MYSTERY OF THE NORMAL (amended)
Ross Racine’s computer drawings of imaginary or perhaps ideal suburbs struck me as profound, in a trivial sort of way. The trivial part is the obviousness of their contrivance—they have a jokey, one-liner sort of message alluding to the absurdity of tract layouts that aim for interest even as they invoke the boredom of predictablity. The profound part is their revelation of a human mystery to be found precisely in the obvious, where no one would expect to find it. I’ll try to explain.
Artists and poets have struggled over the centuries to make works that startle us with their originality and, in effect, wake us up to depth of human feelings in our own uniqueness and individuality. The artist’s and the poet’s originality connects with our own, invoking the feeling that to be human is to be unique. The artist is a mirror of ourselves, inspiring us not to be artists but individuals, shaping our lives much the same as an artist shapes a block of marble or a blank canvas.
But the raw fact is, most of us are not so unique. Our lives, except for the smallest details, pretty much resemble the lives of others, particularly those in our social group, whatever it might be, defined by economic class, race, educational background and many others. The truth is that we are intensely social creatures and our social context often overwhelms our individual traits and aspirations. This would seem to be the message imbedded in Racine’s drawings of suburbs.
Still, the mystery of these diagrams (for that is what they are) is to be found precisely in what is missing from them: the machinations of human desire and hope, which varies—if ever so slightly—from person to person.
Because each human creature is different from all others—think of DNA and each life’s story—the ordinary and the normal are ultimately revealed to be paradigms that lead us away from the actuality of the human condition. Racine’s drawings, through the extremity of their normality, bring us back. For this reason, they have a profoundly powerful, unforgettable effect.
(above) Drawings by Ross Racine. Go to see this website for the source of their publication and the context of a critical discussion.
(below) Color added by LW, without permission of Ross Racine. Hopefully, you, dear readers, and he will accept my intervention in his work, for this blog only. My intention is take them one step further from abstraction and into the normal:
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- March 4, 2011 / 1:25 am
- Lebbeus Woods