I seriously ask myself, why do I bother to make art when there will be no humans on this planet in another generation?
New York Magazine
I keep reading comments about protests, where peeps blame everything they don’t like, everything they think excessive, violent… on ‘anarchists.’
When they know nothing about actual anarchists, but what the enemies of actual anarchists have always said about them.
There is a rich history of a very diverse stream of anarchist ideologies.
It can be complicated. For me, it’s complicated only in the doing… which is always actions and decisions made with others.
No gods, no leaders… no representatives” … Nehil de nobis sin nobis… nothing about US… without us. We are capable of taking care of ourselves, and one another, without hierarchy, without institutionally mandated leaders.
I am an anarchist.
That is my manifesto. Read it well, read it with care, turn it and turn it, cause everything is in it.
As for how we get there?
Solidarity, Love, Imagination, RESISTANCE!
I have this dream… of a collective of artists, who don’t “sell” their work, but … sort of… ‘rent’ it. That is, Someone who makes a contribution (sliding scale) has right to the work in perpetuity… but not ‘ownership.’ the collective, legally, retains ownership. What that means, is the one who takes the work, agrees never to sell for profit. They can exchange for another work, or accept an exchange at current value, if they want to offer it to someone else–ok…but wherever the work goes, the collective retains “ownership” rights.
The idea being, to prevent a work from becoming a commodity, an item of exchange value taken in expectation of profit by future increase in monetary value.
A network of such exchanges–drawing in more artists, removes more and more art from the fucked up , utterly corrupt gallery to investor gatekeeper system we have now.
The idea–however this might actually work out, is that artists take control of the distribution of our work, withdrawing our work from the market system, but creating together ( I envision networks of these collectives), a system outside the capitalist system.
No artist has any hope of bucking the system alone. This can only happen if enough artists come together, and work out a system of distribution, and sustainability–by consensus. By USING OUR CREATIVE IMAGINATION for how we LIVE IN THE WORLD, and not exclusively in devotion to our work.
Such freedom as we have, arises out of the generative power of imagination and dreams, which change the shape of our interactive world to make room for us to act out decisions made before we are aware we have made them. Everything in this movement is indirection. We are able to choose to follow a path, only as we are able to imagine it into existence. These are words which describe how that feels to me.
In the morning, I think–I’ve come to the end of what I budgeted for wine this month. I think I’ll not buy any more until the next Social Security deposit–or until I sell another painting, but by some time in the afternoon, this resolve undergoes a change, I can feel it happen: I will finish a painting I like, and want a glass of wine for a reward. I begin to prepare dinner, and think, how good it would be to have a glass of wine with this marinara–and I go to the wine & spirit store, and buy that nice, inexpensive Tisdale Pinot Noir that I like.
What is an addiction, but our body partnering with the source of the addiction to hinder our ability to imagine ourselves without it, as in mourning the loss of one we have deeply loved, we are for a time–even for a lifetime–unable to imagine our lives without them? Imagination is of the body, our body inescapably hooked into the world.
I can, to some degree, give myself to imagining–but always indirectly, by doing something else. Writing a poem, making a painting, the making, what I am doing– choosing pigments and brushing color on the canvas–becomes that ‘something else,’ as I work. When this happens, when I finish–what I’ve made becomes a wonderment, something I had not known I had imagined until it is there before me. The opposite of perfectly completing a task I’ve planned out from the beginning–unless the planning, all along, has itself been the foil. If the painting doesn’t surprise me when I finish it–it feels like a failure. I feel like a failure. As though I had betrayed a job I’d been entrusted do.
“Free will,” as most commonly expressed, is an illusion. I think most of us, most of the time, are but instruments of the machines we have made and set in motion to act in our place, and those who appear to have the most power, are the least free, unconscious servants of the Machinery of Money and Death.
What will free us from this addiction?
There’s an invaluable lesson we can learn from the history of black people in this country. Counter to many distopic movies–which play on the assumption that need, and scarcity of resources will set people against one another. An idea planted as a seed of capitalist ideology–by the elite’s fear of the people, fear of real democracy.But if we look a their history, we see how black people, survived by mutual aid, preserving what what was possible to preserve, and so much more– creating a new culture, new music, new art. A history that refutes that dytopic fear. The Lord of Flies fear.If there is violence in impoverished neighborhoods now, it’s not scarcity, but excess that is to blame–the seductive promise of excess wealth and power, the omnipresent propaganda absorbed by living in and under a consumer capitalist driven ideology.Poor people learn how to take care of one another–or they die.The greater the wealth, the more that ability deteriorates. The billionaire elites are damaged–and damaged in ways that puts human survival itself at risk. The disposition that motivates mutual care, is lost. Excess corrupts… and at some point, corrupts absolutely. John Woolman understood this. Few have understood it better.I’m not setting up an argument for the virtue of poverty. That’s not the conclusion I draw. But I am making an argument for the corrosive power of excess, where some have more than they need, and many have less. We have enough food and material wealth to house and feed every person on the planet–and much more. The problem is, and has been since the first neolithic farmers cultivated grains and rice, that could be stored and accumulated, and did not need to be consumed as it was harvested, how to use the excess… other than providing the means for kings and priests and war lords to rule over the lives of others… invariably, over the ones who produced the excess.The problem didn’t begin with capitalism. Capitalism systematized and automated and dehumanized the machinery that had been at work since the first cities in China, the Indus valley, the fertile crescent.What starting me thinking about this, was watching a neighbor caring for an invalid aunt and grandmother.We are good at this, we humans. It isn’t scarcity that is destroying us, but excess… and how to deal with that without destroying those deep rooted communal habits we are so good at creating. Inequality is the symptom… a symptom that itself can destroy us. But there’s a deeper cause. Something we have never been able to learn.I think that the anarchists… some of them, began to get this.I think that’s our way to the future… if we’re to have one.
Once you understand the history of this country–whole shelves of American fiction, and great collections of American painting, become unbearable.
I think about this when I try to understand my almost exclusive turn to abstraction, and my resistance to representative art–even though that’s what my education prepared me to do.
It’s not my call to portray the lives of black people, or “first nations’ ( I like the Canadian term), and I don’t see any crying need to paint white people! Abstraction for me embodies a voice of resistance, of protest. Both a choice, and an act of self denial: a rejection of the world I see around me. A turn to landscape, or nature painting is no better–simply another kind of denial… unless I painted toxic dumps, industrial wastelands. I lean in that direction with my Recyclations (trash assemblages).
This is a model of how to do it: find the cracks in the crumbling capitalist wall and fill them.
Think about how it would change the world, if we were to understand, and treat, music, dance, poetry, the arts, not as cost-deficit sidelines, to be cut from schools to make way for serious subjects, but as the reason and purpose for everything else we do!
We need to raise food, because we need food to give us pleasure, and to make art! We need shelter and housing, so we have places we can make music. We need medicine, to stay healthy so we can dance and make poetry!
Make life for pleasure, for deep pleasure, and it will change the world.
(#433 Acrylic on canvas Dance!)
I’ve been reading John Berger’s Understanding a Photograph. He writes in the essay, Appearances: that …
In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for an explanation. The one who looks may explain afterward: but, prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.
Revelations do not come easily. Appearances are so complex that only the search which is inherent in the act of looking can draw a reading out of the underlying coherence If, for the sake of a temporary clarification, one artificially separates appearances from vision (and we have seen that in fact this is impossible), one might say that in appearances everything that can be read is already there but undifferentiated. It is the search, with its choices which differentiates. And the seen, the revealed, is the child of both appearances and the search.
Another way of making this relation clearer would be to say that appearances in themselves are oracular. Like oracles they go beyond, they insinuate further than the discrete phenomena they present, and yet their insinuations are rarely sufficient to make any more comprehensive reading indisputable. The precise meaning of an oracular statement depends upon the quest or need of the one who listens to it. Everyone listens to an oracle alone, even when in company.
“Everyone listens to an oracle alone, even when in company” When I read that, I asked myself, “isn’t this precisely how one sees… a painting?
My calling… my vocation, as a poet and artist, began at a moment like that—an oracular vision–11 or 12 years old. Forsythia blossoms after rain, when the sun came out from clouds and turned the drops of water on the petals into prisms. Everything I’ve done since, has in some way, been connected to the effort to understand that moment.
“The modality of the visible” … the expectation of meaning in what is seen – is this what I look for as I work on an abstract piece – the expectation of meaning, but one disconnected from any narrative or ideological sense–a meaning that hovers above explanation, and untouched by it?
My novel, Ari Figue’s Cat… https://www.amazon.com/Ari-Figues-Cat-Jacob-Russell/dp/1940830060 the motive for writing it; this is its central theme.
What I look for as I work—as I arrange pieces of trash, draw lines on a page, brush color on a canvas. Why I prefer abstract work. Representative art, when it seizes me, is always like this. Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy.
The enigma. The expectation of meaning—that defies explanation. Iconography, represented figures… are a distraction. Though a master can so charge the most meticulously rendered images with that oracular sense, that all our efforts to explain are exhausted… and we are left with what we see, and that alone. Jan Van Eyke’s Arnolfi wedding portrait.
I work on a piece until I have that sense… in looking at it, in seeing it: the feeling that it means something. I have no idea what, or how to explain it. It’s enough, if I capture that feeling, an enigma. Beyond words.
We long for a vision … a way out of this fucking capitalist hell.
We don’t know what it is… but if, in seeing this, we can believe that it exists…beyond words, beyond explanation.. but there for us to find and create… I will have done my part.