“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
It has been a while since I last posted to this blog, what I have referred to as contemporary art in context. The goal of the blog in the past has been to frame contemporary art, primarily post-WW II work in relation to popular culture, American lifestyle and the reality of our day to day lives. My approach has always been to write in short essay form on a blog. It’s an unconventional approach as by nature, blogs have always been intended to be short form, nearly stream of consciousness writings for our so-called busy lives. Therefore, writing short essays on a blog is a contrarian approach in and of itself.
The other evening I was having dinner with a new friend who is a poet and journalist here in Portland. I was commenting about my blog and the curious nature of what I’ve been attempting to do and she very concisely and unabashedly said that blogging was the wrong place for me to be writing the way I do. This is not the first time I’ve heard this but for some reason it seemed to resonate this time. Writing by nature is a form of communication and if I was hoping to communicate a particular point of view in a particular form it is important to place that form where it belongs, in her mind in a literary journal or academic journal or even, and I’m not remotely suggesting I write well enough for this, the New Yorker.
After a couple of days of letting this settle in I realized essentially this was the same internal argument I’ve been having much of my life. It is the central theme to Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, that life is unresolved because it has only the context of other’s experience as a framework. We don’t get to live our lives again (unless we’re Buddhist) and therefore have no way of understanding life as either heavy or light, important or not. Writing, like other art forms is an attempt to impart a shared knowledge because it is self expression. Through that self expression we hope to find synchronicity with other’s experiences through identity. Ultimately we are attracted to works of art because they resonate with something deeply personal in our own existence, even though we had no direct relationship with the artist. The making of art is a bit of a desperate act. A way of sharing something so personal it has to take a metaphorical form, it has to be transformed away from the now. This is why when Komar and Malamud conducted their famous survey of people’s favorite paintings and colors, the pastoral savanna landscape was the image that resonated most. It is the collective, connective tissue we all share — our roots in the African plain. Our beginnings as Australopithecus afarensis, our early hominid ancestor. My writings in essay form on this blog in the past have been attempts in my own way to defy the gravity of life.
I awoke this morning realizing that I have been more like Franz and not enough like Tomas. Being is both light and heavy because it is a constant tension between the forces of physics and metaphysics, reality and dreaming, living and being. In the end the great void consumes us all like the black hole at the center of our own galaxy and we become a singularity because we become both everything and nothing. The only meaning we have is the meaning of the now and the wonder of vast number of those segments in time strung together.
For that reason, this blog will behave more like a blog and less like an essay from here on out. Light but dense.
Painting: Rene Margritee, The Son of Man. 1964