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Dig Deep (Appreciation of Bruce Conner)
Thursday, November 18, 2021
“Art is the expression of an enormous preference.” The key reason why I like art. For me personally, art is pretty much anything that I’m interested in. I see a pretty girl walking down the street, and I think to myself “wow that’s a great piece of art.” But now that we live in the “art of advertisement, after the American manner, has introduced into all our life such a lavish use of superlatives, that no standard of value whatever is intact.” So in a nutshell, it is getting harder and harder to express myself in such a world that we all live together in. There is a woman that I live with, and I want to tell her that “I love her,” but that phrase seems meaningless. Holidays are even worse because any true sentiment is always tied to a more significant event that is happening outside one’s life. When you give a present on Christmas, it is no longer a present from love, but more likely a collective manner due to a holiday everyone has to acknowledge. I often wish to break free of the restrictions that I’m placed in, but alas, to fall so apart from society or my culture would give me freedom, but also alienation. On the other hand, I feel so distant. There is no win-win, only lose-lose.
Art is the only place where I can go to, and feel I’m interacting with a set of values that are my choice or choices. For me, beauty is entirely subjective, I even find ugly as being beautiful. So what I’m looking for is something that will give meaning to my life. And I think whatever that “meaning” is - it is usually expressed as a work of art. I have been writing poetry not to express a moment, but to dig deeper into ‘that’ moment. I’m a scientist, who is tearing into the different layers, and it is like I take each layer with my fingers and take it up to a light to examine it. The French philosopher Jacques Maritain wrote that “the more the poet grows, the deeper the level of creative intuition descends into the density of his soul. Where formerly he could be moved to song, he can do nothing now, he must dig deeper.” So for me, writing poetry is very much like taking a shovel and digging into a hole, or at the very least, my consciousness.
The other day I went to the Bruce Conner show at the Kohn Gallery and was wholly frozen in time, while sitting in the enormous main gallery, watching his “Crossroads,” which is a film that uses footage of the Operation Crossroads underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. The film technically lasts for 36 minutes, but I couldn’t tell you if I was there for three minutes or the whole film time. Everything stopped. There are a beginning and an ending, but I couldn’t really tell where the beginning starts and the end ‘ends.' All I know I was transformed watching the super slow-motion of the bomb going off, and just getting lost in the textures of the atomic cloud. Beyond that beauty is horror. So like everything else in life, fear and beauty walk down the sunny side of the street, holding hands, and skipping down the road together. It could have been my imagination, or I was asleep at the wheel, but “once upon a time the world was sweeter than we knew. Everything was ours; how happy we were then, but then once upon a time never comes again.” So it is best to live for the moment, and then reflect on it with a shovel and dig deep.