What if the freedom in artistic thought has been overly unidirectional and in fact not so free lately? The infantilizing term sandbox could be of use. It contains the possibility of playing in three dimensions, moving from inside out, outside in, building up or digging down, and also pouring sand out of one thing into another through time, making the sand act like a liquid. Playing alone or in groups. Kicking someone else’s castle or helping someone build a bridge out of wet sand. Rains can fall and cats can shit in it: outside forces are not held at bay by a forcefield powered by confusion and hatred. So, let’s play here with the possibility that the paradigm of the last 2500 years is wrong, and there is no unitary center of anything. God is not One, and the Big Bang is at best an image exposed on the plane of the limits of our perception. The common interest among artists in two-dimensional surfaces, three-dimensional objects and time-based works that somehow exceed or expose or rebound against or stand beside themselves might not then be mundane or formalist or even social. As Flat Stanley was rehabilitated by his brother, who wielded a bicycle pump, so do our minds need a Kuhnian expansion, a revolutionary jump beyond our current limits into the unknown. If not, the reptile-oriented, diving headlong into the current paradigm as if full immersion in crap equals transcendence, will without a doubt entail the dominant mode of human speciation, losers who don’t metamorphose trapped in dark cages with VR helmets on, forced to provide entertainment as they try to play Tomb Raider or are impregnated, their fake babies given away over and over again in brutal Promethean porns. Never forget: people like what they don’t like.
Assuming in a new Pascalian wager that we are living in a hologram, it seems basic that lying in the dark listening to variations in cricket conversation, plugging in to the natural world, provides a better understanding of the nature of the procedural algorithm that generated it than the concerted effort to produce a new hologram based on the Instagram activity of human users and which given the nature of compression seems destined to be a lossy process. The coolest part of this wager is it makes certain banal phenomena deeply mysterious, like the continued production of cafe art. If the sperm that made the artist is simply code, what is the code trying to say to us? Taking the right brain to be our “subconscious processing unit”, we have to be willing to deploy it, namely to assume that any experience must contain new information. Some birds will make their whistling call in the dead of night, in the rain.
As part of the sandbox activity, let’s also do away with some other bothersome ideals of current thought, like equality, which stinks of monotheism. The notion of human rights makes necessary a central adjudicator and at best mitigates an evil, since it perceives a deep inequality in the world according to a fixed standard, which must then be set right according to the same standard. The boredom of contemporary American and world politics is because it seems to take place as oscillations in the narrow band between those who want to eliminate the different and those who want to assimilate them. The latter more familiar, a basic yin-yang urge, to say that what was first one became two, which difference can be tolerated by conceiving these parts as equivalent and necessary aspects to a whole. There was no time before the branes collided, so never any beginning anyway.
A young woman in the cafe is doing watercolors and telling an older woman mentor about how she experiments with wearing masculine clothing some days and feminine others. The young woman looks to me a bit like Brienne of Tarth. The older woman says that to her it feels better to do things because she wants to, not out of the need to make a statement. She says that it’s good to be an individual, to just be yourself. The young woman pushes back but still appears to be open to advice. This issue is really major, because while it’s hard to believe in the self as something to excavate and eventually uncover, it also seems intuitively wrong to refuse individuality and see the self instead as an empty jug afloat on a sea of constructs, something that should fully be one thing one day and and another the next. Maybe the way to think of it is remembering the fourth dimension, time. Whatever you come to know about yourself happens in time, uncovering natural trajectories and affiliations with people and things. Difference, and repetition. The older mentor leaves and a young man approaches the young woman; he knows her from high school, and eventually he sits down on the bench across the table, sideways to start. They agree: we are past the possibility of mitigation of climate change and have entered a period of adaptation; Trump’s presidency is a forest fire and may be regenerative; it’s a weird but exciting time to be alive; they are addicted to phones; collaboration is difficult; the Left and Right mirror each other affectively, to no real end. They are twenty-three.