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Why is it that the beauty of randomness is so hard to achieve? In nature non-patterns have many charms – in fact maybe they are a big part of its beauty. I first came across the difficulties of doing random when we were planting my front yard trees. Even when we tried the Edna Walling trick of throwing potatoes into the air and planting where they fell, we were tempted to make human adjustments – “Just a bit to the left, maybe” – and suddenly our desired random became orderly stilted.

I realised again nature's skill at the random, and my ineptitude. My hand wants to arrange: it's not capable of leaving it to chance. It finds it hard to accept that the fortuitous, the haphazard, the accidental is a far better beauty generator, and impossible to replicate.

For evidence, compare the pebbles and shells nature leaves in heaps in declivities and trenches with my attempt to create such a careless arrangement on the beach. The word “arrangement” is probably the key to my failure and so is my “selection” of shells. Any human attempt at agency seems doomed.


After these delicious assemblages, here are my shameful attempts, one too ordered and one excessively chaotic.

It occurs to me that maybe monoculture can never be random. It also occurs to me that my images of the random have all been cropped or selected at the point of snapping, so I have in fact ordered them out of pure randomness.