Monday, April 17, 2017

For the Angels - 3:02; the Passions of Angels


The famous Ribaudo Angel found in the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno, sculpted by Onorato Toso in 1910. This monument was introduced to pop culture as the cover image for the (1980) Love Will Tear Us Apart 12" single by the British band, Joy Division. (YouTube video.) For more images from the Staglieno cemetery, try here.
(All images in this post can be clicked-on for a larger view.)


“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”

- George Elliot, from "Scenes of a Clerical Life."

"A professed belief in angels would, inevitably, involve me in a belief in the supernatural, and that was the golden snare I did not wish to be caught in. Without committing myself religiously I could conceive of the possibility of there being, in dimensions and worlds other than our own, powers and intelligences outside our present apprehension, and in this sense angels are not to be ruled out as a part of reality - always remembering that we create what we believe. Indeed, I am prepared to say that if enough of us believe in angels, then angels exist."

-- Gustav Davidson. from his introduction to A Dictionary of Angels (1967), a compendium of angel lore which served as a major source for this post.

"... But the skies that angel trod,
Where deep thoughts are a duty,  
Where Love’s a grown-up God,
Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
Which we worship in a star.

Therefore, thou art not wrong,
Israfel, who despisest
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong.
Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live, and long!

The ecstasies above
With thy burning measures suit -  
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love, 
With the fervour of thy lute -
Well may the stars be mute!

Yes, Heaven is thine; but this
Is a world of sweets and sours;
Our flowers are merely—flowers,
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
Is the sunshine of ours..."

- Edgar Allen Poe, from his poem "Israfel". Inset (above) is an illustration for Poe's poem by Edmund Dulac, found here. Another illustration for Poe's poem, by Hugo Steiner-Prag (shown after the jump, inset, right) can be found here.

***

In my previous installment of For the Angels I wasn't able to progress much further than a brief outline of the general history of angels and a few key points of esoteric angelology.  But, even with what little I provided, there seemed to exist an underlying conflict in almost all of the information. Although difficult to understand in the context of modern life, the theologians, philosophers, scholars and occultists of the past took the existence of angels very seriously; so much so that they developed a vast, complex body of lore regarding them; presumably independently, as the would-be chroniclers could not seem to agree on any one single point. For instance, due to the number of variations on any one single name, any one single angel might be conceived of as either good or "fallen", depending upon the source of the information. Names might also be interchangeable, as in case of the Islamic, trumpet-blowing archangel, Israfel (inset, left, and the contemporary Western interpretation below, inset right), who is sometimes confused with other trumpeting angels, such as Gabriel.

So, there are a lot of variables in the field of angelology and, for a novice, the "angel trail" can became so dismayingly convoluted, one is tempted to move off the subject altogether. On one hand, the general consensus of opinion seems to be that angels were predominately spiritual beings created of light; benevolent, extraterrestrial messengers whose primary goal was to proclaim and/or enforce the will of the One God. At the same time, we get the alternative impression that the celestials were not always so benign and were actually terrifying in many respects: immense, god-like and merciless. Some were referred to as "avenging angels" or the "heavenly host" and these had a distinctly military aspect.

To your left is a diagram from the alleged Book of Raziel - the "medieval grimoire of unknown origin" mentioned briefly in my previous post, which reads: 'He hath given his angels charge concerning thee, that they may keep thee in all thy ways." As it happens, Raziel is a prime example of the beneficent angel who taught humankind languages, agriculture, music, art, and esoteric knowledge. But, in contrast, we learn of Amitiel who, along with archangels Michael and Gabriel, was considered to be an "angel of truth and peace." Unfortunately, a number of Amitiel's noble comrades opposed the creation of humanity and "for this opposition... were burned."

Which brings us to the fallen angels... entities which had somehow "fallen" out of grace with the Godhead - or, perhaps, merely "fell" into the "hell" of the material realm - due to the "sins" of pride, rebelliousness, and the unforgivable crime of mating with humans. We are indoctrinated to perceive these dark angels as "demons" ... the progenitors of all the evils in the world, although, in more enlightened minds, neither pride, rebelliousness nor sensuality are considered diabolical offenses.  Moreover, depending upon the source, life as we know it may not have existed without these offending angels. For instance, according to Gnostic texts, it was due to a "flaw" or a "passion" within the angelic entity, or Aeon, which inadvertently created the material world...

Saturday, March 4, 2017

For the Angels - 3:01; Three's the Charm (annotated)


Angel of Death Victorious - bronze (distressed) - 1923, Herman Matzen.
Also known as the "Haserot Angel," this monument is located in Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio. Above is my B/W version of a photograph found here, credited to Steven Jupina.
(All images within this post can be clicked to enlarge)

"Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies of angels?
Even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart,
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying."

"Every angel is terrifying. And yet, alas, I invoke you,
almost deadly birds of the soul, knowing about you.
Where are the days of Tobias, when one of you, veiling his radiance,
stood at the front door, slightly disguised for the journey, no longer appalling;
(a young man like the one who curiously peeked through the window).
But if the archangel now, perilous, from behind the stars took even one step down toward us
our own hearts, beating higher and higher, would beat us to death.
Who are you?"

- First stanzas from the First and Second Elegies of the Duino Elegies (Duineser Elegien), by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1923. The full English translations by Stephen Mitchell of the first two Elegies can be found here. However, I can't hardily recommend any of the other translations found online. Ideally, it should be read the way Rilke wrote it: in its original German form. Incidentally, Rilke's question "where are the days of Tobias" refers to an enigmatic scripture of ancient origin which relates the story of the youth, Tobias. and the archangel Raphael (See the "A Brief History of Angels" section).


"I turned my sight back to the angel when, suddenly, I noticed his hands - particularly his right hand which was reaching out to me. In English, he said, “Come into my world.” I was wondering why he was speaking to me in English when, suddenly, I heard the translation: “Entre dans mon monde,” and even in German: “Komm in meinem Welt.”

Then, through the music and the angel, I entered into that other world, which exists inside the painting. The whole time, the figures had been calling me there.

The angel changed my appearance, and I became just like one of the little people in the painting. I received a long cape, and I was crowned with coral (just like the woman in profile with the elaborate headdress). It was like a ceremony, initiating me into paradise... I became an angel..."

- Excerpt from Un Autre Monde by Myrette St. Ange (possibly a fictional character) (?) "translated" by Visionary artist, L. Caruna. The painting referred to is an actual painting by Visionary artist Robert Venosa. (inset, above, is a detail from the painting.)


"For painter and philosopher Robert Venosa, art and spirituality were simultaneous. Venosa was a visionary in the most real sense of the word: much of his artistic expression was deeply connected to visions that he had of higher dimensional beings whom he perceived as angels, although a different sort of angel than you might see in popular religious art. At several crucial moments in Venosa's life he was visited by an entity that seemed transcendent of time and space, yet was partially visible in the third dimension. These experiences affected Robert deeply and he attempted for the rest of his life to paint them (example, inset left). Many of his well known works were inspired by these visions, including twin angels Castor and Pollux, and Seraphim."

"Spirit energy, like all universal energy, must manifest itself in form and texture at its own vibratory level. We, in our present stage of time-space evolution are unfortunately limited in our perception of these transcendent substances. But the visionary, in his creative expression, must overstep these limits if he is to resolve his task of bridging the gulf between accepted reality and spiritual postulation”."

- Two quoted paragraphs from Reality Sandwich's article on Robert Venosa {1936 - 2011}: Viva Venosa. The second quote is from the artist and was excerpted from his 1978 publication "Manas Manna." All three paintings posted here can be found on his website.

***

Sorry for the delay, comrades, but my mental engine decided to stall last week just at the crucial moment... possibly flooded by too much angelology! Then again, maybe I've just been wrestling with my own angels lately... or maybe I've been wrestling with yours; it's difficult to say. Understanding the Language of Angels is a little like understanding the Language of Birds - and maybe they're one and the same - but, one thing I've learned: it's impossible to pin down an angel. Moreover, angels are not always "nice."  But, whether you "believe" in them or not - and, very possibly, they couldn't care less -  it is always they who have the advantage. Like birds - up to an including Rilke's "deadly birds of the soul" - they can merely fly away. (Or, even worse, tamper with your mental engine!)

Of course, there are angels and then there are angels. For some people angels are guised as beneficent strangers; those enigmatic humans who seemingly come to us out of thin air (and just in the nick of time) to save the day. For an artist, the Muse is a kind of angel. For a child, a guardian angel is sensed as a protective force. And, as for mystics, well, they seem to be able to experience them firsthand.

As a matter of fact, it is often artists, mystics and children* who actually see angels. William Blake saw angels... especially as a child, and specifically in trees. The American artist Robert Venosa spent his lifetime attempting to represent the "higher dimensional entities" he saw (inset, right).** And, while the poet Rainer Maria Rilke devoted his Duino Elegies to angels, it is also said that his initial inspiration - and the first line of his poem - came from an angel whose voice was carried to him on the wind. The Swiss scientist (and mystic) Emanuel Swedenborg not only saw angels***, but wrote extensively about his conversations with them in a book entitled Heaven and Hell. He writes (found here):

"On the grounds of all my experience, which has lasted for several years now, I can say with full confidence that in their form, angels are completely human. They have faces, eyes, ears, chests, arms, hands, and feet. They see each other, hear each other, and talk to each other. In short, they lack nothing that belongs to humans except that they are not clothed with a material body."

As for the Christian mystics, Saint Francesca comes to mind. She even convinced Church authorities that her guardian angel was a true, substantial entity. In fact, she was formally declared the Patron Saint of Automobile Drivers, because her alleged angel was said to appear with a lantern to guide her whenever she travelled.

And, then there's the matter of Saint Teresa (of Ávila) - not to be confused with Thérèse of Lisieux - and her "ecstasy," but that's so juicy, I'm saving it for later...

Saturday, February 4, 2017

For the Angels (Part 2)


Photograph of an arrangement of cast angel ornaments (3" in diameter)
and a cast cyclo-octahedron - © 1993, 2017, DS
(click to enlarge)


(In progress...)

__________________


Note (2/13/17): I can't believe I started constructing this post almost 10 days ago. I'm so very sorry for the delay, folks! As per usual, what began as a simple "tune"  blew up into a major orchestration. I'd love to have the text up by tomorrow - Valentine's Day (or V-Day to we cynics) - but, just in case I don't, !'ll post a companion piece to the above photo today. This one will eventually appear at the end of the finished post, so, this way, all I have to do is fill up everything in-between. ;-)

Incidentally, the 2 cast angels in the photo(s) are all that remain of a what was originally a Christmas project I undertook in 1993. The original sculpture (and its revised version) were molded and carved in a combination of plaster and modeling clay. As it so happens, I began creating the cyclohedra in the same year, so the juxtaposition of the two are not as weird as it may seem.

Happy V-Day, everybody! If nothing else, the day is a celebration of Love... so, even the most solitary among us can participate. Right?

Give yourself a Valentine tomorrow.


Version 2... All the angels are identical, but note the difference a slight
change in lighting makes.


________________


Update (2/24/17): Change of plans! This post - for whatever it is (or isn't) - is now complete. Stay tuned for For the Angels - 3:01 (Three's the Charm) wherein ALL WILL BE REVEALED!

Well, okay, that's silly... not "all"... just the stuff that was (formerly) supposed to appear here.

Welcome to the weirdest blog on the internet! ;-)



Saturday, January 21, 2017

We the People Have Risen - the Women's March on Washington

Women's March, January 21, 2017
"Hear Our Voice"
(Click on any image for a larger view.)


"On Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions will gather in Washington D.C. and in hundreds of cities around the world. This is a local event for those that will be unable to travel to Washington D.C. - instead, we will march in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington here in Albuquerque.

We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.  The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear. In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers is too great to ignore.  We call on all defenders of human rights to join us."

- Excerpt from the Women's March website - the Albuquerque page.


"Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no telling who that it's naming
For the loser now will be later to win
Cause the times they are a-changing

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's the battle outside raging
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changing"


- Excerpt from The Times They Are A Changin', 1963, Bob Dylan. (A version of this song - sung by Tracy Chapman - appears at this post's end.)

***

Women's March, January 21, 2017
"Same Shit, Different Century"


I would not be a human - let alone a woman - if I did not somehow commemorate this day.

It rained the day Donald Trump - our reigning patriarch - took office. But, that was yesterday. The good news is that today the sun shines on millions of women and men around the world who have risen against all that he represents.

What a difference a day makes.

And, it only took one woman posting on her Facebook page to awake this sleeping giant... one Facebook post, my friends, to start a virtual war. But this is a war we can all rally around.  When one half of the worlds population finally frees themselves from an oppression that has lasted centuries, then all of us are made free and whole again.

For a live feed of this world-wide event, click here. For more images, try here, here and here... or there and there.

I've posted some images recently found... including a drawing of my own* from 1979 (below, and after the jump). Nothing defines a movement like its art! ;-)

* Drawing added January 22, 2017.

(This just in: Apparently Trump  is still in denial. He did not win the popular vote, nor were the participants in the Women's March on Washington exclusively from the States... but: "President Trump tweets on Women’s March protesters: “Why didn’t these people vote?”


Los Angeles, January 21, 2017
"We the People are Greater than Fear"


Los Angeles, January 21, 2017
"We the People Defend Dignity"


A tribute to Carrie Fisher - another casualty of 2016
"A Woman's Place is Leading the Resistance!"


Women's March, January 21, 2017


More photos (and videos added 1/24/17) after the jump...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

For the Angels


A detail from a work in progress - with a borrowed element from
Sandro Botticelli's (1489) Cestello Annunciation© 2016, DS

It's the beginning of a new year... and one that is particularly welcome; especially after 2016, the year when, for many people (including myself), everything went to hell. We lost a lot people last year - the death of David Bowie was the first bad omen - and, all in all, it was a little creepy; you'd think they all were "abandoning ship" or something.

"For the Angels" was to be my last post of that year - as opposed to the first of 2017 - wherein I expressed my gratitude to certain friends of mine - the true angels - who helped me out in the past 6 months, literally saving me from an eviction, and figuratively saving me from the wolves howling at my door.

Actual poverty is almost like a disease; it's debilitating in more ways than a comfortably-placed person can conceive of. Society, for instance, treats poverty as if it were a crime; taking the self-righteous position that the impoverished are at fault for their own failure. Very often, those whom we refer to as friends take the same position; they see you drowning and advise you to swim. Your true friends, however, are those who throw you a line at the crucial moment, and it is to these friends - and they know who they are - this post is dedicated.

Artists, of course, are traditionally poor... "the starving artist" is so cliche that even some artists are under the impression they really can live on air alone. The "mad artist" in the garret is another cliche. And, as it was, I blogged about artists and mental institutions quite a lot in the second half of last year, most likely because the idea of residing in one became more understandable as the days moved on.

But, it is a new year... and, thus far, the worse that can be said about it is the surrealistic coronation of multi-millionaire King Donald in the coming week. As I mentioned in the previous version of this post, a man in Canada has predicted Trump will be behind bars before the end of the year... which would be the best-case scenario, had VP Pence  - known in Twitter circles as the "Man from Glad" - not been waiting in the wings. So, for most Americans - and most people in the free world - it looks like a lose/lose situation. Although I have little more to say about the matter, our friend Hawkwood over Shadows in Eden has written rather extensively (and accurately) about Agent Orange, and so I direct you here (and here).*

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Man on the Throne


Study after Veláquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X - oil paintimg - 1953, Francis Bacon

And, what does this painting have in common with the unfortunate news of this sad day? See my short PMB post here.


(Note: I've just posted a video on the sidebar you might find unusual. Actually, it's an Egyptian Zār band*: primarily female musicians who utilize ancient ritualistic music to heal and purify their listeners...

... because it's never too soon to begin the healing process.)


_________


* "The purpose of the Zar ceremony is to cure mental illness through contact with the possessing spirits which cause maladies. Though there are several methods for dealing with psychological disturbance, the Zar is the last resort which is supposed to have powerful therapeutic effect for several kinds of ailments," writes John Kennedy in Nubian Ceremonial Life. It should be noted that this ceremony is not widely practiced in Egypt. The Zar ceremony is most prominent in southern Egypt and is practiced further south into the Sudan, though in fact it may be performed anywhere in Egypt. This is a region that was least exposed to the many invaders from Greece, Rome and the Middle East, and the ceremony can be considered as a holdover from older African religions when older women were frequently priestesses. 




Regardless of the fact that Zar is a trance religious ceremony that uses drumming and dancing to cure an illness thought to be caused by a demon, it is technically prohibited by Islam as a pagan practice. However it continues to be an essential part of the Egyptian culture. It provides a unique form of relief to women in strict patriarchal societies.

The phenomenon of Zar can be best described as the "healing cult". It involves hair tossing and swaying and it also acts as a means of sharing information among women of these cultures."

-  From an Egyptian tour page; more information about Zār can be found in the Wiki entry.

***



The day this post was created, a less controversial (but more important) event had recently occurred: the world lost a great treasure: songbird, poet and Lover, Leonard Cohen.

Farewell to a truly great man.

Below is a version of Cohen's Hallelujah covered by Rufus Wainwright (website), who performed this song, in concert, as a tribute to Cohen shortly after his passing. A video of the tribute can be found on this NME page.




The Leonard Cohen videos that accompanied this post (on the sidebar) can now be found after the jump break.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Art From the Outside (Looking In)


An untitled element from Emery Blagdon's Healing Machine. This photo and
the two inset below were found on this Дай зин! webzine page.
(Click to enlarge.)


"As a young man, he apparently lost his parents and three of his five younger siblings to cancer, and he designed his shed––which housed a system of elegant, spindly mobiles and delicate freestanding sculptures made out of baling wire and found objects––to produce energy fields with preventative, restorative, and curative powers. The objects’ reflective, kinetic, and color properties were intended to resonate and release an electromagnetic force to combat physical and psychic pain. Blagdon’s cure also relied on an equally remarkable, but smaller, group of abstract geometrical panel paintings, which display a transcendental sense of color, proportion, and pattern."

- From Rachel Brice's 2009 post: Emery Blagdon and His Healing Machines.


"In the past century the human spirit's great need for the creation of art has come sharply to the fore – not through the commercialized vulgarity that is now the art market (my GOD – could anything so high sink so LOW?), but rather through the intimate obsessive worlds of artists (outsider or otherwise) who create for themselves and themselves alone, without thought of monetary gain, public approbation or acceptance of any kind.

...Compelled to create a world of healing machines to stave off illness, Emery Blagdon gave light and meaning to his life through wire, tinfoil, and a variety of organic and inorganic materials. These machines, and the paintings that helped power them, brought down and focused healing energy to allow Blagdon to continue living. Did he create to live or live to create? As with all true artists, the answer is either elusive, or both - but in Blagdon's case it is particularly poignant because just a few months after his machines stopped working he tragically passed away."

- From composer John Zorn's (2016) .pdf: Emery Blagdon. (Inset, left: another element of Blagdon's Healing Machine.)


"Over the years, the parameters of Outsider Art have expanded dramatically to include art made by a wide variety of art-makers who share this common denominator of raw creativity. Outsiders come from all walks of life, from all cultures, from all age groups.

In recent years, Outsider Artists may have even come to outnumber Insider Artists who have achieved critical validation within the elite art world, and yet who speak with increasingly less clarity and relevance to us about the human experience. Dubuffet's description of officially recognized art has never been more relevant: 'everyone immediately sprinkles it with champagne, and lecturers lead it from town to town with a ring through its nose. This is the false Monsieur Art.'"

- Excerpt from a description of Outsider Art found on this Outsider Art Fair page.

***

It's probably interesting to note that two of the quotes (above) regarding Outsider Artist, Emery Blagdon, originate from a belly dancer (Rachel Brice), and a musician (John Zorn), as opposed to an art critic or an art historian. And, why is this? Well, it might have to do with the nature of Emery Blagdon himself. Born in 1907, he was a self-taught artist living in the outbacks of Nebraska, who spent over 30 years of his life assembling an art installation (of sorts) - his Healing Machine - which he never intended to exhibit, and one of which he never sold one molecule of. In other words, he was a creator's creator, following his own inner vision and instinct and, pretty much, ignoring the rest of world; specifically the art world. Had his work not been "discovered" in the 1970's by Dan Dryden - a Nebraskan pharmacist who would eventually work as a sound engineer for the Philip Glass Ensemble in New York - his monumental work may have been disassembled for scrap metal after his death and the world would be none the wiser.

Then again, creatives of all persuasions find inspiration in the realm of Outsider Art. Once again, the Outsider represents the true artist's artist... understood more deeply by artists themselves as opposed to the curators, the critics, the categorizers, and the culture mavens who flock to the carcasses of artistic endeavor. So, in the eyes of the world Emery Blagdon was an oddball. In the eyes of a fellow artist, Blagdon is both a hero and an anti-hero; a maverick who left his mark outside the mainstream before the "mainstream" ultimately absorbed him. (Inset, right: a third element from the Healing Machine.)

But, in many respects, Emery Blagdon's story is a happy one compared to many of the Outsiders who came before him. He, at least, managed to stay well outside the walls of a mental institution. In reality, what we now consider Outsider Art was originally the sort created by psychiatric patients, and other marginalized non-members of society. And, it was a genre of art which would've have remained under the radar - possibly forever - had it not been for the fine, observant eye of French artist, Jean Dubuffet, who in the 1940s identified what he referred to as Art Brut - raw art - that is, art created by those on the fringe of society: prisoners, loners, the mentally ill, and, in some cases, children...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Book Surgeon: Brian Dettmer


A book sculpture by Brian Dettmer. Click to enlarge.

"New York-based Artist Brian Dettmer creates impressively intricate multi-layered sculptures from books. The artist calls himself the Book Surgeon because he uses knives, tweezers, and surgical tools to carve the art works out of old medical journals, illustration books, dictionaries, map books and encyclopedias. The bigger the book, the better – The Surgeon doesn’t add anything additional to the sculptures, he only folds, bends, rolls, stacks, and, of course, removes."

- Both the (above) quote and the photos of Brian Dettmer's book sculptures found in this post were sourced from this 2015 "DeMilked" article.


"So I think one of the reasons people are disturbed by destroying books, people don't want to rip books and nobody really wants to throw away a book, is that we think about books as living things, we think about them as a body, and they're created to relate to our body, as far as scale, but they also have the potential to continue to grow and to continue to become new things. So books really are alive.

... And I think of my work as almost an archaeology. I'm excavating and I'm trying to maximize the potential and discover as much as I possibly can and exposing it within my own work. But at the same time, I'm thinking about this idea of erasure, and what's happening now that most of our information is intangible, and this idea of loss, and this idea that not only is the format constantly shifting within computers, but the information itself, now that we don't have a physical backup, has to be constantly updated in order to not lose it. And I have several dictionaries in my own studio, and I do use a computer every day, and if I need to look up a word, I'll go on the computer, because I can go directly and instantly to what I'm looking up. I think that the book was never really the right format for nonlinear information, which is why we're seeing reference books becoming the first to be endangered or extinct."

- Two quotes from sculptor Brian Dettmer from the (translatable) TED transcript for the TED video below.




***

Considering all the book-related posts I've been inspired to write for the past few months, it only stands to reason that when I recently discovered the work of Brian Dettmer, I'd be compelled to feature his sculptures here. Considering that his re-purposed books are not, in fact, assemblages, but carefully carved from the pre-existing content of the old books themselves... well, words like "astonishing" are understatements.

And, I love stories like this... about artists doing unimaginable things... totally unprecedented "out of the box" things... not because they intend to start a trendy movement, but because their muses call upon them to do such things, and in doing so - following their muses - we are allowed to see ordinary objects - in this case, encyclopedias and the like - in a totally new, non-linear, and extraordinary way.

For those interested, an interview with Dettmer can be found here...

And, if art from re-cycled material turns you on, here's a nice Make magazine article about the Ancient Futuristic work of artist Theo Kamecke: Old Circuit Boards Are Reimagined as Sarcophagi and Ancient Monuments.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jerusalem - a Follow-up


Just published this year: Alan Moore's Jerusalem.
The slipcase edition above was found here.


"The geographic focus of Jerusalem is the Boroughs, a half-mile square area that was the original kernel of Northampton, but by the early 2000s is “gutted,” a squalid waste with “the shoebox stack of ‘Sixties housing where the feudal corridors of Moat Street, Fort Street and the rest once stood.” The chronological focus is on a few days in early May 2006, when Alma Warren, an artist and “mad witch who lived in a rubbish tip” is about to unveil a new exhibition of paintings inspired by her brother Michael’s recalled memories of visions he had a half century earlier as he choked on a 'cough-sweet.'"

- A description of Alan Moore's Jerusalem via this article: Alan Moore’s long-anticipated Jerusalem is a thousand-page doorstop that you can’t stop reading.


“'This planet has a physical geography with which we have already familiarised ourselves,” Moore is telling me, for a feature in The Times. “But since the dawn of the first stories, there is a fictional geography, where the gods and demons live. We have created this big imaginary planet that is a counterpart to our own; and in some cases these places are more familiar to us than the real ones.”

“But science cannot measure the bit that isn’t material. Science is a brilliant tool for analysing our material universe, but science cannot talk about what is inside the human mind: it’s beyond the realm of proof, it’s beyond the realm of science. So I say they should be left to art and magic, which are pretty much the same thing.”

 “We’ll march on ugliness and stupidity, we’ll make loveliness compulsory, and the roar of our orchestra engines will soar evermore in a glorious, annihilating symphony, for the tyranny of beauty is our god-given duty: every child at birth is to be issued with a ukulele, given their own flag and granted absolute and utter sovereignty, and as long as it’s coloured in nicely and has an old woman on it, make their own currency. Turn every urban address into a dripping Rousseau wilderness. We’ll keep advancing until there’s nobody not dancing. We’ll put politics in the pillory, put the art back in artillery; we can weaponise wonder, and our voice shall be as thunder… Cometh the moment, cometh the Mandrill.”

- Three wonderful Alan Moore quotes from this (September 22, 2016) article: If you read only one Alan Moore Jerusalem interview, make it this one.

***

(This post is a follow-up to the 2014 post: Alan Moore & Jerusalem.)

Writer Alan Moore (of V for Vendetta fame) has a soft spot for women. And, any man who has a soft spot for women is a Great Man in my estimation. While I had known (and mentioned) previously that he characterized himself in his latest book, Jerusalem, as a female artist, I didn't know that the book itself was actually dedicated to a another female: a young girl - and distant relative - by the name of Audrey. Audrey suffered the unfortunate fate of having been institutionalized by her parents for the sole purposes of silencing any allusions she might make to her father's incestuous relations with her.

“The book is dedicated to Audrey,” he says. “The whole book was an attempt… an attempt to rescue her? A particularly futile and belated attempt, but the best I could do. The only way that I could rescue her was in a fiction.” 

I'm assuming Audrey was declared mad around the same time that it was quite the trend to declare women "mad" (as is described in the Camille Claudel section - Into the Madhouse - of this post). It's to Moore's credit that Audrey's story moved him enough to unearth her remains from his family closet; this is so rarely the case. 

For those interested, I've just listened to the first part of a podcast interview with Moore found here. (And here's the second part.) (Thanks, Tam B!) In it he describes some of women in his family, specifically his grandmother - a deathmonger (undertaker) - and the relationship between the midwives, "witches" and the "gilded barber surgeons" of her time.

Fascinating. And, I suspect this is also true of Jerusalem.



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Oblique Strategies... and the Circles of Time


The first set of the "Platonic" Cyclohedra cast in 1988. (Photo: 2016, DS)
(click on photos to enlarge)


"Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono."

- Via the Wiki entry for lateral thinking.


"They were most famously used by Eno during the recording of David Bowie's Berlin triptych of albums (Low, "Heroes", Lodger). Stories suggest they were used during the recording of instrumentals on "Heroes" such as "Sense of Doubt" and were used more extensively on Lodger ("Fantastic Voyage", "Boys Keep Swinging", "Red Money"). They were used again on Bowie's 1995 album Outside, which Eno was involved with as a writer, producer and musician. Carlos Alomar, who worked with Eno and Bowie on all these albums, was a fan on using the cards, later saying "at the Center for Performing Arts at the Stevens Institute of Technology, where I teach, on the wall are Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards. And when my students get a mental block, I immediately direct them to that wall."

- From the Wiki entry for Oblique Strategies, a card game created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt and first published in 1975. David Bowie's personal deck (pictured above, inset, right) was found here.

Les stratégies obliques (and here)

"Allow an easement (an easement is the abandonment of a stricture)"

- The "oblique strategy" presented to moi when I clicked the link for the online version of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies. (English only, but there is a French version on the web somewhere... at least there was... as well as a Japanese version.)


"As it happened, the subject of maps came up that day, during a game of Triakis, a game which was fairly new to the Prince, and one for which his uncle insisted he needed training. As it was, he'd just made, what he thought, was a strategic move, but when his uncle's turn came, the boy lost another avatar.

"You will never understand this game, Nathaniel," his uncle grinned, flipping the tetrahedron in the air and then catching it, "until you look at the board as if it were a map."

But, all the Prince really saw when he looked at the diamond- shaped board was a mosaic of triangles, and he said so.

"Well, yes, the board is composed of triangles, but, look closely: those triangles are really portions of hexagons, and it's by the hexagons one calculates the most advantageous moves to make," explained his uncle.

"But, that's not like real maps," Nathaniel complained, "not like the ones of Elidon Wold you have in the library." 

"Well, no," laughed his Uncle, "not like those I own, but precisely like the ancient maps that were made by the Avians."

"Avians? Do you mean, actual birds?" his nephew asked incredulously. "Birds made maps?!"

"The Avians weren't exactly birds, Nathaniel", explained his uncle, "but, like birds, they could fly. Ultimately, it was they who discovered Elidon Wold, and gave it its name. But that was in a different circle of time..."

"Do you mean, when you were a boy, Uncle?"

"Oh no," said his uncle, "I was never a boy. I was as you see me now... as I always have and always will be seen. I merely meant a circle of time in which boys like yourself were not physically located."

- Excerpt from the prologue of "The Last Chronicle of Elidon Wold,"  2013, Dia Sobin.

***

As you might've noticed, my usual modus operandi these days is to start a post and then leave it hanging there, unfinished... for days. I'm trying hard to break this habit, but, as of late, there seems to be a large disconnect between my impulses and ideas and my ability to translate them into hard copy. Moreover, by the time I've found the words, I've forgotten the point. The reality is, while "lateral thinking" - the sort of thinking that Brian Eno hoped to induce with his Oblique Strategy cards - might be useful for spontaneous, creative leaps of the imagination and breaking though mental blocks, etc., in the end, it doesn't, in itself, produce anything tangible. It takes a certain amount of logic - that is, linear thinking - to bring any "project," large or small, to fruition. In other words, to truly successfully hatch anything into the world, one has to effortlessly glide between the two modes of thought, the two modes of activity, utilizing each at the proper moment. And it takes a certain amount of faith in yourself to pull this off. The minute your faith falters... well, it's like with any other skill - riding a bicycle, perhaps, or ice-skating - you fail... you fall. Or, worse still, you flounder...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Ghost of Tom Joad







"One of the points I'm making in the book is that, whoever you've been and wherever you've been, it never leaves you," he said. "I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can't ever get out. The important thing is, who's got their hands on the wheel at an given moment."

- Bruce Springsteen, discussing his new autobiography in an article found here.


***

I just found the above quote yesterday, and it so resonated with me, that I thought I'd share it here. Bruce Springsteen, an American treasure, has an autobiography being released this month. I was really surprised to learn (from the article linked) that he's had a life-long battle with chronic depression. I'm not going into my own personal history, but, let's just say that I've never really trusted anybody who claims they never get depressed.

If you've never been blue then you've never been human.

Then again, there's the argument that chronic depression is really an expression of suppressed, thwarted rage. Could be.

In any case, while I'm not back to normal posting as of yet, I just wanted put in a few words... and keep my hands on the wheel.

Thanks, Bruce.

Above is Springsteen performing his modern classic The Ghost of Tom Joad featuring the incomparable Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Full lyrics to the song can be found after the jump...