'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Thursday, 25 February 2010

I found myself last night at an amateur poetry recital come music evening in a bar on the corner of Boundary Road. Actually, I’m not sure I found myself quite, but that’s where I was anyway.

The last time I was in Boundary Road I was staring at my own reflection in a shiftless lake of sump oil. This time I was listening to an octogenarian wearing an emerald green blazer and a gently listing russet toupé, quietly singing Fly me to the Moon with an almost total absence of harmony, to an audience of eight, six of whom were other performers awaiting their turn.

As Fly me to the Moon goes it was pretty terrible I suppose, but there was something endearing about it in an unobvious way. Perhaps its unobviousness was its charm. There are few things in life more ghastly than someone trying desperately to bonk you about the head with the details of their personal tragedy; their bloody “extreme pain”. Tragedy wasn’t really there for me from the amateur poet whose agonies over his dead girlfriend drowned at sea he frantically attempted to resuscitated for us whilst we chowed down on a burrito or two and quaffed a glass of chardonnay: “aaaaagh, water, water, aaaaagh, water.” It was pure comedy, albeit not for him, but it was difficult to care about him because he was so busy doing that himself.

Tragedy, on the other hand, is the fellow singing a song that nobody hears, that nobody even notices when he’s finished, gets up and wanders away. The inadvertent tragedy that doesn’t ask you to give a damn about it is ultimately the one that softens the heart. The tragedy that has no expectation that things should be any other than the way they are.

My personal tragedy this week is not, thankfully, the untimely demise of my nearest and dearest at the hands of large bodies of water, but the use of the word entropy in essays on art. I’m afraid I just don’t understand what it means. I am incredibly dense when it comes to anything even vaguely scientific. It’s really a difficulty these days for an art historian. I’ve found something on the internet – not on wikipedia thank you – that informs me that entropy means, or rather, ahem, “one of the ideas involved in the concept of entropy,” is that nature tends to veer away from order and towards disorder. Apparently entropy is why, if you shove a pile of books off your desk and onto the floor, they will invariably land in a disordered heap and not in the neat pile they once were.

I like this idea. For me it explains a lot about my life. What it does not explain to me is what is going on at the Camden Arts Centre in Katja Strunz’s installation Sound of the Pregeometric Age. Apparently it does explain what is going on at the Camden Arts Centre in Katja Strunz’s installation Sound of the Pregeometric Age for Adriane Muller, the lady who wrote the essay on this work for the File Notes. And maybe it will for you to, those amongst you who are not scientifically challenged as per moi.

But for those who may find yourselves a bit stumped by the complexities of advanced physics I thought I might expound my own interpretation of this work by Katja Strunz, with my usual lack of regard - although no lack of respect - for what the artist may or may not have had in mind when she created it and my similarly usual lack of regard for what anyone else might care to think. But there we are. That’s a nice bit of entropy for you…. I think?

The installation is made up of a series of vaguely anthropomorphic figures composed of found object and various bits of musical instruments that create the effect of a timeless and not specifically human orchestra of sorts, but human enough for the viewer to identify with - this viewer at least. From amongst this community of oddities a sound is somehow generated; sometimes squeaky, sometimes rumbly, always otherworldly. From one or two of these strange figures a wire leads out of the window to a tree outside in the grounds running alongside the Finchley Road. When I enquired I was told that the object in the tree was a micro-phone but that the sound was pre-recorded. Whatever the details, the set up clearly suggests some sort of link between the world outside and this strangely charming little army of indeterminate beings inside.

The word Pregeometric, according to my sometimes-reliable-sometimes-not-reliable friend the World Wide Web, is a term used in physics to speak about that which existed before space and time as we understand it. Or perhaps that which runs alongside the time and space we are familiar with, in some kind of parallel alternative fashion, that has so far proved to be rather beyond my comprehension, but very much within the grasp of my curious interest.

Being the slightly hippy-chick that I am, I like to think of this alternative sphere of existence, if that’s even the right way of speaking about it, as a sort of Oneness from which we, in our current existence apparent, have somehow manifested. If we are simply Oneness manifesting, then Oneness presumably is a place made up of us, but without the sense of us as separate beings, with the separate lives and separate agendas that seem to cause all of life’s problems. A mulch of energy, light, consciousness or what you will, wherein everything is just, well… One. Apparently some believe that this Oneness emits a sound vibrationally similar to the letters Om. Or Amen. Some can even hear this sound when sitting very quietly in a very quite place for a very long time. Om.

Anyway, the moment I wandered into Katja Strunz’s installation this is what I thought of and I greeted the thought with openhearted enthusiasm and a great big hug, as it is one of my favourite thoughts. I thought that it could be this Oneness, this place of Love, that Katja is referring to, albeit through the medium of mathematics and physics, rather than through this quasi-spiritual investigation of mine. But perhaps it’s all the same in the end anyway. All roads lead to Rome as it were. Or rather all roads lead to One. To Om. It’s certainly a very nice thought, a very warming, calming thought, that makes you realise that there’s really nothing that much to worry about. Life just is what life just is and we just are what we just are. Sometimes that means tragedy; sometimes that means joy. But it’s all One in the end.

To borrow from Eliot borrowing from the Upanishads… shanti shanti shanti…

Katja Strunz
Camden Arts Centre
until 7 March 2010

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