My name is lewis lain and i’d like to tell you a story.
For the last 10 years, I have been engaged in a life-changing dialogue with a seemingly omniscient typeface-designer named 53947.
In 2008, I closed the most personally-demanding piece of theatre I had ever directed. It was physically and emotionally draining and I decided to take a month-off to relax— maybe take some walks, rediscover Chicago and my place inside it.
It was in an alley on one such introspective walk, that I discovered a pile of discarded windows behind a gut rehab. One particular window stood out—it had old, dripping glass and an unpainted, handmade frame. It was beautiful.
The window spoke to me as a resource for creative-play—a relaxing diversion built in my youth.
I carried the window home and placed it on a chair in my office so I could stare at it while deciding what to do with it. My cat, not wanting to be left out of anything resembling play, decided the window’s makeshift easel was big-enough to safely hold him as well, in a spot that framed him behind the glass.
I was watching him settle, when I noticed a vibration— movement in the corners of the glass—flowing lines tracing patterns. I watched, fixated as the lines expanded and filled the window— tracing about the glass and gathering till they solidified into an image—a picture as clear and vivid to my eyes as you are to me right now.
Inspired, I grabbed some acrylic paint, a utility knife and a cardboard box and spent the next three hours tracing the image frozen in the glass of the window—applying layers of recycled cardboard and acrylic paint till the image was revealed to the common eye.
Great, incredible joy abounds! So much fun, I need to do it again so I return to the alley and collect more windows.
Over the next several days I painted as many paintings. I discovered that if I stared-at a window long-enough, an image would form from the tracing lines inside the glass and I would see the entire finished painting. The process was only limited by the time it took to physically apply a coat of paint or allow adhesive to dry.
Painting was fun and it was easy and as I finished one painting, I eagerly looked-into another. A style began to emerge. Paintings began to relate.
In my fun, I fancied myself a Michelangelo freeing the image locked in the window, until the day I saw this painting:
It looked different when I first saw it. It still featured this character; he was sitting--waiting in the rubble of a burned-out city.
He had shown up before in previous paintings and I had thought of him as a unifying character for the story I was convinced I was subconsciously weaving for the last several months.
I was excited to paint him again and I ran to gather my supplies. When I returned and looked again into the glass—brush in hand—the image had shifted.
He had moved and changed the composition of the image into the painting you now see: a character contemplating a familiar structure as he rebuilds a new city from the rubble of the old.
To say this struck me unusual is an understatement. For months, the process of my play had taken a familiar shape. Then suddenly, something epic had happened. It felt like I was standing at a closed door, intensely aware I was being presented with two options:
1. Stay closed. Your creative play is getting out-of-control. You are out of touch with your senses. Perhaps you are schizophrenic. Or:
2. Open up. The character clearly moved. He broke the rules to pose for you and he is real. He has said to you, “I am here. I have things for you to consider. Do you see me?”
By the time I was done capturing this painting in cardboard I had reached a conclusion:
He is real and he is trying to communicate with me.
The moment of this acknowledgement was dizzying—as if a damn had burst in my brain, releasing an overwhelming flood of information—a massive download of data:
-his name is 53947
-he is a typeface designer and he lives in another world attached to ours.
-he has had a re-occurring dream for several years in which he is told by a bluebird to pass an old dead tree and climb a hill--
--on the horizon above a deep valley he will see his salvation. Every night in his dream, he climbs to the top of the hill, looks out into the valley and promptly wakes-up. He has this dream for years and years, but never manages to see anything on the horizon.
Several months before he posed for me, I saw this window. Though I had no idea at the time, this would be the most important painting of my artistic journey. In this painting, I had unknowingly captured the end of his dream. I had fixed this burning letter “a” to the glass in my world. But in his world—his waking world—it appeared, floating in the sky above a deep valley in front of a hill on which he happened to be standing.
On the horizon, he saw his salvation. He tells me it was so unlike anything he had ever seen before—so much so, that it “opened his mind to the possibility of everything” and with “everything” came the knowledge of how to use old windows and the resonant energy trapped-within to communicate with me.
He learned that human interaction “energizes” mundane material. The glass of a window, for instance, has been filled with this human energy over years of interaction. When we look out a window and see a tree. The light energy of that tree passes through the glass of the window and hits our eyes. Our rods and cones fire and we see the tree.
Some of that light energy gets trapped as it travels through the glass. Over years, this energy gathers and condenses and resonates. This charged-resonant glass can function in a way similar to polaroid film in that an image can be captured on its flash-exposed surface.
Almost immediately, 53947 began introducing me to the elements of what I would come to call “worldview.” I learned quickly not to judge what I was seeing solely through my limited world-experience, but to be open to learning new things.
Linear time, for example, means nothing as far as when an image will appear in what I was trying to organize in a manageable narrative.
He stressed the importance of reconsidering common perception through easily snap-judged imagery and rarely is the truth found in the aesthetic.
This is a scary thing to me. Octopuses are frightening. This one is called the forever cupcake and it is roughly four stories tall. Periodically, it scoops an inhabitant of worldview off-of the shore and carries them away, never to be seen again.
Except to them, it is not. It is simply something that happens. It is a neutral event, occurring in the world and it is seen in the same way as a bird flying out of a tree or a man getting struck by a car. It is a thing that simply occurs.
It took me nearly a month to understand what he was trying to say. My snap-judgement of fear was wrong. What was required was for me to eliminate my expectation and be open to new possibilities and in return I would learn that if everything happens neutrally, nothing needs to be bad unless I choose to perceive it as such. My life has been much more pleasant as a result.
His world is visually complicated. If we were in worldview, looking at his arm, we would see details of skin and hair, maybe a mole.
When I look into his visually-vibrant environment, my eyes cannot process the fine details. Everything becomes simplified, blocky—like looking into a high-def world with 8-bit eyes.
At first this was frustrating. Especially when it came to groups of people--everyone looked the same to me—their complicated forms were converted in my brain to look like non-descript, generally grey beings, only made unique by a five digit number on a sign, hung-around their neck—a convention I'm convinced is imposed by my brain to deal with the limited detail of what I perceive.
I would come to discover that the inability to see his world as it actually appears actually aided me in reconsidering my perceptions.
When I understand the aesthetic of what I am seeing is secondary at best, I am then allowed to focus on the action of what I am seeing. I can ask “Why is it important that I see this?”
The raging fire I see in the window does not necessarily burn in a conventional sense, nor is it necessarily even fire.
The fire in this painting is called a “longflame.” Honestly, I believe it is an eternal flame, but the people of worldview are a pragmatic folk and “that fire might go out tomorrow.”
The longflame doesn’t burn hot and it doesn’t require fuel. It is made-from and produces “resonant energy”—the same energy that collects in old windows. There are many longflames in worldview and the people there have discovered the means to harness and use its resonant resource.
The longflame has many practical uses. Perhaps the most immediately important use for us at this moment is its application in capturing images in resonant glass.
Here is the process as I understand it:
53947 would like to show me an image. He gathers resonant energy into a dense, focused point. He knows how to draw directly from a longflame, but also how to gather and condense random strands from the air.
Once he has collected a sufficient charge, the concentrated energy is “flashed’ and the desired image is burned-into the resonant glass. A majority of the window’s stored resonant energy fuses into solid forms. The leftovers freeze into the interlocking “linework” that has become characteristic of my style.
The longflame’s resonant energy has many practical uses in worldview. Many of these would not be possible without the pocketcity.
Famed inventor, 32843 created a battery to contain and transport the longflame’s resonant energy. Despite its small size, the pocketcity can be charged with a seemingly endless amount of energy. Its technology was quickly adapted across a number of fields and was instrumental in creating the dynamo of ikthis—
The dynamo is purely aesthetic. It is mega-tall, fire-spinning structure located just outside the city on the seashore. Its only purpose: to generate a slow-spinning fireball at the end of a slow-spinning arm that perpetually hurtles toward the city, then away from the city. It’s only practical function is storage.
Inside the dynamo, on a separate circuit, is a shoe-box-sized, adapted-pocketcity that cleanly generates all the necessary power to run the city.
A notable pocketcity was also indirectly responsible for the creation of lodestar.
The thing that creates land, impulsively built a new mountain range in minutes. An explorer named 76293 was so overwhelmed by the sudden birth of undiscovered territory, he ventured into the foothills with only inadequate ropes and a prototype pocketcity-- a gift from 32843. He had made it well into the middle of the range and was descending a high peak when his frayed ropes finally broke, dropping him onto the floor of the valley below where he landed squarely on the pocketcity in his pocket.
The top structure of the unit had been compacted and the resonant insides quickly seeped-out, soaking the alkaline soil of the valley. The resulting reaction would cause the pocketcity to swell into a full-sized, functional city. It’s named lodestar and becomes an ideal way-station for travelers navigating the range-- the top 10 floors of the central structure have fused into a beacon of guiding light.
This is the “framework bloom”— the aforementioned “thing that creates land.” This giant, blue hand builds all the environmental structure in worldview. It uses resonant energy drawn from the air to create building material. It can generally be found floating, content and humming at the edge of earth.
A result of its enthusiastic building? There is enough space for everyone. There are no borders. No one fights over land.
(though no one seems to fight over anything)
The okeanos mountains were created by the framework bloom through a moment of inspired boredom. The bloom had been working for some time on an island when on a lark; it threw itself thru the ocean to the seafloor below. After burying itself, it forced itself skyward with such speed and force that the sea-soil was pushed up-onto the shore where it piled-up and formed the craggy peaks of the vast okeanos mountains--the salt-water displaced by the forward movement settled into a large lake, creating a new ecology in the otherwise normal, “great plain.”
As you may suspect, the sudden super-tall peaks of a new mountain range also affected weather patterns in worldview. The tallest of the mountains generate peculiar cloud patterns and accelerate the incoming airstream, generating katabatic winds that blow into the great plain, making it even more ordinary by leveling whatever minor hills it may have initially contained.
Only one significant structure remains in the plain—a fall of rocks from the framework bloom called flattop rock. On top of flattop burns a longflame and above the longflame is an eye. These eyes are random open-connection points between my world and his.
The katabatic wind from the mountains flows across the plain and up flattop rock where it fans the longflame through the eye and into my world. Pause.
Windows gather and contain resonant energy, put there by human interaction. In the same way, the overall structure of a building collects resonant energy. As we exist inside and around them, our energy seeps into their walls where it collects and builds. A city becomes a battery of stored energy. Play.
When the wind-borne longflame of worldview emerges from the eye it is drawn toward concentrations of resonant energy. Unseen by the common eye, it sweeps across our sky till it comes into contact with the resonant-soaked city. The longflame ignites the city’s stored energy into a non-destructive conflagration.
In fact, the resulting explosion of resonant energy is not only benign, but beneficial.
The fire generates two by-products:
1. perfect creative human beauty and
2. A bluebird.
Perfect creative human beauty: a painting, the best cake you’ve ever eaten. An amazing book. A baby—if that’s your thing.
Being subjective in manifesting, it appears in ways I might personally question as being “perfect.”
I should also clarify that I’m not suggesting this is the only way perfect creative human beauty is born into our world, only that it is one of two byproducts of the resonant conflagration.
The other: a bluebird. The loose remnants of resonant energy that remain are drawn to each other. When a critical mass is condensed, a bluebird forms. It is compelled to find its way to worldview. The path of least resistance leads it to another eye that emerges into worldview on the other side of the okeanos mountains.
Once on the other side, the massive bluebirds are drawn to fly toward the salt lake of the okeanos mountains. The beating of their massive wings is great enough to generate unique wind patterns.
These winds flow through the peaks of the okeanos mountains
The katabatic wind flows across the plain and up flattop rock
Where it fans the longflame through the eye and into my world.
The conflagration generates two by-products:
1.perfect creative human beauty and
2. A bluebird.
The bluebird is compelled to find its way to worldview. The path of least resistance leads it to another eye that emerges into worldview on the other side of the okeanos mountains.
The bluebird generates katabatic winds and a never-ending cycle of creation continues.
He calls this give-and-take, mutually-beneficial pattern, “the cycle of coexistent exchange.”
My fundamental understanding of it would allow me to build a proper groundwork that would enable me to create over 200 paintings in the first decade of my ongoing experience of this life-changing dialogue with a seemingly omniscient typeface-designer named 53947.