I have recently returned from a month-long art residency in Johnson Vermont. One of the largest art residencies in the country that housed up to 50 artists and writers a month. Some of my random notes and observances from my journal I kept there:
Sitting next to a brook, the sun out and the mountains defined. The rain has temporarily dissipated. I can see as far back as I can see ahead. The water at my feet, a conveyor belt of fluid glass, moving towards the ocean. I myself a stream joining other trickling brooks to roar together to the unknown sea. To be part of the ocean again, the home we all came from. Surrounded by many artists (over fifty of them), each a fingerprint, I can see the hand.
Most artists work is directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously about their childhood.
The poet Olena Kalytiak Davis asked: ” Do you create to impress or do you create to engage?”, while she absent-mindedly tucks on the top button of her blouse. Reading Keats, she tucks and tucks.
The river spoke to me, a one-sided conversation. The blind woman taught me that I do not see, I do not listen, as she played sweet tunes to the water on her wooden recorder. I remembered that I can speak back and I apologized for my verbal absence. The river forgave me as she gurgled ” Never be mute, never be blind”
The river further said: “Like me, carry fuel, draw water because you should offer the viewer of your art living water”
A caveat: Silence, the kind you hear at night in the middle of the forest, in the back of the library, or face underwater in your bathtub. No more air in my lungs, no more gelatine in my joints. Because I asked the wrong questions, everything was contaminated. I got silence. Questions that tarred my decisions, dulled my output, feathered my impact. Don’t you know by now that art cannot redeem the world? Don’t you know that your questions are too small? Asking for acceptance is verbal cancer.
Think back when you were a child, you saw the world as a non-duality, you viewed it with no connections. That envelope of time before racism, apartheid, bigotry, terrorism, exclusiveness, for it bore no name.
Some artists have nothing to say. Some artists built scaffolding around their work to appear that they are saying something. Some artists work speaks because it has unvoiced flames, rapids and to-be-burst clouds.
To be older than fire, to be older than the sea, you the “i” needs to die.
An artist passing by said that if art is not funny, he is not interested. Are we clowns or are we messengers? Are you the jester or are you the healer? Amusing ourselves to death, we are laughing as the tides are rising.
Before society pressed us through the meat minder into perfect little meatballs, we were the cow. We were the grass inside the cow. We were the milk inside the udder, the air in the lungs. The same air that blankets the planet. The same planet that is a warm pocket in a universe. The same universe peppered with particles, gas and radiation. The time before “i”, before the meatball was baptized as “i”.
I love poets, artists, and dreamers. They give me hope, they give me solace. They show me, as Ben Okri said, the falseness of our limitations and the true extent of our kingdom.