New video ‘UFO’ by Robert Garnham
I went to New York. And while I was in New York I thought about the significance we place in very tiny objects. Or the lack of significance. And as I wandered around Manhattan I thought of the tiny dot on the floor of Manchester Airport that I had seen earlier in the year, and how I might find some dot in Manhattan equally representative of travel and the sheer size of the planet.
Only a part of me knew that this would be impossible because I had already concentrated on a meaningless dot on the floor of the airport at Manchester, so really there was no need to imbue another insignificant dot with the same amount of significance.
I went to the Museum of Modern Art, and as I looked at the galleries and the exhibits, I pondered on the reasons why it wouldn’t be the same this time round. There would be something artificial in looking for an insignificant dot. Manchester was just a freak of circumstance, my eye happened upon it without looking. So looking for a dot in Manhattan would be counter to the whole idea of the project.
I then decided that the only way out of this would be to find a dot which had significance. And with all of this famous art around me, I would certainly find a significant dot. I looked at the pointillist work of Seurat and Pissarro but there were too many dots and they had their own combined insignificance sacrificed to the greater whole. I was pondering on Damien Hirst, but there were no Hirsts in the MoMa collection.
I then stumbled on a work by Max Ernst, ‘Two Children Are Threatened By a Nightingale’, and I was rather taken by he wooden frame, even if I did not particularly like the work itself. The artist had written the title of the work on the wooden frame and had used a full stop. This full stop, therefore, was insignificant in the context of the work, yet had been viewed and photographed millions of times without ever being seen.
This tiny dot, this punctuation written by Max Ernst, this conglomeration of paint on wood, varnished, would, I decided, be my own piece of New York. My whole personality and urges, motivations and longings would be represented by that tiny dot. And now here I am thousands of miles away from it, and at this moment I am probably the only person in the entire world thinking of that dot. Perhaps I am the only person on the world this year, this decade, who has pondered on that tiny dot. In fact, apart from this one moment here, in a coffee shop in Paignton, Devon, on the twenty second of October, the last time that this dot had any significance at all was when Max Ernst wrote it. And even then he probably did it without thinking.
Instead of me imbuing the dot with significance, the opposite is therefore occurring. The dot is imbuing me with significance. And this is a turn of events in my project which I am a little surprised about. I feel strangely elevated, even honoured by my association with the dot in question. And long may this continue.