Thursday, December 18, 2014

Return to Paradox

by Drew 
I am rattled by disorder so I have entertained that if I ever make a robot, the first thing I will program into its logic is to return things to the places from which they are taken. This is after all the fourth edict of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Put things back where you found them. It is a hallmark of civility. But on further thought this is not exactly what I want because, for example, if my robot were to take my favorite T-shirt and wear it to a concert, get it all greasy, and then precisely fold it and place it back into the drawer from which he took it, then that would not be good. Although that would be better than randomly discarding it on the street. So the request is really to put things back where you found them, in the state in which you found them, which might require cleaning, repair, refilling or some other kind of restoration.

I have been thinking a lot about "return" and what it means culturally. Return has a positive meaning: we want our parents to return home from work, children from school, soldiers from war. We want a return on investment, a return to paradise, and a return of affection.

The opposite of return is usually negative: something being stolen, divorce, and most permanently - death. That being said all of these have a more abstract sense of return: getting back to a moment of preownership, loneliness/solitude, and ultimately the final return to nonexistence.

Literature is full of literary themes of return and nonreturn, such as Candide, The Odyssey, Remembrance of Things Past versus You Can Never Go Home Again.

While this translates into the narrative and themes of the visual arts, the very idea of creating a painting, sculpture, or performance is also a kind of return. It returns the manifestation of an idea to its creator.