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Local Artists

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was given a month off after fainting in the old quarry. Why this had happened, she couldn’t say. She fainted maybe once a year, usually following a trauma such as a blood test, tooth extraction, or session of heavy drinking. Never just like that though, and her heart stopping was scary to think about.

Maybe the old quarry’s manager, Albert, had overreacted. Maybe her heart’s beating and her breathing were fine, and his old miner’s ears just couldn’t hear. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to make a drama out of a crisis. It must really have happened.

Her dreams of every kind of art continued. Blue and gold paintings, violin solos, white-masked dancers, poetry, stories, dramas, sculptures, celebrations, parties, holy rituals.

Were these inspirations or delusions? She yearned to visit the old quarry, but was scared to. What if she fainted again?

During her month off, an answer came to her. The quarry was a place of pain, where Mother Earth had been butchered. Her body had, piece by piece, been ripped out and removed, and once the demand for rock was exhausted, the quarry was abandoned like an old crone.

Her vision had been one of endless life, pouring forth, unstoppable. What if this place of pain could become a place of healing? She continued working on her status report for the old quarry.

“Sophie, what a nice surprise,” said her CEO, seeing her back in the office.

“I have the report.”

“But you’ve only just got back. Don’t you need more time?”

Sophie said it was complete. She shared her vision of using the vast, bare walls, floors, ceilings, and pillars of the quarry as a projection area. Bringing the stone to life, like a miracle, and using it to show every kind of art.

“That sounds very interesting. Leave it with me. I will take a look.”

Sophie imagined that would be the last she would hear of the project, but a week later her CEO called her in again. “Good news, Sophie. Your plan has been approved, at least on a test basis. I had to put my name on it for the project to acquire traction, but we both know it’s yours really. As recognition of that you can manage the project.”

The quarry project was approved for community use only. Sophie contacted Eric Yahoo, Director of the Lucerne Arts Council, who asked for a week to fathom a plan. He responded with a fund-raising proposal including carefully costed lighting, logistics, security, production charges and vendors’ fees. The concept revolved around ten reconditioned slide projectors showing sixty images each per hour, filling the quarry with pictures.

Local artists offered their works freely, which were loosely fitted together into the It’s Mine! Festival, a humorous critique of materialistic existence. Their paintings, music, dance, poetry, stories, drama, sculpture, celebrations, parties and rituals were combined, creating an overwhelming spectacle.

A critic from the New City Sun christened these artists the Lucerne Set. He loved their clay figurines, urban tapestries, unmade beds, pickled watermelons, moose dung, monkey graffiti, blood heads, and twinned personae.

It was a diluted version of Sophie’s vision, and seeing it manifested made her cry. From this old quarry she had mined rich treasure.

Old Quarry Conversion

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by javedbabar

Her CEO yelled, “Come!”

Why does she always do that? thought Sophie. Is it too much effort to say the word in? Or even to add a please at the end? I guess busy people need to use fewer words. Superiors must save their time and energy – for what though, so inferiors can expend theirs instead?

“Good morning,” said Sophie. “I haven’t seen you for a while. You look well.” Why shouldn’t she look well, she thought, she has a full time servant at home. That’s what she calls him – servant. How can she afford him? Lucerne Village Hall doesn’t pay that well.

“Thank you, Sophie. I feel that you are underworked. Would you agree? You would? Good. Obviously, Crisis Manager is a vital role, but we don’t have a crisis every day – unless you count my management style.”

This was a joke and Sophie was meant to laugh, wasn’t she? She wasn’t sure though. The CEO practiced GBH: Guidance By Hysterics. She was a terrible person to work for.

“We need a status report on the old quarry. I am allocating a month to do it. Can you have it complete by then?”

The bauxite quarry had been in operation for almost a century, providing material for civic buildings and fine homes. It had a history of accidents, pollution, corruption, industrial action and financial trouble. The Authority had kept the quarry open to maintain local jobs, but admitted eventually that it was cheaper and easier to import finished rock, and shut it four years ago.

Sophie went with Albert, the old quarry’s last manager, to take a look. She had only been in the village a year, and never seen the quarry open. Once the rusty locks were oiled, Albert pulled the overgrown iron gates open.

They walked past mounds of broken white rock and rusting machinery, before seeing a tall, rectangular gash in the hillside. As Sophie drew closer, she realized that the gash was a hundred feet high.

Sophie was drawn to this void; her feet led themselves; it was like walking towards the church when she was a child, to her grandma’s for lunch, and to a friend’s birthday party. It was like walking everywhere at once.

The gash had not been cut cleanly. Around it were probings and narrowings, where blasters, pickaxes and drills had worked, homing in on the centre, the cave, the bony canal extending deep into Mother Earth. It seemed a source of hidden power.

Albert gave her a hard hat and said, “Watch your step and your head. I come here once a year to take a look, but otherwise it is empty and falling apart. So just you…”

Sophie smelled figs and apples. She had a vision of the gash filled with everything in the world. It was overflowing with people pouring out. Life was being celebrated here by every kind of art. There were huge abstract paintings dripping blue and gold. Violin solos soaring. Scores of white-masked dancers. Poets on rock niches lauding the dark. Stories told of dragons and hidden treasures. Dramas of tortured hearts. Giant sculpted women. Bar Mitzvahs. Birthday parties. Holy mass.

The touch of God.

The breath of God.

The kiss of God.

Sacred vibrations.

Albert stared into her eyes. “Are you okay?” he said, looking crazed. Sophie had fainted and her heart stopped. Thank God he was trained in first aid; his skills were rusty but he had administered the Kiss of Life and CPR.

Sophie was used to managing other peoples’ crises. Now she must make sense of her own.

Ten Views of God

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2012 by javedbabar

It was Alex’s last PIA: Philosophy In Art class this term. Though he was still annoyed that The Authority had made him include teens in what he had wanted to be adult classes, the course was going well.

In the spirit of Japanese Ukiyo-e – woodblock – artists, they’d examined many views of different subjects, including mother, father, myself and teacher. In the last class, Alex decided to examine God. He felt this would provide a sort of progression in the subject matter.

He’d noticed a difference in behaviour between adult and teen students. Adults had begun enthusiastically, but were becoming tired of the format he’d created, exploring ten facets of each topic in turn.

However the teens were really getting into it. They’d started slowly – due to self-consciousness caused by adults’ presence – but were now very comfortable. Whereas the adults’ thoughts were flowing like canals, teen’s thoughts were turbulent, with today’s topic likely to produce extra froth.

“God is the creator of everything,” said a woman. “It says so in the Bible. Other religions say it too, in other books and languages, but they all say it somehow.”

An older man said, “But he – or she – is also the destroyer of everything. In the Bible there are so many stories of destruction – the Great Flood, warfare, plagues, and eventually Armageddon, the end of the world. In science too – whether you believe in endless expansion of the universe or the Big Crunch, the world – at least for us – comes to an end eventually. So God is ultimately a destroyer.”

An Indian girl said, “In my religion, God is also a preserver. That is what God is doing right here, now. He is keeping the universe ordered and running as it should be.”

“Call this running smoothly? With all the hatred, war, disease, famine, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods? There’s racism, sexism and homophobia. Corruption, discrimination, genocide! That’s not running smoothly. Any God out there must be cruel!”

“But there’s also love and peace and joy! There’s sunshine and sunsets, and rainbows! There are babies being born, and birthdays, and weddings. People finding each other and hidden treasures. God is kind and compassionate.”

“God has the power to do anything. He or she is omnipotent.”

“God knows and sees everything – omniscient.”

“God is everywhere – omnipresent.”

“But is God real?” asked a boy. “Or not? Maybe God is unreal.”

“God is personal,” said a girl. “And impersonal. Sir, do you know the holy man Guru baba? He lives in Lucerne.” Alex nodded. “He says there are two laws in the universe. The Law of Attraction is that you get what you want. The Law of Karma is that you get what you give. So you get what you give. So you should give what you want. In a sense you are a gifting God. You give what you want to yourself. You make your own world.”

Thank God the bell rang. Everybody was confused. Life was no clearer in the classroom than in the outside world.

Ten Views of Teacher

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2012 by javedbabar

After covering myself in his PIA: Philosophy In Art class, Alex thought that students should cover himself – the teacher. The adults and teens may see him in different ways, like Hokusai found thirty-six ways to view Mt Fuji. Let’s see.

“Okay, everybody, what do you think of me?”

There was general silence – even more than there usually was in class when nobody said anything, but a proportion of students were fidgeting, whispering, texting, flicking through books, picking their nails, yawning and crunching candy.

They had all ceased activity and become quiet.

A girl put her hand up, slowly. It seemed that she felt responsible for the class. “We like you, Sir. We think you are a good teacher. We are enjoying your class. I’m sure we will give you good marks at the end of term…” She tailed off, running out of words.

Ah! thought Alex. So that was it. They thought he was concerned about his ratings. This was the crazy situation in schools these days, where teachers were forced to give poor students good marks for everything, so as not to disappoint them. Many students savaged good teachers because they made them work hard and enforced discipline. This could lead to their being sacked. Thank God he wasn’t a full-time teacher.

He said, “I don’t mean me as an individual. I mean me as a teacher. In how many ways can we view teachers?”

Light commotion resumed in class. The terrible silence was broken. A woman said, “Teachers provide education. They share their knowledge of subject matter on which they are experts.”

I wish that were the case, thought Alex. We’re generally just coping.

A man said, “Teachers provide both formal and informal teaching. Beyond their academic lessons, they show us how to speak to groups and behave as individuals.”

“My favourite teacher was my RS teacher,” said a woman. “He told me about God. He said that the word religion comes from religare – to connect. He said that religion provides a good way to engage with the world.”

A boy said, “A teacher is a coach. He or she gives you training that you use to improve your skills. I mean mainly in sports, but in everything else too.”

“Teachers are role models,” said a girl. “If they’re good, you want to grow up to be just like them.”

Some of the adult students were much older than Alex. They looked bemused.

“Teachers are leaders. They help you to advance in learning.”

“They must be disciplinarians. Their attitude must be that of in loco parentis – like absent parents. If you do something wrong, you should expect to be walloped.”

The teens looked horrified. This was not the way these days.

“Sometimes there are substitute teachers, just filling in. Their job is not to teach you anything, merely to avoid disaster!”

“What about teaching assistants? Are they sort of teachers too?”

Alex said yes.

An older woman stood up, grabbed her bag and prepared to leave the room. “This class is getting on my nerves,” she said. “Ten views of this! Ten views of that! The best teacher is no teacher. I am going home to think and learn things myself.”

Ten Views of Myself

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2012 by javedbabar

Alex wondered how many topics they could cover, inspired by Ukiyo-e, before they should move on to something else. The Japanese artist Hokusai had created thirty-six, then ten more, and later a hundred more, views of Mt Fuji, showing that there was plenty of mileage for any subject.

Alex decided to keep going in his PIA: Philosophy In Art class. He would push out the metaphoric boat, not just the one on Lake Kawaguchi.

A girl asked, “What subject are we covering today?”

He said, “By covering, do you mean touching upon, or exhausting?”

“We’re doing a good job of exploring them. I guess we’re exhausting them.”

A middle-aged man put up his hand. It was funny how adults were behaving more like schoolchildren than the teens were. Maybe they were just being more old school.

Alex said, “Yes? What’s your name? Tony? Sorry, I haven’t got everyone’s name yet.”

“It seems to me that we are only touching upon them. I’ll bet that if he’d wanted to, Hokusai could have done one thousand views of Mt Fuji, and if he lived long enough, a million views. Aren’t all things multi-facetted? Sort of never ending? The English philosopher William Blake talked about seeing the world in a grain of sand.”

“You are right, he did. In a sense yourself and, sorry what’s your name? Amanda? Yourself and Amanda are both right. We are only really introducing ourselves to these topics, but we are covering them off well in the time available. So keep up the good work. You are doing a great job. And that’s today’s topic – yourself.”

They all knew the format. Amanda started. “I am a physical entity, formed of skin and bone and blood.”

Tony added, “I am mentally conscious. I think therefore I am. Spinoza said that, I think.”

“Actually it was Descartes, but very good.”

A woman said, “I am more than just physical and mental though. I am a spiritual being, born of the intention of a self-conscious universe, that wishes to be aware of itself, and appreciate itself.”

Some of the teens – who Alex had been forced to include in this class by The Authority – were looking confused. This class was being led by the adults.

“I am primarily ego, driven by the need for food and sex.”

Now the teens looked scared.

“I think that persons are driven by their subconscious – so many things that you are not really aware of. Hidden fears and desires. And there are symbols and myths. We are all on our own hero quest, battling monsters and searching for home.”

A girl said, “Our public image is very important. It’s what defines us in society.”

“We are citizens in nation states, celebrating our common heritage and values.”

“In cosmic terms, beings are just energy and information in differing forms.”

An older man said, “That’s all true, what everyone’s said. But in the end we are all just food for worms.”

Ten Views of Dad

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by javedbabar

Alex’s PIA: Philosophy In Art class had started well. Inspired by Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji, he had asked the class to look at ten views of various subjects.

Last week they had discussed mothers, and he thought that today they should look at fathers. After all you needed both. Even if you had two mothers – like the boy last week whose lesbian mother was marrying her partner – you still needed sperm.

Alex said, “Okay class, who can tell me what a father is?”

A boy at the front said, “A father is a man who has fathered a child.”

This caused some smirks. Alex said, “Yes, that’s true. But you are using the word father to describe a father. It’s called a tautology – something that is self-referent. The thought is correct, but can you think of a better way to explain it?”

“Like what?”

“Let me help you,” said Alex. “Another word for father is sire.”

“Like we call you Sir? Is it the same?”

“No, it’s a different word. Sire means to produce a child. Sir is just a term of respect. They are related etymologically though. Sire is how you address a male monarch; in olden times they had special rights to women of their estates, and could indeed be anyone’s father.”

“Sir, should you be respectful to your father?” asked the boy. “Should you call your sire Sir?” The class laughed.

“Yes, Sir!”

A woman said, “A father is someone who protects you, or at least he should do. Mine tried his best but I was determined to harm myself.” She rolled up her sleeve to show cut marks. “I only stopped when he died.”

A boy said, “A father is someone who supports you financially. My dad works hard in the auto-shop. He says his job is to make sure that we have three meals a day, two holidays a year, and one happy home.”

“I had a stepfather,” said a woman. “I hated him initially for replacing my real father. God knows why, as he’d left us anyway. But then I got to know my stepfather and grew to love him. He was the best thing that ever happened to me and my mum.”

“My father was a rapist,” said an Asian boy. “My mother was raped by a soldier in Salistan during the civil war.” Alex didn’t know whether to speak or remain quiet. He was about to say something comforting when the boy continued, “So I was born to an unwed mother, which is not an acceptable situation there. I was hidden away at first, and then said to be my grandma’s child. We left there as soon as we could and came here.”

A man said, “I spent a lot of time with my uncle. He was like a second father – he took me hunting and fishing, and taught me how to survive in the wilderness. These were things that my own father didn’t know.”

“I have a father-in-law who drives me mad,” said a woman. “Whatever I do is never good enough for his son.”

“I am a weekend dad. My ex- only lets me see the kids on Saturdays.”

“I may be a DI Dad. When I was at university I sold my sperm for Donor Insemination. It brought in fifty bucks a week.”

A boy at the back said, “I am a surprise father. My girlfriend just told me she’s pregnant.”

The class cheered.

Ten Views of Mum

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2012 by javedbabar

Alex had been forced by The Authority to mix adults and teens in his PIA: Philosophy In Art class. This could get complicated, so he’d decided to keep things simple.

After an introduction to Japanese artist Hokusai, famous for his series of one hundred, thirty- six, and then ten more, views of Mt Fuji, the class had agreed – or at least not disagreed too strongly – to take ten views of various topics.

“Welcome to class,” said Alex. “I’m delighted to see that most of you have made it back. We could have done thirty-six views of things, one each! But you opted for ten views. So who’s first?”

A girl said, “What’s the topic?”

“Ah yes, the topic. Hmmm…” Alex kicked himself. Why hadn’t he prepared something? How stupid. “The first thing I can remember in life is my mother. So let’s start with that. Who can tell us something about their mother?”

“Are we going to draw her?” said the girl.

“Maybe later. Right now I just want you to use your imaginations. Think of as many kinds of mothers as possible.”

The adults were holding back for some reason; they were leaving it to the teens. More precisely, to the girl.

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Okay, I’ll start – a mother is a woman who has given birth to a child.”

The girl made a face, others did too. “Why do you need to tell us that? Mothers are just mothers.”

He felt strongly self-conscious. Did these teens respect their mothers? Would some soon be mothers themselves? Why didn’t the adults say something? Were they scared of looking foolish? He’d known it was a bad idea to mix adults and teens.

“A mother is someone who has raised a child.” It was a boy at the back speaking. “I was adopted at birth. I don’t know my biological mother. Mother for me is the woman who fed and clothed me, and rubbed my knees and elbows when I fell in the street.”

A man in his forties said, “A woman can become a mother by donating her eggs, which are united with sperm and implanted into another person’s womb. It was the only way my wife and I could have children.”

“I was suckled by a wet nurse,” said an overdressed woman; she seemed to be a present to herself in yellow wrapping. “My own mother dried up. The wet nurse was a mother to me too.”

“Are grandmothers also mothers?” asked a boy. The class giggled and he looked down.

“Of course they are,” said Alex. They are…”

“I was raised by a stepmother,” said an old man. “She was a horrible woman, always cruel to me. She said that if I ever told my father, she’d tell him to send me to an orphanage.” This made everybody sad.

“We eat the lush fruits of Mother Earth,” said a woman that Alex knew was a poet. “Gaia gives us all.”

“In mythology there are mother goddesses – Hera, Durga, Amaterasu, Isis, Kwan Yin…”

“And don’t forget the Holy virgin – Mother of God!”

A boy shouted out, “My mother is a lesbian and recently got married, so now I have two mothers.” Everybody agreed that he was very lucky indeed.