Man was born to be warm, but everywhere he is hot and cold.
When things concur they are aligned, they work together. When opposites concur they create a balance – in the ancient Greek it was known as ἁρμονία, ‘harmonia’. It didn’t have the same sense that the word ‘harmony’ has, of things seeking an ideal fixed balance, but it described the way that these opposite tendencies are always present in things.
While it can provide a greater or lesser sense of the reality of the original, art can only capture aspects of things. It is always abstraction, no matter how realistic or representational, and it is always representational, no matter how abstract. Of course, as any architect knows, it takes many drawings to describe a building. And even when that building is done, it is not a building until it is used as planned, and no amount of planning can predict the complexity of its use. In the same way, artworks can represent the same thing in different ways, coming from separate starting points or by selecting different aspects of the thing. Each abstracts from the motif in different ways.
Some of my work, then, aims to somehow describe or represent this meta-occurrence, concurrence, that takes place in things. I say ‘aims’, but often it is only to the observation of it that I can lay any claim.
In some instances, works can occupy the same space but be considered separate, and in others, separate things make a kind of unity, or their concurrence might lead to something different again, a gestalt. But here their separateness is still salient, still a feature of the way they function.
I first wondered about concurrence when I discovered that things I was doing in my own work were coming up quite separately in that of others*. Prevailing ideas seem to flow through our minds like a kind of gravitational wave. While that might sound like Romanticist ‘Spirit’, it is only a simile. It’s an apt example of what I mean, though. While it’s no coincidence that the spirit of the age of Spirit resulted in an artform of pure abstraction, with the work of Malevich, the Delaunays, Kandinsky and Hilma af Klint converging on the same moment, I would point to other cultures such as Islam having arrived at abstraction long before, and suggest that this is also concurrence. In operation are a quest for the ideal and an attendant stricture against representation, although for different historical reasons.
More concurrent still, in that it might seem more opposite still, is the potential for artistic abstraction to expedite an empiricist program for art. Concurrence is important here, because it calls to account the singularity of idealism. As with empirical science, which can never provide a comprehensive universal account of things, and doesn’t claim to, art can be shown to be partial, even when we think we’ve nailed it. That doesn’t mean we don’t reach for the universal, we just have to understand that it only exists for us in our language, and not in the world.
I see art as the way we put language into the world. But it also comes back. You engage with a composite work like Tetra Module by integrating two separate works mentally. As they are integrated in your mind the third work takes place as a mental event, a conceptual work, a concurrence. Works like Twisted Tapes / Twisted Traces proceed in the other direction, having been produced in a singular process, they exist separately, but still concurrently.
When I first began using cotton tape instead of masking tape, and I was getting two works out of the one action, I felt it as a kind of dilemma: are they two works or one? Of course, the word dilemma means a choice between two ways. To paraphrase Heraclitus: “The one and the many, they are one,” …and many.
*This is not to be confused with the related practice of seeing something in a gallery that is Wow, such a great idea. Glad I thought of it. This has another name.
Twisting Traces and Twisting Tapes