Category Archives: creative captures

Beneath the Surface

Sally Mann

Sally Mann Photos at Edwynn Houk

All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
?—Oscar Wilde

The Disturbing Photography of Sally Mann

Instill Life The Dark and Light of Sally Mann

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In the Details

Jheronimus Bosch, Touched by the Devil TRAILER from Pieter van Huystee Film on Vimeo.

new Film now playing in NYC: Pieter van Huystee’s Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil

The Cruel Beauty of Hieronymus Bosch: 500 Years of Breathtaking Imagery

As for the obvious relationship between Bosch and my own art, the director of the documentary ends his interview at Hollywood Soapbox with this:

He added: “It was important for me that the viewer had always the feeling that you’re there next to the painting. … If somebody came to me after the screenings and said, I’ve seen ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ many times in real, but he says, ‘It always remains on the distance because it is so detailed. And you don’t come close, and you don’t get emotionally attached to the painting if you see it in real.’ So in the film, in the documentary, I have the opportunity to be very close, sometimes to a square centimeter.”

In many ways, Huystee documents the paintings from the vantage point of Bosch. The director is as meticulous a craftsman, working from close-ups and always focused on the details. “The devil is in the details,” he said. “I hope people can reflect on what he was painting. He was not telling us something. You’re telling yourself something by looking at the paintings.

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The Plan

ABC from Alan Warburton on Vimeo.

An old Zen master always told this fable to unserious students: Late one night a blind man was about to go home after visiting a friend.

“Please,” he said to his friend, “may I take your lantern with me?”

“Why carry a lantern?” asked his friend.

“You won’t see any better with it.”

“No,” said the blind one, “perhaps not. But others will see me better, and not bump into me.”

So his friend gave the blind man the lantern, which was made of paper on bamboo strips, with a candle inside. Off went the blind man with the lantern, and before he had gone more than a few yards, “Crack!” — a traveler walked right into him. The blind man was very angry.

“Why don’t you look out?” he stormed. “Why don’t you see this lantern?”

“Why don’t you light the candle?” asked the traveler.

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Morphing Fractals

Eternal One, Mighty One, Holy El, God autocrat self-originate, incorruptible, immaculate, unbegotten, spotless, immortal,
self-perfected, self-devised,
without mother, without father, ungenerated,
exalted, fiery,
just, lover of men, benevolent, compassionate, bountiful,
jealous over me, patient one, most merciful.
Eli, eternal, mighty one, holy, Sabaoth,
most glorious El, El, El, El, Iaoel,
you are he my soul has loved, my protector.
Eternal, fiery, shining,
light-giving, thunder-voiced, lightning-visioned, many-eyed… (The Apocalypse of Abraham 17.8-15)

Dionysian art […] is based on the play with intoxication/ecstasy [Rausch], with rapture [Verzu?ckung]. There are two powers in particular that trigger the self-for-gotten ecstasy [Rausch] of the nai?ve man of nature — the drive of spring and the narcotic drink. Their impacts are symbolized by the figure of Dionysus. The principium individuationis in both states is broken; the subjective disappears entirely against the force of the general-human, even the general-natural that is breaking forth. The festivals of Dionysus do not only create a bond between humans, they also reconcile the human with nature. -Friedrich Nietzsche

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All Aboard


The Topological Media Lab (TML) was established in 2001 as a trans-disciplinary atelier-laboratory for collaborative research creation. In 2005, TML moved to Concordia University and the Hexagram research network in Montréal, Canada.Its projects serve as case studies in the construction of fresh modes of cultural knowledge and the critical studies of media arts and techno-science, bringing together practices of speculative inquiry, scientific investigation and artistic research-creation practices. The TML’s technical research areas include: realtime video, sound synthesis, embedded sensors, gesture tracking, physical computing, media choreography, and active textiles. Its application areas lie in movement arts, speculative architecture, and experimental philosophy.


Ice Cracking, Einstein's dreams, 2013 from Topological Media Lab on Vimeo.

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One Sided Dream

Sea dream by Stephen Calhoun

Sea Dream (Stephen Calhoun)

There is so much of theoretical and practical interest in supposing that art, artistry, and the artistic experience, transcend most, if not all, the closely defended normative socio-cultural-philosophical perspectives about WHAT IS ART? that what I would term “platform issues” become hidden away almost from the get-go.

Google’s Deep Dream platform embeds bizarre animalistic features in uploaded images. Because Google rolls out Deep Dream with a lot of cultural force, the new creative platform receives a huge amount of attention.

Meanwhile, Leonardo Solaas’s Dreamlines (2005-2014) and Doodl (2010-2016), neither of which are one-tricksters like Deep Dream, received almost no attention. Except, there is a creative sub-culture concerned with computer-generated and computer-assisted art. It has been around for fifty years. The first computer-generated art dates back to the sixties. This came to be a movement but, such so-called machine art remains a sub-culture as against what is termed New Media. And, oddly, Digital Art has come to be the catch-all term for anything that is unacceptably ‘facile;’ and so it is that an absurd dividing line has been etched.

gate dream

Gate Dream (Stephen Calhoun) 2016

Can Google’s Deep Dream become an art machine?

“Deep Dream was never about the aesthetics for me,” says Akten, a fine artist and PhD candidate at Goldsmiths University in London. Instead he was impressed by the way the machine learning manages to mimic and interact with human visual perception.

“It might look like Deep Dream is generating say, sparrow’s faces in clouds, but what it is actually doing is generating patterned noise, which our brains try to find meaning in.” Akten. “It creates just enough of a sparrow’s head in a cloud, so that our brains find the rest. Visually, our minds and Deep Dream are doing exactly the same thing. It’s such a perfect mirror. I love that conceptual aspect.”

“which our brains try to find meaning in.”
Palm slap! But, our brains aren’t finding, our brains are composing.

law dream

The Law Dream (Stephen Calhoun) 2016

Because Google Deep Dream traffics in its single trick, and the results are almost always grotesque, it isn’t an appealing tool. Where there is zero control, the end product is not one I really want to see! Still, the above piece intrigues me and likely will be my last creative word, or image, using the GDD facility.

Setting aside the usual prejudices of artists who think any manipulation of pixels is, (for lack of a better all-encompassing term,) decadent, the fundamental expansion of facility provided by processing power, whether it is a Photoshop plug-in or a one-trick neural network, or, advanced repainting as is the case with Processing apps, and Python/Java driven search and manipulation, plus all the other “facile” application platforms, at a minimum reveals possibilities which are not otherwise available.

Add to this elements of trial-and-error, serendipity, and under-determination, and new media techniques put a ton of pressure on, for example, the social and hermeneutic theories, theories which are concerned with masterful individual artistic projections of intentionality within social-historical contexts. I have a lot to assert about all of this from the perspective of a creative person leveraging other person’s programming innovation for the sake of producing visual experiences, and, producing art.

Ironically, Google’s Deep Dream is a play-toy when it is compared with software, the brilliant browser interfaces of Leonardo Solaas, Dreamlines, and the Doodl dashboard (2010-2016,) and, a handful of unique iPad apps. I used the Doodl dashboard to help me create most of my generative art work between 2014-2015.  See: Sun Ra In Heaven (2015).


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Sophie Munns

Sophie Munns is working as an artist in a vein at least related to my own interests in its appropriation of the seed-bearing section of a plant’s natural life cycle. Her work is more particularly ethically rooted than is my own, yet it seems both of us have eyes cast toward the ground!

Seed Art Labs Studio

Sophie Munns – Tumblr

interview excerpt via Guernica At Soil Level

Guernica: Has this been the greatest confirmation that you’re on the right path?

Sophie Munns: In 2010, I had some work from my seed lab residency at Brisbane Botanic Gardens in a group show. A woman in her late 60s came in who said she never looks at art and talked to me about my work. She wasn’t terribly articulate or very educated, but she completely surprised me with her reading of my work and project. She said, “Your work is not selfish. It’s amazing.” I felt deeply understood by this woman. I think she saw that this was an art whose intention was for people to wake up to the power of seeds and what they can mean for all humans. It’s not about me projecting my desires by painting things that really only refer to me and my little life. She could see it wasn’t “look at me, the artist” art.

I am driven to want to highlight, make room for, celebrate the many—and sit as far away as possible from the same old elitist position that purposely excludes for the good of only a few. I want to see something happen that is meaningful for all kinds of people; I like seeing when someone very closed has a new experience. I like seeing the change that’s possible when people wake up and realize there is something they can do.

Emphasis is my own. Great interview.

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Hunch a Bunch


“Instinct paints my pictures and guides me to my next subject. It’s the voice that says it’s not here, it’s over there.”
– Tasmanian artist Bobby-Z Lambert

A few days ago my cell phone rang and a voice with a British-like accent just started in, and, after a minute or so I disrupted the caller simply to learn with whom i was engaged with! He introduced himself as a fellow artist, calling from Tasmania, calling from fourteen time zones away at 10:45am in my time zone, calling because he had a hunch ‘we had a bunch in common.’

Bobby-Z had discovered my artwork and then made his way over to this blog. He read enoguh to suggest common interests and possible shared affinities.

This sense of his was revealed to be accurate–after we had spoke for forty-five minutes.

How much respect do I have for persons willing to jump right into the opportunity of relations with complete strangers based on a hunch? I have nothing but respect for such audacious acts.

Who is Bobby-Z?

Bobby-z … and the Miners of Potosi

Bobby-Z Interview Gallery Salamanca

. . .kindred soul.

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World’s Whole Frame

The Wild Garden – NOWNESS from NOWNESS on Vimeo.

Another year rolls into spring. Time to get the hands dirty. I have a bohemian flower garden to tend to.

An Anatomy of the World
The First Anniversary
WHEN that rich soul which to her heaven is gone,
Whom all do celebrate, who know they’ve one
—For who is sure he hath a soul, unless
It see, and judge, and follow worthiness,
And by deeds praise it? he who doth not this,         5
May lodge an inmate soul, but ’tis not his—
When that queen ended here her progress time,
And, as to her standing house, to heaven did climb
Where, loth to make the saints attend her long,
She’s now a part both of the choir and song,         10
This world in that great earthquake languished;
For in a common bath of tears it bled,
Which drew the strongest vital spirits out.
But succour’d then with a perplexed doubt,
Whether the world did lose, or gain in this         15
—Because, since now no other way there is,
But goodness, to see her, whom all would see,
All must endeavour to be good as she—
This great consumption to a fever turn’d,
And so the world had fits; it joy’d, it mourn’d;         20
And as men think that agues physic are,
And th’ ague being spent, give over care;
So thou, sick world, mistakest thyself to be
Well, when, alas! thou’rt in a lethargy.
Her death did wound and tame thee then, and then         25
Thou might’st have better spared the sun, or man.
That wound was deep, but ’tis more misery,
That thou hast lost thy sense and memory.
’Twas heavy then to hear thy voice of moan,
But this is worse, that thou art speechless grown.         30
Thou hast forgot thy name thou hadst; thou wast
Nothing but she, and her thou hast o’erpast.
For, as a child kept from the fount, until
A prince, expected long, come to fulfil
The ceremonies, thou unnamed hadst laid,         35
Had not her coming thee her palace made.
Her name defined thee, gave thee form and frame,
And thou forget’st to celebrate thy name.
Some months she hath been dead—but being dead,
Measures of time are all determined—         40
But long she hath been away, long, long, yet none
Offers to tell us who it is that’s gone.
But as in states doubtful of future heirs,
When sickness without remedy impairs
The present prince, they’re loth it should be said,         45
The prince doth languish, or the prince is dead.
So mankind, feeling now a general thaw,
A strong example gone, equal to law,
The cement, which did faithfully compact
And glue all virtues, now resolved and slack’d,         50
Thought it some blasphemy to say she was dead,
Or that our weakness was discovered
In that confession; therefore spoke no more,
Than tongues, the soul being gone, the loss deplore.
But though it be too late to succour thee,         55
Sick world, yea dead, yea putrefied, since she,
Thy intrinsic balm and thy preservative,
Can never be renew’d, thou never live,
I—since no man can make thee live—will try
What we may gain by thy Anatomy.         60
Her death hath taught us dearly, that thou art
Corrupt and mortal in thy purest part.
Let no man say, the world itself being dead,
’Tis labour lost to have discovered
The world’s infirmities, since there is none         65
Alive to study this dissection;
For there’s a kind of world remaining still;
Though she, which did inanimate and fill
The world, be gone, yet in this last long night
Her ghost doth walk, that is, a glimmering light,         70
A faint weak love of virtue and of good
Reflects from her, on them which understood
Her worth; and though she have shut in all day,
The twilight of her memory doth stay;
Which, from the carcase of the old world free,         75
Creates a new world, and new creatures be
Produced; the matter and the stuff of this
Her virtue, and the form our practice is.
And, though to be thus elemented arm
These creatures from home-born intrinsic harm         80
—For all assumed unto this dignity
So many weedless paradises be,
Which of themselves produce no venomous sin,
Except some foreign serpent bring it in—
Yet because outward storms the strongest break,         85
And strength itself by confidence grows weak,
This new world may be safer, being told
The dangers and diseases of the old.
For with due temper men do then forego,
Or covet things, when they their true worth know.         90
There is no health; physicians say that we,
At best, enjoy but a neutrality.
And can there be worse sickness than to know
That we are never well, nor can be so?
We are born ruinous; poor mothers cry         95
That children come not right, nor orderly,
Except they headlong come and fall upon
An ominous precipitation.
How witty’s ruin, how importunate
Upon mankind! it labour’d to frustrate         100
Even God’s purpose, and made woman, sent
For man’s relief, cause of his languishment.
They were to good ends, and they are so still,
But accessory, and principal in ill;
For that first marriage was our funeral;         105
One woman, at one blow, then kill’d us all;
And singly, one by one, they kill us now.
We do delightfully ourselves allow
To that consumption; and, profusely blind,
We kill ourselves to propagate our kind.         110
And yet we do not that; we are not men;
There is not now that mankind which was then,
When as the sun and man did seem to strive
—Joint-tenants of the world—who should survive;
When stag, and raven, and the long-lived tree,         115
Compared with man, died in minority;
When if a slow-paced star had stolen away
From the observer’s marking, he might stay
Two or three hundred years to see it again,
And then make up his observation plain;         120
When, as the age was long, the size was great;
Man’s growth confess’d, and recompensed the meat;
So spacious and large, that every soul
Did a fair kingdom and large realm control;
And when the very stature, thus erect,         125
Did that soul a good way towards heaven direct.
Where is this mankind now? who lives to age
Fit to be made Methusalem his page?
Alas! we scarce live long enough to try
Whether a true-made clock run right, or lie.         130
Old grandsires talk of yesterday with sorrow;
And for our children we reserve to-morrow.
So short is life, that every peasant strives,
In a torn house, or field, to have three lives;
And as in lasting, so in length is man,         135
Contracted to an inch, who was a span.
For had a man at first in forests stray’d,
Or shipwreck’d in the sea, one would have laid
A wager, that an elephant or whale,
That met him, would not hastily assail         140
A thing so equal to him; now, alas!
The fairies and the pigmies well may pass
As credible; mankind decays so soon,
We’re scarce our fathers’ shadows cast at noon.
Only death adds to our length; nor are we grown         145
In stature to be men, till we are none.
But this were light, did our less volume hold
All the old text; or had we changed to gold
Their silver, or disposed into less glass
Spirits of virtue, which then scatter’d was.         150
But ’tis not so; we’re not retired, but damp’d;
And, as our bodies, so our minds are cramp’d.
’Tis shrinking, not close weaving that hath thus
In mind and body both bedwarfed us.
We seem ambitious God’s whole work to undo;         155
Of nothing He made us, and we strive too
To bring ourselves to nothing back; and we
Do what we can to do ’t so soon as He.
With new diseases on ourselves we war,
And with new physic, a worse engine far.         160
This man, this world’s vice-emperor, in whom
All faculties, all graces are at home
—And if in other creatures they appear,
They’re but man’s ministers and legates there,
To work on their rebellions, and reduce         165
Them to civility, and to man’s use—
This man, whom God did woo, and, loth to attend
Till man came up, did down to man descend;
This man so great, that all that is, is his,
O, what a trifle, and poor thing he is!         170
If man were anything, he’s nothing now.
Help, or at least some time to waste, allow
To his other wants, yet when he did depart
With her whom we lament, he lost his heart.
She, of whom th’ ancients seemed to prophesy,         175
When they called virtues by the name of she;
She, in whom virtue was so much refined,
That for allay unto so pure a mind
She took the weaker sex; she that could drive
The poisonous tincture, and the stain of Eve,         180
Out of her thoughts and deeds, and purify
All by a true religious alchemy;
She, she is dead; she’s dead; when thou know’st this
Thou know’st how poor a trifling thing man is,
And learn’st thus much by our Anatomy,         185
The heart being perish’d, no part can be free,
And that except thou feed, not banquet, on
The supernatural food, religion,
Thy better growth grows withered and scant;
Be more than man, or thou’rt less than an ant.         190
Then as mankind, so is the world’s whole frame,
Quite out of joint, almost created lame;
For before God had made up all the rest,
Corruption enter’d and depraved the best.
It seized the angels, and then first of all         195
The world did in her cradle take a fall,
And turn’d her brains, and took a general maim,
Wronging each joint of th’ universal frame.
The noblest part, man, felt it first; and then
Both beasts and plants, cursed in the curse of man.         200
So did the world from the first hour decay;
That evening was beginning of the day.
And now the springs and summers which we see,
Like sons of women after fifty be.
And new philosophy calls all in doubt;         205
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and th’ earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets, and the firmament         210
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation.
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot,         215
For every man alone thinks he hath got
To be a phœnix, and that then can be
None of that kind of which he is, but he.
This is the world’s condition now, and now
She that should all parts to reunion bow;         220
She that had all magnetic force alone,
To draw and fasten sunder’d parts in one;
She whom wise nature had invented then,
When she observed that every sort of men
Did in their voyage in this world’s sea stray,         225
And needed a new compass for their way;
She that was best, and first original
Of all fair copies, and the general
Steward to fate; she whose rich eyes and breast
Gilt the West Indies, and perfumed the East;         230
Whose having breathed in this world did bestow
Spice on those isles, and bade them still smell so;
And that rich Indy, which doth gold inter,
Is but as single money coin’d from her;
She to whom this world must itself refer,         235
As suburbs, or the microcosm of her;
She, she is dead; she’s dead; when thou know’st this,


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Impossibly Pretentious Academic Titles From the Basement

New edition forthcoming, ?
(obviously published by the POST-ACADEMIC PRESS)


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Cloudy Daze and Catty Ontologies

Lost Memories 2.0 from Francois Ferracci on Vimeo.

Catumentary from Lizz Dvorsky on Vimeo.

Robert Anton Wilson Channel on youtube

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Remedios Varo

In the previous post I mentioned my being turned, by a serendipitous contact’s suggestion, toward the artistry of Remedios Varo. It was my good fortune to find the two most important books of her work at The Cleveland Public Library.

The Magic of Remedios Varo – Luis-Martin Lozano (2000) – National Museum of Women In the Arts
Remedios Varo: The Mexican Years – Masayo Nonaka (2012) – Editorial RM

Remedios Varo (December 16, 1908 – October 8, 1963) was a Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter. She was born in Anglés Cataluña, Spain in 1908 and died from a heart-attack in Mexico City in 1963. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was largely influenced by the surrealist movement. She met in Barcelona the french surrealist poet Benjamin Péret and became his wife. She was forced into exile from Paris during the Nazi occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941. She initially considered Mexico a temporary haven, but would remain in Latin America for the rest of her life.

In Mexico she met native artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. However, her strongest ties would be to other exiles and expatriates, and especially her extraordinary friendship with the English painter Leonora Carrington. Her last major relationship would be with Walter Gruen, an Austrian who had endured concentration camps before escaping Europe. Gruen believed fiercely in Varo, and gave her the support that allowed her to fully concentrate on her painting.

After 1949 Varo developed into her mature and remarkable style, which remains beautifully enigmatic and instantly recognizable. She often worked in oil on masonite panels she prepared herself. Although her colors have the blended resonance of the oil medium, her brushwork often involved many fine strokes of paint laid closely together – a technique more reminiscent of egg tempera. She died at the height of her career.

Her work continues to achieve successful retrospectives at major sites in Mexico and the United States. (Wikipedia)

Well worth your time:

REMEDIOS VARO: Round Table Discussion Part 1 – Hosted by Frey Norris Contemporary & Modern, San Francisco from Gallery Wendi Norris on Vimeo.

(My own art is sometimes very surreal, but, my artistic outlook is not intentionally surrealistic. The surrealism sometimes evident in some of my pieces results from the meta-aesthetic given by my creative aspiration, in its aim to provide a praxis for the viewer. This experience is instantiated by a combination of chance visual elements, underdetermination, symmetry, complexity, and, the aspect that most supports ‘surreality,’ occulted patterns/forms/symbols/shapes/faces/masks/beings. However, this occultation is, overwhelmingly, not a matter of my choosing what is to be hidden.)

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Touch Recognition

Stephen Calhoun, artist

Gemini’s Sense of Humor (2016) 38×44″

Around the middle of January I received an email from a stranger. This happens often. The question about such emails is: will it sort into the box labeled Serendipitous Contact, or, Internet Scammer?

This one ends up in the former box. Its author had been urged to visit my art web site by a friend from my Vermont chapter. In her email she wrote: I have not begun to plumb the depths of your site, but I am grateful to learn the word pareidolia. I create art and music that is pareidolic (word?) in process. Previously, I have just called it “clarifying the images”. Thanks for the new vocabulary. When I googled pareidolia, I also learned the word apophenia. Also a great phenomenon.

J.S. hipped me to the artist Remedios Varo. Fantastic!

via Wikiart

via Wikiart

She suggested I might correspond with her friend, Genese. She described her friend: She has a great mind, and the spirit of a wild sprite.

Pareidolia, Seeing Patterns, Making Meaning – Genese Grill

Here are two excerpts from longer, and essential, posts. Ms. Grill doesn’t publish posts often, but when she does, her consciousness lights up her subject matter.

AN APOLOGY FOR MEANING The artist, as the “creative subject” par excellence, re-vivifies stale images and ossified words, dissolving the fixed relations and drawn boundaries around entities and forging new meaningful connections between materiality and imagination, individual particularity and archetypal abstraction.

CORRESPONDENCE AND DIFFERENCE A sense of what is beautiful, evidently, is at least somewhat natural and universal. And the works of art or ritual made with this sense of what is beautiful still resonate with a mysterious significance, even if we today cannot fully understand or believe in the things that were sacred to the people who made them. Translation across time and cultures is needed for a more approximate comprehension of the objects, but something very powerful, something powerfully familiar is present even without a struggle. What we want is to maintain the strangeness, while approaching a comprehension. What we must avoid is to diminish difference in the interest of a complete and total correspondence.

I haven’t taken up L.S.’s suggestion. I will. The outreach recently coming my way through the serendipitous transmission has tipped a bit, and so it will be my own effort which brings it back in balance.

Why? Is the highest artistry given in the penetrating and receptive engagement of intracommunicating being?

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Blooms: Strobe-Animated Sculptures from Pier 9 on Vimeo.

Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like when you’re older must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game *

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him take your time it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

© Siquomb Publishing Company
source with additional notes

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By Hand

A Thousand Hands Ago from S Ensby on Vimeo.

The dramatic form is reached when the vitality which has flowed and eddied round each person fills every person with such vital force that he or she assumes a proper and intangible esthetic life. The personality of the artist, at first a cry or a cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalizes itself, so to speak. The esthetic image in the dramatic form is life purified in and reprojected from the human imagination. The mystery of esthetic, like that of material creation, is accomplished. The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.—Stephen

—Trying to refine them also out of existence—said Lynch.

A fine rain began to fall from the high veiled sky and they turned into the duke’s lawn to reach the national library before the shower came.

—What do you mean—Lynch asked surlily—by prating about beauty and the imagination in this miserable Godforsaken island? JAmes Joyce, Portrait of An Artist As a Young Man

[Wikipedia] Microcosmos (original title Microcosmos: Le peuple de l’herbe — Microcosmos: The grass people) is a 1996 documentary film by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou and produced by Jacques Perrin. Set to the music of Bruno Coulais, this film is primarily a record of detailed interactions between insects and other small invertebrates.

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Syria, Remember Me

photo: Addison Independent

photo: Addison Independent

Deborah Felmeth married a Syrian man and lived a life with one foot in Vermont and another foot in Damascus, Syria. She taught music and movement and yoga in both places. Then, all hell broke loose. I don’t know the status of her husband’s family in Damascus three years into the terrible civil war.

A gifted photographer, she took pictures over the twenty or so years she lived in Syria half of every year. Her documentation provides an affirming gift of spirit amidst the tragedy of pride-induced violence, criminality, and nihilism.

Deborah’s video trailer (on Facebook) for the book is heart rending.

Syria, Remember Me (web site) | Facebook

Interview Coyote Network News

November 4, 2015 interview iTunes with Mike Smith (Vt. WDEV)

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DIFFUSION from Kouhei Nakama on Vimeo.

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.

version of Rumi by Coleman Barks

Years ago at a workshop South African composer and instrumentalist Abdullah Ibrahim asked the class,

What makes the music?

Nobody had a ready answer in a classroom full of musicians. Dr. Ibrahim went on to challenge the class about the nature of the so-called instrument. What is it, really?

I also recall Alan Watts asserting:

What the planet earth does is: people. It peoples.

For my own part, I’m all over the idea that what we do in making partial sense of what we are doing with where we are at, is neatly addressed by the conception of:

interfacing contexting

Stephen Nachmanovitch’s Youtube channel

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Lin Batsheva Kahn – Attach and Leap

I met Lin at a party in 1999. It was one of those moments where a kind of mini mind-meld took place. She, like me, isn’t much for small talk, and, we both share the ability to small talk our way into more fascinating conversations. We did so.

We’ve been in dialog ever since, nowadays speaking every few weeks over Facetime. We discuss together psychology, creativity, and (what I term) the exigencies of moral relations.

She’s a great, deeply humanist, adjunct professor of dance at DePaul University. In 2014, Lin was named Jewish Chicagoan of the Year. She founded and is the director of the Tikvah Company, her dance outfit in Chicago.

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Eno On Cybernetics and Music Making

This video is new to me and it provided a big wallop.

In my framing of fortuity, contingency and fragility, I have only roughed out some of the implications for music making. B.E. helps move this forward during a really essential 15 minutes.

He mentions Stafford Beer. (He, along with Ralph Stacey, Gordon Pask, and Gregory Bateson, probably did the most to extend cybernetics to human domains in the first wave of cybernetic thinking. Largely from Beer and Stacey we gain the concept of soft systems, and from Beer we gain the Viable Systems Model (Trevor Hilder’s presentation – pdf).)

What Is Cybernetics?

Leonod Ototsky’s fond archive and research on Mr. Beer is a terrific old style web site.

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Creativity Polarities


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Reflecting on my own creative process means for me reflecting on visual creativity or musical creativity.

In doing so, I identify two different sets of dimensions, and, in doing so, I further identify the four superior dimensions for each modality, visual, audio.

AUDIO Superior Functions

VISUAL Superior Functions

What would be your four superior creative functions?

I drop into FLOW all the time while creating artistic experiments and art.

How Does It Feel to Be in Flow? (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

  1. Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
  2. A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
  3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
  4. Knowing that the activity is doable – that skills are adequate to the task.
  5. A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
  6. Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, our sin to pass by in minutes.
  7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.

The bold words express the shortest version of C.M.’s theory of Flow. Creativity sometimes demands systematic or conscious sensitivity to fortuitous potentials in the creative field. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory isn’t a field theory and it isn’t particularly constructivist, so, it is improved by its becoming much more ecological–for the sake of engaging the richer context of creative ‘acting.’

(The Creative Personality – PSYCHOLOGY TODAY excerpt – Here are the 10 antithetical traits often present in creative people that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

  1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest. They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm. This suggests a superior physical endowment, a genetic advantage. Yet it is surprising how often individuals who in their seventies and eighties exude energy and health remember childhoods plagued by illness. It seems that their energy is internally generated, due more to their focused minds than to the superiority of their genes.This does not mean that creative people are hyperactive, always “on.” In fact, they rest often and sleep a lot. The important thing is that they control their energy; it’s not ruled by the calendar, the dock, an external schedule. When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types immediately recharge their batteries. They consider the rhythm of activity followed by idleness or reflection very important for the success of their work. This is not a bio-rhythm inherited with their genes; it was learned by trial and error as a strategy for achieving their goals.

    One manifestation of energy is sexuality. Creative people are paradoxical in this respect also. They seem to have quite a strong dose of eros, or generalized libidinal energy, which some express directly into sexuality. At the same time, a certain spartan celibacy is also a part of their makeup; continence tends to accompany superior achievement. Without eros, it would be difficult to take life on with vigor; without restraint, the energy could easily dissipate.

  2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. How smart they actually are is open to question. It is probably true that what psychologists call the “g factor,” meaning a core of general intelligence, is high among people who make important creative contributions.The earliest longitudinal study of superior mental abilities, initiated at Stanford University by the psychologist Lewis Terman in 1921, shows rather conclusively that children with very high IQs do well in life, but after a certain point IQ does not seem to be correlated any longer with superior performance in real life. Later studies suggest that the cutoff point is around 120; it might be difficult to do creative work with a lower IQ, but an IQ beyond 120 does not necessarily imply higher creativity.

    Another way of expressing this dialectic is the contrasting poles of wisdom and childishness. As Howard Gardner remarked in his study of the major creative geniuses of this century, a certain immaturity, both emotional and mental, can go hand in hand with deepest insights. Mozart comes immediately to mind.

    Furthermore, people who bring about an acceptable novelty in a domain seem able to use well two opposite ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.

    Yet there remains the nagging suspicion that at the highest levels of creative achievement the generation of novelty is not the main issue. People often claimed to have had only two or three good ideas in their entire career, but each idea was so generative that it kept them busy for a lifetime of testing, filling out, elaborating, and applying.

    Divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and this selectivity involves convergent thinking.

  3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility. There is no question that a playfully light attitude is typical of creative individuals. But this playfulness doesn’t go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, perseverance.Nina Holton, whose playfully wild germs of ideas are the genesis of her sculpture, is very firm about the importance of hard work: “Tell anybody you’re a sculptor and they’ll say, ‘Oh, how exciting, how wonderful.’ And I tend to say, ‘What’s so wonderful?’ It’s like being a mason, or a carpenter, half the time. But they don’t wish to hear that because they really only imagine the first part, the exciting part. But, as Khrushchev once said, that doesn’t fry pancakes, you see. That germ of an idea does not make a sculpture which stands up. It just sits there. So the next stage is the hard work. Can you really translate it into a piece of sculpture?”

    Jacob Rabinow, an electrical engineer, uses an interesting mental technique to slow himself down when work on an invention requires more endurance than intuition: “When I have a job that takes a lot of effort, slowly, I pretend I’m in jail. If I’m in jail, time is of no consequence. In other words, if it takes a week to cut this, it’ll take a week. What else have I got to do? I’m going to be here for twenty years. See? This is a kind of mental trick. Otherwise you say, ‘My God, it’s not working,’ and then you make mistakes. My way, you say time is of absolutely no consequence.”

    Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not. Vasari wrote in 1550 that when Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello was working out the laws of visual perspective, he would walk back and forth all night, muttering to himself: “What a beautiful thing is this perspective!” while his wife called him back to bed with no success.

  4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. The rest of society often views these new ideas asfantasies without relevance to current reality. And they are right. But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality. At the same time, this “escape” is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true.Most of us assume that artists—musicians, writers, poets, painters—are strong on the fantasy side, whereas scientists, politicians, and businesspeople are realists. This may be true in terms of day-to-day routine activities. But when a person begins to work creatively, all bets are off.
  5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion andintroversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.
  6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time. It is remarkable to meet a famous person who you expect to be arrogant or supercilious, only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead. Yet there are good reasons why this should be so. These individuals are well aware that they stand, in Newton’s words, “on the shoulders of giants.” Their respect for the area in which they work makes them aware of the long line of previous contributions to it, putting their own in perspective. They’re also aware of the role that luck played in their own achievements. And they’re usually so focused on future projects and current challenges that past accomplishments, no matter how outstanding, are no longer very interesting to them. At the same time, they know that in comparison with others, they have accomplished a great deal. And this knowledge provides a sense of security, even pride.
  7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.This tendency toward androgyny is sometimes understood in purely sexual terms, and therefore it gets confused with homosexuality. But psychological androgyny is a much wider concept referring to a person’s ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.
  8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative. It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it’s difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic. Being only traditional leaves an area unchanged; constantly taking chances without regard to what has been valued in the past rarely leads to novelty that is accepted as an improvement. The artist Eva Zeisel, who says that the folk tradition in which she works is “her home,” nevertheless produces ceramics that were recognized by the Museum of Modern Art as masterpieces of contemporary design. This is what she says about innovation for its own sake:”This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating. And to be different means ‘not like this’ and ‘not like that.’ And the ‘not like’—that’s why postmodernism, with the prefix of ‘post,’ couldn’t work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one.”

    But the willingness to take risks, to break with the safety of tradition, is also necessary. The economist George Stigler is very emphatic in this regard: “I’d say one of the most common failures of able people is a lack of nerve. They’ll play safe games. In innovation, you have to play a less safe game, if it’s going to be interesting. It’s not predictable that it’ll go well.”

  9. Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well. Without the passion, we soon lose interest in a difficult task. Yet without being objective about it, our work is not very good and lacks credibility. Here is how the historian Natalie Davis puts it:”I think it is very important to find a way to be detached from what you write, so that you can’t be so identified with your work that you can’t accept criticism and response, and that is the danger of having as much affect as I do. But I am aware of that and of when I think it is particularly important to detach oneself from the work, and that is something where age really does help.”
  10. Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Most would agree with Rabinow’s words: “Inventors have a low threshold of pain. Things bother them.” A badly designed machine causes pain to an inventive engineer, just as the creative writer is hurt when reading bad prose.Being alone at the forefront of a discipline also leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Eminence invites criticism and often vicious attacks. When an artist has invested years in making a sculpture, or a scientist in developing a theory, it is devastating if nobody cares.

    Deep interest and involvement in obscure subjects often goes unrewarded, or even brings on ridicule. Divergent thinking is often perceived as deviant by the majority, and so the creative person may feel isolated and misunderstood.

    Perhaps the most difficult thing for creative individuals to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness they experience when, for some reason, they cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels his or her creativity drying out.

    Yet when a person is working in the area of his of her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss. Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake.

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