The Devil in the Graphoscope


“As I think back, I can’t help assigning a questionable sense of purpose to every idea I ever had– it is a graphoscope of sorts, a straight line from the first doodle I made as a child to this very moment, as I write this disclaimer.

A young artist, a student, or simply an art-world neophyte, immersed in a wide array of confusing directions and practices, may find a sense of predestination in much of what I’ve said and showed. In retrospect, every piece of the puzzle has its place, everything has a function–rather like the elements in a Hitchcock movie. But in reality, it was more like a Pedro Almodóvar film, with dogs crossing the frame, tripping the protagonists, people who stutter, improvisation, falling objects: a comic and tragic pandemonium that always ends, with chronometric precision, at either an airport or a cemetery.

When I started working, I really had absolutely no idea what I was doing– but I had the vague sensation that I was the only one who could be doing it in this precise way, and that alone has kept me going. All through my life I have polished up my vision of the world (which now looks so clear and spherical) by kicking it around my studio. I still don’t know what it is, exactly, to be an artist–but I can recognize the transformation that now seems to come to my studio in ever smaller and rarer packages. I would trade years of fighting crystallization for another moment of liquid insecurity, yet my devilish pride assures me that I could never have done it any other way.

In P.D. Ouspensky’s novel The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin, the protagonist complains that his ruined life is a result of his ignorance of the future; if he had only known what was to become of him, he would have been able to make things better. With the aid of a magician, Ivan is allowed to go back fifteen years in his life and live it again, knowing everything he will have to go through. Despite his full consciousness of everything that will happen to him, he commits the same faults he did before, this time with an understanding that they are an intrinsic part of who he is. He does everything exactly the same way, and of course when he encounters the same devilish magician fifteen years later, ivan asks for another term.

From this bench, the fallen angel looks at me with a seductive piety that gives me the impression that I have been here before.” — Vik Muniz, Reflex: A Vik Muniz Primer

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