The Mythic Line

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The Mythic Line
framed collage
and postcards
by Dale Copeland
collage $480 plus postage
postcards $3 (plus postage unless they're included with something else)

I was invited to be in an exhibition at the Govett Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth. Titled 'All Lines converge'.
It got me thinking. I wrote this rant, and was pleased with it, so had postcards made; image on front, rant on back. Still pleased.


The Mythic Line

Once upon a … do you remember? … we really believed in lines.

We would scratch along a ruler to indicate the infinite number of points to satisfy an equation. Uncountably infinite points but we were confident of our line. Gradient, intercepts, all accounted for. With little arrows at the ends to show that the line was greater than the graph, went beyond the desk, bigger than the whole school, forever. As though the whole universe was laid out in Cartesian coordinates.

So many smug facts: a line is shortest distance between two points; parallels never meet (the older kids might add ‘except at infinity’ and we’d imagine a vanishing point of perspective, further away even than Auckland).

Knowledge chips away at belief. A line is one-dimensional, has zero width. So our graphs were gross and ragged approximations. Perhaps the closest we can get to a line is an edge. The edge between two colours in a Mondrian painting, neither one colour nor the other but between. So much like our idea of ‘now’. Between the long past and the long future there is our now, occupying no time at all as future becomes past.

We live on a more-or-less spherical planet. So the shortest distance between two points is part of a great circle … those sweeping curves we see in the in-flight magazines. The latitude parallels go around the world and join up, making smaller circles towards the poles. Whereas the great circles showing longitude all converge and cross at the poles. And yet the latitude parallels cross the longitudes at right angles, everywhere. By a school theorem, longitudes are all parallel. But meeting at the poles.

So, to save our concept, we step away from our planet. Surely our x and y axes and our brave little graphs have meaning out in space? And our beliefs have truth? Einstein’s theory of relativity gained its first supporting proof when the path of light was observed to bend in the gravitational field as it skimmed past our Sun.

Space-time is curved. The line is dead.


Dale's studio can be found on Surf Highway, Taranaki, New Zealand

More of her work can be seen on the Virtual TART site at http://virtual.tart.co.nz/Dale

email Dale   at dale @ tart.co.nz (remove the spaces)
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Image © Dale Copeland