Keirartworks's Blog

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


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#Selfie post 2

This show project has turned into a kind of Selfie Pilgrimage for me.  I must say, my initial resistance has been a challenge to overcome – I DO so resist, especially when reading articles like this one by James Franco (The Meanings of the Selfie, New York Times, December 2013)  who rationalizes his recently acquired selfie habit thus,

a well-stocked collection of selfies seems to get attention.  …hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power.

Maybe for James Franco it’s power, but I truly don’t think that’s at the core of our collective behaviour.

I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel.  Sure enough, even when I'm the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible.  Not squirming, I think.

I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel. Sure enough, even when I’m the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible. Not squirming, I think.

So I dig and write and paint, and read.  This morning I woke to a kind of epiphany about what could be at the root of Selfie on social media.  Here’s a journal excerpt, which will likely end up in the show booklet in some form,

Selfies have steadily been on the increase since the first use of the term (Australia) in 2002 & became universal in 2012.  Oxford English Dictionary made the term it’s “word of the year” in 2013.  Could this be a barometer for the increasing divide between people because of a kind of culturally cultivated distrust of intimacy?  We are also experiencing the increasing dissolution of traditional forms of relationship and partnership – both personally and with the institutions we once trusted (govt, banks, corporations), which may have created a vaccuum at the personal level.  Maybe these cultural shifts have also changed the questions we’re asking ourselves on a personal level…

The question ‘who am I’, has traditionally been answered in the past by describing how you are related to something or someone, “Peter’s wife; Katie’s Mother; Richard’s Teacher; Jim’s Daughter; Sarah’s Boss; Paul’s Friend”, or even by what you do professionally, which is a different form of relationship “A cellist; an artist; a bus driver; an author; a councillor; a conductor, a mechanic; a carpenter”.

It’s a different question in social media circles.

“I got ‘Unicorn’!, which mythical  creature are you?”

Round one.  Always an indication of how the fight will go.  I need to make it to twenty....

Round one. Always an indication of how the fight will go. I need to make it to twenty….

This answers a question for me about why I’m painting my own hands in interaction.  I think #Selfie behavior could be an examination of our relationship with ourselves.

Each time a selfie is posted it tells a truth, shows a piece of soul, offers a clue, and a question:  “who am I?”  or with chronic selfie posters, “who am I, now?” But what does that question actually mean?  How can we Be separate and distinct from our interactions  – with partners, kids, colleagues, parents, friends, job?

So, for me, my hands.  They are my job, my form of expression, an amplification of my speech, a means of articulation.  They represent two sides of my engagement with the world and my work – my dominant right hand is skilled, trained in the finely tuned crafts of drawing and using a cello bow.  I can write with it – it knows letters and words.  It’s often TOO skilled, too trained for a task I want to complete – a drawing that is direct and raw; the ability to touch an object and feel it’s shape and texture without interference from what is ‘known’.  My left hand is more honest, therefore, and I rely upon it to take me places that can change my mind and my perspective.

Together they are erotic, aggressive, tender, bewildered, compassionate, protected, open or closed to experience.  I see them and work with them much much more than I see and work with my face.  Here’s what Larry Jensen wrote in response to the first hand selfie I posted.  I so love this, L:

blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons...

blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons…

And so the 12-week journey begins, with James Franco, the Oxford English, a Unicorn, Larry Jensen, and some squirming.

yep, squirming.  eyes open means you can see me.  Here we go....

Yep, squirming. eyes open means you can see me. Here we go….


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Fig Leaf on a Snow Day

Open-faced and shovel-sore, I stare out the window at a thousand-thousand demons of whirling, whipped snow.  I think about beauty, and the job of art.

FirstSnowWQuarry

out the window I write by – add whirling dervish snow demons & you get the picture

If there can be a line we take towards healing the terrible distortions of our belief systems, I think it must be drawn by artists.  There can be no measured, scientific path through the strata of abuses we have inflicted upon ourselves for generations  – it must come from a place of feeling and listening and responding.

Artists, writers, composers, musicians, actors, directors, curators, editors, publishers, conductors are by nature steeped in the human mystery, and of necessity highly skilled in creative problem-solving.  These are the people who need to serve here  – to acknowledge our collective rage, our worry, our sorrow and our sense of betrayal, and to answer with compassionate, edgy work that stirs the pot.

same plant as mine - beautiful thing that can grow to 40 feet tall

fiddle-leaf fig tree

The fig plant leans like love toward the light.

I admire this plant and do my best to encourage its growth,  but as I observe it in the pause of today I hear deep-embedded, unbidden moral whisperings:  The forbidden fruit of  knowledge.  Nakedness and shame.  Banishment from Eden.  Original Sin. 

Ack.

The Holy Roman Church has a lot to answer for – including the pirating of a fig leaf’s raison d’etre, and the placing of said moral reference in my mind. But the more nefarious cultural distortion is far far worse – must we – is it in ANY way appropriate and helpful that we should be so ashamed of our own naked selves?

How much damage has this caused – this shame of being who we are?  How can we accomplish anything of value if at the core we believe have no goodness of our own?  Early in my life I read about and far preferred the material written by the early Gnostics, who were persecuted by the Church because they felt that God resides within each of us, and our true purpose in life is to understand ourselves in this context.  Elaine Pagels is a good source for this discussion – see “The Gnostic Gospels” here

These moral seeds of unworthiness and shame have been sown deeply, and have more roots than we can imagine.  To present just one example of many,  permit me to ask  how the Church of Scientology could even pretend to exist if the Holy Roman Church had not preceeded it?

I just watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” (excellent UK review here), then dug a little more into YouTube for recordings of L.Ron Hubbard, South Park’s explanation of the Scientology core belief system, and some interviews with current Scientology Leader’s niece who has defected, thereby breaking her billion-year contract with the church which she signed at age 7.  Said neice and others who have gone clear of Scientology report that the Church sells it’s prospective members the idea of true individuality and success but relies upon strict and often violently reinforced rules of conformity.  Keep your members weak and fearful and make sure they toe the line.  A proven formula.

It’s incredible what large numbers of people can believe in if they are compelled and taught early enough, or if they are desperately lost in addiction and need help – that the birth mother of Jesus was a virgin, for example, and Mary Magdalene was not one of the apostles (even though she authored a gospel) she was just a prostitute.  If you suspend your belief, just for a moment, it’s interesting to wonder where these ideas came from.

Even if you provide ample room for miracles, which do happen, the biographical treatment of Eve, Mary and Mary (not to mention the horror of the witch hunts) speaks to an attitude towards women by the old Christian Church which is decidedly short-sighted and …. abusive, shall we say?  So how does this play out, over 2013 + years?

I look at a fig plant…..

Reba says: "you're kidding, right?"

Reba wonders about this too.

We are all of us increasingly culpable and exposed in the blight of industrial wastelands,  in the hypocrisy and greed of the Big Bank Boys and their Corporate/Political allies.  In the stories of people with mental illness who live anonymously on the street or in closets, who inexplicably fail at school, who are incarcerated after being pushed beyond their limits – we recognize our own bewildered selves.

It’s hard to look, but it has nothing to do with shame, though maybe that’s what got us here.  Love, now – and compassion holds some promise.  I do think Jesus had many things right, depending of course on which version of the bible you’re reading – see Elaine Pagels on the Gospel of Thomas (the Doubter?  or maybe just a healthy skeptic), which was NOT included in the Biblical texts (Beyond Belief – the Secret Gospel of Thomas)…

ahh.

ahh…

I’m glad for this snow day.  Glad for the whirling demons outside, the fig tree and the wood fire that warms my back, and the time to layer these ideas one over the other & watch which questions emerge.  It has inspired me to write dangerous poetry.  To continue to make art that is slightly uncomfortable and looks straight in the eye of forbidden questions.  To play play play music with all the beautiful rage and rebel that I can muster…

So happy Friday, all.  Sad for you if you didn’t get a snow day.  I hope you get one soon.