Surveying a surface…
Surely, or so we might wish, hope, pray for it to be true, another opening can be found? A place where writing is both simpler and truly – ah, what a concept this truth! – truly more complex?
I can only relate, or attempt to relate what may not translate, although I so much want it to…. I can only relate this to painting where we begin in enthusiasm and with a frisson of delight and terror at the way passages of brilliance appear at the tip of the brush only to be – as often as not – destroyed: by enthusiasm, greed, a wanting after more and more. This effort eventually wears us down. What have we destroyed? Eventually, if we get that far, we discover that what was created was not made by us. It happened to us. All we can take credit for is our impatience, our willingness to spade the good under with the bad.
This can lead to a paralysis that may only be relieved by an acknowledgement that the games we play while apportioning credit and blame exhaust us. There is no end to this exhaustion. No end to how exhaustive an inventory of ways to run off course, use ourselves up.
At some point, perhaps out of sheer persistence, certainly never arrived at without it, we find ourselves acclimated to the role of witness, to how acts of painting happen to us. They are not choices to be made in some contest to see if we can be right, or good, or however we may seek to use what happens to boost our sense of worth, merit, accomplishment…. Any accomplishment is never the result of a willful act. The true – there it is again! – nature of painting is discovered in a complex and layered act of witness.
So, how do we bring this to writing? The most obvious stumbling block is the visual immediacy of paint against the temporal linearity of writing. Though I suspect this is a cop-out. By the time a piece of writing has matured we know it inside out. It exists as a whole in some way at some depth of our conscious/subconscious relationship to it. Once we’ve lived and breathed it we have arrived at a kind of immediacy, no?
To refer back to painting, the resistance we feel towards giving ourselves into a collaboration that allows us to get out of our own way manifests itself as weariness. We consider it’s too much trouble to go on when what exhausts us is our insistence on maintaining the fiction that we actually control what happens.
Fragments. I keep returning to fragments. Everywhere I look, fragments. But what makes a painting whole comes about as we interact with fragmentation. Every manipulation of a painting’s surface fragments it. Until it doesn’t…. Acts of addition or subtraction…
Actions, things we do – we allow to happen – at certain points they turn on the lights. At a certain point they reveal, in a startling shift in how we see what is in front of us, a whole. Right there before our eyes. When this occurs we have reached a point, a place, of sufficiency. What had been fragmentary has been transformed into a whole. And, I should think a similar thing happens, can happen, while writing….
So, we have fragments. So what? This is the nature of work. Every action adds to the confusion until, again, if we can get out of the way, it no longer does. A whole is discovered, living and breathing in front of us.
What we have before us in this particular work, gentle reader, if you choose to enter, is such a journey. You see, a painting or a piece of writing can provide a bridge between its maker/witness and its viewer, reader/witness. No art exists fully without the completion of this circle.
This bridge joins us. And together, we may discover what there is to be found here.
We don’t have any problem being wrong. We just hate the discomfort of finding, being found out, that we have been mistaken. I only recently ran across this turn of phrase. It’s not only funny. It is so true.
Now, the kind of truths we’re getting at here can’t be chiseled into a set of rules. That’s been tried…. One possible truth worth ferreting out is whether this yearning after rules might just be another harmful illusion. No, what we want to work out is a way to get a nose for the real thing. A nose… we talk this way all the time. Bullshit is bullshit because it smells. What does truth smell like?
Well, we need experience with this question. There’s no other way to figure it out. And, maybe, just maybe, art is the place to do it. Maybe what we’re doing here is working our way through what’s in front of us so we can get a sense…, of how it smells?
Looked at in this way, it’s not just a simplistic search for closure or insisting that a story rings certain familiar bells. It might not even be about whether a piece is any good…. In the end, these points begin to look like they either don’t matter or, maybe, they’re not even true….
Maybe something even greater is at stake? What if…, and this is more than just a hypothetical question! What if the only way to nose out a new truth is to have our usual expectations thwarted and then still – in some way or form that may not reduce to a simple, straightforward answer – we find that all our fragments do hold together? Somehow….
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