating from
a purported exterior), functioning through the outside that is, paradoxically, on
the inside (ibid.: 11), as something that is not a tool that you apply to something
from the outside but something that happens inside (Derrida 1997: 9), these
practices can be seen to have constructed a visual alterity that sought not to simply
reaffirm that which it resisted, to merely destroy it, but rather to interrogate and
unsettle it. These works did not simply efface what was already extant. They played
with it. They questioned it through their mere existence. It was not simply that
these images displayed the nature of the group as the archetypal constituent
outside, a body in the heart of, yet separate to the centre, a group working upon
the very liminal boundaries of the city itself; the production of these ornaments
themselves aimed to present another ideal of the city, to work not from outside
the discourse of the city itself but to remain deeply embedded within it, seeking
neither to invert nor destroy the boundary but in fact to destabilize it. These
works do not reverse order, nor do they supplant it. I argue that they transcend it
through a positive displacement, they pervert the wall (again following the OED,
they interfere with or distort [] impede, thwart) and thus pervert order itself.
Wigleys (1988) earlier discussion of an ornament in critique of order can thus here
come back into focus. His suggestion that one must form a material aesthetic that
refuses to succumb either to the traditional definitions of art or the traditional
mechanisms of the discipline of architecture can be seen to echo my informants
attempts to provoke a material deconstruction that works through an internal,
rather than external violence (ibid.: 556). It is an ornament that critiques structure
from within structure, which exposes the cracks and fissures of structure through
integrating within the cracks and fissures of that structure itself.
All of my informants ornamental practices can be seen to have worked in this
way. In both their medium and their message they place themselves between
rather than for or against, they set themselves in opposition but not in reflection,
discomposing, disturbing, agitating but not destroying. Like de Certeaus (1984)
description of the silent resistance of the colonized, the indigenous tactic of
manipulating the coerced practices forced upon them neither by rejecting or
altering them but rather using them with respect to ends and references foreign
to the system they had no choice but to accept (ibid.: xiii), one can see these
ritual, carnivalesque practices as a way of escaping power without ever leaving
it, perverting not subverting or inverting them. One can see these practices
transforming hegemonic impositions from within not by rejecting them or by
transforming them, but through procedures of consumption that maintained
their difference in the very space that the occupier was organizing, an ability to
metaphorize the dominant order and thus make it function in another register
(ibid.: 32). These ritual practices must therefore be seen to have functioned not
only as an expression of paradigmatic values then (the communal aesthetic values,
the importance of painting within the public sphere made visible through the
existence of their ornaments), not only as a mechanism for bringing the individual
into the community and establishing a social entity (the group bond enforced
and reinstated through the act of performing together), but as a process for social

Inversion, Subversion, Perversion


transformation, for struggling over control of the sign (a remodelling of both the
world and the image through the performative act) (Bell 1997: 89). The group
were bound through these carnivalesque acts. They were bound by virtue of a
heightened intimacy and a sense of being a distinct [] community in opposition
to so much around them (Bell 1997: 206), bound through a practice which could
then work to structure what the community is produced from, against, in spite of,
and in relation to (Spyer 2000: 292); and yet these very same practices also reflected
the beliefs of these members within the public sphere, they enabled these actors
to act upon the public sphere, to construct as well as reveal order.
Whilst in our previous chapter I thus argued that these ornamental practices
are quintessentially ritual ones, what I hope to have underlined here is both the
ritual archetype they subsume as well as the wider effect of these carnivalesque
rituals, their effect on both the group and wider milieu, their ability to both bind
their practitioners and to transform their physical and social realms in a specifically
perversive manner. Yet in our next chapter, what I now want to focus upon is the
ritual attributes which my informants themselves must assume. And it is thus the
playful, ambiguous, risky characteristics that they must adopt to undertake these
carnival rites that I will now turn to. It is the serious play, the trickster shift which I
now seek to explore.

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Play, Risk and the Picaresque

In his double nature he appears at crossroads, in disguise and always as a force of

disruption; an arch inverter who [] turns all Solomons turgid truths into turds.
Michael Camille

That the trickster and the clown have become major

metaphors for the artist in this century with its increasing selfconsciousness of the creative process is no accident.
They have been artists for a long time.
Barbara Babcock-Abraham

A State of Being Rather than a Threshold

Like Freuds repudiation of what was commonly perceived as the triviality
of play, what must first be disclaimed in this chapter is the notion that play is
insignificant, that it is, as Derrida (1988) discussed in relation to Freuds grandsons
famous game of fort/da, purely a game (ibid.: 67, emphasis added). Like mere
decoration or mere craft, plays perceived triviality often emerges from what
seems to be its autotelic character (in opposition to the results driven focus of
gaming, its defined winners and losers), its status, like art for arts sake, as innately
separated from reality, separated from structure and from order. Yet, and akin
to Gells argument in terms of decoration (1998), play must be understood to in
fact be inexplicable without function, and, again like the form of visual play Gell
discusses, must be seen as an activity which can contain a volatile, sometimes
dangerously explosive essence (Turner 1986: 3031). Often given a foundational
role in anthropological analyses of ritual, the ludic is thus commonly considered
as something which functions within a marginal, liminal site, something set apart
from normal, ordinary, proper, real life (Bauman 1995: 170). It considered
as an act with a distinctive disposition and meaningfulness a meaningfulness

190 Ornament and Order

often at odds with the order of the real world (Rapport 1997: 109). With a much
vaunted capacity to break out of determining logics then, to cross registers,
to generate novel meanings and understandings (Kapferer 2005: 46) a factor
which the excessively direct motives of gaming often elide play can thus be
understood as a space which can help to revive creative energies, to give rise to
a change of perspective, a new vantage point from which any present cultural
order can be called into question and replaced (Rapport 1997: 109). Playful and
serious, as Andr Droogers (2005) notes, are hence not necessarily opposites
(ibid.: 138). The perceived sanctity, the solemnity of ritual, a practice often
appearing to be performed in a serious manner, is itself understood to be in fact
a decidedly playful activity, just as play is an activity that is taken seriously as long
as it lasts (ibid.: 1389). Ritual can thus be viewed as stylized, scripted, serious
play, as a communicative narrative set within a ludic frame (Roger Keesing
1991: 657). And, like its dialectical dancing partner of ritual (Turner 1986: 30
31), play is not only linked to the protection of order but so too its disruption,
a disordering of social norms, a base disorderliness seen through the clowns,
jesters and pranksters who commonly inhabit these doubly liminal spaces.
This tight connection between ritual, play, and clowning, quite naturally leads
us to the archetypal anthropological notion of the trickster, these innately betwixtand-between creatures that inhabit the ground between the extraordinary and
the everyday. For Barbara Babcock-Abrahams (1975), the trickster was a criminal
culture-hero, a being at once embodying numerous possibilities the most
positive and the most negative (ibid.: 148). He1 was thus both socially peripheral
yet often symbolically central (Babcock-Abrahams 1978: 32), a liminal figure
endowing his group with vitality, all the while carrying the ever-present threat
and the possibility of chaos (Babcock-Abrahams 1975: 148). The trickster, quite
simply, was one who manifested dirt, one who constructed the now infamous
matter out of place. Yet for Babcock-Abrahams, his inborn marginality was too
often grasped in a solely negative sense, being dangerous to or somehow
below normal boundaries, a sense promoting an undeserved (or unproductive)
dichotomy between good and evil which persistently confounds the analysis of
the essentially ambiguous character of most literary marginals (ibid.: 14950).
Working, once again, against this either/or approach, Babcock-Abrahams suggests
that we might better view this ambiguity as a necessary dualism, as a notion of
marginality that exists whenever commonly held boundaries are violated, be
they those of the social structure, of law and custom, of kinship, family structure
and sexuality, of the human person, or of nature (ibid.: 150). We hence not only
return, once more, to the space of the violation of boundaries, to the supplement,
the space where even either/or will not do, but we emerge within a space where
we must revel in (or perhaps simply accept) a deeply entrenched uncertainty.
While Ricki Tannen, in The Female Trickster (2007), has attempted to shift the
study of this type into an explicitly female domain, as has Julio Rodriguez-Luis (1979)
in a study of the picara (the female version of the soon to be discussed picaro), the
archetypal trickster in general remains heavily biased towards a male figure.

6.1Nug, Territorial Pissings, Film Stills, Stockholm, Sweden, 2008. Image courtesy of artist

192 Ornament and Order

6.2 Portrait of
3TTMan, Madrid,
Spain, 2010

The trickster thus stands in immediate relation to the center in all its ambiguity
(ibid.: 168), he stands steadfast within the interior, neither a plus nor a minus []
neither confusion or distinction [] neither a position nor a negation (Derrida
2004 [1981]: 40), a relationship underpinning his customary negations and
violations of custom, a state through which he condemns himself to contingency
and unpredictability (Babcock-Abrahams 1975: 159). The Trickster Shift as Allan
J. Ryan (1999) terms it (following the Ojibway artist Carl Beam), an impulse
key to both artistic and shamanic practices amongst First Nation groups and
one forming a critical link between subversive practice, aesthetic production,
spiritual truth, and cultural wisdom (ibid.: 3) must therefore be understood to
encompass a wealth of cultural strategies, practices working through outrageous
punning, constant wordplay, surprising association, extreme subtlety, layered
and serious reference (ibid.: xii). Through this depiction, the tricksters practices
can hence be seen in themselves as ones of serious play, a play that has as its
ultimate goal a radical shift in viewer perspective and even political positioning
(ibid.: 5), a serious play (or ritual practice) intent on disturbing the everyday.
This is the world of dtournement, the world (in his European manifestation) of
the trickster Guy Debord (2009 [1956]). It is the realm where a sign or word is
susceptible to being converted into something else, where we find the notion
of disguise closely linked to play, where one can detourn entire situations by
deliberately changing this or that determinant condition of them (ibid.: 39). This
is the trickster who works through metagraphic writings, who works through
adroit perversion (ibid.: 36). This is the contemporary trickster who works to
convert any sign or word into something else, even its opposite (ibid.: 39).

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


This classical trickster archetype can also be shifted quite straightforwardly

towards a more deep-seated Spanish milieu, however, a trickster modality that
Babcock-Abrahams herself termed picaresque.2 This literary countergenre, as
Giancarlo Maiorino termed it (1996), a genre emerging with the publication of
Lazarillo de Tormes (believed to have surfaced between 1550 and 1559), was
understood to have defied the canonical standard of literary and materialist
imperialism (ibid.: xii), to have defied the regulatory norms of both literary and
social practice. It combined the notion of trickery and roguish behavior with
the idea of the uncertain or hostile attitude of an individual to existing society,
working through a narrative focussed on movement, within and beyond that
society (Babcock-Adams 1975: 159). The very character of the picaro thus live[d]
at the center while remaining peripheral (Maiorino 1996: xiv), his very status
as marginal defining a state of being rather than a threshold (ibid.: xxii); he
was, like Michel Serres depiction of the parasite, the tactician of the quotidian
(ibid.:: xiv), not simply attacking (subverting) but transforming (deconstructing)
its host system. As a producer of noise (background noise, in French, translated
as bruit parasite), he was hence considered as a joker, included and excluded,
containing both a value of destruction and a value of construction (Serres 2007
[1982]: 67); he understands that to play the position or to play the location is to
dominate the relation, it is to be on the side, next to, shifted (ibid.: 38). His world,
as Maiorino continues (1996), was thus the world of picaresque quotidianity, a
world parcelled out to urban residence in the citys underside; its hovels, ghettoes,
chabolas [probably now translated as slums or favelas], and barrios, the world, that
is, of la mala vida (ibid.: xiv). Marginality was thus not only his innate state,3 but
also his physical location within the city. And this marginal individual was thus,
as Lvi-Strauss pronounced (1963), a mediator, one whose mediating function
placed him half-way between two polar terms (ibid.: 226). He was one who always
retained something of that duality, who always retained the ambiguous and
equivocal character fashioned by his betwixt-and-between state (ibid.: 226). He
was, uniquely, the living embodiment of the boundary.
The clown, the trickster, the social bandit (Hobsbawm 1969), the rebel (Cohen
1986), the malandro and the picaro thus all exist, as Don Handelman explains (1998),
to evoke that which must be suppressed (ibid.: 237), to subsume a boundary
within itself, to suggest incompleteness, inconsistencies of meaning, referential
ambiguities (ibid.: 242). The interior of the boundary was hence considered not

Franchot Ballinger (1991) sets out the divergences between the two in The EuroAmerican Picaro and the Native American Trickster, differences pertaining to their setting
within social reality in the former case and myth in the latter, low social status in the
first case and high in the second. The Trickster, furthermore, chooses to be marginal,
while the picaros marginality is the consequence of the Catch 22s of his societys moral
strictures and categories (ibid.: 24). In both, however, we seem to experience what is
generally termed ambiguity (ibid.: 26).
This marginality may have also, as Ingrid D. Rowland argues [2009: 83], been
due to the supposedly Jewish ancestry of the picaro archetype the aforementioned
Lazarillo de Tormes, the first of the picaros, himself having a Hebraic forename, Lazarus.

194 Ornament and Order

only to be fluid, plastic, and in-transition, but to perfectly match the clown type,
to in fact act as an ambulatory manifestation of boundariness (ibid.: 247). They
produce an alteration of borders, working not simply to break sacred precepts,
but to erase the border between this domain and that of the mundane, thereby
altering the order of relationship between them (ibid.: 248). And the deep
ideation of play they provoke, therefore, the inter-play of elements of order that
are in-play, must be understood as affinities of some more comprehensive notion
of uncertainty (ibid.: 68). The very notion of play, as Handelman describes qua
Bateson, can hence be understood to create a paradox of which the boundary
itself (or frame, in his usage) between serious reality and play was constituted
(ibid.: 69). Batesons famous maxim this is play hence becomes transmuted for
Handelman into this is uncertainty (ibid.: 71, my emphasis). The risk inherent to
play, the danger begot through its energy, its instability, meant that uncertainty
was deeply infused within it. And this very concept of insecurity, of ambiguity,
risk, was thus the recognition that [the] cosmos itself both ornament and order
exists as much through the deep flux of unpredictability, as it does through
determination (ibid.: 68). It was the realization that, whether valorised as beneficial,
harmful, or impartial, ritual uncertainty indexed the ultimately uncontrollable
nature of cosmos itself (ibid.: 68).
Intersection III: Field Notes, 11/04/09
[] We were waiting for what seemed like hours, sat on a bench right beside the building-site,
waiting not particularly patiently. Wed had some dinner, gone back to pick up some extra paint
from the studio then returned for the second time. It was late, probably half-eleven by now,
but this guy was still stood out on his balcony, still chatting loudly on his phone. He would
have had a perfect view so we had to be patient. We had to wait. We went for another wander,
chatting, smoking, waiting for our fly on the wall to leave the scene, returning after about
another half hour. He was still talking. And seemingly even more loudly at that. We prayed hed
get off to bed So we sat. We waited some more And, after what seemed like an eternity of
goodbyes, the baritone drone of our accidental spectator deceased, his terrace doors shut and
he disappeared from sight and sound.
3TTMan immediately kicked into action. He went round to the edge of the site [a large corner
block directly facing the town hall, a huge apartment building which had been almost totally
gutted save for its frontage] and soon found an easy point of entry, a corner from which we
could gain leverage to climb over the surrounding metal fence. He instantly knew where he
wanted to paint, an exposed wall right in the centre of the site, the only multi-level structure
left within the interior. It looked possibly like the remains of a veranda, a living room maybe,
a small, third storey room whose outside walls had been destroyed to expose its inner realm.
Quite why it had yet to be demolished was a mystery, yet there it stood, inviting 3TTMan to
come and play. We went in through the front at first, navigating the deep trenches which had
been cut out in the centre of the site, emerging into the eerie remnants of the house (if it could
now even be called that). They were always slightly uncanny these dead spaces, the paint
peeling off the walls, the multiple layers of wallpaper still present, the marks, the traces of its
past life; but in the middle of the night, in the silence, the uncanniness was multiplied. We first
tried a staircase within one of the still standing edifices, but they cut off abruptly half way up,
leaving just a gaping drop down to the trench below; we had to circle back. We moved to the
neighbouring structure, 3TTMan trying to shimmy up its slopping outside wall, intending after
to navigate his way across onto the rooftop. It was possible, maybe, but it seemed too hazardous.

6.3 and 6.4 Getting in 1 and 2. 3TTMan in Action. La Palma, Spain, 2009

196 Ornament and Order

6.5Under the
tarpaulin. 3TTMan
in Action. La
Palma, Spain, 2009

The room was just structural walls, almost no floor. And a gaping trench below for the impending
foundations. He slid back down. Frustrated. Think, he said to himself. Theres got to be a way
He went round to the back this time, climbing up the side of the building like a cat. Using the still
barred windows as support an almost perfect ladder to enter onto the now open third floor
he pulled himself up from the ledge and was in. Easy as that. He signed down that he was okay,
then disappeared from view, moving inside to try and find a way to the outside space he wanted.
I moved round to the front to get a better view and Louis was already at his spot, thumbs up,
starting to take off his backpack to get his paints. Yet before hed even put his paints on the
floor however, I saw him pause, crouch down, then slowly move back into the shadows. He
motioned towards me and point towards the back of the building. I immediately went round
the trench to meet him, unsure of what was happening but of course sensing the obvious
danger. It was only then I noticed the low hum of a car engine, the low rumbling of voices. He
lowered himself back down with care, landed silently on the ground beside me and grabbed
my arm, pushing me toward one of the nearby trenches; he pulled up the tarpaulin sheet,
and we dove under it, perhaps four feet into the dark earth below. We didnt move, both of
us intensely listening to the sounds outside. More voices, then the ominous crackle of a twoway. 3TTMan looked at me, fingers to lips. Yet just as silent as we were, we could have never
hoped for more perfect camouflage. The tarp was genius. We were totally hidden from view
from above but could due to the illumination of the street-lamps see everything above us.
It was like a two-way mirror. Someone could have come right up to us, almost touched us, and
still not been able to see a thing.
So we stayed there. More waiting but this time an interlude fuelled with adrenalin, our
bodies picking up every movement, every signal from around us. Ten, fifteen minutes
must have come and gone (or perhaps it was just two). 3TTMan whispered over to me
and I slowly crept out the cover, moving as quietly as possible to a gap in the corrugated
fencing to take a look outside. There was nothing. Anyone who had been here had by now
left the scene. I returned to 3TTMan and he was already halfway up the wall, assured by my
obvious lack of concern that the all was clear. He slipped back into the room and moved
to the front of the building, this time able to fully take off his rucksack, lay down his paints
and get started, coating the wall in white before proceeding to start the piece proper.

6.6 and 6.7 3TTMan, Resurreccioname Por Favor, La Palma, Spain, 2009

198 Ornament and Order

[It was Semana Santa, the week building up to Easter Sunday. and, being in Mallorca, surrounded
by huge festal processions every night of the week, 3TTMan had been utilizing Christian
imagery in all his work. There was the piece about the bread and the wine (ceci est mon corps),
a three headed, boxing nazareno (with their distinctive white habit and pointed hoods), and
now Christs Holy Wounds (slightly phallic wounds perhaps)]. Finishing the work in maybe 15
or 20 minutes, the final flourish was the textual inscription itself. Resurreccioname Por favor.
A possibly contentious statement, yet one meant to engender a smile, one with a healthy dose
of respect attached to it. But a message definitively meant for everyone to understand. And
viewable in its entirety from the street, viewable from the very centre of the city.
Done, 3TTMan climbed back down and we scampered back over the outer fence. Back to our
bench. And a well-deserved cigarette. I checked my watch and realized wed been in the site for
nearly two hours, we could hardly believe it ourselves. The whole thing seemed to have gone
in a moment. We stayed for a while, chatting, going through some of the photos Id taken while
inside, talking and laughing about how wed been so well hidden under the tarp. Louis was
trying to convey to me how much hed loved the excitement of that moment, how hed even
wanted the police to come, knowing full well that we would be invisible from sight, hidden
within the trench. It reminded me of being at my grandpas house, he was telling me. Playing
tag with my cousins I loved that moment in my life I had five cousins my age, about 20 or
more in total, and this was typical of that period of my life, hiding under the screen, climbing up
the building, it totally reminded me of that time. Scrambling up trees, hiding, playing. I never
want to stop doing that It was childs play for Louis. It was about returning some excitement
to the city. And he simply refused to ever stop playing []
[There were three key things I kept thinking about when mulling over this night. The first was risk,
the excitement engendered through the inherent danger of the act, not just the hazards presented
by the police, but by the specific locale of practice too, an all-pervasive issue present until the entire
performance was complete. The second was of course play. As Louis himself said, play was a crucial
element, playing with the city, with his surroundings, with imagery, images. And this, then, pushed
me towards the final of the three issues, the notion of creativity. For Louis it was all about improvising
within the environment, not only the physical but cultural milieu. He loved having a relevance to the
local story, utilizing but always upturning commonly held symbols and signs, always being the one
trying to make you smile, using whatever was available at hand, whether this was the city itself or
the stories that lay within it. More than anything else, however, he just loved what he did. And he
would do anything to be able to keep on doing it].

A Struggle about Who Can Get What Inscribed

Although often disregarded within the anthropological literature, uncertainty can
be argued to play a prominent role within processes of ritualization. As Leo Howe
suggests (2000), the provisional, contingent status of ritual gave it an inherently
risky status, an inherently dangerous standing simply due to the unavoidable
contact with powerful and unpredictable forces it engendered (ibid.: 67). Moreover,
and due to the fact that one could never truly know if the performance enacted
would be a success or a failure, one could never truly predict the outcome of the
ritual performance whether measuring instrumentally, aesthetically, evocatively,
[or] morally (ibid.: 67). It was always and already a speculative, hazardous act. And
whilst rituals rule-governed status meant that many theorists believed that the
actual risk was negligible, Howe argues that what was often regarded as a stringent,
inflexible regulatory system could (as we have previously seen) be understood to
be continuously up for negotiation, to be liable to disputation, disarticulation,

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


repudiation; the practice of ritualization could in fact not only be understood to be

in a continuous state of incompletion, but its constitutive rules, as Das has argued
(1998), unable to cover every conceivable circumstance (ibid.: 179). Real conscious
commitment to the task at hand was needed if the rite were to become something
of authentic value, to have any real substance. If there was nothing to lose, there
could likewise be nothing to truly gain, and, as Howe concludes, if ritual were really
just about following rules it would only be a performance in a very trivial sense,
the actors needing to invest little of themselves within the act itself (ibid.: 69).
For Howe, risk was thus understood as a key element to all ritual, yet it was
an element which could be either extrinsic or intrinsic to the action itself.
Whilst some dangers could accompany the enactment of a ceremony while not
being built into the structure, others were integral to the rite itself, part of its
very essence (ibid.: 689). Extrinsic hazards could hence emerge through the
incorrect performance of complex processes, by gambling ones status (ibid.:
69), through outside forces intent to disrupt the action (ibid.: 71); intrinsic ones
coming through the problematical and hazardous presence of boisterous
attendants (ibid.: 71), through rites that place social order in jeopardy, that
are difficult to contain, that threaten to overflow the boundaries that ritual
procedures mark out to control it (ibid.: 72). These latter ritual performances
were not only understood to have risk built into the very structures however, but
were in fact efficacious only if the forces unleashed are potentially dangerous,
and they are successful if these forces are ultimately managed (ibid.: 72). In these
cases, success was therefore never a foregone conclusion, and failure is always

6.8Read More
Books, ReadUp, Nashville,
Tennessee, 2010

200 Ornament and Order

a possibility (ibid.: 72), the risk of malfunction or collapse (the triumph over
which gave the ritual practitioner their true power), understood not merely to
be represented as significant, not simply to be an illusory possibility, but to have
a real, ever present potentiality (ibid.: 75). Whether incurred through disruption
or destruction, through incompletion or incertitude, risk was thus an element
that could put ritual in extreme jeopardy, a factor that had to be channeled and
controlled by the rituals managers (ibid.: 75). These were practices that were
thus considered to be deeply informed by a relationship to the unknown, to be
a gamble that the practitioners must dare to conduct (ibid.: 76). And ritual was
hence always seen to be a contest even if the opponent is oneself (ibid.: 77)
a contest in which possession of ritual power had to be continually renewed
and demonstrated, where rites were considered forms of competition wherein
prestige values came to be re-distributed (ibid.: 76).
Howes focus on risk serves not only to foreground a key (but much neglected)
element of rituals constituent makeup however, but equally attempted to realign
the entire conceptual paradigm of its study. While the formerly dominant textual
approach to ritual (as epitomized by the work of Clifford Geertz, in particular
his classic article Deep Play [1972]) was considered to be insufficiently nuanced
toward both the agency of the participants and the particularity of the event
itself rituals status as an unrepeatable, singular occurrence produced by living,
breathing social actors the successive performative approach to its study (as
exemplified by theorists such as Edward Schieffelin) attempted to surmount
these quandaries both by seeing the ritual practitioners as fully imbricated
actors, actors with their own competencies, reputations and interests to a
ceremony (Howe 2000: 63). It was a re-focus upon ritual doing rather than ritual
meaning. Ritual as performance was meant, therefore, to capture the elements
of uniqueness, strategy, evanescence, presence and becoming that were lost by
a concentration on the meanings in fixed texts (ibid.: 64), texts that may have
had, like performances, a sequential pattern, an internal structure, and thus be
self-referential, but that could never fully subsume the innate ephemerality and
tangibility of practice. Yet whilst the performative model opened up the study
of ritual to these more practice-based elements, Howe argues that it neglected
any wider political or social narrative due to its unswerving, unshakeable focus
on practice occluding any sense of the longue dure. Moreover, it failed to
mention what he considered perhaps the most significant feature of the text
metaphor, inscription, an understanding which rejected the apprehension of
text as something already accomplished, a fixed and enduring entity which has a
specific set of meanings (ibid.: 64, my emphasis).
Rather than concentrating solely on text or performance then, ritual
as inscription provided an intermediating mode of analysis, marrying the
semiotic, structural mode of ritual analysis with the successive performative,
dialogical one, all the while embedding the value of risk firmly within them.
It moved to rehabilitate the notion of text from a method that sought to
consider rituals as texts which can be read and instead shifting towards
the notion of text as process, a process that transferred the saying into the
said, a technique of marking that sees its products as being always provisional
and always in the process of change as they are inscribed anew (ibid.: 645).

6.9 Text as a struggle over inscription. Madrid, Spain, 2007

202 Ornament and Order

Text, then, becomes not merely a fixed entity with definite meaning, but a struggle
about who can get what inscribed (ibid.: 65); it becomes embroiled in issues of risk,
stake, claim, strategy and competition, turning into an innately political process
(ibid.: 65). Lack of different texts or the hegemony of one thus simply affirms a
system of power (whether economic, social or political), it confirms the exclusion
of other forms of writing, creating an appearance of textual stability, a faade (of
course) always open to subversion and revision (ibid.: 65). Howes notion of text
thus sees it as an innately processual form, a form that cannot be read without
understanding the complexity of writing itself, that cannot be comprehended
without acknowledging (akin to Gells art objects) its originary performative
marking, its material natality. And the metaphor of inscription comes to terms
both with the over-absorption on meaning elicited within a more textually driven
analysis and the fixation on doing within a performatively driven one. It attempts
to fully decode both concerns: meaning and action; exegesis and efficacy; semiotic
and phenomenological inferences.4 In this sense, as Howe continues, inscription is
what is done, it is the performative writing of bodily movements, habits, memories
and experiences of people at the moment it is being carried out, and hence just as
applicable to acts, skills, abilities, operations and procedures, as it is to meanings
(ibid.: 656). Ritual can thus be understood through the medium of text, a text,
however, that is re-written every time it is performed (ibid.: 66), one that always
links to others that have come before it, to ritual text as genre; it can thus be
understood as (literally) prescribed and fixed, yet open each time to rescription and
variability.5 By linking performances not only to ones that have preceded it but
also to others that will succeed it (rather than seeing each event as wholly unique),
renowned or celebrated performances (whether successful or otherwise) can
become a bench-mark for both evaluating subsequent ones as well as influencing
how they are actually conducted (ibid.: 67). They can be individual performances
linked within a wide ranging historical framework. Issues of creativity, spontaneity
and uniqueness, therefore, issues normally dismissed from a ritual context due
to its formal, textually driven attributes, can now become relative, not absolute,
they can become decipherable as either compelling or routine, rites appreciated
as potentially unique, creative and personalized (ibid.: 66). The inscription model
thus not only gives weight to the key ritual attribute of risk, to both what rituals
Thomas Csordas has likewise noted the text/performance dichotomy within the
study of ritual. As Strathern and Stewart write (1998), Csordas sees the former [semiotic]
approach as a function of textuality and meaning [] the latter [phenomenological/
performative model] as a function of embodiment and consciousness. Signs as
they appear in the course of ritual actions therefore also have two aspects: as
a function of embodiment, they present an existential situation; as a function of
textuality they represent a potential narrative (1994: 81). Csordas concentrates on the
phenomenological dimension because it has hitherto been neglected, but he does not
deny that the semiotic element may also be present (ibid.: 2412).
As Tsvetan Todorov has argued, no text is the simple product of a pre-existing
combination but is always the transformation of that combination [a] doublemovement, from work to literature (or genre) and from literature to work (Todorov
1990, in Hughes-Freeland 2007: 209).

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


mean and do, it in fact comes to reveal the notion of creativity inhabiting within
it, an inherent creativity residing amidst the apparently highly formalized,
highly restricted codes that Maurice Bloch (1989 [1974]) famously saw present
in its regulatory structure. And it can thus now lead us towards a crucial debate
emerging from anthropological studies of ritual, the debate over creativity and
sterility, between freedom and constraint, an intrinsic part of any investigation into
both ritual and aesthetic practices.

A Boorish Blabbermouth
For Bloch, as described in his 1974 paper Symbols, Song, Dance and Features of
Articulation, ritual practice was thoroughly illocutionary (a use of the term working
in diametric opposition to Habermass, and what he would in fact have termed
perlocutionary6), making it inherently less open to discursive refutation than
everyday techniques of communication. The limited grammar employed within
it (specifically, as the title of his paper suggested, within song, oratory, and dance)
was seen to have reduced the possibility for any open form of communication,
to narrow participants possible responses to the rite itself. With its stringent
formalization, its restricted, formulaic structure, syntactic and other linguistic
freedoms were reduced, propositional force decreased, individual freedom
constrained (Bloch 1989 [1974]: 20). Ritual was hence understood as hierarchical,
performative, cyclical, predictable, giving one no choice, simply being a set
of acts to which participants were structurally forced to commit. Its semantic
aspect, as Edward Schieffelin (1985) explained (in a critique of Blochs work), was
grasped to be so redundant that far from representing an enriched and emphatic

The term illocutionary as used by Bloch here may seem to have the almost
exactly contrary meaning to that recognized by Habermas (1991a, 1991b). For Bloch,
illocutionary force was understood not only as an action that was completed in-andof-itself, where one does something by saying something, but as something that falsely
persuaded you through a communicative mystification. Yet while Bloch was right to
see rituals as illocutionary due to their ability to transform a person from one state to
another, to perform an act in the very act saying of it (youre fired, I dub thee, I name
you, etc.), illocutionary perfomatives may be understood to have performative force but
not inevitably, even not especially, to be about influence or persuasion. A perlocutionary
act is quite distinctly about this negative notion of persuasion, about consequential
effects. They can act parasitically on illocutionary acts, yet these latter effects are
not necessarily predestined, nor necessarily desired by the speaker. For Habermas,
illocutionary action thus simply means action bent on understanding rather than
success, on apprehension not influence. It was about the free flow of communication,
transparency, an action taken not to persuade but to state. Perlocutionary speech was
that which was understood to be insincere, to be a hindrance to communicative action.
And it is this perlocutionary effect that Bloch seems to have a problem with, a form of
communication that interferes with the aforementioned free flow. Thus, while Bloch
does not use the term perlocutionary in his discussion of ritual, his understanding of the
illocutionary elides it as though its effects were perlocutionary, a form actively meant to
confuse, to confound, to control.

204 Ornament and Order

form of communication, it represent[ed] an informationally impoverished one,

an impoverishment not diminishing but in fact swelling its highly persuasive,
highly compelling force (ibid.: 7089). In the process of performing, saying, or
singing these arthritic, frozen, impoverished, illocutionary things (Bloch 1989
[1974]: 2540), ritual was thus understood by Bloch (1986) to simply serve a form
of fixed political authority, creating an ideological apparatus that one could
not argue with (ibid.: 176), that permitted no alternative (ibid.: 182). Genre of
communication (its form, not content) was thus crucial, how something was
said, rather than what was said, turning ritual into a semi-hypnotic spell (ibid.:
84); its apparent fixity of form was in fact so powerful that ritual was totally
unable to tolerate individual creativity, unable to relate either to individuals or
to peculiarities in their life circumstances (Werbner 1989: 96). And the potential
richness of ritual, then, the possibility for a creative use of counter-images, as
Werbner continued, was frankly dismissed within Blochs framework. His was one
placing harsh limits both on the potential for improvisation and on any highly
personal expression within ritual acts (ibid.: 96), one that deemed ritual as the
truly obfuscatory space of traditional power.
In contrast to this Blochian notion of the illocutionary stood what he termed
propositional language, this being the space of open debate and democracy
enacted within the practicality of the everyday, the space of semantic facts that
could be clearly debated and argued (and a notion of propositionality that thus
has a direct association with the communicative openness of the Habermasian
illocutionary). Non-ritual language was thus understood as the true space of
freedom, the space of possibility, of infinite originality, where the pure autonomy
of syntax meant one could articulate almost any argument (Bloch 1989 [1974]: 20).
The fantastic creativity of natural language gave social actors a very wide choice
of acceptable answers to any given instance of speech, an articulation believed
to have been entirely absent within ritual form (ibid.: 26, 28). Art especially, in
Blochs view, was thus a particularly inferior form of communication due to its
lack of communicative dialogism, due to it not containing the infinite possibilities
that semantic language contained (ibid.: 38); it merely produced an illusion of
creativity while being, in fact, the sphere where it occurs least (ibid.: 38), ritual
and art considered as the archetypal form of cultural mystification, ideological
weapons coming to reinforce both hierarchy and hegemonic control (ibid.: 69).7

We can here note how Blochs argument works as the perfect mirror image
of Lyotards previously discussed work in Discourse/Figure. Bloch thus sees art as the
second-rate form of communication, while Lyotard, likewise, saw discourse thus;
Lyotard pronounced figure as the field of unlimited possibility, of pure freedom, Bloch
comprehending syntax along these exact lines. Yet whereas Bloch has seemingly
remained steadfastly against the potential housed within either art or ritual, Lyotard
did concede the possibility for accomplishments which lay in discourse. As David Carroll
explains (1987), for Lyotard, [as] long as critical discourse disrupts the established system
of meaning and keeps open the possibility of unforeseen relations and connections, it is
fulfilling its function of linking up with, without negating, the sensible. In this sense, the
function of critical discourse is to be more than discursive (ibid.: 33).

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


The innate violence contained within many ritual acts then (whether of a physical or
psychological nature), meant that they could in truth be seen as orgies of conscious
deference (Bloch 2005: 136), as the very antithesis of open communication. They
were dissonant, reductive strategies functioning as a kind of tunnel into which one
plunges, and where, since there is no possibility of turning either to right or left,
the only thing to do is follow (1989 [1974]: 412). They were a space in which ritual
participants were simply blindfolded, fooled, and deceived.
Nevertheless, and as Stanley Tambiah elucidated (1985), the rupture that Bloch
constructed between ritual and everyday language could be argued to be a highly
nebulous one; in fact, as Thomas J. Csordas has suggested (1997), Tambiah would
have undoubtedly taken issue with Blochs assertion that ritual communication
is distinct because it combines properties of statements and actions, pointing out
that all language does so (ibid.: 253). Csordas himself went on to claim that the
fundamental discontinuityBloch set up between these two forms of communication,
between propositional and metaphorical modes of thought, knowledge, and
discourse, unravels yet further when we grasp that metaphor, the sine qua non of
symbolism, is in fact an essential structure of all thought (ibid.: 252). Congruent
with Christopher Tilleys argument (see especially 1999) that metaphors are a
primary and irreducible aspect of language, that human thought is metaphorical
thought (Tilley 2008: 50, emphasis added), and alongside Lakoff and Johnsons
(1980) famous assertion that our entire conceptual system is largely metaphorical,
that the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day being very
much a matter of metaphor (ibid.: 103), Csordas thus went on to suggest that the
supposed differences between poetic (symbolic, metaphoric), and speculative

Eternal Present
(An Endless
Void), London,
England, 2008

206 Ornament and Order

(propositional, philosophical) modes of discourse, could be transcended (or even

made null) when acknowledging their basic, innate contiguity, by acknowledging
that metaphor and symbol create the conditions of possibility for knowledge that can
subsequently be cast in propositional form (Csordas 1997: 2523). The redundancy
and repetitiveness that Bloch observed within ritual language, therefore, a restricted
usage of communication that for him outlined its sterility, could be appreciated to
have a key creative aspect, their meaning, as Csordas again notes following Tambiah,
not only referring to elements of pattern recognition and configurational awareness,
aspects of unpredictability and low probability of occurrence that are criterial for
meaning in information theory, but through the simple capacity of redundancy to
heighten, intensify, and fuse the meaning of ritual communication (ibid.: 256). In this
apparently barren wasteland of creativity one could thus detect the subtle variation
within redundant utterance rather than on the element of repetitiousness per se
(ibid.: 256), a simplicity, a minimalism, that can often be the most difficult to achieve
aspect of all creative tasks. Following Blochs argument to its logical conclusion, it
would thus seem (as Csordas shrewdly notes), that
a brilliant conversationalist would be considered less creative than a boorish
blabbermouth because his speech is impoverished by adherence to codes of wit and
analogy. One can argue that a hammer is more constrained than a stone in the way
it is shaped and the way it must be gripped but that it is still a better tool for building
and pounding things. One can show that a sonnet bears more linguistic constraint
than everyday speech but argue that in the work of a skillful poet its lines can be
moving and creative because of processes that are not simply masked by everyday
speech, but are unavailable to everyday speech. Likewise, one can argue that ritual
language, precisely because of its formalization, can be a tool of creative persuasion.
In short, Blochs conception of art [and/or ritual] comes from regarding formalization
as an interdiction or removal of generative potential, missing the fact that creativity
does not suddenly become controllable [as Bloch termed it], but is a result of skill in a
performance that may or may not be consciously controlled (ibid.: 2556).

Fundamentally, Blochs argument, though innovative in exploring how rituals work

(rather than undertaking a purely symbolic analysis), innovative in its thorough
explication of the potential of some ritual practices to function as a form of social
control, can be argued to fail to empirically define the conditions under which
particular genres might serve traditional authority or liberation, exist as static or
creative cultural forms, and constitute impoverished forms of ordinary language or
collective mobilizations of the imagination (ibid.: 260). He fails to acknowledge the
possibility of peripatetic movement (as first considered regarding carnival in Chapter
5), the ability to move towards the left and renewal or the right and conformity, he
fails to explain when or why either may occur. Moreover, and as Edward Schieffelin
has noted (1985), the very rites described, rites working within a highly formalized
language and rigidly prescribed behavior, may in fact be ones more characteristic
of hierarchical societies such as the Merina [of Madagascar, whom Bloch conducted
his fieldwork with] rather than egalitarian societies [] where ritual language and
behavior is more loosely determined and negotiable (ibid.: 709). Creativity, and its
relation to ritual, thus becomes a matter of context, rather than a matter of semantics.

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


It comes to be found as much within the seemingly restricted figure as the apparently
complex discourse. And creativity can hence be seen to be the improvisation
of structural variation, an improvisational divergence working through implicit
attributions of meaning, through the products of shared experience (Friedman 2001:
59), rather than the radically new. It is hence a movement intelligible only to those
who participate in the social world in question, to be neither about freedom nor
about the liberation from constraint neither about randomness nor chaos the
implied corollaries of any pure creativity, of any individual idiosyncrasy but to be
negentropic, a form of increasing order not chaos (ibid.: 5960). As Margaret Boden
continues (1988), far from being opposed to creativity, regulatory conventions
permit the direct opposite; they make creativity possible (ibid.: 17). Creative practice
can hence not be seen to be about liberation but to be about spontaneity, intimacy,
and control (Csordas 1997: 263), an interplay through which repetition and formality
(contrary to their popular perception) can demonstrate an innately productive
dimension: In fact, these creative conventions can be seen as to create a diverse set
of repercussions, from new obligations, to new community, from form for inchoate
experience, to changes in traditional customs from new meaning for events to new
perspectives (ibid.: 249). They form a modality of improvisatory creativity which is
critical to my informants ornamental aesthetics, critical to the ritual, public, insurgent

Heighten, Intensify and Fuse

All of the underlying theoretical ideals discussed within this chapter thus far, the
themes running from play to the picaresque, from risk to inscription, from sterility

and Remed at
Play. London,
England, 2010

208 Ornament and Order

to creativity, are ones which I am of course arguing are dominant motifs in my

informants practices of ornamental ritualization. They are aspects entirely crucial to
the processes which brought these artefacts into existence, to the aesthetic practices
these individuals undertake. What I would first like to suggest here therefore is that
these demonstrably ritualized, carnivalesque acts were fully enmeshed within the
realm of the ludic, that they were, in Derridas terms, working not only through
the aforementioned play of supplementarity (the material surplus revealing the
inbuilt double-bind, the tension between ergon and parergon), through the play
of language (disturbing the relationship between writing and speech, between
normative notions of epigraphy), through the play of traces (a physical residue
marking a previous performance, an absence denoting an anterior attendance), but
through a total embracement of play which seeped into every part of the practice.
Painting was play, a play involving oneself, ones friends, the wider public, the
hegemonic authorities. It was the term always used in relation to the street (jugar,
jugando), to be playing with the city, to play with ones surroundings. And whether
it was playing with the design of their works or playing with the physical form of the
city, playing with symbols or with the street, each act in the process of production
contained elements of skill, strategy, and chance, each act placing my informants
both as prime examples of Huizingas homo ludens (2003 [1944]), each set within
Roger Caillois ludic typology (1961). We can thus see, following Huizinga, how
play is here both voluntary or freely adopted (ornamentation being undertaken
without any coercive enforcement); how it is distinct or sequestered from ordinary
life (occurring within a ritual framework, a distinct zone to the everyday); how it
creates and demands and adherence to order (an order formed through the
practices distinct rules and regulations, its dense moral codes); how it operates
under temporal and spatial limits (taking place in specific zones at specific times);
how it is either representational or competitive in some respect (clearly both overtly
figurative and overtly contestational in its set frameworks) (Schirato 2007: 7). We can
note how these ornamental practices work within all four of Caillois modalities of
play; within the realm of the agon: competition (where claims to esteem or simply
acceptance are made through ones visual productions); of alea: chance (where
the outcome is always uncertain due not only to its illegality but its contextual
particularity); of mimicry: simulation (where a ritual world with rules that necessitate
maintenance and commitment is physically created and performed); and finally, of
ilinx: vertigo (the pursuit of bodily pleasure, the intoxication and addiction to the
act of production, the thrill of the practice and satisfaction of completion that my
informants would encounter) (Ehrmann 1968: 31).
Unlike Huizinga and Caillois analyses, however, where play is understood to be
enclosed, delimited from the space of the everyday (caught, like limbo, between
the hell of reality subject to instincts and the paradise of the sacred, of the divine
[ibid.: 36]), where it is deemed frivolous, essentially sterile (Caillois cited in Ehrmann
1968: 46) due to its connection with leisure a separation between work and play
that can be argued to be a tenuous one, especially in relation to this group of actors
play in this scenario must be seen to be inherently intertwined with the quotidian.
It must, in fact, be seen to be synonymous and changeable with the everyday, a
text that contains in itself its own reality (Ehrmann 1968: 56). Like Debord and the
Situationists famous use of play within their politico-aesthetic tactics (most notably,

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


of course, their notions of the drive and dtournement), there was a passion for play
within my informants practice (Debord 1955, in Andreotti 2000: 38), a collective
play working through the production of an antiwork (Andreotti 2000: 42). It was
a play abolishing any distinction between play and seriousness, or between art
and everyday life (ibid.: 38), a notion of the ludic that acted as a critique of human
geography through which individuals and communities could create places and
events commensurate with the appropriation no longer just of their work, but of
their entire history (Debord 1983 [1967]: 99). And through, as Debord continued, the
ever-changing playing field of this new world, through the freely chosen variations
in the rules of the game, actors could regenerate a diversity of local scenes that
are independent without being insular (ibid.: 99). They could create networks of
players the matrix of ritual partners, of fellow painter who were spread around
the world and at the same time tightly connected to each other; they could create
idiosyncratic geographic styles which all worked toward the same insurgent end;
they could undertake a ludic attack on the city, producing the metagraphic writings
Debord so fondly speaks of the hypergaphy which merges poetic and visual
aesthetics, textual and graphic discourses. As we have seen Droogers point out then
(2004), the significance of this play, its gravity, its weight, does not come to conflict
with, but to actually concur with this notion of ritual. These ornamental practices
were thus the archetypal, manifestly visible example of stylized, scripted, serious
play (Keesing 1991: 65). They were overtly stylized (working with specific aesthetic
techniques and systems), intrinsically scripted (working within a set of rules and
regulations and, more literally, often visibly enacted through lettering), fiercely
serious (liable for harsh punishment, containing gravity and consequence), innately

England, 2012

210 Ornament and Order

playful (working with all of Huizinga and Caillois prescriptions); they contained all
of Keesings prerequisites of ritual action which meant that we can recognize it by
its frame if not by its content (ibid.: 65), which meant we could recognize it by the
frame that it both exists within and simultaneously manifests.
What was also key to all aspects of play however, its inherent ambiguity (as much
present, as Brian Sutton-Smith claims [1997], within its scholarship as its practice), its
basic indeterminacy as outlined by Gregory Batesons famous nip/bite [2000 (1972)],
the playful nip that denotes the bite but does not denote what would be denoted
by the bite [ibid.: 180]) can so too be determined within this highly betwixt-andbetween form of practice. As uncertainty permeates this meta-message of play
(Handelman 1998: 69), a play of forces, never more exhilarating nor frightening
than when boundaries are breached and identities blurred (ibid.: 67), these ritual,
ornamental actions are always and already subject to chance and the alea; they are
unpredictable acts, not only ones left unresolved and thus necessitating completion
by their attendant viewers, but acts in which the status of both producer and medium
is left intentionally equivocal; they are full of chance, the risk taken every time the
works are produced. Yet, and quite crucially here, these boundary-breaching actions,
these uncertain, ambiguous, hazardous acts, are also ones customarily fashioned by
boundary-breaching characters. And what I want now to claim is that my informants
can so too be understood to exemplify these innately indeterminate figures, these
ambiguous characters who are both socially peripheral working outside of
societal norms yet implicitly and symbolically central found, like their images,
at the very heart of our modern urban conurbations (Babcock-Abrahams 1978: 32).
Like the archetypal trickster then, these individuals combine subversive practice
with aesthetic production (Ryan 1999: 3), they seek to create shifts of perspective,
to transgress moral and societal strictures through their ornamental practice. They
transgress, like we have seen with Louis, through the upturning of classical, often
religious imagery; like we have seen with Eltono, through the contravention of
property laws in public space; like with Remed, through the non-instrumental use of
the street; with Nano, through the creation of dirt; or with Spok, through the violation
of language, the upturning of script. Like to the famous trickster, too, my informants
did not merely act like monsters, they literally (and habitually) dressed as such;
they donned absurd (homemade) disguises and fancy-dress, they played the fool,
performing in maniacal, low-fi psychedelic short films produced in the public space
of the city. Created for the weekly happening Montaa Sagrada an event overseen
by Nano, Luciano Suarez and Rafa Suen (extremely close friends of all at the studio)
yet always involving all of Nov Nueve (in both the production of the films as well as in
the set design for each night) trickster-type figures would play a central role here,
each of the members producing their own masks and costumes, commandeered by
Nanos unforgettable Montaa Monster. 8

See the following for some examples of these Montaa films: http://www.,
re=related,, http://,

6.13 The Montaa Monster, Madrid, Spain, 2009

6.14 The Montaa Monster, Madrid, Spain, 2009

6.15 and 6.16 Monsters and Mayhem, Madrid, Spain, 2009

214 Ornament and Order

As Handelman argued (1998), the clown type is an embodiment of uncertainty,

and so a device for the dissolution of boundaries, a typology highlighting not only the
link between play and uncertainty but also the ability of these marginal characters to
turn clearcut precepts into ambiguous and problematic ones, their power located in
the very dirt they produce (ibid.: 2478). If boundaries are altered, he continues (and
clowns are individuals who are understood to both inhabit and disturb these sites),
then so is the relationship between those parts that these borders order (ibid.: 247),
my informants taboo breaking practices, their boundary-marking performances,
their marginal characteristics, altering and affecting their physical sites, their inherent
meanings as much as their wider social order. Our contermporary trickster, our
modern-day picaro, can thus be understood to not only produce within the boundary,
in the cracks and fractures of the city walls, but to live through this very periphery, to
be marginal in their site of practice as much as their innate state, the joker operating
as much through destruction as construction (working in a constant cycle of both
erasure and erection), the picaro located within the slums, favelas, and barrios of the
city (the popular locations in which this work most commonly appears).
As what I argue to be modern instantiations of the archetypal picaro figure then,9
my informants were considered to be culture-heroes by some (providing the most
positive elements of the city with signs of vibrancy, of life) and yet for others
considered as the citys most negative, undeniably criminal constituent (embodying
the possibility of chaos, physically manifesting dirt [Babcock-Abrahams 1975: 148]).
Whilst being mindful of this artist (hero) / vandal (criminal) dichotomy (being a binary
that, as Stallybrass and White (1986) have taught us, often tells us more about the
system of authority than the actual practices themselves), the picaresque attribute
they all contained clearly placed my informants in the role of the half-outsider, the
ambiguous artist operating at the boundary between work and theft (Maiorino
2003: 134), producing their so-called art or their apparent vandalism. Moreover, these
were figures (following the prominent literary conception of the picaro as underdog),
who were seen to function through the cunning of David against the callous city
as Goliath, a bandit cheating, scamming10 his way through societys codes and
restrictions, navigating his way by hook or crook, as Frank Wadleigh Chandler (1899)
suggested (in Sieber 1977: 2). Providing us with examples both of trickery and roguish
behaviour while at the same time working both within and beyond society (BabcockAbrahams 1975: 159), the characters discussed within this book can hence be seen,
like Thomas Manns Felix Krull, to be both artist and picaro all at once. They were not
merely the con-artist as so habitually depicted, a mere confidence-trickster (although
perhaps, as Heilman argues [1991], as with both artist and picaro figures, being figures
attempting to elicit a confidence in their character), but one who works through the
concrete, who clings to the felt surfaces of life, who acts both as a recorder of sensory
surfaces and an embodiment of visual and olfactory and tactile passions (ibid.: 17).

The status of Banksy in the wider popular imagination I believe further attests to
this fact.
This in fact reminds me of a fantastic book produced by Momo entitled My
Scam, a thoroughly picaresque account of how he spent five years travelling around the
US supporting himself solely through the production of unsolicited House Portraits.
Please see for more.

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


Zone. Madrid,
Spain, 2009

Their status as both loved and loathed, as artists and criminals, as underdogs and
outsiders thus places my informants directly within this dichotomous, ambiguous
role. It places them, like the trickster an oft employed metaphor for the 20thcentury artist, if often due to their aesthetic innovations being depicted (by so-called
defenders of tradition) as fraudulent artifice rather than fine art in the position of
what Lewis Hyde (2008) has termed trickster-artists, artus-workers, or joint-workers
(ibid.: 257), individuals who work to articulate and re-articulate joints, to make flexible
what is taught and arthritic, to attack the boundary which the joint manifests. The
picaro/artists life must therefore be understood as a deeply risky one. Their practices
are always on the edge of uncertainty (on the edge of the city, on the edge of the
law), ones which intentionally confuse proscribed social notions of morality (in terms
of propriety and property in equal measure). And it was my informants undertaking
of such picaresque behaviour, acts that induced so much unease, so much angst,
that thus connects them to Howes examination of danger and ritual (2000), their
hazardous rites gaining power through risk, their perilous rites indexing commitment
through the basic hazards of production.
Danger, therefore, meant contact with power. Risk, potential gain. Efficacy
understood to increase in direct correlation with stake. This was quite clear for
all my informants, for the producers of both Consensual and Agonistic Ornaments;
every performance engaged the unforeseeable, the capricious; every performance
was a potential failure as much as a success, non-fulfillment a constant peril. These
extrinsic dangers could of course be provoked through the inherent complexity
of completing a practice (the difficulty of accomplishing ones work, of marking
out an elaborate figure without indecision, without inconsistency, all the whilst
remaining cognizant of the various environmental dangers that their medium
furnished), through the danger to ones social position (through inexpertly or
inadequately completing this same task), through the will of outside agents

216 Ornament and Order

(agents intent on prohibiting these acts, disrupting performances). Intrinsic

hazards emerged through the very form of these taboo-breaking, polluting rituals
themselves, through these ornamental rites which so literally overflowed their
boundaries, which attacked order, which were contained in a zone of ambiguity.
The successful completion of a rite was always up for contest, it was never
guaranteed until one was securely away from the ritual zone. Each encounter was
full of risk from the moment they begun, full of danger the moment one entered
the ritual frame. Or course, this was a factor which an expert ritual actor would
naturally be able to control with more skill, the awareness of ones surroundings,
the mastery of ones implements, being an aptitude which could emerge through
practice alone. Yet without this element of risk the power of these rituals would
dissipate: if they were easy to accomplish (both in terms of their formal and
performative aspects), what would one truly gain? The management of this risk,
this placement of financial, temporal and coroporeal investments directly into the
ritual arena, meant that there could be no contestation over the commitment to
practice. It was the very encounter with risk, rather than its overcoming, which
demonstrated my informants fidelity.
Not only rituals of inscription however the rituals emerging through a physical
engraving upon our city walls, through a contemporary form of parietal writing
these practices were also rituals as inscription, ritual acts mediating textual and
performative approaches, mediating textual and performative practices. They
were thus the very epitome of performed texts, of text as process, texts literally
re-written every time they were performed, texts enmeshed within the issues
of risk, claim, strategy and competition that Howes (2000) move toward the
theoretical centrality of inscription invoked (ibid.: 656). They were texts which were
precisely exploring the struggle about who can get what inscribed, which were all
about competition and the agon, texts entangled within issues of risk, stake, claim,
strategy and competition (ibid.: 65). Even in their recurrent, often repetitive states,
these ritual inscriptions were subject to a highly contextual mode of performativity,
an iterative mode of etching. And the adherence to set patterns of action can hence
be understood to define and control production rather than disable the possibility
of creativity. The setting of certain material restrictions (such as with Eltonos
tuning fork design or Spoks eponymous tag) forced one to improvise within a set
structural arrangement, to establish new concepts from one base form, a mode
of creativity my informants valued higher than the mere production of novelty.
Rather than comprehending the rule-bound nature of ritual action to orchestrate
every step, to simply define the outer limits of what is acceptable (Bell 1997: 155),
these very regulations, such as those implicit within natural languages (or, as Veena
Das suggests [1998], those implicit within ethnographies), can be understood to be
always incomplete, always incorporating an excess, a surplus (ibid.: 179). Following
predefined rules was thus clearly understood by these agents as necessary to
keep their aesthetic (or ritual) production cohesive (to keep it within the same
genre), but these rules were guidelines not limits. The supposedly arthritic
status of ritual and of art can hence be understood to triumph against rigidity
through its very constrictions, the subtle variation within redundant utterance

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


the variations perhaps only ever interpretable and visible to initiates being a
structural variation able to heighten, intensify and fuse the ritual process (Csordas
1997: 256). This was insurgent ornamentation as the constrained hammer not allpurpose stone, the restricted sonnet not everyday speech, impoverished with not
boorish blabbermouth (ibid.: 2556). This was ornament as a form undermining
the distinction between poetic and propositional modes of discourse, ornament
emerging from a deeply egalitarian social grouping, ornament as a ritualized
practice of a highly negotiable nature.
Rather than creativity being about novelty, uniqueness, about pure innovation
(a mode stressing individuation, separation from the whole, and a focus on
product), the creativity emerging from my informants actions can hence be seen
as one focussed on adaptation, interpretation, improvisation (a mode stressing
sociality, connection to a wider framework, and a focus on process). It was a form,
akin to Readings previously examined reading of Lyotard (1991), that rejected the
innovative nature of modernist art (compared to the paralogical form of its postmodern incarnation), that rejected innovations function in simply refining the
efficiency of the system (ibid.: 55). As unmitigated bricoleurs, Jack-of all trades
or a kind of professional do-it-yourself man (Lvi-Strauss [1989 (1966)]: 17), my
informants created with what surrounded them (using the city space as their
medium), they used every available tool (using the city as a tool), learning through
doing, refusing to follow the brute urge of the market. It was an improvisational
creativity that meant they all knew how to do anything and everything (to
sculpt, to print, to design, to paint, to build), without every needing to take on
the role of Artist . These were thus the very craftsmen of devious means LviStrauss depicted (ibid.: 17), furtive craftsmen working through conventions
not inventions, improvising with what was at hand to create new outcomes,
outcomes that were deeply negentropic, not entropic. They were the bricoleurs
who create from whatever is at hand, from a heterogenous set of tools, rather
than the engineer who creates solely from concepts, who creates ex nihilo (ibid.:
17). It was a model of creativity stressing social processes over material products
the ephemeral artefact and the ephemeral performance of equal import
one attempting to extricate itself from the cult of creativity, the overwhelming
obsession of our times. Like the creativity of Michael Camilles medieval artists
then, a creativity that was appreciated to function through the amalgamation
and integration of our material world rather than its transcendence, this was a
form of practice that was measured not in terms of invention, as today, but in
the capacity to combine traditional motifs in new and challenging ways (Camille
in Ingold and Hallam 2007: 17). Creativity, as Ingold and Hallam claim in a prcis
of Camilles work, could thus here be seen to emerge through illuminative
inscriptions that
would newly gloss, undermine, or mock written texts with drawings, often taken
from pattern-books, or already familiar figures [] Novelty in these manuscripts
therefore worked through supplementation as well as through the juxtaposition
of elements. It also operated through extensions and flows wherein the flourishes
of letters would merge with creatures and other motifs (ibid.: 17).

6.18Remio, Untitled, San Francisco, USA, 2012

Play, Risk and the Picaresque


Of course this very passage, apart from being one that embraces creativity as
improvisation rather than innovation, takes on very different resonances when
transferred into our contemporary context. Transferred to the contemporary
timeframe, the authors could quite easily be commenting on the creativity
inherent within the insurgent ornamental productions that have been discussed
throughout this work itself. These were supplementary aesthetic products working
through improvisation rather than explicit innovation, products which could gloss,
undermine, mock their border zones, which would juxtapose and decorate them,
extend and merge their flourished letters with popular visual imagery. It thus not
only reiterates the relationship between my informants aesthetic productions and
the genre of ornamentation within which it exists providing an almost exactly
parallel mode of epigraphy to that found within medieval marginalia but provides
a tighter focus on the form of improvisational creativity ornament often displays,
one that could be witnessed in all of my informants creations, from the simplest tag
to the most complex installation. The conscious usurpations of written forms that
Camille explores (1992), the irreverent explosion of marginal mayhem that these
gothic images created (ibid.: 22), is thus echoed almost exactly within the uproar
provoked by my informants practices, the (dis)order they are seen to invoke, the
critical debates over centre and periphery that their marginal acts uncover (ibid.: 10).
They form an equivalently tricksteresque narrative, an ornament produced by
craftsmen working on the edge of the city, on the edge of the institutional realm,
craftsman who both worked upon the boundary and upended their very sites. They
form an equivalently carnivalesque space, a marginal aesthetic formed by artisans
placed on an occupational par with jongleurs and prostitutes, artisans roaming
between the intra and extramuros, ones effacing the distinction between centre
and periphery, between secular and sacred, between saints and sinners. And the
area which they inhabited was thus not only the site for representing the other,
but so too a place of self-inscription (ibid.: 150). It was a space, like the margins of
Gothic ornamental design (the space of gargoyles and chimeras, misericords and
posteriors), like the margins of the contemporary city (the place of our consensual
and agonistic ornaments) where both rational and irrational impulses could come
together to form a very particular architectural order, where they could come
together to form order through a unique style of ludic ritual (ibid.: 93).

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I comprehend it now in a much larger sense, as the space in which things become
public, as the space in which one lives and which must look presentable.
In which art appears, of course. In which all kinds of things appear.
Hannah Arendt

Everything that is, must appear, and nothing can appear without a
shape of its own; hence there is in fact no thing that does not in some
way transcend its functional use, and its transcendence, its beauty or
ugliness, is identical with appearing publicly and being seen.
Hannah Arendt

The Permeability of Boundaries

In the course of this book I have attempted to outline a number of things: I
have reformulated the images produced in the street by my informants as ones
functioning through a modality of ornamentation, artefacts working as both
accessories and adornments, as adjuncts and embellishments, all the while
existing within the anxious realm of both the decorative and the supplement.
I have revealed two distinct forms of ornamentation emerging from my
informants work in the public sphere, one consensual, the other agonistic, one
working centrifugally, the other centripetally, both of which can be related to
discourses emerging from the contemporary art-world yet which contain a
quite crucial and critical autonomy. I have disclosed the distinctly ritual quality
of the productive process from which these artefacts emerge, the formal,
traditional, rule-governed, sacred, and performative frameworks they reside
within, their status within the binding, very public rites of the festival, within
the inherently (dis)ordered rites of the carnivalesque, within a deeply playful
yet innately risky arena. In Part I, Ornament, I thus argued that my informants

222 Ornament and Order

practices not only took place upon a boundary, within the in-between zones
of the city, but manifested themselves through the ultimate aesthetic of quasidetachment, through an artefact which was in itself a creature of the boundary.
And what I now want to contend is that the arguments I presented within Part
II, within our examination of Order, can in fact also be seen to work upon similar
lines. It is not only play that functions on the edge, that works within a liminal
site, separate yet conjoined to the everyday; it is not only tricksters and picaros
that act as the living embodiment of the marginal, as the half-outsiders, as
boundary breaching characters with boundary breaching practices; it is not only
carnival perversion that works through ambiguity and disturbance, between
inversion and subversion, that is set directly within the constitutive outside;
it is the overarching modality of ritual itself that can so too be understood as
the epitome of the quasi-detached, it is the overarching ritual order that also
inhabits the space between the ordinary and extraordinary, that exists on the
borderline of art and life.
Following Csordas then (1997), I want to stress the evident permeability of
boundaries between ritual events and everyday life (ibid.: 68), a permeability
which echoes that of the very walls that these ornaments pervade, a permeability
which inhabits ornament and order in equal measure. Like the artefacts examined
in Part I, all of the ritual elements discussed in Part II will hence be considered as
parerga, to be on the edge between two poles yet to exist so as to disrupt each
of these poles, to disturb them rather than merely to set them in distinction.
Both the production of the artefact and the artefact itself can hence be seen to
be caught within the parergonal logic, both ornament and order, both material
residue and performative trace containing a transcendent exteriority [which]
touches, plays with, brushes, rubs, or presses against the limit (Derrida 1979:
21), a constitutive threat able to transform the theory it is set within. And now, I
hope, the very title of this book will become more comprehensible. Parerga do
not merely signify literal ornaments, the drapery (or the graffiti) which disrupts
the notion of internal and external, the frames, the hors doeuvre which have
no beginning and no end; they must be understood to signify the exceptional,
the peculiar, the extraordinary (ibid.: 22), to signify play, carnival, ritual, the
acts which both are and are not, which augment and disconcert yet which are
related to their ergon through an inseparable bond. The boundaries that are set
between ritual and the everyday, between work and play, between ornament
and wall, the boundaries meant to function through a process of exclusion,
can thus more profitably be seen as borders, as sites of exchange as well as of
separation, as an active edge, as a site of resistance (Sennett 2008: 22731).
And the ornament and order which we have explored here, the artefact and
the performance, the relic and ritual, can thus be understood to embrace all
the elements that this anxious realm provides, embracing the heightened
sensitivities, the heightened tensions that these borderlands provoke. It is an
ornament and order enveloped within the marginal, the quasi-detached, an
ornament and order which is parergon.



The Epigraphic Habit

Whilst the core arguments of this text have now been made, what still remains
crucially unresolved is the critical question of balance, the factor that enabled my
informants to remain unified within a single collective while containing members
from both consensual and agonistic camps. How is it that the seemingly distinct
politico-aesthetics which existed within the group did not draw them apart? How
did their differing gravitational pulls not smash the group to pieces? And what
I will now move to argue is that here, order comes not to balance but to in fact
trump ornament, practice eclipsing product, performance transcending art. It was
the common ethico-aesthetic the group possessed, the base moral requirement
to be active within the public sphere that came to surpass the distinct politicoaesthetics each individual employed. It was the common belief in practice, in
activity, in action that kept the group envelope secure, the belief in the purity and
veracity of action in the street, the ritual commitment enacted by each practitioner
that enabled their coherence.
As a factor which Caroline Humphrey and James Laidlaw (1994) argue is
constitutive of ritualization itself (ibid.: 154), this notion of ritual commitment is
crucial to my argument here. It was a commitment to certain prescribed (and, in my
informants case, proscribed) actions, to certain constitutive (rather than regulative)1

This differentiation between regulative and constitutive rules was taken from the
work of John Searle, who argued that while constitutive rules create or define new forms
of behavior, regulative ones simply order antecedently or independently existing forms of

Untitled, Madrid,
Spain, 2010

224 Ornament and Order

rules, that enabled these social actors to indicate both to themselves and the wider
community that they were prepared to adhere to the conventions which were
determined by the practice, committing and at the same time communicating
that commitment through concrete action. For my informants, what was of
principal importance was simply that this clear allegiance to the city was made, an
unwavering devotion to ritualized practice in the street, to insurgent production
within the public sphere proven. And their actions were thus dominated by what
Howard Becker (1960) termed the side bet, a state where the committed person
has acted in such a way as to involve other interests of his, originally extraneous
to the action he is engaged in, directly in that action (ibid.: 35), a side bet which
proved that ones actions were beyond reproach. This was not a part-time hobby
then (although perhaps it was a full-time one, in that it was done for pleasure, not
gain). It was a practice that took time (at the very least, Malcolm Gladwells [2008]
magical 10,000 hours); that took money (the opportunity cost incurred through
choosing to work without payment); that involved a huge amount of risk (to ones
body in dual terms, risking ones health through its inherent danger, risking ones
liberty through its illegality). It was an overarching dedication that was impossible
to simulate, fidelity revealed through the consistent endangering of ones liberty,
through the consistent renouncement of instrumentality, through consistently
consuming ones time. Working in the public sphere was the only virtuous, moral
way to act for my informants; it was the sign of a true citizen, the sign of one who
dwelled in the street. And only by producing these ornaments could one thus
prove his acceptance to the wider order, only then could he indicate to both
himself and to others that he accept[s], whatever is encoded in the canons of the
liturgical order in which he is participating (Rappaport 1979: 193). It was by action,
by subjective involvement (with all the affective qualities these engendered) that
one gained embodied knowledge, a knowledge more important than any purely
cognitive understanding. The specific reasons why one acted the way one did
were thus rarely discussed within the group, not due to any explicit taboo but
simply due to its status as tautologous: One could see beliefs. One did not need
to hear them. The only thing of true import was action in itself. This was belief as
something lived, practiced, performed, on a daily level. And my informants did not
simply commit to the practice of what is often termed graffiti then, commit to an
aesthetic modality known as street-art. They committed to public performance,
to exposition, to the fulfilment of specific, corporeal tasks. They committed to the
transgression of norms and laws which were ethically untenable, a commitment to
the city that enabled the rapprochement within the group as a whole.
behaviour (Searle 1969: 33). Regulative rules were thus most overtly recognized through
habitus, the rules of etiquette that police social relationships independently of stated
rules, constitutive ones identified through games (football and chess most notably), and
thus crucially non-imperative, simply explaining the meaning of particular expressions.
Humphrey and Laidlaw thus place ritual clearly within the realm of the constitutive; it is
stipulation, as distinct from mere regulation which is constitutive of ritual. Only ritual acts
(like valid moves in chess) count as having happened, so the celebrant moves from act to
act, completing each in turn and then moving on to the next. This is unaffected by delays,
false moves, extraneous happenings, or mishaps (Humphrey and Laidlaw 1994: 117).

C.2Nano4814, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008

C.3Eltono, Untitled, Bogot, Columbia, 2008

226 Ornament and Order

This dedication to the polis then, this duty to action within the public sphere
meant that my informants actions can be understood to function in a manner almost
directly opposed to that of the Baudelairean flneur so famously described by
Walter Benjamin (2003 [1938]), the flneur who goes botanizing on the asphalt, the
harmless, perfectly affable flneur (ibid.: 19). These social actors were landscapists,
not botanists, horticulturalists not phytologists, their actions in the city saturated
with bodily engagement, devoid of the detachment and social disconnection
which the flneurs purely visual, voyeuristic, gaze can be understood to sustain.
Analogous to the Baudelairean archetype, to the de Certeauian homme ordinaire
whose peregrinations lent a political dimension to everyday practices (de Certeau
1984: xvii), they did aspire to lose themselves in the city, to be fully attuned to the
ephemera and contingencies of the urban matrix, to recognize that it exceeded
reason, experiencing it in a way that escaped the structures and statuettes of
bourgeois authority (Clark 2000: 17). So too they followed (almost exactly) the
Benjaminian (2003 [1938]) description of the flneurs attempt to convert the street
into a dwelling place, his transformation of the boulevard into an intrieur, the
caf terraces surrogate balconies from which he looks down on his household
after his work is done, the shiny enameled shop sign thus being appreciated to
be as good a wall ornament as an oil painting is to a bourgeois in his living room
(ibid.: 19).2 Yet rather than the detachment inherent to flnerie, my informants
were immersed within a daily enaction of reconstruction and renewal, a physical
engagement which directly challenged the passivity and submissiveness which
Zygmunt Bauman (1994) has argued is the contemporary flneurs predicament.
They directly challenged the docility which Bauman believes the contemporary
city engenders, the submissiveness that has emerged through the increasing
schism between public and private space in our metropolitan landscapes, through
the iron cloak of consumerism which now lays heavily on the shoulders of the
modern urban dweller (ibid.: 15053).
For my informants, the street was about action not consumption, inscription
not instrumentation, a place of active, physical praxis where one could publicly
reflect upon, act upon the world so as to transform it (Friere 2000 [1967]). They
directly attacked the schism between public and private through their insurgent
ornamentation, they directly attacked the iron cloak of consumerism through their
inalienable actions. The street was thus a site of disclosure and transmission, it was
a communal register to use the evocative words of Spiro Kostof (1992), a stage of
solemn ceremony and improvised spectacle (ibid.: 243). It was the hallowed place
where my informants wrote, where they painted, where they daubed, smeared,
sprayed, scratched, installed and displayed their decorative forms. It was the site
where they imprinted their social relationships, where they communicated with

Startlingly, this Benjaminian observation concerning the veneration of shop
signs was a habitual occurrence amongst my informants. More time was spent observing
and discussing these objects, examples of an artisanal, calligraphic beauty, than spent
analysing any traditional, museum-based art with a more distinctly capital A.

C.4 and C.5 Goldpeg, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008

228 Ornament and Order

each other, where they formed and shaped a collective commitment.3 And it
was this material entanglement with the street, this corporeal commitment that
contradicts the pleasure Bauman (1995) has suggested has come to be drawn
from the mutual estrangement and absence of responsibility embedded within
the modern street, a way of being which he argued alleviated people from any
form of lasting obligations (ibid.: 132). The street was not seen by my informants
merely as a passageway from one place to another, a location for brute transfer
or movement. It was the place where every problem could be solved or resolved,
where a deep civic commitment was enacted. It was a site in which obligations
were enacted through its ornamentation, in which engagement not estrangement
was found. It was a site in which a societal responsibility was performed.
As much as being a mode of self-expression then, a release from societal
strictures, painting was pledging, painting was confirming. And this, I would
argue, is the key reason why my informants were still so active in the street, still so
insistent upon working within the public sphere. It is why they were still so active
even whilst they nothing left to gain, whilst their status in both institutional
and subcultural arenas was already assured. It was a commitment to present
action, not latter effect, that their ornamentation instantiated, a commitment to
religion in the sense of its Latin root ligare, an act which could bind, which could
connect.4 Commitment thus affixed you to others, it fused you to a community of
like-minded, civic-minded, public-minded kin. It brought you into what Susanne
Kchler (1994) has termed a ritual confederation (ibid.: 96). It brought you into
an alliance which was governed in a further coherence between the insurgent

It is hard to overstate the importance of this locale for my informants. The street
was not only the source of everything, it was the always abundant natural resource.
Need a medium with which to produce your work? Vamos a la calle. Need material for
your exhibition? Vamos a la calle. Wood to refurbish your studio? Vamos a la calle. A
location to record a short-film? Vamos a la calle. A place to rest, to relax, to play? Vamos
a la calle. The street was always and already the answer.
This connectivity through commitment was made most clear to me one day
when spending time with Sixe and Goldpeg in Vigo. Sixe had just closed a sold-out
gallery show in Barcelona, another in Madrid, and was getting recognition both for his
contemporary and independent public work on a global scale. He had no intrinsic need
to paint illegally: His name in commercial terms could not at that point have got any
bigger; his status within the non-institutional realm already garnered through years of
illegal practice. Yet in a one-hour spree (in the middle of the day), Goldpeg and he had
gone from the very top of the city to the port, incessantly (and joyfully) tagging the
entire way. Later recounting this story to an acquaintance, he could not understand
why someone in Sixes position would make the effort, could be bothered to still
work in this illegal setting. The answer was quite simple: This commitment fastened
practitioners to one another. It instantiated your moral code. It ensured the boundaries
of the group remained cohesive. Quite possibly no images of the ornamental forms
produced by Sixe and Goldpeg that day have ever been published until now (either in
electronic or physical form). Quite possibly only a handful of people in Vigo (a handful
who Sixe and Goldpeg probably already knew personally) would ever have even known
who produced the epigraphical inscriptions. Yet for them that was of zero importance.
They were there and knew what occurred. And they were bound by it.



ornaments here discussed and the famous malangan sculptures of New Ireland
by the right to reproduce a particular image, an image that was then shattered
into innumerable variations in the course of its repeated reproduction, an
image that was scattered and expanded through regional networks of these
confederations (ibid.: 96). This community of practice thus formed social bonds
through the production of their illicit ornaments, bonds which were formed
not through a common history of intermarriage, but in terms of the memory of
imagery and of the knowledge of how to reembody this imagery (Kchler 1988:
629); they formed an entity of one skin (ibid.: 632) through their knowledge and
re-enaction of this imagery (through both imagining and imaging alternative
viewpoints [Ryan 1999: 5]), an entity of ritual practitioners forming a tightly
encased, enclosed group envelope. Like Rappaports (1999) discussion of the
ritual efficacy of planting rumbim, an act which joins a man to the group with
whom he plants (ibid.: 114), here it was painting rather than planting that
functioned to consolidate the group, here it was painting, rather than dancing
(see p. 72) which embodied pledging, which came to indicate [] membership
rather than merely symbolize it (ibid.: 76). By publicly committing, by producing
together, one implicitly and openly pledged allegiance to the same moral
codes and values as the other, one accepted the dangers of membership, one
accepted its economic and ritual responsibilities, and one could thus receive
their full rights of membership (ibid.: 77). Each individual that I conducted my
fieldwork with thus became members of one another, became co-present in
each other through the mutuality of being that was formed through partaking
in these crucial acts, through sharing one anothers experiences (Sahlins 2011:
11), through taking responsibility for and feel[ing] the effects of each others acts
(ibid.: 14). It was a kinship, a confederation, an ornamental society constructed
through an unrelenting commitment to ritual action.
As Sennett has described examining the workshops of medieval craftsmen
(2008), it was ritual in and of itself that forged a strong sense of community,
that created a network that could provide contacts for workers on the move
(the ever-present couch, for my informants, available in every city in the world5),
a bond that emphasized the migrants obligations to newly encountered craft
members (the instant responsibility felt to other street practitioners6), which
formed associated fraternities (global collectives) who would provide for you in
times of need (ibid.: 60).

And which, of course, must also be available in your own house or your own
One evening after just leaving the studio, Spok and I bumped into two lost
American brothers, both looking slightly dishevelled and searching in vain for a youth
hostel. They were street performers, one of whom would play the harmonica, the other
in control of a dancing, homemade marionette, classical picaresque figures travelling
across Europe with empty pockets. Within moments of meeting them Spok had decided
that they would be staying at the studio. It was the sort of good will that he had been
a recipient of countless times in far-off destinations, and, as such, a benevolence that
he need return.

C.6 and C.7 Sixe, Untitled, Vigo, Spain, 2008



Rather than these rituals simply defining a Durkheimian pre-existing social

collectivity then, the bizarre, often grotesque collective demonstrations my
informants undertook came to create the very social collectivity itself, forming
a bond of artificial kinship (ibid.: 337), forming a moral community through
the physical actuality of these processes (ibid.: 358). It was the all-pervasive and
highly elaborate forms of ritual these individuals enacted that did the work
of binding the guild members, and likewise our insurgent craftsmen, to one
another, it was the enacting of rituals that provided a frame to establish their
probity (Sennett 2008: 60), the production of a literal frame which proved their
morality. The ornamentation which my informants undertook can thus be seen
to have been one that championed orthopraxy over orthodoxy, that emphasized
correct action over correct belief. Their shared political convictions their pure
belief in the sanctity of the street, in the city as a site for play, for action, for both
access and excess, was thus able to render aesthetical judgement partially or
completely irrelevant (Groys 2010: 49). And it was hence a practice, such as found
within Zaidman and Pantels explication of the religious codes of Ancient Greece
(1992), that was ritualistic in the sense that it was the opposite of dogmatic: it was
not constructed around a unified corpus of doctrines, and it was above all the
observance of rituals rather than fidelity to a dogma or belief that ensured the
permanence of tradition and communal cohesiveness (ibid.: 27). Like the sacred
laws of the Greeks then, the laws regulated by written enactments, by parietal
writings inscribed on stone or bronze pillars and displayed at the entrance of
temples and in other public places (ibid.: 28), fidelity to the city in our contemporary
case was proven through these acts of inscription, the compulsion, the stipulation
to practice in the city not doctrinated but instead illocutionarily undertaken. The
particular regime of display and regulation that my informants undertook, the
ornament and the order they enacted, can hence be understood as an exercise of
citizenship (Goldhill 1999: 1) which functioned through a practice of visual and
verbal display (ibid.: 8), an enactment of citizenship proven through an insurgent
ornamentation. And just like that which is emergent in James Holstons (1990)
spaces of insurgent citizenship (ibid.: 157), his spaces which have the potential
to create new metropolitan forms of the social not yet liquidated by or absorbed
into the old, spaces that can parody, derail, or subvert state agendas, these
practices can exemplify the struggle over what it means to be a member of the
modern state (ibid.: 167). They can act as the archetypal constitutive outside, the
quintessential parergon, utilizing central civic space yet always and already acting
as a manifestation [] of peripheries (ibid.: 246). The city of images, the city of
words which Simon Goldhill discusses (1999), the epigraphic habit of which he
alludes, can thus be seen not only to have played a key role in the formation of
the ideals of citizenship within ancient Athena (ibid.: 268), but to be reflected,
replicated within our contemporary example. The parietal writings enacted by
my informants must hence be seen to directly relate to the model of embodied
citizenship which they all upheld, to an ethico-aesthetic in which practice was
paramount. It was one in which written enactments, in which the observance of
ritual, directly led to the communal cohesiveness which was so readily displayed.

232 Ornament and Order

Untitled, Tarifa,
Spain, 2012

Francis Terrys neo-classical reformation of Leake Street, his revolutionary

trompe loeil that we first saw in our introduction, can now, I hope, be seen in all its
paradoxical, unwittingly ironic glory, in its disordered, discordant, dissonant state.
It is not simply that I mean to demean classical Greek ornament itself, nor castigate
the relationship between the decorative arts and democracy as concretized by
them. It is merely that I believe that we must, as Peter Weibel has argued (2005),
guard against the imposition of an aesthetic ideal from a detached scaffold an
imposition such as the infamous incorporation of the ideals of Greek Classicism, the
cult of the ideal body within our twentieth-century totalitarian systems (national
socialism, fascism, Stalinism) that we must protect against the doctrinaire of art,
the imitatio of the free art, of the ideals of the Greek culture being utilized to disguise
the barbaric state of an unfree society, of social disorder (ibid.: 1009). Like the
decontextualized ornaments discussed by Rosalyn Deutsche (1986), the Parisian
copies of Greek and Roman monuments placed within Union Square within the
late 19th and early 20th century (ibid.: 78), Terrys ornament can be seen as one
functioning through an illusion of order, through an illusion of moral perfection
that neoclassicism was supposed to represent (ibid.: 77). The images and artefacts
produced by my informants and explored within this book however, the images
countering instrumental pressures, countering the market, the artefacts initiating
new forums, initiating new forms, can thus (perhaps paradoxically) be seen to more
closely follow the classical Greek mode of ornamentation as Goldhill, Zaidman and
Pantel discuss, to follow it in its methods not materials, in its approaches not artefacts.

C.9 The Leake Street Classicist, London, England, 2011

C.10GPO, Untitled, Athens, Greece, 2010

234 Ornament and Order

Rather than the chaos and pollution which Terry sees them represent, they can
be seen to enact a model of citizenship which has the polis at its heart, a model
of citizenship able to counter the authoritarian management of will and opinion
formation by the market or the state, able to initiate new conditions, new
opportunities (ibid.: 1026) for the contemporary public sphere.
While the practices of Agonistic and Consensual Ornamentation may be so
idiosyncratic on their superficial levels then, they will here be seen to come to
reconciliation through their equivalent valorization of the beautiful, through
their equivalent valorization of a life devoted to public-political matters (Arendt
1958: 1213). They will be seen to reconcile through their joint adherence to the
vita activa over the vita contemplativa, to an active engagement in the things
of this world (ibid.: 17). Both forms, whether following a politics of agonism or
consensuality, were not simply beholden to but consumed by an active relationship
with the city, consumed by display, by exposition, by revelation in the street at
any cost. And the authentic polis, what Arendt has called the most talkative of all
bodies politic (ibid.: 26), could hence be understood to lie not in any particular
physical location, but in the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and
speaking together (ibid.: 198). It can be seen as a space which can elicit a power
actualized only where word and deed have not parted company, where words are
not empty and deeds not brutal, where words are not used to veil intentions but
to disclose realities, and deeds are not used to violate and destroy but to establish
relations and create new realities (ibid.: 200).

These words, these deeds, are ones which I would suggest follow both modes of
ornamental practice delineated in this work, words and deeds which come to in
fact conciliate many of their inherent differences. These words and deeds, images
and actions, ornaments and orders, were ones which were both based on innately
illocutionary frameworks, ones which both aimed to establish relations and create
new realities (ibid.: 200). The agonistic belief in dissensus and the consensual
approach to reason can thus simply be seen as variant means of engaging fellow
citizens, variant methods of action. They can be understood simply to contain
differences of tone and emphasis; differences that generate fruitful and talkative
tensions rather than the silence of total otherness, differences which never come
to render them utterly incompatible (Markell 1997: 394). These ornaments, these
artefacts which are both in need of some public space where they can appear and
be seen, in need of a space through which they could exhibit themselves in a world
which is common to all (Arendt 2001 [1968]: 18), thus come to fold back into each
other through the fundamentality of action, of action as embodying the very basis
of human freedom, embodying the very basics of civic life. They act not merely
to encode an understanding of the street, an understanding of contemporary
democracy, but to instantiate a form of insurgent civility. They act as a mode
of action that is not merely discursive, not merely performative, but one that is
parergonically anchored between the two.


Ornament and order, art and ritual have of course oft been conjoined to one
another. Famously connected by the classicist scholar Jane Ellen Harrison (a key
member of the Cambridge Ritualists group), in particular within her text Ancient
Art and Ritual (1913), the two spheres intimate connection, their common root,
has oft been seen to be the joint impulse towards collective emotion they share,
their analogous status in which neither can be understood without the other
(ibid.: 2). Centring her study on Ancient Greek theatre, Harrison believed that
the etymological linkage between the Greek word for rite dromenon and
for theatrical representation drama was as an issue of cardinal importance,
a linkage establishing the fact that art and ritual are near relations (ibid.: 35).
Translating both terms as a thing done (ibid.: 35), both ritual and art were hence
seen to give out a strongly felt emotion or desire by representing, by making
or doing or enriching the object or act desired (ibid.: 26); both aimed to work
through a re-presentation or a pre-presentation, a re-doing or pre-doing, a copy
or imitation of life (ibid.: 135); both were social practices intent on defining a
collective morality or spirit (ibid.: 21718).
Much in debt to Sir James Frazers Golden Bough however, particularly his
emphasis on the fracture between magic and science, for Harrison so too there
remained a vital schism between art and ritual. Whereas art was understood as
a thing in itself, done for its own sake, ritual was seen to always looks beyond to
some end outside itself, to always have some magical intent behind it (Ward 1979:
19). Art was thus understood to be secular, rational, modern, a form of imitation
solely for the sake of material representations; ritual to be something sacred,
irrational, primitive, a form of imitation for the sake of practical repercussions.
Whilst great art may have arisen from ritual then, contemporary manifestations of
ritual were believed to be in essence a faded action (Harrison 1913: 23031). Ritual
was thus not only believed to be an archaic antecedent to what was a seemingly

236 Ornament and Order

enlightened art an antecedent form that must wane, that art may wax (ibid.:
228) but art was considered a more sublimated, more detached form of ritual
(ibid.: 228). From this perspective, ritual is thus understood to always be of the
subjunctive mood a modality in which actors form a sculptured prayer, a zone
where the desire was to recreate an emotion, not to reproduce an object (Harrison
1913: 256) art conversely seen to be crucially indicative an arena where the
copy becomes an end in itself, a mere mimicry, a space now devoid of all passion
and fervour (ibid.: 27). Moreover, it was a relationship with a set dominant partner, a
set evolutionary teleology leading directly from primitive ritual to modern art, an
ideal which whilst perhaps able to tell us more about the humanist, evolutionary
mental climate of her day (Ward 1979: 18) an approach that in itself could now
appear to be quite primitive1 is also one still quite widely entertained today.
In a more recent account of the connections between ritual and art however,
the classicist Jas Elsner (2007) has come to destabilize Harrisons Social Darwinian
timeline the apparent unstoppable surge toward a more dispassionate, detached,
anaesthetic state of art, one where aesthetic appreciation was cut loose from
immediate action (Harrison 1913: 135) suggesting instead that sacredly charged
images, what he terms a sacred phenomenology, fully permeated both the
Ancient Greek and Byzantine modality of visual representation (Elsner 2007: 42).
Arguing that explicitly ritualized or religious ways of viewing images came in fact
to predominate over what may be described as more aesthetic (or even secular)
responses to art in the culture of late antiquity (ibid.: 30), Elsner thus suggests that
the importance of these aspects has been conspicuously ignored by contemporary
research on Ancient art while simultaneously functioning as a vacuous truism
classical art practices appreciated to be religious, yet scarcely analysed as such.
Art historical issues such as style and form, patronage and production, mimesis
and aesthetics, were thus seen to have insulated the study of Greek and Roman
art from these vital ritual concerns (ibid.: 29), overwhelming them through a
shackled fixation upon historical evolution (ibid.: 37). Employing the traveller and
(proto-)geographer Pausaniass famous essay The Description of Greece from the
2nd century AD, Elsner utilizes Pausaniass key distinction between a religious,
ritual-centered discourse and a connoisseurial, art-historical one, building a case
around the simultaneity and co-existence of these discourses within the Second
Sophistics writing on art, a concurrency that would, by the fifth and sixth centuries
A.D. become mutually exclusive (ibid.: 33). Analysing the description of a bronze
offering made by the Orneatai at Delphi (after defeating the Sicyonians in a battle),
an offering or imitation considered not so much a static object as a dynamic set
of relations, not just something material but a performance, Elsner contends that
these images acted not only to represent the sacrifice and procession they had
vowed, but to in fact be that sacrifice and procession (ibid.: 43). These innately

As Wittgenstein has famously argued (1993 [1967]), Frazer himself (Harrisons

theoretical lynchpin), could be argued to be much more savage than most of his
savages, for they are not as far removed from the understanding of a spiritual matter as
a twentieth-century Englishman. His explanations of primitive observances are much
cruder than the meaning of these practices themselves (ibid.: 131).



performative artefacts were thus not simply works of art, gifts, or tokens of
exchange with the gods (ibid.: 43): They carried dynamic religious properties,
acting as charged ritual objects in their own right (ibid.: 43).
Rather than the typical assumption that classical ancient art (the art of
naturalism and ekphrasis [ibid.: 48]) was innately linked to its (normatively allied)
Renaissance form, linked through a detached, mutually secular discourse, it was
the art of the middle-ages to which, Elsner argues, it in fact bore more resemblance.
The sacred images of Byzantium and the medieval west were thus understood to
have been closer to the arts of ancient polytheism than either the Church Fathers
or the Renaissance antiquarians would have wished or acknowledged (ibid.: 48),
a convergence between images and ritual that the moderns simply chose not to
recognize. The power of this highly ritualized visual culture was hence understood
to have gone hand-in-hand with the practice of iconoclasm and the damnatio
memoriae, which were so ubiquitous within the history of the Byzantine, a form of
destruction that asserts (rather than denies), the actual presence of its prototype
(ibid.: 44), which, through the images intrinsic power to portray the supernatural,
gave rise to the very fear of these artefacts. The cult images discussed by Pausanias
would thus later come to be dismissed from the prevalent discourse, coming to be
feared, as Elsner continues, and even destroyed, as demonic idols (ibid.: 33). Yet of
course, the destruction of images during the history of Byzantine Iconoclasm came
simply to allude to their overwhelming ritual presence, to prove (as I have discussed
in Schacter [2008]) that the images succeeded in their charge. The seemingly
endless cycle of production and destruction simply illustrated (and continues to
illustrate) the true power of these images to physically touch their viewers, to call
them into action, their destruction inevitably calling forth a fabulous population
of new images, fresh icons, rejuvenated mediators: greater flows of media, more
powerful ideas, stronger idols (Latour 2002: 1617).
Whereas the damnatio memoriae discussed by Elsner were believed to form
an elimination of memory through the demolition of images and inscription
the destruction of the image working akin to the very destruction of the person
condemned (ibid.: 44) Kchlers (1988) study of the Malangan funerary carvings
produced in New Ireland sees the ritual destruction of artefactual forms to in fact
aid memorialization, explicitly turning visual representation into memory (ibid.:
632). These highly ornate sculptures, revealed from their screened surrounds
during the mortuary ceremonies of social partners and later sacrificed either by
being taken into the forest to decompose of their own volition or sold to (evereager) foreigners and anthropologists, were produced explicitly so as to be
destroyed, a visual mnemonic system whose ephemerality generated rather
than impaired memorialization (ibid.: 626). As what we can see as a Melanesian
counterpart to the Western monument (the monument whose existence causes
amnesia but whose destruction causes immortalization), the Malangan enabled,
through its very erasure, the creation of an inherently recallable image, instigating
a process of remembering that is not directed to any particular vision of past or
future, but which repeats itself many times over in point-like, momentary and
thus animatorical awakening of the past in the present (Kchler 2001: 63).

238 Ornament and Order

PS.1 Gone but

not forgotten.
Destruction and
Madrid, Spain,

It can hence be understood to have engendered a similar form of active aesthetic

participation to that which appears to have governed medieval church art (ibid.:
62), a dynamic mode of visualization seeming to efface our stringent divisions
between what we habitually term ritual and art. Complex visual objects such as
Malangan sculptures, Kchler continues, are thus problematic for anthropologists
[as well, I would add, for art historians], who regard them with a sense of distance
that appears appropriate for all things falling within our category of art, a Kantian
form of dispassionate aesthetic appreciation running contrary both to the
assumptions under which the sculptures were produced, as well as the relations
of exchange within the Malangan system (Kchler 1988: 628). While eliciting a
visual and conceptual complexity (ibid.: 626) akin to any Western artwork and yet
functioning within a highly-ritualized modality in its production (the carver being
stripped of all the temporal aspects of his being during the period of carving [ibid.:
631]), its integral artefactual status (the sculpture being understood as coming to
life with the fitting of its eyes [ibid.: 631]), as well as its performative and social
usage (participants becoming what was termed a nonpartible entity through
their participation in the mortuary event itself [ibid.: 632]) Malangan art can
hence come to radically disconcert its common Western partner. It can radically
disconcert the binary of ritual-artefact/secular-artwork through its fleeting
lifespan (contradicting the notion of art as something stable, solid, impenetrable,
as something that must be preserved for future posterity), through its animate
status (contradicting the notion of art in the subject/object dichotomy), through
its densely, highly ritualized mode of practice.
These examples from Elsner and Kchler start to show the certain technologies
of enchantment (as Alfred Gell termed them) that both art and ritual seem to share,
the certain technical procedures that elicit a drawn breath, an incomprehension
of how they came into existence; they can be seen to form a domain in which



the seemingly separate spheres of magic and technology cannot be so easily

detached (Gell 1988: 69). Efficacy can thus be understood to emerge through
the bending of everyday sensations, something that for Gell (1998), in discussing
visual artefacts, appeared through what he termed animation (ibid.: 77), through
the pleasurable frustration of being trapped within a rhythmic surface (ibid.: 80),
the mazy dance, as explicated in Chapter 1, in which our eyes become readily
lost (ibid.: 76). From this perspective, then, the cognitive resistance of art, its traplike quality, was produced through its tantalizing, arresting form, its labyrinth-like
materiality, the topological teasing it produced by blocking our process of pattern
reconstruction, by making us physically spin (ibid.: 825). It was produced through
an act that could catch the complexity and captivation of movement in a purely
visual display, one ethnographically elucidated by Gell through the example of
Malakulan sand-art. Within this form of ritual art emerging from the New Hebrides
(and, like the Malangan, another distinctly ephemeral form of art), the emphasis
was placed not as much upon the artefact produced, but the performance aspect
of the procedure, the way in which an expert could delineate a complex figure
[] without hesitation of deviation, in a single continuous movement from start
to finish (ibid.: 93). The highly complex patterns produced were thus not thought
of as independent visual objects at all, but as performances, like dances, in which
men could reveal their capability, an aesthetic that was about efficacy, the capacity
to accomplish tasks, not beauty (ibid.: 94). It was a form of animation brought on
through the literal dance of the image, an aesthetic process form fully interlacing
ritual performance and artistic product. For Gell, then, the transformation of
seemingly ordinary artifacts into art came through three key factors: that they

Untitled, California,
USA, 2012

240 Ornament and Order

were made in order that they should be seen by a public, an audience forcibly
placed into a social relationship with them (ibid.: 24); that they worked, through
abduction, as indexes of social agents or social agency, the outcome and the
instrument of this agency (ibid.: 15); and that they were difficult to make, difficult
to think, difficult to transact, they come to fascinate, compel, and entrap as well as
delight the spectator (ibid.: 23).2 The famous trap he discusses in his paper Vogels
Net (1996) is hence considered to be an art object not only due to it being a physical
manifestation of the mind of its producer or, as Arthur Danto would have it, due to
it being deemed an art object by its producer, but due to it being embroiled within
all the specific rituals related to hunting in Africa, intertwined within the complex
of social relations that these rituals elicit (ibid.: 24); unlike a common tool such as
a cheese-grater, then, a tool used in an implicitly routinized fashion, the net was
used in a highly ritualized one, marking out its status as an art object, marking out
its indexical abduction, its cognitive attraction, its social reception (ibid.: 24).
All these aesthetic processes, whether of a ritualistic or artistic nature, can thus
be understood to point towards both wider sociological as well as more contracted
individualistic issues, to be the physical embodiment of an individual mind an
artefact functioning as a form of extended personhood yet to work equally within
an intricate network of social relations to be unable to exist (like culture) without
its manifestations in social interactions (ibid.: 4). Like Rappaports (1999) notion of
canonical and self-referential ritual then, the messages of a cosmological versus
an existential nature (ibid.: 329), or, as Bruce Kapferer similarly argued (2005), the
latent capacity possessed by both ritual and art for communicating simultaneously
the immediately concrete and the abstract (ibid.: 39), both forms can be seen to
function through the universalizing of the particular and the particularizing of
the universal, bipartite facets that were both actualized and revealed in art and
ritual as performance (ibid.: 191). The common recognition that much ritual is
art, and vice versa, Kapferer continued, is thus upheld through their equivalently
complex compositional form, the fact that they both manifest varying possibilities
for the constitution and ordering of experience, as well as the reflection on and
communication of experience (ibid.: 191). Both art and ritual can hence both
be understood to contain elements of symbolism and drama, composition and
framing, work and play, to be practices which function directly through sensory
experience, performance and affect. They can both be seen to operate through
the realm of what Christopher Pinney (2001) has termed corpothetics, a sensual,
bodily way of encountering the material aesthetic world (as opposed to the more
conventional Kantian asensual, anaesthetics that Susan Buck-Morss has warned
of ), a mode of aesthetic engagement encompassing ritual images, as well as
what were more commonly appreciated as artworks (ibid.: 158), encompassing
ornament and order in all its forms. Ritual and art, as Ellen Dissanayake concludes
for us (1995), must therefore both be understood to be compelling, to use various
effective means to arouse, capture, and hold attention, both fashioned with the
intent to affect individuals emotionally, both exaggerated, stylized, formalized,

These three diagnostic features are pointed out by Layton (2003) in his critique
of Gells work (ibid.: 448).



both bracketed, set off from real or ordinary life (ibid.: 468). And art, from this
outlook, cannot simply be considered simply as a variety of play or ritual but in
fact to be considered rituals equal, to be likewise concerned with a special order,
likewise concerned with a realm, mood [or] state of being (ibid.: 49). Ritual and art
must therefore both be judged as equivalent discourses, as ones that can neither
subsume nor dominate the other, ones caught in a boundless embrace. They must
be seen as two parts of a whole, each incomplete without its other, the parergon
and ergon in concord.

Frame and Content

Whilst I initially claimed in the introduction to this book that ornament and order
were conjoined through the Greek word kosmos, the resultant division of this
manuscript served to almost totally bisect these two elements, treating ornament
and order, art and ritual, as two quite distinct categories. And what I thus now want
to emphasize is the true inseparability of these forms, their integrally conjoined
status. It is not merely that art (and ornament) is the artefact, that ritual (and order)
is the practice; they are both entirely fused into one another, they are Kosmos. The
separation undertaken within this book has thus been made for conceptual clarity
and rigor, as a way of defining their communicative and performative bases, not
to try and argue that all art is merely meaning, all ritual merely practice. These
ornaments thus come to mediate their figural and performative aspects, to function
through their productive processes as well as innate material state, through
conduct as well as connotation, through the perspicacity of communal action as
the profundity of symbolic meaning. Like Richard Vinograds (1988) exploration of
15th- and 16th-century Chinese scholar paintings and in direct contrast to the
focus on the work of art as imagistic object so prevalent within Western aesthetic
discourse since the Renaissance our ornament must therefore be understood to
function as an event rather than an object (ibid.: 366), as an occasion for contact
between between artist and viewer (ibid.: 369); it is not just an art object, nor solely
a ritual performance, but an interweaving of practice and product, of text and
process. And just as hunting is not those heads on the wall as Herbert M. Cole
argued (1969) citing a famous article by Leroi Jones (ibid.: 34) so too art is not
merely the image on the wall. It is the intertwining of mask and masking, of process
and product; it is both the ornament and the order.
Rather than ritual slowly ebbing away with the evolution of art, as Jane
Harrison argued, the two discourses remaining separate in accordance with their
respectively primitive and modern modalities, the insurgent ornamentation I
have analysed within this text can so too be understood to be fully integrated within
both of these realms, to be ornament and order all at once. These were practices
which both focussed on a thing done, an action performed, which invoked
elements of a high emotional charge; these were acts which, like the equally
charged, phenomenological Byzantine images that Elsner discusses, served
ritual as much as aesthetic ends, served irrevocably mutually constituting ends.

PS.3Remed, Untitled, Madrid, Spain, 2011



A focus on purely art-historical notions such as style or form thus only gives us
one part of the story, insulating the images from their vital ritual concerns, their
traditional, invariant, rule-governed, sacred, performative, liminal, committed
states, their embrace of uncertainty, embedded risk, emergent creativity. Their
equivalent subjection to iconoclasm, or, as Latour terms it (2002), their existence
within the realm of an iconoclash (the destruction we are so unsure about),
thus comes to allude in both cases to their ritual power, their ability to touch,
harm, physically affect their viewer, to allude to their status as the cult images
he describes, allude to their irresistible ritual presence. It hints at the fabulous
population of new images (ibid.: 16) that these ornaments incite, every erased
image leading to the creation of two new ones, every destruction acting as
an incentive for continued production. The ornamental forms constructed by
my informants, much like the Orneatais bronzes, can thus be seen not simply
as static objects but as dynamic sets of relations, images of distributed
personhood, of a shared network; they become both material and performance,
the become ornaments totally infused with rituality like the Malangan a ritual
infused through their heightened production, their latent impermanence, their
social functionality yet are equally complex visual entities in and of themselves.
They thus elide their status as either/or ritual, either/or art, and claim neither/nor,
both/and. They elicit their distinct technologies of enchantment, functioning
through an incredulity shaped by their stylistic and mediumistic impenetrability,
through their animation, their agency, through violating perceptual expectations
through their taboo-breaking, law-breaking ingenuity. And so too like Malakulan
sand-art, theses ornaments act as a material residuum of a physical dance, a
congealed residue of performance, a physical choreography visually outlined;
they can provide witness to an aesthetics of efficacy, of ability, not a contrived
beauty but something that is at the same time both a ritual act and material
artefact, a decoration endowed with its necessary accidents. They are forms
linking both individual and collective themes, canonical and self-referential
notions, concrete and abstract conceptions. It is at once an art pervaded with
ritual intent and a ritual pervaded with an artistic one.
As Gell himself argued (1998), the great difficulty, almost impossibility, of
differentiating between religious and aesthetic exaltation and hence his
suggestion that art-lovers actually do worship images in most of the relevant
senses, refuting their de facto idolatry by rationalizing it as aesthetic awe (ibid.: 97)
can then help to clarify the thin line between the two fields, the equivalency
and interchangeability of art and ritual, of ornament and order.3 The separation
between the two sides, between the aesthetic and the ritual, thus becomes null.
It becomes an entirely moot point. And just as art is a trap, so too ritual can act
in the same way. To enter within such forms, as Handelman argues (1998),

Indeed, as Gell continues (1998), to write about art at all is, in fact, to write
about either religion, or the substitute for religion which those who have abandoned
the outward forms of received religions content themselves with (ibid.: 97).

244 Ornament and Order

[Hear], Untitled,
Vigo, Spain, 2012

is to be captured by, and caught up within, the logic of their design and
so to be operated on by the event, regardless of why it came into being, or for
whatever motives it is enacted. Such designs are [] snares of the mind and sense,
snares of Being (ibid.: 1617). Rituals, as Robert Innis (2005) continues, just like
works of art, must hence be understood not simply as instruments for clarifying
our life by imposing a set of canonical meanings on it, but as mechanisms that
have the ability to move us, to transform us, to affect us by influencing the lived
quality of our very existence (ibid.: 20910). They must be understood as social
frameworks that provide us not with a desiccated, purely intellectual knowledge,
but with a fully participatory one, a knowledge that fuses our consciousness
in all its dimensions (somatic-motoric, perceptual, imaginative, conceptual,
aesthetic) (ibid.: 20910). And this, then, comes to explain the deep affinity we
find between ritual and art, an embedded kinship functioning through both doing
and meaning, through symbolic and literal action, through, as Innis concludes,



the production of a frame and a content that mutually define one another (Innis
2005: 208). This is a frame and content, an ornament and order, that embody
each other, rather than merely bearing on the other or externally pointing to
the other (ibid.: 208). This is a frame and content that we give ourselves over to
because in the deepest existential sense we find ourselves embodied in them
(ibid.: 208). This is their similitude, their interchangeability, their equivalent
framing. That they are both adjunctive and decorative. Both frame and content.
Both embedded within and themselves the parerga. Both ornament and order.

This page has been left blank intentionally


From the very first moment, the very first second I accidentally encountered my
informants in downtown Madrid during the beautiful, unforgettable Summer of
2007, they showed me more kindness, support and goodwill than I could have
ever imagined or have ever hoped. Feli, Guillo, Louis, Nanito and Xavier, not only
would this book have been impossible without you, but I feel that my life has been
immeasurably improved through simply knowing you. I cant wait to see you all in
July. Thanks also to the rest of my Madrileo family, to all those who made me feel
so welcome; to Sierra and Sara, Lon and Bambam, Rafa and Lupe, Paz and Belen,
Tomas and Fede, Suso and San, Neko and Noas, Andres and Laura, Fernando and
Chus, Okuda and Fli, Manu and Marina. Thanks to Dems and Fefe, Momo and Lucas,
Pelucas and Tias, Ekta and Duncan, Isauro and Maf. A huge thanks to Sixe, to Nuri,
and to Margarita Skeeta. Y si se me olvida alguien, mil perdones.
My immense thanks go to my supervisor and mentor Professor Christopher
Pinney, without whom I would have never passed my Masters thesis, let alone
been accepted on my doctoral programme or completed this book. Since our
first meeting he has been a source of intense intellectual stimulation, of relentless
encouragement and support; I have been blessed by his presence during my
academic career to date and I hope our conversations will long continue. Alongside
his supervision have been a number of other important figures: Dr Paolo Favero,
Professor Susanne Kchler and Professor Michael Rowlands all gave me their time
and their thoughts during different stages of my PhD, all motivating me toward
a more insightful theoretical analysis. Thanks must also go to two omnipresent
figures during my time at UCL, the Postgraduate Coordinator Diana Goforth, and
the departmental technician Chris Hagisavva. Thanks to David for solving my
which/that issue (along with a hell of a lot more) and Els for generally helping me
to survive. Thanks to all my other amazing comrades from our time at UCL.
A million thanks to Nov York, aka Dumar Brown, aka Nov (aka Dumaar
Freemaninov), for his arresting, thoughtful foreword as well as the continual
inspiration he gives me. Thanks to El Mac for the opening epigraph.

248 Ornament and Order

Finally, I wish to thank my family (although just to thank seems almost

ridiculous). To my parents Marilyn and Leon, to whom this book is dedicated. To
Diana and Kaelen, Rachel and Steven, Josie and Julius, Rocks and Zips. And of
course to all my chosen kin; you know who you are and you know what you mean.
The research on which this book was based was made possible by a studentship
from the ESRC, to which I am entirely indebted.


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10Foot 124
3TTMan (Louis) xxii, 1821, 42, 44, 50,
545, 65, 67, 735, 77, 8082, 137,
1534, 157, 162, 164, 166, 168, 183,
192, 1949, 207, 210, 232, 247
Abarca, Javier 19
acid etching 212, 48, 108
acropolis 8, 10
Adams, John 26
adbusting 19
addiction 267, 208
adjunctive xxv, xxvii, 2021, 256, 29, 36,
39, 40, 42, 51, 53, 78, 81, 84, 115, 155,
Adorno 70
aesthetic v, xxi, xxiv, xxviixxviii, 35,
1112, 16, 21, 26, 28, 3032, 42, 48,
64, 70, 72, 88, 92, 96, 1068, 112,
11516, 118, 120, 124, 126, 1289,
1334, 138, 146, 14950, 1534,
1589, 1612, 164, 169, 174, 180,
186, 192, 198, 2078, 210, 126, 219,
2224, 2312, 236, 238, 24041,
agency xxvi, 16, 324, 39, 40, 44, 47, 81,
106, 115, 156, 158, 173, 180, 200,
240, 243
agon 912, 95, 99, 1089, 114, 11718,
156, 208, 216
agonism xvii, 51, 92, 100, 102, 104, 109,
112, 114, 125, 234
agonistic xvi, xvii, xxii, xxvii, 4751, 61,
68, 75, 77, 88, 912, 957, 99104,
10620, 1246, 1289, 134, 146,
1526, 163, 174, 17980, 182219,
221, 2234, 234
Agonistic Pluralism 48, 100, 104, 126

agora 78, 10, 92

Ahearn, John 126
Akay 1112
Akim 11, 49
Alberti 3, 30
Alone/Hear 33, 148, 150, 244
Ancient Greek xvi, 78, 10, 30, 91, 2356
Ancient Mexican 7
Andreotti, Libero 209
antiwork 209
aneconomic 111, 124
animation 334, 44, 239, 243
antagonism 100, 102, 104, 11214, 126,
antiestablishmentarian 87, 113
architectonic 5, 78, 10, 27, 73, 85, 88
architecture xvi, xxvii, 3, 4, 78, 1012,
2021, 25, 2732, 345, 4042, 73,
84, 88, 106, 109, 186, 219
Arcueil (France) 185
Arendt, Hannah 221
vita activa 234
vita contemplativa 234
Art Below 1, 3
artefactual agency 16, 32
Athens 26, 105, 233
Austin, Joe 21
Austin, John Langshaw 5960, 87, 146,
Babcock-Abraham, Barbara 18990,
1923, 210
contingency and unpredictability 192
dirt 190
dualism 190
picaresque 193
socially peripheral 210
symbolically central 210

268 Ornament and Order

Bakhtin, Mikhail 1614, 1747, 1824

carnival 1634, 174, 177
dialogism 178, 183
heteroglossia 175
hybridity 182
laughter 176
spectacle 162
subversion 164, 174, 177
Bal, Mieke 63, 70, 72, 79, 85,
apo-deictic 72
graffito 70
pastness 72
publicly demonstrating 70
speech acts 72
text-image 79
Ballinger, Franchot 193
Banksy xxvi, 1, 124, 154, 214
Barcelona (Spain) xxii, 50, 98, 117, 228
Barthes, Roland xviiii, 39
Baudrillard, Jean xviiii, 34, 36, 109
Bauman, Richard 158
Bauman, Zygmunt 172, 189, 226, 228
Baumann, Gerd 158
Baxter, Hugh 76
Beam, Carl 192
Becker, Howard 224
side bet 224
Beijing (China) 6, 152
Belas Artes Invasion 92, 94, 122
Bell, Catherine 133, 139, 14043, 146, 156,
16061, 164, 179, 187, 216
disciplined invariance 1423
formalism 14041
lexicon 139
performance 146
ritualization 139
rule-governance 142
sacral symbolism 143
traditionalism 141
Belting, Hans 21
Belves (France) xxiv
Benhabib, Seyla 95
Benjamin, Walter 226
Bentham, Jeremy 10
panoptican 10
Berlin (Germany) 16, 49, 117, 124
Besancon (France) 446
Bhabha, Homi 92, 95, 1034, 112, 114
agon 92
ecriture 114
space of the adversarial 112
technique of trouble 103
truth 95

Bill posters 39
Bishop, Claire
Relational Antagonism 126
Bloch, Maurice 60, 140, 2036
communicative dialogism 204
illocutionary 203
restricted codes 203
ritual 2034
Boden, Margaret 207
Bogota (Columbia) 225
bombing xxii, 15
Bornstein, Erica 173
Bourdieu 134
Bourriaud, Nicolas 19, 126, 128
postproduction 19
Boyte, Harry C. 56
Brett, David 4, 212, 267, 32
applied decoration 4
visual pleasure 21
Bristol, Michael D. 177
Brk 148, 171
Brown, Donald 27
Brown, Denise Scott 3, 31
Buck-Morss, Susan 4, 28, 240
asensual anaesthetics 240
orderliness 4
Buenos Aires (Argentina) xviiiixxii
buffing 29, 38
Buni 33
Burke, Donald 70
Buse 11718
Byzantine 2367, 241
Caillois, Roger 208, 210
alea 208
ilinx 208
ludic typology 208
mimicry 208
Cairo (Egypt) 10
California (USA) 239
calligraphy 212, 256
Cambridge Ritualists 235
Camille, Michael 189, 217, 219
architectural order 219
conscious usurpations 219
ludic ritual 219
self inscription 219
Canales, Jimena 36
Cap 22
carnival 143, 16064, 16983, 1867, 206,
208, 219, 2212
anti-structure 16970, 172, 180
criminal behaviour 163, 180


inversive 163, 1778, 1834

language 1756, 178179, 1824, 204,
206, 208, 210, 216
laughter 1757, 183
liminal structure 163
ludic 18990, 2089, 219
method of inventing 163
perversion 184, 192, 222
public liminality 169, 180
ritual of intensification 163
spirit 183, 192
subjunctive 163, 170, 236
subversive 1634, 1779, 1834, 192,
taboo breaking 162
transformative performance 170
Carroll, David 175, 177, 204
Carruthers, Mary 5
carteles 15, 1821, 42, 67, 153, 163, 167
Caryaen women 30
Castleman, Craig 21
Catania (Italy) 9
CCTV xxv
cenophobia 38
centrifugal 124, 174, 180, 221
centripetal 124, 180, 221
Chalfant, Henry 150
chaos xxvii, 1, 5, 42, 1423, 1623, 190,
207, 214, 234
ordered 143
perceived 42
social and moral xxvi, 162
violent 142
choquitos 1516, 1921, 42
Chu xxi
Chytry, Josef 7, 10
citizenship 57, 95, 1012, 119, 163, 231,
civic 7, 11, 55, 67, 69, 82, 160, 162, 180,
228, 231, 234
arena 69
commitment 228
concern 67
desires 180
dialog 55
disposition 160
justice 7
life 234
minded 228
practice 11
rites 180
ritual 162
space 7, 231


union 7
civility 7, 41, 234
Clifford, James 25, 200
clowning 160, 190
co-option 124, 128
Cohen, Stanley 193
Cole, Herbert M. 241
Collins, Peter 33
colonization 61
commitment xxiii, xxiv, xxv, xxvii, 55, 60,
75, 103, 117, 138, 160, 162, 180, 199,
208, 21516, 2234, 2289
common concern 649, 77, 86, 116
communication xxviii, 4, 19, 48, 559,
61, 656, 69, 73, 80, 82, 867, 956,
11617, 1245, 140, 147, 174, 2036,
authentic 61, 95
discursive 124
mass 57
perlocutionary 59
open 205
rational 55, 87
ritual 2056
symbolic 140
verbal 147
visual 65
Communicative Action 55, 5861, 77, 80,
competitive 51, 92, 95, 208
confundere 35
Connelly, Joan B. 8
Connolly, William E. 101, 104
consensual xvi, xvii, xxii, xxvii, 4751,
53, 55, 619, 723, 759, 823,
858, 9092, 956, 99102, 104, 106,
11213, 120, 1246, 1289, 134,
146, 1524,156, 163, 1734, 17980,
1823, 190, 215, 219, 221, 2234, 234
conservative 1, 126, 154, 178
constructive 26, 29
containment 67, 177
contestation 87, 95, 1012, 104, 109, 164,
208, 216
Cooke, Maeve 59, 63, 73, 767
communicative action 77
conversation 73
subjective truthfulness 76
validity claim 63, 73, 767
Coomaraswamy, Ananda 3, 47
Cooper, Martha 150
Corijn, Eric 11
Cornford, Francis Macdonald 156

270 Ornament and Order

corporeal 88, 102, 134, 143, 146, 156,

1589, 174, 17980, 224, 228
cosmological 29, 170, 240
creativity 4, 15, 138, 142, 150, 1534, 162,
198, 2024, 2068, 21617, 219, 243
criminality xxi
Cripta Djan xx, 20, 92, 122
Crowther, Paul 27
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly 153
Csordas, Thomas J. 202, 2057, 217, 222
boorish blabbermouth 206
fundamental discontinuity 205
modes of discourse 205
propositional form 206
culture-jamming 19
DaMatta, Roberto 163, 172
Danto, Arthur 240
Das, Veena 199, 216
de Certeau, Michel 1, 186, 226
de Meuron, Pierre 28, 41
Debord, Guy 192, 2089
drive 209
dtournement 192, 209
hypergaphy 209
decoration xxv, xxvii, 34, 78, 2022,
2635, 3842, 44, 46, 48, 51, 53, 75,
789, 81, 84, 88, 115,189, 221, 226,
232, 343, 245
Delta 41
democracy 8, 48, 99102, 113, 126, 155,
204, 232, 234
Dems33 xxii, 247
demos 8, 99, 124
Derrida, Jacques 1, 3, 356, 389, 42, 46,
146, 1834, 186, 189, 192, 208, 222
deconstruction 184
double writing 184
ergon 36, 38, 42, 46, 208
iterability 146
parergon 3, 367, 39, 46 184, 222, 241,
perversion 1834
pharmakon 36, 38
destructive xv, 26, 29, 58
detourn 19, 192, 209
Deutsche, Rosalyn 113, 232
di Giorgio, Francesco 8
dialogical 21, 86, 126, 200
dialogism 178, 183, 204
Dier 33
Dirks, Nicholas B. 178

dirt xxv, 16, 20, 31, 49, 111, 119, 159, 163,
169, 190, 210, 214
displacement 96, 111, 163, 186
Dissanayake, Ellen 240
dissensus 88, 96, 100, 102, 106, 112, 126,
ferments 100, 112
Doma 22
domestication 122, 128
Douglas, Mary 31, 34, 141, 15960
primordial 141
rituals of purity and impurity 159
traditional ritual 141
Downs, Anthony 101
Drexler, Jane M. 59
Droogers, Andre 190, 209
duality 118, 172, 193
Duchamp, Marcel 32
Duncan, Carol 159
Durkheimian 170, 231
E.B.Itso 12
egality 64, 181, 183
Ehrman, Jacques 208
Eindhoven (Netherlands) 89
Ekta 168, 247
El Mac 68, 247
Elche (Spain) xxii
Elkins, James 50
Elsner, Jas 28, 2368, 241
damnatio memoriae 2367
Second Sophistic 236
truism 236
visual representation 236
Eltono ix, x, xi, xii, xiii, xxii, 6, 16, 20, 21, 55,
646, 73, 77, 836, 106, 120, 1225,
1523, 160, 164, 166, 1689, 210,
216, 225
embellishing x, 5, 78, 2526, 28, 3841,
79, 163, 221
enlightenment xvii, 95, 258
Ephratt, Michal 85, 254
epigraph xxi, 11, 106, 183, 208, 219, 223,
228, 231, 247
ergon 3, 356, 389, 42, 44, 46, 115, 158,
160, 181, 184, 208, 222, 231, 234, 241
Erosie xi, 89
Escif x, 72, 73
Escobar, Jesus 5, 7, 254
etching ix, 21, 22, 48, 216
Evens, Terry M.S. 134, 255


existential 59, 70, 76, 86, 153, 159, 180,

202, 240, 245
exploration 12, 27, 107, 129, 241, 254,
255, 264
extramuros 184, 219
Faile xxvi, 124
Fase xxii
Fasting 139, 161, 164, 17980
Feasting 139, 161, 164, 17980
Fefe Tavelera xxii, 157
Fekner, John xii, 155
Fernandez-Galiano, Luis 41, 255
Ferrell, Jeff xxi, 255
festivals 139, 161, 164, 17980
Fetish 31, 36, 38, 69, 73, 75, 264, 266
feudal xvi, 57, 169
Filippo Minelli x, xii, 71, 73, 155
fill-in 21,136
Firth, Raymond 173
flaneur 226, 250
Fleming, David 10
Fleming, Juliet 36, 147
Folena, Lucia 178
folk-art 27
formalism 139, 140, 146
formality xxvii, 72, 134, 1379, 141, 147,
149, 159, 207
Foster, Hal 28, 31, 34, 138
Foucault, Michel 72, 92, 95, 102, 119,
frame x, xvii, 3, 35, 37, 39, 47, 116, 134,
138, 158, 16061, 170, 181, 190, 194,
210, 216, 231, 241, 245
fraternities xxii, 229
Frazer, Sir James 2356
friction 38, 94, 100, 104, 114
Friedman, Jonathan 207
Friedman, Yona 10
FTS crew 117
Fultner, Barbara 58
Galeria Choque Cultural (Culture Shock
Gallery) 120, 122
gangs xxi, xxvii, 50, 78
Garr (Garrulo-Koas) xi, 33
Geertz, Clifford 200
Gell, Alfred 324, 412, 44, 134, 156, 158,
189, 202, 23840, 243
abduction 240
agency 324, 44, 156, 158, 240, 243
animation 44
apotropaic art 34
artefactual agency 32


Malakulan 239, 243

personhood 32, 34, 44, 156, 240, 243
technologies of enchantment 238, 243
Gentrification xxvi, 50, 78
Gielen, Pascal xxvi
Gillick, Liam 126
Gladwell, Malcolm 224
Gluckman, Max 163, 170, 173, 356
Gluckmanian 170
Goffman, Erving 147
Goldhill, Simon 223, 2312
epigraphic-habit 223
GoldPeg 2278
Gombrich, Ernst 5, 28, 46, 256
Goodnight, G. Thomas 47, 61
Goody, Jack 139
Goodyear, William 30
GPO 105, 233
Grabar, Oleg 21, 256, 34
calligraphy 2526
graffiare 44
grassroots 11
Grebowicz, Margret 989
Greece 78, 29, 105, 231, 233, 236
Greenblatt, Stephen 177
Groth, Jacqueline 11
Grottaglie 72
Groys, Boris xxvi, 31, 38, 231
Habermas, Jurgen x, xvi, 48, 53, 5561,
6370, 723, 757, 79, 823, 87, 90,
95, 97, 99, 113, 126, 163, 172, 175,
183, 2034
coffeehouse culture 56, 61
common concern 649, 77, 80, 82, 86
common humanity 649, 77, 80, 82, 85
communicative action 55, 5861, 64,
6970, 77, 7980, 87, 90, 203
conceptual triad 55
Deliberative Democracy 48, 100, 126
illocutionary aims 59
inclusive public 64, 679, 77, 80, 82, 86
refeudalization xvi, 57
Structural Transformation 557, 61, 64
subjective truthfulness 59, 64, 70, 757,
80, 82, 86
validity claims 59, 60, 64, 6970, 723,
Hall, Stuart 175
Hallam, Elizabeth 217
Hames-Garcia, M.R. 59
Handelman, Don 160, 163, 174, 193, 194,
210, 214, 244

272 Ornament and Order

Hapsburg 7
Harrison, Jane Ellen 235, 236, 241
Harvey, David 12, 31
Havana (Cuba) 68
Heilman, Robert Bechtold 214
Hellenic 4, 30
Hermer, Joe 112
Hermogenes 30
Herscher, Andrew 36
Hersey, George 8, 10, 30, 47
quattrocento 30
sylography 10
Herzog, Jacques 28, 40, 41
heteroglossia 175, 183
Hill, Jonathan xxvii, 11, 26, 28
Hillier, Jean 102
Hirschhorn, Thomas 126
Hobsbawm, E.J. 141, 150, 193
Holquist, Michael 184, 250
Holston, James 51, 231
Homer (Sasha Kurmaz) 38, 44, 88
Homeric 92
Howard, Ebenezer 10
Howe, Leo 75, 143, 153, 198200, 202,
Hughes-Freeland, Elizabeth 142, 202
Huizinga, Johan 208, 210
homo ludens 208
Humphrey, Caroline 2234
Hunt, Alan 112
hybridity 182183
Hyde, Lewis 215
iconoclash 3, 29, 32, 3840, 47, 243
illocutionary 5960, 63, 72, 77, 79, 812,
84, 87, 146, 2034, 234
imaged text 107, 116
Ingold, Tim 217
Ingram, David 61, 70,
Innis, Robert 2445
innovative 49, 97, 206, 217
inscription 27, 39, 88, 108, 11517, 122,
153, 183, 198, 200202, 207, 21617,
219, 226, 228, 231, 237
insurgent xxvi, 3, 12, 29, 46, 51, 90, 119,
1246, 128, 134, 150, 15960, 180,
182, 207, 209, 217, 219, 224, 226,
228, 231, 234, 241
intermuros 184
interruptive 126
intramuros 184
invariance xii, 13842, 1513, 159, 243

invention 97, 1089, 217

inversion 143, 146, 161, 1634, 16970,
1735, 177, 179, 181, 183184, 187,
222, 249
inversive 163, 1778, 1834
Islamic 7, 26
Andalusia 7
letter-based art mediaeval 26
illumination 26, 175, 196
Izenour, Steven 31
Jaime 21, 127
Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) 41
Johnson, Barbara 184, 205
Johnson, Pauline 96
Jones, Leroi 241
Jurne 239
Kaika, Maria 10
kalligraphia 108
Kant, Emmanuel 35, 46, 238, 240
Kapferer, Bruce 133, 150, 170, 190, 240
Katsu 24, 103, 151
Keesing, Roger M. 190, 20910
Kelling, George 40
Kellner, Douglas 567, 59, 69, 109
Kester, Grant 126, 128
dialogical and antidiscursive 126
key-lines 136
keyed insignia 21
Kiev (Ukraine) 38, 88
kinship 181, 190, 229, 231, 244
Koh, Jay 126
kosmos 3, 10, 241
Kostof, Spiro 149, 226
Krull, Felix 214
Kuchler, Susan 2289, 2378, 247, 259
animatorical 237
Malangan 229, 2379, 243
memorialization 237
ritual confederation 228
Kunstwollen 278, 47
Kwon, Miwon 126, 128
assimilative sculpture 126
La Mano 98
La Palma (Spain) 65, 1957
Lachman, Renate 174, 177, 183
Laidlaw, James 2234
Lakoff, George 205
lambe lambe 124
Latour, Bruno 3, 29, 47, 75, 237, 243


iconoclash 3, 29, 32, 3840, 47, 243

laughter 1757, 183
Layton, Robert 240
Leach, Edmund 15
Leake Street (England) 13, 2323
learning 47, 150, 217
Leinkauf, Mischa 27
Leon (Spain) 43
Levi-Strauss, Claude-Bricoleurs 193, 217,
bricoleurs 217
duality 193
mediator 193
lexicon 134, 139
liberalism 99101
lifeworld 55, 61, 169, 181
ligare 228
liminality 134, 147, 158, 163, 16970, 172,
174, 18081, 183, 186, 18990, 222,
Liqen 171
London (England) xxixxii, xxvxxvi, 12,
23, 50, 62, 124, 205, 207, 233
Longworth, Guy 87
Loos, Adolf 15, 28, 30, 32, 34, 46, 48
excrement 28
waste 31
Los Angeles (USA) 35, 1445
Los Contratistas xxii
Los del rodillo 33
Luciano 164, 166, 168, 210
ludic 189, 190, 2089, 219
Lush 173
Lyotard, Jean-Francois 48, 84, 912,
959, 103, 1069, 114, 119, 126, 163,
1756, 183, 204, 217
Agonistic Pluralism 48, 100, 104, 126
American position 99
differends 98
discursive intervention within
language 109
displacement 96, 11, 163, 186
horizon of dissensus 96
imaged text 107
innovation 97, 100
language games 92, 967, 99, 103,
1078, 114, 119, 175
pagan 91, 967, 103, 109, 114
paralogic 968, 103, 217
permanent provocation 95, 119
petits recits (little narratives) 96, 99,
103, 106, 114, 175


Macdonald, Nancy xxi

Madrid (Spain) xxixxii, xxivxxv, xxvii, 5,
7, 10, 1518, 20, 22, 25, 29, 33, 54, 58,
66, 74, 789, 81, 845, 94, 97, 11719,
1234, 127, 1357, 150, 157, 1657,
171, 179, 182, 192, 201, 211, 21213,
215, 223, 228, 238, 242, 247
Mahall, Mona 4, 163
Maiorino, Giancarlo 193, 214
countergenre 193
malandro 193
Mallorca (Spain) xxv 198
Mann, Thomas 214
Manu 164, 166, 1689, 247
marginalia 219
Markell, Patchen 60, 92, 234
Maurer, Marc 41
Mauss, Marcel 32
McCarthy, Thomas 56
Melbourne (Australia) 124, 173
Merrifield, Andy 8
metalanguage 96
metanarrative 956, 99, 106, 109
metaphor 4, 78, 16, 27, 34, 36, 67, 70,
84, 107, 147, 156, 160, 173, 186, 189,
200, 202, 2056, 215
metasocial 181
Mexico City (Mexico) 176
Miller, Daniel 28
Modernist 28, 3032, 34, 97, 126, 217
Momo xxii, 20, 23, 14041, 214, 247
Montana Sagrada 210
Monterrey (Mexico) xxv
Moore, Ben 1
Moore, Sally Falk 133, 159
moral code 138, 179, 208, 2289
Mouffe, Chantal xvii, 92, 99102, 104, 106,
11214, 116, 119
agon 92, 95, 99, 114, 117, 156, 208, 216
cordon sanitaire 116
dissensus 96, 100, 102, 106, 112
heterogeneity 96, 99, 106, 112
homogeneity 99, 116
politics 1012, 104, 113, 116, 119
Moughtin, Cliff 21, 42, 79
mud-level 11, 128
Muir, Edward 162, 174, 178, 180, 182
Mulvey, Laura 21
Mumford, Stan 175, 183
Munoz, Daniel San xxiixxiii, 9, 19, 446,
mura rasa 78

274 Ornament and Order

murals xxii, xxvxxvi, 16, 2021, 47

Murphy, Peter 10
Myerhoff, Barbara G. 133, 159
uncivilized rituals 159
Nano 4814 xxiixxiii, 1517, 1921, 33, 42,
50, 923, 11417, 148, 164, 171, 205,
210, 225
Nashville (USA) 199
Nazca Lines 149
Needham, Rodney 139
negentropic 207, 217
Neko 212, 33, 97, 127, 179, 247
New Ireland (Papua New Guinea) 229,
New York (USA) xv, xvii, xxi, xxv, 10, 24, 26,
50, 1035, 111, 124, 149, 151, 1545
Newcastle (England) 209
Newman, Barnett 126
Newman, Saul 178, 184
Nietzsche, Friedrich 92, 95, 99, 102
Norris, Christopher 38
Nouadhibou (Mauritania) 155
Nov York xvxviii, 104, 247
Noviciado Nueve xxi, xxiv, xxvii
Nuevo Leon xxii
Nug 191
Nuria Mora xxii, 656
OConnor, Justin 147
Oc, Taner 21, 42, 79
Odessa (Ukrainem) 11
order xxi, xxviixxviii, 1, 35, 78, 1012,
21, 26, 2932, 36, 3843, 44, 73,
857, 90, 92, 96, 100, 102, 10615,
125, 1289, 134, 136, 1389, 1427,
154, 15963, 170, 1723, 1768, 181,
1834, 18690, 199, 2078, 214, 216,
219, 2224, 23145
architectural xvi, xxvii, 3, 78, 1012,
2021, 28, 3032, 40, 42, 84, 88, 219
construction of xxi, 3, 10, 12, 3031, 56,
84, 88, 134, 138, 174, 184, 186, 214,
practice based xxi, xxvii, 50, 56, 60, 92,
95, 133, 141, 200, 226, 234
social and moral chaos xxvii, 3, 56,
76, 138, 162, 172, 18081, 210, 224,
2312, 235
visual 35, 78, 21, 31, 39, 41, 48, 50,
70, 72, 80, 82, 85, 87, 92, 98, 104, 106,
109, 112, 11516, 122, 124, 128, 150,
156, 180, 183, 186, 189, 208, 214,
219, 226, 231, 243

ornamentation xxii, xxv, xxvi, 45, 78,

1012, 2631, 34, 38, 41, 4651, 53,
55, 57, 59, 6169, 723, 758, 83,
868, 90, 92, 1034, 1069, 11120,
1249, 146, 152, 154, 156, 1589,
17980, 1824, 208, 217, 219, 221,
226, 2314, 241
architectural xxvii, 78, 1012, 278,
30, 31, 88, 219
decorative xxv, xxvii, 8, 267, 2931, 34,
41, 46, 51, 53, 75, 789, 81, 88, 115,
221, 226, 232
illicit 26, 38, 63, 73, 857, 106, 109,
11114, 124, 156, 158, 180
insurgent xxvi, 12, 46, 51, 90, 119,
1246, 128, 159, 180, 182, 217, 219,
226, 228, 231, 234, 241
parergonic 47, 115, 234
urban xxv, xxvi, 5, 7, 1011, 27, 41, 47,
67, 113, 11516, 180, 226
ornaphobia 27
ornatto 5, 7
orthography 8, 26
Ostrow, Saul 27
outmoded 912
OX 185
pagan 91, 967, 103, 109, 114
Palma (Spain) 65, 1957
Panofsky, Erwin 27
Pantel, Pauline Schmitt 2312
paralogical 968, 103, 217
parergon xvii, 3, 356, 389, 42, 467,
115, 158, 160, 181, 184, 208, 222,
231, 234, 241
Paris (France) 10, 107, 185, 232
Parthenon frieze 8
pattern 31, 334, 412, 44, 46, 113, 119,
135, 142, 1534, 161, 163, 180, 200,
206, 21617, 239
Pausanias 2367
Pelucas xxii, 171, 176, 247
performance xviii, xxi, 27, 334, 42, 44,
47, 51, 72, 76, 7980, 858, 106, 114,
116, 119, 124, 1289, 134, 1389,
142, 146, 153, 158, 163, 16970,
17980, 198200, 202, 206, 208,
21417, 22236, 23941, 243
art 27, 334, 42, 44, 47, 51, 72, 76,
7980, 858, 106, 114, 116, 119, 124,
128, 129, 134, 138, 142, 146, 153,
158, 163, 16970, 17980, 198200,
202, 206, 208, 21417, 2224, 236,
239, 24041, 243


ethical 79, 2078, 252

illicit 108, 11315, 134, 142, 152, 186,
music 152
physical xxv, 27, 34, 119, 134, 1389,
153, 17980, 198, 208, 214, 216,
23940, 243
process 33, 51, 88, 128, 134, 138, 146,
158, 16970, 179, 198200, 202, 206,
208, 21617, 222, 236, 23941
public 158, 224
ritual 198, 239, 241
transformative 169, 170
performative xxvii, 66, 72, 80, 82, 87, 134,
137, 140, 1467, 158159, 1812,
187, 200, 202, 216, 2212, 234, 238,
241, 243
perlocutionary 59, 60, 62, 87, 203
personhood 15, 32, 34, 35, 38, 44, 46, 79,
116, 142, 156, 240, 243,
perversion 161, 163, 169, 173, 175,
177,179,181,1834, 187, 192, 222
petits recits (little narratives) 96, 99, 103,
106, 114, 175
Petro xxii, 109, 209
phalerophobie 34, 40
Pharmakon 36, 38
Phillips, Susan A. xxi
Phillips, Tom 26
picaresque 160, 193, 207, 214, 215, 222,
Pickett, Brent L. 130
Picon, Antoine 4
Pinney, Christopher 10, 240
pixacao xviiii, 120, 122, 1245
pixadores 122, 1245
Pixobomb 92, 122
Plato 36, 38
play xxvii, 5, 31, 34, 44, 76, 86, 92, 96, 98,
100, 102, 104, 1089, 11516, 118,
134, 1423, 146, 1489, 1534, 158,
1614, 166, 169, 1734, 177, 18081,
184, 1867, 189, 190, 192, 194,
198200, 20710, 214, 219, 2212,
226, 228, 231, 234, 24041
plurality 63, 192, 99, 106, 113, 119, 175
policia 5, 7
polis 11, 69, 117, 226, 234
political xvii, xviii, 5, 7, 8, 48, 53, 56, 57, 58,
61, 92, 95, 96, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104,
113, 114, 116, 126, 139, 172, 173,
175, 177, 178, 192, 200, 202, 204,
226, 231, 234


politics xviii, xxi, 11, 96, 101, 102, 104,

113, 116, 119, 126, 172, 173, 234
pollution xxvii, 22, 46, 11011, 119,
15960, 169, 234
postproduction 19
Powers, Stephen 50, 154
prescribed actions 134, 147, 202, 223
production xix, xxvixxvii, 10, 16, 19,
217, 32, 42, 48, 5051, 53, 63, 66,
70, 75, 77, 80, 8788, 107, 113, 117,
1334, 138, 1467, 153, 156, 158,
166, 16970, 174, 177, 179, 181, 186,
192, 20810, 21416, 219, 222, 224,
229, 231, 2368, 243, 245
aesthetic xix, xxiv, 16, 21, 27, 32, 42, 28,
51, 53, 63, 70, 75, 77, 88, 107, 1338,
146, 153, 158, 169, 174, 186, 192,
20810, 21516, 219, 222, 224, 231,
236, 238, 243
cultural xxvii, 21, 48, 5051, 107, 133
medium of 51, 147
profane 133, 156
proposition xxviii, 26, 59, 624, 70, 723,
767, 7986, 104, 2036, 217
language 59, 70, 72, 2046
proscribed actions 223
public authority 56, 65, 69, 80
public liminality 169, 180
public sphere xix, xxiv, xxci, 26, 478,
558, 61, 634, 669, 75, 80, 82, 878,
90, 92, 95, 100102, 106, 11213,
11617, 1256, 128, 180, 1867, 221,
2234, 226, 228, 234
quasidetachment 356
quattrocento 30
Rabelais, Francois 174, 176, 183
radical xvi, 48, 50, 96, 109, 140, 164, 174,
178181, 1834, 192, 207, 238
Radtke, Fred 44
Rafael Pixobomb 92
Rappaport, Roy 72, 133, 13843, 1467,
153, 156, 224, 229, 240
rationality 55, 59, 61, 61, 69, 77, 79, 95,
1012, 112, 126
Rawls, John 99
Read More Books 111, 199
Readings, Bill 967, 99, 106, 109
reaffirmation 161, 163
refeudalization xvi, 57
reflective 4, 180
reflexive 180

276 Ornament and Order

Remed xxii, 2021, 27, 33, 36, 424, 545,

62, 65, 7781, 137, 153, 157, 207,
210, 242, 247
Remio 101, 1445, 218
renaissance 1, 78, 30, 174, 178, 237, 241
Rennes 110
resistance 10, 92, 956, 100, 173, 1778,
186, 222, 239
Revok 35, 68, 119
revolution xviii, 1, 3, 71, 83, 122, 161, 163,
170, 174, 179, 232
Riegl, Alois 278, 36, 47
Ring 33
risk xviii, 26, 47, 75, 80, 128, 134, 138,
1589, 162, 169, 181, 187, 194,
198200, 202, 207, 210, 21516, 221,
224, 243
rites xvi, 7, 109, 129, 134, 129, 143, 159,
161, 1634, 170, 17880, 182, 187,
199200, 202, 206, 21516, 221
ritual xv, xviixviii, xxi, xxiv, xxvii, 5, 8, 30,
72, 1289, 1334, 138143, 1467,
14950, 153, 156, 15864, 16970,
1723, 176, 17881, 1834, 1867,
18990, 192, 194, 198200, 20210,
21517, 219, 2214, 2289, 231,
23541, 2434
Rodriguez-Luis, Julio 190
Rorty, Richard 126
Rothko, Mark 126
Rowland, Ingrid D. 193
rule-governance 139, 142, 156
rules and regulations 108, 116, 146, 149,
1534, 156, 199, 208, 216, 2234
Ruskin, John 45, 28, 48
Ryan, Allan J. 192, 210, 229
sacral symbolism 139, 143, 156
sacred 4, 1334, 138, 150, 156, 172, 194,
208, 219, 221, 231, 2357, 243
Salvajismo xix
Sam3 223
San Daniel Munoz xxiixxiii, 9, 446, 218,
San Francisco (USA) 218
sanctified 139, 156
Sanskrit 4
Sao Paulo (Brazil) xx, 94, 101, 1212, 125
Schacter, Rafael xv, xxi, 16, 34, 158, 237
artefactual agency 16, 32
corporeal illicitness 158
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy 163
Schieffelin, Edward L. 146, 200, 203, 206

Schirato, Tony 208

Schmitt, Carl 99101
Searle, John R. 5960, 2234
selfhood 34
Semper, Gottfried 34, 33, 163
ancient stucco 3
Sennett, Richard xxii, 78, 38, 222, 229,
Serbest, Asli 4, 163
Serra, Richard 126
Serres, Michel 193
sgraffito xxvii, 2021, 28, 34, 38
Shakespeare 174, 177
Shandy, Tristam 85
Shit 33
Sieber, Chandler 214
Sierra, Santiago 126
silence 85, 98, 116, 136, 147, 194, 234
Situationist 208
Sixe Paredes xxii, 150, 228, 230, 247
Slave Cave Collective 149
societas 172
Sophists 96
Spanish Renaissance 7
spatial xxvii, 7, 10, 16, 20, 51, 56, 69, 91,
109, 112, 116, 129, 136, 1389, 147,
160, 208
speech acts 5, 5961, 64, 70, 723, 76,
81, 85, 92, 95, 103, 142, 182, 2034,
208, 217
Splasher 124
Spok xxii, 2021, 25, 33, 51, 92, 94, 108,
11719, 1358, 153, 168, 210, 216,
229, 247
spraycan art xix, 150
Spyer, Patricia 1112, 36, 187
Stallybrass, Peter 162, 178, 180, 214
state power 56
steering media 61, 87
sterility 203, 2067
Sterne, Laurence 85
Stewart, Pamela J. 31, 202
Stockholm (Sweden) 66, 191
strategic 5961, 63, 67, 69, 76, 80, 86, 139,
Strathern, Andrew J. 28, 202
street xxiv, xxvxxvi, 13, 7, 10, 1112,
1516, 1920, 34, 39, 4751, 64,
667, 758, 8083, 856, 111, 115,
117, 11920, 122, 1246, 128, 134,
1367, 149, 154, 16061, 164, 166,
1689, 180, 182, 196, 198, 208, 210,
221, 2234, 226, 2289, 2314


structural transformation 557, 61, 64,

69, 170
structure xvxvii, 5, 78, 21, 26, 30, 32,
356, 3842, 46, 51, 58, 88, 126, 136,
13940, 142, 1467, 149, 153, 156,
15960, 1634, 16970, 172, 177,
180, 1834, 1867, 18990, 194,
199200, 203, 205, 226
stylography 10
subculture xviixviii, xxi, 159
Suber, Peter 67
subjunctivity 183
subversion 36, 1634, 172, 1779, 1834,
192, 202, 210, 222
Sullivan 3
superficial 8, 28, 30, 113, 224
Suso33 xxii
Swyngedouw, Erik 10
symbolic xxviii, 8, 26, 312, 41, 47, 59,
100, 112, 116, 122, 133, 140, 143,
146, 15960, 162, 170, 178, 181, 190,
198, 2056, 208, 210, 241, 244
synoikismos 7
taboo 143, 147, 156, 159, 162, 180, 214,
216, 224, 243
tabula rasa 20
tag xvii, 212, 246, 34, 412, 44, 48, 51,
80, 83, 1067, 110, 118, 120, 122,
1489, 1523, 156, 166, 168, 198,
216, 219, 228
Tambiah, Stanley 1589, 178, 2056
Tannen, Ricki 190
Tarifa (Spain) 232
tattoo 34, 36, 38, 41, 44
technicizing 61
temporal 75, 139, 142, 156, 160, 208, 216,
Tenerife (Spain) 162
tension 4041, 44, 84, 91, 95, 99100,
102, 104, 11314, 116, 124, 137, 149,
158, 168, 208, 217, 222, 234,
Terry, Francis 1, 3, 11, 40, 232, 234
Terry, Quinlan 1, 3, 11, 40, 232, 234
textual modality 48, 75, 77
throw-up 21, 48, 117, 138, 168
Tiesdell, Steven 21, 42, 79
Tika 164, 166, 1689
Til 33
Tilley, Christopher 205
Tiravanija, Rirkrit 126
Todorov, Tsvetan 202
Tonk 33


track-sides 136
tradition xix, xxii, xxvii, 3, 16, 21, 267, 30,
4041, 4950, 69, 72, 76, 78, 8081,
83, 85, 87, 99, 103, 112, 119, 124,
1334, 137, 13942, 146, 14950,
152, 154, 159, 162, 169, 1745, 184,
186, 204, 2067, 215, 217, 221, 226,
231, 243
transformation 48, 557, 61, 645, 69,
967, 106, 109, 164, 170, 1834, 187,
202, 226, 239
transformative 10, 92, 16970, 178
transgression 100, 112, 134, 147, 1623,
169, 174, 178, 1834, 224
transgressive 11, 141, 164, 180, 184
Tremblin, Mathieu 110
trickster 160, 187, 18990, 1923, 210,
21415, 219, 222
Trilling, James 4, 31, 154
trompe loeil 3, 232
Tunis (Tunisia) 10
Turbo 107
Turnbull, Colin 141
Turner, Victor Witter 161, 1634, 16970,
1725, 177, 18081, 1834, 189, 190
communitas 16970, 1723, 181
duality 172
structure and antistructure 172
Union Square 232
unity xviixviii, xxv, 212, 31, 36, 42, 50,
634, 667, 77, 79, 86, 88, 108, 113,
128, 142, 159, 162, 16970, 177,
1867, 207, 224, 2289, 231
urban xv, xvii, xix, xxi, xxv, 5, 7, 1011, 27,
36, 39, 41, 47, 67, 113, 11516, 122,
1334, 169, 180, 193, 210, 222, 226
utterances 63, 87, 96, 99, 104, 1078, 138,
140, 142
validity 5960, 634, 6970, 723, 757,
80, 82, 95
vandalism xxii, xxvii, 21, 50, 67, 69, 78,
111, 120, 126, 159, 169, 180, 214
Venturi, Robert 3, 26, 312
Vigo (Spain) xxiixxiii, 93, 11415, 148,
225, 2278, 230, 244
Villa, Dana R. 956, 102
Vinograd, Richard 241
violence 41, 69, 85, 92, 96, 102, 104, 143,
156, 186, 205,
Vitruvius 3, 30
Vorotniov, Vova 37

278 Ornament and Order

Wadleigh, Frank 214

Ward, Barbara E. 2356
Warner, Michael 61, 103, 114, 126
counterpublic 61, 103, 114, 126
Warnke, Georgina 70
Warsaw (Poland) 37
Weber, Donald 173
Weibel, Peter 232
Wellmer, Albrecht 70
Werbner, Richard P. 204
Wermke, Matthias 27
wheat-pasting 47
White, Allon 162
Wigley, Mark 31, 34, 36, 40, 46, 186

white-out 34
Wilson, James 40
Wilson, Woodrow 26
Wittgenstein, Ludwig 236
Wochenklausur Collective 126
Wright, Frank Lloyd 27
Wynne, Derek 147
Zaidman, Louise Bruit 2312
Zedz 41
Zoan 11718
Zosen 98
Zukin, Sharon xxvi
Zurich (Switzerland) 164