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Exploring infinity

Written: June 10, 2003

The act of creating a piece of art involves navigating through an essentially infinite space, sorting through an endless number of possibilities. Without limitations it would be impossible to do anything meaningful – there are too many choices.

However, even with limitations, you’re just making a smaller infinite space out of a larger one (if that makes sense).

Really, though, artists are always working with limitations, whether or not they realize it. In fact, it seems that whenever previously unrealized limitations are discovered, artists almost immediately try to go beyond them. That’s not to say they reject these limitations outright (though some do), but they certainly try to find out what happens outside these limits.

Some helpful examples of such at-one-point-unrealized boundaries in visual art might include the revolutions against the flat perspective of pre-Renaissance painting; against realistic representation; or against being restricted to a rectangular canvas. The same in music might include the revolutions against monophony; against ‘functional harmony’; against traditional ways of making sounds. (‘Revolution’ is perhaps not the best word, but a more appropriate substitute escapes me.)

Maybe evolution and revolution in art isn’t necessarily so much about breaking boundaries so much as discovering them, and then finding out how they can be played with, how far they can be stretched. And, to be honest, it’s just plain fun to find out what happens when you subvert something you once didn’t even know you assumed was necessary.