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by Darren Panicali

(Click the link below! ;-))

Duality paper (.docx file)

Here is the text of the paper, since it has come to my attention that some cannot open the .docx file (It’s a bit long, so I’m sorry if you have to scroll a while to see other people’s work – that was the point of posting the link in the first place!):

Darren Panicali

Professor Jablonka

MHC 100


My Creative Project: “Duality”

When I found out about this project, I immediately felt determined to create something that would help people to look at this existence differently. Too often in this world do we cut ourselves off from different perspectives and settle into a single comfort zone complete with its own myopic perspective, at least as far as I’m concerned. I wanted to break out of the mold. I wanted to feel. And I wanted to let these ideas breathe throughout my project. So I decided to make two pyramids.

Duality is really quite interesting if you think about it – but that’s just it: you need to put some thought into it, or you might just cast the whole thing off as simply a bunch of pieces of cardboard taped together with lots of paint and marker on them. My initial inspiration stemmed from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, where I learned of a peculiar and intriguing kind of symbolism for the male form and the female form: An upward pointing character known as the blade – a “^” – designated male, and a downward pointing character known as the chalice – a “v” – designated female. Brown also made reference to the Louvre’s La Pyramide Inversée, a display of two pyramids with apices that almost touch (the smaller is oriented normally below, while the larger one above is suspended inversely, its tip facing downward). Based on the ideas of the symbols invoked by Brown, it could be said to represent the unification of the sexes. But I wanted to take the whole thing a few steps further and make it my own.

Duality’s two pyramids represent two separate microcosms that can be arranged in space to form several differently shaped macrocosms. I recently did a paper on the evolution of painting and its eventual culmination into abstract and often somewhat 3-dimensional displays, and I thought it would be interesting to take it to the next level and create a sort of painting with multiple spatial orientations to add another layer of depth to the idea of painting and what it can encompass. It was interesting to work with a pyramid because when looking at it head-on from the top, it seems like a 2-dimensional surface, and I did not hesitate to seize on this discovery and create a head-on painting on each of the pyramids. One pyramid dons many lines drawn into each other to create the effect of a rigid spiral. This pyramid is called “Logos,” for it epitomizes logic, mathematical calculations, and measurements in a clearly defined and mercilessly orderly pattern. It is only black and white, as we would think a purely logical world might seem. The other pyramid exhibits stipple-reminiscent splotches of color. This pyramid is called “Pathos,” for it signifies deeply felt and passionate emotion, which implies chaos and pandemonium, shown in the random and frenzied dabbling of paint. Its colorful composition possesses red, blue, and yellow, the three primary colors (as far as art is concerned) from which we can synthesize the multitude of colors that we can use to express our feelings in infinite ways through painting.

Duality adds a twist to Brown’s idea: Since both pyramids can be oriented either up or down, neither is always male or female; the roles can be switched. Or you could have two males or two females – a gender spin on the symbolism. And because one pyramid symbolizes logic and the other symbolizes emotion, depending on how you designate the genders, you can associate logic and emotion with one gender or the other. One pyramid’s base can be connected to the other’s base, forming a structure not unlike a diamond-shaped crystal, resembling a precious gem. A few friends also said it looked like an octahedral, a molecular conformation we had studied in a chemistry class, so perhaps there is also a science connection there. In this configuration, we see the formation of two opposite apices. This denotes one perspective of life: Suppose one pyramid is the climb (your journey and experiences) to the tip (your destination in life). If you reach that destination, there is an entire journey and destination that you are missing out on, which would be the other pyramid and its apex. The idea is that you can never be at both apices simultaneously, and if you associate being at both with happiness, you will not be happy until you can reconcile the differences between the two and be content remaining somewhere in between, especially in terms of logic and emotion. Whichever pyramid points up is the male, and whichever points down is the female, but they are always unified at the starting point of the climb, and this may portray the connection of the experiences and journeys of the male and female as the center of life and where we should look to find meaning. In another configuration like that of the Louvre’s pyramids, the female is above and the male is below, and the apices of both connect at the center, suggesting that the fully experienced and developed destinations of both the male and female forms is central to this existence and is the location at which we can expect life significance to be derived. It hints at the absolute ideal, the happiest marriage of logic and emotion – in a word, bliss. The shape also resembles an hourglass, reminding us that the sands of time really are falling and that our lives are finite. Interesting to note is that this configuration is much more difficult to maintain structurally, for perfect balance is required to preserve the shape, whereas the previous shape was well grounded; this could represent how it is more sound to rely on going between extremes as opposed to finding the quintessential connective single apex of both realms of life – logic and emotion, male and female. You could also place one pyramid into the other, which can symbolize sex on the one hand, or the domination of logic/emotion over its counterpart on the other hand, but you could never place one pyramid fully into the other; a little is always left over beneath the dominant pyramid, suggesting that even if you were to choose one path over the other in gender or in logic vs. emotion, you can never truly eradicate the other part of you, which will always exist somehow within you even if you were to try your best to hide or diminish it. What’s more is that the base material was a bunch of Cheerios cardboard pieces that we would typically throw away. I imbued so much meaning into something normally deemed worthless, and that is an essential message I wanted to convey – that we can mold our perspectives of things to change our realities as we please, which is a life lesson and skill I think we would all do well to learn.

I did run into a few issues along the way, but they only enhanced the meaning of Duality to me. The most excruciating dilemma was making the spiral. The lines had to match up from a head-on overhead view, but there was no easy way to draw those lines across the different faces of the pyramid, so I had to improvise and connect a series of marks I made while looking from above. It took several hours and I strained my neck from bending over Logos too much, but the process reminded me of life: You can try your best to reason things out rationally, but it won’t always work, and there are often hardships and pains that come with choosing that path. In fact, there are some errors in the spiral pattern, which just further boosts the idea that logic is not always flawless and can cause pain and havoc. And it just so happened that I made Logos first; so when I switched to Pathos, I was weary of the math and lines I was engaged in via the path of logic, so I let the orderliness go and let my emotions just flow on Pathos in disarray. And so it is with life: We shirk logic so frequently and resort to emotion to cope with our troubles because sometimes it’s easier to let go of reason and just feel. But disorder is still disorder, and you can’t remain in emotion forever. Balance is key, and I re-learned that from this experience. Another problem involved what kind of painting I would create on Pathos: Should it be emotional in a spiritual sense? Should there be symbols? Questions like these popped into my head, but it all solved itself after Logos was done and I was frankly too drained to worry about complexity anymore, so I created tri-chromatic chaos and figured that was what emotion really happens to be – a fickle and chaotic mess, but a beautiful one at that. The last issue was the flimsy aspect of the pyramids: They shake and don’t retain their structure all the time because I only used tape and did not bolster them with supports – a stylistic choice, for the presence of supports would be a detriment to putting the pyramids within one another. That was another thing I then noticed – how the pyramids were empty inside – and you could fill them with whatever your heart desired, as opposed to accepting what the character of the pyramid would have entailed if it was solid inside. But then I realized that the flimsy aspect gave them mutability, and I was grateful for the pleasant surprise, as this illustrated how these were not rigid paths in life but rather flexible ones.

Presenting Duality to the class was so rewarding for me. I was able to share an integral part of who I am with all the people who have been on this journey together with me in exploring art and its many facets. My biggest goal was to try to promote awareness of our capacity to change our perspectives of this world in order to accommodate our varied points of view and to achieve some semblance of happiness in this world that we were just thrown into all of a sudden at birth, without a single idea of what was really going on. And I think I accomplished that: People were really receptive and impressed, and I received plenty of positive feedback later on. Somewhere in that moment, I was thoroughly content with wherever I was between logic and emotion and between male and female in my life. And that made me happy. And I hope that I was able to impart something to all of the people in that room, to make a change for the better in their lives. As for the experience of actually doing the project, I really had so much fun making Duality, even if there were sometimes challenges that were agitating (which just made it that much more rewarding to overcome them and see a beautiful final product). I was determined to convey my profound messages using the powerful symbolism of my work; my drive was supremely resolute. And so I find that the many hours I dedicated to making the pyramids were most definitely hours well spent. Whether cutting, painting, measuring, stressing, etc., it was all totally worth it. (And now I have some new fixtures for my dorm room!)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what I find most significant about all of this is that I effectively made something out of nothing, as mentioned earlier, for as I understand it, art is simply what you designate as something to be scrutinized and to be given some sort of meaning. In the end, perhaps this really was just a bunch of cardboard and art media put together, but that’s exactly reminiscent of our challenge in life: This world is what you make of it; no one really knows the true nature of this existence. I try to remember this every day, so I can be content with how things are and not let my desires and negativity run wild, causing me utter grief and self-destruction. And so the essence of Duality is this: Will you see the world as devoid of meaning, or will you imbue it with your own? And will you be content with what you have chosen? There is no right or wrong answer; the choice is yours.

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