Since the early eighties, Matt Mullican has been working on a great, stratified metaphysical construction. Though close to an urban structure (since it is described by the fictive model of a city), this mental construction was never conceived for physical realization except in computer-generated images or in the form of scale models, drawings, or hypertext itineraries, as in his project for the website of documenta X. Conceived more as a cosmology than a utopia, Mullican's model city is based on an encyclopedic vocabulary of images and signs whose forms recall the pictographs one finds in public spaces, on roads or in airports. This vocabulary constitutes an elusive system of poetic indicators, highly specific to the artist (a group of concentric circles does not signify a simple target or all targets, but a very particular aim: heaven). Moreover, his sign system is grouped (or subdivided) into five essential colors each referring to precise sets: red encompasses the Subjective (pure meaning), black is for Language (signs and symbols), yellow is what he calls the World Framed (a microcosm of the whole), blue is the World Unframed (close to the world in which we exist), and green denotes the Elements (natural and raw).

His project for documenta, Up to 625, functions on a structure accessed through the five key colors. A first image in five colors ramifies into five images, which in turn lead to twenty-five, and so on up to a corpus of 625 images. As the visitor moves through the website she is led to penetrate deeper and deeper into the structure, reaching increasingly precise elements. The overall, abstract vision of the initial images gradually gives way to concrete and particular objects, whose location simultaneously becomes less evident. Indeed, the arborescent pathway lends the deeper-level images a more intimate quality. Seeing them all would require a systematic process of remounting and redescending so as to explore each of the available paths.

In this respect, Matt Mullican has made good use of the hypertext potential of the net. The visitor is encouraged to wander fluidly and rapidly through the structure and the images of the website, as though in an urban grid with all it contains.

Simon Lamunière

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