In the dream we’re in a museum. High white ceilings accented with soft light illuminating from an unknown source. Colorful and refined paintings hang on the long walls. Important images by important artists held in high esteem by important people with important opinions. Details within the ornate frames hang illusive. Lines blur and colors swim together rendering their brush strokes undefined and mysterious. One large wall size piece hangs in front of us. In the mists of black and grey I can make out the abstract image of a nude man from behind. He flys at the bottom left of the gigantic rectangle arms spread wide with feet stretched closed together. A few inches above his lushly haired head he flies again. Only this time his shape has changed in small amounts. There is no longer a line dividing his feet or legs. They are flattening out, as are his arms and hands. The tip of his head reaches forward into a slightly rounded point. Above his head the man flies again. Morphing even more. Limbs almost unrecognizable as human now, they have gained straight edges. I can almost see flaps and rows of rivets bulging out of the aluminum like skin. The outlines of numbers and letters are beginning to darken and show their identities on the fuselage like torso. In front of his/it’s nose the man/plane soars above now forming clouds and buildings far below on the ground. Other than wisps of hair and some muscular curves, the airplane is barely recognizable as a man. Looking higher up on the canvas there are four more rows of four man/airplanes evolving into and devolving out of finely detailed aircraft and back into male figures.
An unseen female voice comes from somewhere off behind us as I pick up a pencil. The sound echoing from hard surface to hard surface made it virtually impossible to pinpoint the source’s location.
“This painting…excuse me, Escher primarily used pencil or pen. This drawing is the largest Escher known to exist.”
She continues rambling about the artist’s history and methodology as I began to trace the outlines on the canvas with my pencil. “Maurits Cornelis Escher born in 1898 is one of the world’s most famous graphic artists. People from all over enjoy his skewed view of the universe.” At first I write gentle and soft, barely making any marks at all. “He is most famous for his so-called impossible structures, such as Ascending and Descending, Relativity, his Transformation Prints, such as Metamorphosis I, Metamorphosis II and Metamorphosis III, Sky & Water I or Reptiles.” As I progress further along into the details of the images I press harder forcing the lead deeper into the paper, creating canyon like indentations around the man/planes. “Mr. Escher became fascinated by the regular division of the plane, when he first visited the Alhambra, a fourteen century Moorish castle in Granada, Spain in 1922.”
At the bottom right corner I see what appear to be a pair of eyes and a mouth looking at me upside down.
“You’re in the drawing.” I say to the docent. “That face there. It looks just like you.”
The woman glances down and shakes her head.
“It is you.” You say pointing to the eyes. “Can’t you tell?”
The docent continues her rambling list of important facts about the life of the artist. “While living in Switzerland during the Second World War, he drew 62 of his regular division drawings. He enjoyed toying with perspective as well as impossible spaces. In his work we recognize his keen observation of the world around us and the expressions of his own fantasies. He died in 1972.”
We walk off towards another section of the museum. After what feels like miles and miles going up and down shallow and steep slopes we come to a large room with glass walls. We stand next to the glass just to the right of the left corner of the room. The floor of this room extends far below where we stand and the roof rises tremendously higher than that of the hallway we are in. Directly in front of us is a bright orange “O” about three feet in diameter. It is connected to a thick, grey metal wire attached to the floor by an intimidating looking hook connected to more wire wrapped tightly around the bottom in a coil. Above the “O” is a yellow “+” followed by a green “p” a blue “#” and a red “?”. The symbols radiate a soft sheen of their respective colors bringing a pleasant glow to the room. I take one step to my right to see the piece from the side and realize there are rows of hundreds of the same wires and shapes going back through the room off into the distance in every direction. They are lined up so perfectly that from the correct angle it appears as if there is only one of them in the room. We take in the shapes from several different angles. We marvel at the precision of craftsmanship. The exactitude and painstaking obsession it must have taken to build such a glorious and mysterious structure. I find it hard to blink. Not out of a need to stare, my eyes physically will not close. I tap you on the shoulder to get your attention but you are already looking at me. The back of your head looks exactly like the front. I turn you around and from all angles you appear the same. Your hair stretches down straight to the same point just beneath your shoulder blades and the back collar of your shirt lifts up a small amount at the seam. You are spinning around in a slow circle yet from every angle you appear the same. Your shape does not change. Your arms hang at your sides and the heel of your black shoe shows the same grey scuff at the side.
I move on to the next glass walled room. Two long black vertical lines stretch from a few feet above the floor reaching up to the same distance from the high ceiling. As I move closer I can see the lines are the close edges of very long rectangles. The rectangles are connected to the floor and ceiling by the same wire and hook mechanisms as the “O”, “+”, “p”, “#” and “?” from the previous room. There are thousands of them. The line of rectangles stretches out before me in an endless procession of straight black lines. Perspective is playing tricks on my eyes. The vanishing point does not seem to play by the same rules of physics in this room as the rest of the world. The lines at the top and the bottom of the rectangles do not fade away into the distance at angles. They move forward in perfectly straight lines keeping the corners all at perfect ninety degree angles onward and onward off into the distance. I stop at mid center between the two closest rectangles and stare at the impossibleness of the piece in front of me. Before I begin to ponder how the artist constructed such a feat of engineering, a man falls from above. He dives straight down splashing into a pool of water exactly in the center of the rectangles before me. He faces away from me and begins to swim. His arms and feet move in slow motion, though he is swimming as fast as he can. Water splashes high above him and out to the sides of the spot of water. There is nothing beneath but the sides of the rectangles. No water fills the rest of the room and I cannot see any of him slide beneath the surface of the water floating in the center of space. The swimmer and the water are reflected in the rectangles that have now become mirrors. The swimmer struggles to move forward and gains no progress in any of the infinite reflections to the left and right and stretching out ahead through the infinite row of doppelgangers moving out into the distance. The reflections do not curve away into nothingness. There is no cheap funhouse mirror trickery here. Every muscle in the swimmers arms, the light reflecting off of his rubber eye goggle strap, the dirt under the corner of his right big toenail all appear in perfect detail in every reflection in every direction off into infinity. The swimmer turns his head up for air. I lose perspective. I breathe. You are standing next to me. The mirrors go on and on. The swimmer swims. The swimmer goes nowhere. O+p#?
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