It is amazing how persistent some memories are! It must be because they strike some chord of rightness and trueness for one, or perhaps, they have some unexplainable grasp on one’s imagination and persist in sticking, much like burrs do on pant-legs. Quotes, that one finds particularly apt and just-so, become embedded in one’s memories.
A memorable quote that I periodically pull out of the suitcase of my memories and which I ponder over is:
“Form is the envelope of pulsation…” (attributed to K. M-H, November, 1985)
K. M-H was the instructor of a first year Art School Interdiscipilary Studies introductory course. She posed this quote as the topic of an assignment, to be interpreted in an installation by the students. This was a real head-scratcher for a number of the callow 18 year olds in the class. A deafening silence descended in the studio. No doubt, some kids were probably reviewing the reasons why they fought against their parents’, friends’, aquaintances’ opinions as to why they shouldn’t waste time following a calling in the Arts. More than likely, the word “envelope” caused a sticking point for those few who were barely articulate, being not in love with their dictionaries and thesauruses. I mean, really, just how do you make an “envelope” “pulsate? By blowing into it at regular intervals? And what relationship was there between the word “envelope” and a line illustration of a jelly-fish included in the assignment handout?
Now, utter silence in a class-room or studio is rare. It means the students are: a) absent; b)asleep; c)totally stunned into silence by the difficulties facing them. Oh, yes, d) then there is the germinating silence, which yields some interesting results. In the case of this room-full of budding artists d) applied. There was one memorable installation created in response to this quote.
A young woman, who prided herself on her ability to make intricate drawings, constructed a floor-to-ceiling, minimalist cube of rolls of bond paper. She persuaded her older brother who was an electronics whiz to construct, out of components from Radio Shack, a box which emitted a pulsating white light. This she placed inside the paper chamber, on the floor, and with an x-acto knife perforated the paper walls of the box with regularly placed short slits situated in a band about six inches from where the walls met the floor. During critique the studio lights were turned off. The light box was plugged in, and onlookers were treated to an elegantly simple and poetic sight. Very meditative in quality, this installation was the unanimous favourite of the students.
Whenever I gaze at burgeoning cumulus clouds in the sky and see the play of light and shadow on their forming and re-forming billows, I experience a similar sensation and am calmed into a meditative state. I think that quote, “Form is the envelope of pulsation…” will have lasting value for me for the rest of my life. It will never wear out, break down or get discarded. It posesses a tremendous power of suggestion that will sustain me until my capacity for memory lasts.