All flesh is grass
Rows of dry winter grass were at first loosely scribbled in pencil on paper. The unkempt pencil lines were then painstakingly converted into lines of text. The carefully ordered small text that constitutes the arbitrary lines is made up of the names of a cross section of the South African population as one might find in a telephone directory – ‘all flesh’. The idea was to harness carefree drawing elements by means of a painstakingly meticulous method. To get the typography of the names absolutely perfect, computer-aided drafting was used. The transient, fleeting windswept chaff is combined with its opposite – a systematic, refined and thorough microtext that is at first hardly visible.
The artwork ALL FLESH IS GRASS and its endless list of names points at the probability of each individual having a fairly interesting life, and like grass, somewhat fruitful, perhaps even admirable. In the grand scheme of things, arguably, every life is philosophically trivial and fated to oblivion. The Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa, in his Livro do Desassossego (Book of the Disquiet) said:
Everything stated or expressed by man is a note in the margin of a completely erased text. From what’s in the note we can extract the gist of what must have been in the text, but there is always a doubt, and the possible meanings are many.
In these random impressions, and with no desire to be other than random, I indifferently narrate my factless autobiography, my lifeless history. These are my Confessions, and if in them I say nothing, it is because I have nothing to say.
The full text from Isaiah 40:6 and 7 from the New International Version of the Bible reads:
A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?" "All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass.
As individuals we are at best inconsequential, insignificant and lost. Disturbing as it might sound, we begin as nothing and we return to nothing. The wonder of it all is that all grass has to die, to make way for new growth. Amazingly the DNA of our short, contentious lives is constantly revived in the new offspring of our species. Interestingly, through insistent dogma, the linguistic DNA of old names is also carried over to the people of the future. I don’t think we are as bright as we think we are and to me there is hardly any DNA difference, nor any other philosophical variance, between us and the grass with perhaps one exception. The grass ‘knows’ its place and we don’t.