Friday, October 08, 2010

Some Mystic Forgets Himself

In one of his artist's writing, "Cybernated Art," the video artist Nam June Paik wrote:
Cybernated art is very important, but art for cybernated life is more important, and the latter need not be cybernated.
Riffing on this, I would slightly remix his sentiment and write that making contemporary forms of electronic media art involve the creative use of mediating technologies that are situated to augment our experience of life as we look to achieve other states of mind, but are not in and of themselves the literal portals to these other states of mind. Rather, these portals are still part of a deep "interior shot" that feeds off a network of fringe-flow sensations as we experience them via socially interconnected relations.

"Cybernetics," wrote Paik, is "the science of pure relations, or relationship itself" and "has its origin in karma."

Something I learned from Paik, and that heavily informed the creation of Immobilité, was how to use the creative process to put oneself into a trance state that then unconsciously triggers unexpected visions or what in the work I refer to as autohallucinations. In early 2005, I was invited to the European memorial following the death of Paik, and there in Germany I came upon the loose, handwritten notes from an essay he had written around in the early Sixties called "Experimental Television" – that's what he must have called video art in those days – and I was struck by how he too really found it important to write down, to poeticize, what he felt was happening to him as he became this electronically-infused, experimental persona "out of nowhere" – as when he says, referring to the word (in quotes) "ecstasy"
* to go out of oneself...

* completely filled time

* the presence of eternal presence

* unconscious, or super-conscious

* -- some mystic forgets himself (go out of oneself)

* abnormal

* the world stops for three minutes!
This last phrase of Paik's, "the world stops for three minutes!" seems to come out of nowhere too, but also anticipates Carlos Castaneda's "Journey to Ixtlan" where the impersonal "I" of the narrator is being guided through his philosophical life journey by the teachings of Don Juan, the shaman-trickster. Don Juan says to Castaneda's persona:
I am teaching you how to see as opposed to merely looking, and stopping the world is the first step to seeing.

Stopping the world is not a cryptic metaphor that really doesn't mean anything. And its scope and importance as one of the main propositions of my knowledge should not be misjudged.

I am teaching you how to stop the world. Nothing will work, however, if you are very stubborn. Be less stubborn, and you will probably stop the world with any of the techniques I teach you. Everything I will tell you to do is a technique for stopping the world.

The sorcerer's description of the world is perceivable. But our insistence on holding on to our standard version of reality renders us almost deaf and blind to it. I'm going to give you what I call "techniques for stopping the world."
Is this what Paik means by to "go out of oneself..." the way "some mystic forgets himself"? This is my state of mind too while I automatically generate my fictional personas as shareware. Creating my so-called foreign films (so-called in that they are anything but a film of any kind), I realize that forgetting oneself is a necessary aspect of envisioning the work.

The experimental artist Stan Brakhage, who some would say was to experimental film art what Nam June Paik was to video art, often referred to "film as visual music" and spoke about how "the work has to suggest its 'going-on-ness.'"

Which brings up an immediate question: How does a work suggest its 'going-on-ness', especially when you take into account issues of duration, Internet-era attention span, creative momentum, narrative, (re)mixed reality, and interactivity? Immobilité was composed using an unscripted, improvisational method of acting and the mobile phone images are intentionally shot in an amateurish or DIY [do-it-yourself] style similar to the evolving forms of video distributed in social media environments such as YouTube.

By interfacing this low-tech version of video making with more sophisticated forms of European art-house film, the work begins blurring the distinction between the auteur and the amateur, though both may recognize in themselves the desire to become a lover of forms (of formal innovation – as a survival strategy in the co-evolutionary push-pull of the still semi-stable environment).

Brakhage spoke about "a magicwork that makes itself" – a creative force that is filtered through the unconscious and that can only happen once one has freed themselves of the weight of commercial success and other burdens that come with a life fettered with unnecessary attachments. Only then, says Brakhage, can an artist finally blaze the path that they intuitively know they have to make (I'm adding my own associative word-thoughts here now). But before this can happen, you first have to take on the role of prophetic visionary who literally visualize their next creative becoming. How else is the life-art-work continuum to get made?

Sampling from more of Brakhage's phrases that I gleaned from a local TV interview in Boulder, Colorado, we hear him frequently refer to the "buzzing of mind" and "vision of muse" that fills his head like bees in a beehive as the work gets created on its own terms without any interference. He was cautious enough to make clear that not every work will be a magicwork, and any artist who has stuck it out over decades of trial and error via an intense, post-studio, art-research practice knows this to be the case. Sometimes it just comes out, sometimes not. And when the creative momentum one experiences while making a specific work is lost, you are never really sure if you will get it back. These are the risks one takes when developing their new material in a variety of media/mediums, especially when it's time-based new media that they are porting their poetic vibes through.

The instrument needs constant tuning.

The beehive mind needs to buzz.

Some mystic needs to forget themselves.

The unconscious experience of the intuitive body becoming new media...

Think of it as creating an active unconscious momentum, where the proprioceptive artist-medium "knows" where they are going without ever having been there before.

Or: imagine the artist-medium playing out their aesthetic potential via an innate body intuition, flushed with the illogic of sense (data), operating on autopilot.

The history of new media is the history of the world. For example, we can time-travel back to Germany in 1805, where we find a short essay written by Heinrich von Kleist, collected in his now out of print An Abyss Deep Enough. The essay is entitled "On the Gradual Fabrication of Thoughts While Speaking," where the author intuits the unconscious neural mechanism that triggers creative thought and writes:
For it is not we who know; it is rather a certain condition, in which we happen to be, that 'knows.'

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