One way to come to an understanding about what you are doing and why is to place yourself into an abyss. What you will be looking for is a nice vast empty canvas with no points of reference to use as a backdrop against which to better see yourself. An abyss can, unfortunately, be hard to find. Everywhere you look these days there is just something. It’s so rare to come across any location in which there is not already either a bit of something or way too much. We even invented that whole extra realm of invisible space and everybody thought we’d get to roam free there forever, but at this point you can hardly move an inch in the annex without tripping over a variety of crap spanning the continuum from illuminating to vile. However difficult it may be to see a void, though, they are absolutely out there and in greater quantity than you’d probably like to know. For as packed as the surface of the world may appear, in many places it’s a very thin veneer. Poke through with force and you’ll find more nothing than you know what to do with.

Look for an abyss that fits just right. If it’s too small you won’t be able to feel it, but one that is too large can cause real problems. A particularly good place to look is in a location where you expected to find something and were surprised to encounter nothing at all. For example: if you apply for a grant to make a project and really believe that you will get it. When you do not get it, you may notice a bad feeling lurking in the space where the idea of it existed in your mind. This bad feeling is a flag pointing you to a lucky wealth of empty space. You would have made some work to fulfill the expectations of your proposed project; this work would have grown to about the size and shape outlined by the area of the grant. But instead you have nothing, and a backdrop of nothing against which to work. If you ask yourself why you are working, the answer is not, “because I got a grant to do it.” The answer is: whatever the answer is.

Don’t be cavalier about how much abyss you can handle. The empty space we are talking about is not some kind of fashionable, stretch pants printed with an image of the galaxy, I-live-in-a-Bushwick-warehouse-with-plenty-of-studio-space type of abyss. I’m talking about losing your sense of context enough to get a clear view of the matter of which you are composed. What is holding your parts together and propelling you forward? Force of habit? The current trends? Are you doing what you are doing simply because you don’t know what else to do? Or do you know yourself and your reasons for your actions well enough to continue to exist without an institution of support built around you? Will you keep doing what you are doing when there are no people in positions of authority telling you to continue and reminding you what the point is? Are you curious to know the answers to these questions?

August 27, 2014

  1. babar ganesh

    this is wonderful.

    i personally keep an abyss in my shoes, which solves the problem of interstice context.

  2. Liza

    Brilliant like diamond. I forgot how much I love your writing–I came back this evening to see what I’d missed since whenever. So glad I did.

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