Year 5, Piece Twenty-Four: 30. Blue Orange

Using all your holes to create. Paying attention.

Blue and Orange are complementary colors, opposite each other on the color wheel. Blue is the color of water and Orange the color of fire, another set of opposites. Yet both of those elements represent creative forces. Water represents the emotional, intuitive realm, and fire represents your craft, your passion, what you create. 

Blue is expression and Orange is creativity. Those sound quite similar, but the urge to create is perhaps different than the urge to express or even to communicate. It is one thing to make a thing, it is quite another to share it with the world. Blue and Orange also originate from different parts of the body. Blue comes from the throat, the noises you make, the words you speak, the songs you sing. Orange comes from your sexual organs, your loins if you will. Orange is what you create with your body. Not just reproduction, but sexuality itself. And not just sexuality, but anything you create from a burning urge inside of you.

Anyone who has given birth can tell you that your throat and your loins are quite connected. A midwife taught me that what you do with your mouth during labor affects your vagina and vulva. Making out is certainly helpful (lips and lips, afterall) but this also includes the sounds that you make. Long, low, resonant, deep sounds during labor open your mouth and your throat and all the channels in your body. High pitched screams are tempting, especially in the face of fear, but they make you tighten up. Hell, this probably also works for all of your orifices and what comes in and out of them. What comes out of your mouth directly affects what you can put into the world. 

For five years, Rainbow Squared has been a way for me to make. Like Blue Orange, to create from a burning urge inside of me and speak it into the world. What started as an exercise in artistic production has turned into something else. Over time it’s become less about what I create and more about what I notice, what I am in communication with and what is communicating with me. It’s an exercise in paying attention.

I am finally reading the book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. As another artist who works with trash while keeping it contextualized as trash, I have had an artist crush on her for a long time, and this book does not disappoint. Ultimately, pulling away from the infinite feed of internet content is not only about removing your attention, but also about putting it somewhere else. Odell gives her deep attention to the natural world around her, cultivating a relationship with her bioregion and to the birds, plants, and organisms she encounters. I guess you could say I give my attention to the physical world around me, cultivating a relationship with color.

Having a weekly practice of artmaking is actually itself a way to resist the attention economy. It’s no accident that this practice has taken the place of television for me: it’s not only that I don’t have time to watch it, I kind of don’t need it as much anymore. In a way, this is my TV. Not the content that I am generating, but the process of making it, the conversation with the world. This project has also taken the place of a lot of time I would otherwise spend on social media. While I certainly still scroll the internet, I probably do less of it, and only a small percentage of it is in social media channels with people I know personally (for better or worse). 

And of course, I am generating content here and posting it on the internet. Yet maaaybe this very intentional approach to self-chronicling is something different. Afterall, there is something about the structure of this particular content that makes it anathema to social media. Would you want to read this in your infinite scroll? Do you read it in your inbox? (If you do, you can always let me know by replying to this email) (or even “liking” it) (for better or worse). It has always felt weird to try to insert this work into social media, but that’s where the people are, right? And you (yes, you) engaging with the work is part of it for me. Gloriously though, it’s not the only part of it. If the making of the work is itself a performance piece, in some ways I am probably the number one audience member for this work. It is gratifying just to make it.

But what has also been deeply gratifying is having other people make it. I am so excited for other people not just to read it but to do it. Every seventh piece this year is a collaboration, with three so far and the fourth in the works. Next year there will be way more (maybe you?). And like with each weekly piece, the process is the best part. This is spiritual work, divination work, channeling someone and drawing the card for them that will determine the colors that set them off on their own personal journey of inquiry. I didn’t realize until writing this week’s piece that I even use that word “attention” to guide them in their process, telling them over email:

“Ultimately whatever you are learning or discovering while you happen to be paying attention to these colors is what you are meant to share. Honor your own experience as the art itself and the right images and words will emerge from that.”

In this way, Blue Orange is more than an individual expressing creativity. It is that individual communicating with creation, a reciprocal act.