She entered through a door in a corner of a room that was about the size of one half of a tennis court. The floor was covered with a warm gray colored wall-to-wall carpet. In a few areas of the carpet there seemed to be some discoloration but it could have been just an effect of the lighting. It wasn’t bright but there was enough light to see the objects and pictures in the room.
At the back of the room she saw three gloomy furniture-sized objects. As she got closer the objects looked like large cushions, made of fabric and stuffing. They must have had internal structures; two of the three were standing upright. All three were made of the same materials and colors. The most prominent color was hard to give a name to. The closest association she could make was the color of a camel overcoat, if the camel had jaundice. She then realized the separate pieces could be assembled as a sofa.
What would have been the two arms of the sofa were to the right of the group, joined into one form. They were each about two and a half feet square. One was lying flat on the floor horizontally and the other was standing upright on top of the one on the floor forming an L shape. Running along the top edge of the standing piece was a small drawing on fabric that looked like something organic, maybe an internal organ or a section of the digestive system. A similar drawing on fabric was resting on the horizontal piece. This drawing looked to her like a combination of something organic and the letter R. Both drawings were quite enigmatic and made the whole form even more so. She couldn’t easily name anything she was seeing. These unnamable forms and their surfaces seemed to contain familiar things but the combination and accumulation became abstract.
The would-be back of the sofa stood alone, leaning against the back wall, gently poking at the suggestion of a puffy painting. The puffy part in this case was the side against the wall. The side that was facing her was flat, leaving the yellowish camel fabric hanging loosely with an under layer of green fabric exposed at the bottom. It was flat except for one jagged shape made of dark red speckled wool that was stuffed creating a relief on the flat surface. There didn’t seem to be a definite back or front to these things. They were pieces of a sofa but they also weren’t.
The third form to the left of the leaning one would have been the seat of the sofa. A rectangle foam cushion was wrapped in the same sickly fabric and simply rested on top of a crudely made wooden platform. This was the one of the three that didn’t go very far past its origin as furniture; it acted as a sort of resting place in the constellation. It had no drawings on the surface and no visible sub-layers of different fabrics. Throughout the other two forms the sub-layers of varied green fabrics and white padding were left visible in some areas and the staples used to attach the fabric to the wooden structure were clearly visible, along with sewing pins and tacks. All of the pieces appeared at once to being both taken apart and assembled. It wasn’t a sofa, but that’s where it came from. Now they were separate beings, abstracted from their origin, unleashing their melancholy and complexity.
She began to see a relationship between herself and these enigmatic parts, now separated but still related to the whole. These parts were not unlike her parts. Not just her physical limbs and body parts but the different selves swimming around in her. Even these different selves were not fixed. The self is abstract at best, an aggregate, only diving in and out of a picture of itself, always in flux. So, she started to see the forms as bodies of some kind, bodies being used to conduct a sub-frequency of thoughts and experiences without naming any of them. They became abstract forms vibrating with existence, between the unfamiliar and familiar. She thought of storytelling. How a good story follows a narrative and seems quite straightforward but underneath there are always a few subtexts stuck to the underbelly of that narrative, buzzing with untold meaning.
On the left wall, a few meters away was a small drawing. The drawing was made of blue and ochre felt tip marker on mauve colored, letter sized writing paper. The image was of two organic looking blobby shapes intersected by a few lines making a kind of vein splitting the two blobs. These shapes also reminded her of an internal organ of sorts but she wasn’t sure. Inside the left blob was another form that resembled an exaggerated R shape but also like a figure performing a complicated gesture. She thought she recognized a similar form on one of the sofa things.
In relationship to the other works in the room she began to see more clearly the pattern of the abstracted figure or forms lost within themselves. She thought about the representations of a figure and what parts we might or might not recognize as ourselves. A hand for instance she would recognize immediately as a figure but she is less familiar with the shape of a liver even though it is much more vital to her existence than her hand. She thought about her parts and the sum of those parts and at what point or what distance they become her or recognizable to her.
She remembered seeing some things about a year prior made by the same person. It was another room of objects and pictures. The title was Something About One Thing Becoming Another Thing to See if It Knows What’s What. One of the objects was an assemblage of a pair of legs wearing light beige trousers and white sneakers, attached to the underside of an office style table. The legs were frozen mid-stride, the left leg bent at the knee and the right leg straight and forward stepping. There was a small flat clay shape balancing on end on the toe of the right sneaker. It looked as though the legs were carrying the table or the rest of the figure had disappeared into the table. The position of the legs was uncomfortable, bearing the weight of the table while balancing the clay clump. She remembered a few of the other things around the space. Shapes like the one balancing on the sneaker appeared in various settings around the room, playing different roles. There was a large drawing of the profile of a person’s hairline and side burn, across the room the same shape was made of clay and was adhered to a painting of a dog’s head, acting as the eye of the dog. She remembered the feeling of loosing track. She was trying to figure out what shape belonged to what thing and how the identity of the forms change depending on their shifting context. Nothing in the room was absolute, the deeper she looked the more she saw. It made her think of something she was reading about science at the quantum level. Even the atom was made up of even smaller particles and those particles were made up of tiny vibrating pieces of energy. Nothing is absolute, she thought, everything is a vibration and an aggregate dipping in and out of abstraction.
The sofa objects and drawing were less definable and somehow felt more personal. Before, she could name most of what she saw; like a pair of legs and a dog’s head. What she liked about the new cushion-like things was that she didn’t feel as though she was being asked to look for clues or piece something together. There was so much contained in the simple forms even though they came from something as domestic and mundane as a sofa. They felt like they were reverberating an existence and all the confusion that comes with it was stuffed into the cushions with pieces boiling to the surface in the form of these little drawings. She looked over at another person who had come into the room, who appeared as just a simple human form, but the complexity and vastness of what was contained in that simple form was insurmountable. She thought about how difficult it became when she lost track of herself. She figured people were only just barely equipped to handle the magnitude of the mystery and abstractness of being human and once in a while that thin layer of equipment is punctured and it all comes rushing in.
After looking for a little while longer she started to think about other kinds of abstraction and how these things compared. She felt they related more to abstract texts and poems then to what she knew of abstract art. They weren’t purely abstract like an abstract painting was supposed to be. The same way in which poetry uses words – knowable, definable things - to conjure abstract images or notions these objects used namable images and forms and only through their redistribution and combination did they become abstract, like a text. For instance, if she were to try to translate these things into text, the words would become abstract but there would be a subtext that would bleed through the words. In her head she tried just lining up the words she could associate with these things. Like this: sofa, pieces, left lobe, staples, right lobe, plumbing, back and front, standing up, lying down, fabric, loose fitting, digestive system, the letter R.
She left the room and went out to the parking lot. She looked at her green 1992 Volvo and thought about the shape of it. It was, of course, a car and she recognized it immediately, but what would it take for it to become not a car. Then she thought of where the shape came from, it wasn’t a shape from nature or one that had existed for all time. It was gradually defined over time she thought, probably starting with a wagon or something and made its way to this thing in front of her. There was certainly a point in time when this car thing would have been completely abstract. Then she got in and no longer saw that shape of the car but was part of it. She drove home a little different.