Ingenuity and the mundane
This morning I found three tweets that delighted me.
The first was someone tweeting an idea suggested to them by a friend as a way to pass the time during isolation or quarantine:
This is a really good exercise on two levels:
- It’s just good silly fun that anyone can easily join in doing
- Because you have to think about colour, texture, shape, and perspective in order to reproduce the images, it’s an effective way to get involved in art appreciation.
I think this would be an especially great thing to do with kids – an enjoyable way of home shcooling them in art – but I’m sure adults would enjoy it too.
The second tweets showed us beat machines made out of household objects:
This is probably not something that most of us could reproduce precisely, although, again, it could be a prompt for a fun exercise for kids to experiment with making music or even basic instruments out of household items. But I love the way this sound artist has highlighted the extraordinary quality of sound that can be produced by ordinary objects.
The third tweet left me gobsmacked by its ingenuity:
We’ve all seen other clips of people who have used household items to make a domino effect, and they’re always fun to watch, but this was an especially witty attempt. I loved how several times, for example when the glass is spilt or the baby appears, things seem to be about to go to pieces but it turns out that these apparently random elements are part of the choreography. The design has a neat juxtaposition of mess and precision, which is apposite at a time when people, shut up in doors, are forced to micro-manage their environment but, in coping with a pandemic, feel subject to chaos.
The thing all three of these tweets show is people responding with creativity to the theme of being constrained to interacting with mundane objects. This reminds me of Xavier de Maistre’s A Journey Around My Room. Published in 1794, and written while de Maistre was under house arrest for 42 days for his part in an illegal duel, it parodies travel diaries of his day by taking a tour of his room and going into rhapsodies on the ‘sights’ he sees.
Although she wasn’t imprisoned in her room, and therefore able to write about a set of people and not just items, another person who lived a more physically constrained life than we are used to was Jane Austen. In the (pre-digital) times in which she lived, people, and especially women, did not travel far or often and were limited to much smaller face to face networks than we have available to us. Austen’s writing focused minutely on her small social world, but she did so with an acute eye for human nature that makes her writing still dynamic today. Austen said of her writing that she was working with “the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour.” I’m not suggesting that you pin your hopes on churning out something like Pride and Prejudice during your quarantine, but why not find your own precious bit of ivory to whittle?
It’s tough being cooped up in the same old place with the same old company day after day. The tedium, alone, can be disorientating and even depressing if it goes on for long enough. Our challenge will be to allow ourselves the psychological space to connect with our feelings, whatever they may be. Emotional denial leads to the festering and building up, pressure cooker wise, of truly dark thoughts and moods; denial is not your friend when it comes to sustaining your psychological resilience. You need to allow space to be real to yourself, otherwise you court psychological disorientation.
At the same time, it is vital that you don’t allow yourself to slide into gloom and a sense of hopelessness either. And, given that normal life has been disrupted, and that our previously habitual range of social checks and balances have been distorted by a lessening of face to face interaction and changes of scenery, your challenge of resisting this slide falls disproportionately onto you and your frazzled brain and whatever your cordoned off environment provides.
What resources do you have to work with? What ‘ordinary’ things could you be looking at from a new perspective? A towel, a baby, a glass of juice, a candle, a pencil holder full of springs? The three tweets above show creative people working with things in such a way that explores different visual, aural, or tactile textures. Can you play with your stuff and discover things that delight your senses?
The same applies to the ‘stuff’ that lives inside us. You have your own imagination and curiosity. Take a look at the workaday thoughts and reactions that trudge through your head every day. These have probably now been jolted off piste; what is their trajectory? Where have they fallen? Observe them where they lie, watch where the light hits them and where the shadows are cast. Mentally pick them up and turn them this way and that. What haven’t you noticed before? And what can you do with these new insights? Write them down? Draw them? Sing them?
This weird time we have at home will be over one day. When we are allowed a bigger physical world to roam in, what highly worked little bits can we take with us back into it?
I derive my income from a mixture of casual and freelance work. If you would like to support me, please consider one of the following:
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If you can’t afford to support me because Covid-19 has knocked the stuffing out of your income streams, please know that you have my profound empathy. The very best of luck to you.