On sculpting the being

Dear Jen,

You’re the only artist/ sculptor type person I know: perhaps you could let me know what you think of an idea that has been pootling about in my head for some time now… an idea that has a fragile connection with your comment about ‘living to be’.

As a kind of preamble, here’s an entertaining History channel documentary; it’s certainly thought-provoking, though somewhat over-sensationalised. (You don’t have to watch it.)

All creatures, and all things for that matter, exist not just in the three dimensions that we humans experience every day (and therefore think of as ‘natural’), but in — at least — four: the one that we tend to forget about is the dimension of time.

You’ve included on your website some photos — two-dimensional representations — of yourself. When I look at these, it’s easy to imagine the three-dimensional you. If we were to add another dimension to one of these ‘representations of you, being’, we would be considering a ‘sculpture’, not a ‘photo’. However: such a sculpture would normally be envisaged as a three-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional being (ie, a ‘statue’).

Now, a photo is a two-dimensional representation of the (two plus one equals) three-dimensional being. Since sculpture provides an extra dimension to work in, perhaps what we should consider is creating a three-dimensional representation of the (three plus one equals) four-dimensional reality.

I fear all those words may tend to obfuscate rather than elucidate. Bear with me: I’ll try to describe an example…

Picture me at the very, very beginning of my own life (at my conception).
Then: fast-forward to now.

What do you see?

Me, I see a long, thin, pink worm. It begins in London, and, slowly at first, begins to move around that city, (making a mess in the process). Suddenly, it goes frantic: it zips across the planet a few times in all directions, resting in various places for short periods (making messes where it stops): and then, just as suddenly, it stops moving again for a time (and starts makes a mess near Cambridge).

What I’m trying to suggest is that life (all life) can be described by sculpting it as a long, thin, spaghetti-like line.

There’s a bit of a complication here: the planet we live on moves through space (pretty damn fast) and in a single human lifetime it travels an incredible distance. If we were to take that into account we’d have to sculpt a very long, very thin line stretching quite some distance; one that perhaps might even reach entirely off the Earth itself. (It would be a tad tricky to create such a thing, to say the least!)

To simplify things, we could treat the Earth as a stable, non-moving, frame of reference: this would constrain the ‘long pink worm’ to a globe shape (an oblate spheroid, to be precise). All you would need is a description of where someone has lived and moved; with this, you could create a unique sculpture representing that person’s four-dimensional being.

Take it to another level: each of the ‘long, pink worms’ describing a human life, at the ‘death’ end, disappears slowly, merging with the planet from which it arose. At birth, though, the strands of life are joined, by our mothers, to all of humanity.

Given some basic information about (the current state of knowledge of) the diaspora of the human species since it arose a couple of million years ago, it’s possible to envisage the entire ‘humanity being’ as it currently exists. I think it’s particularly interesting to note that a few threads of this being would reach out into space: and twelve (only!) would even go as far as the moon.

Had I the relevant skills I would be tempted to embark upon the creation of a short time-condensed computer animation to represent this ‘humanity being’; but expressing the current moment in time as a sculpture, though: is that something you could do (or, rather, would want to do?).

I would view such a creation as a symbol of the truth that we are all related, all connected.

On a perhaps somewhat less uplifting note: it might be interesting to extrapolate the future shape of the ‘humanity being’. I see two possible threads:

  • a continuation of the current explosive growth, reaching far out into the rest of the universe, eventually covering everything in a seething, writhing mass — or:
  • an (imminent) implosion and collapse, possibly terminal (on this planet, anyway).

It seems to me that there are echoes here of the undiscovered country of Hamlet’s (Act Three, Scene One) soliloquy:

I think that it’s quite sad to reflect that at this point in our social evolution the question, for most people, would not be ‘to be, or not to be’; before even starting, the question would instead be:

Would anyone buy it?

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About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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One Response to On sculpting the being

  1. I love the idea… My mind’s already doing overtime here… 🙂 Mail me and elaborate some more… 🙂

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