Andrew Beck: 10/1

This piece was originally published alongside Andrew Beck's exhibition 10/1 at 3 Lipman Street, Mt Victoria, Wellington.

We are looking for a theory to get by when there is no other coherent theory to hand. So we often search for rainbows. Not because we enjoy their airy metaphysical properties. Not because we admire their beauty, or their vagaries of colour and light. Not because we appreciate happenstance.[1] But because we relish knowing we don’t know anything. We want to bash up against this fact and find that it is not a fact and it is. We want to find that we can’t see accurately. Our eyes are blinkered—barely operative at best and clumsy with nuance.

The museum is a haven for rainbows. Its glassy, refracting interior collects and maintains base qualities of light. We are collective in our pursuit and go together to the museum on Tuesday, when the rainbows are at their most vivid. There are rainbows on the stairwells and in small collections near the cafeteria. The museum’s walls of windows drill light down to a collection of its fundamental properties: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

These are important parts of our fact finding—the problems that these colours pose. They tell us everything that we are too simple to perceive. Indigo is the richest colour. We hate the word ‘rich’ but we discover ourselves always using words that we dislike. It is hard for us to see past indigo’s connotations of the mysterious, the royal and the Arabian. We are also conditioned by Cadbury. We try to shake off memory and see this indigo for what it is. What is it though? Someone suggests that it is simply one seventh. 0.14. This will do for now. We make a note of this optimistic fact. We draw a pie chart and shade in an area with the necessary colour.

We are soon disoriented by the museum. We feel under siege by our own reflections and we start to disintegrate. So we walk out into the sharp afternoon and stand further away, on the hill, at a necessary distance from the city.

We need to balance ourselves as best as we can. We place our hands over our left eyes and look at the city. It bends precariously towards us. We place our hands over our right eyes and look again, closely. The city appears like a place we have never been to. It is building itself through rapid and caustic repetitions. One steel beam or one brick is not enough; each idea must be layered to protect its own interiority. A good angle is not a good angle autonomously.

This repetition, of course, simultaneously unpicks the city. With one eye closed we can see the parts where it regresses accidentally to two dimensions. We can see the areas where its surfaces absorb light and the areas where it deflects it. These zones are heady places of confusion where the city forms and reforms itself amongst the clutter of images and reflections.

There are also dead spaces of dying light which can neither refract or absorb. Rather than see these spaces through one eye we are obliquely aware of their presence. They excite us. We make plans to seek them out in the same way we looked for the rainbows.

The multivalent shuffling of the city only happens when someone is watching. We are activating this structural restlessness because we are ourselves constantly restless. We become aware that this way of looking uses up our energy. We have only so much we are able to give and cannot maintain attention for an indefinite period of time. In fact, even while we have been standing here the scene has shifted so radically that it is difficult to look on with the same hope.

We have tired of each other now too. We have disagreements about the numbers of windows on buildings and the exact angle of streets. Some of us cover our right eyes and some cover their left. There is no unity and our elbows are sharp and frustrated.

It is getting dark.[2] We walk off in seven different directions. I alternate closing the left eye and then the right eye as I walk down the hill—this is now a learned behaviour that I find difficult to change. I move around the city. I reject its geometry. I create this geometry through a chemical transaction that I cannot see.

[1] In fact we search them out systematically and deliberately to destroy happenstance. We hate it that much.
[2] Of course, the text is nearing its end.

Thomasin Sleigh