Meditations of another kind
“I hate geometry’ Image by Jayesh Joshi
The proliferation of language and our hunger for meaning in every sphere of life has ensured that no photographic image will ever exist as representing objective truth alone. Every image will have meaning as its appurtenance signifying diversely to diverse minds. In that it becomes a signifier over and above its primary task of representing the truth, nothing else but the truth. Call it fate- the more we evolve in language the more we realize it is impossible to express. Photography the sole guardian of objective truth has also evolved into a similar predicament; that of denoting and connoting at the same time. Usually a picture denotes first. Connotative aspects follow close on heels.
I hate geometry” by Jayesh Joshi, Image of the month for October 2011 plucks away geometry and symmetry from reeds in their natural setting. Jayesh obviously is not depicting nature as is but captures an aspect of it through an unusual reflection; first by water then by mind. He begins with filtering out the noise of colors by converting it into black and white image. A slight increase in contrast sees the reflecting surface of water disappear giving a graphic feel to the shot. He sacrifices the pictorial for representational. A deft sleight of hand turns it 90 degree counter clock wise. A sleepy frame wakes up into one intense graphic of chaos, symmetry and reflection. The final image presented as “I hate geometry” stands as a mental map insinuating the viewer to come and explore the most unlikely of relationships between nature, geometry and chaos. A famous slogan by semanticist Alfred Korzybsky “The map is not the territory” lives out the strength of its meaning in the image as it is transported from nature-space to mind-space where it grows beyond the territory of the containing frame.
The image is held together by three triangles starting with one at the top. Top most triangle is the vortex from where everything falls into a cataract of confusion, order and revelation. Subsequent triangles become resting places for eye from where it iterates sideways to explore solid geometric forms. Eyes seems to gravitate towards these triangles for they have a warm quality about them. As signs they denote a home and sanctuary for life. No wonder then that they take the maximum eye share.
But does it end here leaving us in an abstract lurch? Do we see mental analogues of geometric patterns seen in the picture? Is there a possibility of moving from solid geometry to the liquid world of chaos and its manifestations in real world? Reflecting on these ponderables I relaxed for a while. Then something happened. Rushing to my book shelf I dug out Fritjof Capra’s “The tao of physics”. Tearing frantically at the pages I came across this plate showing traces of sub-atomic particles rushing through particle accelerators.
His treatment of random patterns with deep reverence and equating them to ”The dance of Shiva” ascribes qualities of dynamism to otherwise absurd patterns. Further, spiritualizing scientific temper(ament) he goes on to say “The more one studies religious and philosophical texts of the Hindus, Budhists, and Taoists, the more it becomes apparent that in all of them the world os conceived in terms of movement, flow and change………………The dynamic aspect of matter arises in quantum theory as a consequence of wave-nature of sub-atomic particles……….The properties of sub-atomic particles can therefore be understood in a dynamic context; in terms of movement, interaction and transformation.” P-213, The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Kapra. With these mediations reeds had now undergone another transformation; from being reeds to lines of geometric forms to chaotic patterns to spirituality- the spirit of the matter. Talking about reeds as reeds, we know them to grow over time which is measurable, which we see passing. Their process of growth would seem to follow laws. But if we decide to switch frames of reference and run a time lapse the same reeds would look to grow as mutinous elements guided solely by their own free will. Kapra’s profound insights collimate disordered lines into rhythm of chaos; the underlying reality of all that appears outwardly calm. Now, we could look at Jayesh’s image without the feeling that we were looking at occult.
Jayesh’s decision to see things in “black and white” increased the metaphoric appeal of the image many folds. Layers of meaning sometimes stay hidden behind a façade. Jayesh, while processing the image did great thinking by sacrificing the denotata of the image which in this case would be reeds in a wetland surrounded by sleepy sepia environment. The moment he filtered that out he uncovered layers of meanings finding reflections in our minds. Placid reflections of straight lines of nature get transformed into streaks of activity. He took two shots at the same location. The first one which he decided to post was a tighter one.
The second one which he kept and posted in illustration forum is a wider shot.
His decision to go with the former might have something to do with the viewable area on monitor because the wider shot feels somewhat cramped on monitor. It requires more space to show separation between random lines especially towards the bottom where there’s maximum activity. Otherwise wide angle shot is qualitatively above the tighter one for it shows randomness in its peaked form which the posted one misses. However this came to my mind only after comparing the two shots.
Exit notes: Staying with the picture for a week has been an intimate experience. End of this article makes me somewhat nostalgic. Walking away I see a sage look at me from the top triangle. He bares himself to show meditations hidden below the poise. Never again would I try straightening a blade of grass while taking a shot. I would let it be. Who knows it might stifle a sage.
Thanks Jayesh !