PRISMS IN PREDICAMENTS:

"BECOME OUR PRODUCT" AND THE RECURSION OF FOUR-DIMENSIONAL ONTOLOGY

Oil Paint on Found Art and Essay, 2016, August Smith


"Entertainment has nothing to do with reality. Entertainment is antithetical to reality."
- Henry Wu,
Jurassic Park


The third result for the Google search "is the fourth dimension time" is a Reddit post submitted to /r/askscience on May 13, 2015, in which a user named "st3dit" poses the question, "Why do people say time is the 4th dimension?" Another user, "Para199x," uses a quote from Wikipedia to aid in explanation: "In physics and mathematics, the dimension of a mathematical space (or object) is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it."

The words of this particular quote were themselves written several years ago, when the Wikipedia article for "dimension" was first composed. In turn, this specific passage was probably manipulated and subtly changed over several years, refined by other editors, and perhaps even changed slightly since its invocation in this Reddit thread.

This observation reveals little to nothing about what we're to cover in this analysis regarding the oil painting series Prisms in Predicaments except to illustrate that time, though seemingly linear, is actually organic and amorphous, layering over itself the way paint layers over a canvas, violating any sense of objectivity and truth, and displaying or shifting or moving through its own dimensionality the way a picture frame may be moved from one wall to another on a sunny day.

A cube cries out for help from a painted forest. A sphere, stranded in an idyllic lake landscape, bemoans the temperature of the water. A pyramid peeking over a non-existent castle wall qualitatively evaluates its situation. Through the presence of these three objects in various nonspecific predicaments, this painting series rectifies and/or complicates the relationship between existence on planes of dimensional reality and the nature of reified art pieces as entertainment commodities, or "products."

First, we must establish the nature of existence with regards to levels of spatial dimensions. To exist in a three-dimensional space is to also exist at the behest of higher dimensions. For example, though we, as ontologically consistent entities on a three-dimensional plane, are able to manipulate and alter and otherwise interact with our immediate three-dimensional space with some degree of relative agency, we are beholden to the elastic and seemingly uncaring nature of the fourth-dimension, time. It follows that if a three-dimensional being is beholden to the non-sentient (?) "whims" of the fourth-dimension, then a painted two-dimensional being is beholden to the non-sentient "whims" of the third-dimension.

Consider, first, the cube in the first painting. It has been summoned and placed in this Jurassic-looking forest without any consideration for its will. It cries out through the dense foliage and dank fog-cover: "Help....". Of course, the painting itself, as a concrete object, can be manipulated through our 3D space quite easily. It is not very heavy, and though it is rather large and cumbersome, one or two able-bodied people can easily alter its position and orientation in our three-dimensional world. On the two-dimensional plane, the cube experiences no difference, except perhaps a wooshing sound of movement. It cannot look out at us, just as we cannot look "out" at the movement of time. The cube remains in the forest and the foot of the verdant mountains, crying out in eternal frustration.

The viewer of this painting is, of course, naturally, implicitly asked to project themselves onto the predicament of the cube, who is the protagonist. The viewer, in a very real sense, briefly becomes the cube while viewing the painting, jumping across a chasm of understanding and bringing semantic meaning into the cubes otherwise context-less situation. In this painting, the cube is the sole object of any perceptible autonomy. Cubes also tend to represent the simplest, blankest possible object, the platonic ideal of a singular "thing," boiled down to its simplest elements: line, face, shape, no color. Thus, we become the cube, locked in our own dimensional space, forever crying out, unable to cry with our eyeless eyes.

But so, too, the cube, which represents "us" as the viewer, also represents "the product" as a concrete object. Let me explain. First, the cube is part of a painting, and paintings are widely considered to be art. Art, in turn, has merely become a reified fragment of "entertainment," which itself is a concept that developed in a society with enough economic power and free time to invent the concept of "leisure." In our current stage of late capitalism, art has become merely another commodity, and as a commodity, art represents an element of economic power, however miniscule and gauche.

The original painting that became the cube painting was purchased for $10 at Goodwill. With the addition of the cube and its plea, the economic power of the painting has been perceptibly heightened and recontextualized, if only slightly. Therefore, the cube represents the product of the painting itself, as it alters the semantic orbiting elements into a new constellation. This is partially the project of postmodernism, the Lacanian mirror stage of culture eating itself alive.

Thus, the cube is a stand in for both "the product" as an ideal and for the viewer, and as such, the viewer, in viewing the painting, becomes the product, which is the painting itself. The painting becomes a bridge across the three-dimensional and two-dimensional planes, and this becomes analogous to our lack of agency in a four-dimensional space. Faced with this fact, the only natural reaction is to plead for help to the abyss (cube), proclaim that this situation "sux" (pyramid), or to bemoan the immediate context we find ourselves in (sphere).

You have already become our product just by viewing these paintings. You are implicitly an element in an endless economic exchange predicated on infinite growth through finite resources, merely now weaponized to spend your finite attention and time until death. Welcome to our luxury products line. Sorry and also thank you.

If you want to buy one of the paintings, please email me at augustjsmith@gmail.com.





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