Category Archives: visual experiments, my art

A Best Of My Own Art Work 2017 – Part 2 – Small Art Works

Knysna Blue Verticum - Stephen Calhoun

Knysna Blue Verticum 9×7″ paper

This past year I expressly created small art works. Two series of pieces stood out: Lasting Hearts, and, Malay Time Steps and Ladders.

from Malay Time Steps and Ladders

Dua Puluh Dua Langkah (2017) Stephen Calhoun - Stephen Calhoun

Dua Puluh Dua Langkah 16×16″ glass

From Lasting Hearts

Lasting Hearts Altar II - Stephen Calhoun

Lasting Hearts Altar II 14×11″ glass

From Lasting Hearts

Lasting Hearts Key Keeper II - Stephen Calhoun

Lasting Hearts Key Keeper II – 14×11″ paper

Vision Statement - Stephen Calhoun

Vision Statement 24×15″ paper

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A Best Of My Own Art Work 2017 – Part 1 – Mandalas and Circular Pieces

Navigators Travel In Circles of Time

On my artist’s web site I maintain an index of posted art works. This page lines up most of my art work in reverse chronological order. The provides an excellent way to review my creative journey over the past years. Last year I produced better work than the year before, and, overall, much better work than was featured in the one person show of 2013-2015 art work that was exhibited throughout 2016 at The Gallery At Grays.

From my perspective, the best work is elevated out of any year, and the shortest narrative of my escapades simply involves highlighting those ne plus ultra successes from each year. My progress over the last year is based in learning from my practice, intuiting fresh approaches, and, subtle recombinations and reconfigurations of previously proven or previously attempted approaches.

None of those background factors figure into the simple qualification I could make about the art works I feel best represent what I am after. After all, what I am after is the viewer’s dedicated engagement with visual seeking amidst the field and its dense resolution of patterns. But, caveat with the work over the last two years regards most of the pieces never having been exhibited. I have some idea of what art works might prove to be the most sensational, but my own estimations are based entirely on my grading how successful the experiment under consideration seems to me to be.

I do not have any issue with grading my own work differentially.  The lesser pieces may well strike others as being the superior piece. I am not subjectng anything to formal considerations. I do not post art works from failed experiments.

Mandalas – of the several hundred produced, the following five are tops, and include the art work above. Also of note are the two series, The Steadfastness of Kabir, and, The Four Noble Truths In a Nutshell.

River Dharma

River Dharma 46×46 aluminum

Wired Mandala 34x24 aluminum

Wired Mandala 34×24 aluminum

Qawwali #2 40x40" aluminum

Qawwali #2 40×40″ aluminum

Red Mandala #2

Red Mandala #2 30×30 aluminum

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Food For Another – some poems of Tim Calhoun

Caged Bird (2014) Stephen Calhoun 7x5"

Caged Bird (2014) Stephen Calhoun 7×5″

Tim Calhoun Science

Red was my brother's favorite color.

Red was my brother’s favorite color.

I was reminded recently in rereading some of his poems from his self-curated unpublished collection The Hero In the Oak Branch Stretcher, that in passing away in February 1993, he was a poet of the pre-internet era. This poem, Expulsion, is prescient about contemporary communication.

Expulsion Tim Calhoun

via POETSBANK is a loosely structured organization that sponsors and promotes readings by and of Cleveland poets. It was the brainchild of poet Daniel Thompson, who began sponsoring readings at the County Justice Ctr. in the late 1970s to commemorate the birthdays of Cleveland poets HART CRANE, LANGSTON HUGHES, and d.a. levy (see DARRYL ALLEN LEVY). It tended to attract performance-oriented poets as opposed to more publication-minded groups, such as the Poets’ League of Gtr. Cleveland. Since his girlfriend’s father was a bank president, Thompson chose the name Poetsbank in order that he might become one himself. In the absence of elections, he has filled that office since the group’s founding. The principal function of Poetsbank has been to provide a name whenever a sponsor was needed for a reading. It attempted to include artists from different disciplines, to promote woman poets, and to address such political issues as nuclear disarmament and homelessness. Its most memorable events were the annual “Junkstock” readings given at the Pearl Rd. Auto Wrecking & Salvage Co. during the 1980s. Other readings have taken place in such venues as the ARCADE, the Cleveland Workhouse, the county jail, the FLATS, and area coffeehouses. Participating poets, besides Thompson, have included Barbara Angell, Kristen Ban Tepper, TIM CALHOUN, Mark Hopkins, Tim Joyce, JAMES KILGORE, Marilyn Murray, Maarafu Ojo, Geoffrey Singer, C. A. Smith, Amy Sparks, Zena Zipporah, and Barry Zucker.

Tim Calhoun Flame

Fraternality - 2014 - Stephen Calhoun

Fraternality – 2014 – Stephen Calhoun

A lot of posts have touched upon my deceased twin brother Tim Calhoun, 1954-1993.

First-year M.A. student Blaire Grassel has won the 2017 Timothy Calhoun Memorial Prize for Poetry.
The Timothy Calhoun Memorial Prize for Poetry recognizes the best poem or group of poems (3) by a graduate student in the Department of English.

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Surprise Yourself

Herron-Seeley-Presentational Forms

Kathy described this mind map and I found it out in the wild. Collaborations can lead to interesting incidental paths. Kathy turned me on to Dr. Chris Seeley‘s view of the artful organization. She added her own very highest regard. The incidental informs the future process and relationship and collaboration and transforms into the coincidental. follow along

You can download The Artful Organization via the link for a pdf on this page.


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Some Thoughts On Generative Art by Anders Holt

Brisk Totem - 2015 - Stephen Calhoun

Brisk Totem – 2015 – Stephen Calhoun

Many who know something about my art practice know I loathe the terms “digital art” and “digital artist.” Both terms strike me as almost always leading right into various thickets of ignorance, bias, oversimplification, and, confusion about what the word “digital” means when applied to art-making. Yes, it is my personal hangup that I don’t want to be associated with inevitable misconceptions about where ‘the digits’ fall in my own process.

On the other hand I dig being someone who creates generative art because I’m always ready to explain how I deploy scripted generative routines to make images. If I encounter someone who knows about generative art processes, one of their first questions will be along the lines of, “what sequences what?”

An art acquaintance asked me on what kind of art I made. My initial response was about processes and processing, ‘After taking pictures of set-ups I cut them into symmetries, and, process these half pieces into full symmetries. I may process the art work further by adjusting pixels using software.’

“Mixed process photographs.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”

I term the art work to be a: mixed process photographic image, or, mixed process photo-generative image. Sometimes the finished piece is a straight photograph–taken by a digital camera–cut and pasted into a mirror symmetry. It’s all about the process and the ‘processes of processes.’ This fact is, apparently, very hard to approach from the direction of ‘the digital.’

When I imagine possibilities in the realm of generativity, I am visualizing how different iterations of the processing of processes and first order processing work in concert. In this there are features of a peculiar cybernetics anchored to imagining.

Over the past two winters I have not been firing up the generative dashboard, yet I have been stockpiling various experiments, in my head. My goal would be to create a piece as overwhelming as the two here, Brisk Totem, and, Sonny Sharrock in Heaven, both 2015.

Sonny Sharrock In Heaven - 2015 - Stephen Calhoun artist

Sonny Sharrock In Heaven – 2015 – Stephen Calhoun

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stephen calhoun

The idea that what one has long held of a person is apt to stop one’s eyes and ears. —Marcel Proust

FB-Dharma Throttle (2017) 16x16 Stephen Calhoun

The self is a metaphor. We can decide to limit it to our skin, our person, our family, our organization, or our species. We can select its boundaries in objective reality As the systems theorists see it, our consciousness illuminates a small arc in the wider currents and loops of knowing that interconnect us. It is just as plausible to conceive of mind as coexistent with these larger circuits, the entire “pattern that connects,” as Bateson said. Do not think that to broaden the construct of self this way involves an eclipse of one’s distinctiveness. Do not think that you will lose your identity like a drop in the ocean merging into the oneness of Brahma. From the systems perspective this interaction, creating larger wholes and patterns, allows for and even requires diversity. You become more yourself. Integration and differentiation go hand in hand. From: ‘World as Lover, world as Self’ — Joanna Macy

AFFORDABLE ART catalogue- hi-res

THE ELEVEN – catalogue – self-curated August 2017

DIRECT SALES – medium-large artworks

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Socially Engaged For Just an Aggressive Moment





My art practice is not directed to be socially engaged in the conventional ‘art world’ sense of my intent and the work itself referring to social problems or political challenges. (In noting this, if I needed to, I would make a case for its capacity-building potential at the scale and level of individual consciousness. This increase in self-awareness may fund constructive benefits in the social domain.) However, I am a bit of a trickster, so i noted upon visiting the Rijksmuseum’s digital collection that they allowed for open use of available downloads of digitized images from their vast collection, Plus, upon request, the museum could supply to artists hi-resolution images. One has to ask nicely it would seem. Because I had previously manipulated purloined images (via Google image search,) of favored Flemish proto-surrealists of the 16th and 17th century, when I revisited the online Rijksmuseum I had already hatched an idea.

These four works are the result.

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Briefs 3


Straight-forward enough; my art practice is not rocket science. Here is the index of all my best work.


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Briefs 2


I could explain these statements, but then the point of their needing to be unpacked is negated. Dewey offers a clue.


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Briefs 1

artist stephen calhoun

There could be a subset of the literature of art and of art practices that is concerned with only the so-called artist’s statement.  Such a scholarly endeavor might go far in going beyond the rote qualifier about such statement, that they are a necessary evil.

For my own part, I have no hesitancy seeing my own statement being the integration of intent and brand, and, alas, psychological priming.

This first of four parts seems nicely tuned, and I wouldn’t offer a statement that I didn’t deeply resonate, yet I intentionally managed to throw in a word the reader might have to look up. Isn’t a law that the artist’s statement has to include a minimum of one such word?



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Settled It!

I would use such a rarified technical term to better describe my artistic position, that there is no reason to actually deploy it! While I contemplate the problem of the insider/outsider artist, I also play around with the designation I grant to myself. There is no way to summarize or integrate the slew of positions that are–at a minimum–personally vibrant. On twitter I have at times tagged posts #outsider, #visionary, #archetypal, #generative, #experimental, #experiential, (and more.) Each such designation fits in their specific way.

Nothing rides or rests on this designation even if it might find its way into an explication gathered from possibilities which inhere to ‘here’s what I am about as an artist.’ Nor can any designation capture the thick part of my practice, the part that is partly described as being underdetermined, stochastic, heuristic, etc..

Still, to my self and for myself, I am an enactivist artist. My subjectivity is situated in a body, in a time and place, in an interface, in a constructively vital ecology. This settles it for the time being.

And, yes, I am dedicated to articulating designations that rub the post-modernity of the art world’s predispositions and normative designations differently. Why?

It seems to be a universal feature of human perception, a feature of the underpinning of human epistemology, that the perceiver shall perceive only the product of the perceiving act. He shall not perceive the means by which that product was created. The product itself is a sort of of work of art. (Gregory Bateson, A Scared Unity, p217)

If we relate this to seeing the art object, the crucial tacit element to this point of Bateson’s is that the entirety of the second and third orders given in the cognition, processes and history of the artist, and which are behind the art object, are not at all features of perception.

enactivist theory:

Tutorial on Embodiment

Tutorial on Embodiment (
5.1.3. Embodied dynamicism and enactivism

“Since the early 1990s the computationalist orthodoxy has begun to be challenged by the emergence of embodied-embedded cognitive science (e.g. Clark 1997; Wheeler 2005; Varela et al. 1991). This approach claims that an agent’s embodiment and situatedness is constitutive of its perceiving, knowing and doing. Furthermore, the computational hypothesis has been challenged by the dynamical hypothesis that cognitive agents are best understood as dynamical systems (Van Gelder and Port 1995). These developments can be broadly grouped together under the heading of embodied dynamicism (cf. Thompson 2007, pp. 10-13). While this approach has retained the connectionist focus on self-organizing dynamic systems, it incorporates this emergentist perspective into a non-computationalist framework which holds that cognition is a situated activity which spans a systemic totality consisting of an agent’s brain, body, and world (e.g. Beer 2000).” (Froese, 2009)

“The paradigm of enactive cognitive science originally emerged as a part of the embodied dynamicist approach in the early 1990s with the publication of the influential book The Embodied Mind by Varela et al. (1991). However, while the enactive approach also emphasises the importance of embodiment, situatedness and dynamics for our understanding of mind and cognition, it has stood out from the beginning by promoting the cultivation of a principled phenomenological investigation of lived experience as a necessary complement to a standard scientific inquiry of the mind (e.g. Varela et al. 1991; Varela 1996, 1999). Moreover, it has recently set itself apart even further by placing a systemic biological account of autonomous agency at the heart of its theoretical framework (e.g. Weber and Varela 2002; Thompson 2004; Di Paolo et al. 2008). This complementary focus on biological (living) and phenomenological (lived) subjectivity clearly distinguishes the enactive approach from the rest of the competing paradigms in the cognitive sciences (cf. Thompson 2007).” (Froese, 2009)


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Vanishment in the Garden

The Shark In The Park from Polynoid on Vimeo.

Raspberries and blackberries have won the day in the berry garden out back. They have come to dominate the strawberry patch in the rectangle set in an unfavorable place right by a large buckeye tree.

This is similar to how my creativity has become reoriented to visual experiments rather than sonic experiments. Sometimes when I walk past the two pedal steels in my current digital image processing studio, I strum the strings.

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Questioned, Again

Stephen Calhoun, cleveland ohio photographer artist

Oh Good Party has published this month an interview with yours truly, artist Stephen Calhoun.

(Oh Good Party is art advisory and art concierge providing services to their private group of asian collectors, some in Canada, most in China. They invited me to be the second American artist to join their roster of artists.)

On my own website there is an extensive Q&A too.

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One Life to Live

artist Stephen Calhoun

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

by Mary Oliver

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Legacy Art Works #11 Sleep / Falling Away / In the Dream Territory

Stephen Cal

(2011) Sleep / Falling Away / In the Dream Territory

Legacy Art Works 1993-2012

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Lesson Ideas

Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down, and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors spreading, at dawn fast over the mountains split. (Annie Dillard)

The fundamental premise of alchemy is that there are precise correspondences between the visible and invisible worlds, the worlds of matter and spirit, inner and outer, heaven and earth.

Stephen Calhoun artist cleveland ohio

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Fission and Fusion

Stephen Calhoun Cleveland Ohio USA photographer

Cleveland artist Gary Dumm noted that I’m engaged with infinite possibilities, and this is true enough, especially in that I allow an expansive ‘ecology’ to contribute mightily to my creative process. ‘Allow’ and ‘Contribute’ conceal aspects of process which are not under my control.

All three of these pieces use an identical Mandelbrot fractal filtered into a tessellation, or, sparked into an “interesting phenomena.”


Gregory Bateson: What has happened is that the use of a system of geometric met­ aphor has enormously facilitated understanding of how the mechanical trick comes to be a rule or regularity. More important, the student has been made aware of the contrast between applying a trick and under­standing the necessity of truth behind the trick. And still more impor­tant, the student has, perhaps unwittingly, had the experience of the leap from talking arithmetic to talking about arithmetic. Not numbers but numbers of numbers.


Gregory Bateson: “We are searching for criteria whereby we can recognize those traits that are appropriate candidates for ongoing truth in the hurly­ burly of evolutionary process.”

. . .cybernetic inflection of aesthetics?

Gregory Bateson: “Interesting phenomena occur when two or more rhythmic pat­terns are combined, and these phenomena illustrate very aptly the en­richment of information that occurs when one description is combined with another. In the case of rhythmic patterns, the combination of two such patterns will generate a third. Therefore, it becomes possible to in­vestigate an unfamiliar pattern by combining it with a known second pattern and inspecting the third pattern which they together generate.” both excerpts from Mind and Nature. A Sacred Unity.

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Legacy Art Works #9 Graph

GRAPH 14×11″ Digital Art

fortuitous (adj.) via etymonline
1650s, from Latin fortuitus “happening by chance, casual, accidental,” from forte “by chance,” ablative of fors “chance” (related to fortuna; see fortune). It means “accidental, undesigned” not “fortunate.” Earlier in this sense was fortuit (late 14c.), from French. Related: Fortuitously; fortuitousness.

There’s no explaining why a possibility pops up in the head, so-to-speak. This art work from 2012 was created by my deciding to follow an idea. But the idea itself just came from following another idea: I got to looking at raw generative images at very extreme close-up. In a sense I wondered, What is down there?

In 2012, I was using built-in video screen recording to capture generative streams, and, then, inspecting the frames of the recording. I would save frames that seemed interesting. But, I rarely inspected the frames closely. One day I zoomed in on a 72dpi frame. I realized that parts of frames might be interesting in their own right.

I also understood that this presented an endless possibility because there might be interesting areas in otherwise rejected screens. I decided to do an experiment and just take one interesting clip of a frame and take it through the creative process.

To do this I enlarged the clip by resampling it and increasing the pixels-per-inch. But then I did something not in the experimental workflow. I zoomed into the denser, resampled image. What I saw was the raw bones of Graph.

I took the clip of a clip and did some manipulating for the sake of accentuating its painterly qualities. This was the last zoom and resample image I ever produced.

More Legacy Art works 1993-2013

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A Magic Trick: Explain By Creating

In trickster’s case, how did mental fakery come to replace incarnate fakery?

It is one thing for trypanosomes to change their skins; another for Raven to become a leaf floating in spring water; another still for storytellers to have imagined Raven in the first place, or for one of us to reimagine him. Before picking these strands apart, however, we should remember that the mythology itself asks us to confuse them. Coyote stories point to coyotes teaching about the mind, the stories themselves look to predator-prey relationships for the birth of cunning. These myths suggest that blending natural history and mental phenomena is not an unthinkable conflation, but on the contrary, an accurate description of the way things are. To learn about intelligence from Coyote the meat thief is to know that we are embodied thinkers. If the brain has cunning, it has it as a consequence of appetite; the blood that lights the mind gets its sugars from the gut.
-Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art.

Creating Is Explaining

in Jonas, see (*) below

The subject becomes a game that hides through and in his cause from his cause, the (external) precondition laying bare the (internal) foundation. – Julie Kristeva


The tracking that any [image] instrumentalizes is an adventure that is always immediate, happening now, registering the dynamics of belief.

(adapted, substituting |image| for |text|) via, -Elaine Jahner, “Trickster Discourse and Postmodern Strategies.”)

Stephen Calhoun, Cleveland artist experimental photographer

The Jester (2016) Stephen Calhoun

“Play around with it, intentionally.” That would be the clue. I’m wandering around the following: participation, experience of art, play, cleverest trick.

If you could give up tricks and cleverness, this would be the cleverest trick! (version of Rumi, John LeMoyne)

An example of a clever trick in the experience of art is any expert critical opinion that is by (socially-constructed) necessity blinded to, unbounded from, the actuality of the embodied knowing which emerges from consciousness being aware and present as a matter of experiencing art, or, experiencing any ‘scene,’ so-to-speak.

Opinions like this are like standing at the end of the diving board and not wanting to dive in.

Do playful systems know that they play? [pdf]
Michael Straeubig, Plymouth University
The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Malta 2016

From autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: Francisco Varela’s exploration of the biophysics of being [pdf]
Antoine Lutz, et al 2003

Toward a neurophenomenology as an account of generative passages: A first empirical case study [pdf]
Antoine Lutz
LENA – Neurosciences Cognitives et Imagerie Cérébrale 2002

(*) A cybernetic model of design research: Towards a trans-domain 1 of knowing
Wolfgang Jonas, The Routledge Companion to Design Research 2014

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Working Away From the Center

Family Synergy Mandala(Stephen Calhoun)

Virgins with T-squares
and compasses, guarding
the heavenly blackboards.

And the angel of numbers
reflective, flying
from the 1 to the 2, from the 2
to the 3, from 3 to the 4.

Dead chalk and sponges
rule and erase
the light of the heavens.

Not the sun, moon or stars,
not the sudden green flash
of the lines and the lightning,
nor the air. Only haze.

Virgins without T-squares,
without compasses, weeping.

And on the dead blackboards,
the angel of numbers,
lifeless, laid out
on the 1 and the 2
on the 3, and the 4…

(The Angel of Numbers, Rafael Alberti, translated by Jerome Rothenberg)

The First Snow, Ever(Stephen Calhoun)

Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation. And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions. (Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections)


So you see, in a moment during a patient’s treatment when there is a great disorder and chaos in a man’s mind, the symbol can appear, as in the form of a mandala in a dream, or when he makes imaginary and fantastical drawings, or something of the sort. (Carl Jung)


A mandala spontaneously appears as a compensatory archetype during times of disorder. (Carl Jung) [h/t]

There are four notes, (suppose these to be notes-to-self,) that come all the way up and to the center when I reflect on why it is that the mandala has taken over my creative practice.

These are simple notes too, and these represent the starkest capture.

(1) Depressed at the rise of Trump and nihilist Trumpism.

(2) Demoralized at the failure to satisfactorily meet my worldly obligations.

(3) Understand the inner order reflected in the enthusiasm for manifesting mandalas is only a potential reordering, and the proof of this is in the outer disorder.

(4) Unhappy and tired in the wake of the sharp arrivals due to the constant processes of death and loss that have struck over the past years.

I wear my depression very lightly. Optimistic. Youthful outlook.

My contemplative practice is the first balancing act. I note my creative agency is powerful too, yet, I haven’t a clue as to what is going on, except to distrust to a niggling degree that I am on the right track. I have to suppose this distrust of my own creativity is something to work through at this rather early yet auspicious juncture. This has nothing to do with my personal qualification of my creative product, it has to do with what this feels like in the context of outer disorder. It comes as no surprise that powerful inner motives are working me over a bit at the expense of outer order.

There is in this a fraught paradox: betwixt the rush and rushing forward of inspiration and ideas, and, the yet to be shaped command to, in actuality, set this aside for the purpose of getting the house in order.


The energetic aspect is clear enough to me. After all, I am not painting mandalas or setting fine grains of sand to a blueprint. Once the mathematics clicked for me, the opportunity presented itself fully: there are all sorts of archival photographs which may lend themselves to manipulation. These photos now come up again to be resuscitated.

(One image in this post presents how this is done.)

Still, am I creating mandalas? What is coming up and out seem to me reductions too, and also pieces symbolize eyes and sphincters. The images that consist of patterns of concentric circles nevertheless are unitary objects. Also, the direction of experimentation already is disrupting the simple concentricity.

Severity Mandala

Yes, creating mandalas is soothing. It occurs to me also that this is of a piece with my artistic mission, and, this also puts in 2nd order cybernetic relations a deeper aspect of the kitschy facile gimmicks I am employing as propositions in various visual experiments. Those relations are about learning.

As for my own psyche, I’m waiting for the dream. The only dream that recently arrived was optimistic, and this seemed to me its fault.

A magical, sacred, and perfected environment of the Buddha, which
denotes the order and harmony of an enlightened mind, and built on their
perfect wisdom. The purified circle of an enlightened being, an environment
wherein the endless compassion of the enlightened one is expressed.”
(C.G. Jung: ‘Mandala Symbolism’)

Oh, there’s this–see its opening and conclusion:

Theoretical Foundation for Jung’s “Mandala Symbolism”
Based on Discrete Chaotic Dynamics of Interacting Neurons
Vladimir Gontar (International Group for Chaos Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel)

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