Rubber bands

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There’s little more frustrating than starting a rubber band ball. The folding, twisting, wrapping—snap! Time to start over again. I tried again, folding the first rubber band in half and in half again and then started to wrap the second around it and the slightest move of my finger made the first lose its shape—time to start over.

And of course, above all else, a rubber band ball takes time—and rubber bands I suppose—hundreds if not thousands of straps of rubber go in to making just a single ball. And perhaps the best part is, you don’t know necessarily what you’re making until you’ve made it and you know it’s never done until you’re satisfied with it.

But what does it communicate to you that signifies “done”ness or completeness? Is it the weight? The feel of the uneven grippy texture of the bands gripping against my palm with the satisfying mass that tells me of the hours of dedication bound up in this ball? Is it the constraint of time or materials? That I simply can’t make more mass because of material limitation?

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I’m sitting at this kitchen table making a rubber band ball across from a maker space inspired project book. One of the series of projects is a rubber band ball of the planets. How to create Jupiter, Saturn, etc. out of rubber bands binding the meaning of the planets in with the colors and patterns that visually signify the corresponding planet: a complete-able project goal with clearly articulated materials needed to make this.

But what I’m struck by as I’m sitting at this table, feeling the tension and release as each band flexes and wraps around the others is the indeterminate, the undefined. My band ball looking more like a germinating potato. There’s a satisfaction that comes with the addition of another band that also comes with an uncertainty. Has this one band altered the ball? Will it? Could it? If I had angled the band differently, how would that change? Would the patterns and textures created give a different feel? A different completeness?

At any moment a rubber band ball could be complete, after all. And if it were one on its own, it’s still a complete object that means. The rubber band. The snap against your wrist as that annoying kid who made fun of you at recess pulls back and releases a band in class—the time you tripped down the stairs in the office building holding a stack of newly printed documents bound together in one band that then scattered across the floor—that wooden gun your uncle bought you on your tenth birthday that you spent hours shooting the beige circlets at the oak trees out back—when you were nineteen and sitting at a desk and you realized that, yes, centuries of musicians and mathematicians weren’t lying when you produced a note an octave higher than the first—your senior year in high school when you handed in your final portfolio that you’d lived out the whole year in a sort of anticlimax all tethered together by the single and unimpressive band

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I think too about time in this ball. The way it is bound and complete, but becomes newly complete and incompleted anew with the addition of a new band. The ball that bounces across the table seems unstable: that it could continue to grow, or shrink and be at once enacting its history and futures all together. The ball’s ball-ness is iterative and only seems to be a completed ball when it is named a completed ball—a fixed point in ball-ness; I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

But it’s all caught up in that tension. That felt tension when your fingers press against the edges of the bands, or you pull and that release. It retains its shape, or encompasses another within it.

One thought on “Rubber bands

  1. Pingback: touching [writing, writing] feeling | Thomas Passwater

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