That essay looks at how we find fragmentation and how this condition of our weorld leads us to recognize the fragment as an element of our art.
One way to deal with fragments is to focus on a single shard and show how it has been torn from its context and how its edges force us to see the violence of separation and the honesty of not falsifying the results. That in the state-of-affairs that exist there would be no truth to be discovered by ignoring, or trying to smooth over, the breaks.
This requires us to focus on a single fragment and its relationship with some sort of frame that holds it in isolation so it can be observed as an individual fragment torn from an unknown whole.
Another way to treat fragments is as they are handled in stained-glass. Each piece large enough to be recognizable while its edges disrupt continuity between many parts that, taken all-together, create a single, larger image. The whole is built from the interactions of these parts while each part holds itself distinct from the rest at the same time as its edges intersect and/or align with other fragments.
The next form of order would be to break the whole down as in a cubist space in which each fragment loses some of its identity as the price of its capacity to carve and inflect the field of the whole. The edges of the fragments relate to each other and to the frame that encloses the whole. Their integration requires a loss of distinctness in the fragments themselves. They play with the tension between perceptions-that-create-verisimilitude and signs-that-act-as-signifiers of categories. Both views fight each other. It is in this struggle that the honesty of the whole is maintained and where its vitality lies. We cannot distinguish – certainly we cannot separate – elements of verisimilitude and signification. There is a dance, a shimmer between these two modes of perception/reading.
In an Impressionistic treatment the notion of independent objects dissolves into a sea of immediate perception that only resolves into an image through an accumulation of countless perceptual fragments. No thing is recognizable until it is seen as part of the whole. We are aware of the act of perception; and the potential errors of perception we are prone to; as we guess at what is on view and keep refining our guesses.
This assessment/re-assessment occurs in both cubist and impressionistic treatments. They also share in the way space and light develop out of perceived relationships between part and part, and part and whole. They also share a shimmering quality of the whole. Much of the life of these pieces is also present in our final treatment of fragments as they are handled within a mosaic or pointillist treatment.
In a mosaic the fragment is a simple statement of value and color. All content arises out of relation. There is no recognizable content within any individual fragment. There are countless fragments. So many that no individual unit can hold our attention on its own. We don’t see the pieces individually. They are subsumed into the whole. Their brokenness – tessellation – cannot be ignored; even as we see past it. They punctuate and give rhythm to the whole.
These are visual modes of order. They can be roughly translated into the verbal and aural realm of writing if we translate visual immediacy into the necessity for temporal span in place of a spatial one. In either realm, visual or verbal, there is a kind of space and time, intervals and accumulations of perception.
The visual also enters the verbal though the mind’s eye. By way of description and the incremental building upon sensory details.
In either, in any realm, there are questions of how the work relates to its beginnings as a blank page. We must also deal with the clutter that accumulates as a work develops.
These acts of the maker are recapitulated by the viewer/reader as they enter into a work. The viewer/reader travels from asking why a particular starting place was chosen instead of any other and moves on through stages and states of various forms of the question of whether the work coheres and makes sense, is understandable, in some way.
This making-sense is not limited to its meeting an expectation. Thank God! Conviction can be toyed with and challenged in a variety of ways. What must be maintained throughout is some form of tension between suspension and disbelief that allows the work to hold our attention long enough so that ultimately we feel the effort was worth taking.
This is a sensual game, a seduction. The viewer/reader is seduced by sensual rewards to keep going. For the seduction not to end in a betrayal there needs to be a pay-off. A sense that it was worth it. A sense that through this work they have entered into a deep and complex relationship with the mind the work illuminates. This mind is not the “author’s mind.” It is a mind that exists between the maker and the viewer/reader. Each recognizes themselves as parts of this mind. The writer and reader are in it together.
This is why a work cannot be rely on an imposed order or flavor; or stem from any gimmick or lie. The loss of trust such a gambit brings can never transform the seduction into an opportunity for relationship.
For a work to succeed it must hold all of these – and many other kinds of – fragments together holographically. It must transmit these necessities through every pore by a variety of means in such a way that each particular element of its means dissolves into a whole. Into a work in which fragments dance and come to life.