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 XXVIInfinitely at easedespite so many risks,with no variationof her usual routine,the blooming rose is the omenof her immeasurable endurance.Do we know how she survives?No doubt one of her daysis all the earth and allof 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.