The Journal for Artistic Research (JAR) is an inter-national, online, Open Access and peer-reviewed journal for the identification, publication and dissemination of artistic research and its methodologies, from all arts disciplines. With the aim of displaying practice in a manner that respects artists‘ modes of presentation, JAR abandons the traditional journal article format and offers its contributors a dynamic online canvas where text can be woven together with image, audio and video. These research documents called ’expositions’ provide a unique reading experience while fulfilling the expectations of scholarly dissemination. The Journal is underpinned by the Research Catalogue (RC) a searchable, documentary database of artistic research. Anyone can compose an exposition and add it to the RC using the online editor and suitable expositions can be submitted to the editorial board for peer-review and publication in JAR.

Link to JAR

This project has no affiliation to JAR and is an independant text presented as an research exposition of art-research.

Exploded Diagrams and Faulty Parts.

    Nuts and Bolts

    My father-in-law - a long serving employee of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, suffered from a complaint that the family commonly refers to as CDD - Compulsive Dismantling Disorder. This syndrome is typified by an obsessive and often un-warranted dismantling of otherwise functional consumer products. In this sense CDD is distinct from general tinkering with worn or failing items in that it typically involves obsessive data collection methods that support the investment in new state-of-the-art equipment. Once purchased, items such as vacuum cleaners, food processors and hedge trimmers are carefully extracted from their packaging to locate the instruction manual. Lacking adequate detail, these user guides often fail to satisfy the CDD sufferer who turns to the internet as a secondary source of information where it is easy to source a full breakdown of componentry, complete with exploded diagrams and parts lists. Having studied these in detail my father-in-law would then lock himself away and systematically set about dissembling the equipment to the lowest order of detail possible. This somewhat protracted process was frequently disrupted by the need to purchase further requisite equipment for the unscrewing or removing of factory-assembled parts. Not surprisingly then, the end result was a perfect three-dimensional manifestation of the exploded diagram, laid out with great care across the living room floor, bedroom floor, hallway or other unclaimed space.


    Having satisfied his understanding of the new purchase, the secondary task was then to reassemble the appliance so that it could be used for its intended purpose. All too often, due to modern manufacturing processes, this proved to be an impossible task. The spring-loaded return that was in part fused with the injection-moulded casing and assembled by robotic arms was never designed for human hands.

    So, unable to remanufacture the item, all the parts would then be carefully gathered up and placed back in the original packaging and returned to the store with the explanation that ’the appliance didn‘t work‘. Gazing incredulously at the dismembered chassie the initially perplexed sales rep might venture to ask why it had been taken apart in the first place? To which my bewildered father-in-law would respond ’ the diagram showed that you could! ‘ This perfectly rational practice of my father-in-law‘s obviously had some drawbacks - namely, that his house, after many years of this activity, was a congested maze of never-used, disassembled equipment in various states of dis/assembly.

    The CDD sufferer‘s condition is initially puzzling to those conditioned to the tyranny of violating warranties should they break the manufacturer‘s seal on the consumer black box they have purchased. But separated from this commercial tyranny, the condition can be seen as simply a logical extension of empirical research methods that seek to subject objects to the analytic gaze of human analysis in order to provide a parts list for the world: a definitive toolkit from which every element functions as an informational unit. Such an ontological perspective posits the world as an exploded diagram and reduces every object to an inventory of parts, an online catalogue of spares that can be called upon to substitute any given unit - each unit being only one of many identical components in the warehouse of Wheeler‘s Digital Physics. Here ’every item of the physical world has at bottom‘, a bottom that is ultimately reducible ’to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits.‘(Wheeler, 1990, p.5)

    Extruded along pre-defined linear paths, each bolt and bit slips effortlessly into another as graphics animate the inanimate before our eyes. In the unity of the exploded diagram, with its notations and controlled dynamic trajectories, parts become wholes, that themselves become parts in a schema of infinite recursion. The exploded diagram functions as an enlightenment research method that turns the eye of the engineer into the centre of the universe - it seeks to layout that which is not accessible, to ’expose‘ the inner relationships of parts by reducing them to binary elements that conform to a table of parts. A part is either the part or it is not a part.

    But to what extent is this method simply another anthropocentric model of the world and to what extent does this ontological disorder make sense to the nature of things? Do objects need to have humans to map out and implement their relationships or do they have knowledge of each other without us? Surely a nut knows nothing of the bolt until the two are brought into contact by the diagrammatic function. Yet this assumption has two problems - firstly that failure of a nut to accept the thread of a bolt is a failure of the object, in which case the part is faulty and replaced.

Faulty Parts No-matter-what.

But failure is surely a human value judgment inferred by the exploded diagram - the parts list is clearly faulty if things cannot be assembled as instructed. When the assembly instructions are missing, the expectation of the relationship between parts is no longer predetermined. We don‘t know which part is meant to align to another, and not fitting is the same as fitting. The hammer is still a hammer even if it is a broken-hammer, because aspects of all objects are always withdrawn from us (Harman, 2013, p.176). Failure in the Heideggerian sense has nothing to do with an objects not being fully operational. Necessarily absent from us, things fundamentally fail to be fully available (Harman, 1999).  

Thus a more complex problem with the failure of parts is that failure presents itself as the necessary inability of an object to be itself. The nut that does not function as a nut has not simply failed in the schema of the diagram but it has failed as a thing in-itself. It is no longer a nut, or it is a failed-nut. But what does it mean for an object to be itself once we remove the determinate of context from it? How would an object fail if it does not have anything to fail in regards to? In unpacking the ontology of things Tristan Garcia proposes that failure is in fact a condition of the compactness of an object being itself (Garcia, 2014, p.64). For Garcia, being an object - being something - means to be in something, but the something the object is in is itself. For something to be in something solely in the context of other things - as the nut is in the exploded diagram - is to compromise that which is something. The part that ceases to be a part-of-the-exploded-diagram is part of something else - the exploded diagram, and no longer something-in-itself.

  What the CDD sufferer understands only too well is that the part in an exploded digram is irreducible, but once it enters the exploded diagram the part becomes something else and is no longer simply in-itself but in something else. A part embedded in something is a thing in something, but it is not one-thing. (Garcia, 2014, p.55).


Although Garcia‘s argument for the nature of and relationship between things is at times as convoluted as an equation for the perimeter of a Mobius strip, it is comprehensible in the simple comparison of a thing to a bag. (Garcia, 2014, p.61)


Five Parts in One Hundred and Forty Bytes (Charlton, 2014)

Full Screen

For Garcia, things are either inside or outside a bag. Even if one attempts to put the bag inside itself all one achieves is to turn the bag inside out (Garcia, 2014 p.61). You cannot make the bag a container for itself in the way that a Klein bottle does.⁠1 Something cannot be both content and container of that which it is. It is then what Garcia calls the compact failure of the nut to fit the bolt that makes the nut both the thing that it is and the thing that it is not. Like the bag that cannot be inside itself, the compact failure of the nut is the possibility of its own impossibility (Garcia, 2014, p.64).

So in one sense the exploded diagram is simply a method of bringing objects together no-matter-what⁠2 except that as a method it is problematised by the nature of the things and their relationships to each other in a non-correlational world as understood by Garcia. Constrained by this, the exploded diagram is more accurately a text for the human practice of making - or as it turns out, the un-making. However, because of the anthropocentric nature of diagrams, the things in the diagram are never truly part of the thing that is the diagram, nor are they part of the thing that the diagram instructs us to make. As a thing, the exploded diagram is a thing-in-itself - it does not require the parts to be anything other than other things, things that are not in the diagram despite being the content of the diagram.

As the CDD sufferer returning a box of dismembered parts to the store can testify, the exploded diagram is clearly no surrogate for the objects it seeks to instruct. It necessarily sits outside of its subject, operating across the spotlight of time as a form of instructional text - pointing either backward in time to an object already dismantled or forward in time to a object yet to be assembled (Garcia, 2014, p179-184). Like Garcia‘s example of the bag that cannot be both container and content, the exploded diagram can never be a part of the machine as it is necessarily extraneous to the machine. In this way, the exploded diagram seems to operate like a text that sits outside of the practice of making, pointing at it in a definitive act that exposes practice.

[1] Indeed I suspect that Garcia would argue that even a Klein bottle cannot be a container for itself.

[2] No-matter-what is quite simply the plain of equity of what is real, possible, non-existent, past, impossible, true, false, bad (Garcia, 2014, p.30).

Exploding Practice

To what extent then can the metaphor of the bag and the exploded diagram be used to help understand the relationship between art practice and research practice - and in particular how can we see this model being played out in the Journal of Artistic Research (JAR)?

If it is a simple case of artistic-research sitting outside artistic-practice and operating like an exploded diagram in order to expose an otherwise absent practice, then perhaps the conflation of art and research is a misnomer. Perhaps ’pure forms of artistic research may not exist‘ (Schwab, 2014, p.15). For immediately we have set up a something-else relationship between research and art practice. Art research under this model would more aptly be research about art. But the proposition, as Schwab explains, is more surely more sophisticated than this.

  Rather than being exposed by something outside itself, the challenge put forward by Schwab is to understand art‘s capacity to expose itself as research (Schwab, 2014, p.9). Within Garcia‘s irreducible no-matter-what framework this seems no less problematic as we are still seeking to turn one thing into another thing - art into research. Even though it is the thing-in-itself attempting to do this, it remains an impossibility as things are only ’the difference between that which the thing is in and that which the thing is‘ (Garcia, 2014, p.13). Anything that did become another thing would immediately negate itself and art would not exist.

Perhaps, then, the proposition that ’art needs to have a way to expose itself as research‘(Schwab, 2014, p.9) should be taken as suggesting that art is already research but is simply not understood as such. In this case we seem simply to have reversed the expositional function and subjected research to diagram exposition by art. Under this framework research is no more capable of becoming art than art is of becoming research and we reach an impasse.

So with all forms of transformation eliminated, through what mechanisms can exposition then occur? Through what mechanisms can change come about? Is there an instrument of causation that promotes change without compromising the thing within itself? Is there a mechanism through which art can become research without the diagrammatic function of research-about? Does the Journal of Artistic research provide such a model or is it simply an exploded diagram of art parts?

Jars and Site Maps

The act of subjecting the JAR to software analytics and visualisation techniques that is documented on the accompanying pages⁠3 is not intended as a serious statistical analysis for it lacks, among many other things, adequate methodological rigor. The results arising from this practice are not of interest to this research⁠4. Instead, these pages should be read as art-research framed as research in order to expose art-research from within itself. It is an attempt to see what happens when you put the bag inside itself - when JAR becomes the content that is contained by this project. The futility of this proposition is embraced as a means of attempting to maintain the compactness of art-research-practice, and the redundancy of any method that simply applies the same method as the subject it critiques is accepted.

At a meta-level the function of JAR is presented by this project as a diagram - a system designed to point to parts and describe their place in the schema of things. Despite the Journal‘s structural efforts⁠5 to avoid the diagrammatic tendencies of research-about by serving as more than a repository for art practice, two things seem to be working against Schwab‘s reading of expositions as a form of self-exposure.

Firstly, based on Garcia‘s argument, JAR is unable to operate as anything other than a jar - a container for the ’identification, publication and dissemination of artistic research‘ (JAR website). The acronym JAR is obviously intended to have more than just a descriptive function in this sense. As a container, JAR is necessarily separate from its content in the same way that the inside of the bag is separate from the outside of the bag. Any container fails to form a singularity with its contents, as this would cause the container itself to fail in-itself. Individual projects on the JAR are never part of the JAR - they are simply contained by it.

JAR5 Site Map Navigation window Amber Yared Navigation window Jamie Henthorn

JAR is further limited to diagrammatic functionality by the nature of online content that unavoidably seems to break down content to a series of hyperlinked containers. This diagrammatic function seems, at least for the moment, embedded in the website hierarchies that inevitably contain linked pages within a home page directory. Although JAR‘s individual project Pages in theory do not prescribe such a hyperlinked containment, the provision for navigation maps within each Page provides yet another form of diagrammatic containment that locates content within the container of the Page. Pages that in themselves seem to operate for the most part as diagrammatic pointers to a practice that exists outside of JAR⁠.6

[3]⁠ The process for this is describe in Methods.

⁠[4] Despite decidedly dodgy methods the indication that the weighting of textual content in reads to site size has been diminishing since its inception may be worth more serious consideration.

⁠[5] As described by Schwab JAR attempts to do this by distinguishing between Works - coherent units of meaning, and Simple Media - that which does not belong to the work and performs a diagrammatic function.⁠ (Schwab, p.96) The further layering of the Research Catalogue database along side the JAR also attempts to isolate the diagrammatic from subject.

The Failure of Art

So how does the compactness of the diagrammatic function inform not simply the JAR but the being of art-research itself? Can we use a similar diagrammatic function to play out conditions of impossibility and expose the impossibility or failure of art as research?

In the context of the JAR as a diagrammatic function this seems quite possible, for if the act of submission and inclusion in the JAR is an act of putting one thing inside another, of containing art-practice within a container that defines it as art-research, then the JAR has failed. Anything contained in JAR cannot be that which JAR is. Art-research then must fail too, as there remains no art-practice to diagrammatically put inside of research. When contents become parts of that which contains them, they are no longer themselves and fail to be themselves not as a condition of compactness, but as a necessary state of things in themselves.

For art to succeed as research it must first fail as a compact thing - it must retain the possibility of making itself impossible, rather than failing as a result of the container it is in. It must retain the impossibility of art-practice in order to remain art-practice with the potential of becoming art-research. The form of self-exposition that is the focus of both the JAR and artistic-practice, seems to prohibit art from functioning in this way. Instead the JAR is like a box of disassembled parts thrown into a box and returned to the store - they were taken apart simply because the diagram told us that they could be.

Method and Bibliography


Data used in the is research was generated using The Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool. This tool fetches key onsite elements and allows you to quickly analyse, audit and review a site from an onsite search engine optomisation perspective. Once cleaned the data is saved as a .csv file for export in Gephi an open-source network analysis and visualization software package. This process was run on each individual page of the JAR site.

Key data retained focused on comparison of word count to site size. From this data the percentage of text content per page can be extrapolated. Although obviously not providing clear statistical evidence of the emphasis and bias of textual content over multimedia content the results show a significant decrease in the word count over the lifetime of the journal. For example in Sheilah Wilson‘s The Invisible Inside the Visible word content account for only 2.3% of the Page size. Where as word count peaked at 11.86% of site size in Tuija Kokkonen‘s A Performance with an Ocean View.


"5 (2014)." Journal of Artistic Research. Ed. M. Schwab. Society for Artistic Research, n.d. Web. 29 June 2014. .

Garcia, Tristan, Mark Allan. Ohm, and Jon Cogburn. Form and Object: A Treatise on Things. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2014. Print.

Harman, Graham. Bells and Whistles: More Speculative Realism. Winchester, U.K.: Zero, 2013. Print.

Harman, Graham. Tool-being: Elements in a Theory of Objects. Thesis. DePaul University, 1999. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Schwab, Michael, and Henk Borgdorff. The Exposition of Artistic Research: Publishing Art in Academia. Leiden: Leiden UP, 2014. Print.