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.’
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.”
“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)
*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
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
“[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.”
The Worlds of
An intelligent Sci-Fi film adapted from an intelligent 1st book in a trilogy from a ‘New Weird Fiction‘ writer Jeff VanderMeer – Annihilation creates a world with echoes from previous Sci-Fi cinematic masterpieces.
It is a film that asks to be experienced first before engaging in an ongoing interpretation. And like all good art it opens up the viewer to many different possible meanings and layers that will certainly require multiple viewings to absorb everything that is being presented.
Mysteriously disturbing, haunting, frightening at times, yet exhilarating and ultimately profound, unfolding like a dream – it can be seen at once as a psychological, biological, existential, and metaphysical question of our existence on this planet along with other myriad life-forms. And ultimately it frames that question with regards to what is our place in this universe.
It deserves to be seen in a theater to experience the full force of its mastery. It won’t be around in theaters for long as the studio underestimated its appeal, so see it soon if you are in the U.S and Canada if you can.
“The Russian Revolution. The Spanish Republic. The Paris Commune. The Ukrainian revolution. The Mexican Revolution. From the late 19th century until World War II, anarchists played a key role in these events and in social movements that would shape the world we live in.
Yet these contributions are largely forgotten. Anarchists were considered so dangerous that forces of the state slaughtered them by the thousands, while they were betrayed, arrested, and killed by their erstwhile revolutionary allies.
Anarchy is often used as a synonym for chaos and destruction – with anarchists seen as black-clad nihilists fomenting violence at peaceful protests. But NO GODS NO MASTERS reveals the far more complex history of a viable social system and the men and women who devoted themselves to making it a reality.
NO GODS NO MASTERS is a sympathetic history of a century of anarchist thought and practice, featuring leading historians and essayists, dramatic archival footage, and lively commentary that keeps the subject engaging. Divided into sections each based on key events, NO GODS NO MASTERS is a comprehensive yet accessible introduction to the multi-faceted global anarchist movement – once a mass force that sought not to seize political power, but to utterly destroy it.”
Part 1: The Passion for Destruction (1840–1906)
“This episode of NO GODS NO MASTERS shows how anarchism emerged from the horrendous social conditions facing workers at a time when industrialization was, paradoxically, providing better hygiene and social standards – for some. In an era in which the life expectancy of workers was 30 years—most of those spent in misery—it is no surprise that new approaches would arise.
Tracing the history of early anarchist thought from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who declared that property is theft, to Mikhail Bakunin, who advocated violent revolution to destroy the state completely, THE PASSION FOR DESTRUCTION provides a look at both the theoretical and practical origins of the movement.
Anarchists played a role in the revolutionary Paris Commune of 1871, which was crushed with an unprecedented brutality that saw the deaths of as many as 20,000 people. It was the kind of response anarchists would soon face whenever they succeeded in wresting power from authority.
Anarchists issued a formal declaration of principals following their first international, held in St-Imier, Switzerland, in 1872, advocating free speech, free thought, equality for all, atheism, internationalism, and an end to political parties.
THE PASSION FOR DESTRUCTION follows the expansion of the anarchist movement from Europe to America, where it grew, fueled by disillusioned immigrants. Anarchists would spread their influence through general strikes – a form of action they developed – and collective action within the trade union movement, which was concerned with much more far-reaching change than working conditions. The film also offers an in-depth look at the Haymarket Affair, which saw four anarchists wrongfully hanged for a bomb that went off during a demonstration against police violence, and which would deeply influence anarchist activists such as Emma Goldman.
But even as anarchist-influenced revolts would spread through much of the world, the movement faced a sharp division between those advocating “propaganda of the deed” (bombings and other violent acts that would serve as a catalyst for revolution) and those who favoured the more incremental gains of syndicalism.”
Part 2: Land and Freedom (1907–1921)
“By the early 20th century, anarchists in France were a powerful enough constituency to draw the French president to an event. In England, they were considered so dangerous that when they occupied a London building, it took the full force of heavy artillery and 800 police officers (some under the eye of Winston Churchill) to dislodge them.
LAND AND FREEDOM looks at differing strains within the anarchist movement during the peak of its popularity – when it seemed, for a time, that the dream of anarchist revolution might come to pass. This was an era of social ferment and experimentation, including communal living, nudism and gender equality; educational reform designed to usher in the development of “the new man”; the resurgence of propaganda of the deed in the guise of violent robberies and shootouts with police; and the participation of anarchists in revolutions from Mexico to Russia.
Anarchism waned in Europe during the years leading up to WWI, but the 1910 Mexican Revolution took up the torch, and drew the support of anarchists and anti-authoritarians including the thinkers and activists Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, and Joe Hill of the International Workers of the World. But despite the early gains of the Zapatistas, they would be betrayed and slaughtered by their allies. Anarchists who participated in the 1917 Russian Revolution suffered the same fate. Happy to have their support in toppling the government, the communists then suppressed them with what Trotsky called “an iron broom.”
While it seemed that the dream of an anarchist revolution was within grasp, World War I would put an end to popular revolt, as young men went to the front. A movement that had once seemed poised to take over the world was now severely weakened.”
Part 3: In Memory of the Vanquished (1922–1945)
“This episode of NO GODS NO MASTERS opens with the United States during the Depression, and the galvanizing role of the conviction and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. It was a period during which anarchists were characterized as bomb-throwers, drunkards, and Bolsheviks. And in a country that saw trade unionism and any fight for workers’ rights as an existential threat, anarchists could not be tolerated. Indeed, the government and police sometimes teamed up with organized crime to fight them.
It’s not as though the propaganda was without basis: anarchists, including the strain of thought to which Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti belonged, had committed a series of bombings in the US. Indeed, to protest their arrest, the world’s first car bomb was detonated on Wall Street, killing 38 people. Communists saw the pair as martyrs, and fought for their release, in a calculated attempt to win over anarchist sympathizers.
IN MEMORY OF THE VANQUISHED traces the appropriation of anarchism by communists, and of anarchist symbolism by fascists in France, Italy, and Spain, and takes an in-depth look at the Spanish Revolution of 1936, which was heavily anarchist in Catalonia. Remarkable newsreel footage from Barcelona shows smoothly functioning life in a city run largely on anarchist principles, with collectively run arts organizations and companies, and without bureaucracies and bosses. But this too, would not last, as anarchists paradoxically entered the republican government in order to face Franco’s fascists. The anarchist militias would end up being absorbed into the republican troops.
With the defeat of the Spanish Republic, and squeezed between Stalinists, fascists, and capitalists, anarchists found themselves in disarray, with nowhere to turn politically as the Second World War loomed. The anarchist movement seemed doomed. But was it?
The three episodes of NO GODS NO MASTERS offer an in-depth historical perspective on the anarchist movement, but also make implicit links to the present. Anarchism arose in a period of inequality and social unrest. The words “war on terror” were first applied to the late 19th-century fight against anarchists. Despite the diversity of thought among anarchists, the popular perception has remained remarkably static from opponents on both left and right – seeing them largely as violent nihilists. NO GODS NO MASTERS goes a long way towards rectifying that view, and raises the question of whether anarchist thought could appeal to a new generation of activists too.”
Art by Matt Melanson
There is a new podcast in town, Weird Studies, hosted by Phil Ford and J.F. Martel –
As they describe it,
“Weird Studies” is a scholarly field that doesn’t and can’t exist.
The Weird is that which resists any settled explanation or frame of reference. It is the bulging file labelled “other/misc.” in our mental filing cabinet, full of supernatural entities, magical synchronicities, and occult rites. But it also appears when a work of art breaks in on our habits of perception and ordinary things become uncanny. The Weird is easiest to define as whatever lies on the further side of a line between what we can easily accept from our world and what we cannot. And it defines an attitude towards whatever lies on that side of the line: a willingness to remain suspended between explanations and abide in strangeness.”
In this episode the two connect the dots and discuss those connections and surrounding pathways into the origin of contemporary existential fear and how it manifests in recent works such as David Lynch and Mark Frosts’ ‘Twin Peaks – The Return’.
Along the way their map include signposts from Philip K. Dick, Norman Mailer, Stanley Kubrick, Carl Jung, William Burroughs, Guy Debord, H.P. Lovecraft and many others.
A fascinating and thought provoking look into the abyss, to synchronous expressions of art, and the implications for modern life as we live under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.
“I wish to paint in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams”
“In the medieval tradition, Beksinski seems to believe art to be a forewarning about the fragility of the flesh– whatever pleasures we know are doomed to perish– thus, his paintings manage to evoke at once the process of decay and the ongoing struggle for life. They hold within them a secret poetry, stained with blood and rust.”
― Guillermo del Toro
A Short film about the life of Leonora Carrington
(A few examples of her work below)
* Todd Haynes
“I have no doubt that whatever kinds of movies you like, seeing ‘Wonderstruck’, you will not have seen anything like it before.
It intercuts a story of one little deaf girl in 1927 who travels into New York City searching for answers, with the story of a little boy who becomes deaf in 1977, fifty years later, also on a journey.
And so the question keeps getting posed every time you intercut from black and white to color, silent film to sound film, why are these two stories sharing one movie?
When you really are excited by, motivated by the richness and strangeness of popular culture that we all share – movies, music, you realize that everything that’s great has been gotten away with and that it has sort of snuck into the conventional languages that we come to expect and that’s when our minds get percolated. That’s how we get pricked by a new experience.
And it’s also what reinvigorates the respective mediums involved. Getting away with it I think is what culture is about.”
“[It’s] too easy to put symbols in service of narrative. The trick is putting narrative in service of symbols.” – J.F. Martel in a recent tweet regarding how to watch Twin Peaks
“Artists end up producing symbols, beacons that point to those vast regions of reality which psychoanalysts call the unconscious. In other words, art doesn’t belong to the conscious world. It belongs on the same plane as dreams, visions and synchronicity.” J.F. Martel
“True works of art are powerful symbolic constructs, genuine oracles that can give society access to what’s going on below the threshold of collective consciousness.” – JFM
“I learned that just beneath the surface there’s another world, and still different worlds as you dig deeper.” David Lynch
“It makes me uncomfortable to talk about meanings and things. It’s better not to know so much about what things mean.” DL
“Because the meaning, it’s a very personal thing, and the meaning for me is different than the meaning for somebody else.” DL
“When something’s abstract, the abstractions are hard to put into words unless you’re a poet.” DL
“Cinema is a language that can say abstractions. I love stories, but I love stories that hold abstractions–that can hold abstractions. And cinema can say these difficult-to-say-in-words things.” DL
“I like things that go into hidden, mysterious places, places I want to explore that are very disturbing.” DL
“In that disturbing thing, there is sometimes tremendous poetry and truth.” DL
“As Henri Bergson says, if we could perceive reality directly, we wouldn’t need art.” JFM
“The reason we need art is that the intellect is constantly reducing reality to a conceptual order that accounts only for an infinitely small portion of what is real.” JFM
“If things get too specific, the dream stops. There are things that happen sometimes that open a door that lets you soar out and feel a bigger thing. Like when the mind gets involved in a mystery. It’s a thrilling feeling. When you talk about things, unless you’re a poet, a big thing becomes smaller.” DL
“I don’t know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn’t make sense.” DL
“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.” JFM
“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.” JFM
“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.” JFM
“The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is.” DL
“I love mysteries. To fall into a mystery and its danger … everything becomes so intense in those moments. When most mysteries are solved, I feel tremendously let down.” DL
“I want things to feel solved up to a point, but there’s got to be a certain percentage left over to keep the dream going. It’s like at the end of Chinatown: The guy says, ‘Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.’ You understand it, but you don’t understand it, and it keeps that mystery alive. That’s the most beautiful thing.” DL
“When you sleep, you don‘t control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made, a world I chose and that I have complete control over.” DL
“I would love to be in that state [of a waking dream] all day long, but you have to have some quiet. The world is getting louder every year, but to sit and dream is a beautiful thing.” DL
“A lot of people assume I have very strange dreams, but I’ve only had one dream that affected a film. I don’t dream much at night. Most everything is daydreams.” DL
“I like making films because I like to go into another world. I like to get lost into another world.” DL
“My movies are film-paintings – moving portraits captured on celluloid. I’ll layer that with sound to create a unique mood — like if the Mona Lisa opened her mouth, and there would be a wind, and she’d turn back and smile. It would be strange and beautiful.” DL
“In my mind it’s so much fun to have something that has clues and is mysterious – something that is understood intuitively rather than just being spoon fed to you. That’s the beauty of cinema, and it’s hardly ever even tried. These days, most films are pretty easily understood, and so people’s minds stop working.” DL
“Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see, one chance out between two worlds, fire walk with me.” – Twin Peaks
Please help our friend Star, who was run down by the white supremacist at the rally on August 12 in Charlottesville. She had to receive emergency surgery on both legs, and also sustained multiple spinal injuries.
Right now, Star is in intensive care but she is stable and expected to walk again and make a full recovery. However, she needs SIGNIFICANT financial support in order to regain a normal life after this horrific incident.
During her recovery, she won’t be able to do her normal job working with children due to the rods and pins in her leg. Besides medical expenses, Star will need money to help make rent. She doesn’t have a car and needs funds for transportation along with daily needs like food.
The next few months will be critical for Star’s health as she heals and undergoes physical and occupational therapy. Any level of support is welcome. All funds will go directly into Star’s bank account.
From the wonderful blog by Rhys Tranter comes this link to an interview with the producer of the new documentary about David Lynch. A must see for anyone interested in Lynch who in his own words provides some insight into his early history and creative process.
Jon Nguyen on a new documentary exploring the life and work of the American artist and filmmaker
“Cinema is the human dream, a way to understand how our trauma fits into this existential jigsaw. Perhaps the greatest way to wield cinema is as a synthesis to use stories of high personal drama to present them as a reflection of the issues that pervade all of humanity – a fusion of the personal with the universal. This is the
perfect encapsulation of the cinema of Denis Villeneuve.”
“[His] camera usage makes subjects seem inconsequential one way or another with the visual language putting them in a state of seclusion. The purpose is to show that through isolation comes helplessness and this is exactly the same notion that comes with mystery, being in the unknown. The visuals are an extension of the idea of what it is to be dwarfed by an engulfing force.”
“Why does [he] want to employ mystery in all of his movies? Because in the work of Denis Villeneuve we’re shown the fragility of the human mind when we lose sight of what we know because of our obsession for seeking the truth.”
“Villeneuve is able to exploit the drama of scenes through when and how he reveals information. We may return to a scene and see it from multiple perspectives only to realize that when we thought we had the answer, we were in fact solving the wrong mystery the whole time. We become just like [the] characters who too are looking for answers unaware that they’re not asking the right questions. Our judgment becomes clouded as soon as we become emotionally invested and Villeneuve presents us with a world that appears clear on its surface yet we soon learn our vision was always hindered by our own biases.”
“There’s a cyclical nature in the films of Denis Villeneuve. The answers to a character’s questions are often revealed to us right at the beginning of a story. Only at the end of the journey do we realize that we’ve come full-circle but its only by entering the unknown the our true selves fully emerge.”
– Lewis Bond
Lewis Bond’s video essay on David Lynch may offer some insight into this work, especially timely with the return of Twin Peaks to television.
“I believe in an unspoken ceremony that occurs when we watch movies. If an audience is to truly offer themselves to cinema, an acknowledgment must be made on
behalf of the observer to momentarily
sacrifice their psychological and emotional bonds so that they be manipulated and molded by the artist. The viewer must then accept that as art is incapable of capturing one’s own
subjective experience, it can never
fulfill all the questions of the individual. Art’s preoccupation with
secrecy can feast on the deepest parts
of you but its mysteries can also
energize something profound within. I suppose cinema’s true affliction as well as its triumph is that its answers are often destined to remain unknown and nowhere is this more truthful than in the work of David Lynch.”
“Lynch submits a series of breaches to what we accept is our reality in the hope that we recognize that what we perceive is only a fraction of what we see and it’s exactly why Lynch intentionally misguides our perceptions through offering plots that embrace a subconscious manner of storytelling. Our expectations so often go unfulfilled in his movies because he shows that we expect so much from life yet know so little.”
– Lewis Bond