objectless drawing as a negative 20 questions game

An analogy between the process behind this drawing and the socalled ‘surprise’ version of the 20 questions game told by the physicist John Wheeler:

“We had been playing the familiar game of twenty questions.

Then my turn came, the fourth to be sent from the room so that Lothar Nordheim's other fifteen after-dinner guests could consult in secret and agree on a difficult work. I was locked out an unbielvably long time. On finally being readmitted, I found a smile on everyone's face, a sign of a joke or a plot. I nevertheless started my attempt to find the word.

"Is it animal?"


"Is it a mineral?"


"Is it green?"


"Is it white?"


These answers came quickly. Then the questions took longer in the answering. It was strange. All I wanted from my friends was a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Yet the one queried would think and think. "yes or no", "no or yes", before responding. Finally I felt I was getting hot on the trail, that the word might be cloud. I knew I was allowed only one chance at the final word. I ventured it:

"Is it cloud?" "Yes," came the reply, and everyone in the room burst out laughing. They explained to me that there had been no word in the room. They had agreed not to agree on a word. Each one questioned could answer as he pleased -- with one requirement that he should have a word in mind compatible with his own response and all that had gone before. Otherwise, if I challenged, he lost. The surprise version of the game of Twenty Questions was therefore as difficult for my colleagues as it was for me.

(..)I, entering, thought the room contained a definite word. In actuality the word was developed step by step through the questions I raised(..)Had I asked different questions or the same questions in a different order I would have ended up with a different word (..)(1)

i.e. Every line in the improvised, objectless black on white drawing is an intuitive answer to a proposition evoked by the temporal state of the drawing.
And every answer moved the drawing closer to a more or less unique final shape unknown beforehand.

Wheeler J.A. (1980): Beyond the black hole. 
In Some Strangeness in the Proportion: 
A Centennial Symposium to Celebrate the Achievements of Albert Einstein 
Ed. by H. Woolf, Addison-Wesley, Reading