Introduction.

This 90 Ojime site is an exploration of Art. Art as an idea, Art as a spark illuminating the future, Art as a sign-post giving the location of Now, Art as advocacy, Art as true pleasure. All of it, more & more. Art is all the things humans do to express the seven Arts—>> 1)the grace of movement, 2)the compelling teeter-totter of drama, 3)the magic of words flowering into pictures and then 4)the pictures themselves, then 5)sound. 6)The built thing that becomes an extension of our body piled up into grandeur and the sound inside that built thing existing but for a single moment flowing into forever. 7) The presence in space that holds its ground for memory. These are the Seven Arts: Dance, Theatre, Writing, Picture making (including motion pictures), Music, Architecture, Sculpture.

So this is to the makers of all that Art that I have come to believe is the very point of being alive, and if I had to lay a bet, I’d bet it was Art that fomented the thing we call Civilization. I’d have to say the early cave paintings existed as the lecture halls for those people trying to make sense of a world illuminated by our big-brain physiology; the creature capable of asking, who are we? Why do we die? The standard story of Civilization begins with agriculture (Jacob Bronowski 1978, et al). That seems to be a re-hash of the Garden of Eden story, living by “the sweat of the brow” and all those control mechanisms of behavior, complete with magic snakes and prohibitions. The recent discoveries, specifically Golbekli Teppe (Klaus Schmitt 1994), a series of carved, ringed stones up to 18 feet high, set up 12,000 years ago, and then buried, point to a pre-agricultural sophistication steeped in Art. Five Millennia before wheat!

Ian Hodder, with the details of his discoveries at Çatalhöyük has given us an in-depth look at life at the dawn of agriculture. Can you call the sculptures of bull’s heads and tartan-like geometric paintings decorating the rooms of that hive of humanity, Art? These people buried grandma under the mud of their living rooms. “Wake up and smell your ancestors!”

The inside of a reconstructed house from Çatalhöyük, featuring wall art characteristic of domestic buildings at the site with exhumed grave.

I’ve had the privilege to sit with my wife Judith and a group of fellow art makers, in the prehistoric caves of Southern France, sitting quietly, after the tourists had gone, and draw the pictures we saw in the caves of Peche Merle, Cougnac, Font de Gaume and Cap Blanc, and I’ve concluded those caves were the universities of their day, casting loops of knowledge into future generations. I haven’t a doubt about that.

Horses sculpted into the rock at Cap Blanc c. 25,000 BCE

We’ve been reading Graeber and Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything (2021); they are a pair of Anthropologist/Archeologists laying out a new history of pre-enlightenment humans. It’s a big book in many many ways and I’m sure their ideas will filter into what I have to say along this path. Three of the fulcra on which societies balance, they say, are control of violence, control of information and control of human charisma. What we are concerned with in the following pages is this control of information; information as Art specifically. I’m not here to prove anything with a rational sense, subject to peer review. Think of all this writing with accompanying pictures or, vice-versa) as poetry, as speculation, as information, as food for thought pointing a stochastic scatter-shot, aiming at a true thing. In all the years I’ve been at this task, I’ve had a single thought in mind—that the world is alive, the living things in it, of course, but the sticks, the stones, the soil, the piled up stuff of our cities—all of it is alive and waiting for us to unfold some meaning. This is the job of Art. Pygmalion-like, breathing life into the inert. The big question: How do we know what we know and how do we use that knowing for action in the world.

Art doesn’t DO anything or PROVE anything and any conjunction with the rationality of the sciences is still a way away. Consilience (EO Wilson 1998) and The Fox and the Hedgehog (SJ Gould 2007) attempting this conjunction did come close to resolving CP Snow’s lament in The Two Cultures (1959); Science and Art at loggerheads. This wide divide of the adamantine rational mind and the fluid mind of the artist, is perplexing since both spring from the creative mind. But Wilson and Gould, while generous to the arts to a fault, don’t touch the realm of what happens in the studio. What happens in the rehearsal room, what happens with “the pallet and the fiddle bow” (Yeats). There is no rational mind at work (maybe sometimes, like what was attempted in the great mid-Century Formalist experiment, a scientistic project trying to bridge the gap from the Art side), Art is the language of dreams and the subtle fumbling with the world of stuff; and maybe here is the link—trying to uncover the very aliveness of everything.

Look into the I Ching book of divination sometime if you want a glimpse at uncovering realms of your own “Sub-rosa” mind. Given short shrift in the much needed corrective to the excesses of the 60’s new-age clap-trap, the I Ching is rising into thoughtful circles lately, looking for a base-line, a grammar of symbol as thought. I’ve had a copy of the book since 1967 (a 20th birthday gift, the Wilhelm version), loving the archaic, and strange to us, language. It’s about above and below, lines broken or not, and the relationship of two images to make a digital wisdom that pours out pictures for you. It won’t ever “tell your fortune” but it’ll give you food for thought. And can be nourishing. I like the I Ching because it is built of pictures. Julio Song is a linguistic scholar in England, he writes:

“In linguistics the meaning of a sentence is built from meanings of its parts (this is known as the principle of compositionality); in I Ching the overall meaning of a hexagram can be deduced from meanings of its structural components. The latter isn’t strictly compositional due to its divinatory nature, but the strategy is similar. In I Ching divination, on the other hand, individual lines are stacked on top of one another. Since this operation always increases the existing stack by one, it may as well be treated as a binary operation similar to the push operation in programming languages.” —Julio Song

The 64 hexagrams of the I Ching

This is exactly what I am working to explicate these days…to pair-up pictures to generate a third, fourth, fifth voice, because I believe pictures ARE language itself, has been, since we were grunting…yes…no. As to divination, the following may be of service to allay discomfort with some imagined hocus-pocus…

And so it follows that if you alter your perception of the present your future must change. 

Remember: the ancestor of your current situation is a thought, and the same principle applies to your future.” …Julio Sang

The eight trigrams of the IChing…Each trigram also corresponds to phenomena not listed on the diagram, such as members of the family, numbers, colors, parts of the body, and illnesses. (Chicago Art Institute)

This complexity based on a binary system holds meaning. 1’s and 0’s spinout to tell our human story. And, if it’s divination you want, just look at the art on the following pages, if you alter your perception of the present your future must change. Maybe think of the Art on these pages as location devices, not so much for divination. Here’s TS Eliot from his Four Quartets:

"To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits, 
To report the behaviour of the sea monster, 
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry, 
Observe disease in signatures, evoke 
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm 
And tragedy from fingers; release omens 
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable 
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams 
Or barbituric acids, or dissect 
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors—" 

Eliot is listing for all of us the ways humans have tried to find a way into the mystery of the future. The entire poem can be seen as a divination rolling into whatever NOW you happen to be in. I had the poem of Mr. Eliot reading his Four Quartets on a tape that kept me company for a couple of years; the language and wide scope still gives me pleasure to this day, and points solidly to this conclusion: Art opens the human world. The quintessential point of all of these pages following, with their pictures and their ekphrasis; the point of this introduction; is that Art is a living wilderness. If you have ever been to a so-called wilderness area, a place of no roads no infrastructure, you have, I’m sure, experienced a kind of ringing truth of rightness, of fitness, a kind of well-being, a happiness beyond its opposite—as the Zen acolyte said to the hot-dog vendor “Make me one with everything”. You are one with the source of your being in wilderness and it’s a fine feeling, though at my advancing age and for most people, urbanized into high-tech bunkers, wilderness is just a dream we see on the Tube. But we do have, Art in flourishing museums, galleries, the town square. Art is our last living wilderness, and I’m presenting the next pages as such. As a kid, my old-country Zaydhe, my grandfather, would bounce us on his knee, saying Zhilie bilhie…which was the start of a nursery rhyme; the yiddish equivalent of “once upon a time…” literally it means there lived…so Zhilie Bilhie…TS Eliot…

These are the last lines of his book-long poem The Four Quartets— let's close with this and get on with the text/picture work.

Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

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