The Øther 2009-2010
Between the Structures of Naming
By Scott Henstrand
This puzzle is one in a series entitled Between the Structures of Naming, which contains 12 works using the imagery of primers juxtaposed with one line of primer-like text using the structure of jig-saw puzzles. The puzzle pieces are furniture grade, with the imagery drawn and painted on paper laminated to ½” furniture-grade Baltic plywood with 6 coats of hand-rubbed water-based urethane finish with further surfaces added beyond the original image. The template for shaping the pieces is the same for all twelve puzzles, allowing for mixing of puzzles that will still fit together. Individual puzzle pieces, as a matter of fact, could double as coasters.
The puzzle is a classic form and the ideal structure. It can be completed, is solvable, and therefore instantly gratifying. What is the process of a puzzle? Simple enough. While solving the puzzle each piece is individuated, each detail of these pieces intimately studied, classified in comparison to the other component parts. Upon completion, though, the individual segments fade away, barely recognized, their individual attributes integrated into a whole, our dream world completed and codified in a recognizable image, a manufactured completeness through the melding of disparate and ultimately more interesting component parts.
Each puzzle is composed of a line of text and a simple partial image. The text is primer-like, such as: “I used to have fun naming things”; I never saw the value of that thing”; or “I thought I had some thing to say”; overtly simple phrases that refer to the subject, the object and the thing. These phrases interplay with partial images from early primers, dream-like draggings from some other time when we first were indoctrinated to a cultural identity, to the primacy of symbols. These images reflect various themes: the self-creation of identity; the promise and dangers of technology; the yearnings of difference and surface beauty; the classification and naming of body parts. How have those early ideas, those desires of wholeness, played out for each of us? I can't help thinking of Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece.
I have been fascinated in the social process when the puzzles are laid out in a space. Inevitably one or two individuals fit a few pieces together and drift off, followed by other groups until a critical mass of pieces are brought together. At this point a concerted group gathers to discuss and finish the puzzle. Upon completion the group is joyous and congratulates each other, then looks closely at the puzzle image where they are taken somewhat off guard at the message further discussing text and imagery. The structure of the puzzle format draws the viewer to further engagement to the piece.