This drawing is the first work in my Entanglement series. “Streaming Cicero” employs the ribbon motif that is also used in the other works in that series.
Semiotically-speaking ribbons can be conveyers of meaning and connection, of transition, influence and change. This image consists of a bust-like sculptural shape of a human head that is formed by a complicated intertwining and interlinking of what might be one continuous ribbon of consistent width. The ribbons extend out and up from the head like flowing hair but which might also be thoughts entering or leaving the head or even forming the head itself, thereby potentially offering a view of the inner world of the stereotypical human. The ribbons deny us any indication of identity, perhaps forming a blindfold and suggesting that the represented human is ignoring something important. But is the head-object even there? Picking up on a theme from the Entanglement series, the object-as-head exists only as an interpolated construct created by the viewer (and therefore granted a presence or perspective) from nothing more than insubstantial ribbons.
Context is everything
My art practice is interested in visual representations of our current existence, locating it on historical, cultural, political and scientific continua. The drawing is inspired by thoughts about recent global political changes and their historical antecedents. We have seen recently many examples of the weakening of some of our most cherished political and cultural institutions (e.g. the right to privacy and the freedoms of speech, association and movement) in the name of protecting against terrorism nations that were themselves established on the basis of those very cultural institutions.
Such Western cultural and political institutions can (in part) be traced back to the Roman politician, lawyer and philosopher Cicero(d. 43 BCE) whose extensive writings and speeches directly influenced Western understanding of liberty and republican government: e.g. the constitutional establishment of the United States and the socio-political developments of Victorian England.
However, the link with Cicero is double: even Cicero abandoned his principles of liberty by executing (as consul) the Catilinarians without trial so as to protect the Roman Republic, an action that arguably weakened the Republic and lead to the rise of Caesarian imperial dictatorship. The ribbon structure I created was intended as a visual reference to classical Roman sculptures: I wanted to convey a sense of marble solidity even though that solidness comes from thin, weak, flowing ribbons. The reference in the drawing’s title to “Cicero” is therefore a reference to our political and cultural past and all the complicated developments in between. Those institutions, even language, continue to influence all aspects of life now but arguably do so invisibly. They are sustained only if we actively maintain them.
Is our global culture at risk of becoming a selfie-obsessed, tweet-based culture so “of the now” that it is disconnected from and in denial of its long cultural history?
The image reflects the insight that we are (both individually and societally) the result of our negotiation of multiple influences, both external and internal, seen and unseen. These are often cultural: the political, social and linguistic values that we pick up from our place in history. At one point in the drawing, the viewer might get lost in the tangle of complexity, the precise linkages often opaque to our inspection but nevertheless those connections persist and influence us, forming and informing our perspective. Likewise, there are degrees of influence and connection – shadows among the connections.