Zero to Shunya

                                     Yin and Yang

The journey from zero to shunya is an interesting one. From the nullness of zero to the stillness of shunya, the all-encompassing circle includes and excludes everything and nothing. From the failure of being zero to the mysticism of shunya, this circle is the beginning and the end. The duality of this circle, given its diametrically opposite point of views, gives birth to the possibility of being ‘in – between’.

Claude Live Strauss’ Culinary Triangle

For example, Levi-Strauss’ Culinary Triangle talks about two opposing point of views in food: raw and cooked. Between the ‘cultural’ cooked and ‘natural’ raw lies the rotten. The immanent opposition lends meaning to the other. Just as between the state of failure and success lies the possibility of creativity. Thus, in the binary relationship of zero and hero, lie many in-between conjectural triangles that are not an exception to failure, instead form the other node of the triangle. Here is looking at such in-between creative possibilities in three forms of failure.

Colleano is regarded as the world’s greatest tightwire artist.

Failure to communicate / apprehend 

Visceral performances communicate strongly, pushing aside gender, identity or social biases. Merleau-Ponty’s idea of the body being the primary site of knowing the world is effectively communicated in trapeze and circus performances. Before cinema, spectatorship was alive in circuses and performances. The tight-wire artist, Con Colleano’s popularity transcended national boundaries. He was exceedingly popular, with a huge fan following including the likes of Adolf Hitler.

The tactics of interaction in trapeze and other circus performers is a spectacular theatrical performance engaged with the physicality of the body, employing the absurd, grotesque, shocking and emotional in the same breath.

Hilarity, discomfort and human capabilities are displayed in full form at the circus, so much so that in contemporary usage, one often refers to man’s lack of clarity of vision as “making a circus of himself”.

A Java railroad line, Soerabaja-Djokjakarta, drawn in November 1937 as illustrated in Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte.

Failure to / of function

The function of image lies in its representation. By drawing a visual interpretation of information, Infographics send layers of information through simple, logical and universal signs.  Precise visualisation is the key to understanding the complexity of data represented. It might be subjective in utility, but an effective design will sustain wide spread user-adoption. Form and function have to work together here. If the data is incomplete, then the visualisation will be flawed. Working at the intersection of illustrations, design and art, the principles of information design as pointed out by Edward Tufte, a pioneer in the field of data visualisation, are universal like mathematics and are not tied to a particular region or culture.

Form and function point to adaptation. Gearing up towards perfection, adaptability develops from form and function. Failure in function is succeeded by change in form in order to adapt suitably to change. Adaptability is not only a biological function, but is very much a part of the design history.

Abhishek Hazra’s performance, Laughing in a Sine Curve, 2008

Failure to reach an end / conclude

Experiments might not concede expected results, but nevertheless there are results. Abhishek Hazra’s art is an experiment with science. Interestingly, his works are not about him, but the experiments speak as the subject itself.

His performances- Laughing in a Sine Curve, Shouting Needham from the Rooftops, Ghost law Pipe Flow –are about the experiments and not about the visceral property of body. Like an omniscient narrator, Hazra with the responsibility of performing the experiment, takes an objective standpoint while still assuming a subjective approach. His work, Laughing in a Sine Curve, is an attempt to physically perform / emote the sine curve by the continuous transformation between laughing and crying. In the opposition of the subject and object of his experiments, utterances of gestures in the language of the experiment frames Hazra’s practice as the experimenter. His concepts, thus, exist in the space between hypothesis and conclusion.

While articulating the creative in-betweens, this piece tries to illustrate failure as an opportunity to articulate opposition. An opportunity that is the synthesis of different energies and patterns leading up to the no-thing-ness of Shunya.

This article first appeared in the online artzine The Fuschia Tree at