Saturday, November 21, 2015

cazimi, or “in the heart of”.

I haven't dreamed about bridges since I was really young, 4 or 5 maybe. It was always the bridges my mother later told me were probably the ones in Tampa, but I don't actually remember that part. I think most of my childhood memories are dreams, actually. I do remember being in the car with my father, a weird, desperate man, one of many con artists that handled me during my early cognitive development. in the dreams it was always him and my older brother, and the bridge just ended in the middle of sunny blue green expanse, the water of the gulf coast. Sometimes he stopped the car in time, sometimes he didn't. Maybe that's why roller coaster have always inspired deep fear in me. what do you orient yourself around, anchor yourself to?

Last night, I am not sure who was driving the vehicle we were in, there was a handful of other bodies though. the bridge we were on looked more like the Brooklyn bridge, sturdy with high points that remind me of photos of Notre Dame, the cathedral, weathered by the elements, still standing as a testament to the power of faith. It was raining, I think, there must have been some reason for the obvious storm surge that had brought the water level to the edges of the tall bridge - maybe it was the video I watched of a large glacier breaking apart before I went to bed. We were unaware of the intensity of the surge, though I can't help but feel like it was an evacuation, like the ones I grew up with in Florida, from the hurricanes that batter the shore constantly. The rolling waves were suddenly towering stories higher than us, with a quiet, awesome malevolence. There was no choice but to keep driving and watch in horror as the walls of water crashed around us, all we could do was hope with a desperate fear that the rhythm of the waves would just miss us in our trajectory.

The last thing I remember before waking up was feeling the pull, to my high right, and the shape of the monster wave forming itself, and the deep internal stillness being held in my body, inside the vehicle, as I accepted the inevitable, as the driver stepped on the gas.

when I woke up, I was 29 years old.


Friday, November 20, 2015

twisted geometries, centerless plans, and shards of glass and metal

Post class reflection on the nature of memory and its relationship to object:

We cannot deny the idea of Sacred Space, that it is something everyone finds somewhere in their lives. Maybe it is the comfort of cooking and embodying a kitchen. Maybe it is the yoga studio or gym where we take an hour or two to reclaim our bodies, to remember our movement and breath as belonging to ourselves, after all the other time spent using them for money, to accomplish other people's tasks and priorities. It could be a church, or going home for the holidays, a museum, a forest.

Where does the resonance of any of these places come from? Was the kitchen inherently sacred, or was it the actions of my body, repeated through time feel like grooves already existing on a cosmic record, is it my memories clawing their way out of my subconscious to breathe a few more sweet breaths of life? The worn floorboards soft in specific places I find myself standing in declare a physical truth of other bodies and lives having been lived in this space, with that evidence, how can I deny the possibility that some piece of them isn't alive in my apartment still?

Memorials offer a concrete and visceral relationship to our past. The act of burying the dead was one of our earliest distinctions of man being no longer ape, and though the shapes of mourning continue to shift, our need for marking what we've lost has not. Things like the 9/11 memorial remind me of Indian burial grounds, where the generations of us who experienced it are unable to release the dark energy of that place. It is now a place for the dead, and for some time, no new ideas will grow in the space that was made. That loss is defined by the massive emptiness of its design, allowing us to stare down into the footprints of giants and imagine what it felt like to still be alive inside of a dying star. There was a shift that we may not even be aware of yet, in what we consider the patriotic heart of the USA. This is a dead end. But we are far from processing why it manifested in the first place, so maybe this part is necessary before we can move on and reclaim it. Maybe it will be a scar that remains forever.

Maybe like the ruins of Pompeii it will have to be forgotten and rediscovered much later, so we can fold it in to our collective experience, humanizing our past and giving us permission to live inside it for a moment of empathic time travel. Much like the voids in the ash that we filled with concrete stuff - turned ancient people's last breath into a truly physical experience, allowing the distance of time and the most elementary human experiences seem so small and so close to us in the here and now. Like seeing a million Jewish children's shoes at Auschwitz, or every hand that has ever touched the ancient Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and Juliet's Breast in Verona, or stood next to a stranger and looked at art on a museum wall, it is the mundane and repeated that unites us - we are connected through the touch of our fingers and eyes through time and space to something true, to ourselves and each other as part of the fabric of humanity.

The idea of temporary 'memory-less' structures with lightweight rigging and tent fabric made me think of the kinds of things that get erected in the aftermath of devastating weather/land shifts. I suspect that, whether or not the intention is there - something primal exists in the idea of shelter from the 4 elements - that confining the 5th element (ether/space) is vitally important to survival. That if you strip away the noise of culture, shelter is almost like a platonic solid of being. The human body is two walls of muscle, front and back, wrapped around empty space at the center. Plato suggested that god used this 5th element/solid for arranging the constellations in heaven and Aristotle also postulated that the heavens were made of this element.

For many artists there is an inherent fear of the white page, the pregnancy of emptiness, filled with potential that we may or may not be able to live up to the brevity of, and when I translate that to bodies and buildings, I am reminded of the coral reef, whose act of shedding skin and bone become the building materials of its residence, like certain bone cells in our bodies literally produce the fibers that they construct their environment with. How a build up of history and resources and skills and marks on a page are incredibly important - which I build up quickly through a wash of graphite powder and light pencil measurements to escape the scary expanse. There was a time for the behemoth buttressed churches and rose windows, and there is still so much evidence on our landscape of that part in our history. But while those communal places of worship were being constructed, the shifting human narrative suddenly saw us as children to God, our Father, and all the deep wisdom about the human body from ancient Greece was lost. The paintings of this time look like children's drawings. With the industrial revolution, defined after large scale slavery, the free market helped change our relationship to self in our story. Maybe the communal and collective experience was no longer the church, but the factory. Maybe as we were turning the body into a machine, there remains a reciprocal ghost in the shell of these old factories as the lines between the two were increasingly blurred.. As industry left and continues in America to shift to information/insubstantial, these old industrial bodies littering our collective periphery are the churches of the 20th century, and worshipped at the altar of Capitalism, of the self made man, who was born as blank as a white page in Locke's estimation.

I don't know that we are far enough removed from that place and those ideas to wipe out the proof of that part of our history. We may forget, and have to repeat it again if we can't slowly start to reabsorb the polluted land, for what it represents, and allow it to grow and mature past the intentions of its birth along with us. Just as Penn Station being destroyed gave birth to the Preservation Act, we cannot always see the lineage we are apart of - things we create or destroy or ignore or forget or never notice have implications all their own, and we may never cross over or come in contact with them, they may have a rich life all their own.

"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,...
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."

- Khalil Gibran

Friday, November 13, 2015

Part 1. Kinship


Post class reflection on Deconstruction themes in Literature, Art, Philosophy, Mythology, Pop culture etc:


When providing us with a lens through which to view something, whether you define what that is or not, there is an agenda - because there is something made uniquely available in the process of looking with specificity. A vantage point that makes clear in the contrasts what binds the things being looked at together, what kinship exists between subjects and their objects, and the threads that hold it all together: ideas. Ideas and how they are transubstantiated into matter and become the cultural fabric we build the structures of self with. Ideas, sturdy as institutions. Mythological characters that only lived on the lips of a blind man in ancient Greece became some of the core structures of Freudian analysis. This particularly human trait of finding narrative threads to lead us and to inspire us creates so much the contexts we live inside of, but it is hard to feel and listen for the insubstantial when faced with the substantial - how much easier it is to feel something under our fingertips than it is to feel the edge of a new way of seeing the world.

Which came first - the Wall as metaphor, or the Wall as physical? Is a boundary a thing or an idea? Is there even value in drawing distinctions between the two, if it becomes a vessel for cultural expression, potentially a vehicle for communicating shifting ideas of Self and Other in concretely physical ways?

Institutions are susceptible to ossification when resistant to the changing tides of human need and curiosity, and it is the connective tissue in our body that shows us what we do over and over again, as it molds itself around our habitual movement patterns. At some point the walls we build around our ideas of Self will hinder our ability to respond to new things, and massive upheavals, like devastating weather patterns and falling in/out of love may shake that sense of Self so deeply it feels like we no longer have a sense of who we are.

This is maybe the greatest gift Art, Literature, Philosophy, Mythology and Pop Culture have to offer us - ways to process our past, to define and redefine our narrative according human needs inside of their context. To fully embody our multiple facets and know ourselves inside of them still - like our current myth/theory of the wave particle duality, we exist materially here, in this moment, but what do we orient ourselves around as we are constantly pulled forward by the Current into a place we have never been ourselves before, the Now. Does it help us to bother distinguishing between current/Current and now/Now? How do you know yourself betwixt the two?

What is the difference between Sacred and Rigid? Between Artifact and Idea? Self and Other? Creation and Destruction? Whomever's responsibility it is to draw the boundaries, define the maps, to build the semiotic/literal walls around the stories we tell  - requires a reflection in the mirror, a shadow self that exists in the in-betweens and constantly asks us to reassess who we truly are.

Perhaps this is the role of Artist, Philosopher, Architect, Writer, Priest, Performer - to embody the questions that can be so scary to ask, to craft with language things impossible to name, to live in the world of ideas and to transform word into deed, idea into matter, knowledge into power, communion into flesh.

Friday, November 6, 2015

every tool has a genealogy

Post class reflection on the History/Process of Deconstruction and where it might be headed:

It strikes me as hugely important, the ways in which buildings were brought down much earlier in the growth and development of modern civilization - the idea that people paid for the opportunity to be involved, because almost every aspect was salvaged and sold immediately, that the building's components were considered valuable even if the building itself was no longer meant-to-be. How breathing a new building into being involved exhaling an old building and that something could coalesce and disperse without degrading some other aspect of the life cycle of the urban landscape.

But what really changed?

Human Labor began to require expenses previously uninvolved in the process? Or was it the development of technology and new kinds of building materials? What was driving the American frontier that made creating mechanized muscle so profitable? As the scale of cities and human potentiality also expand, how easy does it become to un-see the cellular matrix, to consider the brick and the human vessel for mechanical force as necessary but essentially un-special units of any structure.

There was a time in our past where history was considered valuable, in people and in things, institutions and ideas. I have no idea where the shift was - that made virginity the ideal - that an all consuming drive for the newest thing means that once put into circulation, everything we come in contact with is depreciating in value to society. In our attempt to avoid the necessity of entropy, we facilitate the speed in which it takes hold. It is like we are choosing to define the world not as a system fluctuating around us, but as a system slowly dying.

This idea of modular construction that allows complete break down and reuse of entire structures may be something that gets looked back on with disdain, like the boxes scattered over the landscape from the modernist movement - sometimes it is important to see the brush strokes in the painting, since it gives clues about the artist's thinking, the specific problem they might have been working out in the paint, about shadows and reflected light, about what color laughter in the eyes might be. If we looked at every piece of the mundane process of constructing things, buildings or human beings as if every moment and particle were somehow divinely inspired, how might that affect what they grow up to become? If we could feel respect for each brick and the job it will do, would that respect extend itself to the individual placing that brick into the skin of its building? Are they common laborers or Priests shaping Matter, carving our history onto the earth?

But what of the Architect? Where does he live in this painting? What is the nature of the piece of music he is conducting?

I think it depends on the nature of the building. If longevity is involved in the thought process, than the utility of a building will have to shift along with time, or get swept away by the future. How would we interact differently with space if it was designed to ride the waves of human need and expression? Does it mean that the essential creator of that design is lost in the fluctuations? Are you any less an artist if what you have made is rich earth for people to grow in, rather than monuments to god, ourselves and posterity? And by offering the option to co-create space, how does that fold in the inhabitants - how they might claim a space, relate to or identify with it, and how they might also consider the people that helped craft it?

How can construction/deconstruction be an invitation, rather than an attack?