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On Eggs — Part 1 of 2
Recently I gave a meandering talk on the symbol of the “egg”— and how it connects to my work and thinking holistically. The following is (half of) an adapted version of that talk originally created for Naive Yearly in Copenhagen. Enjoy and feel free to share any reflections or questions in the comments.
p.s. I’ll share the second half next week!
The egg evokes the beginning, the simple, the source.
It was a mysterious beginning, full of potential — and one that made sense to me, somehow.
(That is, when Kristoffer proposed I explore the theme of “egg” for my talk.)
I don’t remember when eggs started to enter my consciousness and my work. But perhaps they have always been there, ambiently in the background, from the beginning.
Speaking of beginnings, I was born in a town called Normal, Illinois. It’s a beautiful and simple place, with many farms and cornfields nearby.
In their book Super Normal: Sensations of the Ordinary, designers Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison mention the goose egg:
Seeing the goose egg, we are not surprised by the form at all, but the scale of it warps our perception momentarily, allowing us to see something normal in a new way. There’s nothing wrong with the form of a chicken egg except that we are used to seeing it. Seeing the goose egg, we can enjoy the form as if seeing it for the first time.
When artists use eggs in their work, I believe they are often simply pointing to the egg as a form so that you can also see it anew again, as if appreciating it for the first time.
In these pieces, I like these simple but profound moves that help us appreciate something already amazing within our world.
Similarly, when I start new projects, I spend a lot of time understanding the context to see if simply by studying it, my work can bring to life or make more apparent something special already existing.
Some years ago, I was working on the naming, identity, and signage system for a forthcoming public art garden that did not exist yet. We started the project by visiting the site and taking photos. It was a unique place: a river with stone walls on either side, lush surrounding vegetation, and numerous pedestrian bridges. We imagined it becoming a curious combination between a garden, park, and museum.
To make our work — which celebrated a collection of public artwork that did not exist yet — we needed to imagine the artwork first.
I couldn’t help but imagine a giant egg on top of this pedestrian bridge.
Somehow, this large egg on a bridge felt perfect to me.
I couldn’t quite explain it at the time, but now I understand a little better. This was the beginning of this public art garden project, with so many unknowns. By placing an egg (a symbol of growth, new beginnings, and hope for the future) on a bridge (a symbol about providing passage from one side to the other, often unknown, side), I created an accurate reflection of the project’s current state our hopes for it.
When I imagined this egg on this bridge originally, it felt like it came from nowhere.
But later, while sitting at my computer, I realized the giant egg was a real artwork I had likely seen the week prior. It’s a “giant egg painted to look hyper real” and titled Oeuvre — a play on the French word for egg “oeuf” and the life work of an artist, “oeuvre.”
It’s likely the egg came so easily to my mind because it was already resting in my subconscious.
I had collected an image of this artwork a few years before in my popular channel on Are.na titled “Eggs in Art and Design.” (Like its title suggests, this collection catalogues eggs that appear in works of art or design. And this presentation I’m giving now is a curation of this channel.)
Sometimes, but not always, simply by collecting something, it will be of use to me later. Earlier this year, I interviewed Damon Zucconi, an artist who helped build Are.na. Damon said:
I’ve always had this sense that if you build a container for something, you will make things to fill it. What I frequently do is try to figure out different containers.
The egg is the mysterious “center” around which unconscious energies move in spiral-like evolutions, gradually bringing the vital substance to light.
Eggs are also about surprise. Sometimes, we don’t know exactly what will emerge from the egg. Or, we don’t know what kind of being will come to be when a new life first begins. Eggs harbor potential energy.
In computer programming, an “easter egg” is a hidden or surprise feature —
The first easter egg in software took place in a 1980 video game called Adventure. The company who made the game, Atari, did not include programmers’ names in the final game credits. To get around this, one of the programmers secretly programmed their credit into the game. The credit only appears when a player moves over a specific tiny pixel called the “Gray Dot.”
Upon discovering, Atari initially wanted to remove the secret credit. But after realizing it was too costly to remove, the company decided to encourage inclusion of hidden messages in future games, describing them enthusiastically as “easter eggs” for players to find.
In 1885, the Russian tsar gave the his wife a Fabergé egg.
She enjoyed the egg so much that the tsar placed a standing order with Peter Carl Fabergé to create a new egg for his wife every Easter after, requiring only that each egg be unique and that it contain some kind of “surprise” within it.
My first “workplace egg” was the design studio Linked by Air, where I began my career.
On my first full day as an intern there, over a decade ago, they simply asked me to explore their external hard drive of projects, which I did happily. Learning about all the studio’s inspiring work filled me with not only respect for them and their approach but also potential energy of my own.
I wanted to give back this energy I had taken in as a curious intern exploring all their files. So it wasn’t long until I designed and programmed websites for the studio and included thoughtful but mysterious easter eggs on all of them.
( Update: Here is a link to Part 2. )
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This particular transmission is called “On Eggs — Part 1 of 2.” Stay tuned later this week for the second half. Full and expanding references can be found in this Are.na Channel.
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