nicholas nicola etchings

 johnny cash and the innate meaningfulness of each individual life in a thousand worlds

As I sifted through hundreds of old photos in dusty cardboard boxes I sanguinely noted how quite a few of my favourite ones have been ruined or lost. I realised how these half-forgotten, faded paper images had taken on a nostalgic ‘archival quality’; ‘visual soundings’ of the past which I had been motivated to review after it dawned on me at the Apostrophe Café exhibition the autobiographical nature of my printmaking. Johnny Cash’s video clip of singing Hurt came to mind: a montage of images of his life juxtaposed to lyrics brooding on the very transience of it. Johnny Cash’s rendition makes me, at least, aware of the innate meaningfulness of each individual life. Memory is lost with death. Thus, the human impulse to capture with symbols (written and visual language) any ephemeral moment before it disappears; to picture the present as it invariably becomes the past so it will be recounted in a future yet to come and for generations yet to be born; the unborn to know the dead. Life is in between: a firework that briefly lights up a vast dark sky. I recall what a friend said to me at a Darlinghurst rooftop New Years Eve party as the fireworks lit up the Kings Cross skyline: “There are a thousand worlds.” Within the many tiny fireballs within each immense floating fireball I could imagine a separate life vignette; yet all to be enveloped by the night.

The artist as shaman in the cave re-presents an afterlife ‘other-world’ that will not fade; whose immortal qualities need to be mirrored in this mortal world so life can continue seamlessly when the human spirit ‘ascends’ from a physical self-contained perimeter (re: the human body) that will dissolve; to an ever constant non-material boundless ether: eternalness. Much present-day art may no longer serve an overtly religious function but there is still an inherent desire that continues to link us to our Neolithic forebears: to defy time; with the simple press of a mobile camera button a fleeting present is crystallized. Life as ‘readymade’; every human being a ‘found object’; the ordinary transfixed as extra-ordinary.

With the mass availability of instant digital photo technology and of mass digital high speed visual transportation systems such as the internet it is apparent that the mass urge to record ‘life’ has enormously magnified; each individual can immediately be the ‘historian’ of oneself; each digital ‘icon’ can become an additional fragment of a new ever-mutating paradoxical ‘eternal present’ re: that endless electronic window: cyberspace; what is particular and private can be contextualised as a microcosm of the universal and public; (such is the perceived commonality of human experience). Art democratized. Each life does count; Johnny Cash asks what has he become? Old; wise - but then dust; yet, I can watch every stage of his life through images on a virtual desktop that will not fade; sustained only by light: that ‘other-world’ on the cave wall is now readily available anywhere on the globe on every computer and television screen; each life can be viewed and appreciated; just as art on a societal level exists to form (and reform) and preserve cultural memory every individual memory also has the opportunity to transcend death; our unlimited human imagination continually multiplying; as well as limitlessly able to record in multiple ways what each generation sees what it diversely means to be human for all time – lest we forget.

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