Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Planet of Visions - Life After Theory

Having come through the Humanities of the 90s I have spent a great deal of my time caught in the complexity of Theory: from Faucault to Freud, from Nietzsche to Kierkegaard, from Socrates to Social Darwinism, from Keynesian Economics to Milton Friedman's Economic rationalism, and from the Italian Renaissance Neo Platonism to Post Colonial Surrealism, and so on. Like Narcissus, I have been trapped at the waters edge of Theory gazing into the lines and crevices, to see a picture of the landscape of the human mind and history, unable to pull away from the beautiful puzzle. Narcissus, it should be remembered, starved to death and there in lies the reason for the stories endurance - it is a warning.

Philosophy is intergal to the life of human society whether we aware of it or not. They are the visions in which we live. The theories of the 20th century have extended the ability to scrutinize ourselves, our past, our modes of thinking and to see the stratus of convention that make up a civilization. Analysis though does not alter the conditions of society nor do they quell the individual's internal needs and feelings. As was written above the Temple at Delphi, to Know Thyself means not only to recognize the relative state of things but to understand ones position within the current state and the value you bring to that position. These are the most difficult for the journeyman on the path of knowledge because the answers will come only from crossing outside of theory into the path of power and responsibility (to cross from the University to the Senate as it were). These are the parts that contain the truth as it is to oneself - Narcissus must turn away from his refection to regain his body and his face so that he might live.

Theory's trap is to keep one in a state of reflection - to see the myriad of choices, but to stun the motivation to choose. This is a normal function, that is what rational thinking is for, it acts as a pause - a look before you leap. Unfortunately, once the enormous scope of choice and consideration is opened up to the mind, resolve is paused almost indefinitely as one's mind filters through every possibility for the "correct answer" to guide action. The correct answer will never come as reality in this sense is infinitely relative. But we are not only rational, and this should not be forgotten. Of equal importance are the other three Zoas; who are passion, sensation and instinct. They each play a living part in our lives and will us to act with or without reason. Truth as it is to oneself is found here. It is only via the expressions of true feeling in ones actions that one can really live in the world. In effect, it is to choose and to act bravely upon those choices - be them flawed or no.

If theory gives us anything it gives us the knowledge that in the world, vision competes with vision and the vision that holds influence is the one we give into. Civic duty is the participation in creating and supporting one's vision of the world, to advocate among your peers and in the everyday interaction. As human beings we are filled with visions many of them poor sketches of the brilliant bowls of human existence, we need not let them overpower us. Knowledge's gift is to bring colour, clarity and contour to vision to paint it in rich hues that enliven the spirit. Artists need not be philosophers, nor need they create art that is merely the mirror reflecting theory's face. They can feel free to create there own visions and we, the audience, may feel free to be convinced or to object. Let only that we stand proud and respect ourselves enough to speak our minds.


This post has been written in response to Larry Buttrose's essay "Reality's Triumph Over the Relative" from The Sydney Morning Herald September 16-17 2006 (not able to be linked) and to the post by Adam "Back to Reality, Again" from the University of Sydney's Thinking Culture blog. This is a slice of my thoughts as they are when considering the nature of Theory and the Arts. A small slice.

The two images are by Hundertwasser (one of my favourite artists). The first is Landscape with Violet Sun, Paris, 1956, mixed media, 51 x 25 cm. The second is Irinaland Over the Balkans, Rome, November 1969, mixed media, 36.5 x 51 cm. (forgive the book spine image) These pictures are from the book

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Jean-Luc Picard said...

A simply wonderful post that really needs to be read and understood. Excellent images, especially the Hundertwassaer.

Merlyn Gabriel said...

I adore Hundertwasser's works. And these issues and thoughts are things I have often pondered myself. Nietzsche and CJ Jung have had huge impacts on my life and that whole staring long and hard into the abyss thing just never goes away.

It is a dauntingthing, I think to consider these questions fully, to sit down and really face them, to find some sort of answer and maybe a belief system, that works while at the same time trying not to be destructive.

That whole who are we, what are we, and is there any meaning to life thing can clog up an entire day if you let it and no answers are 100% true. What is truth anyway?

So now my brain is going in circles. :)

xxxxxs and oooooos
a pondering Merly.

mb said...

i reckon Narcissus must have been one lonely bugger to have stayed poolside,perhaps he was too afraid to attempt to reach out to people

each night the ocean reminds me that its voice is a thousand tines louder than mine
pablo neruda/the sea and the bells

i think that art of any medium is far more 'explanatory' than books of theory and yet i do like reading such stuff

Florence said...

I always love reading your comments. :D

I particularily recommend people reading Hundertwasser's manifestos: Right to Window; Duty to Tree; Mould Manifesto and his excellent humus toilet designs.

Rebecca the Wrecker was telling me how her parents (being from New Zealand) were introduced to Hundertwasser and went sailing with him, she relates with her typical humour that they had no real idea who he was! lol


DEBRA said...

HI Florence

Michelle sent me!
Have a happy!

A Army Of (Cl)One said...

Being that I did so poorly in Philosophy classes when in college, I am not one to make to deep of comments on the nature of our beings.

But that being said I believe that Blogging would be something that Narcissus would if her were around today. We all make our little reflection of some part of ourselves and post them up and then search out other who reflects interest we have or are distorted reflection of what we whish to be. I, for example, read your blog with envy over your conceptual art abilities (which I have none). I do know that philosophy is needed to help shape our “big” picture of the world, but it need to be used to shape our actions in which we play out how we live in our world.

So say the guy whose online persona wears a mask.

P.S. I enjoy how your posts draw much longer answers out of me :)

Merlyn Gabriel said...

Florence is amazing in her ability to bring people together into an interesting, discussion oriented community. That is what drew me in, as a fairly isolated artist it is an amazing oppertunity to find other people who have similar interests and love vast and fascinating dialogues.

We find new friends and new places to meet, have virtual coffee and chat about life the universe and everything. To explore the realms of writing, arts, pun making and so on. I don't think in the history of the world theer has been such a time as this where the general ordinary populace has been granted the ability to make art and spread it far and wide.

Artists and philosophy have been such an exclusive club for such a long time, where only the lucky few could achieve mass audeiences and be heard, now everyone who has internet access has that chance and it is changing the way we think about art, communities, borders and many other things. AoC, I agree with you to a certain extent on the narcissistic aspect of blogging but I also think it is a way of reaching out for many people. It is not just about us wanting to mirror our own selves but also about finding like minded people, that 'I am not alone' sensation. And I think it satisfies a certain amount of human nosiness and curiosity. We find places to belong in a world and perhaps even a time when it is often quite hard to fit in and feel a part of the greater world.
For me, the blog/ forum/ internet world has bridged that huge gulf which happens when one moves a lot, especially to different countries where language and culture are not what I am used to... It's pretty amazing when you stop and think about it.

I am so grateful to live in this day and age.

Rebecca-the-Wrecker said...

yes it is true flo. you can learn about all the theory and ethics in the abstract thinking world but it is only when you are in a quandary and they are applied in the 'real' world that you are truly tested! what to do!!! you can have the finest, most up-to-date intellectual know-how in theory (not me!) - right and wrong are clear and judgement can come easily in hindsight/abstract. But once self, politics, 'kindness' and other intersts become involved the path becomes muddier and you are bound to tick off a few fellow travellers! Looking back on recent experience, maybe a constant and gradual personal expression of what you think and feel would be the better modus operandi of speaking one's mind to those in 'power' rather than the bubbling up of a volcanic splattering of nonsense at the end of a long hard trail of put downs...on the ning nang nong, where the cows go bong...

Florence said...

AOC, interestingly Narcissus was a youth (ie a young male ;)

I did a humorous post about my own Narcissian Surrealists tendencies during Geek Week - I, Florence - day 2 Geek Week. The blog is an interesting phenomenon for me. In some ways it is more than I am and in others less. I was saying to Plastic Girl the other day that most of what I do is behind-the-scenes and I do only very little that is public. When I blog I'm bring some of that behind-the-scenes to the surface and as it shimmers there it becomes the mask by which I'm seen. All masks are imperfect, the gift of consciousness is to know and be one fully and completely.

I have no problem with your mask as it is as good as any other you would present of yourself. You have by your conversation indicated a few things about yourself that enables me to piece a bigger picture of you together, but this is just the same process had you put a picture of yourself up instead.

I'll be collaborating with Frank Theatre in the investigation of the mask on stage very shortly. I'm interested in understanding the use of mask in shamanic ritual and in sacred theatre. Blogging has been very informative.

Merly, I also love the internet's ability to link people together. Its why i'm so passionate about it when ever I speak to others about it. The formal process of blogging too has been quite the training ground. Seeing bits of myself pinned up for others has given me more confidence in speaking of myself in a more complete way than I would generally...but I'm just beginning down that road :)

Wrecker, muddy waters indeed. That's why we should practice standing up for ourselves and our feelings as often as possible. We can be too polite sometimes and then mediocrity wins.

oh, and I will be asking you to recite the whole of that Spike Milligan song for me, so book up girl friend


ps I don't suppose anyone got the Craftwerk song quote in the post title?