Something out of nothing, sense out of nonsense & finding your way . . .
Something out of nothing.
The first mark is arbitrary; it’s o.k.—all right—but all wrong. The exchange that follows takes one into a labyrinth of the creative process. If one commits oneself to its workings, not knowing its destination or how to get there, but attentive to the work at hand, the journey is rich with discovery and invention.
On the flight over to China, a microbiologist talked about making soil for planted walls—one hundred meter tall green walls. He found that plants don’t like growing under glass and he has given up trying to know why. I asked, “Is it because the air is trapped under glass?” “No, we tried putting holes in the glass for air circulation.” “Is it because of reflections or the optic properties of glass? “No. We just don’t know why.” “Or because of the greenhouse effect?” “We just don’t know,” he said. “I have accepted that we don’t know and in China I can move ahead without knowing.”
“Poetry …(can) only correspond to attentive thought enamored of something unknown, and essentially receptive to becoming,” wrote Gaston Bachelard in the introduction to The Poetics of Space.
Enamored with something unknown, the artist moves into the labyrinth, not knowing where it goes. One perception leads to another and another. Steps are carried forward by their own momentum and by the pull of something on the verge of being sensed, on the verge of knowing, on the verge of becoming.
“You don’t need to know where you’re going,” my new friend and I wander the garden without a map, getting lost, passing a gate, a tea tree, a wall, the pebbles in the ground arranged into an image of a moth, a knot, a bat and then the character for happiness. Somehow you end up at the beginning again. The course turns as one goes along. “Why do you need to know?” a colleague asks as I struggle with the chess game of exchanges I had with another. The American strength of wanting to know, needing to know, slows the flow.
Sense out of nonsense.
Deep into the labyrinth—all screens are windows into the master mind machine. Like Borges’ library of Babel, endless combinations of nonsense weave networks through time space knowing. A one in a billion passing occurrence of brilliance is somewhere along some way. Like the evolution of hexagonal cellular matter, it combines and recombines recursively and then mutates.
The context is here and now.
Thirteen point eight billion hands are at work today. The spiraling combinations of mother and father genes, descended from ancestors, back to the mutant gene that gave origin to the thumb and then finger joints that spirally rotate endowing the hand and the human mind an ability to grasp. Our hand has traveled a million-million combinations, twists and turns.
The hand extends the mind into the world. Articulated gesturing, enacting and making. The lines of one’s hand shape and are shaped by, the past, present and future. Material in hand, ideas are made, and not stuck in thought. Material doesn’t always do what you want it to. It gets in the way, or goes between the pre-conceived idea and revealed idea of a process.
Finding the way
Making and meaning are woven. Tectonic descends from teche, woven textile, text and context: an entangled web of syntax and tectonics, meaning and making. Syllables and characters meet and make words. Words join into phrases and verse. Meetings of material to material, wall to wall, corner to roof, inside to outside, here to there, yours to mine, individual to community. A common ground is woven. Verses turn around our thinking.
The most powerful tool to step into abstraction is drawing. Drawing is conceived upon projection: projected light, projecting forward, projected imagination. It clarifies; it enables us to see what we cannot yet see. It facilitates abstraction because in the process of drawing, one must conceptualize what you are drawing, make choices and leave material attributes behind. It serves to register what is gradually known. Orthographic projections (plans, sections and elevations) slice through the (conceptual) object, making visible the measured attributes and a noumenal view, or a picture of what is in our mind’s eye. Abstraction gives passage through to another state, scale and possibility.