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Ponder Point1

23 Chunks of Being:

Gregory Grieve’s Experiments in Transmitting Pure actuality

Thinking beyond thinking is right.

Thinking about thinking is wrong.

  -Dōgen Zenji, “Reading Sutra”


In his assemblage, Instant Replay (2022), Grieve invites you to knell and relive his experience of engagement with pure actuality. More easily said than done, Instant Replay, like his twenty-two other pieces, is not so much a representation but rather a recipe, ritual, or blueprint for a particular experience. Don’t view it; use it. As the French philosopher and theologian Pascal writes: "Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe"?


Also, unknown to Grieve himself, but evident to any reasonable viewer, these 23 pieces both reveal and mask the slow integration of the artist's identity over the span of his life. Consider, for instance, the painting, Hindsight (2022), which depicts Grieve naked in nothing but a face covering, which both masks and reveals him.  In short, these 23 pieces are also reflections of Grieve as a sentient being who lives in a particular historic moment, interpolated by a particular set of cultural categories, and playing out certain social roles. For instance, the unseen protagonist in Grieve’s video, Where Does Love Go (2009), is named Mr. Spiegel (mirror) and alludes not just to self-reflection, but also to Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory of the mirror stage (stade du miroir), which argues that when infants recognize their own reflection in a mirror, it turns them into an object that can be viewed by the child from outside themselves.

In a similar fashion, like flavors, and color hues or petals on a flower, each of the twenty-three pieces in the exhibition is an experiment in transmitting pure actuality. They are complex, dense, and layered, requiring grappling with contradictions and multiple meanings. They require experiential spelunking through unexplored puns and allusions, both intended, and unintended, and, like some future technology, intentions not yet known.  Still, the essence of Grieve’s twenty-three “chunks of being” is simple (乾 [☰/ =]).  Grieve famously calls himself monomaniacal about piercing the horizon of background that makes up lived reality. Each piece is an experiment using material-semiotic sign systems to transmit openings, glimpses, and markings of the pure actuality of reality that —— Grieve poses anyway — lies just outside of any system of communication but are necessary for it. As Grieve reported, “What is pure actuality? When no one asks me, I know. But if I seek to transmit it to someone who asks me about it, then I do not.”

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The DIĜIR is a Sumerian word for “god” or “goddess.”

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