To Stay Conscious, to be Engaged

Television Static Snow – White Noise

They say that the human mind requires about 25% chaotic brain waves in order to remain conscious, so you often hear people say, “that is putting me to sleep” which I think means that the brain is not engaged with the thing encountered because it becomes boring or causes the brain waves to become too ordered. The human mind needs something of a mystery or a puzzle in order to stay engaged with something, in order to find it interesting and this is the chaos factor I am talking about. But if the chaos itself becomes too uniform then that also becomes boring. So it is a matter of proportion maybe – order with chaos. 

The great harmony of life does not always appear harmonious. Life is dynamic and continually adjusting itself to maintain balance and sustainability but not stasis. It is advancing and receding like waves on a beach. It is both creative and destructive and then creative again. The main thread of life is contentiousness, to always continue. The nature of things seems to also have a mandate to always be unique at every moment just as the fact that no two snowflakes, though innumerable, are identical. This element of infinite uniqueness holds our attention.

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection 

Art is utterly dependent on the viewer being conscious and engaged. Some artists think this is solved by causing shock to the viewer’s system like how shock works in a horror movie but this is an exaggeration. The shock can be subtle if the work is subtle or encourages the viewer to look at the subtlety of the image. So the artist has to have some understanding of how a viewer will experience a work of art and then lead the viewer through the work based on that understanding. It is expecting a lot – maybe too much –  from a viewer to pretend he will be as engaged in the work as the artist himself is.

I don’t expect a viewer to be able to understand my work in the way that I understand it nor to have interests similar to mine. I make the work for my own purposes and hope that some viewers will be attracted to what I am doing. But when I think about it very hard, I am not sure even I know what it is that interests me in what I am doing. 

 When you peer into the nature of things with great intensity, you eventually come to a state of bafflement and wonder.

There is something in the pursuit of art related to spiritual practices. On the Sufi or Zen path your teacher might give you practices which are often things to contemplate and or meditate on, something on which to focus your mind and those things are, to some extent, a battering ram used on the mental walls of your own limitations and at a certain point you have a ’break through’. You have busted down a wall or punched a hole in it that opens to another greater, unexpected space. These walls are the sides of the trenches of habitual behaviors we are all engage in that keep us moving along a certain trajectory. There is a certain feeling of security in staying within our familiar patterns but at a certain point it becomes a prison beyond which we cannot imagine. I think my work reflects this concern.

Image from the Canadian War Museum

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