Fried Air

It is possible to hit a series of dead ends, the kind erected by one's own mind - which, after all, can be rather like an obstinate child. After taking a break, one would like to get back on track, but how? I search for new inroads, approaches from new angles. Picking up different threads to follow back to the warp and weave: new patterns emerge, and the mind may remain interested, the tapestry may indeed be finished, if slightly different than first anticipated.
This is the feature of the handicraft. Matter also contributes its own. There is an intimacy between man and material, and perhaps most importantly, improvisations often need to be made, that flint edge that shaves off creativity. Is this not what we crave, to leave our mark?
Even words in the books we read carve around the space where we are sitting. This is why I feel determined to get through the slow-going Truth and Method, why I am trying to learn new languages when I am already sensitive with the dictionary. What was it, I ask again, about human experience that I was trying to figure out by undertaking those projects.
The mind that goes out to pasture may be like a faithful dog that looks like it is running away but is really in search of a missing sheep. I never fail to be amazed by the mind.
Here is a picture postcard from yesterday: why is it, I wondered, that people care so much today about a certain type of interior design? I had no strength to take up Truth and Method. So I began by looking at films of such interiors - that people increasingly feel indignant about having the right to own ... with what justification, exactly, I often wonder, and before I knew it, I found my way back to the Victorian emergence of capitalism and industrialisation, and the very simple question that many producers were asking: is there a new and better way of doing things?
The "new" way is connected in particular to capitalism, wherein even skylines are dictated by commerce: we begin to see things coming into being out of processes that have lost touch with their personal element. If we have been deskilled out of making it, we demand to handle it and then throw it out, like we were thrown out.

Some of these ideas came from the first two parts of a documentary called The Genius of Design, where designers - as the ever fewer elect who have the privilege of leaving their mark on matter - share their understanding of the primacy of things in the modern world. It is in part a result of the dream that design will make our dreams come true. But so much of this dream is really a translation - not full execution - of an idea into shapes and textures.
One designer, in reference to the famous Bauhaus chair, Brueur's Cesca, explained that the notion was to ever-simplify the chair to the point where a person would then sit on air (hence the reference to the Italian expression aria fritta, meaning nonsense, the nonchalance of empty words). I think the designer was essentially saying that some design is like the emperor's new clothes. ... And this is what people feel angry over for not owning! Things substituted for values. But things are never just things, but the ideas that form them.
Some aspirations are like walking on air. To overextend oneself is to be carried by forces beyond one's control - and Epictetus' written legacy remains to remind us of what is in our own control: our own actions; these actions do not include body, property, reputation, and command.
The last word in that sentence illustrates to me why I would want to have read the work in the original language and understand the kind of contexts in which that word would have been used - for example, does it mean power over people, and if so, what kind of people?
Learning, in my opinion, ought to lead us back to the essential - which may be an Art Nouveau wrought iron vine balustrade, if that's what it takes to renew our affinity with nature.
While designers dream of design immortality, we are advised to remember that immortality is not in our control. Yet we seek to be remembered. A photographer in India was asked to photograph a youth, who dashed to put on his coat for the portrait (middle of post). One imagines that the important thing for that soul was to be recorded, somewhere, anywhere, outside his physical sphere.
Not in the owning, maybe not even in the claiming. Indignant entitlement is a category mistake. I think I found the inspiration for another hundred pages of Truth and Method.

1 comment:

  1. I thank you for your kind words and sweet comments always--they make me :)

    I often feel road blocked when I can't find the proper words to express what I am thinking. I cannot seem to find the "proper" words in the few languages I know. Perhaps I need to learn other languages....
    Maybe that's also why I rely on pictures, photographs to express myself. :)

    Wishing you a lovely Monday, wherever you are.