I get jealous when I see artists that seem to have a super fluid practice. Their work seems to bound around in a bubble of wordless joy. It is impossible for me to escape a sense of structure in my work. It’s actually impossible for me to catch a bus or buy a banana (I also LOVE bananas, although banana candies are, without exception, the worst candy flavor ever made) without a large overarching sense of structure; buses lined up in FIFO order (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFO), seats dividing everything into some modulo arithmetic, or those bananas all spooning each other in an orgiastic display of fruit love; their interiors splitting into those 5 triangle cross sections (http://www.fastonline.org/CD3WD_40/INPHO/COMPEND/IMG/CH13/G00044.JPG) like a grouping of unused girders waiting to build a bridge from the kiwis to the oranges. I think the jealousy comes from a certain rigidity that I automatically associated with things that are clearly related through a structured foundation. But then, this other idea pops into my head — a new idea that I’ve been swishing about on my frontal lobes like a fine scotch — that changes all of this.
It started with me, as usual, thinking about myself. I was thinking about how when I meet people I assign to them certain characteristics: they’re funny, they’re an engineer, they’re a dog lover. The whole “reading a book by its cover” thing. We all do it. What is strange, though, is that these characteristics are all things that I already know. I’ve already experienced. So the presence of these characteristics is nothing new, yet this person I met IS different, they FEEL different, even though I’m creating an impression of them from just a lot of prefabbed pieces that I had laying around a shed near the back of my head.
I think these characteristics we see in a person we can think of as main axis of their volume. Sort of like how a physical volume of a space can be defined by height, width, and length, a person can be a volume defined by funny, engineering, and dog loving. And when we relate to people, or any object, we are just transforming something from our dimensionality into their dimensionality; taking an idea or an experience and stretching, twisting, and pulling it to fit their axis (or really, THEY are doing all the manipulation to bring something into their volume). And because these dimensions fundamentally create the view of an object (both from our own perspective, as well as someone else’s perspective), very subtle differences in these dimension’s proportions or values, drastically change an overall impression. So book covers with slightly brighter reds, or slightly darker fonts, are immensely more unique than their subtlety at first lets on. It’s like launching a spacecraft to Pluto that is off by 0.0000000000000000000001 degrees. That thing is never ending up at Pluto. (Also I cried when I saw this from the other week. I can't believe that human eyes have seen this.)
I guess an analogy could be made by thinking of a carrot being cut. If one person cuts a carrot at an angle and shows someone a slice, that person may be inclined to say, “this came from a vegetable that has an oval cross-section”, while if another person cuts a carrot at a right angle and shows someone a slice, that person may be inclined to say “this came from a vegetable with a circular cross-section”. The blade is a dimension, the carrot is an idea, and the cross section is what we are trying to show and relate to another person, which relies on us understanding each other’s knives.
For me there is something nice about this for a couple reasons: it creates a part of the purpose for living life, and it changes how I think about the “essence” of something.
Tackling the big one, the purpose of living life, I think this idea of Self being built from dimensionality brings into focus the need to minimize the way we try to define ourselves. And this focus has value. As we bring ideas, people, and experiences into our consciousness, it would make sense that I wouldn’t want to be cutting these apart with a bazillion knives that are the world views and characteristics that I find myself to be made of. I want to cut my carrots once. Or twice. But not dice them. Because if all things we bring into our consciousness we end up dicing apart, their original shape, while not important to remember for our own consistent internal state, are lost to share and pass to another person. Back to the carrots analogy: passing an oval and describing how it is like a circle, is easier than passing a random chunk and describing how it is like a circle.
And I think meaning in life is just finding long lasting relationships between ideas. And ideas that are long lasting, I think, have to be built on simple constructs. Otherwise they jump and leap around trying to meet a bunch of dimensional requirements. Like instead of Mr. Sphere visiting Flatland, say some non-differentable surface (i.e. a surface that has lots of pointy edges and intersecting planes) came to Flatland, and Mr. Square (or was he just called Square… fuck, was he even a square?) just saw this crazy outline altering and flashing into new configurations.
Low dimensionality means more fluid creation of meaning. It means ideas are brought into our volume of Self and don’t suddenly distort into some ungodly shape.
An aside on FlatlandI think I reference this book an obscene amount and it is probably one of the more influential things I have ever read, yet I remember that while reading it, I found I started to find it quant and sort of stupid. Like a friend that carries on a joke for too long, where I audably sigh before making an attempt to validate the repeated joke with a laugh. Which makes me sound sort of bitchy. But more importantly, I’d like to take this time to apologize to Flatland for how I treated it during our initial relationship.
And this leads back to structures themselves. I think I used to see them as unavoidable and unchanging, but I see them now as snapshots. Because there is no Self. Only a progression of dimensionality that one holds as defining themselves. When I’m in a “mood” and sullen or pissy, it isn’t that I’m not me, I’m just sullen or pissy. I’m just in a less common configuration of my volume. And in this sense we have a lot of choice about who we become. It is a choice in some sense, as long as we can come to believe it. Of course, we are also free to live a lie for as much of our lives as we wish.
An aside on Breakups and becoming a ManI went through a pretty shitty breakup in my 20’s. But the breakup was made worse by the fact that I had lost who I was during the actual relationship. And afterwards I changed a lot. I became more flamboyant and loud and I decided I wanted to have a nice body. I was telling a friend about this recently and they commented that it seemed like the story of one of those guys that is hiding behind a gym and outlandish behavior just because they don’t know who they are or want to be. And when they said this I got pissed. Because they were right… in describing what it was at first. But I think deeper down I really wanted to be free to say what was on my mind and I wanted a body that was carved from wood; that could climb a mountain or be thrown into the sea. I wanted to be a singularity of space. But at first I WASN’T a singularity. I was someone pretending to be a singularity, which is uncomfortable and fake, and NOT a singularity. But I had a sense of nurturing certain dimensions of myself to better contain a volume of who I believed myself to be. So here I am now, as this volume. Which is pretty great. And I love.
So I will continue to be in awe of people with a fluid art practice, but I will also be content in planes and lines with which I divide all that I see. Including myself. Because structure doesn’t mean atomizing something, or saying it is inflexible. I talk to artists sometimes and they ask me about the emotional impact of pieces, dismissing my desire to frame my thinking in structures. I think they hear my voice in their head like a robot. But structure is emotion. It is not simplifying and categorizing. It is only describing a volume that has the ability to nurture.