What God Used for Embroidering:
A Manual on How to Collaborate with your Inner Voice while Listening to Outer Space
„Sometimes consciousness takes the form of a strictly sensational perception, as good and true a sensation as if there were a real object there. The object happens to be not there, that is all.“
William James, Principles of Psychology, 1890
Since unicorns, leprechauns and dragons have disappeared, we are charged with an ongoing need to explain the world as it is and as it could be. We consider alternatives and, in doing so, arrive constantly at sets of crossroads: Do we continue on the established highway of Enlightenment, searching for straightforward rational answers? Or do we rather turn off onto side roads, dart intuitively into ambiguous twilight zones? Possibly we will do both in no particular order, accordingly to timely distractions and suddenly emerging temptations.
Where the Angel Spirit sits in a corner of the room, it destabilises the space by localising the potential point of destruction. Cornering the (spiritual) object by presenting it as a state of mind poses a basic question: How do we perceive? And how do we build our infrastructures of beliefs? Since we are habitual pattern-seekers, apparent resemblances are welcome tools for building up beliefs: for instance, when imaginary numbers – non-integers – intersect with real numbers they produce fractals, which are recursive shapes to be found throughout nature. Fibonacci sends his greetings, his researches applied to everything from the birth rate of rabbits to the branching structure of trees. But we should not take resemblance or coincidence for causality. There is a fatalism in the fetishising of maths, as in those conspiracy theories where the nonsensical connection of text fragments, numbers, and their frequency advances implicit suggestions of subsequent happenings and from there leads into principles guiding thoughts and actions in past and future: an arrested development, a mechanism that simply reiterates data with variations.
Also, we should be aware that ambiguity is not the same as uncertainty. Ambiguity rather refers to the certain occurrence of concurrent sets that are mutually exclusive and don’t make sense as a whole. Still these sets exist next to each other and teach us, exhaustingly and exasperatingly, that consistent impossibilities can deliver principles for structuring our thoughts. While certainty is often produced by sheer inadequacies of comprehension rather then a stringent perspective on what could be called objective truth, ambiguity enables us to recalibrate the structures of our understanding. With this in mind it’s easier to accept the idea that space and time might double back on themselves and thus exist in parallel versions. Our future memory might not match the present experience (although there are more explanations than parallel versions of time and space for the recurring mismatches between individual memories and actual happenings).
The Blackbox is a principle that objectifies ambiguity and registers various presences. Before an inspection of its contents has been made, it suggests that a superimposition of states is possible, and quantum physics tells us to embrace the bizarre conclusion that Schrödinger’s cat can be simultaneously both alive and dead. (There could also, possibly, be a ghost inside the box.) The Blackbox as an object embodies an abstract principle while at the same time it is actually an instrument to extend one’s senses. Dürer’s figure of Melancholia (1514), sitting next to a truncated rhomboid, might suggest such a way of thinking, whereas in the same artist’s Painter’s Manual (1525), one form of inquiry involves the defining of a sequence of operations, i.e. algorithms, for marrying science to the arts and producing a specific form of knowledge where perspective becomes the basis for creation. That makes for a long and at the same time rather short route to the tangled diagrams on Beuys’s Blackboards, which mystify the act of disclosure, extracting knowledge and turning it into belief again.
There we are again: belief. It’s an oddly persistent state of mind, one where ideas remain dormant for long periods and then just suddenly re-emerge, a faint pervasive memory, hard to identify and, as with the rosary-like Counting Chain, released from the constraints of logic and delivered to the persuasion of continuance. We might discover ‘impossible’ facts, contradictory only at first sight, while in a state of heightened perception these may rather resemble mental phantoms giving theatrical life to inanimate objects that may take to speaking while refusing systematic investigation. When the borders of sanity overlap and the Shroud evokes doubts of religious explanations, we could wait for years for rational voices to speak again, asking for various explanations, whether trivial or portentous. Count down to ten.
So one could say: to evoke mathematical principles and transform them via appropriation functions in a complementary way, whereby the object becomes an instrument for dream-catching and other unusual forms of making sense of the world and finding the interstices, the gaps between different modes of perception. In this regard, it’s worth remembering the dictum towering above the entrance to Plato’s academy: ‘Let none ignorant of geometry enter here.’ And yet, at the same time, we should dare to truncate that perfection of thought encapsulated by the Platonic solids: off with their corners!