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One true path

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Date Minted: April 10, 2020

Artist Description: It is beautiful and enticing. It calls to you in a singular way. All answers will be revealed instantly upon reaching its end. But the one true path is an illusion many spend their entire lives chasing. Some think the light leads to a promised land, but it is a trap. Life is about the journey, and adhering to one true path strips the traveler of the essence of existence. Stare into its depths at your peril, and turn away. Your path is a different one.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Gauging from the artist’s description, this piece’s very title is a misnomer. “...The one true path is an illusion many spend their entire lives chasing. Some think the light leads to a promised land, but it is a trap. Life is about the journey, and adhering to one true path strips the traveler of the essence of existence.” Well, okay, looks like we have some quasi-religious art on our hands. That isn’t surprising, what with the language of the description, coupled with the covert allusions to Eastern Philosophy —one can almost make out the image of a lotus flower as colors fly by. One true path, by Rhyolight, takes the artist’s affinity for generative video, which he calls “biologically-inspired generative art” and applies it not to the abstractionism which characterizes much of his work, but to a concept of utmost spiritual importance: that of life’s underlying meaning. Perhaps so grandiose a concept, it can only adequately be rendered in abstraction: lights, shapes, colors, things devoid of concrete analytical meaning. Rhyolight has crafted a piece as coy and esoteric as would befit an exploration of such a high-minded concept, complete with enough of the aforementioned colors and movement and light to mesmerize any gazing eyes. One true path is a beautiful work, and a hypnotic work, but an ironic one too. It cautions us not to get too fixated on any single thing, and yet does all it can, apparently, to get us fixating on it, nonetheless.

One true path runs on a 15-second loop, one in which the black screen which initially greets us gives way to a small, but bright, flashing golden light; it is the only thing we can see in the darkness, and so of course it captures our attention. After a second or so, a red outline, almost like that of a flower, appears from the outskirts of the image, moving quickly towards the center, as if sucked-in by it. Red laser-like lines will fill in much of the image to come, lines that seem to have been inspired by the visual-style of the 80’s, where computer-aided animation was possible, sure, but had a clunky, chunky, somewhat choppy look to it. The red floral outline approaches the dot in the center, while behind it, facsimiles of that shape multiply and follow the original’s path inward. Soon, the entire image is awash in red patterns, red dots, red lines, red squiggly shapes, red feathers, all moving towards the glowing golden light —now an orange orb— but at such a speed and with such multiplicity that the image itself is almost entirely now a sea of red, churning and changing frequently, and everything is enveloped, the golden light grows more and more powerful, now it is like a small sun, and everything is red. The light goes out. The red lines dissipate. And again, the screen goes black. Blackness leads to color leads to a veritable sunburst leads to a supernova leads, again, to nothing. And then one true path loops itself again. 

There’s obviously a lot of meaning packed into these colors, a meaning as dense as the color composition itself. It’s hard to tell exactly what each symbol within the image is meant to denote. Even when reconsulting the artist description, we get no more inkling of the image’s intention than one’s we can ascribe a “maybe.” Maybe the glowing golden light is the ultimate goal, the so-called “meaning of life,” whereas the red pouring into the piece is that which aims to distract us from it. Maybe the golden glowing light is a distraction in and of itself, and the price we pay for following it is denoted by the flood of red, which could signal hatred, fury, fire, or passion. Maybe the glowing golden light is purity itself, until it has been overtaken by the influence of all the red, the red which may or may not have been placed around it to mimic the effect of the material world on the initial purity, corrupting it, and, inevitably, destroying it, leaving its seekers in the same spot as where they started: with nothing.

Again, parsing out a meaning is probably too tall a task. We’d have to know more about the artistic intentions. We’d have to see the piece slowed down. Like, I think I see lotus flowers within that mishmash of red color, but I can’t be sure. I can’t be sure of anything: just when the red seems to betray the images it hides, more color floods in, destroying any perception of specificity. It becomes a deluge. It becomes solid. It becomes annihilating. 

I can’t quite turn away, however, from thinking along these lines. Rhyolight includes in the hashtags for this piece, “#metaphor #philosophy #red #religion #surreal.” So we know there’s a metaphor here, and we know it has something to do with being distracted by that aforementioned “meaning of life,” but it’s hidden behind so much esoteric color and composition, things not un-beautiful but ones that certainly mystify the meaning, dearticulating it. We are left, I suppose by design, floating, merely experiencing, without much in the way of concrete image or allusion to grasp onto. We end up more-or-less submerged in all the colors and movement, our attention pulled away from the initial golden light and into the background, ever-changing, every mysterious, ever-interesting. “...Adhering to one true path strips the traveler of the essence of existence. Stare into its depths at your peril, and turn away. Your path is a different one.” Are these “depths,” which I suppose we’re naturally inclined to gaze into, equated with the golden light? But the golden light holds our attention for only a moment; soon there is so much engrossing us at the image’s fringes, taking our attention away from that path we are initially set out to follow. I’m not sure, based on how Rhyolight has constructed this piece, that one can adhere too strongly to the one-true path. As it is displayed here, that path wavers in intensity, eaten up by stronger forces exploding in from the fringes. 

What I do know, what does make sense to me, what I can identify with, is the place where the piece begins and ends. Nothingness, blackness, emptiness. The time before and the time after all this “searching for a path” occurs. Rhyolight seems to be implying that we can wander around, searching here or there for meaning, perhaps even succeeding, but where do we end up? Right where we started, either doomed or destined to do it all again. 

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