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Sunday 15 December 2019
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The chocolate display

“You are doing the chocolate display,” my niece announced happily as though I had done this millions of times. She proceeded to dump boxes of Ferrero Rocher, Lindt’s Lindor Truffles and others on the showcase and floor.

For the first time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with chocolates. My interaction with them, though minimal, had extended as far as looking at them askance and saying "too much sugar," or sometimes taking an obligatory bite and wrapping the rest to be eaten in instalments over months, or handing them out as presents.

“Every year people come here to see my chocolate display. No pressure,” the niece added in a smug tone.

I had the urge to throw a box of chocolates at her but, I had gone in to help and given that everyone else was engaged in some form of decorating, I couldn’t make a fuss.

One of my niece’s friends who was about to leave, changed his mind and stood outside the showcase window staring at me. I stared back.

"What you looking at?" I demanded.

“Your expression. You look like you are about to have a breakdown,” he replied with a snicker.

There was much glaring on my end that evening.

Truthfully, I had no idea where I was going to start and how and with what. I simply stared at the chocolate boxes and bags– Cadbury Snow Bites, Lindt– packaging of varying sizes, shapes and colour.

"Are you sure all these chocolates usually fit on this countertop?"

“Yes. Every year, every year," the niece replied.

“Just start,” she continued. “Don’t overthink it. Just start.”

"What you mean just start? There must be some kind of order, some pattern. These are not just boxes. Jeez! You sure they all going to fit?"

I was sure she wasn’t sure about this.

“Why do I get the feeling that this is going to end up in a column” she said, laughing.

"Of course it is! I not doing all this for nothing," I replied.

At that point I really had no idea whether I would have written about this. It seemed a pretty trivial experience, but then, on second thoughts, it was one of those experiences that adds to one’s artistic process. How often do we think about how store owners arrange their showcases? Do we at all? But also, how many business owners think seriously about the beauty of the optics?

“Just think like a child. You have to think like a child. If you are doing it like an adult, you’re doing it wrong,” my niece advised.

I took a deep breath.

First: tinsel the showcase. The tinsel provides a border in which to work apparently.

And then I decided, I might as well build this display like Legos. Or perhaps like jenga.

Think like a child.

I threw an assortment on the counter in no particular order.

“Use varying heights,” my niece advised.

Good advice. It helped loads.

Heights provide texture from what I could see, and perspective. The display also had to take into consideration the fact that it should be attractive from four angles. And so there I was running from the back of the showcase to the outside to get alternate views.

It is a fact apparently that "the quadrangle," so seldom in nature, belongs to us. It’s what we do. Not only do we build the boxes we reside in…but we are the inventors of the four-cornered frame. And it is this ubiquitous frame that separates us from "nature’s typical curvilinear palette," and from nature itself. The quadrate frame has allowed us to defy the properties of the human eye, to declare that one’s vision stops here, to consciously limit our focus to the contents of a frame and the world it contains—not all the time, but increasingly so…We rarely use the eye the way it was designed to be used, with the field of vision spreading out to the periphery and beyond. Vision is broadly oriented, offering context to the chosen focus: Even as we home in on an object, the eye is poised to see what’s on the edge of that object, and all around it.’ (3 Quarks Daily, Brooks Riley, Framing Nature, November 5, 2018)

I began this account of the chocolate display intending to write about learning to see, yet again. The thought of constantly reverting to a child’s eye while creating was a further lesson in placing myself into the experience of another. But more than this, it is overall, an instruction on transcending the limitations of the eye. By that I also reference the way we process information and opening ourselves to several possible angles of thinking. And so, in this context, chocolates become serious business, in more ways than one.

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