Themes, sketches, works in progress at February 2019
(see below for galleries of sketches for each)
Limitation and Vitality: the nature of life is limitation, but through limitation Vitality has a barrier against which to know itself (the bound figure eg Michelangelo’s captives). Throwing sparks into the void - the act of self assertion, even if ultimately futile, and even the cry of rage against the cruelty of unknown gods as an intrinsically beautiful thing. Even when the cry of rage is inverted into grace/acceptance. The Greeks understood this - gods are not necessarily good, yet meaning is possible for human beings through our grace and courage.
The enemy is not necessarily external but is often internal - the drive towards internal integrity often pushes us to wish to remove parts of ourselves. Yet the tension between different parts of the psyche is part of our strength and identity.
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2. Interfaces/Membranes/Windows/the meniscus that separates liquid from air - The internal (mindscape/dreamscape) separated from the external (physical world) at the surface of the eye. Also, the passage of time - the present moment as a membrane or moving surface between past and future. Also, the surface as the screen that separates the physical realm from the (no less real) digital realm. Aug. Reality as the blending together of the realms. These two realms as symbol for the world of the inner life/ mindscape (highly plastic but with its own rules separated from the hard rules of physical reality - eg it is difficult to will a different state of mind/emotion, yet there is indirect control via choice of focus) versus the physical reality with clear physical limitations. Even in the physical reality, we interface with other minds - our communications jump the gap from one mind to the other via physical expression and words)
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3. Futureshock as awe - contemporary fear/excitement/uncertainty of accelerating technological change - individual empowerment and individual disempowerment, more knowledge as well as more disinformation, more tribalism as well more disorientation, fewer clear moral/social guidelines, increased social access that often serves to isolate. The spectre and promise of AI “summoning the demon”. The full and inevitable disorientation at the point of the proposed Singularity - what matters at this point? What does one do/strive for/want? The strangeness of being at the knee of the curve in this accelerating change - as powerful symbol for the timeless (ie has always been present for Humanity) sense of powerlessness before forces beyond comprehension - cultural, evolutionary and natural. The world has its own agenda, beyond any individual.
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4. Surrender/Rapture/Yearning - eg 1. Whirling Dervish pose sculpture - stepping through door. 2. Sequence explored through recent drawings of Vito - falling back into space - finding grace.
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5. Perspectives Installation - Is a kind of “All of the Above” so cannot be put into one of these thematic categories
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6. General Technical themes: (not really conceptual themes) A) Abstractions that amplify gesture of a figure - strange modifications to the figure that make sense psychologically because of how they amplify the gesture/intention of the figure. This is more of a general principle to endeavour to achieve, perhaps also to juxtapose with more naturalistic elements, similar to the idea B) of “grounding” in familiar clothing/situations as doorway for viewer into more psychological/fantastical realms. C) “Hotspotting” with light, play hardness and softness - control focus more intensely
Discussion with Vito - potential collaborative ideas:
sit in on his choreographic development and respond with my own work that could be displayed in conjunction with the performance - eg outside theatre
continue to work together - him interpreting my ideas to help me develop my images
some form of “metamedia” - look for a way to combine unique aspects of painting (still, flat, iconic, abstracted/simplified to essential, gesture/movement in one image) with unique aspects of dance (transitional, ethereal, three dimensional, living performers, combination with music). For instance, in relation to point 2 above, use some form of curtain (eg something like bead curtain) with imagery on it to separate one side from another - so that the dancers can pass through the picture plane. Or use a window of glass, that separates the two sides, but dancers can go to both sides of window. Potentially could project onto tinted glass so that there could be dancers on both sides of a transparent image. Focus on the idea of the surface to express senses about point 2 above.
Images related to each themes
Limitation and Vitality
3. Futureshock as awe
4. Surrender/ Rapture/ Yearning
5. Perspectives Installation
What is the nature of the Non-Dual?
I have never had a clear definition of what is meant by "non-dual". Perhaps this comes with the territory - it is a subtle topic. But I have noticed at least two modes of seeing with which to look at those final things that seem to be the source of all values. Perhaps it is through these two ways, when traced to a point of balance, that we can find what people call the non-dual.
The first: there is a kind of grandeur in the valuing of life. In the seriousness that can be brought to bear on promoting the development and preservation of any life, human or otherwise. In the intricacy of the functions required for life to exist, in that gross and molecular clockwork, is a sublime quality. As a body whirs away in the perpetuation of homeostasis and thus its potential for action, cells are born, develop, and die for the incomprehensibly grand symphony of the life as function, life as noun. And then, to know the extinguishing of life, to witness it - with the finality of that coldly empty stillness comes a gravity, with a care. In some way, all life, even those later in life, are children growing, their potential still in front of them by virtue of their being alive. The grandmother is the child nearly as much as the grandchild is.
And yet there is a clinging that goes with, perhaps, too much care. The weight of the passing away of all things, all potential, all subjectivity, all sense of will brings the terror of this knowing the blackness. And so it is known, and has been known by whole cultures of humanity, perhaps all cultures of humanity, that there is a wisdom and virtue in letting go of attachment to things and by extension, attachment to life. This seems to me to be the second source of valuing. What is called poetry, exists in the moment of creation (which is to say action of any kind) that is imbued with a certain quality of awareness that involves release of attachment. There seems to be a richness of vital will that goes beyond the individual life. The breathing out before the charge into battle, or a quiet conversation without pretence. The grandeur of the moment, of the action in itself. Perhaps a quality of life that is larger, or more valuable, than the presence or absence of life itself.
And yet this too seems to have its excess. In the release from the fear of death, there is, it seems to me, the possibility to attach precisely to this quality that has relieved the tension of too much care. And so, poetry is never too far from death worship, even as it is born out of life worship (or more particularly the worship of vitality).
Life, arguably, is pain and limitation, but it is that pain and limitation against which the vital will expresses itself, even if only to cry out against the whims of unknown gods. Is it life, truly life, if it does not fight to live, to continue existence, and further to grow to evolve, to become more potent? And, are we human if we are not seeking to alleviate limitation and suffering in each other? Yet, do we do sometimes do a disservice if we seek to prevent the limitation and suffering to others too much, given that these can be the spark for the fire of vital will? Arguably, this fire might be the only point that there is - Rumi's yearning for the yearning itself.
We find ourselves in a deeply uncertain time - deep because the potential downside as well as the upside of the next fifty years has expanded to truly mythic proportions. The end of humanity or the rise towards godlike powers. Perhaps even to say this is hubris as a species and a generation. Perhaps too, the efforts of one person are of little consequence and one should focus only on following the inclinations that life presents. But to accept this seems deeply un-vital. So I find myself somewhere between the two, and so questioning what one ought to work on. On the one hand there are the practical necessities of keeping human beings alive and flourishing, and the work that can help to shape this - from biomedical and life extension research, to the work of global security and development, the management of the hazards of changing technology, of the unknown unknowns of AI. On the other hand, I am followed by this calling of the poetic, that it would seem to make no sense in terms of a practical equation. I am working in the arts, and attempting through education to empower others in developing their own poetry. Is this a lack of aim, lack of conviction on my behalf? Is it a lack of vitality or too much to throw sunlight into the darkness for no other reason than the sense that this is somehow a beautiful thing to do?
Perhaps the justification is circular: that the spirit of vitality inspires the work by other people to address the practical work of manifesting a better situation for humanity, and through the potential to unlock more deeply inspired, vital action - to heal, to grow, to light fires in the darkness.