Draft / Notes for “Enabling Constraints” Book Content

The text below comprises notes and draft content for my intended research outcome – an artist’s book / manifesto / workbook on the theme of “enabling constraints”. I am sharing these notes here in order to record the development of my project at this stage.

Manifesto / WORKBOOK Notes

Title Options

Site Diagnostic
(Toward) a theory of enabling constraints
Enabling Constraints
[Enabling] Constraints


Question / Proposition – based around WORKSITE questionnaire?
Model / Example

Outline manifesto in numbered sentences / bullet points
Use bullets to generate questions
Intersperse relevant questions and images of work (and non-work?) throughout the text.


Who do you share your work space with?
What tools do you have at your disposal? What are they capable of doing?
What tools do you have at your disposal?
What do your tools allow you to do?
What is your body capable of doing?

Can you map your workspace based on its limitations?
Can you map your own body based on its limitations?


What is your definition of the term “work”?
What is your definition of the term “site”?
How does “work” relate to “site” / “site” relate to “work”?
How would you describe your own work?
In what sites does this work take place?
How do the sites in which you work influence the work itself?
Do you make work in response to or for any particular site?
What tools or resources do you require in order to work?
What themes / materials / processes / resources influence your work?
What are the limitations or parameters of your work?
Who or what are you working for?
Do you work in collaboration or partnership with others?
How do you benefit from your work?
How might others benefit from your work?

[Draft] Sentences on [Enabling] Constraints

  1. Anything is possible, but not everything.
  2. All things are subject to limitations, or constraints.
  3. Constraints determine the parameters of what is possible.
  4. A knowledge of one’s constraints is equal to a knowledge of what is possible.
  5. Thus, a sensitivity to one’s constraints is useful when trying to make the most of a given situation.
  6. An artist is subject to specific constraints according to their own abilities, resources, and environment; some of these constraints can be adapted, or even lifted; others are permanent.
  7. It is useful to know the difference between that which can be changed, and that which cannot.
  8. Constraints that are fixed represent the limits of what is possible; they show us what it is that we might be able to do.
  9. Constraints, therefore, enable our work.
  10. Our (immediate) working environment always generates certain (fixed) constraints; space, time, resources, storage, and so on.
  11. The constraints of the environment communicate what is possible in that environment in relation to what the artist brings to the table.
  12. The intersection of what is possible in the environment and what the artist brings to the table is where work happens.
  13. We call constraints that enable us to work “enabling constraints”.
  14. Enabling constraints enable us to work; therefore, they are useful, desirable even.
  15. Enabling constraints liberate us from the tyranny of choice.

Respond directly to elements of the questions e.g. “what is your environment?” or “what are your limitations?”

Statements on Enabling Constraints

These “statements” could be arranged alongside or opposite the “sentences” bullet points above – perhaps with the “sentences” being the more dry, academic/formal iteration of the thesis, and these “statements” being a more direct, aggressive “call to arms” to the reader?

The “statements” could be deliberately over-the-top or excessive, representing a kind of antithesis to the “good advice” often found in self-help / workbook publications. The inclusion of both the “sentences” (the thesis) and the “statements” (the more “visceral” or “irresponsible” response) could together form a balanced document, which takes into account both the earnest intentions of the work, and the possibility of the works’ own parody or misinterpretation.

To me the “statements” bring to mind the work of artists like Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, who address the audience in a direct, almost confrontational way, by means of text in the form of posters, sculptures and collaged images.

Forget what it is that you cannot do
Employ rigorous rules and measures to focus your attention
Ruthlessly limit your daily activities and reap the rewards
Find comfort in being confined
Eschew freedom; embrace constraint
Pare down your practice
Map your environment; leave no stone unturned
Work by means of a single tool
Deadlines or death
Circle the perimeter; map the territory
Experience freedom from choice
Imagination is for cowards

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