Monday, March 24, 2008

On The Dangers of Spiritual Art

Karl Kempton sent me the piece (shown above). It, as well as other works of his spawned the following essay.

I feel that one of the most dangerous areas of contemporary art comes when the artist makes him/herself a target by embracing spiritual concerns. Our society enjoys pointing fingers at the inadequacies of institutionalized religion (there are many) and ignoring the archetypical ideas of the spirit that have brought us the wonderful icons of the past. These spiritual metaphors have manifested themselves throughout history in many forms always relating to the culture of the artist. Many of the ideas of religions are obsolete and don’t function well in societies as diverse and ever-changing as ours. The artistic challenge of spirit is an extremely difficult task especially when trying to use historically loaded iconography of current dominant religions. I think many of the artistic phobias associated with the spirit are due to our experience of so many ‘so-called’ spiritual artists, who have created cliché kitsch or dogmatic concepts that accent the hypocritical ideas of the church or yet have forged an audaciously different direction aligning themselves with likes of aliens from other planets. Also to note, there seems to be a direct conflict between science and the spirit, which is anxiously evident when scientific minds address spiritual matters. I believe the problem is based in the illusiveness of Truth in both arenas. There are many that think that Truth is defined by science using the language of mathematics. Others believe Truth is beyond logic and only evoked through the metaphoric language of a spiritual ritual. Then there is my personally distasteful category of those who think that Truth is defined by their particular religion or should I say defined by their particular church. Focusing on the later idea we see that human nature tends to have many conflicts and from a historical perspective, one of the most destructive is the religious “us versus them conflict.” I see churches tending to promote this kind of behavior due to its doctrine being fed through so many egos. On the same line of thinking, the testosterone of the self righteous seems to have made its way into religion and spiritual matters to set up so many of the conflicts that we humans engage in. Many have died and continue to die in spiritual wars created by the religious intolerant.

The fact that the conflicts exist, illustrate how illusive Truth is. It seems to me that science is no better when it comes to Truth. The eminent scientist David Boehm points out that science does not find Truth, its purpose is to correlate experience. Also in this vein, we can see that there are those who provide great arguments against the platonic nature of mathematics pointing out numerous problems with using mathematics as a true model for reality. I see the bottom line being that the terra firma of veracity is constantly shifting; therefore, we must accept this fact and move on. The eastern mystics use the metaphor, “form is emptiness and emptiness is form”.

I believe it is the function of special artists to assimilate as much information as possible from the diverse cross-planet cultural ideas not limited to including the concepts of science so that they can re-contextualize, synthesize and synergize their metaphors to be acute and pertinent to the global culture today. They must fully embody the ideas of love and tolerance as if the ideas were new so as to debride the cliché skins attached to them. As impossible this task seems, it is the challenge of those artists to reconnect the loose strands of past archetypical works and re-contextualize them to breathe new life in today’s world. Their job is not to run from the spiritual confusion that permeates the ever-changing cultures on this globe by hiding in some self-conceived scientific illusion of truth without spirit. That is not to say that science cannot be the new religion … it can. However, the spiritual scientist must connect the magical and irrational mind to scientific metaphors so that our spiritual understanding can be flexible as science metamorphoses. The past mytho-spiritual ideas were always based in the science of the times. It takes courage to navigate through the mental minefield of past ‘truths’ finding new veracity that resonates in ones psyche as they express it and expose themselves to the ridicule of being an irrational kook.

I believe the special artist/poets should focus their efforts to make metaphors current to our historical and sociological condition. The purpose of a metaphor is to bridge the infinite to the concrete. Many people feel that past mytho-spiritual/religious metaphors are absolute in the notion that they permanently point to the infinite. Personally speaking, I see the veracity of metaphors being temporal with their cultural relevance having different half-lives. What can confuse matters is that the half-life in some metaphors have existed for such a long time that they seem absolute. There is an argument that the Bastian elemental ideas and Jungian archetypes are absolute. Even if this is true, the metaphors employing those elemental ideas always need recontextualizing to be relevant to the current cultural thought. The frustrating aspect for the artist is having so little control over the fertility of the inspiration process. I wish I could say that artists had full control over the source and production of their metaphors. However, it seems to me that their strength, viability and temporality are a function of graciousness, imparted from the muses. I believe it is though the struggle and success with life that these special artists acquire the molecular building blocks of a vocabulary that becomes the means of their expressions. These ideas logically coagulate around an infinite idea provided to them by the unknown.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello there!

Thanks for sharing your view about spiritual art.

I, as a spiritual artist ;-) agree on some points, but disagree on other. But it is not my intention to start a discussion, in the sense of you are fault and I am right. I do not believe in right and wrong - I believe in sharing opinions, ideas, views, by which we may receive a bigger picture, a deeper understanding about certain topics, like spiritual art.

Since almost one year now, I am `profiling` myself as a spiritual or intuitive artist. First I thought, why should I not profile myself as a normal artist, instead of a spiritual artist?

Well - I like to be specific. My art is spiritually inspired. And with spirituality, I mean that I open myself for guidance, for intuition, for peace, for love when I start creating art.

Also - I like to call myself a spiritual artist, for there is so much art - in my opinion - without spirit, without a soul. There is much ego-art. I know, this is a dangerous thing to say... of course, I also have an ego, and my ego is also involved when I create art. But I have, as an artist, `operated` from this ego for the last 5 years, as a performer... and it really did not brought me happiness.

Now... I consciously do my best putting my ego aside - for I know how it feels to operate like this - so that art can start flowing through me. I connect with the most happy, pure, warm, kind, peaceful feelings I can experience at the moment, and then I create art.

This approach is, for me, spiritual. Not in the sense that my art is connected with some kind of religion, or with some kind of church, belief system... no. It is connected with my experience of love, peace, happiness, joy. And that is, for me, spiritual - I feel my art has, more and more, a soul - while in the past it was my ego trying to proof itself as an artist in this society, by joining competitions, by trying to be the best artist, by trying to gain recognition... .

Now, I feel, following this spiritual approach, liberated, I feel free. I do nothing. I only am receptive for the art that finds a way through my mind, my hearth :-)


Steven Vrancken
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