Notes Towards The Iridescene

My earliest pieces eschewed anchoring themselves to a specific ideology but rather were each an inquiry into the possibility of even recognizing one. This work was very much engaged with the surface, surface tension, shine (cf. Schein), scrims, porosity, iridescence. This engagement with iridescent materials came from my interest in animal camouflage – the vibrating interface between appearance and reality. At the time, I saw camouflage as the site par excellence of different, incommensurable realities quivering, colliding.

I realized that this impulse to create sprawling installations was not mere display strategy but a manifestation of my work’s conceptual concerns. My work itself was trying to iridesce. Performance amplified this. To “iridesce” is my coinage that references an essential fact of iridescence. Although iridescence appears to make animals so colorful, it is not a matter of pigmentation. Rather, it is a geometric/structural phenomenon: iridescence depends on the position/perspective of the viewer. My work, too, comes into being through the viewer’s constantly shifting encounters with it in different moments and spaces. When I say the work iridesces, it is not only in this architectonic sense. This is where my art practice begins to be visible.

I think we live with an experience of reality that fundamentally iridesces. A line or shape might trigger a memory, which in turn might heighten a particular sense, and then constellate with further recollections or feelings. Joan Jonas once said that she layers things because thought is structured in layers; I think that it goes beyond just layers. It iridesces. This glimmering movement through different sets of possibilities and realities, tracing and examining the twists and connections, is one of the main concerns of my work. This inquiry is what led me to borrowing from iridescence and arriving at my proposal. Iridescing, though itself perhaps quick, involves a certain slowing down of perception. Perhaps to the point where perception maybe catches itself perceiving. It wants to linger in that interstice, or whatever it is, between perception and recognition.

Abstraction, an erasure of clear boundaries, has always haunted my work. But I’m beginning to see that my work operates within or generates a politics of the unknowable. This is a political stance. It is becoming my response, or my mode of engagement, with the blunt reality that who I accidentally happen to be is presently so politicized. Sometimes I joke that it’s only when I actually join a conversation about “race” or “identity” that I begin to Other myself. When you first start out, as a child, you are not necessarily even aware that you are one thing or another. You simply are. Not yet suffused with form, not yet ossified by the rigid contours of ideology. I feel like I live close to that early formless state. That is my politics—adamant and uncompromising.

These notes are working towards The Iridescene. It is an attempt to bring together the various aforementioned threads, particularly the ones surrounding my neologism, to iridesce. The proposal is that this scintillation, this iridescing, the explosion of perspectives, begins to offer a scaffolding for radical encounter: encountering difference, the hitherto unknown, the Other, the repressed, the inarticulable. Iridescing is about perception at its most formless, most playful. This also suggests the possibility of a critique that might actually escape ideology.

Tavi Meraud

New York
April 2019
(c) 2020 Tavi Meraud