Cubist Emotions

-a dispatch from the grief process

I wrote in the last post

seems grief gets worse before it starts to get better…

like a slow motion fracture across the emotional landscape

it’s like these internal earthquakes happen with a memory or thought…

not predictable…

my hands start to shake

I call this feeling Cubist emotions.

The Сity - Fernand Leger

Fernand Leger “The City” (1919)

 

Things at angles

and broken

sliding apart

damaging frictions

 

 

Writing desk - Olga Rozanova

Olga Rozanova “Writing Desk” (1914)

 

the measure of the words

does not equal their weight

in spilled ink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umberto Boccioni “Nocturne” ( 1911 )

 

The night leans over

renders everything lopsided

view of myself as alien in an alien landscape

I hear the neighbors on the balcony

words in no known language

where is this?

Thankas in Proportion

-a dispatch from the grief process

[edit:I’ve added a few lines about the TCHRD organization]

The Public Domain Review has an interesting piece on an old book about Tibetan art. They write:

An eighteenth-century pattern book consisting of 36 ink drawings depicting precise iconometric guidelines for depiction of the Buddha and Bodhisattva figures. Written in Newari script with Tibetan numerals, the book was apparently produced in Nepal for use in Tibet. The concept of the ‘ideal image’ of the Buddha emerged during the Golden Age of Sanskrit rule, from the 4th to 6th century. As well as the proportions, other aspects of the depiction – such as number of teeth, colour of eyes, direction of hairs – became very important.

You can see it all here The Tibetan Book of Proportions

When you watch Tibetan students in class learning to make thankas, this is what they learn. It’s complicated and mathematical, not freeform drawing. Also every element that goes into one has a reason for being there and a deep symbolic significance. You can’t learn it in a month of evening courses.

I wrote on Facebook a while back about Tibetan musical scores like these.

Embedded image permalink

In some thankas, like in some temple decoration, mantras and instructions for their chanting (like the notation above) are included. This makes it not only iconographic but gives it the status of a yantra, which is a multi-dimensional and multi-sense encompassing spiritual device or machine to assist in changing consciousness. It takes a lot of knowledge of multiple disciplines to be able to create a good thanka. It takes some research and study to be able to decode the depth of what you are looking at. They are not “just” religious iconography but whole windows into the Tibetan belief system. They are not just “cultural products” for tourists but are integral to the cohesion of communities.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Manoj & I used to live across from both the Tibetan Homes School (run by a charitable organization SOS Children’s Homes ) and the CST (Central School for Tibetans run by the Tibetan Gov. in Exile ) and they teach this art to some of the older students. The children in the SOS Home are orphaned children of refugees. Manoj was very close to people in the Tibetan community after he lost his parents [his mother when he was 6 and his father when he was 13]. His relatives did all they could but they didn’t live in Mussoorie so many Tibetan people helped support him in a lot of ways. His father also had had a lot of friends in the Tibetan community and worked with them sometimes. In communities that are somewhat off the beaten track and where ways of life are communal, people help each other out and hold each other up when their social structure collapses. That is one of the principle purposes of community. People are integrated on all sorts of levels. This is very different from a capitalist based network society. [I’ll have more to say on that in the future]

Once in a while if I was walking by and class was in session I’d go in and sit on the bench in the back & watch the young artists for a while. There is a Buddhist temple, the oldest Tibetan Buddhist temple in India, on the grounds just outside of both of these schools. There are monasteries and institutes of higher learning, like the Sakya Center, and the big Mindrolling Monastery complex about 30 kilometers away in Dehra Dun. All of these things are connected and support the Tibetan refugee community.

Over the years I bought a few of the thankas from these students [from the schools actually as the students don’t sell them individually] as the proceeds help support the schools and got them “framed” at Mindrolling for which one gives a donation. This is all a cooperative effort, as are many things in the Tibetan [and in much of the Indian] community that I am aware of in Mussoorie. [I’m not going to generalize or try to “speak for” the community there. This is only my observation and experience.]The students are not just taught the techniques to make pretty and “exotic” pictures. They have a far larger social context.

As an aside..if you want to give money to a Tibetan cause or any cause that’s doing actual work on the ground the SOS Homes are really working hard with that money. I’ve seen it in person. I’ve met the kids in these schools. So many of these western “consciousness raising” organizations like UNFFT (run by some countess who dabbles in all kinds of charities when she’s not attending galas or yachting) and Free Tibet are bullshit organizations run by white people (check their boards and executive) for other white people to make themselves think they’re actually doing something and also to bring in substantial salaries and/or attention mainly to themselves. They are parasitic organizations that boost their own profiles by exploiting the tragedy in Tibet and Tibetan people’s work in my opinion. These kinds of organizations tag along at marches and demonstrations organized by Students for a Free Tibet (another hard working worthy group run by and for Tibetan people) for example, contribute nothing to organizing or support and congratulate themselves heartily for whatever they think they’re doing. It’s lifestyle activism at it’s worst. [I have so much to say about these things but I’ll save it for another post] They want to work for Tibetan people without actually working FOR or WITH Tibetans in many cases. If you want to join or support an organization to help Tibetan people find one that’s run by Tibetans for Tibetans or at least has a lot of Tibetan people actually working at it and in executive roles, not just as figurehead “advisors” or as in some cases all white people.

In terms of consciousness raising, here’s the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy 2013 Annual Report and Special Report on Re-education Through Labor. TCHRD is on the front lines of monitoring the situation in Tibet. Many of their publications are available in English and Tibetan. They (along with some other organizations) do the on the ground work and compile many reports and get the news and photos that a lot of the Western “consciousness raising” organizations often republish without credit, or compensation.

On the economics side, there are plenty of thanka knockoffs in the marketplaces of the world. People buy them as tourist souvenirs and they are produced in “thanka factories” (often in Nepal) where artists (not all of whom are Tibetan or Buddhist) are trained to produce them as consumer goods for low wages. The colors tend to be garish and the images cliché. Some of this is due to many Tibetan people’s feelings that the selling of religious artifacts for profit is wrong, so others have stepped in to make it a business. When they are sold in monasteries, or when you get the framing done at a monastery for example, their purpose is religious and communal not merely decorative or for the tourist trade.

Those are some of the many reasons I dislike the “knock offs” and those comic book kind of drawings “inspired by” Tibetan people’s art.


One of the reasons I’m thinking about this recently is that I’m involved in a photo swap with some of Manoj’s friends and family. I’m sorting and sending photos to them and they are doing likewise for me. It’s like trying to weave over the emptiness with memories.

but still it’s like this

seems grief gets worse before it starts to get better…

like a slow motion fracture across the emotional landscape

it’s like these internal earthquakes happen with a memory or thought…

not predictable…

my hands start to shake


Here is Buddha statue at Mindrolling Monastery, Clement Town, Dehra Dun, taken from the upper level of the temple.

DSC04922

Here is one of the signs within the monastery complex.

DSC04923

Come and Do Drawings With Me

-a dispatch from the grief process

One of the things I am doing on my own is drawing. It’s not something I’ve done often and I certainly don’t do it well. I was writing a little bit about it on Facebook, so I’ll write more here also.

Went to the bookstore the other evening after going to buy some more tea. I bought one book, The errors of young tjaz, by Florjan Lipus an Austrian writer. (Dalkey Archive Press–my current favorite publisher).

I also bought a sketchbook of sorts. I have kept saying I want to draw more because I can’t draw at all. Give me an empty screen or paper and I can fill it with words, in the tiniest of fonts, as well as squeeze some more in between the lines and in all the margins, but a blank paper with the intention to draw remains blank. I can’t think of what to do with it. So I bought this helpful sketchbook. It contains pages with labels on them telling you what to draw on the page. Some pages allow you to draw several things. I really need this kind of direction at present to get the drawing going.

This is the picture from Amazon.

So I’ve done some of the drawings inside. With some of them I have to put words just because words seem to fit there. On some of them I didn’t like the topics so I made up my own. For example I didn’t care to do “presidential pets” not only because I have no idea about such things but it bugs me that it’s a topic at all. So I replaced “presidential pets” with “giant babies”. So that one’s going to be fun whenever I get to it.

Yesterday I ran into an article about Franz Kafka’s drawings. They are quite interesting. He was very reluctant to let anyone see them. The article describes his viewpoint.

In his book Conversations with Kafka, Gustav Janouch describes what happened when he came upon Kafka in mid-doodle: the writer immediately ripped the drawing into little pieces rather than have it be seen by anyone. After this happened a couple times, Kafka relented and let him see his work. Janouch was astonished. “You really didn’t need to hide them from me,” he complained. “They’re perfectly harmless sketches.”

Kafka slowly wagged his head to and fro – ‘Oh no! They are not as harmless as they look. These drawing are the remains of an old, deep-rooted passion. That’s why I tried to hide them from you…. It’s not on the paper. The passion is in me. I always wanted to be able to draw. I wanted to see, and to hold fast to what was seen. That was my passion.”

~excerpt from Open Culture, The Art of Franz Kafka: Drawings from 1907-1917

That statement resonates with me as I’ve also always had some wish to be able use more than words to express some things. But I draw about as well as I sing. Let’s just say you do not ever want me in a karaoke event.

There was a video also in that article which featured some of the Kafka drawings. It’s very short and quite interesting.

 

Certainly any drawings I’m making are not as sublime as those of Kafka.

They might be more along the lines of the work of Simon and his friends.

8 minutes of Zen with Nam June Paik

 

I am fond of Avant garde art of all sorts. From the Russian Oberiu group which includes people like Daniil Kharms, who I wrote about before at some length in the post Dystopia, to stuff Yoko Ono has done to situationist détournement to modern dance performances and street art. Here’s a great big juicy list on Wikipedia List of avant-garde artists.

I don’t analyze art much in any sort of “art history” or “aesthetic philosophy” way, even though I took such courses once upon a time. It’s just something I like to enjoy and think about. One of my favorite websites is UbuWeb which is chock full of the stuff.

Today in UbuWeb’s Twitter stream they pointed out a short film by Nam June Paik.

Nam June Paik (1932-2006) was a Korean-American artist who has produced many interesting pieces of work, a lot of them referencing Buddhist concepts. Many other artists have been influenced by his work, as the write up for Skip Blumberg – Nam June Paik: Lessons from the video master (2006) indicates:

Nam June Paik was the first video artist and did almost everything in video art first. His work broke the rules of art, television, graphics, and, because TV can use all possible art and information, practically everything else, too.

His first video sculptures, such as a Buddha watching his own image on TV and a magnet on the side of a TV set that pulls the TV image into abstractions, were shown at the Galeria Bonino, the Howard Wise Gallery, the Rose Art Museum and many others, beginning in 1965.

Nam June Paik was interested in the intersection between humanity and technology. He said:

Our life is half natural and half technological. Half-and-half is good. You cannot deny that high-tech is progress. We need it for jobs. Yet if you make only high-tech, you make war. So we must have a strong human element to keep modesty and natural life.

Image from the installation of 1974 on Nam June Paik’s official website.

Probably his most famous work depicts a Buddha statue watching itself on closed circuit TV. The questions such a piece of art brings up are numerous.

Is this a metaphor for meditation?

Is it a metaphor for narcissism?

How is our self image mediated by technology?

What is the subject and what is the object in this configuration?

As these are all manufactured objects where is the human in them?

Is the human becoming something of a ghost in the machine?

What of this Buddha figure with it’s apparent unchanging posture and stare?

Is the statue any different than “a rice bag”? –referring to the Zen story collected in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones:

A Zen master named Gettan lived in the latter part of the Tokugawa era. He used to say: "There are three kinds of disciples: those who impart Zen to others, those who maintain the temples and shrines, and then there are the rice bags and the clothes-hangers."

Like I said lots of questions.

The film pointed out by UbuWeb, "Zen For Film" [(1962-64), 8 min, b&w, silent] is an eight-minute strip of clear 16mm film leader. Nothing really happens in it in terms of a narrative, as it’s just a white square. Yet it is quite a strange experience to watch. There is a film, or a piece of film being projected, it’s just that there’s nothing deliberately placed on that piece of film.

It’s interesting to watch the whole 8 minutes, especially if you watch it with some self-awareness (I was going to say mindfulness but blah). When I watched it I noted:

  • my eyes didn’t stop moving, searching the screen for something, some kind of input
  • I got a sensation of anxiety and anticipation as if I were waiting for something to happen
  • the occasional passing dust mote caused me to snap to attention
  • all kinds of thoughts passed “Why am I wasting my time with this?”, “What’s the point of this?”, “Is this information?”, “If not then what is it?”, and so forth.

Give it a try and see what you come up with if you’re just killing time on the Internet.

Here are screen captures of some of the highlights if 8 minutes is too arduous to endure. You can project all your own notions upon it.

Screenshot - 5_17_2013 , 2_57_09 PM

Screenshot - 5_17_2013 , 2_57_45 PM

Screenshot - 5_17_2013 , 2_58_09 PM

Not Good Enough <rant>

 

Life creeping you out?

The cool people, the important people shutting you down?

Tedious morons trying to troll you into silence?

Pressure to be “good enough” breaking you down?

I read some things tonight and I finally just feel angry. here’s why

Somebody wasn’t going to enter her poetry in a contest because she was beset with demons about it not being “good enough”, her writing wasn’t good enough, her words weren’t good enough, her emotions weren’t good enough, her experiences weren’t good enough…she was crying as she typed her message out…weeping was her word.

Forget the analysis. I’ll just spill out what I see.

Lots of times on social media I see people lamenting that they are not “good enough” for something—a job, a relationship, a certain crowd, some institution or organization, some bullshit awards, the attention of some clique, the attention of the world, a little bit of fucking consideration or respect…

not good enough to bridge the distance

not good enough to dare to ask

not good enough to trust…themselves or anybody else

not good enough to continue to draw breath

Oh there’s a hell of a lot of suicidal ideation floating around on the Internet.

There’s no such thing as good enough.

Where’s the fucking list of “good enough” criteria?

What are the top 10 items on the “good enough” list?

Who makes the list?

Who maintains it and checks off whether you’re doing things right or wrong?

Santa’s long dead and buried once you get past the age of 5 or 6.

People getting all tormented by unending thoughts

“You’re so fucking special,
I wish I was special.”

 

Maybe you think you’re a creep or a loser. So what! Even if you were you could make art out of it and get a couple million bucks, fame and popularity. Works either way. If that’s what you’re after. If the adulation of others is so important. Is that the only thing that matters? That’s some kind of fucked up priorities.

If everything’s turned into a contest. A competition.

Oh maybe there’s an app for winning that!

For every winner there’s a hundred losers all nursing the same wounds. The judges move on. They move on fast and don’t even remember your name.

 

Nobody gets through without wounds. Nobody even gets out of here alive.

Climbing all these mountains of emotional turmoil for what? For what?

Carrying some burden of the pain of sharp words knifed in the back when you find out the world’s not what you thought it was. It’s not what was promised.

It’s not really real. Whatever the situation. Mediated by desires messaged and massaged 24/7. Oh where’s McLuhan when you need him?

Maybe it’s not that kind of competition.

Maybe it’s a lover leaving.

Thinking the scent of somebody else’s sweat will be somehow more intoxicating, will be a better trip, for a while longer.

Maybe even your best friend has grabbed the goods while you weren’t looking

…there’s never going to be a world without the Jolenes in it.

 

Was it because you weren’t beautiful enough. What is beautiful enough?

Do we need reasons to be beautiful? Why?

“And they said in the end…you’d get better just like them..”

 

The only way to be different is to be the same.

All those beautiful lonely people…an accomplishment?

Everybody’s looking for a place with a sign that says “Come as you are” Bring your wounds, bring your pain and your insecurities, bring something honest and real…

When you lay it down on the table they all turn away because of the reminder…

…of everything that they sold to be where they are.

But there’s no neon flashing in the distance, there’s no rest stop along the dark highways

There’s no place to land

There is a flash of the truth every now and then but it’s gone before it can be captured, before it can stop your world from being upended.

The people you love say they don’t have a gun, either literally or metaphorically, but you walk around feeling like you’ve been shot with something anyways.

Yet how can you walk so wounded?

How can you carry a lead filled heart that weighs so much?

How can what you dream of be so daunting and impossible?

Maybe you’re not seeing it clearly.

It’s all been dreamed before. A billion billion times.

It’s all a fucked up Californication…a spectacle that sucks up what’s left of humanity in people and turns it into fast cash and flashy pictures. Hurray for fucking Hollywood that tells us if we’re “good enough” the world is just and we will all get what we deserve because…

…God or gods, karma, the universe, justice, fairness or some hero will fly in to save the day?

Nothing is promised when your head emerges into this world and you take your first breath.

“What a bitch! Taking away all the hope and promises.”

Whatevs babe. That’s the way it goes.

We can sit around and wait to be deemed “good enough”. We’ll be waiting til we die because nobody’s ever “good enough” by everybody, all the time, or for long.

So I say to that poet, that musician, that artist, that scholar, that person who wants something out of the funhouse, who craves a place at that banquet table…go for it, but remember

it’s not about you, it’s not even about your words or your song or anything like that. It’s not personal. It’s about what the market will bear, about tastes and trends, about who a few people think are in charge, about desire and craving, it’s about being insatiable, it’s about dissatisfaction and regret, it’s about arbitrary lists that change on a daily basis, it’s about ratings and profit, it’s about fake and faker, it’s about an enactment, a pretend sort of life that emulates human thought and desire, imposters playing imposter games…

but it’s not about you, or what you are really worth. If you can keep that in mind, go for it, grab some of the goodies, and be prepared to walk away when the time comes.

"Californication"

Psychic spies from China
Try to steal your mind’s elation
Little girls from Sweden
Dream of silver screen quotations
And if you want these kind of dreams
It’s Californication
It’s the edge of the world
And all of western civilization
The sun may rise in the East
At least it settles in the final location
It’s understood that Hollywood
sells Californication
Pay your surgeon very well
To break the spell of aging
Celebrity skin is this your chin
Or is that war you’re waging
[Chorus:]
First born unicorn
Hard core soft porn
Dream of Californication
Dream of Californication
Marry me girl be my fairy to the world
Be my very own constellation
A teenage bride with a baby inside
Getting high on information
And buy me a star on the boulevard
It’s Californication
Space may be the final frontier
But it’s made in a Hollywood basement
Cobain can you hear the spheres
Singing songs off Station to Station
And Alderon’s not far away
It’s Californication
Born and raised by those who praise
Control of population everybody’s been there
and I don’t mean on vacation
[Chorus]
Destruction leads to a very rough road
But it also breeds creation
And earthquakes are to a girl’s guitar
They’re just another good vibration
And tidal waves couldn’t save the world
From Californication
Pay your surgeon very well
To break the spell of aging
Sicker than the rest
There is no test
But this is what you’re craving