THE HOLY GRAIL IN THE MINOTAUR’S LAIR

grail

We have been driving a juggernaut along a road leading directly to a cliff edge. If we continue going straight, we will topple into an abyss. Obviously, we cannot continue the way we are going. To avoid annihilation, we have one of two choices: we can either turn left toward a Utopia, or right into a Dystopia. It seems obvious to us which decision is the best one. And yet … most of those on board started screaming to the driver to turn right … and he has. Why? Why did we choose to go in the direction of a Dystopia before a Utopia?

Part of the problem rests in the common perception that Utopia is an impossible space. That it is no-place and therefore must be dismissed straight away. Dystopia, on the other hand, is an inevitability and therefore linked to reality. If reality and pragmatism tells us that we cannot make the world a better place, then at least we can try and protect ourselves against the evil mess that surrounds us.

In truth, our present reality is limited. But limited only by the labyrinth built around us that we call Civilisation. This maze has always been a way for managing the limitlessness of potentials in order to control them for a central cause: The cause being, the accumulation of Wealth and the protection of the wealthy classes. However, existence in the labyrinth has become precarious. The world around it is being devoured by the Minotaur that we feed at the centre of the labyrinth itself. But soon there will be nothing left for any of us to eat, and storms will come and wash us away. If we don’t get out of here, we are doomed. In order to escape we need a map, and we have to tread carefully. But how can we manage a labyrinth from within?

First, one must get a mental overview of it. It requires an intellectual transcendence through reason and the abstract; through mapping and synthesis: and this is a philosophical process.

Secondly, one has to have an anchoring in order to move confidently and lucidly within the maze. An Ariadne’s thread that will enable the hero to retrace his/her steps. With the anchoring one can creep into the unlimited enclosure and look for a way out into the limitlessness beyond its walls without feeling lost; always in touch with the overview, the mental map which provides the hero with an understanding of the maze.

The maze of our Civilisation is infinitely complex and the way out is too far away for any individual to find it in a single lifetime. In fact, it has required tens of thousands of years of intellectual mapping to get to this point we are at now. But that does not mean that a way out is impossible. There is a parallel between the labyrinth and the Grail myth.

The Grail, which cannot be reached, is the goal. It is the learning made on the journey which makes the Grail. So, in reality the Grail does not exist now, but will exist, created out of our endeavours to reach it. The goal/Grail is only holy and spiritual until we see the physical reasons for finding it. Once the physical purpose of the Grail is believed in, then authentic purpose becomes manifest.

Psychologically, the Big Other is resolved. The Big Other doesn’t exist but will exist, through rational, human endeavour.

But to get there, we have to start believing in the possibility of Utopia. In order to get the perspective needed to map the labyrinth properly and see the potential of Utopian limitlessness, a revolutionary thread is needed that will anchor humanity in partnership with the Universe as a vital element in the Universe itself. Only be flying above the maze into the ever-expanding space outside can we find a way out of our doomed enclosure. The enemy to this anchoring-in-the-absolutely-unlimited, is Wealth, which is the force maintaining the labyrinth that we call Civilisation. Utopia is an antithetical concept for Wealth, which thrives on models of Dystopia. Our Wealth-Civilisation is the enemy of Utopia, maintained by an anti-human historical narrative that it itself has created.

Nevertheless, once the lethal aspects of Dystopia are recognised, the Utopia becomes a necessary driving force; a Utopia which is itself envisaged out of necessity.

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The Labyrinth and the Fall from Freedom

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The labyrinth as a loss of transparency, as the creation of the “world’s opacity” as Borges called it. As if a confounding net were woven over us by Chaos or some other confusion-loving Titan. In the labyrinth we are without a map, and it is so difficult to explain or understand the real reasons why things take place. Without a map and lost we are, lost from our essence, our knowing, our sapience, and, because of that, reality is very murky here.

It’s not being in the maze that is the problem, rather it’s the fact that we don’t know how to find our way around it that is disturbing; that we don’t even know what it is we are moving around in. We have been modelling a new home in here according to our own fancies, and we think this model we have created is reality itself. We are lost because, unlike Theseus, we entered the labyrinth without Ariadne’s thread to guide us.

That thread we ignored is knowledge: not a periphery knowledge or a superficial understanding of the things that we have imagined our self-created world in the labyrinth to be, but the authentic map that shows us how to move within the corridors of the real world.

From this perspective the Judaic myth of the Fall from Paradise is turned on its head. It was not the consumption of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that caused the expulsion of humanity from Eden, but rather the fact that they lost sight of the tree itself. Lost sight of it precisely because they were told to flee from it. The flight from the Tree of Knowledge, or the banishing from it, is the first anti-democratic crime in human pre-history. The Tree had to be rendered taboo to the tribe so that the king as priest could take total possession of it for himself. What is taboo for the tribe is power for the leader.

In the Greek myth of the labyrinth the Minotaur represents power in its most cruel and perverse form – the power that will demand your innocent children to be taken from you and devoured by power itself. Such a cruel power necessitates resistance. It incites rebellion, sows seeds of democratic revolution. But real democracy can only be obtained by acquiring the knowledge on which all power is based. To penetrate the labyrinth knowledge is needed, and the Spiderwoman Ariadne provides it for the hero Theseus by giving him her thread. With its aid the hero is able to kill the Minotaur, but he does not return knowledge to the people. Instead the hero clings to the Minotaur’s secret in order to increase his own power – and this has been the situation throughout human history, even unto our own imaginary democratic era. Knowledge is power whenever knowledge can be appropriated in select, closed circles; at the centre of labyrinth that everyone else is lost in.

Real democracy – democracy as a human phenomenon – is not created through the casting of votes, but through the freedom of knowledge possessed by the demos. Only by being granted access to all knowledge can a demos be considered free. Likewise, censorship and the concept of Classified Information has to be a criminal concept in democracy. Knowledge exists for the community, discovered by the community. In this way we arrive at a democratic communism of knowledge. The patent and intellectual property along with the Top Secret become inhuman crimes.

Perhaps in the information age we see a new chapter being written into the myth of the labyrinth. In this epilogue, humanity, in a world of patents and other totalitarian controls of knowledge and the power granted by its control, is finally pitied by the gods, and especially by the Titan Ariadne. Because of this a new web of knowledge is woven around the whole, allowing a free exchange of itself to all.

This new chapter is called: Ariadne’s WWW.

DOXA AND ALETHEIA – TRUTH AND THE ARTIST (PART FOUR)

Time_Saving_Truth_from_Falsehood_and_Envy                                                  (Time saving truth from falsehood – François Lemoyne (1688 – 1737) )

ART AS INTRUSION

“Art should be a disclosure of truth”: an artist’s ideal, perhaps; unnecessary romanticism, perhaps; or a necessary ideal to get art back on the tracks and pull it out of the marshlands of nihilism. In any case art is an intrusion – an invasion of the imaginary into the real. It is this feeling of intrusion which makes us aware that we are perceiving a work of art and not just a copy of reality. It is a ‘positive’ invasion; most of the time a welcome distraction, but, occasionally, when there is intersubjectivity at work between our own inner reality and that of the artist, then the intrusion is a profound, soul shattering experience. We may say it works on a spiritual level, which is one way of calling the profound intersubjective experience. Afterwards we may even ‘seek’ the intrusion again. For many, it is the best and most effective way to draw themselves out of the autistic tendency of the contemplative life experience. In that way we see how art is a welcome experience – it is thrown at us, or placed before us again, but now we accept it, we want it, we need it. Or at least some of us need it. Others reject it. Perhaps there are people who have never had an intersubjective experience through art, although that it is doubtful for now there is pop-art, pop-music, pop-vehicles designed to touch the inner experiences of everyone, no matter how narrow their cultural-memory field is.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POPULAR ART AND DEEP ART

But the difference between popular art and deep art lies in the kind of intrusion that is made. In popular art the intersubjective connection should be immediate, building on easily recognisable connections that have already been made: formulas or tactics that have been proven effective. And it is precisely this mimicry and copying of the provenly effective product that creates the shallowness of the pop intrusion. Of course more and more of the spectators will eventually start to say: ‘I’ve seen and heard this before,’ and will demand something new. The commercial art industry must then resort to novelty: a new way to present the same old intersubjective slogans that it reworks over and over again. Then each brief explosion of originality that the need for novelty brings is reworked, reinvented and remanufactured in the commercial art factories’ production lines of kitsch…

But isn’t this also a folding and unfolding? (SEE OUR EARLIER ENTRY “The Internet as a Deep Art experience of liberation: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/the-internet-as-a-deep-art-experience-of-liberation/)

Does the commercial factory work in the same way we propose in deep art? If this is the case, what is the difference between the shallow and the deep?

 

The difference lies in the kind of intrusion that is being made. Popular art is a forced intersubjectivity; deep art is an invitation. Deep art knows that it requires a certain kind of spectator, willing to trust the artist, who is leaving clues for them and putting up obstacles which may deliberately turn certain spectators away. It is for this reason that the deep-art artists are often accused of being elitists. Of course they are certainly demanding: they know that to go deep there has to be a strong will to do so, and those who lack such a will will be incapable of scratching more than the surface. Deep art, in a sense, is a training ground for intersubjectivity. Its goal is to create a space in which the inner reality can be successfully communicated with a conviction that this intersubjective connection is a necessity, an essential element in human development or evolution.

And so we come back to our original premise, (SEE OUR POST: DOXA AND ALETHEIA – TRUTH AND THE ARTIST https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/doxa-and-aletheia-truth-and-the-artist-part-one/ ) that true art must be a combination of doxa (opinion/perception) and aletheia (truth/disclosure). Commercial art is buried in doxa, while a dedicated artist may lose him or herself in the autistic struggle with aletheia. Real art must use doxa to seduce a favourable opinion which will be the veneer of the work whilst leaving clues to seduce the spectator into the intersubjective realm of aletheia.

THE INTERNET AS A DEEP ART EXPERIENCE OF LIBERATION

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In an art with depth, the object is not really there. In a sense what is given in this kind of art is a specular image reflected into a third mirror (see our earlier essays on Rodrigo Garcia, Luigi Nono and Zabriskie Point). What this does is add distance to any mimicry, and, at the same time, to any complexity. Deep art should be imagined as a kind of maze which first appears as a box or room, but with invisible doors or walls that can be pushed open if one knows how. These doors lead one into more spaces of different sizes, each one with its own exits unto more seemingly enclosed systems. The richness of the experience lies in the fact that each exit can only be discovered if one can know or can discover the symbolic reference to the next space.

Could the Internet be considered an autarchic experience of deep art? In order to do so, one would need to be willing and capable of losing oneself within it, and likewise be capable of stepping away from it in order to analyse the experience from the advantage of distance. What’s more, for a deep art experience to take place, one must be prepared to pause and linger at times, so hard in the Internet which obsessively pushes any audience on to new topics, inviting, tempting, forcing us at times to leave the room we first of all settled in. The Internet experience can get so foggy that we even forget where we started from. For a deep art experience to be meaningful one must have one’s imagination firmly rooted in where one came from in the first place. It is a labyrinth in which one never completely loses touch with the original point of departure. The original room is that which allows us to navigate: forgetting where we are coming from will make it impossible for us to find our way forward or back. It is only by learning how and when to move slowly through the maze that one can dominate it and allow it to become an enriching rather than a frustrating experience.

Or perhaps the Internet is too autistic to be truly satisfying. It has its webcams and its chats, but they don’t belong to the autarchic labyrinth we are interested in here. What we are interested in is its power as a vital museum, come encyclopaedic library, come art gallery, come theatre and cinema and concert hall. But its very immersing quality robs us of the real vital experience we have when we go to these traditional spaces to witness art. It lacks the public. And here we must ask ourselves: how much does the experience of great art depend on it being a public act? Or, should art be classified into the public and private experience? Theatre, for example, is impossible to conceive without an audience (the more the merrier), whilst a novel is a purely private experience (a public reading of a novel is hardly likely to be as enjoyable as the experience of reading to oneself). Could it be said that the richest art-culture experience has to include both possibilities? Does the Internet do this, if only potentially?

Does the Internet disclose any truth? Or even attempt to disclose truth? And, what kind of intersubjectivity is unleashed in its relationship between the artist and the spectator? Only when the Internet is used in its immense folding and unfolding capacity, in a meaningful disclosing way under an artist’s control, will we be able to consider it capable of offering a deeply artistic experience. This is possible. It is certainly a potentially powerful tool for accessing information, and culture is information. What Internet does, by presenting a potential access to universal information and culture universally, is pave the way to a universal culture, which, if it is honestly expressed, must be an authentically human culture. Whilst the Internet is free from manipulation and censorship there is hope for a universal, human cultural development. In fact a free Internet is humanity’s best chance for a free world.

THE DISEASE OF ERROR

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“…error finds safety in the rules with which the worries it engenders protect themselves, and to the very degree to which people consider these rules to be transparent.”[1]

 

So error is a labyrinth: it engenders a fear of making mistakes; this fear engenders the creation of rules designed to prevent slipups being made; we think we know what these rules are, but we don’t, so our preconception is erroneous.

In this way mistakes happen behind the backs of those committing them. Error is propagated like a cold virus before the symptoms are even clearly apparent. But the illness of error is an embarrassment to the one who carries it, and the culture which demands pride engenders a covering up of error and the further propagation and obfuscation of the disease. The fear of making mistakes protects the error and allows it to flourish, for an error that is overlooked can only produce more blunders.

Error is never admitted to oneself. It is smoothed over and made invisible to oneself. Even the criminal is softened by the belief that what has occurred was not a mistake but a necessity that carries its own entire narrative in order to justify itself to its narrator. Within an atmosphere of nihilism, of course, masking narratives form with greater ease than in the thicker airs of a morality-driven culture. In a competitive nihilism like our free-market world, the result is a dialectical chaos in which error becomes safer than ever, being covered by all, and veiled by the so called laws that protect us from it. The veneers that shroud it are many and it can only revealed through cracks, to the detriment of honesty, truth and real necessity.

So with no-one admitting to the mistake the error itself turns into an invisible phantom. It does not float away to the spectral Underworld though, quite the opposite, its invisibility emboldens it. Meanwhile, the problem that error has engendered comes to the fore as the object to be tackled. An object between enemies. The consequences of the mistake are now the prominent feature. While the error remains buried its consequence emerges, on its own, as a rope for an enemy to tug on. Eventually a wrestling match evolves without any of the wrestlers ever laying hands on the real error they should be facing up to. Which can lead to catastrophic oversights, for, only by confronting the error itself can problems be properly understood and avoided in the future. Unveiling error, therefore, should be considered as preventive medicine for a sick civilisation.

In the meantime, error engenders dog-fights rather than any insights. With the real error concealed the rope-problem turns One’s error into the Other’s salvation. But even after the Other has been pulled up the rope still lies between the two, and the One now only needs to find the room to spin around in order to pull on the Other from the opposite side. And whilst they keep on pulling, the error quite happily floats under the surface infecting others and giving us more and more enemies and more ropes to yank on. Our Media focus happily on the action and we are mesmerised by the dramatic wrestling that never seems to stop. The constancy is boring, but who can seriously complain about what seems to be reality? Meanwhile the error floats freely, happy and unashamed, infecting more and more unwitting victims who just don’t see it until it’s too late…

Has anyone called the Error Detectives yet?


[1] Jacques Lacan: Écrits: A Selection, New York: Norton, 1977, p. 369

IN THE THIRD SPACE OF COLLECTIVE CELEBRATIONS

 

Imagine a space in which all time has come to a standstill, but not the same instant of time, rather a foaming conglomeration of bubbles, each one a different time space. Likewise, space itself has been reorganised in a chaotic way, but all of this reorganisation has been carried out according to a singular thematic principle.

Now then, let’s imagine that the principle chosen was the moment in which each individual was experiencing a great sporting triumph by his or her national team. The result is firstly one of tremendous euphoria. Everyone in the new, Third-Place-World space is full of national pride and flag waving. Little by little, each one becomes aware that outside their time/space bubbles their neighbours are also passionately celebrating, but they are waving different flags.

Is this image a positive or negative one? Is it a dream or a nightmare?