Slime Aesthetics 

By Alexander Iadarola 

 
Slime—often in vibrant neon—is a common trope in the work of EVOL. It shows up in 
release titles like Rave SlimeMelting Pinkness, and Purple Melters; in the viscous feel of 
their tracks, brought on by acid house-styled sonic bending; and in the monochrome 
kandi of their artwork. Although Roc Jiménez de Cisneros and Stephen Sharp’s affinity 
for it no doubt has to do with psychedelic rave aesthetics—exploration of rave’s media 
history and sonic template is a recurring theme—slime in their zone takes on a life of its 
own. There, a big part of its fun as a figure is its ability to function doubly as a conduit 
for academic styles of inquiry as well as more everyday, tangible, and straightforwardly 
visceral kinds of engagement. 
 
An important place to start with slime is the fact that it’s very hard to pin down. It’s 
slippery and evasive not only if you’re a protagonist in Ghostbusters II (1984) but also if 
you’re attempting to ascertain unequivocal knowledge about its form. Indeed, one of its 
common features in popular media is its ability to dramatically shift its shape. Recalling a 
familiar plot within the horror genre, The Thing (1982) tells the story of a contagion that 
infiltrates and takes the form of living hosts, while The Blob (1958) never stops growing, 
eating up everything in its path.  
 
Definitive slime taxonomy is not really possible because slime is constantly morphing. 
You can’t draw a line around it or take concise measurements because it’s constantly 
growing or redefining itself, much like an EVOL track as it lurches, stretches, and 
bunches up unpredictably throughout the sonic register.  
 
Slime is thus defined by a constitutive internal difference with itself: it could be one 
thing, but it might just as well be another; what it “is” is by definition variable, never not 
in a liminal state. Whatever you think defines slime one moment could prove totally 
inapplicable in the next. In that way, it could be said to be Hardly Itself, a phrase that’s 
also the title of a text in the form of a dialogue between Jiménez de Cisneros and Guy 
Birkin, researcher of aesthetic complexity. There, the duo talk about the impossibility of 
translation, particularly as it relates to EVOL’s numerous versions of German artist and 
composer Hanne Darboven's composition Opus 17a, the seventh “Slime Variation” of 
which accompanies this text. 
 
In Hardly Itself, their starting point for a very wide-ranging conversation is a line from 
Bergson, brought to bear specifically on the theme of translation: “To analyze is to 
express a thing as a function of something other than itself.”

i

 Early on, Birkin points out 

the different locations the Opus17a exists, emphasizing, “It is difficult to separate its 
content from its form because, as a piece of generative music, the process by which the 
piece is created is a central concern.” He elaborates: 
 

Where is Opus 17a as a piece of art amongst all these layers of work: the concept 
of the piece in Darboven’s mind and ours; the visual artwork (Wunschkonzert
1984) made of framed grids and numbers that provided the basis for Opus 17a, 

17b, 18a and 18b; the mapping system used to translate numbers into notes; the 
physical/digital musical scores; each live performance of the piece; recordings of 
those performances; the act of listening to a recording; the act of transcribing 
it…”

ii

 

 
Along with this slime-like unlocatability, Darboven’s work is also interesting in its 
relation to the EVOL project because of how they both deal with time. That theme has 
recurred regularly for the latter, and was also a central concern of their last long-term 
translation project, which involved multiple versions of Ligeti’s Continuum—a piece 
which Jiménez de Cisneros described to me via email as dealing with “the perception of 
time in the illusion of continuum.” 
 
Reviewing Darboven’s mammoth late work, Kulturgeschichte (Cultural history) 1880–
1983
—an unscalable accumulation of quotidian media, ephemera, and collectibles—
Lauren Sedofsky praises her art’s ability to “rupture chronology as we know it.” Against 
the mainstream narrative of predictable linearity and historical progress - which is of 
course designed to preserve the interests of those in power into the future - she claims 
that Darboven’s critical edge resides in her “ruination of various historical models, in the 
nonlocalizability of events within ‘the long accumulation unnoticed.’”  
 
In her introduction to that show, Lynne Cook describes the “libidinal exuberance” of 
Kulturgeschichte, concluding that Darboven seems to acknowledge that excess is in fact 
constitutive of time as opposed to being something that arises only in abnormal instances 
of contingency. Elsewhere, Ina Blom considers Darboven’s musical works, arguing that 
Opus 17a, 17b, 18a and 18b are haunted by the “fundamentally political alignment of 
life-time and musical time.” A similar kind of unscalable complexity courses through 
those compositions in their endless variations on minimal, mathematical figures, much 
like Kulturgeschicte: she writes that “the range of possible variations is so finely 
calibrated that any attempt at a structuring overview is impossible.” 
 
During our correspondence, Jiménez de Cisneros observed that Darboven’s work 
“functions as a sort of door to a weird perception of time,” a statement which resonates 
interestingly with a description he gave relating to his own work. “We're really good at 
digesting 4 minute tracks with a very clear narrative,” he explained, “but 50 minute tracks 
with almost no changes become a very different experience, and at some point you either 
lose interest or shift your attention to something else. Hopefully your perception of time 
bends a little bit and you don't know how long it's been since that thing first hit you in the 
face.”  
 
The opening to altered perception that occurs in Darboven’s work arises in part because 
of its huge scale, in his opinion. Illustrating this point, Jiménez de Cisneros quoted 
Achille Varzi’s article for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on mereology, the 
theory of parthood relations, or the relations of part to whole as well as those of part to 
part within a whole: 

 

Think of objects such as clouds, forests, heaps of sand. What exactly are their 
constitutive parts? What are the mereological boundaries of a desert, a river, a 
mountain? Some stuff is positively part of Mount Everest and some stuff is 
positively not part of it, but there is borderline stuff whose mereological 
relationship to Everest seems indeterminate
. Even living organisms may, on 
closer look, give rise to indeterminacy issues. Surely Tibble's body comprises his 
tail and surely it does not comprise Pluto's. But what about the whisker that is 
coming loose? It used to be a firm part of Tibble and soon it will drop off for 
good, yet meanwhile its mereological relation to the cat is dubious. And what 
goes for material bodies goes for everything. What are the mereological 
boundaries of a neighborhood, a college, a social organization? What about the 
boundaries of events such as promenades, concerts, wars?  

 
Upon closer inspection, parthood relations thought to be crystal clear lose their 
persuasiveness when seen through the lens of mereology, just like historical models of 
quantified, linear time become fragmented within the work of Darboven, and 
epistemological or ontological certainty about the nature of slime loses traction when 
faced with its constantly morphing nature. At each of these junctures, the situation 
becomes geared toward the study of vagueness, which is something Jiménez de Cisneros 
is “admittedly obsessed with.” Indeed, here we are with Slime Variation #7
 
Although vagueness is by no means a quality that everyone celebrates—it isn’t expedient, 
its essential point is that it’s not easily assimilable to popular existing models, and you 
can’t really fact-check it—along with its analogs of slipperiness and fluidity, it can be 
wonderful. It is in fact the vague, slimy nature of EVOL’s work that produces what is 
unmistakably its enthralling kind of sublime. Theirs isn’t the sort that one feels when they 
feel they’ve encountered one of life’s transcendent, immutable truths—cue slide of a 
Hudson River school painting—but rather something much more unhinged and zany. 
Their sublime is ugly. It represents a gross sublime, or, better, a wrong sublime. Perhaps 
a queer sublime. 
 
In the introduction to his book Delusive Spaces, media theorist Eric Kluitenberg 
summarizes the sublime’s figuration in centuries of aesthetic theory as an “ambiguous, 
almost dialectical mixture of anguish and delight.”

iii

 Maybe a little unexpectedly, this is 

actually a perfect description for the way EVOL flippantly takes what would usually be a 
fleeting affective peak in a dance track—the certain way a 303 is twisted, for example, or 
the lashing pleasure of a particularly robust element—and stretch it into a ten-minute 
experiment in unmitigated excess. Or in the case of Opus 17a Slime Variation #7, how 
they redeploy Darboven’s blunt thud of a composition in the cheesiest of Euro popclub 
tones.  
 
In Darboven’s original, she denies the pleasure of satisfying variation in a musical theme 
by running it through an OCD-like straightjacket of repetition, forcing it to touch and 
acknowledge every object in a set before moving to the next. The result is 
psychologically very uncomfortable: like encountering relentless blockage in a space you 
had perceived to be smooth, yet being unable to abandon the driving intuition that it 

should be smooth. By running the score through sounds some might associate with taking 
too much meth-cut ecstasy, EVOL creates a kind of cognitive dissonance, dislodging 
from each ingredient’s original context the possibility for a previously unconsidered kind 
of pleasure. Furthermore, on a level less concerned with cultural signification and more 
with the visceral effects of sound, the unpleasant-but-rewarding nature of Darboven’s 
composition gets an even more intense delivery than its original designation for double 
bass with these garish, saccharine, and psychoactive rave arrangements. 
 
If, for Lee Edelman, anxiety signals “our too-near approach to what we’re driven to 
enjoy,”

iv

 and the undoing of the subject that such enjoyment promises: desiring, then, 

takes on a certain privileged position in relation to actually attaining the object of 
desire. EVOL presents the direct inverse of this value system for maximum effect: no 
desiring at all, in favor of immediate delivery of the desired object. EVOL tracks, though 
they use dance music as the host to their contagion, never have that host's dramatic build-
up; their sounds only come in floods. Their work delivers pleasure in a form you simply 
didn’t ask for—too much at once, too much for your own good. Famously, Lyotard 
argues that for Kant the sublime “presents the unpresentable”; but where Thomas Cole 
hints at the light of god, EVOL’s is a pleasure so titillating that it ultimately takes on a 
shade of repulsion or disgusting-ness
 
A welcome illustration is Flubber (1997), where slime takes on a comparable figure of 
excess, following its desires with total uninhibitedness. It becomes an object of 
idealization—Robin Williams seems to want to hop out of heteronormative expectation 
into its endlessly fluid kind of life—adoration, and perhaps on some level, envy, while 
simultaneously presenting as gross or even repulsive. It tends to perform something of a 
carnivalesque figure in the Bakhtinian sense, definitively implementing rupture into 
business as usual, interrupting society’s normal functioning with its presence, opening up 
the possibility for unpredictable weirdness. Bending your perception just a little bit, 
echoing Jiménez de Cisneros. We can’t imagine ordinary life functioning properly with 
completely unrepressed slime on the loose.  
 
When I asked Jiménez de Cisneros why he was driven to produce so many translations of 
Darboven’s original work, he open-endedly offered, “It's not so much about doing a 
perfect rendition of something, but rather using the same template, the original piece, as a 
way of generating new things, different things.” Like some of the horror genre’s scariest 
figures of viral contagion, slime is able to auto-reproduce in EVOL’s world. Slime then 
takes on another shade: the slime machine, a generative, productive form; a factory for 
the gross sublime, a form for producing the form of the wrong sublime. 
 
We can perhaps think of EVOL’s slimy approach as a sonic analogue to what Keller 
Easterling conceives of as “active form” in architecture: “Not a new but an extra art and 
mode of making in which the action is the form.”  
 

Action is not necessarily movement but is rather embodied in relationship, 
relative position and potential in organizations. Action is immanent in 
the disposition of an organization.... Active forms design a disposition—a set of 

capacities for shaping space over time. Active forms are forms for handling 
forms. 

 
With an approach analogous to this model, EVOL takes an original composition as a 
form with which to produce more forms, in ecstatic generative production, creating in the 
resulting array of variations an organization with relative positions and potentials. 
Jiménez de Cisneros goes on, “By doing it a bunch of times using different sounds and 
manipulating the score in different ways, you end up with a short catalogue of possible 
interpretations.” A catalogue that doesn’t sit still, though—one that’s instead living, 
breathing, and unpredictable, constantly setting up weird and unpredictable relationships 
within itself. 
 
Mereology again comes into play because of the prominent interplay between the parts 
and the whole within the constantly evolving network—for EVOL, the glass is neither 
half-empty nor full but shattered against the wall, where’s the broom? As they’re 
producing their own archive, they’re also undoing it and rendering it a palimpsest without 
any unified sense of direction. Each of the seven versions writes and re-writes the project; 
like slime, you can’t pin down their work onto any single piece or version. Or, it’s like 
Darboven—here’s Sedofsky again: “Indeed, the distinction between ‘excerpt’ and ‘work’ 
constitutes one of the most troubling and provocative features of Darboven’s practice. 
Given its postulates of quantity and continuation, her shows, catalogues, and artist’s 
books necessarily amount only to samplings. Darboven is an artist who–like history—can 
be known only in excerpt.” 
 
EVOL’s Proper Headshrinker series is another recent scenario where getting lost in the 
space between excerpt and work has a dizzying, intoxicating effect—of course doubled 
up by the music’s curdled synaptic undulations. It started with an LP of that name; was 
followed up by Harder Posher Pinker—which included a text by OOO philosopher 
Timothy Morton; next landed at Rephrased Hiker Porn, a poster (and Easter egg album 
embedded somewhere on the duo’s website) containing their 16 favorite anagrams of the 
words “proper headshrinker”; and then coursed through the Purple Melters 12”. Not only 
is the music interesting in itself, but it also takes on further dynamic articulation in its 
“relative position and potential in organization.” There’s no official word on whether the 
series is done, and indeed it’s more exciting to think of it as persisting without closure, 
liable to rejuvenate unexpectedly.  
 
Considering that music a time-based art form, it’s interesting that the timelines of more 
musicians’ discographies don’t feel this alive, aren’t as concerned with their disposition 
for shaping form over time. One of the most popular discography browsing websites is 

Discogs.com

, and they set up what Darboven, Ligeti, and company might think of as an 

illusory continuum of artistic history. EVOL offers instead an alternative method for 
purposeful detouring with their ecstatic slime machine. 
 
 
 

                                                   

i

 Jiménez De Cisneros, Birkin 2 

ii

 Ibid. 5-6 

iii

 Kluitenberg 32 

iv

 Berlant, Edelman 8 

 

Works Cited 

 
Bakhtin, M. M. Rabelais and His World. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T., 1968. Print. 
 
Berlant, Lauren, and Lee Edelman. Sex, or the Unbearable. Durham and London: Duke 
UP, 2014. Print. 
 
Blom, Ina. "Hanne Darboven." Frieze Sept. 2007. Web. 
 
Cooke, Lynne. "Hanne Darboven." Dia Art Foundation. May 2003. Web. 
 
Easterling, Keller. "An Internet of Things." e-flux. Jan. 2012. Web. 
 
Jiménez De Cisneros, Roc, and Guy Birkin. Hardly Itself. Barcelona: ALKU, 2015. Print. 
 
Kluitenberg, Eric. Delusive Spaces: Essays on Culture, Media and Technology
Rotterdam: NAi, 2008. Print. 
 
Lyotard, Jean-Francçois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1984. Print. 
 
Sedofsky, Lauren. "Lauren Sedofsky on Hanne Darboven." Artforum Mar. 1997. Web. 
 
Varzi, Achille. "Mereology." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. May 2003. Web.