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Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice

 

“I think the weird is present in all great artworks, if by that we mean works that lays reality bare instead of placating us with illusions.” – J.F. Martell

 


 
 

(From the publisher)
“Part treatise, part critique, part call to action, RECLAIMING ART IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICE is a journey into the uncanny realities revealed to us in the great works of art of the past and present.”

“Received opinion holds that art is culturally-determined and relative. We are told that whether a picture, a movement, a text, or sound qualifies as a “work of art” largely depends on social attitudes and convention. Drawing on examples ranging from Paleolithic cave paintings to modern pop music and building on the ideas of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Gilles Deleuze, Carl Jung, and others, J.F. Martel argues that art is an inborn human phenomenon that precedes the formation of culture and even society. Art is free of politics and ideology. Paradoxically, that is what makes it a force of liberation wherever it breaks through the trance of humdrum existence. Like the act of dreaming, artistic creation is fundamentally mysterious. It is a gift from beyond the field of the human, and it connects us with realities that, though normally unseen, are crucial components of a living world.”

“While holding this to be true of authentic art, the author acknowledges the presence—overwhelming in our media-saturated age—of a false art that seeks not to liberate but to manipulate and control. Against this anti-artistic aesthetic force, which finds some of its most virulent manifestations in modern advertising, propaganda, and pornography, true art represents an effective line of defense. Martel argues that preserving artistic expression in the face of our contemporary hyper-aestheticism is essential to our own survival.”

“Art is more than mere ornament or entertainment; it is a way, one leading to what is most profound in us. RECLAIMING ART IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICE places art alongside languages and the biosphere as a thing endangered by the onslaught of predatory capitalism, spectacle culture, and myopic technological progress. The book is essential reading for visual artists, musicians, writers, actors, dancers, filmmakers, and poets. It will also interest anyone who has ever been deeply moved by a work of art, and for all who seek a way out of the web of deception and vampiric diversion that the current world order has woven around us.”

I have just ordered this book, ‘Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice -A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action‘ after reading the interview (which I highly recommend) with the author J.F. Martell on The Teeming Brain website with Matt Cardin. Martel describes the book as

an attempt to defend art against the onslaught of the cultural industries, which today seek to reduce art to a mindless form of entertainment or, at best, a communication tool. In Reclaiming Art I argue that great works of art constitute an expressive response to the radical mystery of existence. They are therefore inherently strange, troubling, and impossible to reduce to a single meaning or message. Much of contemporary culture is organized in such a way as to push this kind of art to the margins while celebrating works that reaffirm prevailing ideologies. In contrast, real works of art are machines for destroying ideologies, first and foremost the ideologies in which they were created.

Martel, in an article exploring some of these themes before the publication of his book, explains how mass media seeks to control and limit how we perceive what our horizons actually look like.

In so-called open societies, ideology is propagated using the techniques of art. That is to say that the aesthetic realm—the domain of feeling—is the locus where the potentialities of the social system are actualized or condemned. Freedom of thought finds its counterweight today in the systematic control of feeling. One of the primary functions of the mediasphere is to concoct moods, which then become determining factors as to what is deemed possible or impossible for society as a whole.”

…in a very real sense, mass media is a spiritual machine for colonizing the psyche. It establishes an emotional climate favoring the replacement of living thought by the memes of the market. Achieving this has less to do with outright censorship than with aesthetic framing. It isn’t the content of what is presented that matters, but how that content is portrayed. The secret lies in the theatre that encodes an event, the smoke and mirrors that are used in framing it, the implicit judgments it can be made to serve and the poetics that narrate it. In the course of the last several decades, modern media has woven around us a tangled web of clamorous illusions and dancing lights whose function is to divert, confound, and bewitch an increasingly anxious populace while inuring it to the realities of life outside the “green zones” of Western privilege.”

Authoritarian societies recognize the power of art, which is why they so brutally censor their best artists. Free market societies, on the other hand, adopt a strategy of suppression by appropriation. We tolerate artists so far as they make themselves useful as purveyors of distraction or producers of luxury commodities to be hawked in staid galleries and concert halls. Artworks that criticize the tenets of the system are accepted precisely because by their very powerlessness, they implicitly condone the practices they outwardly condemn. The fight is fixed: you can say anything because whatever you say won’t make a difference.”
 

 
Art is neither a system for transmitting information nor a mode of self-expression. It does these things no better than any number of activities. Art is the seizure of a vision that exceeds language. It captures a slice of the Real and preserves it in an artifact. The work of art is fractal and open—an inexhaustible well of meaning and image overflowing the limits of the communicable. It is a way to the wilderness of the unconscious, the land of spirits and the dead. If great works of art are prophetic, it is because they disclose the forces that seethe behind the easy façade of ordinary time. I am not just thinking of the plays of Shakespeare and Sophocles here, but also of the poems of Emily Dickinson, the songs of Bob Dylan, the choreographies of Pina Bausch, the films of David Lynch. All of them are oracles.

 

(True Detective)

 
The shaman enters the priestly society of the ancient world and is called a prophet. She enters modern industrial society and is called an artist. From the shape-shifting sorcerer painted on the cavern wall to Mr. Tambourine Man jangling in the junk-sick morning, a single tradition flows—backwards, like an undertow beneath the tidal thrust of history. This tradition tears us out of the system of codified language and returns us to the dreaming depths where language first rose as the idiot stammerings of poetry. The shaman, the prophet, the artist: each knows the way lies not in the dry processes of logic but in the snaking courses of the heart. If art makes use of ideas, concepts, and opinions, it is only to subsume them in the realm of the senses, to push them to the knife-edge of lunacy where the primal chaos shows through the skin of objects, where all judgments are silenced and beauty, naked and terrible, is revealed.”

 

Art doesn’t begin when you realize that you have something to say. It begins at the hour when there is nothing left to say, when everything has been said, when what must be said is unspeakable. Deleuze described the artist as a shapeshifter and a seer. He or she “has seen something in life that is too great, too unbearable also, and the mutual embrace of life with what threatens it.”* Art, in other words, is a way to the sacred. It places the aesthetic in the service of something that transcends instrumental reason.”

 

 

At the end of the end of the interview with Cardin, the author is asked what advice he has for those who are moved and inspired by his writing. He responds,

…all I can manage is an appeal to the individual reader to look at art again. We need to let go of our cynicism and disenchantment and recover our capacity to believe, our power to affect and be affected. Beyond this, there is one quite concrete action I think every new monk should take, and that’s to keep a dream journal. Recording our dreams awaken us to the imaginal, even as it awakens the imaginal to us. The result is always an abundance of vision.”

 

poesía sin fin. KICKSTARTER Jodorowsky new project

anelegantmystery:

Read these words from another poet Alejandro Jodorowsky – with regards to the ‘poetical act’!

“I was trying not to prepare anything.
I didn’t want to prepare what I was going to say to you.
Why? Because I am searching for my inner truth, I want to know what will I say.
In two more days I will be 86 years old… it’s a lot.
Why, at 86 years of age, am I fighting to make a picture? Why?
Nothing is that important for me.
Is it so important for a person who can die one day to the other, to make a picture? Because when you are 86 years old, every morning you awake and you say “I am still alive.”
You are happy to be alive but you are maybe at the end of something.
Why make a picture? What is a picture?
Some pictures are only fun and show. It’s necessary, because in the world we are all nervous about everything that’s happening, no?
They even say we are destroying the planet. So we need to go, to see a picture, to forget ourselves.
Perhaps this is necessary, but for me a picture is not that.

For me a picture is for remembering your self, not for forgetting yourself.
But what does it mean to remember your self? What can we remember?
For me, movies are really an art.
And what is art? It is the search for your inner beauty.
That is art.
I don’t want to make a picture in order to make money.
But if money comes, I open the pocket in order to make more pictures.
But that’s not the finality. It’s not the finality to being admired by others. It’s not the finality to lie and invent things you’ve never lived.
In order to say something you need to know the thing you’re speaking of.
It needs to be an experience, what you show on the screen.
What will I show in this picture?
What are human beings, art, museums and movie theatres showing to us?
Are we those anti-heroes?
Those people who have no dignity? We are slaves? We are liars? Thieves? What are we now?
I don’t want to show that kind of person.
I don’t know how to make pictures of everyone fighting one another, to have money, to steal money
Why?!
I don’t want to speak about “love” either; about this “love” that isn’t real, that’s a fairytale. Love is something great, incredible, “sublime”… I don’t know how you say “sublime” in English…
The most beautiful thing.
Marpa was a saint in Tibet and he said “Life, everything, is an illusion.”
One day his son died, his young son died and he was crying and crying and crying
and the disciples asked Marpa “Why are you crying? Your son is an illusion.”
“Yes, my son is an illusion. But he is the most beautiful illusion.”
Movies are an illusion but need to be the most beautiful illusion.
I know what it’s like to scream because one of your sons died.
It’s terrible. It’s terrible
And in that moment you ask yourself, “Why am I doing art, movies? Why?!”
and then you say
I am making movies and art in order to heal my soul.
I need to open! Open! open! myself, in order to find myself.
To remember what the human being is. The beautifulness of the human being.
The beautifulness of you. I need to show how beautiful the human being is. Now.
In Chile, in the forties, I was 24 years old… it was a fantastic moment.
The war was all over the planet, and in Chile : no war.
Because we are far and separate of the world: no television, mountains, ocean, peace!
It was so peaceful.
It was beautiful.
And then a miracle happened: Poetry came to the country.
Great poets started to write marvelous, marvelous poems; two of them have the Nobel Prize,
Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral – our father and our mother.
And then, everything was poetry.
We were living our adolescence in this situation: poetry everywhere.
And we started to search for the “poetical act.”
For how it was to live with beautifulness.
How it was to live in the mind: free! In heart : in union with world. In the sex: in full creativity.”

Originally posted on Imaging the Path:

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The Pearl Button

“In order to talk about profound tragedies, genocide that takes place, looking at Palestine or Syria, talking about Chile or Argentina indeed for that matter, it’s very important to use metaphor because metaphor is very expressive, very evocative. We’ve seen images of mass graves, we’ve seen images of the Nazi concentration camps and that has been with us for quite a while already. Nowadays we still need to talk abut these events, but it is perhaps best explained in an indirect way using the language of poetry. I think it is indispensable, in a way, to seek out that language when talking about these phenomena because it is also important to speak about pain and this is a very effective way to do it.”

Patricio Guzman

 

Embedded in the image above is a brief clip of Patricio Guzman’s ‘The Pearl Button’, a companion to his 2010 film ‘Nostalgia for the Light‘. Yesterday he won best screenplay for his film at the Berlin International Film Festival, which is very unusual for a documentary to win such an award. I would expect this to arrive in cinemas before the years end.

Guzman is a poet who in assembling his films creates connections using metaphor to complement historical and scientific evidence that along with his compelling images makes for a powerful and resonant experience. His previous film drew connections between the stars seen through powerful telescopes in the Chilean desert, to the (star) dust floating in our air, to the dust of the ‘disappeared’ from Pinochet’s terror whose remains became part of that same desert – all interwoven in a meditation on memory.

 

 

I think that life is memory, everything is memory. There is no present time and everything in life is remembering. I think memory encompasses all life, and all the mind. I’m not simply me—I’m my father and all that came before me, who are millions. Nostalgia for the Light sprung from this concept. It involves body and soul but also matter, the earth, the cosmos, all combined.

But there’s a constant contradiction between memory and history. It’s a conflict. The official Chilean historical record in regard to the 1973 coup d’état is a disaster. For nearly forty years now there has been denial of memory (like there was in Spain too after Franco’s death).”

Patricio Guzman

 

 ‘The Pearl Button’

‘The Pearl Button’ revolves not around the theme of dust but of water – around the idea that comets first brought water to this planet, that Chile’s largest border is ocean, that only 20 people remain from five indigenous tribes who lived on the coast that were decimated by colonial invaders. This same ocean is where the Pinochet regime dumped over a thousand bodies of people who were declared enemies of the state. Guzman continues his meditation on the idea of memory suggesting that water has a memory. It remembers those who perished in it. It and we are seeded from the stars just as we are made of stardust, he reminds us that our bodies are also mostly water. This film is also a meditation on how not only Chile but our modern civilization has lost its connection to the intrinsic value of our world, to its people and to its surroundings. If water has a memory then it is also a witness to our sorrowful history, whether we choose to remember it or not.

 

(references to 2 film reviews from the Berlin festival used for this post are here and here)

Film as a Subversive Art

 

[As a photographer] “I tend to look at everyday objects and to try to understand our relationship with those objects [as] if they were subverted. And I tend to see the world a little bit differently than other people – for example I often see convenience as an example of how it’s not safe – things that are very convenient tend to be less secure.”


Jacob Appelbaum in this talk discusses the subversion of objects, objects we take for granted and use everyday. These objects such as computers, telephones, USB cables, etc. are subverted to be used against us as if we were living in a Philip K Dick dystopia. Even if extraordinary steps are taken to insure that our privacy is intact, we cannot take for granted that the machines we use are safe. It is an incredible revelation he discusses, mined from the treasures of some of the documents that Edward Snowden has shared.

One of the things I admire so much about Appelbaum is that he not only tries to educate the public about the dangers of the surveillance world we live in, but that he does so from such a principled stance.

 

Photo by Thomas Klenze

 

What he discusses and presents in the second part of his talk is how he also subverts objects, in this case aerial infrared film which was once used in surveillance aircraft – film which is not longer used. He takes portraits of the people in his circle – hackers, programers, software engineers, artists, musicians, etc. In essence he is taking materials formerly used for spying and converts them into personal artistic portraits of mostly private behind the scenes people doing important work – work to educate, entertain, illuminate, and overcome the lack of privacy in our modern world.

 

Photo by Meowdip@Flickr.com


He is a hero of mine for the work he has done and continues to do as a Cypherpunk. His personal artistic project adds another dimension to the kind of person he is.


“When a person begins to live with their ‘genius’ they begin to be truly wyyrrdd”*

(*According to Michael Meade, one of the meanings of the welsh Wyyrrdd is to have one foot in both worlds)

“The genius wants activity. It is connected to the stars. It is connected to a spark and it wants to burn and it wants to create and it has gifts to give. You have a name that is inside you and the stars know your name and even if you are lost in this world if you remember your connection to the stars, to the dance of this cosmos, you can find yourself.”

 

Michael Meade is attempting to reintroduce the idea of the ‘genius’ to our contemporary world. Through his organization, the Mozaic Multicultural Foundation, he has started the Genius Project.

Michael Meade -

“We’re in the time of tragic stories. The background for this consideration of genius is really the rattling of culture and the disruption of the world. We don’t just have one problem. We have pretty much every problem we could imagine and we have it all at the same time.”

From the website -

“The context for Mosaic’s Genius Project is our modern world, full of uncertainty, in which we are subject to threats coming from both nature and culture. As climate change and social meltdowns threaten the stability of modern life, we live in a world that borders on chaos.”

“The issue is not whether someone “is a genius,” for genius is a given, something naturally given to each of us as part of the inner project of one’s life. Inner genius is something originally given to each of us in order that we each find a way to give something meaningful and valuable back to the world.”

“Genius has the root meaning of “the spirit that is already there.” As such it points to the inner uniqueness and natural giftedness that enters the world with each person born. When seen as a cohering thread in each life, inner genius serves to weave together a person’s innate talents and abilities while also revealing one’s purpose in life. If people are to find creative ways of living together and healing both culture and nature, the awakening of individual genius may be the deepest and most imaginative way to approach the seemingly impossible tasks that face contemporary cultures.”

 

Guy McPherson challenges us to pursue lives of excellence even as we face the increasing evidence of the catastrophic transition that lies before us. What better way to do that even if he is wrong about his conclusions than to try to discover what unique gifts we each have to offer to this suffering world. We are connected to the cosmos, to this world and to each other by the very fact that we are all made of the same star dust. We are also connected to a deep ancestral and mythological lineage that continues to speak to us of the wisdom that lies within. The challenge to stand simultaneously in the world of the imagination as well as the everyday world we live in is great. Mass culture is one of our enemies. As Meade reminds,

 

“One of the problems with mass culture is that it is automatically against the individual. The individual means the undivided person. It means the one who found what was supposed to be found inside them and learned how to live it and therefore they are not divided within themselves. They are not divided from their soul and they are not divided from their own genius, but they are living with it. Mass culture cannot foster that. It cannot support it. It tends to go against it. It is always an upstream swim to become a real person but in a mass culture you are swimming against ocean waves.”

 

The encouragement that Meade offers in the face of this and other challenges is the fact that with the mythology of the genius, each of us is answering a call that came with us into this life we were born into. This calling is a unique answer to the question of ‘what do I have to offer to the world?’ Listen below as he tries to open a window into this idea for each of us to explore.

 

 

 

Image

Hospice as an Answer to Ecocide

anelegantmystery:

A deeply felt response to the ongoing crisis we face as a planet, at once personal as well as with insight into the challenges ahead for us all. To quote Kenn regarding hospice, “It speaks the language of kindness, mercy and compassion to a world glaringly bereft of all three. It generously applies a healing balm to the wounds inflicted by injustice, cruelty and war. In no way is this “giving up.” On the contrary, it is a resounding battle cry against the death machine of industrial civilization.”

Originally posted on Kenn Orphan:

When I started working with the terminally ill over 20 years ago I had not made the connection between the hospice approach to individual human suffering at the end of life and that of our embattled and dying ecosystem. I first encountered the idea of viewing the earth, and all who inhabit it, on hospice when I began reading the work of Guy Mcpherson, professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, and the writings of author Carolyn Baker, Ph.D.   I now see the same patterns of misery, denial, angst, terror, empathy, alienation and actualization that define our own personal response to grief mirrored in our collective condition as a species. And I have come to believe that this model is the best response to the catastrophe of climate change, mass species extinction and the self-destructive nature of industrial civilization.

Photographer Adnan Abidi  Reuters(Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

Wikipedia defines…

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A Burning House

 

(from the publisher)  “Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King’s life, revealing the minister’s trials and tribulations—denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country’s black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few—all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy.”

 

In an excerpt from his book, Smiley recounts part of King’s speech at the Riverside Church in April 1967 – one year to the day before he was assassinated. A speech he argues that signed King’s death warrant and revealed the path he was already on, the path of what he calls ‘his dark and difficult days.’

 

“He quickly links the war—indeed, the very forces of militarism—to racism and poverty. Blacks are fighting and dying at almost twice their proportion of the population. He points to the “cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together at the same schools.” He speaks about the rioters who, in answer to his plea for nonviolence, question America’s own unchecked violence in Vietnam.”

“Their questions hit home,” he says, “and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government.”

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

“The phrase will send shock waves through the media.”

 

Listen below as Tavis Smiley paints a picture of the last year of Martin Luther King Jr’s life, how his dream in 1963 has become in 67 a nightmare. How he was demonized before his death, the emotional and physical price he paid, and how he was deified and his message sanitized after his death. And how he uses King’s example of how to take on the difficult and painful responsibility and challenge of being a truth-teller in today’s world.

 

 

 

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