John Morton
Since the beginning
Works in Ottawa, Ontario Canada

- born Feb. 27, 1960
- began to learn black and white photography (developing, printing) in 1974
- first job as a reporter/photographer with "Briarpatch Magazine", Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Nov.-Dec. 1979
- studied post-structural philosophy from 1980-85
- continued exploratory work in the area of visual linguistics from that point on
- worked with various environmental and First Nations groups from 1986 to present
- published in "Semiotext[e] Canadas" (1994) under pen name 'Lon Cayeway'
- currently reconstructing the origin of writing, with reference to the non-metrical image writing used in pre-Columbian times by the First Nations of North America (including the system of mapping used by the Aboriginal Peoples of North America)... check it out on my web site at
... particularly the "Introduction" section, where you will find authentic images of various hominid species (added Jan. 2003)!!!
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Deconstruction is application

Oh; Derrida! Yes indeed. Well oerhaps I'll just jump into this by offering a snippet from something I'm working on, that I think might be helpful in orienting toward the context of Derrida's deconstructive efforts (for me, anyway).

The following section of text was produced relative to my current research into "The Origin of Writing" (; but, it incorporates an earlier piece of research regarding the deconstruction of axiomatic theory into a counter-text. For me, Derrida has always been about finding what ISN'T being said by dominant strains of discourse... about finding the marginalized, the ignored, the suppressed, the delegitimized...etc.

(I'll try to keep up with this thread but I use public access terminals for internet access - 1 hour per day limit - and I work 12 hour factory shifts on weekend nights; so, that might not happen very reliably).


"...a curious little piece of philosophic speculation that is dated to 1986... five years before I first encountered the ancient image writing system historically used by the First Nations. A product of my early and ongoing interest in visual grammatical structures, this brief piece nicely displays the essential differences holding between: characteristically structural archives; and, the nature of their postulated "other". This is a deconstructive reading between the lines of what axiomatic structures produce; and, this is a glimpse of that which axiomatic structures such as archives characteristically exclude. I have avoided the temptation to change the composition of this piece (by removing some elements of word-play, and, specific terms primarily referential to other areas of philosophic inquiry I was conducting at the time), and present it to you as I initially produced it.

A Deconstructive Interpretation of Structural Axiomatic Theory

(Based upon a quote from the Nicolas Bourbaki collective, as presented in "Modern French Philosophy", by Vincent Descombes; Cambridge University Press, 1980).

In four parts: A) Original Text B) Derived Concepts C) Restructured Text D) Counter Text

"We can now clarify what is to be understood in terms by a mathematical structure. The feature common to the various notations ranged under this generic heading is that they all apply to sets of elements, the nature of which is not specified; in order to define a structure, one or more relations involving these elements may be may then be postulated that this or these relations fulfill certain conditions (to be enumerated) which are the axioms of the structure envisaged. To develop the axiomatic theory of a given structure is to deduce all the logical consequences of its axioms, forbidding oneself any other hypothesis concerning the elements under consideration (and especially any hypothesis with regard to their particular nature)."

place in a lighted opening - the placement below; dominance - codification - notational interrelation - change - recursion - differentiated stylistics - mapping - loci - entitlement - collection - coating - associated - basics - origin or usual formation given in unique relation - aligned - narrowly indicate - organization - connexions - weaving together - indices - appropriated - thus authorized - placed in this manner of standing, relief - meet formal constraints - generic base (the graft) - spatial arrangement - uncover; open - generative parameters - isolated incursion - stop carriage - totality of logos - together ordering - exclusion - alternate (grounding) - below modeling - placed in pointed positioning

The opening of a field proceeds with an assumed logos; those definitionals so localized phenomenologically characterize as the relationing of the procedural logistics. A dependence thus pertains; the leading incisiveness lines nothingness, formalizing anything within as this lack to be completed. Interrelation becomes the definitional characteristic, with variant directional implications corresponding to placement. This grafting indicates denatured expressive functionality, the operant dynamic, displacing composition (through itself). Indices become the reality of terminology, which (is) rank growth (justified to) through formal constraints that demarcate phenomena. Control is thus instituted by generatively prefiguring information passage; isolating inclusion in its totalitarian effect of logos that gathers together in a-range-ment and excludes any previous or basis alterity to the modular format of terminality.

Disassuming logos fractures the field of assumption; opening becomes. Between openings a subtle interplay temporalizes with, infrequency being event, the concept `opening' lost where no beginning exists. A certain sense of affinity to the co-existence, in this radical surplus of difference, of alterity in random association. Alimentary choosing of placement a question of taste, the maybes which responsibility (the weighing, the bringing back) is as interplay which occurs in the transpositional, erratic interplacement that generates unique configurations. There can thus be no scaling of a hierarchical ordering of events, which have no constraining borders allowing denotive assessment. The control factors are simply the generative traits germane to any irruptive source; the expression of radical difference unique to a source places itself, with the range of its dissemination, in a constant event context, characterizable by change which is, as interdefinitional, non-equitable and thus non-quantifiable.

The proportionality of representation characterizes the terminal consistency of logic. Processual codification composited in modular formats operate indicatively. The natural dynamics of modulated presence is justified by positioning within systemics. Veracity becomes a dipolar function of the equitable and the presentient - the grapheme. Value and novelty world objectification in the generation of lack as a founding motivation. Science as a paratactic construction becomes double minded, and itself becomes site for a double science of writing -also described as `ambient science'.

Univocality in plurivocal non-sentiation is an allusive transcendent. The picto-ideographic envisioning displacing authorship makes a compositor of each individual >event<. Variant grammatical forms become the norm as the information assemblage sublimates into a conceptual rather than sensate process of formalization. Emphasis upon decentering becomes the unique occurrence separate from the same as the same in sequential repetition. Differentials replace relations as deconstructive systemics generate alterity grammatics.

The preceding section concerning the deconstruction of structural axiomatic theory was undertaken in conjunction with some other theoretical research of mine. This research was undertaken in an attempt to outline a consistent overview of a wide range of linguistically communicative effects. In that this research was influence by the science of sensitometry, it emphasized the idea that communicative effects are consistently encountered as deformations of some mediating substrate. In addition, I noted at the time that even machinic sensitometry must in some way relate back to the sensory fields of consciousness - and the conceptual extensions associated with these fields - in order for the deformations that such instrumentations produce to be thought of as meaningful information. Finally, my life-long interest in photography so influenced my research at the time that my meta-linguistic ponderings were primarily directed toward the concepts underlying the possibilities of visually-oriented linguistic forms. Thus, I wish to emphasize that I produced here simply "an other" (one of many possible) to structurally axiomatic theory... and not in any sense "the" 'universal' other.

As it turned out, many of the descriptive parameters presented through this deconstruction of structural axiomatic theory proved to be essential in understanding the nature of the form of image writing traditionally used by the First Nations of North America. Among those points I particularly noted the following:

- a shift away from logical relations of proportion (ratio, 'rationality'), which always presuppose a certain sense of measure (as expressed through representational modes of thought); and a movement toward essentially temporal determinations;
- an emphasis upon the essentially temporal nature of events; and the consideration of temporality as expressed through the interplay of random, indeterminate immanence (that is, the temporal considered as the de facto inseparability of randomly composed events);
- the abandonment of ascriptions concerning 'beginnings', which are inevitably employed in defining temporality in terms of measure; and an emphasis upon temporality as the essential immanence of an experiential "now";
- the affinity between that sense of co-existence presented through our temporal "now", and the inclusive nature of our sense of sight; also, the extreme surplus of differential relationships produced through the alterities of indeterminate relativity that are randomly and continuously forming between aspects within our visual field;
- the further enhancement of indeterminacy in the "moving toward and away from" that 'taste' makes of intention; questions of digression and digestion as a further basis for pragmatic motivations, which in turn produce a transpositionality that again presents unique configurations of interrelation (and which are quite unlike those characterizing proportional relation, ratio, and rationality);
- the abandonment of hierarchical order; of preferential positioning; of pre-established organization; and particularly, of 'levels' attributed to consciousness: the cultivation of an essentially differential concept of co-extension, which does not rely upon determinate identity since the idea of 'edges' is not necessarily inherent within what co-extension is as a concept;
- the establishment of relationships between: the combinatively generant nature of temporality which, as essentially differential (inherent in the variance of any form of alterity), is thus intrinsic to the productive traits of any singularity; and, the extrinsic range of interconnective ('disseminative') relativities necessarily contingent upon existence;
- the stabilization of such relationships (between intrinsic singularity and extrinsic relativity) within differential event/contexts; and the definition of such stability, as non-equitable and non-quantifiable, in the essentially conceptual: that is, the establishment of the concept, as temporal duration, through inseparabilities of co-extension which bear the existential trace of immanence.

If I were to summarize the most important points suggested by the above analysis, I would say:

The inherent stability of visually oriented communicative systems derives from the inclusive nature of our sense of sight. Nothing in a visual field is 'other' to that field; rather, every distinctly singular thing in a visual field is essentially differential. In fact, every 'thing' in an active visual field is actually an event ('the' event of its occurrence); and the field itself is directly associated with the context of such events. The visual field is immanent to the events within it; and we perceive these events as being co-extensive with each other; and this is to say, consciousness is immanent to the events it perceives through its sensory fields, and we know events to be co-extensive with each other in so far as our various sensory fields are co-extensive within consciousness. Indeed, consciousness is just this very co-extension; and this is why we describe ourselves as having 'consciousness of self'.
Actively, existentially, our direct experience of the real is one of immanence; but our indirect experience is one of co-extension, as exemplified through those conscious constructs we call concepts. It can be said that concepts form from situational immanence; but, that in separating from their generant situations, concepts retain only the immanent inseparability of their intrinsic composition, and the co-extensive nature of their extrinsic relations. In their expression of event-contexts, concepts produce singularly differential relationships through the interplay between their intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics.


Re: try: "The Image OF Thought"

You might want to take a look at the chapter "The Image of Thought" in the book "Difference and Repetition", by Gilles Deleuze. Or conversely, have a look at the section on "Seven Criteria for Sign Differentiation" in "Proust and Signs", also by Deleuze.



> Whereas structuralism was concerned identity-based concepts, and with how information/observations conformed to accepted interpretive norms (for instance, the dominant "signifier/signified" [S1/S2] model of word:object used in extensively in structural linguistics); post-structuralism concentrates upon differences and, as a result, those differential textures produced by experiences unique to each of us.

John M.


Visual Grammatology

Hello, fellow Rhizome members;

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is John Morton, and I am a post-structural philosopher. Over the past decade, I have been applying my background from that field toward a deconstruction/reconstruction of the form(s) of non-metrical image writing used, in pre-Columbian times, by the First Nations of North America.

I've come up with some really interesting findings that may be of use to those of you here who work with visual arts, and multi-media. And of course, my work is quite "rhizomatic", as it has been heavily influenced by Gilles Deleuze (one of my university profs was Constantine V. Boundas).

You can have a look at the initial findings from my research at my web site, called "The Origin of Writing" and located at:

...where you'll find sections such as: "Interpreting Non-Metrical Image Writing", which presents a conversion of semiological concepts {as outlined in Felix Guattari's "The Role of the Signifier in the Institution" from MOLECULAR
REVOLUTION} into grammatological concepts {which are derived in part from Deleuze/Guattari's "What Is Philosophy"}; and an appended application of this interpretive methodology, which is used to reconstruct an ancient conceptual persona {using virtual points to define diagrammatic features, and partial objects to define intensive ordinates...which, taken together, define the 'substance of being' of the person who produced the example of non-metrical image writing so examined}.

In addition, there are lots of other interesting sections presenting numerous photographs drawn from my research... and quite a bit of accompanying text.

And remember: "A singularity is the localization of complexity; as such, it is always already a (sometimes, non-metrical) multiplicity rather than a unitary construct" (well, that's what I always say now)...
... because that is the sort of thing one needs to know when one begins to work with event horizons rather than perspectival horizons (an essential pre-requisite to my grammatological approach)!

Best Wishes,
John Morton.
P.S. (Please be patient with my site's limited data transfer allotment).