Residual dirt on glass

This large rectangular piece of glass retains dirt carried by a now abscent rainfall. Presented in front of a lightbox that generates the precise frequency of light present on an overcast day in Britain, the item implies that symbolic meaning is derived from the passing and subtle masking of the sky.

Over the years the British press made much of the sands carried by storms. Once forcasting a ‘blood rain’, the mingling of ‘African dust’ and local pollution, this sand has been the source of a number of health warnings. Its historical connection to the Illiad and symbolic association with catastrophe were not overlooked in these stories either, with writers keen to make it something of an event. Against the exotic pull of this red earth, this grey tapistry of grains suggests a patina endemic to soils that share something with the pallid sky.

In fact, black soil indicates a high quantity of organic matter, whereas indicates the presence of iron oxides. In a sense then the black earth is more alive than the red earth. Black or grey sky, a bearer of rain, could also be thought of in connection to organic matter. Empty blue skies can indicate draught, freezing conditions or unihabitable high temperatures. Perhaps this carefully created light box is trying to represent the vitality of greyness, the furtility of the British Isles and ultimately combat the assumptions we hold about brighter, more colourful climates.

Crescent text

For the Museum of IF archive, if an object does not fill the retangular frame of a webpage image, a decision is taken to fill it in with the website’s standard colour, fushia. This is to avoid any confusion between the object and a presumed ‘neutrality’ which is often represented by white or black. Here you can see that in addition to the crescent shaped object in the centre of the image there is also a kind of visual noise towards the bottom right corner. We must assume this has significance. Likewise, with careful inspection, it can be seen that the crescent shape bearing the text is actually quite smooth, but that it has pulled in with it a white background that has been cut off at angles. This is because that specific part of the background, the surface upon which it rests, is considered to be part of the display.

The meaning of a crescent in our language is based on a misunderstanding of how the word was used in Greek. In describing a ‘Crescent Moon’ the Greeks were in fact speaking of the Moon as being at a kind of ‘dawning point’, due – in the course of subsequent nights – to increase. The crescent symbolised the first growth of a movement towards the full-bodied, round shape. So, the meaning was intended to be, “to come forth, spring up, grow, thrive, swell, increase in numbers or strength.”

This transitive sense of the word ‘crescent’ may give rise to thinking that the intention of this object is to provoke the growth of the partial word forms. We might make these word forms out to be:

,

rain

Mal

Acid

32 [or 82] (

gy

isy

[unknown characters]

This poetic script might lead to associations based on our own cultural background. Rain – bad [the meaning of the prefix ‘mal’] – acid. This meaning quickly breaks down however with the introduction of numbers. Could they qualify how bad the acid rain is? Then why the “gy” and “isy”, short snippets of what appear to be the endings of English words?

Before we return to this, let’s consider that crescent shape and the angular cutting of the surface upon which it is sitting. The image involves a double cutting. First, of what we might presume was paper, upon which the text was printed. Second, the ‘cutting out’ of the background to focus attention on an angular white space.

Partial text

It seems that it is important for us to consider an undualting perimiter around the paper cutout crescent. Yet its symbolism is very difficult to determine.

When photographers ‘capture’ a crescent moon they predominantly set the exposure level such that the camera picks up the crescent, but not the spherical shape of the moon – as that would spoil the illusion. Therefore the following kind of image is in a minority:

Crescent

In this image we see a series of halos, ghosting and shadows. The graphic symbol of the crescent is as far removed from this representation of the moon as the broken word symbols are from language. And given that our understanding of the word ‘crescent’ is based on a misinterpretation, should we perhaps treat the black marks with more caution? Perhaps they are not letters or partial letters at all, but simply black marks that bear a resemblance to the form of letters. The arbitary seeming white periphery¬† might be there to provoke us into speculating about the removal of the ‘crescent’ from the spherical moon, when we come to symbolise it (And the leaving behind of the halo, and any differentiation of the edge, or the shadows of the moon).

Lastly there is the dust like fragments in the lower right corner. And on very close inspection a kind of fluxing around the crescent itself. Are these other provocations relating to the real moon? The ‘dust’ of the moon? The ‘flux’ representing the gravitational pull that informs our tides?

Unknown drawing

Rarely do conventional artistic media appear in The Museum of IF collection. This pencil and ink drawing is therefore something of a unique item. Made on cartridge paper with a standard pencil, this item inherently embodies a large number of human traits. This ranges from the scale of the paper – both easy to handle and in line with recognised proportions – to the hand eye co-ordination required for the filling of discrete spaces and the more advanced attempt to depict 3-Dimensional folds.

In places it is evident that the ink was applied to the paper first. The form it takes suggest that the ink was applied to a more pliable material and then pressed against the surface of the paper to create an arbitrary motif. Care seems to have been taken to leave white bits of paper and to ensure the patterns are not ‘flattened out’.

The drawing appears on this surface like something imagined in clouds. Rather than offer completely recognisable forms – like faces or animals – the person or people drawing on top of this image seem to be concerned with something that deals with concealment and enfolding. In places the pencil drawing blends into the lines of the ink, but in other places, particularly where clear broad white lines have been left (perhaps to resemble a skeleton or supports) it is set in contrast to the undulating tones of the ink. The orchestrated handling of this image suggests that it was a single person rather than a collaborative effort. Depending on how drawing is taught within a culture it might reasonably be the work of someone around 8-years-old or above.

The rendered object does not appear to stand on anything. Despite having volume therefore, it seems to explore the imaginary plane of the paper’s surface to create a number of fictions, crossing the dimensions of the crumpled printing surface through to the drawn fabric undulations and flat shadow in the centre. It remains something of a spectre, destined to remain as incomplete as it is trapped between different forms of representation.

Tagged as part of The Daily Prompt, Incomplete.

Grapevine clippings

The Museum of IF contains two clippings from a grapevine or grapevines. A fluid has been applied to the frilly tendrils at the ends of the woody stems, perhaps to suggest that the juicy fruits have recently been removed. Or perhaps to keep the ends alive so that – in some unusual circumstance – the fruit might be placed back on the stem.

If the fluid has been added to evoke the residual act of picking the fruit then this suggests that the significance of these objects is located in the specific time period after the harvesting of the grapes and before the drying out of the stems. To be ‘still fresh’ but absent puts the spectator in the position of a tracker, close to the last person to interact with the object – in such a decisive fashion by removing the edible parts of the plant. We can’t be sure whether the spectator would be welcome or not to touch these objects, although handling would inevitably change their nature. However, either way they must feel somewhat deprived that act of eating.

That these samples are short clippings, cut with sharp implements, suggests that they were connected to a variety of table grapes rather than wine grapes. Here have been displayed on an open, flat white table which adds to the sense that they are domestic or domesticated fruits. Indeed the width of the stems and engorged feeling of the connecting parts of the stem suggest some level of selective breeding.

The flat white surface of the table makes the shadows cast by a single but diffuse source of light more easy to follow than if they were shown on a surface with heavy relief. It may be that the objects’ relationship to their own shadow is deemed important. The simplicity of the background might also suggest an attempt at neutrality in order to emphasise the forms and colour of the clippings. However, we should not assume that whoever made this display associated the colour ‘white’ with neutrality. It might represent other values from the natural world such as the cold associated with snow or the distance or the clouds.

In the former case the shadow might be seen to infringe with the snow. In other cultures ‘black’ need not be opposed to ‘white’, but if it were then the shadow woud appear hot on the surface. The objects’ mass, responsible for cutting out the light and casting the shadow, might be seen to be that which ‘melts’ the surface or is somewhat disruptive to something so flat. However, all this assumes that this display was made with and understanding of physics sufficient to know that shadows are the result of the absence of light and that heat causes snow to melt.

In the latter case – that the ‘white’ corresponds to clouds – the shadow might imply something less binary than the snow scenario. The darkening of clouds is synonymous with rainfall or alternatively with the coming of night. Where the clippings touch the surface of the table they also appear to touch their shadow. So here the connection of plant life and the rain cycle seems close.

In many of these scenarios however, we presume either a familiarity with these cultural ideas that makes them immanent or a slower attempt on the part of a spectator to make sense of them. The notion that the spectator is a kind of tracker would, contrary to these reading, suggest a much swifter and less symbolic response. The index that is the nodes of grape juice and the absence of the fruit might be enough to trigger a swift movement from one to the next. In this case does from one to the next pertain only to the two samples that are in The Museum of IF collection or are they two of a much bigger collection? If there only ever to then does the spectator look from one to the other an complete the experience or do they look repeatedly from one to the other in a cyclical fashion? The latter scenario would imply a kind of short-circuiting of attention that would have to be broken in some way; perhaps the spectator looks from one to the other a number of times that corresponds to the number of absence grapes, in the case and reading left to right (which may not be correct) that would be seven and eight. A total of 15 glances.

We might also comment on the difference of the two samples. The first is squat with long and relatively think branching parts. The second has a much longer ‘stem’. By our own estimation the second sample seems more elegant, but this might not be the view or intention of those who set up this display. One may be deemed more ‘beautiful’ than the other, but again we can’t assume this value makes sense for those who set up the display.

 

 

Two grapevine clippings (date unknown)