Riparian Artefacts
Catalogue essay by Riley O'Keeffe

Tom Borgas’ Ripairian Artifacts, first and foremost, endeavour to explore the structure and systems of software through the manipulation of organic, physical materials – an oscillating transformation from analogue to digital and back again. More specifically, Borgas’ work succeeds in blurring the inherent paradox of the analogue/digital paradigm, the same kind of blurred paradox we find in the virtual reality binary, the culmination of two ostensibly opposing states suddenly in relation to each other.

Borgas’ works are incredibly striking – their edges are hard, their colours are garish and synthetic and their arrangements diligently considered – yet at the same time, they manage to maintain a natural presence, an out-of-context familiarity. And in a sense they should feel familiar, as it is with increasing rapidity that we find the digital infiltrating the natural, tactile, analogue world. Our uniquely human habits, activities, decisions and movements are aided by almost four decades of readily accessible digital instruments and environments: Virtual reality allows our movements to explore a digital landscape; electronic pacemakers pump our blood and complex interfaces keep us permanently connected – we are in a constant synthesis of technology and touch.

Initially, these works seem to manifest as a figurative model of the tech/touch binary; they are controlled, ordered and sequenced while at the same time giving the impression of disorder and animation. And as much as they do illustrate these ideas, the action and process that culminates in Borgas’ work acts as an extension on the mere representation of this binary. Borgas’ artifacts utilise wood, concrete, card, plaster and paint as well as organic materials such as rocks and water and while intentionally slick and structural, they are established through traditional artistic techniques. It is with meticulous precision that Borgas manipulates these materials through a knowledge and understanding of our technological culture, establishing a shift from their fluid, natural arrangements, to systemised, ordered structures. It is in this operation that the Ripairian Artifacts emerge – natural, organic matter, that now replicates or at least incorporates, the methodical regularity we find pervading the very technologies that are so ingrained within our culture. In this action, Borgas’ Ripairian Artifacts become the very juxtaposition they are illustrating.

It is our haptic relationship with the world around us that contributes to how ingrained these technologies are within our culture. Considering Borgas’ practice, the haptic component of the relationship between touch and tech is implicated by the force of the artist - by the control and contingency implemented in creative process. It is through these processes that life does emerge, that materials and technology are manipulated, synthesized and animated:

Art is where intensity is most at home, where matter is most attenuated without being nullified: perhaps we can understand matter in art as matter as its most dilated, matter as it most closely approximates mind… where becoming is most directly in force.[1]

We create technologies, which while they are complex structures, integrate seamlessly into our forces and actions, with little prior knowledge necessary. The digital world is designed as a structural framework, an ordered systemized arrangement of components that we have the ability to control, manipulate and destroy: order, subject to a slow dissolve into chaos. Professor Hannah Higgins states that:

The experience of chaos as chaos requires an organising principle, a frame of reference through which it is perceived as chaotic relative to something that is not. What’s less chaotic than the standard, orderly, ordering grid?[2]

Borgas’ isometric artifacts maintain an arrangement that is determined by the ‘organising principle’ of the ubiquitous digital grid – the unassuming structure in which disorder is inevitable. Our bodies and our planet and the universe remain chaotic organisms in which countless structures and systems interact and function, to induce the possibilities and contingencies that make life possible. And given this, it is no surprise that the digital systems we have put in place to manage and conduct our lives, demonstrate the symbiotic link between order and disorder, where they exist not as bounded opposites, but as porous thresholds. Borgas’ work permeates the thresholds and occupies the liminal state between these seemingly opposing forces.

The word Ripairian stems from the Latin Riparius which relates to the zone or interface between a flowing river and the land, the area that is both bank and river simultaneously. Borgas’ Ripairian Artifacts do just that – place us between the contingency of the stream, and the rigidity of the bank, unable to tell which one affects the other or where one ends and the other begins.

[1] E. A. Grosz, Chaos, Territory, Art : Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth, The Wellek Library Lectures in Critical Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). 76.
[2] Hannah Higgins, The Grid Book(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009). 257