March 3rd 2008

I’ve been chewing over what folks said at the group crit. One thing Andy said was that I should think about the opposite of all. Many people would say that would be none. I’ve talked about this a little bit in my first post for this blog, when talking about Derrida and the concept of the trace. You could easily say that none is included in all, because all is all. As none or nothing is an idea, it exists, and is part of all. That absence, that nothingness, is an entity of sorts, perhaps even without referring to its being an idea.

I don’t think none is the opposite of all, though. I think everything is the opposite of all. Ha. I’ve got you there haven’t I? But the opposite of all, surely, has to be any individual thing which is part of all taken as an individual item. Is one grain of sand still sand? Or is it just a little stone? I like the idea of looking at the difference between sand and little stones. If one grain of sand is a little stone, when do you get enough grains of sand to be called sand. Presumably two grains would not be sand either. Neither would three or four for that matter.

The word all, simple though it may be, will mean slightly different things to different people. One massive element of the common meaning of the word all in everyday speech that very few people have thought of when i’ve told them about this project has been the the phrase ‘all of…’ ie – ‘all of the jam’, or ‘all of the sand’.

In a way though, that’s more relevant than this idea of all being everything, because people use the word all in this context a lot more frequently. I can barely remember the last time I heard someone use the word all to refer to everything in existence in normal conversation. I hear the word all in its more workaday usage all the time. All the time? That kind of makes my point

Part of what’s interesting about the history and perception of all (the word), then, is this disparity. When I tell people what my project is, they tend to think only of the all encompassing all. I think that says something interesting about a common tendency to think of (yearn for?) things bigger than us alone. Yet this vastness is at odds with the word’s common usage. When I say ‘all of the jam’ I’m unlikely to mean all of the jam in the world, or even the supermarket. I’m much more likely to mean all of the jam in the kitchen, or picnic hamper.

Language is one of the key things that makes us human, that supposedly gives us that edge over all the creatures on the evolutionary scale. It’s the thing that gives us a shared cultural consciousness. I can’t think of too many other things that do at any rate. On this basis, all feels like the ideal word to use, pertaining as it does to ‘all of us’ and also language’s labeling of all things. I like the fact that this gives me a double action effect. It’ll be a layered part of the reading of the final piece. With the shoe on the other foot though, language by itself never seems able to fully express the really big stuff.

Adriano said in the crit that he thought less is more with this project. He referred to the artist Fred Sandback. Here are a couple of links: Fred Sandback: Remarks on my Sculpture 1966-86 and for pictures of his work: Barbara Krakow Gallery. Adriano thought that because the spaces inside Sandback’s string frames are empty they can be full of anything. I can see what he means and I like Sandback’s work but this isn’t what I want to do. This refers, obliquely, to everything, not the history of a word.

ten minutes later…

Coming back to finish this post, though, one difficulty is the distinction in our minds between an object and the word that points toward it. Where is this distinction? There’s an ambiguous space that sits in the middle of all of these things. And thinking on that, Fred Sandback and Adriano’s Less is More dictum strike me as a lot more interesting.

I wasn’t happy about that crit. Mainly because it highlighted the fact that I wasn’t as sure of things as I thought I’d been.

Another thing Andy commented on recently was that I should maybe try thinking in terms of depth as well as or instead of filling the space and making a mess. The more I think about it the more this looks like a sensible suggestion. I’m very drawn to the idea of filling a space with mess but it seems there’s something elegant about keeping everything very minimal on the surface with lots under the bonnet that can be delved in to if people are so inclined. More on this later, though. Anyway, thanks for the comments, to anyone who has.

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