“Purity of heart is to will one thing” – Kierkegaard
Although the telos of infinity in Roman Opalka’s project might seem to commit him to a single path, there is no real reason, other than the sheer impossibility of the task, to make this assumption, since there is no necessary connection between infinity and a commitment to it. After all, he might have painted numbers in the morning, every morning, while making some entirely different art work in the afternoon.
Since singleness is, therefore, not internal to this project, it must have come from elsewhere – no doubt, from a will to singleness or “purity of heart”. But already, if this is the case, Opalka is double ! There is the work, zero to infinity, which is one thing, and its uniqueness, or his tie to its uniqueness, which is another.
The work is thus inscribed with a double failure. In addition to the acknowledged failure to ever arrive at infinity, there is a fall from the purity or self-sufficiency of the work. Is commitment at the service of the work or is the work a mere occasion for commitment ? If not a doubleness, there is at least a doubt.
Maybe it is good to fail and to fail again. Like the impossibility of arriving at infinity, the distinct possibility of not keeping to the task is what gives the task its frisson. Perhaps Opalka’s success must be looked for elsewhere than in the rigour of his life-long project or his career-long fidelity to it. Perhaps it shines best in his acceptance of finitude, in the repeated exercise of volition.