A characteristic expression of unconscious psychic processes, repetition drives the subject, more or less regularly, but inflexibly, to reiterate systematically certain experiences, thoughts, ideas, and representations.
I have been occupied with notions of repetition for the past two decades, both through known and unknown reasons. Often I would consciously decide to act repetitively, and in some cases, I notice that I repeat for no concrete reason but intuitively.
Themes of repetition are both method and subject. It’s a compulsion that refers to the action of repeating form, drawing, movement, and gesture in various ways. In between drawing, performance, object making and digital choreography, the subject and what is repeated are generated by different signifiers. Still, all in search for the difference that is revealed in between whatever is repeated.Each repetition is unique, a little different from one to the other.
Methods of repetition generate as a constant fluid multiplicity that transforms and shifts between opposites; movement and stillness, chaos and order, chance and control, concrete and abstracted, visible and invisible, inner and outer, notations and visuals, and often with one consisting of the folding of the other.
There is a wide range of ideas and concepts included in repetition, and which I explore in my work:
Multiplicity, reiterations, accumulations, grid & variations
Differences and repetition, Gilles Deleuze, 1994
Deleuze deals with the philosophy of difference in his book Repetition and Difference, and as in his other books and essays, he uses many examples from the field of visual art. According to Deleuze, repeating as a behavior and as a point of view is of interest in singularities that are not interchangeable or convertible. Therefore, one can ask while observing: What is the unique Singular (How is reflection embodied in Exhibited artwork\object? According to Deleuze, repetition is not a move in which one adds a second and third time to the first time. Return becomes this move. The formless repetition without a title and in accordance with Deleuze's ideas, raise questions about understanding how the concept of repetition is perceived in a work of visual art.
According Gilles Deleuze, repetition of the work of art is like a “singularity without concept.” In other words, every repetition consists of a difference without a concept. Repetition, which we might perceive as a matter of sameness, turns out to be a matter of difference, of the obscure. This is both the literal and the spiritual sense of repetition. It can express at once a singularity opposed to the general, a universality opposed to the particular, a distinctive opposed to the ordinary, an instantaneity opposed to variation, and an eternity opposed to permanence.
Repetition’s power comes from the way it energizes the space in-between whatever is repeated. As Deleuze says, “The theatre of repetition is opposed to the theatre of representation. In the theatre of repetition, we experience pure forces, dynamic lines in space which act without intermediary upon the spirit, and link it directly with nature and history, “with a language which speaks before words, with gestures which develop before organized bodies, with masks before faces”.(Differences and repetition, Gilles Deleuze, 1994).
Deleuze distinguishes between static repetition and dynamic repetition.(64) Static repetition may result from the general appearance of art creation, when the observer attributes it to a single concept that was determined before the act of creation and that the artist acted on. One example for this is the recurrent motif in my work (drawing movement) in which a certain shape\line\curve appears several times on the surface of the substrate. It might look that I used the form as a single concept and before the act of creation, and superimposed it each time anew, or draw, engrave or carve the shape according to a pre-made pattern
Deleuze writes, "it is not the way artists progress in reality. The dynamic repetition is consistent with the definition of creative patterns; artists combine an ingredient in an ingredient in such a way that each ingredient depends on its predecessor and differs from it. Only the final effect of the piece gives the impression that this is a static repetition.
Do one thousand repetitions while thinking of something transcendental
What lurks behind all these for repetition is someone or something that resembles us. It is returning to see again, to remember, while the body is looking ahead.It is a movement of going both forward and backward, revisiting repetition of the past, while looking ahead at what is to come. We retrieve the past experiences as a canvas to make something new. Our returns are imaginative and empirical at once, and evocation and a direct perception. We return, we visit for petition but also construct something new.
Sisyphus going up the hill, back and forth, again and again, without the Final Destination, reminds me of Sisyphus who rolled the stone up the hill again and again, only to have it rolled down again and again. The myth which draws on the possibility of fulfilment, and the movement to and from the goal, never reaching the decision or the destination. The Fulfillment of the goal is not important, only the movement back and forth, or the possibility of movement. What matters here is the Way itself, the desire to get there, up on the hill and inevitably down again, such movement resembles the movement of desire which reproduce itself and returns to its circular path again and again Recent aesthetic theory has been more attentive to the role that repetition plays in art practices, and many writings include reference to Freud’s articulation of repetition in relation to the pleasure principle (Araujo 2010: 187–88), or to Deleuze’s argument in Difference and Repetition (1995) that repetition produces an intensity of perception so that the difference might exceed the logic of representation.
DANCE IS HARD TO SEE
The transitory and ephemeral nature of dance gestures.
Rainer puts it plainly when she says: “Dance is hard to see.”
When describing repetition methods in choreography, Reiner talks about the discreteness of a movement in dancing and the attempt to show the transient gesture that disappears in its act. It is an alternative way of ordering material, literally making the material easier to see. (Battcock, Gregory (ed.) Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology. New York: Dutton, 1968, pp.263-273. )
Repetition requires accumulating forms and discovering narrative, a rhythm, a bodily movement that reveals itself in between one repetition to another.
Yvonne Reiner and Trisha brown influenced me when it comes to repetition, and specifically the contemplations about the ephemerality and tangibility of an artwork, Since both artists created in between the media of dance, choreography, and drawing.
Yvonne Reiner described the process of creating her dance performance “Satie for Two”:
“I repeated the same group of movements for 6 minutes. It was not exact repetition, as the sequence of the movements
kept changing. They also underwent changes through being repeated in different parts of the space and faced in different
directions — in a sense allowing the spectator to ‘walk around it.’” Dance thus repeats sculpture by resorting to
repetition, which to quote again, “can serve to enforce the discreteness of a movement, objectify it, make it
Eirini Kartsaki in Repetition in Performance, marks the performance Satie for Two as an important moment in the development of a methodology of repetition. Both Brown and Reiner went on to explore repetition in different ways and make work which challenged the audience, but also used repetition as a generator of new ways of thinking and making.
Rhythm is a fundamental element in art, daily habits, personal and cultural rituals, drawing, and listening; rhythm is an essential component in performance, dance, and music. Rhythm is a fundamental element in life, and one of the primary ways to create rhythm is repetition. We live within a rhythm; we act within a rhythm. The rhythm is so fundamental in our lives that we do not notice it, such as breathing. It is the soundtrack of our lives; It’s the building block of life.
In both life and art, repetition creates a pattern, movement or immobility, confusion, embarrassment, rebellion against tradition, redefining the idea of origin and copy. We repeat (In which the repeating element is never the same because it’s not mechanical) to emphasize certain parts of the painting or work of art, make things more visible, make the invisible force of movement visible. Repetition allows me to control and change my attention and create manipulations on it.
Repetition can generate dynamics, tension, or relaxation, like meditation, where the mind is focused on a particular action. Sometimes like a riddle - the repeating element draws attention precisely to the difference, to the change, to the mutation, to process and development. In rituals and ceremonies, repetition can reduce the value or increase and amplify it.
It is challenging to create a recurring form yet not lose interest because of our tendency to see repetition as boredom and non-progress. Every return can be the same and regular or variable, it can create a pattern, as the elements spread out from a central point, or a pattern of growth as the repeating parts become smaller or larger (like fractals). Repetition is a tool for creating order, whether visual or mental. Repetition is not just an artistic tool. Like many other creative tools, it blurs the boundaries between means and devices for meaning and content.