The Nature of Art

I was hanging out, once again, around a bunch of atheist math students when I got into an argument that I did not hold well with in a verbal sense. This was because we were really arguing about Art, and because I associate Art with God and the spiritual world, I got confused. Since I was in all likelihood the only person who believed that a God existed and probably the only one who saw God to be the source of Art. I am also the only person to capitalize Art despite grammatical laws. Anyways, the conversation went something like this

This entire argument got me very upset so I went to talk with my Chaplain. I had had many good conversations with him about God, which for me translates as conversations about life. Before we go anywhere I’m going to give you a brief transcript of the conversation.

Atheist #1: Hey, what does everyone think of Avatar?

Me: Oh ugh, what a horrible movie.

Atheist #1: Well, technically speaking the visual affects where good, but the plot was terrible.

Me: Yeah, but it was a terrible, terrible movie.

Atheist #2: Well, it wasn’t that bad.

Me: Yes, yes it was. Now, if you have a director like Alejandro Jodorowsky, then you’d have something. Anybody here familiar with Jodorowsky? El Topo?

Atheist 3: Oh ugh, what a terrible movie.

Me: No, no. I think Jodorowsky’s El Topo is a better movie then Avatar.

Atheist #3: Nobody understands El Topo.

Me: So?

Atheist #3: So nobody will go and see it?

Me: Why does that matter?

Atheist #3: Because nobody will pay to see it?

Me: That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good movie. What does money have to do with anything?

Atheist #3: If 800 million people go to see it it’s not a good movie?

At this point I’ve come to a hault. I got into a very heated point were I tried to make this about God, which to me it was, but to which the athiests didn’t see that. Athiest 3 did say that he was an artist, but I don’t know if I believe him as of yet.

Now, to explain what it is I should have explained in the argument, Art is a process by which human beings communicate certain concepts to other human beings through methods of symbols. This is fundamentally a magical act, and even if you don’t believe in magic as such, you have to admit that by my definition it’s the closest anyone is ever going to get without sufficiently advanced technology. While I connect the idea of God with this, this is not proof of God’s existence. What Art is, is one of the most fundamental aspects of what makes us human. Which basically brings us to the crux of the argument.

My Position: Art is the most necessary aspect of human development. As such, there are certain responsibilities that make up being an Artist to the rest of humanity. This responsibility is that we must help our fellow human beings. To do this, our Art must not suck. To do that would be to commit a horrible transaction (I might say “crime against the Holy Spirit”).

Athiest #3’s position: Your concept of Art is unrealistic and overly mystified. Give the idiots what they want. If they want to see two and a half hours of “Dances with Mutant Smurfs,” then let them.

So basically, as I talked this all out with my Chaplain, I realized that I was not worried about God as I had previously been, but that I was frustrated on the theories of Art. The fact that in our original conversation I was discussing God only goes to show how seriously I take the idea of Art and the creation of it. As Alan Moore says in Mindscapes, “It is not the job of artists to give the audience what the audience want. If the audience knew what they needed they would be the artists and not the audience. It is the job of the artist to give the audience what they need.” Atheist #3’s comments were an insult to Art, and in my own overlapping social categories thought he was attacking God. Maybe he was attacking God, but he was doing this through his misguided ideas of the nature of Art.

What is Surrealism?

Today a friend asked me what surrealism is, which is something that I believe I have a better idea of then the average North American. I’m not completely certain that I gave him a proper definition though, so this blog post is to give my definition of what surrealism is.

The word “surreal” was first used by Apollinaire to describe a play he wrote called “Les Mamelles de Tiresias,”(French for “The Breasts of Tiresias”). The Wikipedia no longer explains what this play was about, but I don’t think the breasts were that  integral to the plot (or what passed for the plot), but it ended with a moral in favor of sex. I have read a bit of his poem “Zone,” which was a bit surreal itself, since it used the metaphor of Paris as a field of sheep or something like that. This all happened around 1917, and Appollinaire would shortly be biting the bullet in the trenches, so he won’t be coming into this.

We know go to the Dadaists. The Dadaists were a fun-loving bunch of anti-artists who generally were not fans of the factory of death that was WWI. Their argument went something like this.

  • Modern society is based on the achievements of the rational mind (i.e. railroads, industry and such).
  • Our society is slowly crumbling apart because of the onslaught of this pointless, stupid and machine death-factory of the Great War
  • THEREFOR, our rationalist society is the cause of this war. It is evil, or at least not very efficient, and thus we should mock the hell out of it. Let’s go shock the academy.

And thus the Dadaists were born, largely in Switzerland. Dadaism lead to all kinds of fun things to shock the old fogies, such as toilets claimed to be art, placing random words together to make poems and getting dressed up as a funny pope thing and intoning meaningless nonsense.

As fun as it must have been to be a Dadaist, they were not really an art movement meant to last. This leads us to a young French man named Andre Breton. Andre Breton is the guy if you want to know about Surrealism, largely because if there wasn’t an Andre Breton there wouldn’t be surrealism and Dali would have just been considered weird. Breton got his start in the Dadaists, but was also very inspired by his time as a doctor during WWI. He worked at a psychiatric hospital and hanged out with a lot of crazy people. Among these crazy people was a guy called Jacques Vache. Very little is written about him on Wikipedia, except that he was a bit of an anti-social jerk, Andre Breton was pretty taken with him, and he wore a monocle. O, and he apparently OD’d on opium in 1919. Vache was also a fan of another crazy guy called Alfred Jarry. Jarry wrote a bunch of plays about a guy called King Ubu that were apparently violent and banned shortly after the first performance. Jarry’s a big name in Surrealism, as like Appolinaire he is very direct precursor.

Anyways, back to Breton. Around 1924, he wrote a little document he liked to call The Surrealist Manifesto. To Breton, surrealism was…

Psychic automatism in it’s pure state, by which one proposes to express — verbally, by written word, or in any other manner — the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

…and this proved to be popular among various French artists. Andre Breton was able to get together a bunch of people to start what he called the Bureau of Surrealist Research, under the direction of a guy named Antonin Artaud, who was an interesting guy who I try reading but find a bit to angry. The Bureau’s main goal was to experiment with Surrealism so that it could exist outside the world of art; that they could basically make a working competitor to scientific rationalism. Artaud was a big guy in this, as he saw that Imagination was just as real as the rest of reality. He believed that what we consider real is merely part of a consensus and he for one was not for the consensus he had to live in; kind of like Mage: the Ascension. If they had LARPs back then, he would be an interesting person to run one. Actually, I think that the Surrealists in general would have loved the concept of LARPing and would have probably done some very fun and crazy ones.

So if I had to give a definition of surrealism, I would probably go for that definition, a rejection of rationalism that exists largely within the world of art, but is trying desperately to get out. No, surrealists are trying desperately for surrealism to replace rational thought. My own opinions on this are that I have sympathy for the surrealists, but I also am a bit cynical about the whole enterprise. While Imagination is beautiful and not wholly separate from reality, I do not think that the surrealist idea of ultimately replacing the rational with the surreal is feasible, or even ultimately desirable. This undesirability is due largely because I don’t know how normal humans would react if we all abandoned rational thought. Would we become more violent, or would we just all become fishmalks? Yes, it is possible that this could lead to a reversal where individual people become irrational, insane beings and countries are all rational entities that don’t waste money on war and stuff like that, but that could just because the government is busy investing money in clown cars for immigrants or breeding winged giraffes or something. Also, everyone would be too busy slapping each other with fish because they’re all crazy fishmalks to slap other nations with fish.

Still, Surrealism does exist in the world of the imagination and that has got to count for something. While we have yet to make a full summoning of surrealism into our plane of existence to overthrow the tyranny of the machine-gods of Rationalism we can still imagine worlds of sock islands and purple otters and whiskey trees, or stuff we’d rather imagine because who the hell wants a whiskey tree besides alcoholics and bootleggers?

Anyways, that’s my definition of Surrealism. Hope you enjoy.

Alan Moore: Art is Magic (my responce)

This video, which had damn well better be up, is from the documentary The Mindscapes of Alan Moore. Somebody put up a lot of cool stuff from that very nifty documentary, and it has been something I return to for contemplation.

Alan Moore has been my first real stepping stone for me to seriously look into the world of the occult. This is largely due to Alan Moore making it look fairly non-occult and scary. In his series of comic books, Promethea, he makes it look pretty cool. It was very colorful and non-threatening, and while scary at some points, it didn’t really seem to be something that would damn my soul to eternity. While I’m still wondering if Christianity and whatever it is Alan Moore is supposed to be are compatible, I am fascinated by his beliefs regarding magic and art.

So is Alan Moore right? Are the goals of Art and Magic so easily together? I don’t believe that they are that tied together, there is a lot of art that I would say does not fit the qualification of magic. The question that should really be asked is does Art affect the outside world, or does the outside world affect Art?

Art is definitely something that lives in both worlds, by which I mean the Macrocosm, the world we share with everyone else, and the Microcosm, the world of our perception. It can exist in a physical plane, were we can see it or read it or hear it, but we also see it when we look at it. This causes us to interpret it, which gives it existence in the microcosm. This can cause the audience to think about things if the artist decides to do thus. So yes, I believe that Art can affect the world around us.

The problem is this is not being used in a beneficial way, as Alan Moore is saying, but that most of the modern-day equivalents are working in advertising or mediocre Hollywood films. They have the most power over the various Microcosms of individuals, as film is the most prevalent form of artistic communication. The problem is a lot of this isn’t that good and is seen largely as entertainment, as compared to something that could benefit humanity as a whole. There is also the issue that if we were to somehow overthrow the advertisement/Hollywood control over symbols, we (and I mean Alan Moore and myself and whoever else wants to give this a go) would just become propaganda. Not that this is something that is going to happen in the near future, because I’m not the kind of person to become a propaganda minister, because I have talent. Also, I’m smart enough not to get involved in any revolutions.

So anyways, what I really wanted to talk about was that I believe Alan Moore has a point here and that if I am going to be a writer, and I am going to be a writer, I should be prepared for my ideas to take hold on the world. This is a bit of a problem, because I’m not sure what my goals are in my writing. Here’s a list of recurring themes that exist in the things I plan on writing.

  1. We should probably not be to excited about Richard Dawkins and his gang of Athiest sharpshooters
  2. The State is the House of Satan and any follower of God and Truth should not hold any magistrasial position. This holds to anyone seeking a political revolution. Anyone who claims that God put him or her in any form of position of power, is lieing, a heretic and possibly the Antichrist. (I am open to voting however)
  3. Art is a magical force that can affect the world around us, but it’s being misused by the mainstream media, advertising and Hollywood’s poor examples of film. (AVE HERZOG!)
  4. Probably something involving God, inspired by my Christian Anabaptist routes and things like that, but with syncrenetsic elements that combine aspects of the Western Mysteries, Sufism and Eastern Religions.

I have been working on this for to long, and like the thing on Jodorowsky’s Tarot, I will return to it soon. Probably more sooner then the Tarot thing.

Filtering out the good stuff and chucking the gunk

Well, here it is. My new blog. For those of you who don’t know, I used to have a blog called “The Aspie Diaries.” That was getting a bit frustrating and I felt I needed to start a new one, mainly since I’m not the human being who started that blog. This is what I hope to be a more mature blog to focus any thoughts I have regarding what I usually ponder about, such as life, religion, the nature of ideas, writing and role-playing. Expect fan material for White Wolf’s World of Darkness line.
While I had your attention, I thought I’d bring up what this blog is supposed to be and why I called it something as crazy as SOLVE ET COAGULA. Knowing some of my audience, such as Jason from the Chasing Hermes podcast, I really don’t need to explain what that is. However, the vast majority of my readers (i.e. my family) probably have no idea what I’m talking about. And what’s with calling my blog psychic-refugees.blogspot.com, anyways?
Well, the psychic refugees thing is easy enough. It was part of an early title for this blog, something like Psychic Refugees of the Lost Aeon or Psychic Refugees of an Unknown Generation. While these names had cool words like Aeon and Generation, I didn’t really like them. Earlier ideas were Exegesis, which I stole from Philip K. Dick, and Incorrectly Decoded Signals, which I stole from a William S. Burroughs quote. Neither of these felt right, so instead I decided to go SOLVE ET COAGULA.
Solve Et Coagula is an alchemical phrase, which basically means “To take apart and then to reassemble.” I first heard it in the documentary “The Mindscapes of Alan Moore,” where famous comic book writer and magician Alan Moore used it to explain art. To put it at it’s most basic, he said that modern art concentrates too much on the SOLVE(taking apart) and not enough on the COAGULA(putting back together). Also in that documentary he put forth his idea that writing is fundamentally a magical act, as the artist creates something out of nothing.
Alan Moore’s thesis is similar to that of the Remodernists, an English art movement I discovered over the Internet. They are a reaction about trends in English art to call pickled sharks or unmade beds art. The Remodernists are into pure art, which is to say art that has spiritual meaning to it and is not ruled by the empty commercialists of the day.
I’m not a painter, but I am a writer and a poet. For the most part I’m oblivious to modern art and writing, though I am a fan of slam poetry and Roberto Bolano, as well as the British Wave of Comic Book writers that started in the 1980s (Alan Moore is the leading figure in this movement, though a trend is probably a better word). I do believe that my writing should be meaningful, if only because I want my life to be meaingful. Which brings us about to the reason I’m starting this blog. It is, in many ways an alchemical sequel to my last blog, “The Aspie Diaries.” I feel that that blog has been weighing me down, that I had developed outside it’s bonds and it’s time for me to spread out my wings and remake myself. SOLVE ET COAGULA is the tool by which I plan on doing that. Hopefully this blog will be a new home for my thoughts and musings, and hopefully I can keep it going.
Well, hope that is a good explanation and enjoy my writing.