Walker and Walker
Walker and Walker
Instead of an Object

Rebecca O'Dwyer

Being an identical twin involves an above-average amount of odd questions, with the strangest by some distance being put to me by a friend’s older brother, about sixteen years ago. If I went to sleep in my twin sister’s bed, he wanted to know, woke up and went about her duties for the day, could I then
be my sister? How would I know if I wasn’t? Asked with a worrisome degree of solemnity, this particular line of questioning sticks in my mind even now because it is founded on a ridiculousness I cannot exactly rule out. As newborns we were but indistinguishable lumps of wailing flesh; one sleep-deprived, entirely understandable slip means I could well be someone else.

So on being asked to write this, I first assumed it was because I, just like Walker and Walker, have an identical twin. Here my credentials are first-rate: I have had her for thirty-three years, and so am quite experienced in this regard. Consequently I have always understood Being – and specifically my own, lower-case one – as something that could just as easily have been otherwise. I might have been, or indeed might be, my sister. Or I might have been her at one point, before switching back. When I look at her face, I grasp the uncanny fact of a person exactly like me – but, totally and undeniably,
not. I think about poetry, which is really just normal words arranged in varying ways, and about the trouble in pinpointing the exact crossing where they become something absolutely not.

Still, failing to adequately coalesce a particular relation between language and form, art can always stay stuck, rather than cross over. When it works, though, it can resemble an idea made material – language turned, like milk. Through it, at times I can even temper an obdurate reliance on the brute reality of the world, where everything can be named, circumscribed and kept apart. A stuffed owl can speak something of philosophy, while a mountain can become a metaphor for untrammelled belief. It allows me, in a very real way, to rethink the boundary between being and nothing, which I observe to be both paper-thin and mutable. In effect, art ensures some-thing can become some-thing else, neither, or even both at the same time.

Exactly how this unfolds remains hazy, with efforts to locate art somewhere on the hippocampus remaining feeble, or at least for now. Likewise, an artist might be skilled, no doubt, but to keep on crossing requires a good bit more than any quantifiable consolation of skill. What’s needed, instead, is a lack of knowledge that is, rather than being an obstacle, the very necessity of art. Before making any art at all, first we have to come to terms with the existence of an unsurpassable lack. Just as it is with René Daumal’s Mount Analogue, the mountain’s existence has first to be accepted, before it can ever be found. Problem is, there is no proof. No one can work out what exactly makes an artwork
work, with a capacity to communicate something other than its material support. It might just as easily have been otherwise; just, simply put, that it’s not.