Tuesday, September 19, 2006
WHEREFORE ART ART?
Art is an extremely elusive subject. For me it has always been like happiness and love, impossible to do and impossible to prevent when doing ceases. I know this flies in the face of the dictionary definition of art which makes no distinction between the creative process being either the result of allowing the muse to speak through the artist or the product of a technique followed by an engineer. Obviously, I see a world of difference which is not only the tipping point between real art and artificial art, but an explanation of the difference in what I call artificial and natural which, up to now, I have never expressed to the satisfaction of any of my free thinking conversation mates. But I think I’m on to a key now.
For me graphic art is inspired by the same ideas that make me reach for my journal (my keyboard since this blog began) to capture those moments of sterling clarity. Whether what I enter is words or pictures is determined by how engulfed in the notions I become. If I see them like the cats see the fish in the pond I use words to ponder what they mean. If I see them like cats see fish in an aquarium, the pondering is over because I’ve gone through the surface of reflection and been blessed with a full blown image. The cats have never scooped a fish out of the pond but, seeing them catch other critters hereabout, I have no doubt they would learn to if the fish were in an aquarium. These inspirations come when I’m in that blessed state of knowing and benefitting from the idea that there is absolutely no purpose for my existence, which makes that existence free to be whatever art I care to make of it and, take my word for it, it’s been all over the map and calendar. Yahoo! How one looks at the world is a personally, purposefully generated attitude. What one sees is inversely proportional to the intensity of purpose in the attitude. We weren't supplied with minds to be made up, but to be blown.
In the early ‘70s one of the characteristics of the awakening flower power movement was returning to the nostalgically induced practice of grinding wheat berries to bake your own bread, organic gardening to eat your own food, home made clothing, jewelry, arts and crafts for your own pleasure and bargaining currency. I got this great notion to go through the pile of paper that amounted to the recorded expression of ideas that resulted more in pictures than words to find the most purposeless ones, which always seem the most appealing to me. I matted up about fifty pieces ranging from 10”x10” to 24”x14”, put my blanket down on the sidewalk in front of a jewelry store on the “Drag”, the main street past the campus of the University of Texas, dropped a hit of orange sunshine and proceeded to spend the day watching untold quantities and species of creatures leaf through my stuff, look from the drawings, paintings and hallucinations to me, back and forth, smile that smile of knowing that you know that I know that you know… that seemed to be quite common in those days.
The next day I inventoried my adventure in making a living at what I’d never not done for fun all my life: $88, a macrame-bead headband and a roach clip for 9 pieces. I know I never asked for a dime preferring to say, “whatever it is worth to you.” It was always more than I would have asked, why get in the way of a good deal? All was rosy until I literally found myself at my desk with a drawing pad out, pen in hand and no other inspiration in mind than customer approval. I didn’t draw again for three or four years. I lettered some signs and illustrated some books and posters, but I never sat and let the pen go where the muse guided it while I watched in the awed gratitude of a purposeless part of an indescribably natural process again for a long time. I have learned a technique to get back to that here now, but to actually enter that state I must depart the training that brung me.
I am re-experiencing that same threshold in learning to get off the train of purpose when I pick up this beautiful bamboo flute I have been given care of by a dear friend thirty years ago and with which I have only recently begun to experience real music coming through us, never the same, hardly ever something I’ve heard anywhere before. When my attitude is too full of purpose the sound is of a malfunctioning mechanism and I put it away to keep from injuring it. The obvious fact that my attitude affects both my playing and my hearing only hints at the potency of purpose to shape our entire world perception which, let’s face it, is the whole world to us. Attitude may be the only real control one has over ones life and is generated by ones assumption of a purpose in existence required by society from birth and which all too often seems just handed over for assignment by the same system that demand proof of purpose in the first place; ensured acceptability fast track. If I’ve gotta have a purpose let it be to learn how to live my life as symbiotically as possible with the natural processes of my environment. Like the symbiosis with ink pens, paint brushes, a bamboo flute, some cats, a garden … Ones attitude can be ones greatest work of art.
So you may gather that my idea of the realness of artists and the artificiality of engineers has to do with the balance of spontaneous inspiration against the premeditated purposeful product and profit of the activity. The concept of art can be so distorted it’s been applied to war, so I thought I’d clear up what I am talking about when I say this is natural and that is artificial. The best example I have ever seen demonstrated is the beginning of the wonderful movie called, The Gods Must Be Crazy, wherein the introduction of a coke bottle into a tribe of bushmen completely disrupted their symbiotic relationship with their environment because it had unique properties not found in natural objects, so everyone wanted access to the only one of its kind because they couldn’t walk out into the Kalahari and find another. When humans took the ingeneous practice of husbanding the most nutritious native plants in situ for food to the level of totalitarian agriculture by eradicating all natural vegetation to clear farmland and exterminating all species that ate the crops, the idea of locking up the food and doling it out to supplicants by their perceived earnings at some activity alternative to hunting and gathering their own food began the process of living artificially, the birth of our brand of civilization. In addition to the karma due any activity antagonistic to nature, we have developed a culture that has blinded us to its ill effects on nature by no longer having to heed or depend on an intimate personal relationship with nature and its ways to get a big mac on break from the assembly line. Everything from over population to rape of natural resources are the result of such a bad idea with a pretty dire end too much in sight if we “stay the course” we’re on.
Just as eternally as the purposelessness of here now awaits our consciousness in the ongoing process of existential beauty, nature awaits our return to conscious symbiotic co-evolution. All we need do is get real, one person at a time. If one waits for peer approval or the passing of a new law before one begins to live life in harmony with nature, it just ain't gonna happen. It’s a revelation, not a revolution. Don’t fight the system; abandon it and live locally, tribally, and self sustainably. Nostalgia remembers beauty timeless beauty yet to be experienced anywhere. Being here now is the essence of art. As close as one may get to apprehending the truth comes with seeing that, by realizing that what one is is what one perceives the universe to be, grants the awesome freedom and responsibility to please oneself, or not.