member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Agwe And Erzulie

Agwe And Erzulie as St. Ulrich and St. Afra

(Press to see larger images...)

Erzulie is the Queen of Impossible Demands, and her demands make the world so. She has three husbands and various lovers, but is also known for her virginal, child-like nature. She demands that her followers live their lives with joy, throwing worries aside and lavishing her with expensive and 'frivolous' gifts, perfumes and layer upon layer of finery, and that everyone wear his or her best attire for her parties, regardless of the intense heat or the fact that an earthquake just hit, or the possibility that no one has any money.

Working with the maquettes, a technique learned from
Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Her three husbands cover all of life, with lovers filling in like variations on a theme--for detail, for variety: 
Agwe and Damballa rule the sea and the sky, respectively--that is, everything; both the unformed chaos of the deep, churning waters of creation and its thinning and separating out into sky to form the globe. Ogun is the warrior, the masculine, the machete, the force which must not turn against the people (the self)--perhaps he represents the distinction between force (to break things open and push into the new) and power (to keep things the same at all costs).  He is known for his miracles, and one mounted by him will often poke himself or run himself through with the blade without injury, or wash his hands in flaming rum without suffering later.

In her successful demands for whatever her heart desires, she is much like St. Rita, who from her deathbed in the dead of winter requested a fig and a rose from her favorite garden, and got them. 
Interestingly, the word rose developes from the Sanskrit root vrt. Vrt leads to the Gothic wairth, the Old Nordic verdh, and the Anglo-Saxon weordh, all of which mean "to unroll, to become, to come into being" (Nada Brahma: The World is Sound). It is also the root for the names of two of the three ancient Norse goddesses of fate, Urth and Verthandi.  Aramaic and Arabic took this root and unfurled it into varda and vard, or rose, Greek dropped the v and gave us rodos, or rose, and Hebrew gives us wered, which is bud (that which comes into being) and rose (that which has become)-- thus bringing into the meaning of the word not only the unfurling of life but the fact that life has already unfurled, that we are circling it, observing. Observing in the sense of the Observer of modern physics, who influences which reality will vibrate with life right now just by perceiving it. And there we circle back to the contemporary English word "word." As in, God spoke, and there was life. The word is the beginning, and from it unfurls the bud of life. Rita said, bring me a rose, and it was so, and from that came a world where one could request from her other such 'impossibilities.' Erzulie decided that the heat was impossible and she wanted to be able to breathe underwater. She spoke, and the water rushed forth, and from it an appropriate husband, Agwe, on his horse.

The world is not a solid rock of reality. It is your next breath, unfurling into your expectations.

Maquettes, cropped for panel

As the slaves in North America were not allowed to practice their religion of voodoo, they would take images of saints as representations of their own loa, thereby encoding their reverence and faith in the language of the ruling Catholics. Agwe was 'represented' by St. Ulrich, who was often depicted carrying a fish, or riding a horse which had such power that it could cross the ocean without drowning. Here is Agwe, as St. Ulrich, emerging from the chaotic waters of Erzulie's creation, on his water-formed horse. 
Erzulie is usually depicted as the Black Madonna, but I have chosen St. Afra, a Cypriot saint who was described both as a prostitute of the temples and as a virgin martyr, giving her a rather distinct similarity to Erzulie. She also happens to share a crypt with St. Ulrich, and so their pairing seems natural. Their relationship is very circular, she creates him creates her, it is a dance, and the horse forms from the waves and leaps forward to surge Agwe upwards into being.

Different lighting to show how the gold leaf changes as you move across the room:


All images in this post by Zoe Jordan. All photos by Gabriel.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eidetic Image III, Ars Memoria, and Cats

This is my little prince, Haruki, named after the author Haruki Murakami:

(Laughter is the Best Medicine, photo by Gabriel)

He has also modeled for me often.
And this is my first attempt at a lino print:

Cat in Blue Moonlight

And while I'm posting about excellent medicine, I would like to share an interview I stumbled across from Ode Magazine between Jurrian Kamp and Biologist Bruce Lipton. The discussion centers around the change in Lipton's studies from being centered around a belief in the power of genetics to shape our lives (fate in terms of behavior and physical health) to being centered around the idea that not just our environment, but more how we perceive our environment shapes our lives (again: both physical health and behavior) Kamp explains Lipton's studies:

Lipton’s discoveries are part of an emerging new biological paradigm that presents a radically different view of the evolution of life: epigenetics. Epi means “above” in Greek, so epigenetics means control above the genes. 'It turns out that as we move from one environment to another environment, we change our genetic readout,' Lipton says. 'Or if we perceive that our environment is not supporting us, then that perception also changes our genetics.' 

So, following the ideas in posts I and II on this topic, he's defining the underlying 'image' we carry around in our deep subconscious which explains what we can see of this world, what we will miss, our health, our happiness, wars, famine, and violence (yes!) as DNA. His "picture" is, in fact, a coded sequence. That coded sequence may have a gene in it that practically guarantees cancer. So that's the fated outcome of that picture. Then it becomes sort of an emergency to change the picture, yes?

We are masters of our genetics rather than victims of our hereditary traits. Our fate is really based on how we see the world or on how we have been programmed to experience it.

Again, his science supports the idea we have seen in other belief systems that for some reason, you tend to produce your underlying image before the age of five: 

...neuroscience reveals a startling fact: We only run our lives with our creative, conscious mind about 5 percent of the time. Ninety-five percent of the time, our life is controlled by the beliefs and habits that are programmed in the subconscious mind. You may hold some positive thoughts but that has very little influence on your life because of the limited amount of time you actually run with your conscious mind.”
Kamp says: "Lipton explains that there is a good reason for the automatic “playback” function of the subconscious mind. As children, we learn to walk. While we do so, our lives are determined by the process. It takes all our energy and attention. The same happens when we learn to drive later in life. But once we have acquired these new habits, the subconscious mind automates the procedure. Whatever seemed almost overwhelmingly difficult at one point now is simple. We don’t even think about it anymore when we put one foot in front of the other or drive home from work.
However, we don’t just record simple motor functions like walking or driving. In the same way, we also record perceptions and behaviors. And we do most of this recording in the womb, during the second trimester of pregnancy, and during the first six years of our lives. “The fundamental programs in your subconscious mind are not your own wishes and desires,” Lipton points out. “They are behaviors you copied from other people, primarily your parents and your family and community. Your beliefs are actually their beliefs, their wishes and desires. You are ‘playing’ behaviors that were downloaded into you when you were a small child. And it is not very likely that these behaviors are what you are looking for today. You are sabotaging yourself!

He explains that this automatic behavior is not something you can talk to or reason with; we have all, I'm sure noticed that we can make the same 'realizations' about how we should feel or behave in a certain circumstance over and over without it ever actually happening. That's because those beliefs are recorded well below logic, in an emotive memory--I believe a more symbolic memory. We have to speak to those symbols, find them and move them around, in order to have the impact we want. 

Mr. Lipton suggests that there have been good results in this sort of thing using hypnosis or subliminal tapes; in his own book (Biology of Belief), he outlines a simple technique he calls PSYCH-K which he claims has profound results.

He also makes another interesting point about health that matches what dream theory tells us. That point is about the cohesiveness of reality. He explains that what we perceive as an individual, a person, our 'self', is really a community of some 50 trillion or so cells. And the extension of that is that really, each of us is a cell in one "giant collaborative superorganism." He calls what we are doing to each other with crime, terrorism, violence, and theft, is nothing more than an autoimmune disease: the body fighting itself in a senseless act.

But most interesting about his article was that, just like in the example used in the Second Post on this topic, Dr. Lipton uses love as the re-creator of the 'universe' as you know it.

Kamp (the interviewer) explains: "When we fall in love, our conscious minds, with our wishes and desires, are running almost full-time--not 5 percent of the time, but 95 percent. That condition can be life-changing." This is what Lipton calls the honeymoon effect--those moments when the universe is heaven, because we are creating it from desire, instead of passively watching it from the cage created by the disempowering beliefs of an utterly dependent child subconsciously soaking in the fears and angers of the adults around him in an attempt to stay safe.


Another excellent discovery which continues in this vein and links it to another topic I've explored here, Ars Memoria (here, here, here and here ...not exhaustive :P) is this TEDtalks video of Joshua Foer on memory. He reminds us that memories (like the one of Maria) make us who we are. They build upon that basic, defining image you have and solidify it (because you're perceiving your experience of living through the holograph of that image), give it new symbols to work with--basically each memory becomes an extension of visual vocabulary.

Here's the thing: by 'outsourcing' our memory skills to devices, we make ourselves even more passive 'participants' in our own lives.  I think here about how a cat finds his way home without GPS or Google Maps, even when you've accidentally let him out of your car somewhere halfway across the country when you got out to get gas, somewhere he/she had never been before.  Why can't we find our way out of a small forest if we stumble off the beaten path? 

When you're active about your memory making, especially when you're using this 'memory palace' technique Foer describes (an ancient technique, outlined also in earlier posts under Ars Memoria), you are actively placing symbols in the structure that symbolizes your 'self' to your mind: the palace, your home. Now, to some extent, those symbols, and what you are inclined to do with them, are going to be led by your genetic code, your childhood-created, subconscious image defining the world and the relationships and movements that can be made within it. A trick that memory champions use to subvert that--a trick that goes way back past the ancient Greek practitioners--is to posit ridiculous, senseless objects, characters, and relationships to undercut your natural tendency to adhere to your previously defined, underlying logic.  The ancients felt that if you perfected these memory techniques, you would have something akin to magical powers; you would be able to magically alter the world around you. I would posit that you would be altering your perception of what is possible--you would be altering what you could see. When Einstein labeled certain events 'spooky action at a distance,' he was talking about actions which had results that could not be explained, mainly because we are not able to see all the teeming, shivering atoms that make up the universe. Everything is touching. If you could see those atoms, the action wouldn't seem so spooky. In this video, Joshua Foer talks about 'elaborative encoding,' and tells us that the distinctions noted in brain studies of memory champions were not in size or structure but rather in the fact that they were using spacial recognition areas of the brain when memorizing information (for example, lists of numbers)--meaning, again, image and also spatial relationship between images: just like that secret, subconscious, not fully-understood, explored, or even recognized Palace your mind created before you turned five. In the video, he walks you through some techniques to do some heavy remodeling in that memory palace, and therefore, if all this follows, some heavy remodeling of the planet.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Eidetic Image II

Image by Tamily Weissman, Jeff Lichtman, and Joshua Sanes: neurons in the neocortex it confetti at your high school dance?...

In a fascinating post on his NPR science blog,  Krulwich describes the way a moment of import (and the image of it) will imprint itself on your brain, creating connections that will form a map for your future decision-making and personality development:

"So suppose I'm at a high school dance and I see a beautiful girl across the room, and I ask a friend, "Who is that?" And the friend tells me, "That's Maria."
Remember what happens to Tony in West Side Story? When he first hears her name, his brain starts to pulse "Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria..." It's the most beautiful sound he's ever heard.
A neuroscientist would guess that at this very moment, Tony's brain cells are changing shape, literally growing branches, firing messages that represent bits and pieces of Maria. As they fire, their tentacles are multiplying, getting fatter, their signals getting stronger, and a pattern is forming across tens of thousands of brain cells, all pulsing a message that to Tony feels like all the beautiful sounds of the earth in a single word...say it now, say it loudly...
Or, if you're not into Broadway musicals, let's say Tony's brain has created a neuronal pattern. Every time Tony thinks of Maria (which is constantly) cells in his head are linking themselves more tightly together: Maria has re-wired his brain."(Krulwich)

So, now I (Tony) am walking around with a snapshot of the event described above by Krulwich in my brain, which to me is related to: 
Maria, a broadway song I've just composed in my head, the longest note on my favorite instrument, the evening of a certain high-school dance, the guy who told me her name, the last time I went anywhere with that guy and the things that happened then, something seemingly insignificant which stands out to me about redheads, because he's a redhead, money--because his last name is Feurchace, which sounds like purchase--though i've never made that connection consciously--the color burgundy, which is the dress she's wearing, and so red wine, and the things that were said the last time I drank red wine, and the weather on that night, and the weather on this night, and the particular smells in the gym......right? So this never-ending game of free-association (I say tomato, the first word you think of is trench coat) is all subconsciously wired in to that image, the picture of that moment in a high-school gym and everything that came after and everything that led up to it (now seen as cause and effect). Your brain constantly refers to that image whenever presented with any new information, any situation it needs to respond to, etc, because it's an oft-used image and the more we fire together, the more we wire together. Every time we go back to that image, new connections are made, meaning that image grows in meaning, even though it's still just the image of me looking across the room to see Maria as her name is said on a certain sweaty, nervous high-school dance night. (See the whole map of the patterns in which your neurons fire together overlaid with this image.)
Here's where it gets really heady: remember that your main connections and patterns are all pretty muh decided (unless you do serious conscious work later) by your pre-5-yr-old mind. So, the image that's being created here is just an update of the one you already have, with more potent language and color. But it's a great moment for you to make a huge change, for a monster paradigm-shift. If you bust out of your normal behavior and do something really crazy, here, and follow it all the way to its conclusion, you may find yourself remembering your own life history up to this point completely differently. Your life-story no longer leads up to the "pinnacle" it did five minutes ago, at which time you never imagined yourself ditching your straight-As and list of after-school activities and campus presidential duties to grab her hand, catch a plane, and move to the Andes to train to be a curandero. All of a sudden, you remember things you had completely forgotten, things that obviously were leading up to a moment like this, things that make it clear that you were born for the life of an Andean curandero. There was that amazing time in your grandmother's garden, when she was showing you the most beautiful flower you'd ever--in your 4 short years on this planet--seen, and at the same time, a group of children next door were practicing a song in Spanish for a school play. There was that one time your father took you to the mountains to go camping, momentarily breaking from his otherwise completely work-obsessed life, the only time you traded more than three complete sentences. There was the time your mom danced you around the room in her burgundy evening gown the night she won an award for her work in the laboratory, and she was singing "I feel pretty" and you were blushing and happy. All these things had previously been forgotten, but you begin to remember them on the plane, with the love of your life sitting next to you, pointing eagerly at the shape of the clouds out the window to show you a grazing horned goat. When you land, you discover you have an amazing talent for locating mysterious and rare plants, and that she has the equally miraculous ability to make them all taste good. People line up for your cures. Why are you so good at this? Because your whole life was leading up to it, you were born to be this! Somewhere in the back of your mind, you've always been singing that Broadway tune, and you still are, right now as you search through the forest for the herbs. What made you think you were going to be a lawyer? Who knows?
You were fated to be this. But only since the moment you decided to be fated to do it, the moment that one snapshot became your life's map. At that moment (just like when you're dreaming, and whatever you're doing right then makes sense in the story of your life; yes, you're re-taking the third grade even though you already passed your college exit exams, but third grade is important, and it's always been this way), your present changed, your history changed, and your future changed. 
And in the next moment, it can again.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Maquette Show

by Jodi Le Birge

Clive Hick's-Jenkins is curating an on-line gallery of maquettes created by his ArtLog followers. It's fascinating to see the wildly different ways the process has been affected by each artist's style...

All of the above are the creation of Jodi Le Birge, whose maquette makes me think of the many faces of one person; of our saintly side; of our animal attributes; of our feminine and masculine sides...

Peter Stevenson is planning to use his for a lantern show (!) which I hope to somehow see:

I love how Liz Sangster made her lively, furry dog, with his expressive ears, tail, and tongue, pose on a one-dimensional background--it makes him even more alive! Even the style she used to paint his fur makes his seem charged with energy...

The image below is by Steph Redfern:

These are only a few of the images from his show. There are many, many more, and more artists, and each day, he is unveiling new surprises! Links: