Philip Edward Harding

The Wall of Infinite Diversity


When I started this project I did not know what it was building towards. I simply felt the need to make something physical, tactile, and completely removed from the digital. As I twisted up one after the other there was something about the colors, textures and patterns I found engaging, both as individual objects and collectively. When I finished a new rope it felt like I was discovering some new character. Collectively the enormous variety felt like an affirmation of diversity. At a time when some people are intent on building physical and mental walls to keep others out, my wall felt welcoming, with a very human scale that permits free movement through and around.

In early 2022 I took hundreds of four foot long pieces, mounted them on panels and displayed them at my local library. I saw people of all ages reach out and touch them, pointing out to their friends which were their favorites. Living in a conservative city where some people embrace the language of exclusion, it is tempting to pose some rhetorical questions like, "Which do you hate?" "Which ropes should be excluded?" Maybe I should remove those that seem insufficiently beautiful. Those that appear dingy, unwashed or are a bit too ragged with too many knots and loose ends. Or maybe I should exclude those that are red, white and green, the colors of the Mexican flag. I'm not quite sure where to put them anyway. But then again, red, white and green are the colors of Christmas decorations. Do I really want to exclude them? And how should I sort the ropes? In 2022 I sorted them like a spectrum for the picture above. I'm now inclined to mix them up again. I find that the individual character of the ropes can get lost when surrounded by others that are too much like themselves. The wall might make for a nicer picture when they are sorted into some sort of pattern but when you get up close the sense of infinite variety seems much stronger when they are mixed up.

The above picture is a composite photograph showing the first 770 ropes, but as of mid 2023 I now have 1,242 ropes, and the most recent tend to be much thicker. Placed side by side they can blanket 100 feet of wall but I would like to install them as a 50 foot wide free standing wall, with the ropes doubled up the way they are shown in the video below.







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