Mumbo Is Jumbo

Reasonable Art

White softness, submissive and complying, sits before me with its back against the easel and asks me, “Do you see me?”

“Huh?”, I ask, my eyes returning to focus on the perfect edges of the paper.

“Do you see me?”, it asks again, quieter this time. Much quieter.

“No”, I say and run my index finger over my eyebrow.

How could I? I’m an artist after all. I’m supposed to see things on the paper. The paper alone means nothing to me. It hides behind colour in near perfect submission. It lays no demands for the focus of a trained eye or the sweet caress of a surrendering hand. It wears whatever I give it and flaunts it in absolute stillness. Why would I ever see it?

But today, I’m forced to. Today, I must surrender my title and see nothing. I must do so because the only way to open a closed door is to forget there is a key. At least that’s how it works at the cul-de-sac inside my brain I call ‘creative space’.

And today the door is closed.

It’s blocked.

And I know it because I can hear it. Yes, I hear it when graphite touches paper. I hear it and I know that the door’s closed.

You see, there’s music in the air and on paper when the door’s open. A swish here and a swish there. They’re all expressions of the past, a reproduction of decisions made seconds ago. An experienced hand will handle the temporal separation with fidelity and resolute organisation. What you hear then is music. It rises and falls, bubbles up and explodes, and stomps with grace at a full stop.

But today, I don’t hear it. What I hear today is graphite choking on paper like a cat choking up a furball. My hand is moving over the paper like a drunk man at 5 a.m. on the subway. There is no fidelity, no organisation. My mind has nothing to say to my hands and I’ve lost all control. I turn the room upside down looking for the key. I must get out. If I don’t, I will kill me.

It is in this quiet desperation on a Monday evening that I find myself in the company of a perfect sheet of paper. It is offering me a way out. A way to convince myself that there is no key. A cheat code that will connect me to reality and unlock potential. So I cave in.

I frame the blank sheet of paper and I hang it on the wall.

I tell others I did it because art should never make us blind, even to paper.

Author’s note:

This piece is part of a series called ‘Mumbo is Jumbo’, where I talk about weird concepts and ideas that I have. In this short piece, I intend to highlight how art lies in the reason why you do something and not just in what you do. I also believe that we sometimes experience creative blocks because we forget this. The fact that I can get away with calling a sheet of paper art has to be good enough evidence. I didn’t even make it. I just came up with a reason to call it art and identified the reason as art in itself. You can too.

P.S. The 4D family is growing fast 🙂 If you like what you read, do share it and consider following the blog. We’re all friends here. Remember to always have a blast just existing. God bless!

Mumbo Is Jumbo

Black Smoke Rising

At precisely 5:25 p.m. every day, my neighbours not only take their trash out but also put it to test by fire. The unholy ceremony is a daily reminder that I live in a third world country. From around 5:25 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., my room witnesses the burial of millions of buoyant carbonaceous material.

The smoke rises up from the burning waste on the other side of the wall and squeezes its way in through the spaces that my window can’t fill. I’ve tried a million ways to somehow shut it out but without avail.

Every day I’m left with no choice but to sit back and look on in despair as the smoke enters my room in a modest yet undeniably pompous fashion. The entry takes a good 30 minutes. The entire process is so slow and vain you could call it royal. In fact, I’ve started interacting with it like I would with an actual person. This could be a result of having to stay inside my room for the past 3 months.

The battle starts around 5:25 p.m. when I try to shut the door on its face and it sticks its foot in the way. After a few minutes, compelled by the thin edge of the wedge that it strategically sends my way, I give up and retreat to the uncertain comfort of a corner in my room. As I sit down, the door opens ever so slightly and I see its left leg. It’s always wearing a pair of old grey pants. They’re plain and have an air of death about them but the evening sun does them some good. It then waits for a good five minutes before opening the door and taking another step. At this point, I notice that it’s wearing a black coat. Nothing fancy. It’s probably not even a decent fit. I forgive the bad choice of clothes knowing how it’s always been all over the place. Another ten minutes pass before it finally sticks its head in. Mops of abundant dark grey hair fall over its face. The hair has the strangest texture I’ve ever come across. It’s almost gritty but there’s a certain grace to the way it moves. As interesting as it is, I show no sign of acknowledgement. This is followed by another five minutes spent in shared inconclusive glances. Then, after around 30 minutes, sometime between 6 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., it finally decides to let itself in fully and closes the door. I stare at it in disgust and express my anger in between short bouts of coughing. It then waits a courteous minute or so before opening the door for me and asking me to leave. Defeated, I do so, making sure I shut the door behind me on the way out.

Once outside I must wait for a good hour or so before I go back in. I do so hoping it will let its guard down. But I know that the longer I stay away from the room, the stronger it gets. It’s waiting for me to open that door and when I do, it will unleash a diabolical mix of sensual disappointments. The smell will hit me like the gentle nudge of a passing train. It will race in through my nose and mouth into my body. It is the most unpleasant experience. I almost always have to retreat and take a moment or two to recoup before I charge in again.

I win. That’s the only outcome. But it never stops trying. Over the years, it has thrown a few punches that knocked the air out of me quite literally. But I persist.

If you’re my neighbour and you’re reading this, please go read up on climate change. I’m pretty sure its your fault. Also, please stop hijacking my room.