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‘Engaging the psyche on its own terms’

The problem with ‘mainstream’ culture’s conformism and lack of innovation is not the fact that it makes life uninteresting. It is the fact that it endangers life itself.”

(Joshua Ramey)

 

I love this book, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice by J.F. Martel. His goal is to start a conversation about the true nature of the transformative power that is characteristic of great art. I know it has sparked my own internal musings about the subject. The following post contains examples of what I believe are incredible works of art that were chosen out of thousands of possible examples. I’m sure everyone can think of many more that are important to them. There are so many!
Most of the following excerpts are from the preface to Martel’s book. I encourage anyone who is an artist or who loves and is inspired by art to purchase his book here or at your local independent bookstore. I believe it is an important and timely call to explore the possibilities of depth in an age when we are so easily hypnotized, manipulated and ultimately destroyed by the shimmering, shallow, unimaginative mirage of modern life.

 

(William Blake)

 “Every great artistic work is a quiet apocalypse. It tears off the veil of ego, replacing old impressions with new ones that are at once inexorably alien and profoundly meaningful.”

(Vincent van Gogh)

“Great works of art have a unique capacity to arrest the discursive mind, raising it to a level of reality that is more expansive than the egoic dimension we ordinarily inhabit. In this sense, art is the transfiguration of the world.”

(Henri Matisse)

“What could be more superfluous than art in the face of the authoritarian turn in contemporary politics, the systematic devastation of the biosphere, the ever-widening economic gap, or the rising tide of anxiety and mental illness? The objection is valid so long as we continue to see art as simply a source of entertainment or a platform for ‘self-expression.'”

(Wassily Kandinsky)

“Art, however is more than that. It deals in consciousness itself, the stuff dreams are made of.” 

(Pablo Picasso)

“Art is the only truly effective means we have of engaging, in a communal context, the psyche on its own terms.” 

(Leo Kenney)

“My argument is that by rethinking art in that light we can reorient ourselves individually and collectively toward alternative modalities of being, setting the stage for what Daniel Pinchbeck calls a new mythological consciousness able to resolve issues ‘through symbol and image, without need of rational explanation.'”

(Georgia Okeefe)

“Art breaks down the barriers that normally stand between the physical and the psychic, between your soul and the soul of others.”

(Jackson Pollack)

“Through art alone are we able to emerge from ourselves, to know what another person sees of a universe which is not the same as our own and of which, without art, the landscapes would remain as unknown to us as those that may exist on the moon.” – Marcel Proust

(Mark Rothko)

[For Proust] “Art is a meeting place in which human beings commune at a level that ordinary language and sign systems do not allow. Without art, connection at this deeper level is impossible.”

(Helen Frankenthaler)

“This is a troubling idea to consider in a time when aesthetic forces ranging from sensationalistic news spectacles to manipulative viral marketing seem bent on achieving a very different end.”

(Agnes Martin)

“The all consuming razzle-dazzle of sound and light with which we are bombarded does not draw us into the secret universe of another consciousness.”

(Morris Graves)

“On the contrary, it fools us into taking as self-evident a picture of life that in reality belongs to nobody, effectively producing an artificial space wherein the market and the state can thrive as though they were inextricable parts of the cosmos rather than the mutable accidents of history that they are.”

(Kenneth Callahan)

“We are in danger today of losing the capacity to distinguish between artistic creation as Proust defined it and the aesthetic creativity that goes into a commercial jingle, a new car design, or a hollow summer blockbuster.”

(Frida Kahlo)

“If our confusion suits the reigning political and economic regime just fine, it is because it stands as proof that the operation to supplant the dream-space of soul and psyche with a fully controllable interface is going according to plan.”

(Remedios Varo)

“There is a sense in which art is a cultural contrivance and a sense in which art is a natural phenomenon. Art is a contrivance so far as we limit our conception of it to the things and activities the culture labels as artistic.” (This and the remaining quotes are excerpts from Martel’s Notes Towards An Interpretive Method)

(Francis Bacon)

“Art is a natural phenomenon in that it is the expression of non-human forces in the human world.”

(H.R. Giger)

“Concretely, it inheres in the creation of symbols, that is, crystallizations of psychic energy emerging from the imaginal depths of Nature.”

(Alex Grey)

“Symbols are signs, but signs pointing us to the unknown, perhaps unknowable aspects of reality. They call us to the dark expanses that extend infinitely on every side of the small castellated island that is the human world.”

 

(Anselm Kiefer)

“If no interpretation of a symbol is ever complete, it is because a symbol’s potential meanings are never exhausted. In fact symbols don’t “mean” anything at all. Rather, they provoke the spontaneous creation of meaning in us.”

(Ernst Fuchs)

“Only art can express the symbolic, and symbols don’t occur outside of art. One possible definition of art is: any activity by which symbols are brought into the world.”

(Andy Kehoe)

“The moment a symbol is extracted from its originating aesthetic substance in order to be “explained,” it becomes an ordinary sign.”

(Kathleen Lolley)

“The work of art that is interpreted without regard for the ineffable power of the symbols it contains turns into an allegory—that is, a cultural artifact rather than a natural force. It thereby loses its connection with the depths.”

(Holly Roberts)

“The symbol is a concrete cosmic force,” Gilles Deleuze wrote. “It is a dynamic process that enlarges, deepens, and expands sensible consciousness; it is an ever increasing becoming-conscious, as opposed to the closing of the moral consciousness upon a fixed allegorical idea.”

(Jeanie Tomanek)

“Met on its own ground, the work of art as vector of symbols is an inexhaustible producer of meaning. Invariably, the work reveals more than its creator ever intended and more than any interpreter can fathom.”

(Meinrad Craighead)

“The artist doesn’t inject meaning into the work of art any more than the interpreter extracts meaning from it. Rather, the work of art by its nature asks us to create its meaning(s), and there are worse definitions of culture than “the act of creating meaning.””

(Philip Rubinov Jacobson)

JF Martel’s Manifesto

JF Martel’s recently published ‘Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice‘ opens with the following manifesto –

“Art is the name we have given to humanity’s most primal response to the mystery of existence. It was in the face of the mystery that dance, music, poetry, and painting were born.

 

Since the dawn of the current era, art has been under threat.

In the place where it belongs on the cultural landscape,

two idols stand like golden calves demanding worship:

Pornography, the use of aesthetics to manipulate

through desire; and

Propaganda, the use of aesthetics to manipulate

through fear.

Even where true art is made, powerful economic and political forces are there to subjugate it to one of the idols.

 

The work of art is apolitical and free of moralism. “The artist,” Wilde said, “is free to express everything.”

It is precisely the absence of political and moral interest

that make art an agent of liberation wherever it appears.

 

Art opposes tyranny by freeing beauty from the clutches of the powers of this world.

True beauty is not pretty. It is a tear in the facade of

the everyday, a sudden revelation of the forces seething

beneath the surface of things.

Only the revelation of beauty can save our world.

 

The artist is always and for all time a seer, and artistic creation

is always and for all time an act of prophecy.

The artist does not choose the prophecy. Rather the prophetic

shines through her work. It comes from elsewhere.

The artist therefore needs enough courage to stay

true to the work at hand. Even greater courage is

required of those who to whom the finished work

is given, for their interests will always recommend

dismissing the vision for fear of its implications.

 

Only through art can human beings express and share the

archetypal powers that shape the universe.

To abandon art would mean forfeiting the gift of vision,

which, by all appearances, was given to humans alone.

To reclaim it might enable us to recover our faith in

this world, and to act in accordance with that faith for

the benefit of life on earth.”

Cave of Cats: a Journey to the Underworld

anelegantmystery:

Sharon Blackie’s descent into the underworld.
She writes, “A key part of any ‘Journey’, whether it be the Hero’s Journey or the Heroine’s Journey or any other Journey you’d like to invoke, is the passage to the Underworld. The power of the transforming dark; the cauldron; the cocoon. Call it what you will; I encountered it in all its real and tangible force in the rather intimidating Oweynagat, referred to in an old religious text as ‘the hell-mouth of Ireland’.”

Originally posted on Re-enchanting the Earth:

Recently, I made a 12-day trip through Ireland, Wales and Cornwall to complete some research and interviews for my forthcoming book. Amongst many adventures, the most powerful was a trip to Oweynagat, the mythical Cave of Cats, at Rathcroghan, County Roscommon. I had only one day, one opportunity to go there, and it happened to be in the middle of a snowstorm, after an unexpectedly heavy February snowfall. I’m singling it out here because it relates in some sense to the series of short articles I’m writing on midlife transitions. A key part of any ‘Journey’, whether it be the Hero’s Journey or the Heroine’s Journey or any other Journey you’d like to invoke, is the passage to the Underworld. The power of the transforming dark; the cauldron; the cocoon. Call it what you will; I encountered it in all its real and tangible force in the rather intimidating Oweynagat…

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Ring Around the Moon


 

“There’s a ring around the moon
There’s a ring around the moon
There’s a ring around the moon
There’s a ring around the moon
 

‘Neath the halo of the moon
Blew down on Paseo
Seasons changing
I can smell it in the air
I can see it in their paintings
And I can hear it in the wind, hear it rise and descend
Through the many colored trees, forms a many colored breeze
Made of many colored leaves, departing ever so gracefully

 

 

They fall, they fall
They fall, they fall, they fall
They fall, they fall
Descending, sweet melody
And what it is that is not ending is a sweet mystery

 

 (Andy Goldsworthy)

 

Like the ring around the moon
Like the ring around the moon
There’s a ring around the moon
There’s a ring around the moon

 

(Paul Caponigro)

Flying machine rises
Sends a light down to scan the surface
Searches narrow
Like the minds of the suspicious
How I wish that we would trust us
Like the ring around the moon
Like the ring around the moon
There’s a ring around the moon
There’s a ring around the moon”
(Elephant Revival)

 

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)
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