small joys.

One of my small joys in life is forgotten, leftover coffee. 

To amble into the kitchen in the morning and find my moka pot half full of room temperature coffee is something that must be akin to what nature photographers feel when spotting a snow leopard (who came up with that spelling?!). 

Further, to forget a pot that was made mid-morning only to find it as I have now, at 3 in the afternoon, is the feeling of leaving a car in an illegal parking spot for over 24 hours and coming back to have it not only still there but with no ticket.

Afternoon or morning light with forgotten coffee is the finishing touches on a painting that was almost perfect.

notes on recklessness

The first time I realized that the math side of my brain was the same as the art side of my brain, I was a sophomore in college. Each side was up to the same tasks, just with different vocabularies. For most of my life, until that moment, I had felt that I needed to pick a side to play with for the day and that making that choice meant I was inherently stunting the development of the other side of my brain. It was a stressful position to be in, until that moment of clarity came along and two things that were square blocks in round holes, suddenly were just the same puzzle piece, and there were no blocks or holes, just a mind at rest.

Stereovision of the mind or something.

In 2015, I ended up at Meet Factory for a stint as their Longest Participating Resident (Hey Piotr! Hey Zuzana!), and it was upon showing up at this place that I made another shift in mind which is that I realized the practice of art and the living of my life were the same thing.

In my time before getting there I had been focused on the narrative that objects tell within confined structures, and was troubled by how I could get at the internal state of an object and its history.

To make headway on this goal meant having a certain fearlessness in the objects themselves, which I guess is sort of the goal of a lot of art: a fearlessness of a certain mode of expression. To create those objects, though, I realized required a fearlessness in me. It required letting go of the constraints in certain parts of a process and allowing myself into feedback with what I was trying to do.

When I was in 5th grade I had a friend, David Heffner, and one day we were going out to water balloon the neighborhood. We didn’t have any water balloons, but did have a bunch of sandwich bags. We started filling sandwich bags and rubber banding them closed (they weren’t zip locks, just the Stuff ’n Fold variety of sandwich bag: like a pair of tights whiteys for a sandwich, where you are stuffing the sandwich through the fly), but I started getting really particular about us having to gather the bags back up and reuse them. After all: they didn’t explode like water balloons, so we should just grab them back and use them again. This, however, takes a lot of the gorilla warfare out of the task, which is the paramount point of the task, so David understandably looked at me like I was crazy and bolted to play with other friends that afternoon.

In that instance: if the goal was to water balloon and all we had was sandwich bags, we should have therefore used sandwich bags. I had failed to take ownership over the desired task to be undertaken and gotten muddled in details outside of my purpose.

I realized at Meet Factory that the fearlessness that I wanted in the things I created, required an ownership of fearlessness in myself. There’s many different ways to embody fearlessness and I think for a period in Meet Factory and beyond I took on a certain recklessness that amounted to expressing a maximized version of fearlessness that has always lived inside me, but it was a fearlessness that I checked with my coat at dinner parties in order to make room for others.

With groups of artists in different countries around Europe, I tumbled through art and into the crevices of cities in a way that those cities were not ready for. We bit all hands and flattened mountains, while building skyscrapers from air and our will. There was a certain sense of abandon and being untouchable and I think the feedback with art served its purpose.

But on moving to LA, I realized that I had brought this recklessness with me, into a world that was no longer the same. It wasn’t sleeping on floors in warehouses on the outskirts of Budapest, but instead high rises and skies that always smiled kindly through sun kissed cheeks. And this recklessness no longer served my art, and instead made me feel further from it. My recklessness had become a barrier to the life I loved and the things I liked to make.

You can build a castle for yourself out of anything: recklessness, hate, love and even virtue. You can look down from these castles and chastise and scold others; turn the ability to make statements about "us" to statements about "them". Fearlessness can be a a great castle where at first it is the bridge to any new destination, as you forge ahead with zero inhibition, but then you suddenly realize that your fearlessness is just a set of fences keeping you from seeing the world through new eyes.

When I first got to Meet Factory I met an artist who was one of the most fearless people I have ever met. I think I had a bit of jealousy over their disregard for norms and decorum. I didn’t realize they were just using fearlessness as a knife to remove parts of the world they didn’t have the patience or ability to deal with.

I guess this is all to say that in the feedback of the practice of art and the living of life, it’s important to look up and see if the parts of either have metastasized and taken on lives of their own that no longer serve the other. And I don’t think art is special in this regard, it’s just the thing I use as a translation of my life to see if things still make sense. Like putting “I am happy” through a few different languages in Google translate, before translating back to english, and seeing if I get back the original phrase.

And there’s a lot of other ways to translate my life: friends, family, the love for another.

At the end of the day I just don’t want to build castles. And I don’t want to forget that the ability to fluidly move from one mode of an expression of life to another and see each expression translated easily into all aspects of my life is a good way to stay happy.

I’m not here to hold lots of different pegs for lots of different holes. Or a mix of pegs and puzzle pieces. I’m here to pay attention and find flow.

spaces in between.

I wrote down the other day in my notes, “it’s easy to dissolve. we all will dissolve. It’s hard to choose how we dissolve.” Like many of my notes I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking at that moment (there’s a note above it that says, “Ifá Johnny slaughtering chickens,” which is a really great story, but not really relevant to the note I want to touch on… it is unclear why I thought of Johnny yesterday, though).

I think I jotted down that note as I was reading an article about the National Radio Quiet Zone in Green Bank West Virginia, a town where microwaves, bluetooth and WiFi are all banned, and cellphone signals fenced off in order to allow the super sensitive telescope there to peer off into space and try to detect whispers of the waves meandering in from Big Bangs, Small Bangs, and maybe just stars falling in love (Biggest Bangs). All these signals that heard last call and plunked down in a taxi cab called Earth.

The article takes a romantic twist on the story, commenting more on the life that is required to live in this town, smartphone free. What does that do to the citizens? I like that the author doesn’t take a judgmental stance on whether smartphones around us are good or bad, but more just the impact they have on our day to day interactions. The way they augment and shape the formality of our lives.

I’m an addict to my phone, which is one of the reasons I don’t use social media, as it removes from me one more hook that sticks deeply in my brain and tugs on neurons for the entirety of the day; phantom buzzes and an extra sense of urgency isn’t something I need more of in my life. But DISSOLVING seems to be the path all of our lives take and phones are one more way we dissolve. Our boundaries are frayed and we are consumed by things in our lives. Even the self can consume the self. Our time and energy, our focus, they are all offered over fence posts only to realize the fence itself disappears and soon new pastures that once were “over there” are “in here”. And this is a good thing, if it's done with intention and carrying.

Marx wrote, “all that is solid melts into air” (which is also a title of a novel that I really liked the first 3/4 of… the last 1/4 was sorta patching up plot holes and all the beautiful writing started to feel so rushed. A line from it that I still think of was something around being the most lonely among the company of strangers. But written so beautifully. Shit. Can’t find it in my notes. But I did find the note “there is no perfection of the object”. Look! What a great idea to be dissolved in.), which I think was meant to be a statement about coming to some truth about the nature of being. The truest things we can’t hold on to, if we assume they will never change. Instead we should look to the space of these things we find truth and gratitude towards and appreciate how that space can change, requiring us to move and fix our fencing.

I’ve dissolved into ideas and people. I recently think I even dissolved a bit while picking blackberries with someone in Surrey of all places.

In large and small ways we all continue to dissolve and we find ourselves in the things that both we penetrate and penetrates us. 

always always.

Sunday I was in the Broad museum, checking out the special exhibit, Soul of a Nation, after which I jumped upstairs to see the room in the permanent collection dedicated to Cy Twombly. Twombly is one of my favorite artists, because he worked as a code breaker for a stint and also paints in that way that seems like anyone can do it; if I can get the right set of ideas behind my brush, everything else will follow. 

I never thought as a kid that I had a chance in hell painting like Vermeer, but Twombly seemed to say, "make science and rationality sing, dance and forget to come home for dinner and you can paint as well." He created bridges between parts of my brain that I was told in science class was made up from two distinct parts, a creative side and a rational side: left and right hemispheres. I think that being told this as a child growing up really fucked with my head. (I was at breakfast the other day and my nieces were with me, and a man that I used to know as a kid walked up and introduced himself to everyone seated. My one niece sort of shrunk back a bit, she's 5 (maybe 6? I know! I should really know her age), and the guy remarked "oh, she's a bit shy, huh?" and I could see her face flicker with thoughts about what that meant, and it made me wonder how much she would take on the traits others told her were hers, but never were. Maybe we finally grow up when we stop doing this -- stop taking on the traits others tell us are ours -- but it's probably only after a bit of damage is already done.) I remember thinking as a kid that I had to choose one side of my brain to be the dominant side and that it frustrated me to think that maybe I could only be one thing or another. Anyway, Twombly seemed to be a cure for two brain hemispheres being able to become one. (The book, Consilience, by E.O Wilson would have been a bible to me if I had found it when I was young.)

And it was interesting standing in front of this painting and thinking a bit about the poem in it:

The Roses XXVI

Infinitely at ease
despite so many risks,
with no variation
of her usual routine,
the blooming rose is the omen
of her immeasurable endurance.

Do we know how she survives?
No doubt one of her days
is all the earth and all
of our infinity.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Mull on that while we circle around and bring some things into the narrative: I've had this strange 2-3 months that have recently passed that involved a whirlwind through Europe and then another whirlwind through British Columbia. The whirlwind to Europe was undertaken as what was supposed to be the first leg of a two leg trip whose main components were a residency in Belgrade and then an installation in Chongqing. Last minute the Chongqing project was cut, leaving me with the residency and a block of unfilled time. I expanded my Europe destinations a bit to see old friends and places I've lived over the years, and then dug my heels in for 3 weeks in Belgrade to think about modularity and buildings and paint some sketches. 

I guess recently my work has been drifting from how objects tell stories and contain history to how the modes of information exchange work between objects and an observer; like how the guts of the actual elements of stories work. This has got me reading a bit about error correction codes (Richard Wesley Hamming, man behind the Hamming Code, as well as Hamming Matrix, Hamming Window, Hamming Numbers, Hamming Bound, and Hamming Distance. Go Hamming! Go!) and information theory. Stories are a bit like seeing a painting without a title or vice versa. It is receiving a piece of information (seeing the painting or reading the title), internalizing the representation, and then you're given the chance to check the quality of the transmission with another piece of information (either the title or painting, whichever one you didn't previously look at). 

And to share a story in person is a bit the same. The story is the ship sent across vast seas, and then each person's face acts as a lighthouse that bounces back some low resolution information on what was sent and received. Body language is ripples off the oars of the ship that if you peer with a telescope towards the horizon you will make out the contours of how what you said was heard. 

And sometimes I think that I can see the point of a what I'm trying to say quite clearly. There can be a beauty to sitting down to write something and see these little hurdles of narrative lined up the straightaway of a 100m of track that my fingers are waiting to dance over with keys. Then there are times when I feel I sense what is something like a building and instead of starting with "I sense a building..." and try to dig into the general outline of what it is, I start with "A single brick sits a top another...", which is the starting point of a multitude. It creates a murky abstract painting of a story titled "untitled". 

The Rose in the poem strikes me like a singularity of self. A focal point that can be stated without eyes darting or hanging ellipses on garbled sentences. It is a pen put confidently to paper not saying how the world is, but how one feels they are in the world. A statement about permanence hung on the delicacy of something that is certain to fade. And the perfection of a moment like that will last an eternity. It is two car blinkers perfectly in time at a stop light.

I recently spent a month with a woman I could see spending my whole life with. We woke up day after day among tangled sheets and languid conversation. Sunlight made into people. And I try to think about what made that time unique. If I wanted to strip it of romanticism and be analytical I would say it was the sensation of information seamlessly moving between us. Stories and titles that matched quite perfectly, over and over again; those car blinkers chanting in unison at endless green lights.

This I'm quite grateful for. 

And when I was looking at the painting of Twombly, I was thinking about his choosing three roses instead of two. The poem dictates the existence of the rose, the first rose passes it to the observers, and we only need a second rose to echo back, "I am here". 

As one responds "Always" to a story, the second responds, "Always." and there is no reason to add an "Always?", because it wilts what was already known.

Always always.