THE DEPTH OF SHALLOWNESS
Shallowness & depth
Tinder- Not to be sexually fixated, but let’s look at Tinder as a medium which can theoretically be passed through to experience love and the formation of meaningful relationships. It has the potential for shallowness (fixation on the surface, and/or series(es) of rapid encounters with a large number of different people that result in physical (non-spiritual) pleasure, or the potential for depth (the pursuit of longer-term relationships that create context and meaning with a person, connect you to their literal roots, which extend deeply through time (the family tree which has brought them to being), and to the depths of their spirit). That requires looking through lenses, looking through people, looking very far through, rather than parallel (horizontally).
Martin Luther Kings' Axes of Involvement.
Martin Luther King (Jr.?) spoke of two axes of involvement (unsure where I heard this quote, or if I am correctly attributing it to Martin Luther King Jr.). On the X, you have community / social involvement. On the Y, you have spiritual involvement. Moves toward collectivization and corporatization in the arts (collectives and 'corporations' like Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spaldings), posit, in some cases, that collectivism could be a valuable force in social organizing in the arts. Additionally, the move toward archive-based and research-based art works in the 2000's placed value on an artist's ability to work within a broad network of information and external knowledge- to involve oneself on the X axis. The spiritual in art was a conversation that began to disappear. Subjectivity was regarded by many as a fiction to dismantle. However, with the rise of Russian fake news and the very awkward Dana Schutz' Emmett Till crisis, I think many artists have begun to see the risks of operating within an overextended matrix of non-subjective consciousness.
I feel like there's great potential in artists embracing the division of labor, and recognizing the role of the artist as one of personal devotion. By pursuing a deep and singular relationship with our own, lived reality, we come to greater universal truths than can ever be experienced by attempting to live through the archive or the network.
I believe my generation will work toward localizing our consciousnesses in order to construct meaning and operate within a lived truth.
I feel that shallowness and visual impressiveness is the defining condition of being for our generation. Picturism, Imagism, whatever you want to call it- the experience of seeing the self in the eyes of others imbues millennial artists with the desire to impress, to be impressive, to be communicative and relate oneself to an admirable system of connotations and ideologies. We sync our consciousnesses like magnets to respond to various social prompts (celebrity scandals, International Whatever days, joining in admirable trends and behaviors). When one feels compelled to be constantly expressing one's unity with this community through a series of shallow affirmations and exchanges, deep meaningful thought and connection is impaired.
The depth of shallowness
On the other hand, opticality, visual opulence, and glittering harmonious multiplicity- these optical, surface-based experiences have deep resonance in the human psyche and soul. Think again to the text Secret of The Golden Flower [Cleary, Thomas. The Secret of the Golden Flower: The Classic Chinese Book of Life. New York: HarperOne, 1991.] which so highly celebrates the experience of sight. The mind has to be localized in order to construct meaning, even if its localized within a media matrix. For great spiritual works that create meaning in opulent surfaces, you can look to St. Basil’s Cathedral, any cathedral architecture really, illuminated Bibles, and the formal properties of the Buddhist Flower Ornament Sutra. I think that great artists also find kaleidoscopic multiplicity in the flat surface- for example, masters of the Persian lacquer miniature, the Hudson River School painters, and the person who made my favorite drawing, a piece called Supereden (origin unknown, located on a Google Search).
the depth of shallowness: Samara Golden, Buddhist Flower Ornament Sutra
Samara Golden's work captures the gloriously, excessively baroque & bejeweled quality of the dream-imagination. In her installation work, she uses the capabilities of printing to manifest the heart's dreams, and the heart's desires in two-dimensions. Time-space is collapsed, and people exist across multiple space-times in one location. It's an inter-spatial collage that embraces, albeit with intense pathos, capitalism's promise to give us whatever we want. It also feels to me like the glittering shrine of a teenage media-consumer.
Likewise, I find the glittering abundance of the google image search both awe-striking and very frightening. In the google search for stock images of flowers, there is an infinite multiplicity of omnisciently-lit, spaceless, contextless, non-material flowers. Like Hieronymous Bosch's oranges, they glitter in their smoothly realized, immaculate, two-dimensionality, consumeristic radiance.In seeing the complexity of this infinitely-faceted and utterly shallow plane, you can almost find new depth in its form, like viewing the structure of a dragonfly's eye, or examining closely the technicolor lens of a kaleidoscope. It is somewhat dystopian.
Painting’s origin and author unknown. Do you know who made this? Please let me know if possible. I found it on a Google search of the term ‘Supereden’.
Levels of perception in art
material (visual texture)
emotional-spiritual (denotative and connotative meaning, expressed through representational and abstract language)
light (optical phenomenon and the emotional response to optics)
An aside, on repetition
You shouldn’t have to say something a thousand times for it to be legible. You don’t have to touch every grain of dirt to know what the Earth feels like. But the fact that every grain of dirt feels like the other grain of dirt creates meaning, and defines what defines the individuality of each grain. Repetition within a set is what makes the difference between the objects manifest. (see, Difference & Repetition by Giles Deleuze). For example, if you paint one painting then paint another, the differences between the two are what make them themselves. If the entire universe consisted of two paintings, both of roses, and one was blue and the other red, then their names would probably be Blue and Red. If the entire universe consisted of a blue rose and a blue stone, their names would probably be Rose and Stone.
The oculeie is the i in the eye, and the eye in the I. It’s the impersonal eye. In Laila, it’s the architectural feature in hell that provides the space of rapture, salvation. It is a oculeie which offers escape from her present struggles against her condition of being and her physical surroundings.
When you look at Duchamp’s optimism, his simultaneous enrapturement with the possibilities of the photograph as a way to capture reality, and fear of its shallowness, the Delay in Glass, in relation to the banality of photography today- it seems like we have both- we become hypnotized by the pleasurable experience of observing an endless flow of imagery. (‘The machine optique substitutes sheer musicality for the process of signification.’) This swamp of visuality is a reflective, permeable, shimmering lens that pools and eddies on its hypnotizing surface- it can be gazed through, it can reflect us- it reflects a condition that exists at the surface of language. Below this surface are deep and shallow pools, wells teeming with rainbow-colored ecosystems.