When my daughter was young, we would enjoy exploring early taxonomic classification and organize our little world into the preset categories of “Bear-like,” “Dog-like,” and “Cat-like.” We spent hours naming animals and placing them in categories.
Taxonomy continues to evolve, and as we obtain data from DNA, collect behavioral statistics from social media, and identify new ways to use technology, we add to the richness of our human understanding.
As humans, we tend to acknowledge that which is named. But naming requires some parameters. Is the object me or something else?
Is it an animal, vegetable, or mineral, or something entirely different?
The very act of naming gives us the ability to talk about an object, categorize it, and move it to the location we feel it deserves on a conceptual “shelf.” In some ways, this is a form of claiming the object.
In our everyday lives, we are creating a taxonomy. At work, I am the employee, and she is the supervisor, and this other person is my client. An organizational chart of a company is emblematic of how people and their positions have been named and classified.
Putting together some pieces.
I would argue that we are always creating categories. The choices we make on a daily basis sometimes require identifying a given object or issue, naming it, and assigning a particular level of priority to it. We start creating the boundaries around us.
In a macro Venn diagram of science intersecting human experience, this is where politics, economy, claimed cultural history, learned aesthetics, and tribalism all overlap.
Where do we draw the line? What are our boundaries? What are our limits? What can we handle, tolerate, adopt, or recycle?
Most importantly, what are the parameters we are using to organize our lives?
Let’s look back at my initial parameters a couple of paragraphs ago.
I begin with “Is the object me or something else?”. Then the immediate naming of something other than me.
We enter into an Us vs. Them model.
We humans are powerful beings. We create entire works of literature, bodies of art, and music, and we collect information so we can categorize where things belong. We wield the sword that creates the cutoff points. We create the boundaries.
Like geographical lines on a map, we carry out the idea that our world is layered over and above the natural one. Our politics, religion, economics, and geographies all are built on that initial disconnect. The world where our homes, loved ones, and careers exist is separate from the problems of nature.
This world has human “fingerprints” all over it. Some call it the Anthropocene. It is a period of time. In this case, an epoch, where human impact is significant and clear. Most of us walk around unaware that this period of time has been given a name.
What is not named occupies a different, “other-worldly” space. The meaning of a newly noticed unnamed object could be all-encompassing or it can be nothing at all and insignificant. There are cases where both are true.
Still figuring out who is at this party.
Resilience requires a reframing of our parameters: perhaps an expansion of who “Me” is. With a new found identity we would recognize that dynamic evolution is always occurring.
I am reminded of a quote from Excalibur, an old popular film based on Arthurian narrative: “The land and the king are one.”Arthur was protecting the past and the dream of the future. In our universe, we are our own king. We can even decide if we don’t want to be called king.
As I sort various components of my art piece, I am create a taxonomy.
Every piece of jewelry, now mostly broken, was purchased by me. They are now the DNA of the new art piece. It is a form of world-building. My jewelry “creatures” have a life, a role, and a status. They bring elements of the world where they came from and the world I am from. They are new beings. They have a story to tell.
Work in progress.
Artifice, Artifact, and Actualization
Part of the Material Evolutions series.
Repurposed textile, jewelry, wire, on stretched canvas.
22"H x 18"W