I was about 9 years old—a 3x3 cube—and my school had a class, an hour a week, called 'Value Education'. Our teacher gave us an A4 sheet of paper, split into 12 boxes. Each box had a patternless constellation of dots. Our task was simply to create a square, a rectangle or a triangle within each box, without leaving a single dot astray.
While I connected the dots into stars and baby elephants with stubbed noses and large antennae, my peers were coerced—I say coerced because it was a time when lines did not come naturally to us, when we didn't feel obliged to color inside trees and they didn't need to be green—into following the structure.
I feared, only momentarily, that I had no values. I decided, and declared (much to the amusement of my parents), that I did not want values if it forced boxes upon me. I preferred rivers, natural light, hoola hoops. I liked to wonder upwards: how lizards stayed on ceilings; or downwards: how I could see little rainbows in a pressure cooker of water and oil; not climb the jungle gym: I just got stuck in it and then I'd cry. I remember being told to go to the back of the class, which I didn't seem to mind, but the blank white wall that stared back at me scared me. Even darkness was more comforting.
The white page, the white boxes, the white squares... white became a formula. White became a structure, a system, a delusion, naivete gone astray...
Our White Art Issue is a necessary step after our Design issue: the term addresses the structures within which we live, their whiteness, and art that subverts—and substantiates—the boxes within which Art is made to hang, divorced from the outside world, outside of time. Inspired by the white walls of a museum or gallery, the pigment that starts everything afresh and the light that absorbs all other light, the inherent contradictions of White are intriguing and controversial.
The first is a a paradoxical, idiosyncratic and morally compelling story, on Tino Sehgal's intangible "constructed situations" and its incredible sales.
Janice Pariat returns to childhood, just as I do in this note, with Baptist Coelho's childlike and playful white paper planes which fold a white square into chance objects that take with the wind and fall with whim.
Next, Praneet Soi's reconstruction of imaginary, blank space through projections is a fascinating one: an audience creates their own images, playing with scale, and thus govern the sense of space.
Less formalistically, Shaheen Ahmed writes on the whiteness of everyday commodities such as the Great Indian Ambassador, and their overwhelming sense of history and power.
So blank out the white noise, and clear your palette for stories that return to that first place of formlessness and freedom. If you join the dots between the four pieces, you'll get an open shape that invites you to step in and take part: in remembering, a situation, overlapping ideas and riding back to the present, with a lal batti blinking above.
If you join the dots between all our issues so far, you'll find the same thing: a return, through visual culture, to where we came from, resigning to the not-knowingness of the future, and believing, that what we write might allow us to see—and react—in a subjective way. In a youthful one, in an instinctual one: so that when we make elephants, we might still have values.
Wishing you a slow read,
Every sunbeam, every strain of music, every sapling and starfish is ultimately the regeneration of a previous something, a collection of somethings, taking on new shape. At the most indivisible level we can comprehend, all life is nothing more than atoms and molecules dancing their way through various forms. And if everything comes from something, it stands to reason that everything must go to something as well.Read More