vessels

Cupped hands may have formed the first man­made ves­sel, to catch water, to trans­port food to the cave mouth. Does the idea for ves­sel stem from a thirst? Does the ves­sel solid­ify a train of thought? Do crea­tures cre­ate con­tain­ers intu­itively? “Ves­sel” existed before man straight­ened up; calyxes, nut­shells, nests; vaces, craters, lakes and the seas. Untouch­able and magic, the hori­zon, the cos­mos and, who knows, the Big Bang? Man cre­ates ves­sels as uten­sils, arte­facts, cult objects and sym­bols. Abo­rig­i­nal bowls, gob­lets, Socrate’s cup of hem­lock, Ming vases, the Pan­theon, ocean lin­ers, space shut­tles, the Olympic Bei­jing nest, a pro­ton accelerator, …

Rooms are ves­sels of antic­i­pa­tion. Unless full of things, they fill up with imag­i­na­tion. They have an aura. Acco­mo­dat­ing our cog­ni­tive cre­ativ­ity they facil­i­tate sto­ries. Space sug­gests scale and size — big­ness — and the uni­verse implies the infi­nite. If we look into the skies, we think we see space, as if! Space becomes object when cer­tain events occur: pre­scribed enclousure, defined form and a  recog­nis­able idea, a con­cept. When the space/object is very large it can become mon­u­men­tal, manifest, develop charisma, its aura invit­ing entry. And isn’t  the inner vol­ume of the ves­sel also a place where some­one or some­thing can set­tle, a place of pos­si­bil­i­ties and options even when it’s empt? Lao-Tse con­sid­ers the mid­dle should remain empty or as an ancient say­ing puts it: “mass is the ser­vant of the void.” Ves­sel has pur­pose and func­tion if we elim­i­nate its voids, if we fill it with sub­stance. Yet the unused and empty ves­sel is more absorb­ing. Its hol­low form is spir­i­tual, an antic­i­pat­ing vacancy. Being empty, the hol­low form elic­its inven­tion. Space as empti­ness seeks to be con­quered. Bound­aries add to its iden­tity: lines that describe, planes that mask, smaller spaces that set­tle within, larger spaces that encase. The ves­sel is an itin­er­ant space look­ing for a place to rest and serve us — tem­porar­ily or per­ma­nently. The ves­sel is a con­tainer of a vis­i­ble sub­stance or an invis­i­ble idea, cre­at­ing Place around and inside its volume.

For Aris­to­tle, place is the invis­i­ble hull of a body/volume that envelops it like an unseen glove. It cre­ates an auratic field of inex­act dimen­sion that nev­er­the­less remains fixed — “in  place”. The body/volume can change posi­tion, move in space, seek a new place. The space — the ves­sel — can be trans­ported through all dimen­sions to a dif­fer­ent place, out into the cos­mos or into other volumes.

Small ves­sels stim­u­late a para­dox: can void and bound­ary be dis­tilled to an indis­tin­guish­able dimen­sion, such that we recog­nise both as being a sin­gle entity? Does the ves­sel make space tan­gi­ble? What makes the small­est, even inac­ces­si­ble ves­sel space enjoy­able? Is it the char­ac­ter and con­sti­tu­tion of ist bound­ary? What makes a large space enjoy­able? Is it the notion of expan­sion, or the per­cep­tion of the beauty of its bound­ary? What makes a very large or cos­mic space enjoy­able? It is the notion of the invis­i­ble bound­ary, the fas­ci­na­tion with infin­ity. We know the senses alone are not enough to under­stand space. If the bound­ary becomes invis­i­ble, space becomes pure imagination.