Monday, April 28, 2014

Casper the Friendly Ghost and the Notion of Existence

Casper the Friendly Ghost is that cute little ghost-child who lives with the gluttonous ghostly trio (Stretch, Stinky, and Fatso) who enjoy scaring the living. Casper, however, is a pacifist, a nonconformist among ghosts: he prefers to make friends with people. 

There are a number of stories as to how Casper became a ghost (he went sledding all day and caught pneumonia or he was born to ghost parents), but one thing that is consistent is that Casper is, indeed, a good-natured, friendly ghost. 

Casper is thoughtful. He tries to understand others, is open-minded, and has a sense of connection with everyone. Casper is open to new ideas, believes that what he needs comes to him, considers everyone to be his teachers, and is guided by an inner wisdom: love. 

Western civilization is founded on the belief system that spirit and matter are separate and distinct. The Earth is treated as an inanimate object to use at our own discretion, science examines the world rationally and methodically, and corporations are built to enhance their economic prowess.

Just as Casper, who enjoys interacting with the living, exists on the fringes of the spiritual world, so, too, do people who give spirituality a high priority exist on the fringe of society. While some attitudes, such as Casper's, can lead to unity or wholeness (between the spirit and material worlds), other attitudes can lead to a contradiction steeped in dualistic thinking: material existence is here, spiritual existence is there.

All existence lies everywhere, irrespective the form it takes. What Casper teaches us is that wherever we are at any given moment in space-time-location, we exist ... and what best to do with our existence than spend it creating, enjoying the company of others, and learning about both our inner and outer worlds as much as we can. 

The petty concerns that occupy the bulk of our waking life need not distract us from the notion that we exist, plain and simple. Self-identity (our careers, our physical appearance, our attainment of wealth, knowledge, or privilege), as we see with Casper's example, persists beyond the material world, it can drive us to scare the living or interact with them in harmony and from a place of good-will. 

The Ghostly Trio, like many of the living, focus on the mythos of separation that supports the belief that we are disconnected from the source from which we came, that between us and the origin of our existence is an great big emptiness, delegating our existence to the ordinary rather than extraordinary. The mere fact that we exist - that anything exists - is what is extraordinary. 

Considering existence as a whole rather than separate parts according to our tendency to compartmentalize existence makes existing easier. This concept has nothing to do with the notion known as "spirituality" nor does it advocate any given "religious" doctrine, it is merely a logical, rational thought stemming from the act of observation. 

How can a flower bloom without roots? Who planted the seeds? Perhaps the answer to these and similar questions is that there is nothing but existence. 

Whatever the answer, an aspect of our present existence is sensory awareness. This awareness allows us to perceive of our own existence. In this perception, we can choose to hold onto notions of separation and division so that we can put everything, including ourselves, into nice little boxes, independent of one another and/or grouped together by likeness, or we can simply acknowledge that we all exist, that all of "this" exists, and that existence, irrespective the form, is all there is. 

There is a nourishing aspect to this conclusion that connects us to the entirety of existence rather than to the ground (i.e., our bodies, our lifestyle, our hopes, aspirations, talents, needs, desires, etc.). It isn't about renouncing all worldly pursuits in order to pursue or obtain enlightenment, we need not cloister ourselves off from the world to be closer to the world (i.e., the notion of a creator), we need not seek to transcend the body and become nothing but light (though, admittedly, that possibility exists in a world of seemingly endless existence possibilities), all we need do is allow ourselves to be ... and from that, explore existence. 

Psychologically speaking, there are challenges associated with the notion of being connected to everything and everyone. In this vein, the burdens of others instantly become our own and the happiness of others is no longer something envied ... it is celebrated. 

We need not find or invent a creator, we need not seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe (as our ability to do so is limited by human perception), and we need not limit our minds to the particular energetic or material combination that makes up our own very existence. All we need do is be

To be or not to be is indeed, as Shakespeare wrote for Hamlet to contemplate, the question. Whether we can not be in a world where everything is ... is an interesting question upon which to philosophize, but even in not being we somehow exist, even if only conceptually. 

Each day people think of those who are "no longer with us" ... each day people conceive of creators (who go by different names) ... each day people conceive of cartoon characters (Casper, for example) ... none of these things exist until they are in our minds, in our perceptions, in our own inner realities. 

Whether the so-called spiritual world is empty or full, purposeful or existing without purpose or direction, all we can know is that we exist, and in that existence we can see what we choose: connection or negation, ghosts, Pokémon, angels, fairies, scientific insights, etc. 

Becoming aware of our own existence reminds us that we all exist in a world of existence. There is no here or there, there is only existence.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Very Antediluvian

Every generation speaks of change. Every generation prides themselves on being different from their predecessors: more advanced, smarter, and wiser in every conceivable way. As these same individuals advance in age, the forward-looking aspect of self-identity via progress can sometimes take an opposite course and reverse itself back toward stick-in-the-mud-ism. 

Instead of looking toward the new, individuals begin holding on for dear life to the past. Expressions such as "in the old days" or "when I was a kid" take the place of "Look at that! (in reference to something new). Isn't that extraordinary?!" Culturalisms such as "How very English" or "How French" roll off the tongue as if intended to make one feel better about oneself for the simple fact that one belongs somewhere in a vastly changing world. 

Referencing the weather, for example, as being "very Scottish" or "English" is a form of self-deprecating humor when one is Scottish or English. However, if one is from the United States, Africa, or Sweden, for example, one feels excluded. At best, culturalisms are an antediluvian form of excluding others by referencing one's own participation in a specific group. 

While this is not uncommon, it is not necessarily progressive. Expressing oneself via culturalisms does not speak to the progressive nature of a modern society focused on dissolving outdated mindsets. True, the majority of the world prides themselves on "belonging" to one group or another, to one culture or another, to one gender or another, to one time period or another, but if one wishes to become a Citizen of the World, or better yet, a Citizen of Existence, it is important to shift one's self-identity from one's environment toward a higher purpose: progress

It is difficult to progress when one cannot adjust to changes in the world. The English or Scottish are not the only ones who must contend with large amounts of rainfall. Take a trip to the Tavoy, Myanmar, Kikori, Papua New Guinea, Henderson Lake, British Columbia, Andogoya, Colombia, Waialeale, USA (Hawaii), or Mawsynram or Cherrapunji, India, and you'll soon find out that the English do not have a monopoly on rainy weather. 

For those who consider the croissant to be "Oh so very French" ... the Kipferl, ancestor of the croissant, has been documented in Austria as going back to at least the 13th century. In fact, the "birth" of the croissant itself - that is the adaptation of the plainer form of Kipferl, before the invention of Viennoiserie - can be dated to 1838 (or 1839), when an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, founded a Viennese bakery ("Boulangerie Viennoise") at 92, rue de Richelieu in Paris.  

There are hundreds of examples of "Oh so very..." something or another having their roots in cultures other than those to which they are associated. The fact that attitudes or foods become associated with any given culture is again an example of individuals wishing to exclude others or of wishing to belong to something rather than being content in the notion that every being is part of a grander concept called existence.

It is a very antediluvian mindset that cannot embrace the totality of existence without classifying people and things into categories. While it is a rational activity to sort and classify objects according to their classes or genus, it is dangerous to treat people in the same way. Look around the world for examples of peoples fighting over cultural identity as proof of the validity of this statement. 

On the news this morning I listened to how the Supreme Court is backing Michigan on Affirmative Action in higher education. Rather than deem one perspective right or wrong, I wondered to myself why we still live in a world focused on separation when we claim we are focused on progress and innovation. If we wish to be honest with ourselves, do we not all have the same origin? 

In reality, people are arguing over random cut-off dates associated with early migration patterns of our common species, which is, of course, in and of itself utterly ridiculous. Instead of solving problems, adhering to random moments in the history of existence propagates problems. (Some may claim knowledge or faith in a specific origin, but until that is proven, these are only personal beliefs.) 

When a comedian makes a cultural joke, often times it is made in jest, making fun of those who believe or act in one way or another. The difficulty with this type of joking is that the concepts proliferate to a point when common society can no longer differentiate between a joke and real life. 

I do not foresee antediluvian notions of culturalism changing any time soon so long as people hold onto antediluvian values, but I need not participate in it. In our personal household, we incorporate a number of global niceties associated with a myriad of environmental origins. Rather than refer to our preference for a larger midday meal rather than "dinner" or "supper" as being "Very Mexican" we recognize that many people around the world, including people living in Mexico, prefer to eat their main meal in the afternoon and lighter fare in the evening for health purposes. Rather than refer to our love of cheese as being "Very French" we pride ourselves on understanding the cheese-making process and on being familiar with the fact that cheese predates recorded history. (The origin of cheese-making can be traced to Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Sahara. According to Pliny the Elder, cheese-making had already become a sophisticated enterprise by the time ancient Rome came into being.) 

Our existence is far grander than limitations imposed upon it by present-day borders and limited mindsets. I would like to think that I am not a minority in my thinking that we are all beings born to the same planet and in appreciation of existence should not be focused on our differences or even our similarities, but rather on our two most important goals in life: sustenance and progress - the result of both leads to an increase in global happiness (as well as in things not yet even conceived or imagined). 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kamikaze Bunnies and Easter

The origin of Kamikaze Bunnies is a work in progress. Every generation has to make sense of their past for itself. The facts may stay the same, but the work of interpretation goes on and on. This brief post glimpses at the cutting edge of this process. Culled from eyewitness accounts and hearsay, it is an authentic voice of our generation's viewpoint on the nature and meaning of Kamikaze Bunnies. 

I have taken the liberty of weaving their cute little tales into a more-or-less coherent fabric, but the words and Easter-egg bullets belong to them. The spelling might be avant-garde and the logic experimental, at best, but no one can fault me because I do not ascribe to the notion of fault - so there! 

At its best, this post illustrates the ingenious and often comic ways we all attempt to make sense of information we cannot understand because we have no context or frame of reference for it - either that, or we've never seen or heard of Kamikaze Bunnies, in which case I'd have ask: Where in the world have you been hiding... in a rabbit hole somewhere?

One source for this post has been the work of my own blog because I have mentioned these little critters before. The bulk of the raw material comes from after having juiced far too many carrots this morning on account of it being Easter. 

Kamikaze Bunnies: early 17th century (originally used as a term of endearment for one's beloved who embarks upon a Kamikaze mission, later a pet name for rabbits who exhibit an extraordinary appetite for the flesh of carrots).

Bible legend states that the trouble with Kamikaze Bunnies started after a rabbit ate the Golden Carrot of Discord. This was the forbidding vegetable, the naughty cultivated feathery-leaved plant of parsley that yields Kamikaze Bunnies. A miffed God sent forth his wrath. Bunnies fell from the space of grace. It was mostly downhill skiing from there. 

Prebunnyhistory, a subject mainly studied by bunnypologists, was prior to the year 1500. When bunnies were not available the people ate carrots. Social division of labour began when a tribe would split into hunters and Easter worshipers. Crow Magnum man had a special affinity for this. Advances were most common during the inter-rabbitic periods. 

Early carrot agriculture was known as "hide and seek." One origin of hiding Easter eggs, according to Kamikaze-Bunny-ologists was worry about hungry little critters eating up all the carrot flowers during the months of June to August. The umbels made tasty treats and hence early humans began hiding them from pesky varmints who insisted that the bright white and rounded flowers were Oh so delish! 

We are fortunate that early Kamikaze Bunnies were there to guard the crops. 

Stories of Kamikaze Bunnies woozing out of the Nile about 300,000 years ago lead to legends whereby the Nile was supposedly originally filled to the brim with Kamikaze Bunnies. It is true, according to Kamikaze-Bunny-ologists, the Nile was a river, it had water in it, and every year it would flood. Whether Kamikaze Bunnies emerged from it is still a matter of heated debate. 

The Sumerian Kamikaze Bunnies, which are reportedly the oldest known Kamikaze Bunnies, began about 3,500 years before Christmas, which is why Easter is way more important than Christmas and Easter Bunnies way more important that some guy who may or may not live in the North Pole, which of course, is somewhere in the South Pole. 

Eventually, Kamikazee Bunnies were allowed democratic freedoms like hiding eggs one day per year, blowing them up so that they could post cool YouTube videos in the hopes of going viral, and taking an egg for an egg and a chocolate bunny for a chocolate bunny. 

One totally bizarre tale associated with Kamikaze Bunny lore is that of King Nebodresser, a man who loved to dress up as the Easter Bunny and hand deliver eggs to his subjects. According to some Kamikaze-Bunny-ologists, he hung the eggs in his gardens. 

Hammurabi was a Kamikaze Bunny lawyer who lived a very long time ago. He defended Kamikaze Bunnies against the onslaught of Kamikaze Bunny persecution. He held his hands over his mouth with three eggs as a sign of prayer to the Kamikaze Bunnies. This became known as the Eggs of Hammurabi. 

Zorro-kamikaze-bunny-ogism was founded by a Kamikaze Bunny named Zorro. According to legend, he was allergic to carrots, which is why he did not celebrate Easter. Following in this tradition, current day Zorro-kamikaze-bunny-ologists study Easter but they do not partake of Easter candies or carrots in honor of Zorro, the father of Zorro-kamikaze-bunny-ism. Instead they eat Protest Bunny cakes. 

Freshly baked 'Bunny Protest Cake'

The history of Kamikaze Bunnies, as you can see, is convoluted and totally farcical, but if you would like to know more about Kamikaze Bunnies, their origin, or their belief systems, you can take up the totally made-up, as are all notions of examination, science of Kamikaze-bunny-ism and compare notes with Zorro-kamikaze-bunny-ologists and see what else you can make up on the subject. 

Happy Easter!

What's For Dinner?

In Plato's (427-327 BCE) Apology, Socrates is brought to trial for: (1) impiety (false teachings about the gods) and (2) corrupting the youth of Athens. Whether or not Socrates could have won his case is less important than what was conveyed that fateful day: That it is easier to push aside that which we do not realize is beneficial than it is to sit down and think about the merits of any given opportunity. 

Take dinner with a toddler, for example. 

Not recognizing that the carrots and broccoli are beneficial for her, this little girl pushes her mother's hand away, just as the jury pushed Socrates away from Athens. Socrates refused to be something he was not, he refused to leave his beloved Athens, and he refused to conform to the social norms of an ignorant society just to appease them. In similar fashion, carrots and broccoli refuse to become sugar coated ideals of vegetables, making themselves more savory to palates who do not recognize value unless it is sugar coated or prepackaged according to their ever-changing, flippant ideals. 

Socrates: You say you have discovered the one who corrupts them, namely me, and you bring me here and accuse me to the jury ... All the Athenians, it seems, make the young into fine good men, except me, and I alone corrupt them. Is that what you mean? 

Meletus: That is most definitely what I mean. 

Socrates: You condemn me to a greater misfortune. Tell me: does this also apply to horses do you think? That all men improve them and one individual corrupts them? Or is quite the contrary true, one individual is able to improve them, or very few, namely the horse breeders, whereas the majority, if they have horses and use them, corrupt them? Is that not the case, Meletus, both with horses and all other animals? ... It would be a happy state of affairs if only one person corrupted our youth, while the others improved them. You have made it sufficiently obvious, Meletus, that you have never had any concern for our youth; you show your indifference clearly; that you have given no thought to the subjects about which you bring me to trial. (Apology)

Socrates' use of the analogy with horse training highlights the illogical the accusations against him. However, to illuminate a concept for those who cannot see just blinds rather than shinning forth a light toward a direction in which one might embark upon a lifetime journey of leguminous understanding. Since only a few good trainers improve them (Athen's youth), so too is it likely that only a few individuals will truly relish the merits associated with eating vegetables (vegetarians excluded). 

Like exercising virtue, eating vegetables involves sitting in front of a plate of veggies (jurors) and recognizing that vegetables require no defense, no apology, no justification beyond what they are: beneficial to our health and well-being. 

What is the moral of this post? 

Not eating one's vegetables is akin to drinking hemlock, which according to some sources is not as tasty as a plate full of carrots and broccoli. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Bothersome Question of Existence

Existence bothers me. I question whether it is morally appropriate to laugh about life when we don't know a thing about how it really came about.

(Sure, we can speculate and formulate, and pinpoint moments back to the Big Bang, but how is it that at first there was nothing and then it blew up ??

Who blew up the nothing?

Thankfully, Existence bothers other people even more. Unafraid to lampoon the extremists fanatics associated with any social, political, ethical, economic, or religious viewpoint, Existence is the most important topic in the world.

The fact of the matter is that people who think they have a "corner on truth" need to have their head examined.

After all, people's perceptions of truth are just that, perceptions, and it's OK to examine them. What some people say about Existence is not anything new, but I think it is something interesting to consider. Ask any number of people about the meaning of life via the phenomena known as "existence" and you'll get a zillion different answers (yes, a zillion). What about the people in the middle who think about these questions but offer no answers? Where do we put them? 

Part of being a philosopher means never holding any belief so sacred that we are never, ever willing to dress up in Superhero costumes... *ahem, I mean, never, ever willing to doubt it - or laugh at it - or blog about laughing at it. In other words, we need a healthy dose of skepticism (even if you're an optimist) about any belief, and this is one of the most important lessons that Existence, along with philosophy, teaches us. 

Are YOU bothered by Existence? More importantly, are you bothered by the real life *&^%$#@! people, events, and situations that Existence  throws at us? 

I have to admit, I've been turned off of Existence by certain hostile actions or insensitivity shown to a person or group. But I must also admit that there is value in existing, if only to have the opportunity to think about stuff. 

You see Existence, just like philosophy, is misunderstood. People think that Existence is all about shock value for the sake of some other being who created all this Existence in the first place in the same way that they think that philosophy is all about thinking about Existence for the sake of thinking about useless ideas that cannot be solved. Nothing could be further than the truth. 

Believe it or not, the goal of both Existence and philosophy is to give people something to do with their "existence" ... which makes Existence a whole lot more fun and interesting. Just like people ask questions about who they should marry, what they should become, and how they should live, Existence, on occasion, begs us to question the bothersome question of why exist vs. not exist at all. 

Is there a choice in the matter? In some ways, yes. We can choose to unexist in corporeal form, but whether we persist in our "existence", well, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe we cannot unexist ourselves. I mean, think about it, if Existence exists, and we are held in that Existence, whether we are breathing or not, it doesn't seem like we're going anywhere "outside" of Existence. Maybe Existence  is all there is... 

If Existence is all there is... Do we have an obligation to exist? What are the laws (other than physics) governing Existence? Can we break them? Are certain forms of Existence truly better than others? Did we sign up for Existence? Did someone create us and place us in their Existence? Are we such things, as Shakespeare says, that dreams are made of? 

Can we censor Existence

Can we boycott Existence

Can we protest Existence

The author of this blog is bothered by Existence in a good way. This blog has given the author a platform upon which philosophical reflection can be presented ... and then, like the Big Bang, blown up and made incomprehensible. 

Why, you ask? 

For giggles... 

By the time you get through reading this blog post you should have formulated a few bothersome questions about Existence of your own.

Such as ...

Why think about Existence
Is Existence funny? 
Is Existence serious?
Must we Exist?

What should one do if one finds oneself in a state of Existence?
What should one think about Existence?
Can we unexist ourselves?
Would we want to unexist ourselves?

Does the Easter Bunny Exist?
Does Santa Exist and, if yes, does he have to file for Obamacare?
If I make up a ridiculous story about Existence, how many people will believe it?

What does nonexistence look like?
Where did Existence come from?
What language does Existence speak?
Does Existence have a personality?
Does Existence like everything about itself?
Does Existence ask questions? 
Does Existence have a choice in existing?

Is human questioning a form of Existence questioning its own "existence"?
What can we learn from questioning Existence?
Why do some beings Exist seemingly just to annoy other beings?
If we are all part of Existence, why must we have conflict?

Does Existence dream?
Are we the dream of Existence?
If we are the dream of Existence, why does it hurt when we stub our toe?

Does Elvis still Exist?

That's enough questions on the bothersome matter of Existence for one day. Now, I'll go back to my daily life Existence and wrestle the controversial topic of "What's for dinner?" a question everyone asks, and yet few can provide satisfactory answers for ... 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animations

An intellectual is an individual who primarily relies upon their intellect in such a way as to produce works that rely upon their learning, erudition, and critical thinking skills. Most intellectuals are patient, relying upon an internal endurance under which large volumes of information is digested and then exhibited in the form of works (books and papers, public discourse, artworks). While most intellectuals tend toward written or verbal discourse to convey the information they have digested, some intellectuals, with an aesthetic bent, tend toward artworks to convey deeper sentiments. 

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animation is one such example of an intellectual artistically conveying a profound message, one that reduces her audience to tears. Simonova appeals to and engages her audience with a thematic treatment of history and the emergence of a modern malaise shared by a culture. Her artwork tests the patience of the audience insomuch as throughout the performance they must remain focused on the message she is conveying as the scenes change and morph into entirely new ones, perfectly choreographed with the music. 

Her work causes the audience to engage in a new quest for intellectual, emotional, and, perhaps, spiritual understanding as to why certain events come to pass. While she does not offer answers or insights in her sand creations, she does present the very images pressed upon the subconscious of a people in a way that they can find the answers for themselves. This is the artistic component of her intellectual work, the part in which art is interpreted subjectively by the viewer. 

Creating sand art is Simonova's way of dealing with the profundity of sentiments pulsing through her mind. Sharing this artistic expression publicly is what inspires others to find their own intellectual or artistic way of expressing what can often times not be expressed with words alone.  

Simonova's performance piece begins with the lighting of a candle, a symbolic invitation to engage in a personal experience. She starts by first crafting a building, the central foundation of her message: "This is what life was like" before... 

As the performance unfolds, the invitation transitions from an implicitly romantic identification of an evening of romance and rendezvous. Two lovers sit on a bench, embracing under a clear night sky, but then abruptly the music and image fades. The image of the evening being disturbed by military planes bombing the city invokes tears from the central figure, which Simonova crafts out of what was just moments before two lovers embracing. 

The performance piece's relation with realism emerges and the opening lines of symmetry explode into images that cause her viewers to question that which cannot be answered. Nevertheless, the performance piece also illuminates a modernist irony on an aesthetic basis when it violently interrupts the sublime implications of metaphor as a carefully structured aesthetic trope. 

The refusal of the artist to respond to her own questions, however, does not necessarily imply that metaphysical issues are either unanswerable or hopelessly confused. A falsely heroic musical gesture (2:25-3:05) transports us to a French café where life is romanticized and woes are integrated with a history that speaks to us through the façades of a landscape forever memorialized. 

Then... suddenly, bombs explode and sand is thrown about invoking a Baudelairean sense of evil. 

An intensity ensues, and out of this movement appears an unnatural aspect of an apparently natural image, a beautiful face amidst the chaos (3:40-4:15), but she does not remain beautiful. 

The impermanence of her beauty, like the impermanence of peace, takes us deeper into our subconscious, reminding us of that which always lies ahead of society (so long as we take to war and acts of aggression as an answer to conflict). 

Simonova reminds us of our inability to surpass our own mundane condition and to substantiate our capacity for heroism and authentic creativity. The second reference to the image morphing from one of beauty to one of failing ideals adds further irony to the artist's representation of time and history. What begins to emerge is an icon of possibilities, of our ability to achieve an understanding of time that may be "metaphysical" and profoundly unsettling at the same time. 

It is at this juncture (5:00) that Simonova embarks on a series of reflections that demonstrate her culture's kinship with the tragic events that have marked and shaped their homeland; images and sentiments that remind fixed in the subconscious imagination as poignant expressions of indecision and self-consciousness. Simonova's images are clearly indebted to the series of violent events in the capital of Kiev, just the latest in a series of events in which Poland, Hungry, and Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s realized the harsh cold and sleet of triumph in a seismic shift Westward in the geopolitics of the region. 

"Razom nas bahato! Nas ne podolaty!" ("Together, we are many! We cannot be defeated!") The powerful civic movements ignited by popular fire resulted in a tightly connected sub-culture that links the many peoples of the region by their emotional reactions to turmoil. Irrespective of which side of the conflicts one may find themselves, the entire region is held in a domestic carousel, spinning around and around until the steady torrent of negative emotions come to a halt. 

(6:08) What emerges out of all of this remains fixed in the hopes and dreams of the people. Rather than present us with an image of how things could or should be, Simonova looks out of a metaphorical window, as much an inward invitation to seek out the answers to conflicts from within oneself as it is an invitation to engage outward. To see in others what we see in ourselves and work toward solutions that acknowledge the diversity of the region seems to be the underlining message. 

The soldier looking in, the child and his mother looking out, offer us a direct expression of how moral conflict can enhance subjective experience. Simonova simply provides the loose granular substance, a sediment of sentiment, if you will, sprinkling, smoothing, and polishing images overlaid with symbolism and deeply personal feelings of attachments and falsely identified notions associated with the active pursuit of consciously-posited goals. 

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animation is a kind of tragic heroism in reverse, revealing the pathos of a culture's romantic predecessor and calling attention to a metaphysical horizon which foregrounds deeply profound questions and the promise that these questions conceal. Lost in the sand as one image transmutes into another, the images which came before are lost to our visual experience, but what remains is the sentiment, a new purpose despite the erosion of tranquility. 

This performance piece alludes to a discourse on time that plays a central role in the geopolitical structure of eastern Europe, an aspect of unification and division that cannot begin to reduce the distance that separates individual aspirations from an assumed experience of personal meaning. 

Finally, the possibility that Simonova presents simply says what she means and leads the viewers to invoke the fantastic figures associated with the shaping of their culture, but does not provide them with a satisfactory equivalent to a return from modernity more than it allows her to fuse meaning and intention in a single moment of cultural oneness. At the same time, this very powerful and evoking performance piece has a richly comic side, which also depends on the very same metaphysical horizon that adds poignancy to mundane concerns. In the end, viewers, despite being taken on a deeply evocative historical and highly charged emotional journey, arrive to a place where the absurdity of conflict is recognized, a release of tension in the form of a laugh occurs, and the result..? 

A powerful confession of cultural inadequacy that becomes a symbol of a people's power of imagination to relight the candle of the past. This aesthetic narrative confirms society's inability to communicate in ways that do not involve violence. Simonova provides a compelling example of an intellectual artist who transforms cultural concerns into highly motivated achievements. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Celebration of Color

Soph Laugh
Acrylic on Canvas, 24x24
Private Collection

I have just recently entered my first art contest with the Drawing Academy. My entry, titled: A Celebration of Color, is actually a happy pattern of reversal - a colorblind artist expressing themselves in a vibrant, colorful juxtaposition of color. How these colors speak to the viewer, I cannot say, for I am that colorblind artist. Thus, I must invoke my imagination to conceive of concepts my eyes do not convey for me. 

This pattern of reversal is a founding principle behind the artwork. Even a color-sighted person must imagine what the juxtaposition of lines, circles, and splashes of color mean to another person. In this imagining, it is as if a reversal of thought is taking place, a presupposition of what another sees and feels and interprets based on what is seen, felt, and interpreted within. Does the viewer see what the artist saw? How do art critics define art when it is so highly predicated upon subjective interpretation? Is it the way the paint is spattered on the canvas? Should the paint be smooth and free of unintentional marks or blemishes or should the paint be bold and impasto'd in way that the shapes the paint creates are geometrically pleasing to the eyes? Should a painting incorporate elements from the masters? Should it have an underpainting? Should it be clean and pristine and yet spontaneously executed? Should the artist's care and precision be visible, thus inferring purpose and intention? All these questions and more cross the mind of the artist, the viewer, and the critic, and lead to a dramatic disunity of opinion as to the structure and tone, crudeness and folly associated with art production. 

Viewing art is as much about examining the life of the artist and what led to the artwork's production as it is about the medium. While skill, dexterity, and vision are most certainly a major factor in determining the worth of a piece of art, what collectors seek is a sentiment that speaks to them. A bridge that connects beauty to the individual appreciating it. The themes of fortune, pride, or adversity come into play in the aesthetic appreciation of art. Behind the striking quality of any given piece of art is the successful conveyance of an overtone that speaks for what would otherwise be a mute object of worth. Overall, the artwork must reveal an indecision and tentativeness on the part of the artist. How can I convey what I see? ...and then show it, is the pattern viewers seek to follow. And when they find it, that is the moment when the artwork speaks to them. That is when a viewer says, "I get it" or "I feel the same way" or "Wow! I never thought of it that way" (whatever "it" is). 

Art is taking a lack of unity such as subjective opinion and showing its light and dark contrasts, its intellectual sense of seriousness and potential, and its emotionally driven dramatic flare that ignites a sensation in the heart, stomach and mind of the viewer. Art is a source of dramatic excitement, tension, a way of intellectually investigating patterns that are not based so much on predictability but on contrast, irony, multi-layered inversion, and pleasing, or sometimes disturbing, concepts. 

Unifying the minds of the viewer to the artist cannot guarantee an aesthetic success story. If the artwork lacks a unified tone, fails to appeal to the aesthetic appreciation of the art critic, or if the piece is flat and leads to disinterest, it becomes a typical deus ex machina, moving the story of the piece forward by the artist painting themselves into a corner. With no other way out, an artist finishes off the piece and Voilá! the painting comes comes to a happy ending. This convention of Greek tragedy is present in many pieces of artwork that employ similar resolutions. But the piece that manages to spare the life of the artist is the one in which the artist gives up something personal, conveys something they would otherwise keep silent just so that others might know it through their aesthetic efforts. It is this sharing of something new or something entirely personal that elevates a piece of artwork to a masterpiece, irrespective of how the paint is applied onto the canvas. 

The aesthetic discomfort I feel in using color is the experience I had, as an artist, in crafting this piece of artwork. It is this added degree of unexpected, uncomfortable, reversed, and perhaps, paradoxical detail that makes my artwork's story familiar. I'm not suggesting that there are many colorblind artist, but rather acknowledging that I do have this impediment. But despite this impediment, or maybe because of it, I am determined to participate in the experience of art. And more personally, in the experience of color. 

Art allows one to experiment fully with a language for the purpose of finding freedom in expression, a principle of unity in how we convey an unsettling thought or experience before an audience. Showing one's art to an audience can feel similar to that dream we've all had... you know the dream, the one when you get to work or school or stand up at a podium to speak only to discover you're not fully clothed! 

It is precisely this nature of triumph despite tragedy that is so very beautiful in our aesthetic consciousness, a consciousness that substitutes itself for moral consciousness, something that ultimately defines the dramatic illusion, detaching the audience from the character, thus making it possible to experience the parodic dimension of the moment of the artist for oneself. 

Artists are artistically self-conscious characters who contend with reality by creating visual images and by engaging an audience in a symbolic or ritualistic action that relates both to role-playing and role-acting. The result of this highly developed aesthetic consciousness is a cast of characters who define their existence through art. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Continent of Childhood

In a land that lies between... 

"Ancient times" 
"What the future may hold"... 

The Continent of Childhood, a place where youth is endlessly overvalued, and people have not ceased to genuflect before the youthful features of their youngest citizens. The Continent of Childhood is in a state of continual preoccupation with the period between childhood and adult age; a period associated with freshness, vigor, and celebrated adolescence. Boyhood, girlhood, childhood... "the next generation" is the favorite generation to which everyone wishes to belong. 

He's "still young" is the catchphrase of this land. Wooed by the time of life when the biological processes of development and aging seem to take on a mythical appearance, the Continent of Childhood began to demand the qualities of youth. No longer content with "growing up," the youth of this land filed a proclamation that adulthood was associated with a state of catastrophe in being. In order to meditate on this new concept, the entire land took 

A Great Nap


The Great Nap was a period between the 1960s and the 1990s in which society began priding themselves on their "youthful appearance". To become an adult became a synonym for catastrophe. Aging became a tragic and tyrannical mistake in a land where children, even the youngest, had more to teach an adult than visa versa. 

Slowly, all the old folks (those individuals over the age of 40) were rounded up and sent off to the country's coastal forests where they could live out their days in a wooded mountain overlooking the region from afar. Against a backdrop of ice mountains, the adults lived out their days reminiscing about what life was like when they "were young". 

As the Peter Pan Syndrome swept across the land, the adults were reduced far below the ordinary standards of viability and extracted from civilized life. This, of course, naturally brought about an underground industry of identification reassignment and reconstructive surgery. Anything to "buy some time" for the citizens of this youth-loving society. 

This extolling of youth culture resulted in a society who simply refuses to leave the world of the imaginary. To speak to the youth-loving populace, scholars, initially content with their lives as adults, began analyzing fairy tales, seeking out the philosophical or psychological significance in children's comics, and classifying Dr. Seuss as great literature. To write on any topic not associated with childhood was considered Captain Hook'ian-like blasphemy. 

What became of the adults in the Continent of Childhood, you ask? 

They disappeared! 

There is a legend that tells of a group of renegade adults who, tiring of being undervalued, began searching for the famed Fountain of Youth. Setting up laboratories along the country's coastal forests, they began experimenting with the raw materials they scavenged up around the wide area of treeless marshland that lie beyond the coast forest. Roaming countless small islands and channels of water, they discovered a sea urchin that lived for an extraordinary long time without showing signs of aging, or other age-related diseases. Due to their high genetic similarity to humans, the renegade scientists in this group of misfitted elders soon discovered that these sea urchins were directly relevant to human biology. Supposedly they discovered how these animals lived such long and healthy lives and began identifying novel strategies to keep humans looking younger for longer periods of time. 

Utilizing these sea urchins as model organisms to identify pathways involved in cellular resistance to the effects of aging and disease (which helped them target the development of anti-aging treatment in humans), as well as the mechanisms involved in maintaining a youthful state, these grown-ups, previously considered "washed up" had actually accumulated enough knowledge as the years went by to figure out how proteins from young sea urchins could be injected into humans to resist age-causing agents, to increase cellular defense and repair mechanisms, and to regenerate and repair tissue. 

Mitigating cellular oxidative damage, the adults, heretofore ostracized from their homeland and looking younger than they did when they were first banished, began sneaking back into their old bedrooms. Running back home became the new bedtime story for generations of children fearful of the time when they too would grow up, and would have to face being excluded, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, and the privileges of their land. 

Rumor has it that the return of older, more experienced adults resulted in a general dissent from the underbelly of society, a revolution of adulthood, a counterculture message that adulthood could be a wonderful state, more intense, richer, more exciting and more intelligent than the world of the child. An opportunity to end the reign of the Child King and the myth that one is "all washed up" after "a certain age". 

There is still great dissent among the citizens of this land that demands the qualities of youth: a quality of imagination, an appetite for adventure over the life of ease, but those who have journeyed here claim that the 'carrot-and-stick pedagogy' is slowly changing into a 'carrots are good for you mindset'. 

It may sound ludicrous to imagine such a continent, but it is very real... just look outside your door, turn on your television set, surf the web to see 'what's trending now' and you'll not see grown-ups pictured on those images, you'll see tiny little whippersnappers, ankle-biters, and teeny-boppers. 

Children rule the markets, dictating adult buying decisions, and are now the largest consumer group in the world. Unless you want to return to sleeping on Spiderman or Littlest Cupcake bedsheets, you might wish to consider whether or not you wish to buy into society's dictum that youth is the supreme state of being. If you buy into this mindset, you might just be setting yourself up for expulsion from the world you've worked your entire life to build ...