It appears. It is appealing. I’m assuming that’s because its form is complete and yet in the most part is nothing much really. Believe me, this is comforting at first for it doesn’t present itself as an imposition. It looks something more like an open proposition calmly posited, and that’s for sure what I wanted more of from any proposal these last months.
When I write ‘open’ I refer to the fact that the form is defined, constituted of a circular line that creates a confined yet empty space within its limit, one that effectively invites me to pass an arm right through it, or through which a dog, with a colourful frilled collar might jump.
Imagining this though would assume the line in question exists spatially.
If my eye acting on behalf of my mind conceives of that which this line rests upon as a space, one defined not by the line but by its support, then does the enclosure the line performs, conspiring with its backdrop, demand of me—or the dog leaping through hoops for that matter—to associate with the saying and take a leap of faith? To make more of it than its simple appearance?
This would hardly be a ‘proposition calmly posited’ now would it?
All this is probably getting ahead of myself, of you the reader, so let’s attempt to get back to that which was appealing by quoting Esther Leslie quoting
William Blake in an essay I read this morning in a catalogue for an exhibition by the artist Larry Johnson:
He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see, does not imagine at all.1
In spite of the prejudice in the designation of mind to ‘He’; whatever associations the name Blake conjures; or that since these words were written some eyes can still see better at night than the technology of the camera (mine for instance), it was a fortuitous reading, for in conceiving of this issue’s column I’d begun with a vague but simple image in mind. It was and is the image of an isolated O on the blank landscape of a white page. I write landscape because although blank and hence not immediately intimating three dimensionality, the O in the page’s frame has a shadow.
I wasn’t, and am still not quite sure why this image / thought had gravity, but it was probably the shadow—shadow can cast any situation in a light of mystery and even unease. The drawing I imagined, let’s call it a drawing, left the line’s contents empty whilst paradoxically casting a shadow full. The shape of O was not solid like an egg with its shadow seen trailing behind a drawn ‘solid’, it remained see-through, so that the shadow was an accumulation of the line and the space it enclosed. The line looked like it was, but it wasn’t hollow inside, I could see the round-ish shadow through its transparent interior: a grand conceit that might invite the likes of a magician into the fray… ta-daaaah!
A circus then? Featuring a leaping dog with a frilled collar and a magician?
No matter where we are exactly, once again I find myself in the little bind that sees me framing the letter’s escape from the linguistically overdetermined in wildly associative terms. When it comes to ‘mind’ and language that’s possibly a given, and if that’s the case let’s continue the/my game with the admission in mind and go back to Leslie, this time quoting Eisenstein on the comic strip:
To be beside oneself is unavoidably also a transition to something else, to something different in quality… to be out of the usual balance and state, to move to a new state…[W]e transfer to the outline the movement it has forced our eye to make.
At this point it might be easy to take a little side-step, move the O away from English and give it an Umlaut, thereby endowing the shadow with an embellishment. It could now be the stretched out head of Mickey Mouse under a late afternoon Los Angeles sun.2
Let’s instead quick-shift again, and think along the lines of what I think this image is doing. I turn to O’s familiar, 0, or zero if the shapes read are indistinguishable printed here. Concepts of 0 have been around for a long time in different forms and with different applications. Today 0 is apparently called both an additive identity in mathematics and a placeholder in value systems. To be ever so casual with these definitions, one could ask if this is why money is so seductive? Is monetary value lost without a placeholder?… without the promise of the additive?
This question is probably for another time, but let’s take advantage of the definitions of 0 once more. Just as O has served as a place holder for this column, adding ever more to its form, it persists in being a letter that helps these words commune with you, whomever will read this. And so, in this willing communion I’ll joyfully add the shadow of a swan to the number 2!…
20 years is quite something!
Exit dog, Mouse, possible elephant, magician, swan, hoop, the whole damn circus!
1 The essay is great, and the artist is great, I got to know him after spending months in Los Angeles this year. Leslie, who I didn’t know before reading this, titles the essay Lines in The Landscape, and writes about our relationship with the world through cartoon images, language, and animation. She goes on in her own words, somewhat discrediting Blake’s suspension of disbelief and ‘imagination’, “Nature is transformed by human projection. It is revealed as what it is: distinctly historical and patently ideological.”
(An admission: many a morning have come and gone since first typing this.)
2 Before quoting Eisenstein, Leslie calls on a host of men, from Benjamin to Adorno and Lukács, and although Eisenstein might not have used O with the dots on a daily basis, he was for sure acquainted with it. He was also well aware of Disney, and as is well known, Adorno spent time in Los Angeles whilst in exile from Nazi Germany.
O! and yeah, the ‘quote’ just now from Eisenstein is a drastic misquote actually, I’ve unceremoniously mashed two together. Leslie has quoted them in their correct context.