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An ongoing investigation

I’ve a length of rope in my hands, I loop one end over the other, thread the end through and pull it tight. I’ve made a knot and the motion of it, the feel of the rope in my hands and the circling motion of it, the pulling tight, the possibly unnecessary second tug to fix the knot in, feel not just familiar to the point of invisibility, but universal, something from deep time, from the forever space.

I’m making knots. But not any kind of knot, I seem to have made a choice, I’m making the kind of knot an amateur knot maker makes, a landlubber’s knot, a knot in a hurry, a messy knot, a granny knot (am I that old all of a sudden already?). I’ve doubled over the small tight simple knot with more loops and thread throughs, pulling it fast to create a mass, like a tumour or a growth or a rhizome (there’s that word again). Because this is not a knot for use, it’s a small form I’m making to draw.

I’m drawing knots because I’m a bit stuck and to get unstuck I’ve decided to be literal. The irony of trying to get unstuck by creating little lumps of stuck-ness is not lost on me. I suppose they call it being blocked – though that pretends a process, it’s rather that blankness when nothing comes. I’ve made a small cargo cult for myself you see – find a space, draw the space, have a deadline, panic and suddenly – whoosh – something happens. It’s been a series of cargo cults – that is the arrangement of the conditions of the last bounty, that I’ve made for myself. I needed a studio to create the conditions of making, I needed a space to think of, some constraints to bounce off, something. I’m clearly no self starter, which brings into question what I’m doing at all. It’s not happening, the whatever it is, so I’m stuck, I’m in knots so I’m drawing knots.

A history of knots is impossible, or at least a history with a start point. Like LeGuin’s gatherer’s bag or Mead’s tended healed femur, it’s out there in the way back. Modern humans made beads to string in the Pleistocene some 120,000 years ago. Non-sapiens, our predecessors, neighbours, rivals, seem to have even earlier. A bead needs a tie, a tie needs a knot. Somewhere out there in our first moments a woman twirled grasses into twine and threaded the twine through a hole’d shell and tied it round her granddaughter’s neck and the whole of human history started. Pottery, houses, the city, the wheel, libraries and currencies, great ships, atom bombs and supercomputers, twisted into being. And look where we are, right at the other end of it, still the same movement of the hands, still the same knots.

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