Archive for category: Uncategorised

Art like prayer

Kafka said: “ Art like prayer is a hand outstretched in the darkness, seeking for some touch of grace which will transform it into a hand that bestows gifts.” [1]

Astonishing that such uplifting words came out of his mouth.

It just goes to show that categorizing people is a terribly unjust and unkind thing to do. After all, we love Nietzsche too!

Art bestows gifts but requires faith, without which it could not come to be.

Kafka also said of poetry: “Goethe says practically everything that matters to us human beings.” [2]

Words, like pigment and clay, will transform, not only themselves, but us; the creators and the audience.

I expect we have all felt that sense of awe before a great work of art, the one that ripped away the layers, exposing our rawest emotions as we stood before it.

For me it was Rembrandt’s Lucretia in Minneapolis. [3]

I saw her years later in London and nothing had changed.

Sometimes all we need is a title, a series of words to stir our psyche and like a flash, the ghosts of our lives come at us with the force of a thousand windstorms in the desert.

Art needs only that touch of grace…and faith.

“The sadness will last forever” were Vincent Van Gogh’s last words, before shooting himself in the chest.

By 1888, there was no faith left to speak of.

He had incessantly battled his ghosts during his lifetime and “…crippled with self-doubt…” Van Gogh cut off his ear and then shortly thereafter did himself in. [2]

The tragedy of a life wasted, he labeled himself an artistic failure because only one painting had ever been sold while he was alive.

What about the others who died destitute?

What about Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Vermeer, Modigliani, El Greco, Rembrandt, and Fragonard, among others?

What about Camille Claudel?

They each have their own story.

They each suffered their own version of hell.

Rejection, fear and feeling unappreciated were tough antagonists to combat.

Whether they realized it or not, it was their œuvre that allowed them to conquer the angst and leave something important behind.

They all conquered, not in the name of Christie’s or Sotheby’s but in the name of art.

By Boky & Blake

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/10/22/conversations-with-kafka-love-patience/
  2. http://www.artlyst.com/top10/artists-that-died-in-poverty/vincent-van-gogh
  3. http://blogs.mprnews.org/state-of-the-arts/2012/07/the-primal-scream-of-rembrandts-lucretia/

 

Techno Evolution

The process of evolution that is driving our world today seems to favour technology more than the “living organisms that developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.”[1]

Technology is developing at such a rate that it is leaving most living organisms struggling to adapt, and human beings are obliviously the most affected.

Science has provided more information than most cultures can absorb and our social structures are clearly unable to assimilate.

We, mere humans, find it very difficult to keep up with the advances in technology that have been introduced into our lives.

Claiming to be luddites we refuse to learn how to work our modern gadgets.

Who knows how to use half of the items found on the average television remote control?

We are smothered with changing computer operating systems and inundated with updates and obsolete applications.

We are faced with storage devises that seem to change each year from magnetic tape to laser to hard disc and then Solid State memory, leaving us with equipment that is old long before it ever had a chance to fail from use.

As science and technology continue to drag us forward we face the realities of physics that are much less romantic than we had ever imagined.

As we continue to gain an understanding of the processes of nature, we are beginning to comprehend some of the workings of the brain and are exploring the concept of consciousness.

This is all contributing to what is a ‘reality’ revolution, confronting us with the reality of our world and dismissing the magical and mythical ideas that history has proposed for many thousands of years.

This evolution of consciousness has been occurring for many centuries now but old ideas ‘die hard’ and one of the most stubborn remains the origins of our species.

As we are faced with the majority of human beings who believe that life was created at the whim of one or more ancient mythical deities, the Gods are rolling in their graves at the idea that life was indeed delivered to earth on a particle of dust that fell from a passing comet.

“ The most plausible story of creation has been delivered by science;

“The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare,” said Dr. Carl Pilcher, Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute…” [2]

By Blake and Boky

 

[1] Oxford Dictionary; definition of Evolution

[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-comet-life-idUSTRE57H02I20090818

The Burden

In this century, the place that women are allotted within this world will be redefined as a consequence of globalization and the resulting mixture of cultures.

The migration of over a million refugees into Europe is bringing this change to the attention of the media and greater general awareness in the first world.

A large part of the European population has realized that the manner in which women are treated in their culture will require the re-examination of some social and religious considerations.

Throughout history there have been a vast number of responsibilities that have been placed upon women by society, by nature and by differing mythologies or religions.

There are social, legal and religious obligations, which for the most part, have limited the rights and freedoms of women, and then there are specific roles that mother nature herself has required of the female.

In most societies both legal and theological authorities have formally restricted the rights of women.

Both canon and civil law once held that women in Europe and America were not recognized before the law and were thus formally denied the right to hold property.

Although this is no longer the case in the first world, it remains so in Islamic countries today.

The civil authorities of the Roman Empire mandated an agreement based on property rights as a condition for recognizing a marriage.

Although, to this day, in varying degrees, both Jewish and Islamic traditions regard the act of marriage as the legal transfer of possession and responsibility for the female from the father to the husband.

Both the Old Testament and Islamic doctrines confine inheritance rights exclusively to the male relatives, recognizing no rights for widows or female offspring.

Until the end of the Nineteenth century, the denial of judicial position prevented women from voting, giving evidence or bearing witness in the Western world.

Even today, some Israeli courts and all Islamic courts repudiate the testimony of women.

When considering religious doctrines, we can begin with the story of Genesis; that tells of paradise lost to man by the actions of a woman and the resultant “original sin” conferred to all of humanity.

Some societies place extraordinary value on the sexual purity of the female, which if compromised would diminish her potential worth as a bride, wife and mother.

This places an extraordinary ethical liability on her family and imposes extremely restrictive social rules and behaviour.
The murder of a female for a moral offence of this nature is, in some cases, over looked by the authorities in some Islamic countries and may result in only cursory punishment in many other Islamic countries.

In some societies, a female child may threaten such economic hardship that infanticide, although considered illegal, offers a common solution.

The one child policy in China offers an example of politically inspired behaviour that was considered a contributor to female infant mortality.

The disadvantages that perhaps as many as a billion women face include the loss of opportunity through lack of access to education, denial of the right to posses resources and property as well as the recognition of their existence and identity before the law.

Then there are the corporal burdens involving in the responsibility for procreation, that extend further than the normal health risks to include the liability of being physically vulnerable to her male counterpart.

This disadvantage may deny her the capacity to protect herself or the lives of her children.

Further, she may be less able to shelter herself from sexual assault, thereby including the inherent responsibility of caring for illegitimate or abandoned children.

With this changing century we need to assist in the re-examination of the legal and social elements that are potentially restricting one half of the world’s population.

The greater part of women’s burden has been created by men and is sustained by tradition, only that which was granted by nature is worthy of womankind.

By Blake and Boky

 

Bibliography

  1. Leonard J. Swidler, Women in Judaism: the Status of Women in Formative Judaism (Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press, 1976)
  2. R. Thompson, Women in Stuart England and America (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974)
  3. Matilda J. Gage, Woman, Church, and State (New York: Truth Seeker Company, 1893)
  4. Sally Priesand, Judaism and the New Woman (New York: Behrman House, Inc., 1975)
  5. Dr. Sherif Abdel Azeem Women in Islam versus Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition.
  6. Leila Badawi, “Islam”, in Jean Holm and John Bowker, ed., Women in Religion (London: Pinter Publishers, 1994)

 

Myths and Magic

In her book, Dancing on the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, Ursula K. Le Guin shares her thoughts on where an idea comes from.

As if magical powers possess writers, the general belief is that once having learned the skill of a writer, one too can be a great one.

She also states the fact that we tend to believe that ideas are at the origin of stories.

Calling both of these myths, she explains them away.

The skill of a writer is learned and must be worked for.

Magical as it might seem, a great writer, a great musician or sculptor, have one thing in common, they work hard at it.

While we might have a propensity for it, the credit goes to the man (or woman) with sweat (and even blood) on their brow.

Now as for the ‘idea’…. Is a story or a work of art that tells a story born from an idea?

Not really. Rather it is born from a series of ideas that have to ferment in the brain and then suddenly, the magical powers take hold and the universe begins to compose it’s symphony.

Still, nobody makes it alone.

Those ideas that merge in our brains and eventually become something unified such as a story or a sculpture, come to us in so many forms that might include sounds, dreams, emotions, mental glimpses into our inner world, but nothing is complete without you, an audience.

We need you. It is a collaboration between you and us.

Le Guin says:

“The writer cannot do it alone. The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it alive….It comes down to collaboration, or sharing the gift….” [1]

Like the tree that falls in a desolate forest; if there is nobody there, will it make a sound?

Without your eyes, your hearts and your imagination, what story could our sculptures ever hope to tell?

“In the imagination we can share a capacity for experience and an understanding of truth far greater than our own.” [2]

Le Guin’s words ring true for all artists, not just those who lose themselves in words:

“Writers have to get used to launching something beautiful and watching it crash and burn. They also have to learn when to let go control, when the work takes off on its own and flies, farther than they ever planned or imagined, to places they didn’t know they knew. All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.” [3]

By Boky and Blake

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/11/21/ursula-k-le-guin-where-do-you-get-your-ideas/
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.

Cage and Archipenko

In viewing the Impressionist & Modern sale at Christie’s in London a couple of weeks ago, I saw a piece by Archipenko and couldn’t help but get lost in a ‘Cagean’ state of mind; a world in which art and love co-exist in the bliss of both laughter and silence.

Archipenko’s use of negative space, seems so completely analogous to John Cage’s silence, where time and space just ‘are’.

They don’t require a form of representational matter to exist, they simply ‘are’ and exist within their rightful place.

Like love, silence and negative space are invisible to the eye, yet of equal importance.

As Maria Podova states in her review of Kay Larson’s book Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism and the Inner Life of Artists, [1] negative space “…isn’t nihilistic, isn’t an absence, but, rather, it’s life-affirming, a presence.

Cage himself reflects:

‘Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord.’” [2]

Archipenko inscribed in the clay on ‘Walking’ (the sculpture that triggered this blog): ‘apres moi viendront des jours quand cette œuvre guidera et les artistes sculpteront l’espace et le temps’ (After me the days will come when this piece will serve as a guide and the artists will sculpt space and time). [3]

The poetry behind this inscription felt like a message in a bottle announcing the changes in the conventional concepts of sculpting.

In a complete reversal of the acceptable space surrounding solid sculpture, Archipenko’s human figure substituted limbs with ‘voids of free space’. [4]

John Cage sculpted using notes and rests.

While his Ophelia, a ‘two-tone poem to madness’ should never even have been there in the first place, it was potentially, an important part of his emotional growth.

Like a note and a rest, like positive and negative space, it simply ‘was’.

If we can accept that, then we might be able to bring the unconscious and the conscious together, tearing down the walls that keep us prisoners of the ego.

We might find that there is no need for kenophobic tendencies.

There is only full and empty.

The solutions lie in simply ‘being’, which allows for ‘creating’.

One can almost hear Schoenberg questioning Cage on all the possible solutions to a counterpoint question.

After all the options were exhausted Schoenberg asked him: What is the principle underlying all of these solutions?

“…it occurred to me (Cage) through the direction that my work has taken, which is renunciation of choices and the substitution of asking questions, that the principle underlying all of the solutions that I had given him was the question that he had asked, because they certainly didn’t come from any other point. He would have accepted the answer, I think. The answers have the questions in common. Therefore the question underlies the answers.” [5]

By Boky & Blake

  1. http://thepenguinpress.com/book/where-the-heart-beats-john-cage-zen-buddhism-and-the-inner-life-of-artists/
  2. https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/07/05/where-the-heart-beats-john-cage-kay-larson/
  3. http://www.christies.com//lotfinder/sculptures-statues-figures/alexander-archipenko-walking-5971056-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5971056&sid=08024641-ee18-46b4-886c-fbcd952fb9d9
  4. http://the-artifice.com/alexander-archipenko/
  5. https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/07/05/where-the-heart-beats-john-cage-kay-larson/

A Place to Take You

I had a dream the other night that a giant was sitting in the shadows watching me.

I will guess that he had been there for a long time.

He was not threatening, but more of an emotive fellow.

Never a sound was heard, yet he pointed to his head to indicate his presence.

He held in his hands an assortment of autographs written by people of another time, past and yet to be.

Finally, he slowly and gracefully rose up and placed his hands on me only to say in a soft quiet voice:

“Follow me, my friend, for I have a place that I would like to take you.”

It was not as if I had forgotten where I was going or what my long term plan was.

Yet, it was given, that this Titan was to assist in reviewing the path that I was following, as if to confirm that I was indeed moving along.

Somewhere in my mind, I had the notion that he had been sent to me to ensure that the direction I was following did not lead to “a state of mind that might prevent normal perception, behaviour, or social interaction.”

The giant leaned over to inspect my situation and a looming concern welled up in me that my autograph would be compared to those that he held so preciously in those closed hands.

He indicated, but did not say, that although eccentricities were, to some extent encouraged, actions that are considered as foolish; irrational or illogical would at no time be tolerated.[1]

It would be fine to be found “charging headlong in an insane frenzy” although behaviour that was “inconsistent, changing from one moment to another” was to be avoided. [2]

He then opened one high held hand, dropping upon the path names that shattered the silence.

Each autographed name spoke to me in turn, wordlessly encouraging me to taking a fearless approach to creating, and advocated a carefree attitude to any criticism that resulted.

“Deal harshly with any quiet voices that may be whispering paranoid concerns, or disintegrating self esteem; at all cost and by any means, feed the muse.”

“Keep a light, free, fresh look, that is technically sound but not perfect, and foremost be expressive in the telling of an emotive and personal story”, said several names in sequence.

“One is to create imaginative ideas and processes, and although you must know the ‘rules’, do not follow them.”

“Do not ask for permission or seek acceptance, yet you can pay homage if done in an honest and intimate manner.

“Remember to build a cohesive body of work and both the size and the venue itself will assist in making the work remarkable.”

“Reconcile yourself to a certain degree of madness” were that last words that I heard as I awoke.

There in the darkness, I realized that I would never be able to recall, let alone apply all that the giant had bequeathed me, and I looked frantically for that place that he had promised to take me.

By Blake and Boky

[1] Webster Dictionary definition of insane.

[2] Ibid.

Love is

In Alain Badiou’s words:

“Love is a tenacious adventure. The adventurous side is necessary, but equally so is the need for tenacity. To give up at the first hurdle, the first serious disagreement, the first quarrel, is only to distort love. Real love is one that triumphs lastingly, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the world… Happiness in love is the proof that time can accommodate eternity.” [1]

Art is love.

A chance meeting, an interest and then, like with love, we engage in an adventure that turns into one’s destiny.

Without the learning process all we have is a burning desire to express ourselves, because that is what we know best.

We impend on an investigation of our perspective on life; in essence, the world from our vantage point.

The idea that we might communicate, reach out to others, is stronger than us and even at times compulsive.

We test different mediums.

We learn.

We experiment.

Often we fail, so we try again.

Words can never be enough to express what those enigmatic 21 grams of soul (that leave us when we die) have to say.

While the more ethereal art forms such as music or the conceptual might have a much stronger effect than the tangible in uncovering the mysteries of our lives, perhaps they don’t.

The questioning is important.

Doubting our preconceived notions, our indoctrinated assumptions and searching for deeper understanding lead us to the unveiling of something grander than ourselves.

Badiou says that: “Love… is a quest for truth….Love isn’t simply about two people meeting and their inward-looking relationship: it is a construction, a life that is being made, no longer from the perspective of One but from the perspective of Two. [2]

Like with art, love is built from that first chance encounter.

It offers challenges that might often, present themselves as insurmountable hurdles.

Our destiny then, is cast when the pursuit of truth begins the construction of our greatest oeuvre, our story.

Badiou calls it “the locking in of chance” as “an anticipation of eternity. [3]

By Boky & Blake

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/10/26/alain-badiou-in-praise-of-love/
  2. ibid
  3. ibid

Remember the Future

I can still hear Freud’s quote: “Where does a thought go when it is forgotten?”

Where does it go?

That sends me straight into Alice’s Wonderland where the Red Queen has the ability to remember the future.

If time is linear then the past loses relevance and the future is at stake because as we over-prepare for those eventualities we actually sacrifice our present. [1]

Perhaps this is why people go to church.

Perhaps religion gives them those ten minutes within which they can get lost in meditation and allow their dreams to take flight in the safety of a future. Perhaps this is why we create art; because in those hours, if we can find the concentration and get into the flow we forget who we are, all our complaints, all or needs, are gone.

Where does that forgotten thought end up?

I might suggest many things, but in the end, all I could ever hope to convey, would, at least to some extent, be tied to episodic memories and I’m not so sure there would be any real accuracy in that, especially given that I am no longer now who I was then.

“Echoing Meghan O’Rourke’s poetic assertion that the people we most love [become] ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created,’ [2] Goldstein writes:

A person whom one has loved seems altogether too significant a thing to simply vanish altogether from the world. A person whom one loves is a world, just as one knows oneself to be a world. How can worlds like these simply cease altogether?” [3]

They don’t cease, but with every passing second we change.

Semantic memory grants us a backdrop for our future dreams and episodic memory allows us to attempt to predict an imagined outcome.

Without this we would have no plans, no goals, no dreams. We would be as good as dead. There would be nothing left to fight for and our terminal degrees would be buried deep within our past.

Knowledge is the gateway to our deepest humanity.

By Boky & Blake

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/07/01/mental-time-travel-dan-falk/
  2. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/09/meghan-o-rourke-the-long-goodbye/
  3. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/07/rebecca-goldstein-personal-identity/

Critic or Celebrator

Which are you, critic or celebrator?

I happen to agree with minimalist sculptor, Anne Truitt, who recounts in her Day Book the first time she became aware that she, the ‘self’ she considered to be okay and whole, was in fact, sadly inadequate.

One day, while very young, she was being dressed for a party.

Her mother and nurse were fixing her hair and trying to perfect a curl at the top of her head.

They went on and on about it, twisting, wetting and turning the hair so the curl would be just right.

They wanted to add something more to her, giving her the impression that she wasn’t enough without it and before she knew it, she wanted it too.

The praise was abundant and she felt proud to have that curl and to be more than she was before having it.

That was the lie behind the pride.

It was the fact that she needed to add something to that ‘self’ which up until that moment, that curl, had been terribly deficient.

From that moment on she understood how we become pleasers.

We deny ourselves, forfeiting our truths and even our self-worth, in order to get that praise that society will shower upon us, if we do the right thing.

Still, the right thing would be what exactly?

To be more like them?

Because as Truitt explains, humans will chastise anything unlike themselves.

If we can all conform and live within their ‘book of being’ we are not only accepted, but praised.

Who doesn’t want the praise?

Who doesn’t like to be doted on and idolized?

So, in time we sacrifice it all.

Even our art might be perverted into something they might understand and like.

We want them to like it, don’t we?

If we deviate too far from what they are, we lose page likes, we lose sales and even the art critics could turn the other way.

Why can’t we be celebrators and honour our differences?

What happened to empathy, to love and to compassion?

What happened to humility?

Must we really be so presumptuous as to think that only our way is the right way?

The self-righteous and cruel will gladly condemn us to “the darkness of their disapproval” [1] as judgment is passed, triggered by continuous peer pressure.

The truth is that we are all guilty of this.

It is a horrible automatism that is learned.

Indoctrinated to shred ourselves from that very first experience onward; when we discover that we need to be more that just ourselves because that is simply not enough.

We become a victim, a criminal and a judge all in one.

Talk about a vicious cycle!

So I think that being aware of this might help us remain humble, drop the preconceptions and celebrate others and their differences.

Truitt was not only a wonderful sculptor but also a psychologist.

She concludes:

“Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them…love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.” [2]

As Blake always says: “Love your friends for who they are, not for who you would have them be.”

By Boky

  1. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/12/anne-truitt-humility-compassion-righteousness/
  2. Ibid

In the light

“The compensation of growing old [is] that the passions remain as strong as ever, but one has gained — at last! — the power which adds the supreme flavour to existence, — the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it around, slowly, in the light.” [1]

These words from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway offer an insight into the deepest abyss of inspiration that propels us, changing our vantage point from the pain of the “sudden shock” of the “unexpected blow”.

This was her truth. Read more

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