Working with objects, creating assemblage.

“Any object, intensely regarded, may be a gate of access to the incorruptible eon of the gods.”
James Joyce

In man, otherness, which he shares with everything that is, and distinctness, which he shares with everything alive, becomes uniqueness, and human plurality is the paradoxical plurality of unique beings.

Speech and action reveal this unique distinctness. Through them men distinguish themselves instead of being merely distinct; they are the modes in which human beings appear to each other, not indeed as physical objects, but qua men. This appearance, as distinguishes from mere bodily existence rest on initiative, but it is an initiative from which no human can refrain and still be human. ” Hannah Arendt. [1]

I have spent the last ten years trying to understand the self, and have been steadfastly confusing, juxtaposing and entwining ‘what’ I am with ‘who’ I am, to produce a unified self to understand the single entity I feel myself to be. But they are different.

‘What I am’ is a physical object that can be described like a cup or plate, action can distinguish me and all living beings further from inanimate objects, but this is still not ‘who I am’. Speech distinguishes me from all other forms of life. But ‘who I am’ is still elusive, speech and actions are how we reveal ourselves to others and so is it others in which ‘who we are’ resides, for I would find it hard to define ‘who I am’ in speech. Despite this difficulty I am constantly aware that within me there is a unified, feeling, cognitive entity that is difficult to reveal through language.

While reading Arendt’s ‘The Human Condition’ I came across a text which is describing the effect distance has in how we see or comprehend, in this case how mathematical symbols can facilitate greater understanding because of the distance these abstract concepts are from the physical world and even the minds eye. [Experts in Arendt’s writing and mathematicians will have to forgive my extreme simplification but I am simply placing the following quotation in the books context].

‘Under this condition of remoteness, every assemblage of things is transformed into a mere multitude, and every multitude, no matter how disordered, incoherent, and confused, will fall into certain patterns and configurations possessing the same validity and no more significance than the mathematical curve, which, as Leibniz once remarked, can always be found between points thrown at random on a piece of paper. For if ‘it can be shown that a mathematical web of some kind can be woven about any universe containing several objects… then the fact that out universe lends itself to mathematical treatment is not a fact of any great philosophical significance.’ [2]

Symbols have been an integral part of art since the dawn of time, they take on powerful influences that can grow as humanity develops, the cave paintings of prehistoric man are as relevant today as they were for prehistoric man, but the zeitgeist within the works is greatly different for modern man as it was for the artist.

The component parts of the assemblage all have an inbuilt meaning for the artist and it is these meanings that he utilises to develop new meanings and insights as he combines, adjusts and readjusts the objects as he tries to draw the new meanings from the placements. When completes the assemblage also becomes a physical place or physical representation of place that is unknown to the viewer and so takes on an aspect of otherness that is familiar when we regard other people.


[1] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958, University of Chicago Press, page 176.

[2] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958, University of Chicago Press, page 267.