A Fluid Difference
In the struggle to understand how we connect to one another, or at least how we perceive connection, I employ certain material metaphors as a working-through process. Although I know that one can never fully know an other, brief moments when connection feels possible, even tangible, are so satisfying. Those moments are about the ways that we connect over a shared interest or shared experience or anything really. Each connection is weak, fleeting, a flimsy strand of thread; it can be easily broken, and is easily broken. Thread (serving its use) is connective tissue as it binds two forms, a physical manifestation of connection. In the book Somatosensation, the qualities of thread are used to investigate the moment of physical touch as it is acted on the surface of the skin. The qualities of thread - its drape, twist, and its break - translate connection through touch into image. Though a book is often limited to linear read, this book can be read page by page, or the pages can spill out onto the lap of the reader and complicate or confuse that linear read. These pages can tangle.
Even though it is very poetical, the image of a single thread stops short of understanding connection because we all know that subtlety and tenuousness do not define the range of connections. We all have sustained relationships, and they are not arbitrary, something else is at play. There is some variable that the single thread is blind to; that variable is thread-like too. Interpersonal connections defy their flimsy nature as they build up and intertwine. As thead is built up it forms clumps and knots and can be twisted into rope. The strength of rope is the accumulation of tenuous and subtle connections.
Supposing fleeting moments of correspondence are an illusion of connection, there remains a confusing contradiction in the inability to correspond to an other fully. Consider the similarities of two humans, on two bikes, on the same street, on the same path. Those elements that identify sameness also define the parameters of difference as well, different people, different bikes, same street but at different times, same path but different experiences of it. Assigning sameness or difference has no relevance on a thing itself, such assignments are reliant on arbitrary parameters: being, vehicle, location, race, gender, dimension, mode, denominator, form, frequency, grain, pitch, yaw, tone, and so on. Here I exploit the common relationship of black and white, within this parameter of difference there is an expectation of samenesss. That black is self similar, likewise it is expected that white is self similar too. But the black of hand dyed cotton is unstable; any given iteration may hold more or less pigment than another. Additionally, The sheen of a white surface offers different perceptions of white as light moves across it; any possible stability is imperceptible.
Though these expectations of sameness or stability are not tenable, it does not negate the usefulness of binary difference as language. What I mean by this is that even though a rigid and idealized binary opposition is a dangerous model to uphold, that doesn’t mean it can or should be rejected outright. Such a structure of difference, taken lightly, can be used to expose a full and nuanced spectrum between their oppositional points. To land this idea on one of countless potential impacts, a gender queer identity is communicable because of an established expectation of a gender binary, but again the binary needs to be understood as an unstable and unsustainable abstract.
I have spent some time working within ideas of difference and identity, and I see a real and contemporary imperative to support an aesthetic of slippery, problematized difference. Embracing these material metaphors (thread, how it connects; the ways a simple dye bath can upset sameness and difference) I will continue to unpack human connection. Merging the representation present in the thread work with the abstractions at play in Somehow You And I Are In There, I will to work through some questions of identity and representation. This project will play out on many different white fabrics with different fiber contents which causes fabrics that appear similar to respond to dye differently. Along with thread drawing, I will allow the dyed difference to complicate images of touch, ranging possibly from violent, to sympathetic, to intimate.