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Winking at the hand
The Pole, Den Haag
January 26, 2019 —
Winking at the hand (scanned detail with porcelain petal), 2019
There are many variables to consider when contemplating strength. Compressive strength is the measure of how much pressure, specifically uniaxial stress, a substance can resist before failing. Concrete is a typical standard of such strength; tooth enamel is stronger but not commercially viable, porcelain is stronger still. Tensile strength — that is, the strength of a substance when stretched — is an alternative and opposing measurement to compression. A head’s worth of human hair, under the right circumstances, can support the weight of 30 grand pianos. Nylon is stronger than hair. Silk is stronger by weight than steel, but so fine — woven into sheer chiffon or crepe de chine, falling off the shoulder in a lazy drape — that we rarely think of it as strong. Context the ever shifting variable.
Given their constant adjustments, the eye muscles can be considered among the strongest muscles in the body. (A different criterion than the strength of teeth, the tongue, or the heart). Reading for an hour requires nearly 10,000 coordinated movements.
If I say the eye winking at the hand is a kind of forgiveness —
Perhaps surrender is a sort of strength.
A flag hangs from the window. Depending on the nature of the fabric — and what was used to sew it — the material may stay together, endure, or it may come apart. Is it more beautiful when ravaged by weather and circumstance? Stories unraveling. Everything undoing.
Fatigue strength is the range of repetitive stress that can be applied to a substance before fatigue failure. Little things, again and again, until it just can’t take it anymore. Notice the tendency to examine history — identifying, classifying, and prioritizing mistakes — in an effort to avoid and manage future vulnerability. That subtle distinction between prudence and obsession. ;)
Is strength determined by material, endurance, resilience, or perspective?
The Prunus mume, also known as the Chinese plum or the Japanese apricot, blooms in the middle of winter — white petals unfolding under a dusting of snow. Ipso facto its flowers have come to symbolize perseverance. But let us think of them, rather or also, as delicate white flags.
Relax your shoulders. Stomach. Feet flat on the floor. Jaw loose and tongue slack, resting against the roof of the mouth, barely touching the back of the teeth. Feel your fingers. Toes. Groin. If there is tenderness or pain, notice it. Breath into it. Now close your eye and sit for one minute. Or even just ten seconds.
Ryley O’Byrne is a Canadian artist and writer working with ceramics, fashion, text, and image. Most recently she was a resident of the Critical Art Writing Ensemble III at the Banff Centre, and in 2019 she will be a participant of The Mountain School of Art in Los Angeles. She holds a degree from Emily Carr University.
Winking at the hand, 2019
textile assemblage: silk, linen, ripstop nylon, paillettes
85 x 125 cm