Mom always says, "never cut a knot, always untie it. If you can't figure out how to untie a knot, you'll never figure out how to solve your problems."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Concept of the other: or to know thy self

She knew, "it's only real once."
1982, kodalith film printed
on black and white photographic
I have been thinking about the concept of other ever since I started looking at the shadow idea.  Is the shadow just another component of other?

 In order to know the self, other has to be acknowledged.  Could the shadow be one of your others? I put the image, above, here to also illustrate that this isn't something new.  (I will be doing an entry on some of my earlier photo work as well.  It was all non-silver, contact printing.  A lot of it dealt with "catching the shadow".)  I did make some notes, in my journal/sketchbook, awhile back when I was working on "waiting to mend," the piece just before "LEFT."  I remarked, in my notes, about how things were coming back to me.  Old ideas which never left...even technical devices that I had used when I was getting my undergraduate degree, were sneaking their way back into my thinking.  What work I did have out, a lot of it is buried and a lot of my sketches were ruined last year when my basement got flooded during a record setting down pour...first rule, don't store work in a basement (or books.)

The work I looked at reminded me of how I used to think, process and how I went about composing and putting ideas into practice.  I was always trying to figure out my place...the role I played in the circle that was my day/night, personal/social...even my interior self examined.  All my work, regardless of the media, was "image and text."  It was like trying to communicate (speak more directly.)

 Another remanent from the past is the opening paragraph from Nabokov's Speak Memory. "A cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.  Although the two are identical twins, man as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour.) I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth.  He saw a world that was practically unchanged - the same house, the same people - and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence.  He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell.  But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated."  This started me thinking, what if you did go back in time to a life your remember living...and you were not there.  That your past did not contain you.  Maybe like a shadow that doesn't appear some days. There are days (light) that causes us to not have shadows...is the relationship between object and shadow mutually inclusive/exclusive?

Words like ontology (of or relating to the nature of being), epistemology (nature of knowledge...how do we know), phenomenology (study of conscious experience), one -ology after another kept racing through my thoughts.  (I went to school when hermeneutic was big: methodological principals of interpretation.   Today these words still bounce around in my head but probably don't have as much of a blow. I mean, is questioning really going to give me answers, or more questions? )  And,  there is also that little matter of quantum theory that somehow sneaked in as well.  My interpretation of that went something like this.  Time is a linear concept.  We move through time, similar to a train that goes along a predetermined line (not to be confused with pre-destiny.)  Anyway, in my thinking, you could at any time slice into this "time line" and there you would be. So you could exist in multiple places at multiple time.  Also, at the time, I was very fond of T.S. Eliot.  Four Quartets, Burnt Norton, opens: "Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future,/And time future contained in time past./If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable./What might have been is an abstraction/Remaining a perpetual possibility/Only in a world of speculation." Read by me as, just what is time...no two timing devices (except the digital) ever seem to be show the same time...time really is an abstraction.  Our sense of time is really not a tangible "thing."  You can't hold it.  So how do we know of it's existence...?

So there you have it.  In a nut shell...Is it possible to be the being in the reflection and the reflection.  To see and experience oneself both in the present and the past...I see a lot of that in the work that I'm thinking about and doing.  It is very reflexive of who I am, my relationship to the other and who the other is.

A phrase that actually prompted the next piece, which I have sketched out (below) is,"her mother's shadow began to merge with her's,/She worried about loss, loss of her identity."  Nothing biographical about this!!!  Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror or a picture and thought about resemblance...that you were looking like your parents (maybe it's that latent retinal image, but that happens to me.)  The first time I really saw my mother in me were my hands.  I have my mother's hands.

This was the sketch I did based on the phrase:
"her shadow..."  It is a performantive piece.
You read the phrase as you get closer and
the voice should be whispered, reflective.

view #2

 closes view, #3

  But now for a little update on LEFT.

A look at the back.  After Jude  showed her magic diary cloth,
I had to take a peak too.  Not as good as Jude's but..

Where the rectangles all started.  I originally added
the cloth appliqued rectangle...which had the effect
I was seeking: slight relief off the surface, separation of the
object, boundary, barrier.  Then, what to do next? I decided
to continue the idea by adding a few more cloth rectangles, and
some that are just stitched.  The same day I decided to do this,
Jude Hill did a talk on pulling elements together, integrating elements
(I took this to mean union, cohesion not just separate
floating objects.)

view of the only two figures
that are seen as one: before
the larger figure starts to separate
away from the smaller figure

added stitch rectangles to the left
most figure (shadow is starting to
separate) . Larger figure is just
left of this that is in back
of the first cloth rectangle.
detail of center top section, mostly stitched rectangles

Imagine this as the right side of the cloth...should have rotated it! how the cloth
and stitched rectangles interact.

Hope you got through this post and that I didn't get too distracted
More images of the cloth can be seen on my flicker page:


  1. you ponder lots of things i've spent years researching and thinking about. i find there are no words to describe how i feel about those things or maybe it's just my inability to express them. i find the back of your piece quite interesting in that the feeling i get from it, although it is different, is still an emotional feeling.

  2. I found your talk about shadows interesting. I enjoy wrapping my head around what you are saying.
    I found a 3x5 card today where I had written this about shadows...(I was probably thinking about Plato's Cave.)

    Small talk is taking something small and enlarging it on the wall. It is enjoying talking about the shadow.

    I don't know that this really fits in with what you are talking about this time, but I found it interesting that we were both thinking about shadows today for different reasons.

    I also found the idea of finding resemblance in our mother's. Did you find this hard to bear when you were young? I think my daughter is trying to break from her mother shadow. We all want our own identity and yet we are not autonomous. We needed others in order to exist.

  3. ani, i think it's possible to be the being in the reflection and the reflection... this is what quantum physics and age old spirituality tell us, and it feels true to me. it means letting go of so very very much that we've been conditioned to believe. this much i know.

    thank you for all of these exquisite images. they are nourishing...

  4. 'there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy'. So much we don't know, still so much we can neither measure nor understand. It's good to think of these things.

  5. ah hmmm hermeneutics & post postmodernist art theory & thoughts of glass & slippage & sacred architecture & the brilliant man who introduced me to these concepts in a way I could almost fathom... Michael Tawa... here's a link to his words on "Siting the Body"

  6. Very interesting post and I like the way your shadow slow cloth is developing. However, I had to go out and work in my garden after reading your thoughts on self and other, kind of made my head spin! The garden and the activity that happens therein simplifies things in the moment, and makes me feel whole, one with the wider universe. Hmmm.
    best, nadia

  7. You speak my language, and I totally understand what you are saying. These thoughts have rattled around in my head most of my life! Thank you.

  8. You certainly have a wonderful talent for rooting out your inner thoughts and expressing them in words as well as images. That is quite rare. I get glimpses but seldom am able to come up with the words, which is why we need our artist/poet/philosophers - helps the rest of us clarify our own thoughts as well. I have memories going way back into my childhood of talking to myself and thinking of myself in the third person - my life was pretty unhappy until I finally made friends with and eventually learned to love that shadow self. My mind is pretty easily blown so I can't even approach those larger -ologies without getting dizzy.

  9. All my life I have heard "you look just like your mom"! I look in the mirror and I see her image reflected back to me. I love the idea of looking like someone but not being that someone. My mother and I are very, very different people which makes the reflections even more interesting!

  10. i have still been away from the computer but happened here for a while this morning and read this post and felt moved to post a comment. I guess many felt the same as I read their comments. I totally understand some of your thoughts and share many of them. This reminded me of a show I watched on PBS about Mark Oliver Everett who is the son of Hugh Everett, a cult figure—in the world of physics—for pioneering the strange theory of parallel universes. Mark narrated this show about his quest to understand the man that was his father that he never really understood or knew. You may know of him or you may want to add it to your thinking .. either way it fits with your ideas which I enjoyed reading about. Soon enough I will figure out how to get my photos onto this computer and continue blogging in the mean time .. it's always a pleasure to read about your thinking and see your fine work.. :) Joy and happiness to you~~~ Tammy


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