Sunday, 9 September 2012

String Theory


How do you define space?  It's an interesting question for an artist.  The word 'space' is used in art talk as a way to claim territory that is to be used for art, a way to rest it from the public, or from the common or garden purpose for which it is normally used.  But what is space?  When I put on an exhibition I consider the 'space' within which the exhibition is to be displayed.  If paintings or other 2D wall based art, then it's the boundaries of that space I'm concerned with.  But if 3D, then it's the area within the boundaries, but not actually the space as a thing in its own right; that area is simply a vehicle for the art to be transported from unseen object to manifest art in the presence of the viewer.  The space, though used, is still left undefined.

One way to usefully define space and at the same time quote Paul Klee is 'the area described by taking a line for a walk'.  But whereas Klee's line would be a two-dimensional one, one that only exists on the surface of a piece of paper, I favour a three-dimensional line, but nevertheless a single line with a starting point and an end point, weaving its way this way and that, feeling its way through the space until it has found a shape that lives within it.

My lines are drawn with string, pulled taught, creating true lines, straight lines rather than curves, which would be a very different matter.  Obviously, one cannot take a curve for a walk since its shape is already defined by its algorithm, so should you choose to change course you destroy the curve you were using, but a line can start anywhere, and go anywhere, it is a point-to-point transfer.  One might argue that the when the line suddenly changes direction it in fact becomes a new line, but this is not the case.  The line is straight, it is space that is bent, creating an apparent multitude of lines when in fact only one exists.  The result of this, in a room say, a studio perhaps, is a drawing together of the disparate elements that create that space, elements that one is not normally aware of, from the bottom near-side corner in the web of a spider, through the air to a point in the middle of the room where you walk through everyday without any thought then sharply turning to address a another point on the wall where you cannot reach unless standing on a chair but without which one would feel claustrophobic, hemmed in, since space is not simply the area we move within, but also the area we can see, an area that allows out brains to breath even though we may never actually visit it physically.

And once completed, the space one thought one knew is transformed into a completely different world, a looking-glass world where ones assumptions about what is where and how you get there are no longer easy questions to answer.  They may involve acrobatics, dimensional drift, or reviewing you concept of the room you thought you knew, but which is now as a parallel universe hitherto unexplored.  You can see everything you could before, but you can no longer reach it; all of a sudden, you are aware of the space you have been using and taking for granted, you become caught by your own assumptions and are left helpless in the face of space flexing its muscles, finally answering the question that has defeated the greatest of philosophers: how long is a piece of string?  It is proportional to the space it's defining.

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