The Surface

The surface is a strange thing. It is, obviously, what we see of things: the outlines, reflecting light into our eyes, transmitted as information into the cerebral system, where it is reassembled into an image. But do we really see the surface? Usually not. We merely notice its colour and part of its structural integrity, making it – instantly for the most part – into an object we have a name for. Therefor we do not see the surface itself but the object it is embracing like a cape. We see not „the“ unique chair in a Bistrot or a coffeeshop in its individual state (a little stain there, a crack here, the structure of its parts and so on), but the chair as a known thing and as something existing multiple times. We also do not think about what we recognize through the lookingglass of our eyes as being a surface, but merely as a thing, nonetheless we only notice the surface, and even that surface we do not notice very well. Behind a surface, to turn things around, there is something else, maybe something similar, maybe something totally different, something mysterious surely. If you do begin to think of something as being a surface – you wonder what lies beyond. Partly this is because in western societies and cultural logarythms, the surface does not have much value itself, it is usually looked at as something one should pull aside to bring the „true“ thing or circumstance or whatever into the „light“ of knowledge. There is a surface in novels and in movies, in artworks and in persons, in conversations and in humans you meet – beyond that lingers what is true and worth knowing. But the surface itself, if you do look close enough, has not only its curious own fascination, it becomes (look closer!) something itself that has nothing to do anymore with the thing, which it is encircling and embracing.

For instance these pictures – what do they show?

Probably one can make out one or two of them, but the distance used to take these photos disrupts the usual easiness of our perception. The things (the first one is a close up on a metal vase, the second a stoneplate, the third a tree, the fourth the closeup of a diavolo grenadine (a very french summer drink) in a glass) seize to exist as what we usually perceive them and the surface itself is turned into a „thing“ or at least „something“ that is looked at as being „true“ or „unique“.

If you turn around things again there is a surface to the surface and beyond that lies something new, and so on, until you actually end up in atomic – constructions or even nanophysics. Our mind plays us a (very much needed) trick to disassemble the uniqeness of each existing thing into the formed opinion of the thing we know (the chair, again). To take this step back from time to time is a good way to „relearn“ (if one can put it that way) the curiousness of seeing, the awareness of details, and fresh approaches to the world as is, which is in everyday life oftenly turning out to be like an old pal you think you know too well.

Über philippkoch

author and curator, specializing in literature and writing on visual arts
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