Monday, January 07, 2013

Looking back at 2012

It was an interesting year. I found myself being a bit of a recluse, avoiding many social engagements.
It was a period of internal dialogue, working through philosophies and questions.

Artistically, it wasn't necessarily a productive year in terms of creating new pieces, but it was productive in terms of getting self promotion in motion and I managed to be able to hang a show at the Boulder Community Center which has received amazing feedback from many people in the community. I have to say that it has made me question the purpose of my own creations, though.

One of the main concerns I have is in terms of my sand/earth art. While it is well received, I feel that the general public tends to have a different relationship to it than I do (maybe this is to be expected).
For me, it is about relationship and process. It is about finding the earth elements that I grind, being in dialogue with them, feeling their place both temporally and geologically and existentially feeling the process of grinding and breaking them down - being intimate with them in terms of their composition, hardness, texture, colors, etc. The end product is secondary. They are artifacts of process.

One of the things that this has awoken me ever more to is the obsession with artifacts that this culture holds - the obsession with objects and action rather than a focus on relationship.
Truthfully, it makes me feel a bit alien within my own culture and I feel that the actual meaning of the pieces are all too easily lost on many.
One of the things that reveals this to me is when i am asked or it is suggested that I might be interested in applying my technique to art events and workshops. While I understand the desire for others to have me do this, to share the art form with others in the community in order to help them create crafts, i feel that it reveals the exact issue which I am dealing with. In a sense, it profanes my work by focusing on the artifact rather than the process. What do I mean by this?
If a person were to have these earth elements handed to them without their need for the search, for the relationship, for the personal experience of being intimate with the materials, it would render the art form meaningless and only provide a very superficial experience.
To me, it is akin to believing that one can know love by watching others in love rather than being in love oneself. My process involves a highly personal relationship with the land. To remove the very heart of the process is to render it meaningless and trite.
I understand and appreciate that observers focus on the aesthetics of the artifacts produced, but that is not my actual goal. It is a side product of the relationship. It is secondary.
I am still attempting to figure out exactly how to deal with this issue internally.

My movement further away from social norms, cultural values, and the need to participate in ways of relating which I do not feel at home with continues to strengthen. I can have a tendency to be rather obsessed with such things and my mind is constantly digesting such issues.

The marketplace turns me off while at the same time I understand that in order to 'earn one's way' within this overwhelming culture, one must make certain compromises.
One of the compromises I have made is to start designing jewelry. Even within this, I find myself drawn towards finding pendants and beads which express my relationship with my surroundings and with the land.

Add to all of this the dichotomy of my love of electronic music and my desire to compose poly-rhythmically beat driven tunes which really do not have a home whatsoever within the local culture, which is dominated by more traditional musical forms. I can't shake my love of more urban music, nor do I want to.
My interest in Design Science and such also feeds this somewhat schizophrenic being that I have become. Maybe the only saving grace is that I feel a sort of detachment from it in the sense that if a time comes that it must be dropped, I am fine with it. Matter of fact, that is how I find myself increasingly feeling about most of technological society. I love making good use of modern devices such as the computer, my sampler, etc. At the same time, I find myself increasingly detached from my phone and the current sociological trend of instant accessibility. Living in a place that is so incredibly remote leads me ever further into a mindset that sees easily accessible long distance travel and communication as an abnormal oddity, not something that is inherently natural.
I think this befuddles my family, all but one of which are over on the east side of the Rockies.
Traveling thousands of miles for a short visit seems absurd. The cost to the natural world is just so incredibly high.
This is one of the examples of how differently I am finding my mind working as I move further way from humanism and into animism. I no longer see the world as a playground for humans.
I know longer believe that our abstract cultural and sociological concepts should be born on the backs of the non-human world without a dialogue which acknowledges true cost.
I don't want to say that I feel guilt, but in a sense I do. I understand the true cost of things better than ever before (yet I know that I have even more to learn).
I choose to think about the background of objects and actions and not remain blissfully ignorant of where they come from.
I'd written a previous post years ago about this, how learning how to 'say grace' in a meaningful way can be an immensely valuable tool in regards to our relationships to production, objects and effects.
(view the post here). I am going to be writing a more refined piece on this exercise soon.

I find myself seeking ever more sacred and meaningful relationships with the entirety of existence.
This process leaves me very frustrated with those who dismiss it. I think one of the most important elements of this way of being, at least for me, is humility. My spiritual and philosophical choices have become increasingly pragmatic the older I get. What do I mean by this?
Well, for me, being an animist has the pragmatic effect of creating a situation and internal system in which I increasingly view everything in terms of 'its' own right to exist free of human definition.
By believing that anything and everything has spirit and or soul, I then tend to treat it in a much more thoughtful manner. It tends to disallow profane relationships with anything, whether animate or inanimate.
One of the side effects of this is that a very wide variety of other points of view start to look absolutely ridiculous. One starts to realize just how intrenched the abstract cultural hierarchies which humans impose on the world actually are. Remember, these are abstract concepts. I don't care if it is Veganism, Vegetarianism, Permaculture, Humanism, Civilized Religion, Reason, Science, or any other human created belief system or way of viewing and interacting with the world. They all are incredibly skilled at making up beliefs and codifying them in a way which primarily serves the needs of the anxieties of the believers or practitioners.
If we get down to the nitty gritty and start to look at the psychological foundations of such things, most of these systems fall apart or at least reveal the great amount of faith which they all require in order to exist and flourish. It is very rare that one will witness a practitioner of an 'ism' actually weigh the pragmatic application of said 'ism' in terms of how it affects the world and the way in which we relate to it.
And that right there is my bread & butter, it is what I am most interested in: how beliefs and social constructs directly influence our pragmatic and existential interactions and relationships with other humans and the non-human world.
One of the things I have noticed as I've moved further into this inquiry is that the majority of civilized humans have a tendency to draw abstract lines delineating where they want to stop themselves in regards to these thoughts. Most are humanists these days and are primarily interested in the prosperity of humans and tend to disregard or belittle the needs and natural ways of the non-human.
I find that I believe that this is the primary problem with modern civilization - the worshipping of the self and our species.
It is not a surprise. Matter of fact, it may be something intrinsic to the healing process for those who have not grown up in touch with and directly interacting with 'nature'.
I look around and I see a large number of people attempting to heal themselves and feel empowered.
I can understand this. The problem I find myself having with it is that many of them become so focused on self that they may actually be short-circuitig their own healing by believing that they can find that healing in abstract human designed and implemented belief systems that deny natural law and tend to pretend that the entire universe was created solely for the purpose of fulfilling personal desires.
This then gets into issues of awareness, empathy, service, community, narcissism, etc.

I'll begin to explore that a bit more in my next post.