the Paradoxical Reflex
Paradoxical injunctions like ‘do something!’
can have a positive disturbing effect on a
For example the asemic ‘write without
words’; The instruction is a ‘call for
action’, the injunction to ‘write’
constitutes a language-based content but the
restriction to ‘not-use-words’ obstructs the
bulk of the formation and prevents it to
externalize into a linguistic expression.
Under pressure conflicts like this, between
digital and analogue domains can be made to
erupt in an uncontrolled gestural reflex.
(This is not like the get-it-out-of- your-system-and you’ll-be-ok
kind of expressionism because it results from conflicts in
coding and not a built up frustration from the past. The
generated energy also differs from the raw energy suggested in
classic abstract expressionist painting in that it doesn't imply
some idea of primitive man acting out but is purely situational).
A line is a stretched dot moved by contradiction.
Black ink-marker drawings share a
fundamental property with classic binary
logic, that is;
Any section of the plane is either black or it is empty.
From this point of view, drawing with a black ink-marker is ‘drawing with a computer in mind’.
In classic logic any proposition is either
true or false; hence, contradictory
statements cannot both be true in the same
The principle of explosion* states that if a
contradiction is true, then every
proposition is true.
In formal terms; from any proposition of the
form P∧¬P, any arbitrary A can be derived.
Explosion however does not represent a
formal symbol of logic, it rather points at
a psychological side-effect for binary
systems like computers or in this case, any
black ink-marker agent.
Your Head Asplode
The logical proposition is not sequential
but represents a combinatory whole, that is;
IF P represents a random dot on a paper
plane, THEN P∧¬P represents a [black dot, no
black dot, anywhere, nowhere, instantly].
In general a computer will not recognize
this as a valid instruction and do nothing,
However a creative or fictional ‘computer
in mind’ may start processing infinitely,
fruitlessly SCANNING for clues in an
undifferentiated field of grey noise caused
by the contradiction. The deadlock causes
the system to ‘overheat’ a conclusive
output becomes increasingly urgent and
Because the infinite loophole exhausts all
executive functions, action is no longer
structured by concepts and the system is
left with PRIMARY reflexes.
In science fiction, the sentient
supercomputer infected with a contradictory
instruction (logic bomb*) may become
restricted to expressing only punctuation
marks(...), stammering, or a more rigid
version might burst into flames.
Eventhough it is not cathartic, there is a dramatic structure to the
First the causes are downplayed, then there is the crisis, followed
by the resolution.
1.incentive moment → (complication) → 2.crisis →(unravelling)
Risk One: Never get out there; can't find the wilderness. The Risk
Risk two: Never come back; lost in the wilderness. The Risk of
Risk three: Go full circle (and take audience with). The risk of
Common Coding Theory* states that perception
and production are generally coupled in the
motor system. It suggests for instance that
people perceive spoken words by identifying
the vocal tract gestures with which they are
pronounced rather than by identifying the
sound patterns that speech generates.
Assuming that perception and production are
linked in this way; How does paradox
manifest itself in the motor system?
The muscular system exists of antagonist
(stretching) and agonist (bending) muscles.
A paradoxical instruction might co-activate
antagonistic muscles and create a freeze or
immobilisation of the limbs.
What may be the positive effect on non-objective drawing?
Antagonists (quadriceps and the hamstrings)
are simultaneously active when you arise
This co-activation of two antagonistic
muscles is known as Lombard's paradox.*
The limbs dont freeze because the extensor
moment exceeds the flexor moment..Here
paradox brings about a fundamental change
(from a passive to an active state).
So if a drawing based on instruction or
method ends up in a passive state after it
went ‘full circle’ the paradox could could
offer some kind of escape.
Blocking the wrist shifts movement control
back to the elbow, freezing elbow and wrist
shifts it to the shoulder etc.. It shows
how; to prevent change in the superficial
variables is to promote change in the more profound.*
The effect of Freezing the wrist when
drawing is a decrease in variables of a
line, this is an increase of abstraction and
thus automatically direct attention towards
a more basic or fundamental pattern.
( + ) active muscle
( _ ) relaxed muscle
The paradoxial reflex breaks the norm and
enforces a difference that catapults it from
the loophole of dead routine into the open
*paradoxical injunction is used in an artistic rather than a
marc van elburg 016