Saturday, 6 March 2010

Nothing Lasts Forever

Sometime last year I was asked by a colleague to write a short piece to accompany an exhibition she was curating. The exhibition, Not Here Not Now, reflected perfectly everything that winds me up most about contemporary art. It was a vacuous concept that thought itself to be cleverer than it actually was, an empty idea based around the mistaken premise that the title was a double negative, and the exhibition itself contained the kind of work that makes audiences think 'well, I don't get it, so it must be clever', when in fact there is simply nothing to get. So I responded by writing the following piece, intentionally taking a psuedo-philosophical stance, gently mocking myself whilst heartlessly ripping to shreds my colleagues lazily thought through 'concept'. After writing it, and showing it to a couple of friends (who found it hugely entertaining), I decided against presenting it to my colleague for fear of upsetting her, and so it remained unpublished, lying forgotten on my laptop, until now. I do not publish it here to be cruel to my (now ex-) colleague, I publish it as I feel it adds something to the slowly gathering self portrait emerging from this blog.

To posit a proposition is to put forward an idea. To negate a proposition is to step backward, not merely to question but to deny. It is to remove oneself with absolute certainty from the idea being propounded. To negate, it is not enough to question; the idea must be destroyed in a regenerative act of annihilation. There must be a clear cry of No! In order to destroy there must be a thing to destroy. There can be no negative without its corresponding positive; something needs to be to be taken away from. There is no Nothingness without Being.

The double negative does something else. If we take one negation from another we are not, as we may expect, left with a bigger cry of No! Curiously, we find ourselves (as in the case of -2 minus -2) with a double dose of zero. The double negative has the power to create nothing from less than nothing.

With Not Here Not Now we are asked to consider the temporality of an event. The works on display exist only in the gallery space for the duration of the exhibition. The title thrusts us unswervingly to the obvious response of Where?and When? If a work does not exist Here and Now, in my present, how am I to witness it? I could be experiencing a memory, or I may be viewing a mediation, either way these are not the works themselves and are anyway confined to the past. I have to be Here and Now to see and to feel, but no thing can exist in an instant. To exist implies a History. There is no Being without Time. Not Here Not Now is not a double negative, it is but a paradox.

The natural state of all things is to move inexorably toward higher entropy. Things fall apart. All systems break down to smaller and smaller component parts. All is decay. Consciousness is temporary. Awareness is fleeting. The universe contains a finite amount of matter, but the universe itself is infinite. Divide any finite number by infinity and the result is as close to zero as to make little difference. The only thing that lasts forever is Nothing.

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