Magic

Voice never made me mad.

But it can be a maddening concept, especially for an artist. It sounds like so much new age hokum to say “you must find your own voice.” Maybe lemon and honey will help? I don’t think so. The term is used to denote a form of self, a self that we express. The trouble with the concept is that it implies that each artist has just one proper “voice.” Writers use the term in the same way, but they don’t really take it so seriously as visual artists. Writers work with multiple voices that can be generated once you find a “center” to work from.

When I think about it, this makes the model of self that Dr. Anderson proposed on Monday really fit well. While postmodernist theory tends to suggest that there is no self, only interaction with others, Dr. Anderson suggested that there may not be a self, but rather multiple selves. It seems interesting to lay these out in terms of a molecular model. There is a core of genetic predisposition, perhaps, which accounts for a particle in the nucleus. Somehow, experientially, we develop other particles that do not change much over time. However, revolving around this mass there are hundreds of other selves that rotate and interact dependant on situation that modify and develop over time.

Dr. Anderson’s proposal was tied to a model of what happens after trauma. He suggested that traumatic experience causes a collapse of all these multiple selves into one self— a self that bases all its concepts in relation to trauma. The healing process then is a return to multiple selves, an expansion back to the larger discursive space that non-traumatized individuals inhabit.

In an oddly related tangent, I was thinking about how photography works. I was a chemistry and biology kind of guy before I became an artist type. I knew, going into my first photography class, that a photon entering certain silver halide compounds would cause a disruption in the orbital path and form a latent image. Then, subsequent chemical reactions could be used to isolate and reveal these disruptions. That’s one perspective that a chemistry teacher (who also taught photography) shared with me.

But when I took the class, it was taught by a former English teacher. The first day, when he slid the paper in the tray and an image would start to appear, students all around squealed in delight and asked “how does it do that?” The teacher just smiled and said:

“It’s magic!”

I liked his explanation better.

Being a more pragmatic person these days, I was thinking about the difference between these two explanations. Let’s see, in the first explanation, a hypothetical particle (I’ve never seen a photon, have you?) impacts with other hypothetical particles and they change orbit. The tricky thing is, it isn’t necessarily a particle. Sometimes it acts like a wave. Sometimes it seems more like a packet of energy. There exists reasoned proof that we cannot really know what it is— because the act of constructing an experiment to figure it out dictates the result. Uh, photons sound like magic to me. Something outside our understanding, or the possibility of our understanding if you listen to some. I still like the English teacher’s explanation better. It’s shorter and cuts to the heart of things without the complexity. It is a valid explanation. However, to make better films and papers, delving deeply towards the limit of what we can know is the best strategy. Magic doesn’t seem to make better films or papers. But magic makes better pictures.