Tuesday, June 02, 2009

One & many

A bit of musing about work things today. This follows on from an interesting 'comments' conversation I had with Aquarian Aye and Bluemoon the other day. Aq. Aye suggested my work might be moving into a whole new territory. 'Well', I said, 'it is and it isn't.' 

'I suspected this plumbs & bobs work might come across as new, but actually, it's almost as old as my oldest work is. I think we tend to visit and revisit the same themes over years, turning them over and around and exploring them from this way and that. The notion of balance and of integrating 'apparent opposites' has been one such preoccupation; certainly, this was probably more overtly so in my earlier work (1980s & 90s back when I was living in S.Africa), so I do understand where you're coming from.

I feel as though I'm looping back, netting the past and reeling it into the present, interpreting those old ideas in a whole new way. This is about the fourth series I've made using plumbs, plummets or plumb lines. The bubbles are new, though - and I have to say that as objects, the glass vials with their enigmatic bubbles thrill me...' 

Is this the way of most - or all - creative processes? I wonder - do you also find you keep returning to the same themes, trying each time to come up with a new slant on the old familiar internal dialogues and external attractions (and distractions)?

I don't imagine I'll ever tire of 'listening in' to these dynamics. In the end, so much seems to boil down to the generative tension between masculine and feminine energies, between intuition and reason, knowledge and mystery (each one as elusive as the other), the material and the spiritual, the physical and the metaphysical, the scientific and the esoteric, the concrete and conceptual, ideas opaque and transparent, weighty and weightless... There's more material here than one could possibly work one's way to the end of, besides which they're notions relevant to every available situation, whether political, domestic, philosophical, relational, environmental, etc, etc... We inhabit a world that is endlessly surprising; it can be puzzling and glorious, tangible and intangible, stirring and confounding, shocking and soothing - and all of this is in continual motion, taking its place side by side by side... 

Once up on a time (oh, naive and susceptible Claire), I confess I considered Walt Whitman's Song of Myself a precociously male, ego-driven, self-indulgent monologue. Now, I understand better his preoccupation with his many, diverse 'parts' and admire his capacity not only to name and acknowledge them all, but also to celebrate them and the complex, sometimes contradictory relationships between them - and, too, between them and the outside world. I think what he's saying is that 'all is welcome here' - not in a way that speaks of blind permissiveness or lack of compassion towards others - but rather in the manner of needing to come to grips with our personal toolbox as best we can, and to then find ways to work effectively with the sharp and smooth potentials we find in there. 

Rumi suggested the same when he wrote -

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them all at the door laughing,
and invite them in...

Stepping out into the wilderness - Pastel on paper, CB 2007/2009

So, when Walt Whitman boldly states 
Do I contradict myself? 
Very well then, I contradict myself.
I am huge. I contain multitudes... 

I no longer hear him as arrogant; I hear him as honest - humble, even. I owe him an apology; something tells me he was a person who knew what he was talking about.


  1. As you commented recently Claire, we seem to be on the same page :)

    What's more, from here it appears you are fair bounding along lately with your grasp of Dialectics, which for daleks, is the foundation of all True philosophical endeavour, summarised in Wikipedia as:

    1. Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time.
    2. Everything is made out of opposing forces / opposing sides.
    3. Gradual changes lead to turning points, where one force overcomes the other.
    4. Change moves in spirals, not circles.

    And yes, as you observe "there's more material here than one could possibly work one's way to the end of ...", and it looks like you've identified quite a few potential polarities to *pop!* in your post :). Mind you, having *pop!*ed some poles, the tricky bit can be discerning what the heck is the Quality acquired from that Reconcilation!

    Quote: Dialecticians sometimes refer to this process as "the negation of the negation," meaning that as soon as the contradiction between thesis and antithesis is resolved by synthesis, the fact that a new thesis has emerged gives rise to a new antithesis and therefore another contradiction. This process of successive negation is not seen as self-defeating, however, for it is progressive, and each new synthesis is seen as an improvement (or at least a refinement) of the understanding from which it was derived ...... as mentioned recently, in this way daleks navigate the vast terrain of the i-Magi-Nation.

    (Oh, and in passing, regarding your post title of One & many ... well, OBD is of course a declaritive name pole-wise, 'one' and 'billion' being the two poles obviously, and daleks being entities that busy themselves with the task of pole-popping! Similarly, the i-Magi-Nation is another polarised label, with 'i' and the 'Nation' being the poles that *pop!* the product of the Magi)

    OK then,
    Good post!

  2. bluemoon - there is so much 'good stuff' here to reflect on (not unusually from you, I might add)! The layers that you've somehow managed to incorporate so mindfully (and with almost uncanny foresight) in your dalek i-Magi-Nation are sometimes quite astounding, to be perfectly honest. It's as though you've been able to start at both ends of the conceptual framework and work your way towards the fulcrum and on to the other pole, all the while drawing then up into a complex, dynamic spiral.

    There's lots more to say (esp. re; the whole subject of thesis, synthesis and antithesis) but I must get back to my paintbrushes for now.

    Keep up the great *pop!*ing, obd.

    (And I appreciate your encouragements, thank Q!)