Sunday, February 17, 2008

Public Bathing, Meers's "Trinity", and Art Beyond Irony

Barack Obama helped you move a sofa. Barack Obama emailed your dad and told him how great you are. Barack Obama thinks you are cute.

Some of my students were surprised to find me naked at the neighborhood bath house. One boy brought in his water-proof cell phone (amazing!) and took our picture.

Here is a new image I just found called "Trinity" by Charlie Meers. Striking, yes? But not in a loud way. It is more sophisticated than a typical collage; more simple and well composed. Formally, I love how Meers connects the foreground TV to the background Baby through the partially transparent Burning Monk. It is an extremely simple pyramidal composition, with a minimal use of icons, and yet it invokes themes of history, spirituality, religion, birth, death, war, media, politics,....this image unpacks and engages a cornucopia of ideas, old and new, and then invites the viewer to draw from their own experience to create meaning. It answers nothing, but tickles questions and perspectives out of our sleep. To me, this art, including its title, suggests that all these ideas should be re-membered now, and they do not need to be scattered, incoherent heaps of perspectives floating wasted in the space of mind. No...they can drift into three categories: a trinity of self, nature, and culture; birth/death, sacrifice, and story telling. This collage gestures to an understanding that there is a meaningful pattern or story that can connect these images together, and all we have to do is gently remember it.

Upon first seeing this collage Michael Garfield said, "I've had similar imagery hit me like a bomb before: the whole world floating as a dream in the mind of a sleeping fetus. History, death, declaration..all in the context of something slumbering, umbilical, undifferentiated (? !)...Washington's image, famous indicator of rational agency, appears as an apparition on the television - that instrument of centralized transmission, the ringing bell of the death knell of his own ardent popular government; the burning monk, one of the most powerful pictures of protest, but doing the work of his oppressive government for them; the unborn infant, at once smaller than either of them and large beyond size-the backdrop of all human drama, the hidden signifcance of every statement of purpose, and these things all lie in superposition, pulling at each other with multivalent half-conscious meaning. Most collages are overwhelming murals of human experience - and this is no exception, but it manages to evoke all of the regular themes with the sparity and grace of an enso [zen circle painting]. Meers says more with less."
"Meers says more with less." That is so true, and points directly to the artist's high level of skill and maturity.
You can see more of Charlie's work here.

Also, "part one" of Michael's interview with Ken Wilber entitled "Art beyond Irony" is up on his blog. Please read this. It is so very good, and explores art in a light that is new and refreshing. Also, mom, if you need a good excuse to read it, Michael mentions your son at the beginning. From the kick ass introduction:

"I recently had the immense honor of interviewing author and philosopher Ken Wilber, known worldwide as the premier living philosopher of integral theory and the pioneer of the AQAL Model. For over thirty-five years (his first book, the Freud-and-Buddha-reconciling Spectrum of Consciousness, was published when he was 23), Ken has been cultivating a reconstructive model of human experience and inquiry that cuts through the haze of postmodern confusion and relates art to science, psychology to spirituality, systems theory to cultural anthropology, politics to ecology, and business to medicine. He is also a seasoned meditator, and draws his descriptions of the transpersonal realms of consciousness from personal experience - making him a rare resource, someone whose scholarly musings are informed by his vivid, living experience of enlightened awareness.

Dragging a train of both ardent supporters and vicious critics, Ken's writings have been translated into more languages than any other English-speaking author. He is the founder of the Integral Institute, an international think tank where the extension and application of integral theory to every domain of knowledge and practice is being explored by thousands of people worldwide.

Most of Ken's writings focus on psychology, philosophy, and spirituality - all topics that inform a deeper understanding of art and music. But Ken has written precious little about art, so I jumped on the chance to ask him my most pressing questions about how "integral consciousness" - this next great leap in human evolution - will inform both the artist and the artistic process."

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