All works of art are founded on a certain distance from the lived reality which is represented.
Why? Why is this the case?
Reality is often a drag. Jobs, raising kids, driving in heavy traffic, road rage, corruption and greed in politics, Columbus Day, arthritis, bursitis, appendicitis, conjunctivitis, are all a drag. But they’re not reality. They’re only fractions of reality. Facets, not faucets. Aspects, not aspic.
A distance is needed from reality in its representation by artistic means for that very reason: we don’t know what reality really is. It is largely a matter of perception, largely a matter of opinion, largely a matter of what a group of people agree upon. I mean, if I punch the wall as hard as I can with my fist, it will hurt like hell and I might damage the wall. That’s reality, sure. The pain is real, the wall is real, my fist is real. It is my intention for doing that goes a little awry. Why, you might ask yourself, did that guy just punch the wall? This makes it a form of performance, and without a clear intent, it makes it a perfect form of art. It was done gratuitously to make a point, a point I’m not even sure about, but I do believe we’re on a way to a point, you and me, writer and reader, both participating in the ultimate of all art forms, which is making a paragraph, making it semantic and full of strata, random samples, cubic mass, quantum physics, quarks and bosons, cymbals and symbols, cysts and sisters, grates and graters, garters and gardens, kimonos and pianos, rutabaga, star grass, titlarks, viaducts, viaticum, Via Dolorosa.
We are, it would seem, unavoidably entangled in that which we study. Hard to say just one word without adding a bunch more to support and girder the one stuffed with sound and pushed into space.
Nothing like language and a sequence of words to remind you how interrelated everything is, and diffused with life and lime and light.
I hear a light susurrus of late November wind, the grind and groan of a piece of heavy equipment, the crash of detritus into the maw of a garbage truck. It’s rather dark, but I do see an emergent glow, the day shifting from overcast to scattered clouds, the kind that shred like rags into vapory ephemera and hang in the sky with listless beauty, or get moved by a light wind, and the light of heaven drops down to earth, commingling and interweaving with its sounds. Light shines from the rim of the aluminum foil covering an apple pie and someone tinkers with machinery across the street. Rocks glow. Leaves glow. The cat sleeps on her pillow below a Tiffany lamp.
Light in itself is something akin to the soul, wrote Johannes Kepler.
Kepler had a penchant for Platonic ecstasy, but it was mingled with a robust skepticism. He wondered why snowflakes fell in the form of six-cornered stars, tufted like feathers, why there were only six planets instead of hundreds, and why these planets all moved in elliptical orbits rather than circles. Some people are like that. They question everything. Some animals are like that, too. Have you ever seen a cow lift her head when a stranger enters her field? I don’t even see tourists do that when I go running down the sidewalk at Kerry Park.
The world isn’t black and white. Very few things make sense.
Our cat is extremely fussy about eating. She loves to eat, but won’t eat unless, before refreshing her bowl, which is some form of metal like chrome, very shiny and flat, I wash it. Then I put it on the breadboard to dollop out some of her favorite food, tuna and pumpkin. The dish gleams in the kitchen light, distorting reflections of the ceiling and light fixtures above.
Where am I going with this?
I feel a need to get something out there, something about art and representation, something about seeing and silence and the occasional need to break that silence and say something about one’s experience in this life.
This afternoon, while out running, I saw a rosebush with three light yellow roses on it, but no leaves. This is winter. It’s cold. Two of the roses were small, but one was large, and healthy. It looked quite robust. How is this possible? Is there any sap still running through those skinny little limbs?
I don’t know. But the point is this: this is a representation. And as such, it’s at a definite remove both in space and time from the roses I saw. Which is better? The representation, or the actuality? I’m going to go with the actuality. Actuality is always better than representation. Try as hard as I can with whatever words I can find to get that actuality across, I will fail.
And I’m trying (to paraphrase Samuel Beckett) to fail as hard as I can.