Author Archive

Corroborating the presence of elders

“The plight of elderhood is one of the human echoes of the ecological dilemma.

If elderhood is an identity and swept up with all the other identity clamor of our time then what you’d go about doing is looking for people with that quote personality type or that kind of wrinkle.

I’m gonna suggest to you that elderhood is not a figment of personality. It’s not an aspect of identity. It has nothing to do with the particular qualities of individuals.

Elderhood is first, foremost, and will always be a cultural function and in that understanding an elder is a culture worker and as such not inherently inevitably or mandatorily an old person.

Having said that I’ll acknowledge something that it would appear to me to be a truism that while all elders tend to be older not all older people are elders and so there’s something that works in that arrangement.

This means elders themselves must be on the steep learning curve and they must be deep running students of their times and their responsiveness to their times is what qualifies them. So the word response ability really works here.

You know it’s not a sense of burden the way people usually use the word, the sense of responsibility means simply the capacity to respond maybe to distinguish that from react. Maybe react, we could use that word to describe certain responses you have that attempt to satisfy you or assuage you or reassure you, whereas the capacity to respond might have nothing to do with you trying to feel better about anything – it might have to do with your sense of a kind of moral political cultural spiritual obligation to fully inhabit the conditions of citizenship if you will. But your citizenry is not to a particular geopolitical identity. Your deep citizenship is a devotional one, not an affiliation one and in in that sense you know the work that you join yourself to is dictated by your times’ troubles, and that’s what you’re a citizen of – you’re a citizen of a troubled time not Canada or the United States, or any other you know freewheeling entity today.

So if that’s possible then it means that elders are not in the business of getting themselves recognized, they’re in the business of recognizing. So you could say in a time when elderhood has gone into terrible abeyance, which is certainly our time now, then it becomes the eldering responsibilities of elders to function at the level of recognizing incipient elderhood in their midst and proceeding accordingly by acknowledging it, recognizing it, corroborating it, living as if it’s true, authorizing it without ever trying to be included in it or to benefit directly from it. You follow what I’m saying, okay? It’s a radical reading of what it means to be an elder and it’s not a club you get to join. It’s the ending of all clubs in a time like ours that no elder in a time like this, if I may sound programmatic about it, no elder at a time like this would ever call themselves an elder ever okay? Why not? Because this is the responsibility of the people around them – to recognize elderhood in their midst, to corroborate it and everything I just said. And if it doesn’t happen, it’s because there’s no elders to do so and because the appetite for elderhood has gone missing in the way we talked earlier about if kids or young people are not exposed to it then their appetite for it begins to atrophy and they trade it in for self-reliance or for a kind of principled anxiety that masquerades as having a conscience but it’s more at the level of just a chronic free-floating anxiety where you care about everything but only enough to paralyze you or to animate you with extraordinary levels of kind of sulfuric anger, an incandescent rage that doesn’t know how to proceed. This kind of thing, which is a kind of narcissism frankly.

So this is an awful lot to say in response to a short question but if at the risk of sounding like I’m giving a a formula of how to pull this off. I would simply say in a time like ours now, it might be the fundamental responsibility of people who may yet come to inhabit the elder function, that they must do so minus acknowledgement, minus recognition. And the way they do it is by corroborating the presence of elders around them. So a very quick way of saying it,  it would come down to this – the greater elderhood skill now is the skill of having, of knowing how to have elders in your midst. It is not the skill of knowing how to be one.”

Stephen Jenkinson


Everything is alive and everything speaks

 

Sharon Blackie in conversation with David Abram

 

Dr. Abram’s work engages the ecological depths of the imagination, exploring the ways in which sensory perception, poetics, and wonder inform the relation between the human body and the breathing earth. His philosophical craft is profoundly informed by the European tradition of phenomenology (in particular, by the work of the French phenomenologist, Maurice Merleau-Ponty) and by his fieldwork with indigenous peoples in southeast Asia and North America.

Dr. Blackie’s unique approach to working with the mythic imagination, fairy tales and folklore highlights the insights these traditions can offer us into authentic and meaningful ways of being which are founded on a return to the native wisdom traditions of the West, and above all on cultivating deep and enduring relationships to the places we inhabit.


‘The boundary between our heart and the rest of world is just a convention, waiting to be transcended.’

 
 


Can you see?

 

Writing for Bright Wall / Dark Room (one of the premier film sites around today), Emmy Potter’s essay  – “Can You See?”: Navigating the Murky, Powerful Waters of the Female Psyche in Minority Report decolonizes what appears to be another formulaic Tom Cruise vehicle. Her insight turns the genre on its ear by focusing more on the female characters potential to subvert the traditional (read patriarchal) and corrupt (built on the dehumanization of women) systems of power.

Below are a couple of excerpts but the whole essay is worth a read.

“On its surface, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is a dark, slick, sci-fi thriller centered on a man on the run (it’s the second film in his unofficial, early 2000s “Running Man Trilogy”). But Anderton’s destiny, and that of the other men in the film, hinges upon the abilities, memories, and empathy of women. More specifically, the gifted female precognitive at its center, Agatha. While the film explores such heady themes as free will versus predetermination, the ethical boundaries of technology, and fractured parent/child relationships (this is a Spielberg movie, after all), Minority Report also enters the murky waters of the female psyche. And once it goes there, all the men struggle to stay afloat.”

 

 

 

“Though disguised as a neo-noir, in many ways Minority Report is really a sci-fi allegory about how corrupt systems thrive through the subjugation of women, the exploitation and dismissal of their pain, and the underestimation of their emotions and abilities. The film shows that when women dare to express their emotions fully, they not only expose the flaws in the system, but threaten its destruction. Any woman who persists in asserting her own humanity is disastrous to men who have spent their entire lives denying it.”

 

 

 

 


Death at Work: The Mirror sees it all

“In his memoirs Nicolas Roeg (who passed away last week), who cast David Bowie as alien in The Man Who Fell To Earth, refers to the mirror as ‘the very essence of cinema’. He who searches for mirror scenes in films and series will be confronted with indestructible metaphors. David Bowie united them all.”

A video essay (click this link if the above embed is not working) by Maarten Slagboom and Menno Kooistra

Films: David Bowie – Blackstar (2016) The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) The Lady From Shanghai (1947) Eureka (1983) The Cabin In The Woods (2012) Performance (1970) Track 29 (1988) Bad Timing (1980) Don’t Look Now (1973) Walkabout (1971) Duck Soup (1933) American Psycho (2000) Frankie And Alice (2010) Happy Days (1974-1984) Eyes Wide Shut (1999) The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) Pulp Fiction (1994) Taxi Driver (1976) La Haine (1995) The 25th Hour (2002) Raging Bull (1980) Under The Skin (2013) Op Afbetaling (1992) An American Werewolf In London (1981) Shaun of the Dead (2004) Twin Peaks (S02E08 & S02E22) Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Alice Through The Looking Glass (1988) Dead of Night (1945) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) Triangle (2009) Sucker Punch (2011) Orpheus (1950) Blood of a Poet (1932) The Fly (1986) Black Swan (2010) Nymphomaniac (2013) The Shining (1980) Carrie (1976) Over Canto (2011) Dracula (1931) The Mirror/Zerkalo (1975) David Bowie – Lazarus (2016) David Bowie – Look Back in Anger (1978) David Bowie – Loving the Alien (1984) David Bowie – Thursday’s Child (1999) David Bowie – Boys Keep Swinging (1978) David Bowie – Miracle Goodnight (1992) The Hunger (1980) David Bowie – Pierrot in Turquoise (1967)

Paintings: Narcissus by Caravagio (1594-1696) Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse (1903) and Narcissus by Gerard van Kuijl (1640)

Music: Jeff Russo – Dr. Katz (2016) Jeff Russo – The Waving Cat (2016) Jeff Russo – The Squadroom (2016) Chris Isaak – Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing (1995)

 

 


American Psychosis

“In a 2010 essay published on Adbusters, Hedges caught the eye of filmmaker Amanda Zackem, when he succinctly spelled out the problems with totalitarian capitalism and corporate power. Those ideas deeply resonated with Zackem and caused her to reach out to Hedges about bringing his essay into the cinematic realm in order to expose them to a larger audience.”

““American Psychosis” serves as a vital entry point to critically observing, thinking, and acting on the imbalances one sees in society. “I learned long ago that you can’t change anybody unless they want to change themselves. With this in mind, my intention when making this film was to encourage people to begin to think critically about the world we live in as opposed to just going through our daily motions. Most of us aren’t even aware of the oppressive, inequitable systems we are a part of, or if we are, we choose not to look, or not to talk about it, because it is uncomfortable. I want people to question the world we live in, the systems we’ve set up.”

“The United States is a very strange place when you really think about it. We celebrate freedom and yet we live in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. We have tons of money, but people go bankrupt and/or die because they can’t afford healthcare.  We have an abundance of food, much of which ends up in the trash, yet so many children and families are going hungry. Our education system is a mess. Teachers aren’t paid properly, nor do they have enough funding or resources to do their job. Our universities are putting our youth into massive debt.  Women are still not paid as much as men; the list goes on and on. And yet in the United States productivity has never been higher but average wages have been virtually stagnant since the 1970’s. Corporations pay hardly any taxes and hide their money abroad and our governmental system somehow allows this to continue?  All of this, as Chris highlights, is totally insane.”

“The humanities in the United States have been getting beaten down for a while now. The digital age has created impatience and dissolution of substance. We live in the land of fast paced, pop culture. Everything is created to sell to the consumer who at best has to somehow sift through layers of corporate manipulation in search of inner truth, or at worst doesn’t even recognize or question their actions in the world. Our current culture leaves no time for emotional processing or reflection, instead we simply move on to the next headline or viral video. We live in a culture of distraction.”

“The humanities reason for existence is to stimulate critical thought. Once critical thought is replaced by overt and subliminal consumer messaging there are no more humanities, and even more sadly, we begin to lose our own humanity.”

“If they have not yet been outright defunded or cast aside in place of more “productive” STEM initiatives, many pursuits of the humanities have themselves been co-opted by market forces. Pieces of art sell for many millions of dollars at auctions as they’re not valued for their cultural impact and aesthetic beauty, but rather, as an investment opportunity sure to yield high gains.”


To better understand our position as living beings in a living world

 

“An inspired collaboration between filmmakers Peter Mettler (The End of Time) and Emma Davie (I Am Breathing) and radical writer and philosopher David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous), Becoming Animal is an urgent and immersive audiovisual quest, forging a path into the places where humans and animals meet, where we pique our senses to witness the so-called natural world—which in turn witnesses us, prompting us to reflect on the very essence of what it means to inhabit our animal bodies.”

Excerpts from an interview with the filmmakers,

“David’s writing is very poetic and descriptive, but in the cinema it is the images and sounds that do most of the work.”

…we describe “nature” as something fundamentally apart from ourselves. This is a central paradox that we were always aware of and engaged with throughout the process of making Becoming Animal. Although the film is partially about our urge to exist beyond our limited notion of self and other – to claim a more expanded sense of being that connects us sensorially to everything – there is also an additional aspect that even to think this realization is to already be one step removed from the immediacy of experience. So the perennial question of how the mind both liberates and limits is also present, and film, with its endless hall of mirrors, can reflect this. We hope the film exists in a space in which the cumulative effect of David’s ideas, woven into a cinematic journey, will start to create new links in the minds of the audience, resonating with their own deep questions about these themes.”

“It is a paradox to make a film about our senses and the connection to our surroundings, while also addressing how these technologies have changed our relationships to our surroundings. But that is exactly what we wanted to embrace, so that as one watches the film there is an awareness of the mediated nature of the experience of cinema itself. This is why at times you will hear the rustling, breathing animal (Peter) that holds the camera as he makes his way through the brush, and why you see the crew, cameras, and David – our “guide” – intermittently throughout. This layer provides a way to better understand what we are all going through, whether as filmmakers, tourists, or as a cultural audience.”

“We hope that the film addresses in some way what we have been calling a crisis of perception, exemplified by the fact that while our culture possesses more tools and knowledge than ever before, our understanding and awareness of the world remains quite limited. It seems that, in looking into the root of our problems, it’s also important to address how we actually see.”

“Empathy, awareness and reciprocity are qualities we hope Becoming Animal may evoke, to better understand our position as living beings in a living world.”

The Village & The Forest

“While persons brought up within literate culture often speak about the natural world, indigenous, oral peoples sometimes speak directly to that world, acknowledging certain animals, plants, and even landforms as expressive subjects with whom they might find themselves in conversation.”

David Abram


Color is Imaginary. Space is Infinite. Everything appears to be in a Constant State of Flux*

*From Maurice Tuchman’s ‘The Spiritual in Art – Abstract Painting 1890-1985’ describing Frantisek Kupka’s translation of his visionary experiences into visual form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frantisek Kupka 1871-1957


Art and the Occult

 

Gary Lachman spoke recently at The Black Light Exhibition, an event sponsored by The Center for Contemporary Culture Barcelona.

Lachman, whose presentation begins at about the 5:30 mark in the above video, briefly covers a history of the relationship between art and the occult. He speaks for roughly 35 minutes tracing the roots of this phenomenon from paleolithic cave paintings to the varied works of William Blake to the secret Gnostic paintings of Hilma af Klint and to the expressions of contemporary artists such as the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, which is then followed by a Q and A session.

This exhibition stood on the shoulders of another exhibition curated by Maurice Tuchman in the 1980’s in Los Angeles, ‘The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985’.

Tuchman in the introduction to the wonderful book published in conjunction with this event states,

“Abstract art remains misunderstood by the majority of the viewing public. Most people, in fact, consider it meaningless. Yet around 1910, when groups of artists moved away from representational art toward abstraction, preferring symbolic color to natural color, signs to perceived reality, ideas to direct observation, there was never an outright dismissal of meaning. Instead artists made an effort to draw upon deeper and more varied levels of meaning, the most pervasive of which was the spiritual.”

The cover of the accompanying publication for The Black Light Exhibition

From the CCCB site,

“Esoteric traditions can be traced back to the very origins of civilization, having served at different times to structure philosophical, linguistic, scientific or spiritual ideas. Despite their importance for the development of twentieth-century art, they tend to be ignored or disparaged these days due to the dominance of rationalistic thinking and the difficulty of talking about these subjects in clear, direct language.

In recent years, however, many artists have taken a renewed interest in subjects such as alchemy, secret societies, theosophy and anthroposophy, the esoteric strands in major religions, oriental philosophies, magic, psychedelia and drug-use, universal symbols and myths, the Fourth Way formulated by the Armenian mystic Georges Gurdjieff, etc., generating an interest in these fields that had not existed since the counterculture of the sixties and seventies.

According to the writer Enrique Juncosa, curator of this exhibition, this interest may be due to the fact that we are, once again, living in a restless and unsatisfied world, worried about new colonial wars, fundamentalist terrorism, serious ecological crisis and nationalist populism, just as in the sixties and seventies people feared an imminent and devastating nuclear catastrophe. Furthermore, much of today’s mainstream art is actually rather boring due to its complete lack of mystery and negation of any kind of poetization or interpretation of our experience of it.””

 

Photo by Asa Lunden

Photo from a 2013 Exhibition of works by the Swedish mystic Hilma af Klint who as Lachman describes in his presentation is probably the first Abstract artist, predating Wassily Kandinsky

 


The Resistance of Poets

[N]obody is willing to invest money in poetry. But film will continue existing thanks to the resistance of…poets. You can be sure that cinema history is made of films that recreate the inner world of their artist, and not the movies we see today and...

“[N]obody is willing to invest money in poetry. But film will continue existing thanks to the resistance of…poets. You can be sure that cinema history is made of films that recreate the inner world of their artist, and not the movies we see today and that I hope will not continue to please the public for much longer. Since the beginning, cinema has been in a difficult situation. To make movies, you need money. To write poetry, all you need is some paper and pencil. I bow to those directors who keep trying, with what they have, to make their own movies. We have seen that these films have a specific, personal rhythm.”

Andrei Tarkovsky

(From the wondrous site created and curated by Edwin Adrian Nieves  –   A-BitterSweet-Life.)