Mythology 1: Evolution as Revelation?

Mytology I_Michal

Mythology 1    

The myth is the public dream and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got an adventure in the dark forest ahead of you. Joseph Campbell

The figure head of the dragon (in the foreground down on the left when facing the picture), found by chance, was the impetus for this piece. I used the technique grottage with strings of different width, on acrylic paint on a cardboard box that I, first, carefully gessoed black. Beyond recycling and its connotations, I liked working with the box for its unfolding and folding characteristics, as historical (un)folding, from center to periphery, personal to universal, but not only. I left the outer areas of the folds with little covering in comparison with the central image, as a statement of possibilities, however, in dialectic with the overall picture which reveals itself in the same way the whole dinosaur (along the right fold) is reconstructed by the expert archaeologist with only one vertebra of it.

detail Mythology I_Michal

Then I built around the dragon, strange attractor, the fantasy landscape with layers of collage for natures elements blue for water and green for the forest, that I covered with gold, to give the whole piece a sacred byzantine Icon feel. The title “mythology I” of the piece refers to my interest in mythology (especially personal mythology) but not about Greek gods or goddesses on Olympus.

Penseur_rodinThe figures of this piece are inspired by Darwinian evolution: out of the last exhalation of a dinosaur, man (the gray/gold figure top right) is born.  I chose this paper cut because it reminded me of the Rodin’s sculpture’s, “ le penseur”, posture and at the same time resembled a monkey, keeping with the evolutionary theme. The emphasis on the speculative in man makes a statement about man’s impossibility to be godless whatever the theory s/he espouses (dialectic of theory and theoria; dialectic space/time/existence). The dragon, amphibian creature, with her innumerable tentacles in the water, breathes out the flora of this landscape.[ Is it sitting on the ruins (stony stairs) of a previous civilization?] In the picture, it culminates in the green and gold tree on the left.

Despite the chance art technique that started off the piece, this picture illustrates consciously my acknowledgment of the theory of evolution but not completely: it is only a theory that may eventually be supplanted by another one. Man, a fiction? Possibly. The only constant is represented by the imaginary figure of the dragon, a metaphor for what represents, paradoxically, a certainty: the power of imagination and the defying of the laws of nature and its miracles, until we discover the laws that govern them. The almost causal relationship between the dinosaur and man (engendering) constitutes a warning for (wo)man in case s/he fails to learn from the past, represented by the extinction of the arrogant dinosaurs. (Wo)Man has to rediscover one’s unique relation to nature, if s/he wants to avoid the fate of dinosaurs. Hope is displayed by the neutral color (gray), contrasting with the green of the landscape, by the dragon sustainer of life. The 2 figures (dragon head and the human figure) all in values emphasize the moral theme and the artistic terminology of values, a pun: they are ‘influenced’ and can influence. The green/blue crescent upon the human figure and at the top of the tree just being breathed out by the dragon, implies some type of “transcendent” presence presiding over man and nature (dialectic of immanence and transcendence).


Happy Heuristics

Today’s Fool’s Message

Mobius_recyclingIf we conceive life as matter redeemed, then man is life redeemed. […] What redeems him from the bondage of mere animality is, first of all, a mobility in many new dimensions. […] More important at this point is the fact that time no longer restricts him to the immediate present, to the mere “now”, as space restricts inorganic masses to the “here” in which they found themselves. Man with his enhanced memory and imagination lives in a world wherein every present includes an indefinite past and an unrealized future. […] The position of the command “Honor thy father and thy mother” among the famous Ten is not only ethically important, but socially significant. The young of no animals, as we have seen, receive love from or give love to their parents once they have outgrown the physical need of the parental functioning. The past, on the contrary, continues to live in every man and, in imagination man can live in the past as it presents itself in personal recollection or social tradition, in recorded history or in reconstructed prehistory. We follow the trail backward by means of various clues, a piece of flint, a drawing in a cave, a piece of shattered pottery, a fossil accidentally turned up by a spade or a chance plough.  Even an ignorant man lives part of his life in some imaginative reconstruction, true or false, of the years that preceded him. He lives likewise in the future. Man plans today for a tomorrow. his most cherished purposes seldom can find completion in one minute or one hour or one day or one year or one lifetime. He dreams always of something better yet to come, if only for his children in some future which he must help create. Every utopia, every millennial vision is placed in some “end of days” which make the present endurable.

A normal person evaluates the present in the light of some remembered past or some expected future. the adoration of the merely present, the homage paid the contemporary in art or religion or politics, is the unmistakable badge of bondage. Had the vulgar praise ever been bestowed upon Mr. Lincoln when alive ” he was always up to date”, it could never have been said of him on his death, “Now he belongs to the ages.” The ages contain the “now” of every lifetime, and every lifetime is a residue of the past that has perished and the womb of a future yet unborn.

Great souls always know eternal life because they will not fragmentize time and,  like timid provincials, live in only one segment thereof. Indeed, it seems to me to be one of the continuing functions of education to redeem man from his temporal provincialism; to enable him to record and assess the past and to employ the present in planning his own and mankind’s future. […] The primitive certainly represents an older fashion than the classical, and doubtless we shall all be primitives to our grandchildren some 10 000 years hence, unless we blot out that future in advance, through our collective stupidity and brutality. Primitive man and classical antiquity have both contributed to our being what we are. They have left their impress upon us, by means of heredity an traditions, in history and literature and the arts. it is good that we become acquainted with them and learn to understand them in love and sympathy, for they and theirs, as all other fact we encounter, must submit themselves ultimately on every stage of civilization to the judgment of the present, that we may take their best with us into the future we are ourselves creating. This is one aspect of man’s freedom as he breaks the shackles which chain him to the mere now of his existence. In memory and anticipation, man wanders through an indefinite past and future. These become, as he develops,  the ever-expanding boundaries of his temporal domain. The future is never closed. There is always a frontier.

Jacob Kohn in Evolution as Revelation. New York: Philosophical Library: 1963 pp. 93-96

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