More and Less

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?Less is more? is more or less a statement about reducing quantity in order to maximize quality. But what can it mean to have more of less? Minimalism contains a compound of meaning. When it refers to simply reducing your possessions, you might wonder if it requires that you first possess a surplus. That is to say, does minimalism work better when it involves a story of ?having minimalized?? Yet, this would mean it requires its own failure in order to succeed, like a person who gushes about their new diet.

Minimalism can also mean furnishing a space with clean lines. Such an aesthetic entails a Zen transcendence of unnecessary clutter. But then, doesn?t it often come with a somewhat snide rejection of the mess, and so, an exaggeration of the self who prefers to minimalize? There is no minimalism without a grandiose statement of intellect. Otherwise, the effect would be artistically anorexic, as opposed to being composed in an extravagantly minor key.

The minimalistic art of geometric abstraction follows suit. By paring down lines and shapes to the amorphous or singular-morphous, the imagination of the artist and audience is magnified. The less you have to go on, the more there is to see.

Photo Credit: Bradly Dunn Klerks

A simple line may contain the intellectual density of a whole universe. Indeed, here is how the minimal packs its punch. As we shrink down the stimuli that threaten to root us in a variety of local predicaments, the significance of our own insignificance intensifies. In some cases, the consequence is unwelcome. Think, for example, of the magnificence of humility. For Nietzsche, humility is the sheep?s clothing of an egomaniacal wolf.

On the other hand, humility, too, might be undressed as you seek to become more and more minimal. And by becoming more and more minimal, do you become maximal? Fashion is the minimalist?s sheepskin. I mean this both literally and figuratively. The higher you climb the haute couture ladder, the less you may find. You are climbing more and more towards the nothingness of clothing, where the most shapeless, colorless garment can be the apex of artistic grace. Perhaps this is to say that the highest form of art is to fashion the death of the canvas. Yet the canvas facilitates?even while it prevents?the transcendence of the artist. The more minimal the art, the greater the power of the artist?s fashioning. But the minimal cannot be reduced to zero. Rather, less becomes a status sign for more.

Photo Credit: Bradly Dunn Klerks

The designer Iris van Herpen uses unexpected and minimalistic materials in her garments to produce just such an effect. For example, the threading together of countless umbrella spokes somehow appears delicate and elegant. Or, pictured above, hundreds of glass balls encased in silicone seem to be floating like bubbles. It may be the illusion on which minimalism is based that makes its poverty so rich. For, in the end, it is profoundly less, and so designed to appeal to more and less alike.

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