As I finished up details on this image I was listening to news. And I’ve been trying to listen to news that I don’t agree with, in order to make sure I’m hearing both sides, or rather multiple sides of issues. And the more I do this the more clear it becomes that various groups are each peddling a one-sided narrative, seemingly reasonably, seemingly reflecting common humanity, and with God (at least metaphorically) and history on their side. The problem is ideology, by which I mean subscribing to a particular worldview, which comes packed with an agenda, and usually an “us versus them” mentality. And each side accused the other of blatant ideology, while its anti-ideological statements apply to itself equally. And as I was showering I was thinking again about how art and ideology have become fused in recent years, so that art must serve a political cause, and a certain political cause. And I realized this bothers me a lot because art is the window, perhaps the only one, where I can escape ideology.
This sort of image is fun to produce because it works with the imagination, the subconscious, and doesn’t follow strict rules of naturalistic representation. The two arachnids, for example, look like spiders, aphids, hermit crabs, weevils, and assassin bugs. I’m actually a bit of an expert on spiders because I collected them as a kid and kept them as pets. Let’s just say I wasn’t rich, and there’s only so much you can do in the cement back parking lot of an apartment building to keep yourself entertained. But the point is I did a lot of research on spiders, know how many legs they have, and their various anatomies. Just yesterday I let a jumping spider loose that I’d kept as a pet for a few days because I wanted it to be able to explore and not be confined. But here, I never even bothered to count the legs, or segments of legs. It doesn’t matter. I want the creatures to read as arachnid, but not specifically. There’s no need for specificity. I want the general impression, or mood.
Similarly, I can draw a hand, but here I don’t care how many fingers, where the thumb is, or any of that. This isn’t an anatomical illustration, it’s a drawing, which is also on some levels abstracted, and the overall composition is fused with the imagery and technique to produce a whole.
There are four conspicuous faces in the image. If you haven’t seen all of them, you haven’t looked carefully. Try looking in the negative space.
I like the freedom of this kind of drawing to produce just about anything, and unexpectedly. It can be textured, flat, and modeled at the same time. The legs of the arachnids are simultaneously legs and abstract lines.
Via these avenues this image is a kind of language. Surely it says something, but what? Because it issues so much from the subconscious, which is not language based (as in terms of words and sentences and meanings derived from which), the meaning doesn’t exist in words, is not translatable into them, and may not be accessible via them. I don’t know what it means within spoken/written language, don’t have an interpretation, and don’t want one. You can no more translate a visual image into words (especially one that is abstract, abstracted, or non-naturalistic) than you can a Beethoven piano sonata.
There is a sense in which visual language is a check (as in “checks and balances”) on the tyranny of spoken language, as is music. They are other ways of representing and interpreting reality. In such cases I feel interpretation is a superimposition, and inappropriate. Which is not to say that I don’t do images where I do have an interpretation. But here I don’t. This is that window onto the ideologically free, or less ideological at least. In harnessing the unconscious or subconscious, I don’t exactly take credit for the imagery. To do so would be similar to taking credit for a dream or nightmare, when your experience of it (assuming it wasn’t lucid) was that your were captive to it. The stuff I dredge up from the less conscious may not be my exclusive property, let’s say, for example, if it were to tap into the metaphoric reptilian brain, which aesthetics may in fact do, as biology and the body is not divorced from the brain when it comes to conscious experience.
Nevertheless the image seems coherent. I suppose it might make some people uneasy because they don’t know how to interpret it. Is it on the right or wrong side of history (see first paragraph)? It’s clearly a statement of some sort, and one could read all sorts of bullshit into it, but it’s really a form of non-verbal expression outside of that territory.
If an alien were to discover this drawing, the one thing they would be sure of is that our species has an imagination and a subconscious. And I suppose it is more THAT documentation that I find of interest. It’s a type of cognition.
Related to that I’ve been writing my dreams lately. I know, I know, we all go through these phases. But I’m also going through a phase of rediscovering psychology, and investigating consciousness. Dreams can be quite fascinating to observe as conscious phenomenon. I’m not so big on interpreting them unless one is conspicuously ripe for the picking. The other day I had what I’d consider a bad dream. I don’t even remember what it was, so let me go look it up.
Oh Gawd! That was a bad dream. There’s a point. Hang in there. In this dream I was leaving a public library at a university and they stopped me and asked to look in my bag. I said that I had a gun in the bag, so they’d know. I’ve never had a gun, or wanted one, or to use one, just so you know (if this is a “trigger” issue for you, just put it aside for now). Then they asked me to empty my pockets and out came the gun in a plastic bag with something else in it, maybe a stash of weed. And then they showed me surveillance footage of me harassing people the night before. I said I must have been doing a prank, like a YouTube prank. I don’t go around harassing people, but I do like YouTube pranks. In the video I was standing by some lockers and I said something, and a man struck me very violently across the face, and then back again in the opposite direction. I ended up on the floor and people were dragging me. I was vomiting green, and saying, “What the fuck!”. However, I didn’t remember any of this, presumably because I had been uber drunk or something. That was a rough dream. But what was interesting to me about it, and made it kind of good, was the interesting element of watching myself on a surveillance camera, and the overall texture of the dream. There is a certain quality to dream reality.
Don’t worry folks, I have much better dreams, including lots of flying type of dreams.
What I’m getting at is there’s a certain proclivity to reduce everything to language and arguments, and to then file those within a system of thought, world view, meta-narrative, paradigm, or ideology. For the last century art has been largely ensnared into the service of doing this. Visual language has been eaten alive by spoken language, even in the arts, and it’s been heralded as a revolutionary achievement of the visual. That sort of art certainly has a place, but I’m rather inclined to not make an object in the service of an argument furthering an agenda or advocating or substantiating a system of thought, but rather create something that’s outside of that altogether. One doesn’t learn about visual art by reading or talking about it so much, though that can help, but by looking at it, just as one learns to appreciate music by listening to it.
Rather than subsume the visual to spoken language, I prefer to speak with visual language, which expresses not the same thing, but a different kind of awareness or consciousness. At least in this sort of piece. People make at for all sorts of reasons, and so do I.
Usually though, I am expressing visual language, and while I accept the more conceptual and political practices, I don’t accept the attempt to stamp out visual language. This image is the opposite sort of “stamp”, not stamping on something, but stamping a symbol of non-verbal consciousness and cognition.
Here’s all 38 pieces in the series so far in a slide show.
Or, if you prefer, you can see them in a click-through gallery:
To see other posts about other pieces in this series, go here.
See a video about my first 25 pieces in this series here.