The Art and Laws of Change

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“Artists can break everyday rules to open up a part of our mind so that we can see things anew”
Ralph Rugoff

We are in a constant state of change. Our atoms are energetically vibrating spaces, our blood cells rejuvinate in cycles, our skin and hair are growing and shedding constantly; we mirror nature which is forever changing. We have the capacity to take objects and change them. Or, we can take objects and change the way we look at them. We can change ourselves, or we can change the way we look at ourselves. We can change the world, or we can change the way we look at the world. My point is – changing our perspective changes our reality. Starting by changing our perspective is the most powerful way of changing our reality. Someone somewhere suggested that a miracle is a change in perspective. I agree.

Don’t get me wrong – there are rules that are wonderful. Gravity is one of my favourite things, and the laws of Physics never fail to enthrall, excite and fascinate me. As a child, I used to often dream I could fly and I craved that weightlessness. My favourite moments were those just as I woke, still partially in dream state, where I believed I could. I found my own weightlessness later in life by switching mediums: Under the water, SCUBA diving. It ironically took many kgs of heavy equipment to evade the laws of gravity, but it was only possible because the laws/rules are different under the water, proving the obvious contextual nature of laws. Jacques Yves Cousteau, a man who even in his death I admire greatly, said this: “From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.” As soon as I went skydiving, I realised that while the ocean brings sweet reprieve from earthly gravity momentarily, gravity is such a wonderful thing, to be embraced. Falling is more fun than flying; it keeps us humble and reminds us of our mortality. It is our bodies that fall, our spirits that soar.

The rules and laws of change, however, are blurry at best, perhaps highlighting that it isn’t about the rules, it is about the change. Even though there is a rather trendy “BREAK THE RULES!” rebellion that sweeps through all generations at one time or another, rules do bring some order and help us to categorise and simplify the way we look at things, and they assist us with drawing lines. Artists can expose  rules that we may never have recognised ourselves, they make, break, bend or eliminate rules entirely, they make fun of rules, all to make a point, to express themselves, to challenge our grey matter, to change the world, to be beautiful, to be ugly… They take us somewhere other than we’d be without witnessing. Change, like art, can be exquisite or ghastly, and we can all testify to having experienced the contrasts of change and the bizarre realisation that painful change can be the best kind.

An artist such as Dali forged his own unique path. The thin, spindly, eerily seeping legs of his horse and elephants, the way he represented a clock as melting off the side of a table, draped over the branch of a tree… Through his creations and images, even though we know that elephants do not have legs like that and clocks do not melt and drape, he confronts head on our ideas about objects, and how we think about things, and it no longer becomes about the elephant or its legs, but about ideas and about what is possible. I learn more about time looking at his painting than I do staring at a clock. Image

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What I appreciate most about Dali, is that in his paintings, he empowers his objects to melt into and out of each other. You think you are looking at a woman, but you are not just looking at a woman, you are looking at a woman, at an instrument, at a measure of time, at a tree, at an animal, at anything else you can or cannot see. I see form, movement, freedom, beauty, distortion, captivity, potential and unending contrasts. He releases his subjects, and thus reality and us in it, to melt into a place where there are far fewer lines between things. To me, there is very little difference between a woman, music, plants, time, and so the list goes on. As a young child, I remember being so struck by his painting with the horse and its spindly legs, and I have never been able to erase it from my mind. I never will. Without always being able to change every aspect of our reality at will, we are always able to change our perspective on that reality. Which does, of course, thus change reality because it is a subjective entity.

Quantum mechanics simmers and distills us down to our smallest parts, which unify us with every single other thing on the planet, in a Herman Hesse way. Particles and atoms. A stone, a plant, an animal, another human being – we all reduce to atoms, and this is the ultimate leveller. In this age when the future of our planet is relying on our stewardship of it, I believe we need to embrace what unites us. This absolutely fascinates me. If we look at the behaviour of electrons, one cannot know exactly where an electron will move to, but if we study the probability wave for that electron, we can predict where it may most likely move to next. Humans are similar – if we longitudinally studied each other, we could plot the most likely move someone would make next, according to their prior behaviour and patterns which are obviously best studied over time. If humans behave like particles, we could be anywhere at any time, until we look for and see them. For example, if I think about Joe Bloggs, I do not know where he is, and he could be anywhere. But I could look for him, trace his movements via communication or his routine, find out where he is, go there, and finally see him. When we choose to look for and see each other, we ground each other. In all my life, I have never felt the need to be regularly grounded more than I do now. But we can also rely on people, change and art to be predictable in its unpredictability. Rules and laws are the set parts, and even they change and are disproved or expanded upon over time.

Many things are determined more by probability than certainty. The lines blur just as the rules do.The fundamental nature of reality is affected by this at every level. Artists take this “reality”, and they stretch the probabilities in different directions. The reason we can identify with Dali, for example, is because we have seen a clock, and we have seen something melt. We understand the noun and the verb separately, so putting them together in different combinations (clock + melt rather than clock + tick or butter + melt) challenges our perspective. For me, this only further emphasizes that the more I consciously see, feel, taste, experience and live, the more I watch the lines between me, music, art, nature, people and “things” blur, connecting us more than dividing us.

In essence: The full nature of reality is far beyond our wildest dreams. But, in our wildest dreams, and in music, in art, sometimes much more feels and thus is possible than in our waking moments. Which begs the question: Are we perhaps more awake in our dreams and more asleep with our eyes open sometimes? What are we missing, by following the “rules” that we assimilate, project and can be confined by? It is not under debate: Even though we do not use a fraction of what our bodies, minds and spirits are capable of, we as humans have the unique ability to change our perspective, patterns and our direction. Any time spent or melted on music, nature, art or genuine connection is an investment and if more of us did more of that, our world would be in a better place. It can be. We can be. We must.

The art of change lies in perspective.

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