#269 The Handle Is One Of Us
134x64 cm | Filler, oak frame, axe handle
This work could, of course, been titled "Ce n'est pas une hache". It instead refers to the old proverb - When the axe came into the forest, the trees said: "The handle is one of us". It can be interpreted as to know your enemy, and don't be fooled by appearance or simple conclusion. In this case, it can mean that you should judge by actions, not by words. Language can't be trusted. Or even that the stuff that has been properly symbolised no longer holds a natural bond to the raw matter of reality, and has lost the connection to everything else within it. Talking about a thing might, in a way, detach it from what it really is. For example, when a corporation sponsors art or sports to improve their public image, it doesn't mean we can trust them. It might still ruin our environment, exploit our work or otherwise hurt us. And by doing so, it contaminates the sincereness of the receivers and pollutes the more profound meaning of these activities.
Another association is the old Norwegian folktale "Good Day Axe Handle" collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe. It's about a deaf man trying to predict what people will ask him: a classic non-sequitur, a literary device for comic effect by absurd or non-coherent answers. On a deeper level, the story tells us about how all communication is depending on presumptions. We can never be entirely sure that the outgoing message is the same as the received, or vice versa. To use language is basically like fumbling through the dark.
To the mind, a word is always also an image. In that sense, understanding words function no different than normal perception. When we see, images are constructed inside the mind. We never perceive reality objectively or in itself. Perception is an interpretation and thus consist of language, in the same manner as understanding words.
However, to use language, we have to speak or write it. We have to realize it. Nothing ever communicates without being inscribed into a matter of some sort. But how words are inserted into reality affects how we perceive them. Thus reality itself seeps into language. There exists no clear or unmediated communication. Matter adds to the message. Because which matter we choose to communicate through, and how we shape it, reflects on who we are, it can reveal unconscious or hidden meanings.
Humans inscribed the first written words in stone or clay. One of the purposes was to save them for the future, to protect them from the volatility of time. To speak, or to write, is always to some extent, an act of power. The receiver must initially submit his or her attention to the message. No matter how insignificant, its meaning will always in some way change the receiver forever.
There is a constant tension between language and reality as matter. The human subject is defined by an individual will, as opposed to the strict causality of nature. This will strive to be expressed through language. Maybe self-awareness is a result of language at use. Language as a way for the ego to invent itself, to inscribe itself into the world. It is no coincident that many of the first examples of texts are curses, prayers, laws or inventories — different ways of trying to influence and master reality.
Tablet series is part of Template, a compilation of works made by using pieces of wooden plates as templates. They function as a mould or matrix for the finished work.
Reminiscent of Richard Serra's Verb List I try to use simple and clearly defined actions to shape the filler in my works. This method ensures there is always non-cognitive aspects of the production process.