Category Archives: Chaos Theory

Liminal Theatre – Antonin Artaud


~ The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of everything — gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness — rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations. To break through language in order to touch life is to create or recreate the theatre.

~ All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth.

~ No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, modeled, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell.

~ When we speak the word ”life’,’ it must be understood we are not referring to life as we know it from its surface of fact, but to that fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach.

~ You are outside life, you are above life, you have miseries which the ordinary man does not know, you exceed the normal level, and it is for this that men refuse to forgive you, you poison their peace of mind, you undermine their stability. You have irrepressible pains whose essence is to be inadaptable to any known state, indescribable in words. You have repeated and shifting pains, incurable pains, pains beyond imagining, pains which are neither of the body nor of the soul, but which partake of both. And I share your suffering, and I ask you: who dares to ration our relief? We are not going to kill ourselves just yet. In the meantime, leave us the hell alone.

~ The race of prophets is extinct. Europe is becoming set in its ways, slowly embalming itself beneath the wrappings of its borders, its factories, its law-courts and its universities. The frozen Mind cracks between the mineral staves which close upon it. The fault lies with your moldy systems, your logic of 2 + 2 = 4. The fault lies with you, Chancellors, caught in the net of syllogisms. You manufacture engineers, magistrates, doctors, who know nothing of the true mysteries of the body or the cosmic laws of existence. False scholars blind outside this world, philosophers who pretend to reconstruct the mind. The least act of spontaneous creation is a more complex and revealing world than any metaphysics.

A. Artaud

The ‘sacred theatre of absurd’, the ‘theatre of cruelty’, theatre of non-identity, non-existence – mind-blowing, weirdo, genius, in parts completely nuts…

Beckett-sque, Kafka-sque… Sartre, Camus, Dada, Surreal…

Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Tadeusz Kantor…

Creating void in thought, a gap between words and thoughts, language and ideas, a silent beyond-ness hovering between a creator and the creation, ‘me’ and ‘them’…

Stage drama and the very personal drama, sacred and profane, opening wounds as spaces of healing and the risk of even deeper harm… No retreat from life, no cheap escapism, no straight-faced moralism, no mere subversion…

But one huge effort, experiment, ferment, fever, game, challenge – to make sense of life here and now – by the most nonsensical means there have been invented yet…

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Liminality in art (2)

The notions of boundaries, borders, limits, thresholds and so on may be as ancient as the human population itself. In Greek/Roman mythology they are expressed by names of different gods/goddesses, hybrids and monsters – Zeus cares for the Olympus, Poseidon is a guardian of waters, Hades rules in the Underground; forests, agriculture, arts and law – every human (divine and monstrous as well) activity and embodiment of the spirit has its own powerful protector/ rules maker and no interference is into each other territory is tolerated.

Religions exist due the numerous polarities, and the most popular story of creation (Book of Genesis) had started exactly from this – from a separation and making sharp divisions between elements and the mater. In order to survive the species would have to define and fight for the territories and the evolution of the human race is an ‘epoch’ of transcending the boundaries of nature, space and time…

The social, cultural and personal identity couldn’t be possible at all without the ongoing, often uncompromising process of the differentiation. And when philosophy tends to look for an unity and structure in the universe despite of all the intrinsic and imposed/created dichotomies, art in general would indulge in exploring the world as seen within the “frame” (think now about Derrida’s “The truth in painting” and his deconstruction attempt of all the ‘frames’ we tend to see the art through) and beyond it.

And so it goes – Christ would be a ‘worthy’ subject, but even some of his disciples not exactly; harmonious human body was only true representation – the ugly/mutilated one was worse than some of the animals; one ‘breed’ of art-view was ‘high’ (read: ‘true’), the others were ‘pseudo-’; painting the landscape naturally excluded the sky-view and the figurative works were exorcised of all the abstract elements (and vice versa). The universe seen as in an atom of a very particular concept/meaning or a set of those (lets say: christian version of god, humanists’ vision of a man, romantic vision of a landscape, modernists’ subversion to the classical art) which had to be frozen, clearly and in a division to its possible and apparent opposites… This is basically what all the history of the Western Art is about. About Old Testament God’s job of making the world happen by creating borders between chaos and order, good and bad, light and dark, sky and earth, the animals and the human beings, the human beings and the Holy one.

Where the ‘liminal’ creeps into all of this? Well – right at the start, I guess and simply because the artistic activity in itself situates man on the existential threshold; a bit like a prayer or a sexual act – two different worlds meet and penetrate each other; the universe as it is (or appears to be) and the universe to be created… And the conscious artist is very likely to aim at or to be the ‘passeur’ -’a boatman’, ‘smuggler’ – the man of passage, the guide who leads his audience beyond the status quo crossing social, cultural,  psychological, spiritual and sometimes very physical boundaries in order to show/explain/challenge…

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This article is a part of a series “Liminality in art” where I intend to define and explore the philosophical and aesthetic notion of the liminality. Please, refer to other articles from the series in order to get the fuller view.


Studying Art (11) – Studio Work or Chaos…

Please note:

Photos presented feature the below-mentioned efforts in my studio from September-December 2008. For my statement, concept, more images/descriptions – please visit “My Work” and my Flickr page.

It had started during the summer months – a sort of a rather noxious fermentation darkening slowly over time. On coming back to the college in September it has been intensified to an explosive degree 04by some rather complex personal troubles – one small trigger has freed all the anger, doubt, confusion and a sorrow. And I launched this academic year in a rather audacious manner (my big sorry to all of you there), by sending a clear message to my tutors and my friends: Do keep away.

Then I took off with a ceaseless frenzy of attacking my studio and corridor walls with a flood of images and all sorts of artifacts I managed to drag on a spot. Paint (oil) was used merely as an excuse to stick even more random pieces on it. And I took a pleasure in questioning and destroying all the artistic attempts I regarded as ‘successful’ to some extent, mocking and wasting away my ‘capital’ I managed to gain through the last year of study. To my surprise – the more anarchistic battles I provoked with art and with my surroundings, the more rudely I attempted to annihilate the commonly-accepted boundaries – the less and less opposition I felt, and more and more excited, positive response I got.05

Some of my viewers refused to stay at bay, where I put them, and I heard “Rauschenberg”, “DaDa”, “extravagance” – I shrugged my arms – So what? That my work was similar to that of one of the artistic idols (actually, I adore Rauschenberg’s myself) was of the least importance to me at that time – I was trying hard to make sense of the world around, of my entire life; and there was something really sad about that, that what my great audience had read as an exciting, artistic effort was, in a fact – a confused expression of a personal despair.

It took me weeks to gain some theoretical, sensible insight into my activities – and it all,  luckily for me, has ended in a self-assurance. Thanks to my background – the classical education and still respected values it proved to be impossible for me to ‘lose my mind’ – even if I would have made a lucid decision to do so (for a 06self-protection); so – there was always a clear method in that  ‘madness’, and even from the longest, the most scary and lonely spiritual journey I made I was able to come back on my own – stronger and smarter than before, or so I choose to think…

Though, it all would be much more difficult to achieve without the loyal, so understanding and wise support of my friends – manifested in various ways (so, do accept my gratitude, all of you, who know, what I’m writing here about – I’m indebted to your noble patience and the above-average openness of mind…) By the way , I must make this point – for an artist, especially the beginner or the one in a crisis – there can be nothing more precious and desirable than the intelligent audience ready to take on and even – to acclaim – all sorts of oddities, provocations, anti-art behaviours and silly games, the individual is pervertedly happy to display…

Those were truly stimulating months – and even if there were things I regret now and wouldn’t do having a chance to move the clock back – in general, I would have been disappointed with myself choosing any easier option. Through struggle and a passionate building up of a negative language I’ve reached to some of the ideas and ways of expression, which are well able to nourish my studies for some time. And the work that finally emerged showed me the art once again – in its most universal and glorious epitome – as a primordial force able to initiate, control and tame chaos of the both – the physical and the inner reality…

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Strangers, Gods and Monsters?

Strangers, gods and monsters are the central characters of my story. Their favourite haunts are those phantasmal boundaries where maps run out (…) No man’s land. Land’s end. Strangers, gods and monsters represent experiences of extermity which brings us the the edge. They subvert our established categories and challenge us to think again.
(…) Figure of a ‘stranger’ (…) operates as a limit-experience for humans trying to identify themselves over and against others. (…) Monsters show us that if our aims are celestial, our origins are terrestrial. They ghost the margins of what can be legitimately thought and said. By definition unrecognizable, they defy our accredited norms of identification. Unnatural, transgressive, obscene, contradictory, heterogeneous, mad. (…) Gods are the names given by most mythologies and religions to those beings whose numinous power and mystery exceed our grasp and bid us kneel and worship. (…) Transcending laws of time and space, they readily take on immortal or protean status. Gods’ ways are not our ways. They bedazzle and surprise us. It is not ours to reason why.

“Strangers, Gods and Monsters – Interpreting otherness” (2002) by Richard Kearney. This book is a truly inspiring piece of a contemporary philosophy (with an emphasis on a cross-disciplinary approach) – fantastically written, and with a formidable erudition. The theme in itself can make a life-long passion for an artist, a writer or a philosopher alike. It’s universal, immortal, captivating, inexhaustible. A concept and an experience of the liminality of the humanness, the identity and the nature of being/existing as one of the species, being challenged by and/or … living as a ‘stranger/the Other’, ‘a monster’, ‘a deity’… What does it all mean and why most of us take such profound issues as if for granted (actually, not addressing them at all); letting only to be occasionally ‘scared’ by a horror-movie or bedazzled by a genius of a literary/artistic god? How about our true identity/nature, why do we need ‘strangers, gods and monsters’ at all – aren’t they something like projections of this part of our psyche/mind, which still remains – partly due to our own wish – “no man’s land”- Terra Incognita?

Think about that a bit, my dear readers, it’s a perfect brain-teaser for this time of the year. God comes as a stranger to defeat a monster – but – couldn’t be like that – these three  composing just one being – own being? Merry Christmas everyone. As a character of W. Wender’s film had said to an angel: I cannot see you but I know that you are here. Thanks for your attentive, well-wishing and open-minded company.

P. S.
Richard Kearney is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and University College Dublin.
Click at the title to read a review of this book. The fragment quoted comes from an ‘Introduction’, pp. 3-4


Bacon or how to suffer in an outstanding manner…

Francis Bacon is back again in London – Tate Britain (11 Sept. 2008 – 4 Jan. 2009) – or, as I should write – he strikes again in this major retrospective show, displaying the formidable panorama of his paintings right from the first attempts (1940s) to the last experiments executed before his death in 1992. The exhibition fills in ten rooms with the most of the representative works present. Additionally – what I fully appreciated as a student – there is one room devoted to the methods and materials of the artist’s research and another one – called the “Crisis” featuring his artistic mistakes. And it’s probably from Bacon’s mistakes that one should start to view his art (maybe right after the impressive early period) – they clearly show how perfectly balanced his masterpieces are and how incredibly difficult had to be to find that fine line – between the genius audacity/ an outstanding quality of suffering portrayed and a pure, cheap melodrama/grotesque strangely embodied into it.

There are different sorts and qualities of suffering, to mention only few: the one, which glows with inner nobility and sophistication; other, which is low and attention-seeking, flirting with itself and seeking self-approval; the one, great and intense, which has no name until some kind of a higher/different level of self-recognition takes place and the one, which cannot be named at all – simply because is beyond human capacity of the verbal expression and anything you can do is to be silent in its presence. And Bacon’s paintings actually look like those, by a default, silent companions of their creator’s inner turmoil – giving it voice by the artistic language yet, paradoxically, communicating or conveying nothing beyond its own captivating void. The vision presented is the Alpha and Omega in itself, a riddle not to be explained – only accepted, with all the courage and emotional maturity it demands. For this Irish-born painter, alike Peter Handke in his autobiographical story, where he tries to reflect on his mother suicide (“It’s about the moments, when the mind boggles with horror so brief that speech always comes to late. Horror seems real and meaningful only when it is incomprehensible…” ) – leads us at the very edge of what the typical cognitive system perceives as ‘human’.

What is utterly fascinating in all this, is that that enigmatic, powerful monster and alien encaged into Bacon’s canvases keeps the modern viewer under his spell, even wins the claim as ‘genius’ instead of, as the common sense whispers -to provoke a total rejection or simply, to scare him away. Just like with Shakespeare’s murderers and witches – one cannot simply apply wrong/right brackets, we are suspended in the unnamed and the dark, hold there by the sheer magic of the art… Only very few artists out of dozens who were trying to confront the man with his own shadows succeeded, only few suffered – in an outstanding manner – through their art, teaching us – perhaps unwittingly – how to acknowledge and express our own pain. Bacon belongs to those few and that will probably sound shamelessly, but … I’m glad that he happened to exist, in the very unique way of his. His story casts as much shadow as it illuminates – it’s good to have it ‘documented’ in the great artworks, it’s great to have those audacious screams in paint among us.

P. S.

See the virtual, interactive tour of the exhibition here, yet – for the better results, see it in life…


Dancing with Time

At this moment of the year we think about time…’moment’, ‘year’, ‘time’… ’2007′, ’2008′… Even ‘eternity’ is the matter of the social contract. We chop up the time, give it names and characteristics, the whole life being segregated like an accountant’s files. All in order to make us more ‘alive’, more in a charge of our solid existence here, where we are.

We’re used to dance with our own ephemerality welcoming so-called New Year, not bothering at all that, just by the very fact of the ‘new’ we’ve became older, weaker, closer to death.

I’ve got an old, rather strange habit to celebrate the ‘new year’ each summer, when that ‘new’ time reaches its full maturity. Fertile beauty of the world makes passing time intriguing and attractive.

But, because I respect ‘the social contract’, I feel like wishing you all exciting, fulfilling, wisely-spent 2008.

Thank you for your TIME devoted to me and my work put into this page to function. To my loved ones, to all my friends and enemies, colleagues, well-wishers and everyone visiting, commenting this site, sending e-mails – thank you. I would feel terribly alone without you here.

Chirico’s “The Conquest of the Philosopher” (above) is my New-Year dedication to you. Don’t expect I will read that image for you. It’s an enigma, no matter what some critics say about it. Just like the fleeting time embodied in the clock visible up there – eternal, trans-human with those Roman numerals and yet very corporeal, touching you with sensible stimulants every time (time again…) you look at it.

Use your time well, every sensation, thought and emotion of it.


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