Notation is generally understood as a system of conventional signs used to express mathematical, physical, chemical and other kinds of concepts. If we were to remove the word “conventional” from the definition, the possible understanding of notation could be expanded far beyond formal languages and introduce us into artistic realms where everything is unstable, labile and open, inducing all communicative systems to open up and to adapt to the artist’s vision. From this perspective, the exhibition The Notational Shift implies an extension, if not a direct transgression on behalf of artists, of the concept of notation and its traditional functions.
There is nothing as contradictory as the coupling of notation and arbitrariness, yet when we free a notational system from all conventions, it does not mean that the system and the organization disappear but that they are transformed into another-system with differing degrees of organization, communicability and density. Many of the art languages continue to be denotative systems, but with varying levels of openness, and they are still coherent and systematic, though with an internal logic which is not completely conventional. These are the languages which this project wishes to engage with and to lend visibility to.
Notation—the gesture or action of notating—can become a graphic artwork (score or visual poem), but notation is also a repository, a support for the memory. In other cases it is a set of coded instructions to be enacted in music, action or movement (performance, dance, improvisation). In this way we could create maps for individual or group action, which would mean notating by making use of the resources of a particular science like cartography, which is also used as a mere found object to be deployed, in a back and forth game, or works supported by maps or, better said, maps that record events.
Once again, it is a case of artistic action placing itself on both sides. In this feedback process between encrypted and more or less normalized codes, the word can be like a score with instructions to enact events or to provoke sounds through their oralization. But one can also write with computer languages, and, in this case, the instructions take on the form of algorithms that activate processes to collect visual or sound results, data used to plan forms of behaviour on and with diverse materials. And there is also mathematical notation, which is where we yet again come across the polyvalency of a brushstroke, a number and a formula; from scientific research to geometry and architecture, as well as the notarial or countable entries that the artist uses to discover their aesthetic potential in a practice that takes its legitimacy from Concept Art.
Ultimately, if we conceive notation as a generator of an incredible amount of objects and visual conformations—including notebooks, sketches and scripts as passageways from thought to work—what this exhibition aspires to is also to cast other gazes on them, to make other evaluations of them, to illuminate them from a different angle, to recover discourses that were already there but which, now, when relating works with each other, when making them dialogue, take on presence and give them new argumentative qualities.
The goal of the exhibition is to showcase a series of creative practices (and not just from artistic disciplines) related with notational systems that, to put it succinctly, enable them to encode forms of “writing”, to represent and identify languages that translate reality, that translate one language to another or interpret and decode them. They are therefore “tools” to represent, translate and encode all kinds of territories: physical, geographical, mental, emotional, social, conceptual, linguistic, and so on, that are structured as forms of representation and of expression of sounds, movements, spaces... but with a shift that removes them from mere conventional notation.
As such, notation is not just the representation of a mental process or of ideas, but is a project in itself that, among other things, conditions ways of thinking. The “shifted” notation does not translate nor represent nor communicate nor encode—or at least not just—but also acts, produces, generates. It is not a medium—or not just—but an end in itself.
To give an account of the complexity of the creative use of notation, the exhibition is divided into five generic themes: notations related with music and sound; kinetic notations of movement; cartographic and spatial notations; scientific and calculus notations; and, finally, notations of thinking.