*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
India presents to the visitor an overwhelmingly visual impression. It is beautiful, colorful, sensuous. It is captivating and intriguing, repugnant and puzzling. It combines the intimacy and familiarity of English four o’clock tea with the dazzling foreignness of carpisoned elephants or vast crowds bathing in the Ganga during an eclipse. India’s display of multi-armed images, it’s processions and pilgrimages, it’s beggars and kings, it’s street life and markets, it’s diversity of peoples – all appear to the eye in a kaleidoscope of images. Much that is removed from public view in the modern West and taken into the privacy of rest homes, asylums, and institutions is open and visible in the life of an Indian city or village. The elderly, the infirm, the dead awaiting cremation – these sights, while they may have been expunged from the childhood palace of the Buddha, are not isolated from the public eye in India. Rather, they are present daily in the visible world in which Hindus, and those who visit India, move in the course of ordinary activities. In India, one sees everything. One sees people at work and at prayer; one sees plump, well-endowed merchants, simple renouncers, fraudulent “holy” men, frail widows, and emaciated lepers; one sees the festival procession, the marriage procession, and the funeral procession. Whatever Hindus affirm of the meaning of life, death, and suffering, they affirm with their eyes wide open.
Diana L. Eck in Darsan: Seeing the Diving Image in India
Comments are welcome!
My own natural proclivity is to categorize the world around me, to remove unfamiliar objects from their dangerous perches by defining, compartmentalizing and labeling them. I want to know what things are and I want to know where they are and I want to control them. I want to remove the danger and replace it with the known. I want to feel safe. I want to feel out of danger.
And yet, as an artist, I know that I must welcome the strange and the unintelligible into my awareness and into my working process. Despite my propensity to own and control everything around me, my job is to “make the familiar strange and the strange familiar,” as Bertolt Brecht recommended: to un-define and un-tame what has been delineated by belief systems and conventions, and to welcome the discomfort of doubt and the unknown, aiming to make visible what has become invisible by habit.
Because life is filled with habit, because our natural desire is to make countless assumptions and treat our surroundings as familiar and unthreatening, we need art to wake us up. Art un-tames, reifies and wakes up the part of our lives that have been put to sleep and calcified by habit. The artist, or indeed anyone who wants to turn daily life into an adventure, must allow people, objects and places to be dangerous and freed from the definitions that they have accumulated over time.
Anne Bogart in What’s the Story: Essays about art, theater, and storytelling
Comments are welcome!
We most certainly need to test ourselves against the most extreme possibilities, just as we are probably obligated not to express, share, and impart the most extreme possibility before it has entered the work of art. As something unique that no other person would and should understand, as one’s personal madness, so to speak, it has to enter into the work to attain its validity and to reveal there an internal law, like primary patterns that become visible only in the transparency of artistic creation. There exist nonetheless two freedoms to express oneself that seem to me the ultimate possibilities: one in the presence of the created object, and the other within one’s actual daily life where one can show another person what one has become through work, and where one may in this way mutually support and help and (here understood humbly) admire one another. In either case, however, it is necessary to show results, and it is neither lack of confidence nor lack of intimacy nor a gesture of exclusion if on does not reveal the tools of one’s personal becoming that are marked by so many confusing and tortuous traits, which are valid only for one’s own use.
Ulrich Baer, editor, The Wisdom of Rilke
Comments are welcome!