Dane Mitchell Rheum, (Unconscious Materials), 2013.
If spots can be clean, this is the case. We can only see but would like to touch them as we do with scabs on our skin. As images, they were revealed by a microscopic eye. Here they float luminous, transparent, on a flat paper sky: body remnants, inscrutable. Tiny, dry particles we find as we wake up in the corner of our eye that we clean up quickly, anxious to shake away the buffer space in which the mind is still lingering, gray in confusion. To know the chemistry doesn’t help, they are more than that. At least for Mitchell, they could be the remains of dreams, different every day, secretions, secrets, secret us.
Natural decay is stronger than history. Dane Mitchell has collected and displayed dust, smells, star dust and remnants of the living: the atmospheric thickness we breath through. Here the unknown, the unperceived, is the human body. I’d like to go back into the place from which these crystals came, like an Alice in brain wonderland, looking for the sensory palace of emotions.
In 1843 Johannes Müller wrote: “It is probable that there is in the brain a certain part or element appropriated to the affections, and the excitement of which causes every idea to acquire the intensity of emotions, and which, when very active, gives the simplest thought, even in dreams, the character of passion; but the existence of such part of elements cannot be strictly proved, nor its locality demonstrated.” (quoted by Larry Swanson, in Brain Architecture, 2003) Contemporary neurobiology has made precise maps of the areas Müller had imagined.
1973, Heinz Von Foerster: “Because there are 100 million receptors and about 10 billion synapsis in our nervous system, we are 100,000 times more receptive to changes of our inner environment than to changes coming from outside.”
But in the end, I need to leave the palace of science for the hut of humanities, uncertain as they are. Each crystal has a unique form, like each human, and yet is impersonal; only an artist would archive them with the secret origins sealed in their bodies. Perhaps he reminds us of the secrets, and invites us to transform the intellectual frustration -inevitable- into a sense of tenderness.
Maybe Nico Muhly’s music I drink the air before me, is the vibrant equivalent of Dane’s crystals despite the dispersed nature of sounds, apparently the opposite of images that are prisoner of a piece of paper: freedom in a clear space, unpredictable tales that only our senses can develop and an intense wondering about every second of awareness, not to miss the pearls we let go, because to be alive is to feel the world, to see it is secondary.
“This is what death is, most of all: everything that has been seen, will have been seen for nothing. Mourning over what we have perceived.” François Wahl.