YOUR RUN THE RISK OF WEEPING A LITTLE, IF YOU LET YOURSELF GET TAMED.

Our eyes have an ability to see order in chaos, catching on to a specific resemblance and in turn simplifying an otherwise complex concept. On the contrary, a schizophrenic experience is one where the form in focus is isolated, becoming ever more material and literal; bordering on the feeling of an intense lack of reality (Deleuze and Guattari). This shift between a sense of absolute reality, and the lack there of when a form is removed from its surrounding noise and retained without any disturbance, is one of the primary ways in which photography as a medium works into my practice.

My practice over the past few years has stemmed from analogies derived from the organic world in relation to its cultural and political implications. In the process of research, interaction and documentation, my active archive (through collection, photographs and drawings) of spaces and objects continues to grow and incorporate histories and presents. Within the media I use – digital and alternative photography, etching, drawing, photographic transfers, molds and casts, and mixed media on the object itself – I constantly attempted to cut out the noise that surrounds a form and isolate it.

This removal of context soon leaned towards strategies that played out as partially escapist, but instead pointed me towards the critique of such a sanitized (in thought) museum space itself. As I had distanced myself from the initial context from which the object was picked, the collection then seemed to develop as a community, with its own connections and dialogue.

The artist serves as the historic agent of memory, while the archive emerges as a place in which concerns with the past are touched by the astringent vapours of death, destruction and degeneration. Yet, against the tendency of contemporary forms of amnesia whereby the archive becomes a site of lot origins and memory is dispossessed, it is also within the archive that acts of remembering and regeneration occur, where a suture between the past and present is performed, in the indeterminate zone between event and image, document and monument.

(Archive Fever, Okwui Enwezor)

As I collect and interact with natural objects and spaces in nature, I have come to question my intervention and its consequences. As I question the premise of museumization and its dialogue with control and violence, there is a constant gnawing which points out that my interaction with the natural world has its own violence attached to it. This extends to the fact that all interaction we may have with what we deem as ‘other’ has an inherent violence.

“Perhaps any archive is founded on disaster or its threat; pledged against a ruin that it cannot forestall”. (The Archival Impulse, Hal Foster)

For example, imperial and colonial archives play a major role in how India as a subcontinent (as well as other colonized states) understood their own natural heritage. The oldest botanical and zoological drawings date back to colonial rule, commissioned to study, understand and in turn control aspects of the new land that they were not yet aware of. Starting with power and its establishment being synonymous with understanding and classification, eventually the need to classify can be seen less as an infliction of power over the other, instead as a way to hold on to one self and what we know/once knew; a barrier to guard against approaching ruin.

Within my practice, the process as well as the end-result is displayed as a collective of media that surround the viewer; turning the act of collecting specimens on its head and looking at it from an evocative and open-ended view. The attempt is to search for ways to visualize and present ideas of ‘protection’, ‘immortalization’ and ‘embellishment’ in dialogue with those of colonization, taming of the ‘other’, ‘wildness’ and violence. The potency of the word taming is one that intrigues me, as it can be defined as a mutual agreement that momentarily allows for a relationship between one and the ‘other’ – bringing both sides to their most vulnerable.

"What does that mean--'tame'?"

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."

(A Conversation between the Fox and the Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

In the age of the Anthropocene, a theory arose of which the roots are unknown. While men of science began to vehemently claim that mankind was now the greatest impactor of the Earth, an anonymous voice coined the term the third space. Every action of man is now seen as one side of an intimate dialogue which he is having with nature. Each brick he places at the edge of a river is met by blooms of moss and lichen. A Mughal ruin, once regal and flawless, gradually begins to hear whispers through time of roots and stems.

The third space now puts forth its premise – biodiversity now no longer exists within the depths of the forests or deep in the untouched waters of the rivers, instead the spaces that are rich and precious are the points of such dialogue and conversation between man and nature. These points, are today’s markers for tomorrows history. The in-between.

 

Looking at natural objects and the communities they form when removed from their original context within the framework of the self and the self-declared other, I began to question the absolute understanding of an object (a scientific botanical drawing for example) and playing with other less authoritative modes of knowledge (myths, beliefs and folklore); a way to maybe utilize language and epistemology in ways outside of what our instinct would be.

7 reponses

Is it possible for socially conscious art to have a remedial purpose at local, regional, national or transnational level? Can it move authorities in political systems known to control information?

I got really tempted to trigger this particular topic when I read this question. I can say it is more out of curiosity to know your point of views that I'm writing this post; it is, at least apparently, not a concern or related to any of my art works. So, excuse me for not adding a visual. 
I've always felt a deep urge to question artists the same thing, specially those who work with topics dealing with changing something in the society, or highlighting an issue, it can be cultural or political. And when I read this question I thought this is the right time to explore it, not necessarily debate it from a one-sided point of view, but from a bird's eye view.
 
Can visual art really bring substantial change around us? Does it even reach where it should and talk to the people concerned? There are multiple conflicting views inside me which pull me from one side of the coin to another, or one can call it a rhizomatous sphere of various view points, but they never resolve my dilemma regarding committed art. When I visit white cube galleries and see artworks on some sensitive topic like Kashmir conflict, global warming, farmer suicide etc. I really get surprised and a person inside me says what and where is this going? Do the people who are seeing this show even bothered about these things once they step out of the gallery space? Is the artist really so deeply affected, and if so then what was s/he thinking of achieving by showing it at such a constricted space visited mainly by people with a taste in visual art? Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing a visual translation of a research paper where the concept note demands more engagement and brain picking than the actual artwork. I know I'm generalising such a vast topic and the artists dealing with it, but to question something one has to address it keeping it under a single umbrella which may have holes, but it makes it easier to then narrow down to the main problem. And hence I want to ask myself as well as you what is the true scope and outreach of committed art? 
Of course now artists have moved out of galleries and are doing community projects, which I still find more relevant in terms of reaching and benefitting the people concerned. But then I ask myself 'really?' when I see these short-term project based works where the artist is treating a targeted community as a patient and behaving as a self-proclaimed saviour. There is an element of hierarchy, voyeurism and a violence done by capturing their real life problems within an individualistic artist project. Then another question arises, can the artist do the same thing if s/he is asked to do it anonymously and selflessly? It becomes a question dealing with basic human psychology of gaining credit and appreciation. I also sometimes feel insecure and demotivated when a fellow artist uses politics as a formula and a device to cash and fit in the art scenario, since, at least in India, it is quite in trends with the galleries and reputed art organisations to promote socially and politically conscious art.
I don't know where I'm getting at with this, but its just coming out in a flow and I hand over the steering to you guys to please take it from here and quench my inquisitiveness. Would love to hear your views, specially artists coming from different countries. It would be interesting to know how different forms of political art is received at your place, and has visual art brought any real change in the way society and the governments function? This is a very personal view I'm sharing and I can be completely wrong from your view point, because as I said, I'm pulled to opposite sides and right now in a confused state when it comes to this sphere of art making. But at the same time I respect and encourage criticism from your end.
 
(Btw you can see few of my older works here to get a clear picture about which trajectory of art practice I am coming from: http://cargocollective.com/sonam)
4 reponses

“I MIGHT KNOW ME”

      My post is on the first question of interest listed on the blog How do you see your identity as an artist? How do you (if you do) reconcile the politics of the public versus the personal, the fragile areas of practices? How do you as an artist investigate the intimate personal histories that need retelling?” 

 

Identity is a term which sometimes confuses me,  am I an artist? I yet don’t  know. Sometimes I feel I am an artist, sometimes I feel I am nothing. I am learning drawing &paintings from my childhood but I was never that serious about any art, at that time I learned musical instruments and many other things but nothing properly. I was never serious about anything, until  2nd year of my college.

Language is one of my problems from childhood, my mother tongue is Bengali,  but I never read Bengali properly because in my school there was no Bengali, only Hindi and English was there.I didn’t like to read that was my problem and hence I ended up becoming very poor in English and as well as Hindi.  I somehow can't get words and phrases etc. Together I am not good at that .  after I got admission in art college that time also I wasn’t serious, about art. but somehow because of one good teacher I started getting interests because before that art for me was just a curriculum which was one of  my hobbies , but when I learnt that it is not only a curriculum activity  it is a language like English, Hindi etc . it gave me interest  I started seeing  paintings , attended classes on history of art , slowly slowly  art became  a language to me to communicate with myself and I started expressing  whatever  I wanted to  it gave me a confidence somehow . I am a person who lacks motivation and confidence. Because sometimes what I do I just do intuitively without knowing, and I find pretty confusing whether it is something or not.

 

 I never had any interest in politics or whatever related to that is happening outside because I don’t know I  don’t find that directly related to me. I am not against anything but I think politics is everywhere in a family, with friends and we all are connected with that and that is more direct to me which I have to deal with. I don’t read the newspaper I don’t know why but I don’t like,  I  somehow find newspaper boring and a lot of hard work to read, I see images in newspapers. My general knowledge is very bad. But I find experiencing something rather than just knowing it is essential.Thanks to the internet I can read what I like,  for me like to see videos rather than reading. reading is really a good habit but I don’t find it interesting, but now I am reading  &writing a bit. because there are certain things I feel can only be expressed bt writing. I write in my diary. but more than writing I think my drawings, photos, videos, somehow works as a diary for me.  these are two of my works I did recently, the medium is mixed media,  digital print on paper.

 

                                                                                            

 


I enjoy what I do.  medium is sometimes very important to me sometimes it is not. I do paintings, photographs, videos, GIFs, etc. I don’t think much while working I play. I love accidents, I feel accidents are really important.  I m trying to know more about myself, art helps me in that someday I might know myself. I always like to question the way I look things, are there more ways of looking? I think there is, and sometimes I look things differently through different mediums.  

I am writing blog for the first time I don’t  know how to write, I tried. I  am up for any conversations and I want to know  & learn from u all. 

 

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED BY INVISIBLE STRINGS

In my work I explore the ever changing states of the individual. Through introspection and the delving into the unconscious and the psyche one can gain a more thorough understanding of the self and through this gain a more profound sense of humanity as a whole.

If one can honestly face oneself and one’s psyche one can come to learn the potentiality of dark and light that exists in all of us. Once one comes to face their own shadows one has much more control over them and can thus begin to consciously choose one’s own way in life, rather than being controlled by unconscious motives. To Jung the psyche is both the mother of civilization and its destroyer. We have the responsibility to choose. [1]

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” 
- Carl G. Jung, ‘The Philosophical Tree’.

This type of introspection is not a selfish pursuit, through inner understanding one becomes much more capable of comprehending the actions and motives of others. With so much tension and fragmentation between and within nations, as well as within the individual, it has become all the more vital that we endeavor to understand and listen to ourselves and each other.
 

‘Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed.’

Preamble to UNESCO’s constitution.

Art can be a powerful mechanism to explore and communicate these ideas. We can explore through art our emotions, our minds workings as well as having conversations on society at large. Through this means we can begin to communicate with others, to ‘build more bridges’ allowing people access into our inner workings and thus begin to break down down barriers that keep us apart.
 

Psychiatrist and author Dan Siegel presents a form of meditation where we first become aware of all our senses, then the interior of our bodies, our emotions and mental activities, then awareness of our consciousness and then of our interconnectedness with others and the environment. I am interested in this form of connecting to self as a means to connect with others more deeply. This heightens us from personal consciousness through to a heightened expansive consciousness.[2]

Art as a mechanism that employs metaphor, symbolism, abstraction and emotion also offers another way of encountering the world. Not restricted to mere logic and common sense it presents an opportunity to engage the senses, intuition and emotion.

It allows for engagement of the right hand side of the brain, a side that is often neglected in society at present. Neuroscientist and psychotherapist Dr. Allan Shore speaks of the importance of the right brain functions which he feels are undervalued. Conscious expectation must be left behind in order to try and intuitively and empathically become aware of what the other person is saying. Reik says we must abandon ‘rigidly rational consciousness’ and ‘abandon yourself’ to hear the other person and try to comprehend what is being said underneath just words.[3]

Currently there is a prevalence in society for value of external achievement and validation over the internal. Compassion and empathy are qualities that are needed to make positive moves forward for all of society and they spring from the ability of connecting one’s inner self with others.

I am hoping in my work to explore this relationship between the inner and outer worlds of the individual. How reaching inwards can help us to extend ourselves outwards and connect with people on a deeper level and find a common unity between us all.

I have begun compiling some of my research in this area into a collaborative mind map where I am inviting people to contribute. The title ‘We Are All Connected By Invisible Strings’ is hoped to evoke a sense of a deeper underlying connection between us all.

https://coggle.it/diagram/WZAFhBw4_AAB7Fnl?utm_source=transaction&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=retain
 

If anyone would like to contribute to the mind map I can add you via email. Look forward to working with you all!

These photographs are some starting points for exploring these ideas.


[1] Radmila Moacanin, ‘The Essence of Jung’s Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism, Western and Eastern Paths the Heart’.

[2]http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/wheel_of_awareness/

[3] https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/allan-schore-neuroscience-psychotherapy

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CHAOS AS STARTING POINT

The current situation at Mexico is of natural disaster crisis.
There has been several earthquakes around different states of the center and south.
This right followed from drug war, goverment and organized crime dissapearance of people, so I dare to say the "natural" state of the country is of crisis, I think 'crisis'  is a startpoint of energy flow, but other issues are not resolved by people, we let them just vanish and protest for them but not this time, thanks to social media there has been a heavy movement to help out on the affected areas with medical supplies, food and even shelter, although it is not a good thing, the result, similar to anarchy (since the goverment institutions are not helping at all) is an actual synergy, magick, in a way, people have come together to change reality.

The toughtest earthquake happenned the same day of the 32nd anniversary of the earthquake of the 1985, is the catastrophy a way to remind us of our history, not just of destruction, but what we are able to accomplish as a whole?

Chaos(not to confuse with crisis) for me, is the primary force for action, hidden in the unconscious mind, that which allows existance, entropy if you will.
But what does it take for anyone to have the will and strenght to bend reality and re-create it?

below a videoperformance I did back in january titled "Breaking point" I was asking myself, and feeling, what does it take for a person to take action, what leads to it, might it be a big event or a succesion of hard things?

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WORLD FULL OF STEREOTYPES

Just coming back from my holiday in Asia ( China, Singapore and Malaysia) I realised we actually don't know and most of all don't understand each other's cultures.

Malaysia and Singapore are countries full of different cultures. A part of the population is Chinese, Indians, and the Malaysians are also separated in muslim and non-muslim. When you walk through the cities you see an amazing mix and integration from those different cultures. Different Mosques,  Churches and Temples are so close positioned that you feel an international vibe.

But when I visited a Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, some non-muslim international tourists were walking on the praying carpets. Even when the guide told them they weren't allowed to walk on the praying carpets they kept on walking on them and taking pictures. Without listening to any information they left the mosque. I was shocked.

How come we don't know so much about other cultures? Is this ignorance or do we know really so less about other cultures?

Grown up in a Western world as a Asian looking female I have been brought up with several stereotypes. People on the street screaming 'ni hao' to me, without considering I am a Belgian, and yet telling ourselves we are the living in one of the better developed parts of the world. Yes, on economic level we can say we are developed but I am not sure about the cultural level. Still we are fighting to remove mosques from our countries, and are still judging several culture groups because of background or past events.

For me living in between different cultures makes it sometimes very frustrating but also very interesting on another level. I get certain habits from different cultures and I try to make it my own.

I have been working on living in between as a topic for several projects and for this project I would like to work more on the topic 'understanding cultures'. I get the feeling we have to try more and from their on respect will come with it.

I am up for any collaborations and approaches from different people and backgrounds!

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SOME NOTES ABOUT SELF-PORTRAIT

I have been creating art for about 6 years, which I believe is a short period of time. Just like a 6-year-old child.

The activity of creating art has been a vital one for me; it helps me to explore myself, my emotional state, my expressions.

For me there is nothing mystical in this exercise. I believe there are always interesting things happening around us, which we call everyday life. Everyday is a realm of unnoticed and the overlooked. Everyday life does not exist as a generality. There are as many everyday lives as there are place, people and ways of life. I tend to explore the things that i come across, the word, the emotions; what do they mean and what kind of relationship I develop with the things i experience in everyday life. 

Inspired from the idea that how objects are not just objects in our society; we overburden them intuitively with significance and meaning. i try to explore new ways to put my experience forward for the audience. Giving those experiences a new identity. 

 

This is a still from my recent video projection. This text comes from a conversation that i was having with a friend. This is based on a study that how subject has different meaning depending on the environment and emotional state viewer is in. How we read a text is shaped by how we expect to discuss it. The same text can be subject to various interpretations. The "text" is not an independently existing object but the heuristic aggregate of all possible interpretations which themselves emerge in response to the text. As mentioned in the Greek history text is like a mirror, always reflecting something that is not in the mirror itself. 

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HOME AS INFORMATION THAT ADDRESSES CRITICAL CONCERNS

My post is responding to the second question/area of interest listed on the blog: "The “Home” as a cultural construct. Investigating the histories of the food we eat, the clothes we wear, even the games we play."

The “Home” is a place that offering affection and security to its residents, however, as a cultural construct, home can be interpreted in various ways based on the experience and memory of the storyteller. For instance, a child in Syria may read "home" as "shelter" or "refugee camp", and a survivor of a concentration camp may read "home" as “heaven” or "dream land". A fisherman who sail in the sea may read "home" as the "boat" or "island", and a warrior may read "home" as "families" instead of a "house". An immigrant may read "home" as "place he/she rise", but at the same time, may read "home" as "hometown" or the place he/she "originally from".

I would like to explore the possibility of use multiple media of art to examine, comment on, subvert, interpret, or emphasize home as information, and addresses critical concerns such as politics, violence, women, racism, immigration, healthcare, the Earth, etc. Open to any type of collaborations.

In my recent creative practice, I used illustration and augmented reality as media and used animals as symbol to display the metaphorical similarity of issues in human society. For instance, the Segregated Water Fountains (one illustration from my installation work Unvarnished Story) represents the injustice of treatment to animals. The ‘pet’ water fountain is visibly more luxurious than the ‘food animals’. We can therefore see straight away that the image is simply evidence of controversial inequality. Our human race segregate animals to groups for sentimental reasons and consumption purposes, and ignores the fact that all are living creatures that share existence with human beings and deserve to be free. This has a metaphorical similarity that reminds us the segregation of black and white people in America during 1950s. Till today the injustice still existed in our society, more obviously in criminal trial. The augmented reality animation of Segregated Water Fountains expands the metaphor to a broader topic by showing the prejudice on the external figure that caused a grey color humanoid character wearing "police skin coat" pulled the trigger and shot another grey color humanoid character who wear a "black skin sport suit", despite the fact that their internal characteristics are all the same. The audio was extracted from BBC news: St Louis: Unrest after police killing of teenager, to give audience more context to the reality. You can watch the documentary of this piece at here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6V4o9KcSis

Again, anyone who would be interested in this topic, don't hesitate to reply with your thoughts. I look forward to potential collaborations!

Dengke Chen

Artist of Unvarnished Story

 

chendengke@163.com

 

6 reponses

ON AN EQUAL NOTE

 

Dear artists, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the fourteen of you to the interactive platform of project BUILDING BRIDGES. Together we bring to this discussion forum a multiplicity of culture, language, geographical locations, heritage, ethnicity, religious belief and faith systems, socio-economic backgrounds, gender and sexual orientations, physicality, family dynamics and more from across four continents, nine countries, seven time zones and possibly more than fifteen linguistic backgrounds - and these are just the apparent pluralities! Faced with such panoply of variety, where do we begin our conversation? Self and identity is always a good place to start, especially as artists. However, identity is also a double-edged sword, undeniably dependent upon distinctiveness of the individual or of a group from what is known as the ‘other/s’. Identity thrives on opposition, stereotyping, segregation, on alterity. So, the moot question is - if identity and otherness are two sides of the coin then is reconciliation between the two even a remote possibility? Cultural homogeneity has often been suggested as a possible answer to this as it supposedly eases communication due to shared views and value systems. This, however, to my mind, is a dangerous space to occupy, as seen from historical instances as well as many present-day circumstances where dominant groups in power try to trivialize, dehumanize or in more serious cases remove all traces of those who are deemed as ‘lesser’ or ‘outsiders’. 

The answer, to my understanding at least, lies in celebration of inclusivity and our heterogeneity. I feel it is the demand of our times that we need expanded value systems which will help knit humanity together, especially in the face of exponential changes sweeping the socio-political landscape of the world. Mahatma Gandhi said- ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world’. Change, to manifest itself in the world has to, ironically, start at the individual level. Therefore, as individuals, we need to start really ‘looking’ at the world with knowledge, respect and understanding. This exchange platform offers you a chance of doing just that. We hope that each one of you, for this short window of time will open channels of discussion and become virtual hosts by welcoming each other into our lives. This cultural immersion will help you find out more about value systems which may be alien to you, to hear the voice of the other that which you might never get the chance to otherwise, to understand other cultures not as an outsider looking in at something exotic, but as a friend who gets invited to someone’s home. Let us use our identity and our uniqueness to reach across and build lasting bridges of empathy. Welcome aboard!

no responses