Preston Singletary, Crest Hat (2021). Blown and sand-carved glass. 5½ x 21¾ x 21¾ inches. Photo by Russell Johnson. See a smart and sensitive essay on Singletary’s art by my friend (and former student!) Mischa Willett here.
Three-dimensional space offers additional opportunities for offloading mental work and enhancing the brain’s powers. When we turn a problem to be solved into a physical object that we can interact with, we activate the robust spatial abilities that allow us to navigate through real-world landscapes. This suite of human strengths, honed over eons of evolution, is wasted when we sit still and think. A series of studies conducted by Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau, a professor of psychology at Kingston University in Britain; Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau, a professor of behavioral science at Kingston; and their colleagues, has explored the benefits of such interactivity. In these studies, experimenters pose a problem; one group of problem solvers is permitted to interact physically with the properties of the problem, while a second group must only think through the problem. Interactivity “inevitably benefits performance,” they report.
Relatedly, Les Murray:
We have three minds, I reckon, one of which is the body, while the other two are forms of mentation: daylight consciousness and dreaming consciousness. If one of these is absent from a work, it isn’t complete; and if one or two of them are suppressed, kept out of sight, then the whole thing — whatever it is you’ve created — is in bad faith. Thinking in a fusion of our three minds is how humans do naturally think, at any level above the trivial. The questions to ask of any creation are: What’s the dream dimension in this? How good is the forebrain thinking, but also how good is the dream here? Where’s the dance in it, and how good is that? How well integrated are all three; or if there is dissonance, is that productive? And, finally, what larger poem is this one in? Who or what does it honor? Who does it want to kill?
The eeriest sundial inscriptions are written in the first person, as if the sundial is ventriloquizing time itself. What sorts of things does time say? Mostly ominous, haunting things, what one might expect from a hooded ghost with a scythe, not a sundial in an English country garden: “Look Upon Me. Though Silent, I Speak. For the Happy and the Sad, I Mark the House Alike. I Warn as I Move. I Steal Upon You. I Wait for None.” And also, stop looking at this sundial and get on with your life: “Begone About Your Business.”
After years of moving around, including across continents, when we finally settled in the house where my parents still live today, an entire room was set aside to be the library. It was tremendously impractical with our family of eight, with everyone doubling up to fit in the limited space. Arguments, fights, friendships, alliances, and temporary allegiances were all part of the pressure of that closeness and lack of privacy. The use of another bedroom would have alleviated this pressure, but my parents refused that possibility. The room was the library and that was that.