Stillness in Life

It’s difficult to understand stillness, let alone be still. There is a positive take on stillness which includes calmness, contemplation, meditation. The negative sense of this idea is being stuck, unable to move. This needs to be developed further for me, but for now, here are some references that are informing my ideas. Cliche? Maybe. Important to me, though!

TS Eliot At the Still Point of the Turning World

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

Running to Stand Still

standstill: a state characterized by absence of motion or of progress : stop

1 Kings 19:11-13
11The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Specific Synonyms

bull’s eye, categorical, characteristic, clean-cut, clear-cut, cut fine, dead on, definite, definitive, different, distinct, downright, drawn fine, especial, exact, explicit, express, flat out, hit nail on head, individual, limited, on target, outright, peculiar, precise, reserved, restricted, right on, set, sole, special, specialized, straight-out, unambiguous, unequivocal, unique

Specific Antonyms: general, indefinite, uncertain, vague

My Mythologies

Roland Barthes’ “Mythologies” has been a very influential text for me recently. Often it just takes a small, beautiful moment in a text or lecture or time in my day that triggers the idea for the next piece I make. “Mythologies” is chock-full of these nuggets. Barthes constantly reinvented his theory on what he was doing, but contributed to the theoretical schools of structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, Marxism and post-structuralism. The text and the meaning of the defined objects are dated almost to a point where the become unrecognizable. Barthes is so specific in his references to particular ads and brands that it makes it hard for the young, contemporary reader to absorb the complete meaning of these texts. I do, however, enjoy reading these as short essays as both an artifact, as a way to evaluate change and (as intended) to evaluate cultural meaning.

I really enjoy subject writing and with my thesis on it’s way, I thought I would engage in an exercise of defining modern mythologies. Whether or not they go directly into the thesis writing, I imagine this will be a helpful in the creation of my work as well as understanding what it means. Much like Barthes writing (I’m not equating myself to him, I swear) my work deals with the mythology of an object, idea or trope of culture which I present physically and highlight what it is and what it means. I was thinking about why the banal subjects in “Mythologies” become so interesting. I mean, he’s discussing plastic and soap and Einstein’s brain….shouldn’t these things be interesting on their own? All he’s doing in his writing is putting into language what these things are–defining them. I suppose this is the entire scope of semiotics-the relationship between the signified and the signifier.

In some ways, this is what I am trying to do in my work only the signifiers are summoned; they exist in the mind of the viewer and are therefore open to whatever he/she brings to the piece. For example, the floor boards I have been using have deep dark cracks in them. The constant bubbling coming up from below highlight a whole world of “underneaths” from experience or imagination. It could be the crayons that used to fall into the depths beneath the deck. It could be the way the rabbit hole is imagined. It could be swimming under the dock. It could be the lyrics from The Drifters “Under the Boardwalk”. I am summoning any and all of these ideas. By isolating what is happening and placing this object in an art context where we demarcate signifiers more than we naturally would I am engaging in a sort of physical semiotics (if that’s even possible).

    A To-Demystify List

Chain Link
House Fly
A Pork Chop with a Butcher Knife in it on a Cutting Board
Dangling Carrot
Picnic Table
A crack in the floor or sidewalk