If the mind is a muscle, consciousness cannot be known unto itself, but can only be demonstrated and shared via gesture.
Catherine Wood, The Mind is a Muscle
One rarely remains abstract and understood, especially today as our meaning remains radically contingent on so many broken systems. So, we perform in the hopes that it’s enough armor to ward off the inevitable infection of doubt. The body never should have been accepted as mere subject that could simply be displaced, ignored, or splattered from edge to edge in the hopes that that finally did the trick of eliminating the dichotomy of figure vs. ground, consciousness vs. nature, expression vs. restraint. The figure only truly meets its ground in sleep, sickness, or death. All of which have, at best, a tenuous relationship with consciousness. So, we have learned to survive through abstraction, couched in an eternal suspension, albeit an illusion, beyond the binary. It welcomes subjectivity, allowing one to find intimacy in politics and privacy in symbols. We strive for the freedom that abstraction affords us in meaning-making, but ultimately in the service of a cancerous pluralism: yours, mine, theirs, ours. For one to enjoy the private pleasures of the abstract one must not contend with the realities of the body and all of its limitations. This we share.
Collapse puts Yvonne Rainer’s tuck/roll and Philip Guston’s digging gaze, both circa 1966, in conversation, as a shared moment of breakdown. It is the breakdown of a medium and a gesture. Though Rainer and Guston deploy vastly different techniques, both engage the breakdown of intentions to move beyond the limits of inherited traditions and binaries. The return to rudimentary marks and the balling up of one’s self through a moment of pause signifies a deep, mutual vulnerability in the service of change. Today, Rainer’s claim to “seeing difficulties” has never had a more significant resonance. The difficulty in seeing has become multi-faceted, atemporal, and is uniquely now our shared blind-spot. From Rainer’s class oriented and “task-like” gestures to Guston’s hooded heads and chopped limbs, we are witness to an ongoing and exhausting recognition of the same sociopolitical paradigm. We are lost in a fog of Abstraction.