Bring me a sense of wonder please…

Wonder is such a beautiful word.

When the first encounter with some object surprises us, and we judge it to be new, or very different from what we knew in the past or what we supposed it was going to be, this makes us wonder and be astonished at it. And since this can happen before we know in the least whether this object is suitable to us or not, it seems to me that Wonder is the first of all the passions. It has no opposite, because if the object presented has nothing in it that surprises us, we are not in the least moved by it and regard it without passion. (Descartes The Passions of The Soul Article 53.)

Tara Donovan, Untitled (Rubber Bands), 2006

Tara Donovan
Untitled (Rubber Bands), 2006
Relief print from rubber bands matrix

It’s been written of Tara Donovan‘s works of sculpture, prints and drawings that these installations “bring wonder to the most common objects of everyday life”…  source image via Barbara Krakow Gallery


I’ve seen the works composed of toothpicks, of drinking straws – in such amazing accumulations and arrangements that I too could not help but feel a sense of wonder.  These things – singular and ordinary, are just toothpicks, but collect a couple of hundred thousands of them and then spend what I imagine might seem as hundreds of hours to arrange them in a neat cube on the floor measuring a cubic yard and you can’t help but wonder.

Compulsive / Obsessive ?

In a world where leisure as opposed to labor – seems a constant valued pursuit of the ordinary citizen, I wonder if we are moved by seeing the results of labor – no matter how pointless the results might be – (in this case what use is a neat stack of toothpicks really?)  Are we merely moved by seeing the ordinary in a new way?

For me, appreciation begins in making the artistic action/object accessible.  I visited a show of these works with my kids and for me one test of great work is not about obscure references to even more obscure events past, rather, it’s more basic, it’s about how much wonder the work generates.  My kids and I were equally in wonder. We’re all familiar with toothpicks or drinking straws – but we’ve never seen them like this before!

I’ve come to realize that for me the pleasure from experiencing these things is the quite accessible feeling of the fundamental enjoyment of wonder… Imbibing work with a sense of wonder is a delicate and difficult task. Anticipating expectations and delivering on expectations or exceptions does not guarantee a sense of wonder. Same goes for showing us something new, “never before seen”. Sometimes, many times, this just tips things into the odd and curious category.  But,  I’m left still with the question: Why?

What I want to try to see better are the things that I see all the time but oddly fail to notice until someone points out “hey,  take a look at this!” … and it makes me wonder.


1 thought on “Bring me a sense of wonder please…

  1. Pingback: Visit: But does it float? « Intersecting Images

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