Saturday, October 8, 2011

Artful Rebellion:

The alchemy of tantric-fusion* in 21st Century America

Today we’re going through a transitional phase in human experience where people are less conscious of traditional forms of grammar in their daily routines. That’s because we aren’t as involved with formal reading and writing as we used to be. Listening, speaking and even, of late, recording/viewing has taken precedence. It’s akin to what happened when photography overtook portraiture at the end of the nineteenth century and the way Guttenberg marked the end of oral culture. The difference is the rate at which the change is occurring.

With the advent of Twitter and texting, the evolution of reading-writing language has accelerated in unprecedented ways in an effort to reflect the new media technologies shaping a new form of awareness. Grammars, the ways we describe these new rules of language, are changing at such a rate we can actually observe their evolution and interact with and evolve with them.

The increasing interactivity of media is decreasing the centralization of power, which now evolves too slowly in its administrative dimension to adequately keep up with everything that’s going on. Evolution seams a public-private cooperative affair. Our political-economic systems and cultures may be going through a process of natural de-selection.

Aren’t we forever and always facing extinction? In the end, doesn’t everything succumb to entropy?

The death spasms of authoritarian, which is to say hierarchical political-economies [or the grammars of power] are, unfortunately, too often violent. This conflict between old and new cultures reflects a shift in emphasis away from selfishness and competitive disintegration to a cooperative identity with a “tribal base,” according to Marshall McLuhan, whose work seems to be having something of a revival since its marginalization in the 1980s and 90s. The danger of a tribe-based society, of course, is genocide, where the extermination of weaker tribes is believed integral to the dominant tribe’s security and status. That’s a greed- and fear-oriented evolution and we need to do better than that by being more mindful of our behavior.

In light of this virtually emergent neo-tribalism it might be important to note how much art has in common with shamanism and the way each helps people become more conscious of what they’re doing. Both involve strict ways of freely going about one’s craft, innovating means of becoming the reflection of shifting shapes and changing appearances in an otherwise empty space. I’m thinking in terms of Kurt Vonnegut as a witch doctor…

Perhaps, today’s most relevant art merges private with public knowledge to reveal an evolving psychogeographic system of gist and flow where sentient entities are seduced by their perceived milieux into choosing to believe in their perceptions of what their environments are doing. Maybe art reflects the movement of a public/private mind making love to its surroundings.

But what happens when something new emerges into that environment? How is it incorporated? How is that apparent corporation reflected? How does that reflection appear to a third party? Imagine the art that third party, the next to emerge on the scene, could do? What could it mean to make art that isn’t conceived by you, but still seems to appear only through you? Might that make the artist more than himself? Could self-transcendence happen as a result of his method? What does it feel like going beyond perception? Is it pure vibration? Are there ways of applying language/matter to relay that feeling? Is purity even possible?

I’d like to make three assertions vis-à-vis what I’ll call tantric-fusion art:

1. The desire for significance seams together the pulsating intertext of innovations at the core of any theoretically sufficient art.
2. That artistic invention applies form and content to humankind’s apocalyptic mental existence seems an effect of the artist’s craft.
3. The necessity of art speaks to the otherwise absent meaning—the neverness of truth.

Tantric-fusion art seams reflection to actual feeling throughout the work[s], signifying a specific logical flaw unique to the particular situation as it morphs and evolves through its human cycles.

It’s this flaw that seems the thrill of disequilibria to which one’s response feels automatic.

In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes writes of tmesis as being “…the very rhythm of what is read and what is not read that creates the pleasure of the great narratives.” He continues, suggesting “the layering of significance” is “an introduction to what will never be written.”

It might also be said the very rhythm of what’s perceived and not perceived creates the pleasure of great art, where the layering of significance is an introduction to an artistic move that will never be made.

It is this everness of never that fills the streets with souls rebelling against uncreative, nay-saying ugliness.

We, too, have a say in what’s beautiful and not.


Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who was also a psychoanalyst, lived in the United States and became known as “the Father of Public Relations.”

Horrified by the atrocities of WWII, particularly the Holocaust, he had an idea of civilization where the common man’s perilous sex drive would be fed and exploited by a corporate elite for its own private economic benefit. To get the full grasp of what Bernays wrought on American culture, watch Adam Curtis’ “The Century of the Self,” a BBC documentary.

But the down and dirty of it is he was the mastermind whose methods produced the spectacle the Situationists rebelled against in the late 60s early 70s, and that seemed to somehow manifest Deleuze and Guattari’s “Body without Organs,” a somewhat older species than Marshall McLuhan’s “global village” but not quite as old as Pierre Tielhard de Chardin’s noosphere. Bernays’ idea was to basically engage in a policy of mass brainwashing as a means to prevent another Holocaust. Centralize power and unite the nation via mass media, but instead of doing it for evil purposes, like the Nazis, do so for good reasons, like making money and opening up the planet for business. And rather than working for just one party, open up the methodology to the entire business class of entrepreneurs with American know-how.

Family, work, consumption would replace race, slavery, genocide. Almost 70 years later and we’re trying to expand the definition of family, put work in the proper perspective and consume less to prevent a resurgence of nationalism and racism, the further acceleration of wage slavery, and the aiding and abetting of suicidal ecocide in the guise of delusional sky god religions. We’ve replaced “colonial” with “corporate” to little advantage.

Some might address this situation by making art that has the same aim as the best journalism, which is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. If it’s true that artists are “the antennae of the race,” as Ezra Pound suggested, and they feel the need to rebel against the humiliations of wage slavery and environmental degradation, etc. & et al, maybe there’s a very deep reason the present situation is no longer tolerable for anyone with an ear or eye or heart for what we bugs are saying. There’s a difference between good and evil that’s self-evident to anyone who’s experienced it.

If art’s truly rebellious, it is so because it reveals a sense of “we are” in a way that isn’t at all proud or falsely humble, but on fire with a need to improve, to reject ugliness and strive after the beautiful.

A revolution, if it were real, might re-cognize beauty as a means of making reality, not as an end in itself. I write, we rebel…to unify and make beautiful what increasingly disintegrates into ugliness.

But fine aspirations deflate behind the masks of their organizations, habits of speech and their evident realization, leaving behind the emptied husks of institutions, conformist discourse and perceived success the way a snake slithers from its skin.

The nihilist wants to clear this debris away so a fresh garden might grow in its place. The nihilist dreams of the day something can be built, when, for a while, people drop their usual intentions for moving and acting, their means of relating, their doings re: toil and relaxation, and feel the pull of the contextualizing topography’s odd magnetism and the actual encounters that might occur there.

Tantric-fusion art involves letting go of one’s self while fully understanding the range of possible behaviors in the responding environment, which seems the very limit of what both mentally attracts and physically repels us. This method might be compared or contrasted to Deleuze and Guatarri’s “Theory of the Derive,” but I’m no expert.

The aim is to transmutate the idiomatic substance of art via the alchemy of tantric-fusion into a new sanity that allows for a more concentrated participation in the world soul’s vitality and experience.

Tantric-fusion plays art in the heart of all primal cultures, springing from the well of life.

*Tantra’s Sanskrit for "loom” and “warp;" the mixing of two root words that means the stretching, extension or expansion of liberation into enlightenment. It’s a vision with heart that embraces everything with cosmic consciousness. Fusion indicates tantra’s effect on multiple entities that fuse or unite, forming the seams of beautiful minds weaving strands of beautifully networked social minds suturing a beautiful planetary mind stitching itself into a beautifully weaving universal consciousness. Tantric-fusion represents the apparent particle/wavelength duality in quantum physics. Ocean is water, but water is not sea. Art seems the natural effect or response to a perceived tantric fusion stimulus. It’s the activity in which beauty can happen.

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