That feeling of emptiness; the curiosity of thinking about nothing; the unanswered questions that we have; knowing that there are answers: inevitably, we find ourselves staring out, looking beyond into the void. I have spent my whole life trying to fill that void, and yet I could not describe to you what it is. The only comparison I can find is that it is something and nothing, there but not there, tangible, and yet intangible. It begs the question as to then, what am I trying to fill? If it is indescribable, non-tangible, then what is it? In the ancient Chinese traditions of taoism, the description of ‘qi’ or the ‘tao’ is often described in much the same way as ‘void’ but notably within a mystified context. Within the text attributed to Lao Tzu, the “Tao Te Ching”, one can read the following:
“Its rising brings no dawn, its setting no darkness; it goes on and on, unnameable, returning into nothingness. Its form is formless. Its image is invisible. Meeting it, you cannot see its face. Following it, you cannot see its back.” (Hamill, Pg. 18)*
Outlined in this section, much like most of the Tao Te Ching, the back and forth of being and not-being is reiterated, establishing an ebb and flow to the text, providing a consistent thread of what one could define as a ‘single strand’. This ‘strand’ or line is made apparent not by what is being described about it, but what is being described around it, leaving one to see or determine a potential parameter of where the line is, but never the ability to see what the line actually is. This reminds me of how astro physicists determine where in space black holes exists; they cannot see them, but they know they are present based on the relationships and interactions of matter and gases around a black mass or would what appear to be as just empty space. Inevitably, the black mass is identified by its relationships with the surrounding matter. The void can inevitably be defined in much the same way, present and tangible, only because of what we can experience through our internal and external senses grained from the environment that surrounds it.
Work in Context
This body of work, “Intra-Meta Void” are bi-products of or ‘windows’ into my relationship with the void. For me the void is a physiological space that encompasses body and mind and the interactions that take place between the two. This struggle or in Western philosophy, ‘duality’, cannot be clearly defined from a single point, nor be given a direction, it just is. It exists purely as a state of struggle, devoid of attributed values and feelings, though often the void is present in some of our most emotional states as human beings. Thus, my work sits within the natural struggle of duality, being and not being, present and yet not present, meaningful and yet not meaningful. The only way I can describe concretely about this work is through my personal struggle with the ideas of nothingness and something-ness. Within the context of art and the making of work, each piece inevitably takes on the value of its own. This value is either firstly attributed to or from the artist, and secondly through the collective whole of culture and time. The challenge I faced with this work, is how do I convey nothingness, and something-ness at the same time? What visual allegories and abstractions can be utilised to project not just cathartic emotions often attributed to loneliness, but of the deep sense of the abyss that the void so often can take up as the form? If I am making work about the condition of nothingness, then should I just not make art at all and simply invite viewers into a theoretical and physiological empty room? I found that the answer is no, it is never that simple nor that concrete.
This work, though theoretically void of a subject, was very personal in that prior to making each piece within the series, I found myself going blank. Staring at nothingness (often a blank white canvas) that I was to fill with the void, immediately brought on doubt of my own abilities to make art and bizarre feelings of self doubt that I had never experienced before. In hindsight, I found it fascinating that the subject alone that I had chosen to focus on and study for this series, was in many cases, mentally debilitating; bringing on feelings of doubt and loneliness, yet simultaneously, bringing on feelings of deep fascination. How can I make work about nothing? Doesn’t this mean my work will be worth nothing? How do I establish context, visual hierarchy, and meaning when the work could easily fall into the simple trap of ‘white space’?
I knew the struggle was the challenge. The value of me creating this work and grappling through it was the point. So, I jumped into each piece literally and blindly. I found that by filling the void visually with media allowed for me to find the “thread” or line as aforementioned. Filling the void would in fact define the spaces that could inevitably become the very void I was searching to fill. It was this continual process of filling the void, layer by layer with medium and found objects that I began to understand how filling the void was not the point of my quest for this work, but it was actually me being in the void in itself: a state of “intra-meta void”. It was not until I was finishing up the last few pieces for this show that I had an epiphany: I have always known intra-meta void. Starting at about 7 years old, I began having vidid dreams about physically being within the Intra-meta void. They were so intense that I could smell, taste, touch and clearly define states of nothingness. The nothingness I remembered in my dreams felt grainy, were full of infinite views of the horizons or whitespace, and in many cases entailed of environments made of neutral colors, often void of intensity in hue and even blackness. They were not sad dreams, but strange. So strange that I would wake myself up with an alert focus, only to have my whole mouth dry and bitter; the taste of intra-meta void is bitter. The epiphany was this: the state of intra-meta void is not a condition of lacking or wanting, but a condition of infinites and static presence. The void is a condition, a state of mind that does not have to progress forward, but is also not attached nor assimilated into the past. The void had to be encountered, experienced, and sought after for it to be manifested within me and made relevant to itself. Each of us have voids to fill. Each of us have quests into the unknown that remain unanswered or unsolved. But that is the point, the void is a dynamic human condition defined by our perceptual grapplings and cognitive dispositions that surround our day to day experiences. It is what surrounds our life, fills in the empty spaces that define the voids we all possess. Thus the void is infinite; never ending and yet static right where we are.
Work shown at Level 5 China, Shenzhen, Shekou. Brittan Aebischer Solo Residency Show:
“Intra-Meta Void”, May 18, 2019