Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn // Ai Wei Wei

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Ai Wei Wei as a student in New York, posing as a street portrait artist.

 
 

 
 

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With Allen Ginsberg in New York.

 
 

 
 

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After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the discovery of corruption that left thousands of children to die in poorly-built schools, Ai Wei Wei produced a series of works that exposed the “true plight of our spiritual existence”.

This piece, from an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, is composed of metal rods used to reinforce concrete, pulled from collapsed structures. The devastation twisted each bar horribly. Each bend was meticulously undone by one of Ai Wei Wei’s many assistants, thousands of hours dedicated to restoring what had been distorted.
 
 

 
 
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#Ferguson and Western-Christian Civilization // Leon Ferarri

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“Western-Christian Civilization”, Leon Ferrari, 1965.

The deification of Whiteness generates a religion that demands the sacrifice of all that is not White. When power is worshiped, all that resists is subjugated. Constantine envisioned the Cross as a sword. America’s dominant religion imagines Christ as a weapon in the service of White power. Christianity is consistently invoked by White Christians to justify the atrocities committed by its government abroad while White Christians remain silent about atrocities committed by this same government against people of color at home. This is a religion that understands clearly that Christ is for Whites, and serves their interests exclusively. 

Ferrari’s piece captures this relationship between Western-Christian Civilization and power, but his skill as an artist allows him to tell the truth of power in such a way that the truth of crucifixion may also be seen. Those who worship power may see Christ as a payload to be deployed against (non-White) enemies. Those who do not worship power can see Christ crucified by power.

Christ is shot six times in Ferguson.
Christ is grieving the loss of her son in Ferguson.
A son who has no tomb, whose body is left to go cold on the pavement.
Christ’s hands are raised, pleading.
“Don’t Shoot.”
Christ is tear-gassed and under curfew in Ferguson, crying out to be heard.

Two Poems // Langston Hughes

Who But The Lord?

I looked and I saw
That man they call the Law.
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head
Of being laid out cold and dead,
Or else murdered
By the third degree.

I said, O, Lord, if you can,

Save me from that man!

Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!

But the Lord he was not quick.
The Law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!

Now, I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?

We’ll see.


Question and Answer

Durban, Birmingham,
Cape Town, Alabama,
Johannesburg, Watts,
The earth around
Struggling, fighting,
Dying–for what?

A world to gain.

Groping, hoping,
Waiting–for what?

A world to gain.

Dreams kicked asunder,
Why not go under?

There’s a world to gain.

But suppose I don’t want it,
Why take it?

To remake it.

Musee des Beaux Arts // W. H. Auden

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W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

 

 

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“stubborn tiny lights vs. clustering darkness forever ok?” // J.M.W. Turner

 

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Click to enlarge. Really. You need to see this one up close.

 

 

“You have to carry the fire.”

I don’t know how to.”

Yes, you do.”

Is the fire real? The fire?”

Yes it is.”

Where is it? I don’t know where it is.”

Yes you do. It’s inside you. It always was there. I can see it.”

– Cormac McCarthy, The Road

 

 

 

 

Turner is one of my favorite painters, so I was excited to discover that the Yale Center for British Art has a room dedicated to his work. The collection ranges from his early almost-crystalline paintings to his mature style. “Staffa, Fingal’s Cave” is among these later paintings, and I was struck when I saw it hanging on the wall, having never come across it in books or online. At first glance, it looks typical of Turner: a nautical scene, a pending storm, wrapped in haze.

 

 

 

“Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.” – Cormac McCarthy, The Road

 

 

 

The steamer is leaving the light and seeming security of the island, heading into darkness. The sun is before it, but it is setting. Readers of this blog are largely on board with the idea of confronting the unknown. But here’s where Turner’s genius shines through: with the smallest gesture of his brush, he calls us deeper into darkness.

 

 

 

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The absence of light is its own stubborn light –

no light is a light,

no light is the true light,

and there is no light so there is a light so there is no light so there is a light!

Though we’ve been denied too much hope in our lives

let tonight be the night when it ends.

-Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, There Is A Light

 

 

 

In the darkest part of the canvas, and with the slightest bit of  paint, Turner keeps the fire burning. Hot coals radiate from within the steamer. This is not the fire of optimism: many of Turner’s finest paintings prominently feature shipwrecks. But it is a fire, burning hidden, carried across the waves.

 

 

 

 

 

The clip below is a high-quality live performance of “There Is A Light”.

Hang on darlin’
Chant aloud
This boy’s lost his thunder
Amongst the dirty clouds

Dull white starlite,
pale as the morning falls away.

The devil each dawn,
and flat greys upon,
we’re torn asunder neath his gaze.

So c’mon ye children,
if there’s one thing we know,
it’s that them gathering clouds are swinging low.

So don’t you be precious,
man don’t you be meek,
there ain’t no damn glory in the long retreat.

Go call the fuzz,
they’ll shine their lights on us,
we’ve been building in the dark,
there’s so many of us.

Now blinking in the light,
there’s so many of us.

Illuminated and proud,
there’s so many of us.

But there ain’t no truth but the no truth but the not truth, yeah!
Ain’t no thing but the nothing but the nothing, yeah!
Ain’t no fall but the long fall is a long fall, yeah!
And there ain’t no light but the true light is a dim light, yeah!

But I’ve been waiting and longing for that light to fall all over me.

6 and 6 parsons and he doth proclaim that the best little bits of us misfits and strays
make a light in the night that needs to be shamed,
all for some none for all,
and all fallen the same.

And we surrender the stage to those pale horse riders.

Go forth, man
Get down,
With a mighty fist and a retarded crown,
do the one-step the two-step,
Sweet jubilee!
And show me the light, goddamn!

And lay me down in a bed full of rain.

Yeah shit is bleak – we’ve seen it and worried,
our timid leaps get knee-deep and buried,
entire weeks where I swear I can barely rise.

Electrical fits,
tantrums and prayers,
pride un-does what mercy repairs,
the pits of this,
toss a match to it and start again.

The absence of light is its own stubborn light – no light is a light,
no light is the true light,
and there is no light so there is a light so there is no light so there is a light!

Though we’ve been denied too much hope in our lives
let tonight be the night when it ends.

Tell me there is a light!
There is a light!

There!
Is!
A!
Light!

Top 10 Search Terms

Just for fun, I took at look at the search terms that have brought people here. Some were to be expected. Several made me laugh out loud. So here are my top ten favorite search terms:

10. is nadia bolz-weber divorced

Because… you’re hoping she’s available?

9. baby jesus major

Major what?! I need to know? Like, Baby Jesus College Major? Like what was Baby Jesus’ major? Or were you interested in majoring in Baby Jesus? Or is this a new constellation? Is there a Baby Jesus Minor? Is this a fundamentalist takeover of the firmament? So many questions…

8. theology exegesis blasphemy

Ok, this one isn’t a surprise, really. Thank you, Google, for sending me people looking for blasphemous exegesis.

7. “dies in the pain of negativity”

Also not a surprise, I just love the phrase and the thought of someone googling it.

6. why did leon ferrari put jesus on a war plane?

He needed to get him somewhere fast? He didn’t want to paint a pin-up on the nose, because he’s a prude? He did it on a dare? Art is hardddddddd. Google that shit.

5. melancholia neitsche

Because I never tire of Nietzsche misspellings. This was a new one to me. Maybe spelling “melancholia” correctly wore you out.

4. divorce over a boat

Oh, come on, now that is just sad. But apparently I’m reaching a new demographic!

3. theology of twila paris

I feel bad for this person. I hope they’re ok after stumbling across this blog.

2. jesus with grenade

YESSSSSSSSSSSS

And my number one favorite:

1. greg ginn cats

That’s right, you googled about Black Flag and cats and found me and my pile of posts on radical theology. I could not be happier about this. Let’s hang out next time you’re in town. You sound awesome. (I also wonder if you weren’t google image searching Twila Paris earlier…)

Night Song // Osip Mandelstam

Night Song

by Osip Mandelstam

 

The bread is blight and the air’s acetylene,

Wounds impossible to doctor.

Joseph, by his own blood bartered

Off to Egypt, grieved for home no harder.

 

Unslaked sky. Sleetlight of stars.

And the stallioned Bedouins, avatars

Of the day’s vagueness, and the pain

Of vagueness, close their eyes and improvise

 

Out of nothing more than the mist

Of events through which they’ve passed:

Coarse wind, a horse traded for grain, small wars

With sand in which an arrow was lost.

 

And if the song’s in search of earth, and if the song’s

Ensouled, then everything vanishes

To void, and the stars by which it’s known,

And the voice that lets it all be and be gone.

 

(1913)

 

 

 

Translated by Christian Wiman

Yeh I’ve Been Searchin’ // Bas Jan Ader

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Fall II, 1970



 

 

 

 

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Broken Fall (Geometric), 1971



It’s not uncommon for an artist to reflect on human fragility and vulnerability in her work.

What I see in Bas Jan Ader is an intense fragility, a deliberate fragility.

This isn’t a heroic pose, claiming acceptance of the human condition.

This is a move beyond acceptance to embrace.

The movement in Ader’s work deliberately increases his vulnerability.

 

 

 

 

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There is nothing more vulnerable than the search.

To seek is to bear witness to what we lack, and to our desire to find.

To search is to be open to failure, to loss, to getting lost, to being lost.

Seeking makes us vulnerable to not finding.

Seeking also makes us vulnerable to finding.

If our search is honest, we can’t predict what we’ll find, or lose.

 

 

 

 

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Six months after he attempted to cross the Atlantic in a 12 1/2 ft. sailing boat, his boat was found off the coast of Ireland.

 

Bas Jan Ader went in search of the miraculous.

 

 

 

 

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Prie-Dieu // Donald (Grady) Davidson

Prie-Dieu

By Donald (Grady) Davidson

 

Of what sins have you made confession here,
Ardent Cecile? Not passion’s intimacy,
Or tangles of desire that mutineer
A bold way through your maiden ecstasy.
Those are not blamed…the penance not severe!

 

Pray rather, with cool-lidded conscious eyes
For warm juvescence of those ichored limbs,
For laughter checked by no repentant cries,
For lips unstained by pattering of hymns.
Men’s glances have embraced you. They are wise.

 

They have seen you, cumbent by the ruddy fire,
Lending your curves to cushioned wantonness,
Or leaping to the stroke of an earthy lyre
Twanged in the joy of throbbing noon’s excess
And cried no pause for love. You, they require.

 

Of what sins have you made confession here,
Ardent Cecile? The wood receives your knees;
The organ stirs your prayer. Now you revere
The God that made you beautiful among these,
The gnarled and ugly. Your book receives no tear.