11 September 2006

MakerThinker: Ambiguity



I don't know about you, but I am still turning around the barge of defeatism that showed up this summer.

That's the problem with thinking. Any thinking person's response to the world we are living in today is fuck it, because the world we live in is totally ambiguous and irrational, and this is getting worse not better. To think about the state of things is to list problems and see the hugeness of those problems and see that there is no solving for the Middle East, say. There is no global warming solution.

(well, there are very easy solutions for climate change, but they aren't happening)

To think is to attempt to resolve ambiguity. The reason Berman and Larsen's arguments are comforting but hollow is because they attempt to address the cause of the ambiguity, and yet the ambiguity persists. This is not foolish on their part--it is rational to look at the world and figure out what is wrong with it and write about that problem. But what's the point in this exercise when the world doesn't work like that anymore and probably never did?

Any Makerthinker will tell you that there is a huge distance between the idea in your head and the thing or event that manifests the idea, and that zone between the idea and its manifestation is nothing if it is not ambiguous.

And I find in my own work that the longer I can stay inside this ambiguous zone without finding the rational solution the better. Tara Donovan can be really good at this. I did not watch Tara Donovan make the piece above, but I imagine this as the result of doing a lot of different things with paper plates. Or worse, of having this perfect idea of what paper plates would do and negotiating, negotiating, negotiating to get what paper plates really do. This is an uncomfortable process because it is not straightforward. Rather, Donovan seems to be depending on that ambiguous zone. What is the plate unit? What is its cellular structure? What are the structural limitations? What kinds of shapes can this logic or structure of plates make?

Who the hell knows the answers to these questions until you are knee-deep in plates?

This piece is interesting because it incubates in that ambiguous zone until it finds its own freaky logic. Donovan does not always allow herself to do this:



Yeah, I've accepted the rational assertion of a material, process or idea like this. And that straightfowardness, that working to resolve ambiguity, is never quite as interesting.

There are people who work to resolve ambiguity with extreme force and grace (Serra). And there are people who have it backwards and deliver the ambiguity as product (Charles Ray). And these are great ways of working, but I am interested in the hopeful mess. I am interested right now in how deeply relevant the Makerthinker's relationship to ambiguity is right now. I am interested in artistic dialogues that prolong and nurture ambiguity, and do not fight to resolve it.

2 Comments:

Blogger Art Powerlines said...

Nice post. Ambiguity and now knowing.

Sometimes I think things are going down hill rapidly, as violence creates more violence. And yet I know that what people really want deep down is peace. Someone said to me recently - water these seeds.

12 September, 2006 19:41  
Blogger Art Powerlines said...

I meant not knowing. woopsy!

fascinating typo.

13 September, 2006 09:44  

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