Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.

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Once upon a tone…

I’m having trouble reading.  A smorgasboard of fascinating printed material, practically glowing inside beautifully designed covers – right in front of me, and I can’t find the anchor point, the stillness that gives permission to dive in and engage, without great effort.

It’s not glasses – I replaced my old foggy set with two exceptionally clear and useful pair, gone the headaches.  It’s not disinterest – I couldn’t be more passionate about the material this Masters course and my own inquiries offer me, or hungrier to understand more deeply.

Not schedule, not lack of sleep, not poor health, not an ability to interpret and articulate, focus or retain but still a trouble I am increasingly aware of.

It’s my patience, my attention span.  Somehow in the past four years, I’ve become hooked into distraction.


Point-of-view alters understanding.

I need to consciously choose to dig into a new concept now. Decide, again and again to make a practise of reading each paragraph two times (necessary, to understand the irrationality of the Pythagorean comma and it’s resulting philosophical effect on the holy trinity, and hence contemporary governance).  I take mental and written notes, then move on only when I feel the bell of understanding resonate in my bones and blood.  The next time I sit down with the same book, I review, repeat, wait for the bell, then move on.

One hundred hundred chews per mouthful.  If I don’t do this I reach the end of a chapter and all I can think about is …. whether Donald Trump represents for our times the black hole that is Pythagoras’ comma.


So.  Throw paint at something, and find the sanctuary of ‘Do.’, away from the beckoning screen, the humming pile of books.

Thank you, iPhone, thank you Macbook Pro.  This is the result of you and your entire ecosystem of marketed convenience.  Three years ago I did an art project called #selfie that required extensive online research into and active participation in social media that still has me connected to thousands of people I know only virtually. Two years ago I dived into the vast ocean of tweeters and texters by accepting a 4s into my life, and the result was the twisting of my thought processes, overloading of my senses with so much irrelevant data that my mind – my mind – needs remedial care, just so I can read.  A Book.

And yet, books are the better diet, I’m finding.  Lightly sprinkled with internet research, they are once more becoming the oatmeal of my day.  I have receptors for this information, still. Each time I insist, my attention span lengthens a little more.


The Tone of Our Times (2014, MIT), by Frances Dyson – the main course of my reading at the moment.  Dyson is connected to a community of Scientists and Artists (ISAST) who have some simple goals:

  1. To advocate, document and make known the work of artists, researchers and scholars developing the new ways that contemporary arts interact with science, technology and society.
  2. To create a forum and meeting places where artists, scientists and engineers can meet, exchange ideas, and, where appropriate, collaborate.
  3. To contribute, through the interaction of the arts and sciences, to the creation of the new culture that will be needed to transition to a sustainable planetary society.

Important book.  Sassy, even, to my reading ear, and very dense.  I’m on page seven of the intro and already I’ve needed to dig into terms and references online, like monochord … cosmology; techno-gnosis; doxa…


A hundred hundred chews, and not too much at once.  Here are the first two points of Ed Boyden’s (also MIT) advice about “Managing brain resources in an age of complexity” (November 13, 2007)

When I applied for my faculty job at the MIT Media Lab, I had to write a teaching statement. One of the things I proposed was to teach a class called “How to Think,” which would focus on how to be creative, thoughtful, and powerful in a world where problems are extremely complex, targets are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure. In the process of thinking about this, I composed 10 rules, which I sometimes share with students. I’ve listed them here, followed by some practical advice on implementation.

1. Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read, even when you’re reading what you conceive to be introductory stuff. That way, you will always aim towards understanding things at a resolution fine enough for you to be creative.

2. Learn how to learn (rapidly). One of the most important talents for the 21st century is the ability to learn almost anything instantly, so cultivate this talent. Be able to rapidly prototype ideas. Know how your brain works. (I often need a 20-minute power nap after loading a lot into my brain, followed by half a cup of coffee. Knowing how my brain operates enables me to use it well.)

So I change it up, the reading, and I don’t gorge myself.  I also have dessert waiting for me – a beautiful little book titled Once Upon a Time; A Short history of fairy tale, by Marina Warner (Oxford, 2014).


She begins, “Imagine the history of fairy tale as a map, like the Carte du Tendre, the ‘Map of Tenderness’, drawn by Parisian romancers to chart the peaks and sloughs of the heart’s affections….”

Ah, how I love a good map.  But first, a little paint throwing, and then half a cup of coffee outside in the long autumn sunlight.

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#Selfie 13: Loving Narcissus

This wire is familiar – the one I’m down to.  Six paintings, eleven days – I’m now working on two at the same time.

(also workshop and rehearse the Performance Piece for Opening night, compile the Book for #Selfie and make at least two.  Then my breaks:  three rehearsals, two concerts, teaching cello lessons and art class, sleep, exercise, eat….)


The one just finished.  Biggest in the show, and difficult to understand scale here (thumbnails are same size as my face).  It had me on lock-down for the last two days of its' fulfillment.

The one just finished. Biggest in the show, and difficult to understand scale here (thumbnails are same size as my face). It had me on lock-down for the last two days of its’ fulfillment.

This past weekend the most difficult task was to hold my own in recurring conversations with self doubt.   I managed it, I think, by utilizing every trick in the book – bull-headedness, steel-jawed determination, nonchalance, distraction, humour, tears, goading….

Next up (one of two) is on red linen, just for a challenge.... (what was I thinking?)

Next up (one of two) is on red linen, just for a challenge…. (what was I thinking?)

This morning and late yesterday as I worked on the content of the next two I began to think differently.  It’s as though each piece is a school.  When I graduate, I get a few hours off (though this will undoubtedly change as the days pass), and then I start a new series of courses in the examination of #Selfie and … me.

As I wrote to Kristan this morning (he and I are in workshop mode with tandem and solo spoken word for the opening performance), School Rules are:

1. go consciously and directly at whatever chafes and disturbs you, or makes you squirm in discomfort.

2. find imagery that resonates with that.

3. draw, paint, sing, write – quickly, to manifest it as clearly as possible.

4. Do NOT succumb to melodrama, self-pity, cynicism, terror or denial.

5. Remain open to shock.

6. Don’t forget to breathe, sleep and eat.

Here's the photoshop sketch for Red.  Looking also for another image to layer on top of this for symbolic reasons... it will come.

Here’s the photoshop sketch for Red. Looking also for another image to layer on top of this for symbolic reasons… it will come.

I want to say something about the myth of Narcissus, which has come up in conversation as a way to describe #Selfie behavior.   Ovid’s telling of the story has been most resonant in western culture (book III of Metamorphoses.) though it’s interesting to see what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say:

Narcissus, in Greek mythology, the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was distinguished for his beauty. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book III, Narcissus’s mother was told by the blind seer Tiresias that he would have a long life, provided he never recognized himself. His rejection, however, of the love of the nymph Echo or (in an earlier version) of the young man Ameinias drew upon him the vengeance of the gods. He fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring and pined away (or killed himself); the flower that bears his name sprang up where he died. The Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias, in Description of Greece, Book IX, said it was more likely that Narcissus, to console himself for the death of his beloved twin sister, his exact counterpart, sat gazing into the spring to recall her features.

The story may have derived from the ancient Greek superstition that it was unlucky or even fatal to see one’s own reflection. Narcissus was a very popular subject in Roman art.

Narcissism has long since become a psychiatric term used to describe extreme self-centredness – often so pathological that it prevents any meaningful engagement with anything not self-referenced.  A Narcissist will project himself and his needs onto anyone and everyone he/she meets, and then become confused when that ‘other’ has needs of their own.  We all do that, to some extent, myself definitely included.  It’s conditioned into us.

Obeying School Rule #3:  I will never ever get used to this #selfie thing.  Still very much squirming.

Obeying School Rule #1: I will never ever get used to this #selfie thing. Still very much squirming, but I needed an image, and so I shot myself, again.

I want to offer another idea about Narcissus and why he died.  It refers to my last post – #Selfie 12:  My face belongs to you.

I actually do believe that our outer selves belong more to those people we relate to than to us, and that we need to recognize this.  What if our fascination with our own face is more about a longing for relationship?  I would propose that taking a #Selfie and posting it online is the action that follows that longing.

Do we do this because we believe that someone out there will actually be able to ‘see’ what’s inside us (as in Avatar’s “I see you”)?  It’s interesting then that instead of this ‘recognition’ what often happens is that the anonymous viewer projects his or her self-image onto your Selfie, and then writes hateful, destructive messages in response.  Artist Lindsay Bottos has published a compelling piece that illustrates this perfectly, called Anonymous.   It’s worth taking a look at.

I like it better when they're blurry.  Does that mean something.... oh, probably it does.

I like it better when they’re blurry. Does that mean something?  Oh, probably it does….

I need to get back to painting very soon, and I’m struggling to articulate the crux of this idea.  Here goes:

If we all search for meaning through relationships, but find that meaning only when we stop projecting our internal needs onto ‘the other’, then really what we long for is a good, honest, trusting relationship with our own Self.  My needs are my own; I am responsible to and for them, and I respect that you are different from me.

Certainly Narcissus’ beauty was legendary in the myth – so many pursued him, gazed at him, idolized him for it.  What if he died because he got caught in the idea that his outer beauty was so great that it completely overshadowed who he actually was?  What if he died out of starvation for himself?

That’s happened to a few people in this culture that makes gods out of movie and pop stars.  How terrible.

a place I love.

a place I love.

So, back to it.

Wish me luck and speed and clarity, if you would.  It’s all corners on two wheels time…

Here’s the actual invitation, no longer a work-in progress.  Please come if you can.



...back.  The gallery would like you to R.S.V.P., so they know how many to set up for.  much appreciated, K

…back. The gallery would like you to R.S.V.P., so they know how many to set up for. much appreciated, K

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Demons and Memory

My friend these forty-eight years and fifty to come is reserved but possibly this is because he is so exquisitely aware of and compassionate with his audience.  If you can lift yourself to the place where he responds, appropriately, to the dynamics and currents of the moment,  you will hear him, clearly and cleanly like a gift.

Is it not true that everything we do, all the sounds we utter, each move we make is designed to signal a thought – to communicate?  Most are unaware of this and favour instead the heavy sludge of daily complaint to the fine turn of a thought, a phrase, a reference that might lift laboured conversation to the place that …fireflies inhabit.

Demons vs Memory; grace wins.

Demons vs Memory; he/she who has more Grace, wins.

I recently worked all night long, alone with my 49-year-old demons, to make something beautiful.  We had twelve hours before the deadline, starting at 7pm.  It was inexpressibly difficult and clumsy; a fierce battle of wills waged in a field far away from the golden nugget I’d thought I was seeking.   Their arsenal included everything I’d ever done wrong in my life, no matter how subtle or appropriately catalytic.  The only weapon I had was a healthy form of ego-depricating humour, and humility, which turned the tide in the final battle, to my utter astonishment.

I woke the next morning feeling beaten and brutalized by Our Fight and went to a nice birthday breakfast.  My Demons came with me, as they do.  I realized, with the effects of my all-nighter still resonant that in that birthday full of the terribly unintentional distortions of Family the only thing I could do was … um … try to make a clumsy internal peace and um… move to another place less habitually toxic… keep my head down…

and try not to be pulled into, try to make make peace with the heavy collection of family demons who’ve all been firmly consigned to Our Too-small Basement.  Like a tide, they Will Rise, if bidden by emotional moons.

clumsily, I left at the right moment, so overall I think I hope I won over my demons.  This is good, because I can no longer remember the details of their rage and its origins so I’d lose if challenged in a Family Fight.  Or if I were enraged enough, in an unguarded moment I’d set them loose with the power of a thousand thousand raptors to wreak death upon the Multitudes.  Did I mention that I am by nature intolerant?  Loosing my demons, therefore is a thing to Avoid with Great Intention.

I just sent the awkward result of that night’s recorded audition thousands of miles over the internet to people with Criteria, whose job it is to measure what I did.

Let the chips fall where they may, and thank you for writing what you write, my friend.