Iona Miller's visionary art has jumped the canvas to multimedia;
Healing has jumped the consulting room to nonlocality;
Science has made the quantum leap to negentropic physics.
KNOW BROW ART
Neither High-brow nor Low-Brow, the Electronic Arts are "KNOW-Brow Art" born of our fusion with technology. In the middle of the forehead, neither high nor low brow, is the Third Eye of inner or visionary sight. It transcends the usual dichotomy by going hyperdimensional, hyperreal. TecGnosis is the antidote to TechNarcosis.
Electronic arts, by their very nature, require a great deal of technical knowledge to interface with computer-assisted media. Know Brow art respects and draws from both classical art and that of the underground or street. Digital Media include still frames, Flash, and desktop digital movies, often incorporated with other media, installation, and performance.
The artistic life is a chaotic arc of inspiration upon inspiration, following the Muse. Artists walk what for others is ‘the road not taken’ (chaos theory’s bifurcation or forking), sometimes going ‘where angels fear to tread.’ Their charismatic influence pulls others into their orbits, and the small effect of one personality potentially spreads its influence over the world (butterfly effect), sometimes over history. The history of art is one of the richest threads of our cultural heritage.
Artists magnetically draw the attention of others to their creations, to their vision, into the imagination, into the collective future. We might think of them as the ‘indicator species’ of the social ecology, the evolving cultural landscape. Orbiting far from the norm, they provide a negentropic counter-balance, an evolutionary burst, social innovation -- to conservative forms and institutions, which tend to ossify leading to stasis and decay.
Art changes the way people perceive reality, how they see life and their place in it. These negentropic innovations become embedded in social structure. Realizations, insight, empathy are implicit. They show us windows of prescient emotions and impulses, their unframed works rending the veil of the human unconscious.
There are two kinds of freedom: ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’. Once we are free of the shackles of limitation, the burden is on us to exercise that liberty in a creative way, recognizing our own limitations. There is no progress in mere boundary-breaking. We have to have somewhere to go. Purpose must underlie pain, or it is pointless. There is no creative spirit in complete anarchy, yet there is in Chaos.
The relationship of control and freedom is very much like that between order and chaos. Science has shown that order emerges from the creative edge of chaos. The creative process is similar in that one must use both reins of constraint and freedom: technical mastery and understanding of the medium and forces at work plus the counterpoint of imaginal freedom can produce something truly unique.
Processes that appear to be quite chaotic can actually produce their own optimal boundary conditions. The same is true in art, so rather than endless failed attempts to describe meaningful experience, the true artist can explore beyond limits to produce a flowing fount of fully rendered images that have maturity, clarity, radiance, luminescence or works that simply shine forth and will not be denied.
Similar dynamics apply to the place of the leading edge or extreme artist in society: as shaman, as pathfinder, as seer of the future, as one who dares to go where the timid but voyeuristic would love to peek. When our senses become overwhelmed by rhythm, flux, and color we can enter altered states that open us to new experiences, new ways of thinking, new ways of being, new ways of seeing. This fresh point of view reflects a fundamental psychic shift.
The artist’s actual medium is the psyches of the public, which are massaged, aroused to curiosity, piqued, fascinated, infatuated, and sometimes emotionally terrorized by this pseudo-intimacy. The artist mounts more than his image: the viewer is intellectually and emotionally ridden at his or her pleasure. Curiously, it is not a substitute for sex, but arguably its very creative evolution. Reflective observation is more than passive voyeurism. One is changed by the experience, seeded within the dark virtuality of the unseen dimension.
Our culture’s preoccupation with sex is undeniable as expressed in advertising media, so why shouldn’t it continue appearing in our galleries, museums, music venues, and screening rooms in ever-renewing forms? Surrealism bent and stretched our notions of physical embodiment with a bizarre, dreamlike qualities. Low brow art has proven that all that implies beauty and truth is not necessarily beautiful to look at in its stark reality, but worthwhile to consciously examine, nevertheless.
Today’s “Know Brow” art fearlessly stares at it all, if not in the face, where it clearly counts. Perhaps the Third Eye really lies below the waist. Why not realize that “many of the masterpieces of modern art depend on perversion to make their dramatic point”? (Kuspit) Robert Bak suggests, “Fetishism is the model for all perversions.” Still, the seductiveness of the bodies is subsumed in the seductiveness of the overall image or scene. In this context, one’s oeuvre means more than one’s fleshy meat.
Contemporary sexual identity is in flux, creating new sexual types and titillations by actively changing our psychology and sexuality. The future of reconfigured sex is pangendered -- a liquification not only of the organs, but also of all the formerly presumed limitations of our biology. Visual, theatrical and biological experimentation in this area has been happening at the fringes and in the dungeons of contemporary society at least for a few decades, as people play imaginatively with their bodies and sexual personae.
We are transhuman, already fusing with our communication and biomedical technology. Soon, we won't be human at all, but Posthuman. Artists will lead the way in this techno-revolution designing new bodies and synthetic environments for us to inhabit.
Random Order Revisited:
Collage Jumps the Canvas to Multimedia Art
The Multimedia Art of Iona Miller
By Iona Miller, 5/2004
Let us imagine the Anima Mundi neither above the world encircling it as a divine and remote emanation of spirit, a world of powers, archetypes, and principles transcendent to things, nor within the material world as its unifying panpsychic life-principle. Rather let us imagine the anima mundi as that particular soul-spark, the seminal image, which offers itself through each thing in its visible form. Then anima mundi indicates the animated possibilities presented by each event, as it is, its sensuous presentation as face bespeaking its interior image--in short, its availability to imagination, its presence as a psychic reality. Not only animals and plants ensouled as in the Romantic vision, but soul is given with each thing; God-given things of nature and man-made things of the street.
~ James Hillman
Robert Rauschenberg originally legitimized collage as a valid artform with his curatorial manifestos, The Art of Assemblage (1961) and Random Order (1963). He revisioned many presuppositions about art and older notions of the avant-garde in his own non-nihilistic oppositional strain. In fact, his notion of “random order” prophetically prefigures the scientific discovery of Chaos Theory by decades.
At his most ambitious, Rauschenberg hoped technology would allow him to create a machine to integrate spectators into its functioning, reactions setting it in motion transforming the participants. This is multimedia interactivity, with feedback and feedforward loops. He wanted to educate the predictable public to risk, including in the realm of sexuality. He wanted to reflect and modify the desires of the viewer.
Many of the goals of today’s multimedia “Know-Brow” artists are similar, aiming at embodied experience and pushing those insights further as CG images become more compelling. The larger question remains, “What does it mean to be human?” American film and video critic Gene Youngblood once wrote that “all art is experimental, or it isn’t art.” Innovation brings radically new frames of reference or discards frames entirely.
“Indeed the new materials artists use today have radically transformed art, and our globally-linked planet has brought the plurality of artistic forms, the diversity of styles, the ways in which statements about art can be formed and framed to the surface. Within this we find that the wide array of technical practices, this virtual reality theatre being one example, now make it easy to see that technology has had a tremendous impact on how we engage with art, how we engage with the question of what art is, and how we view the many ways artists exploit technology in our time.“
New tools, of course, have always resulted in new forms and, in the largest sense, we can say that technological innovations add imaginative possibilities to the artistic toolbox. When we place the results into a mix that includes social, cultural, political, and scientific contributions we find the enlarged vantage points new technologies offer are even more intriguing.
“Perhaps as striking as the number of ways in which artists use technology is that forms of experimentation, like artistic goals, vary widely today. Given this it is not surprising that, sometimes, technologically informed work simply excites our senses and, at other times, even an educated viewer may wonder how best to address a work he or she simply does not understand. There is also the challenge of engaging with work that invites us to be participants rather than passive spectators. And, of course, work presented in more traditional ways, so to speak, continues to raise traditional questions about what art is.
“One might ask: Is it the visceral quality of a work that excites us or will we more fully experience an artist’s intention if we read the work as a text and interpret the levels of meaning embedded in the project? Then, again, perhaps an interpretation based on ferreting out meaning compromises key elements that might be optically-centered or intended to emotionally-charge our experience?” ~Amy Ione, 2000, http://users.lmi.net/ione/sf3.html
Philosophically defined concepts such as ideology, aesthetics, meaning, emotion, embodied or situated cognition, complexity, anticipation, inspiration, signification, psychophysical coordination, emergentism, depiction, focal-point conflict, and other elusive models fit into the well-honed categories, bracketing themes such as picture organization and gestalt, metaphor, interpretation, subjectivity, enculturation, neural processing, language and history.
They depend crucially on our psychophysical constraints (compensation, accentuation, contrast, occlusion, dissonance, blur, grain, codes, projection, distortion, denotation, etc.) and enabling of our sensorimotor apparatus. They also depend on the ecological and sociocultural environment in which our apprehending and productive capacities come into being. Rhythm perception and production involve a complex, whole-body experience.
The avant-garde attempted to break down the false division between “art” and “life.” This medium has morphed again, and the message of the art and science of depiction morphs with it. The generative approach is multidisciplinary. Insightful connections and correlaries are described, not truths or explanations. Collage, montage, and assemblage have gone digital -- jumped the juxtaposed canvas into graffiti, into digital fine art, into art music as sampling and into animation, which draws from the entirety of art history stringing together its pastiche.
Early digital films of the1990’s such as “The Mind’s Eye,” “Beyond the Mind’s Eye,” and “The Gate,” are good examples of the later. Some of these vignettes draw explicitely from art history, using works of Picasso, allusions to Dali, Magritte, etc. They also draw on the genre of science-art. Their immediate predecesors were computer-generated dynamics, such as “Fractal Fantasy”, and a host of other mathematically driven animations like “Voyage To the Planets”.
Multimedia with its efficiency of rendering takes us beyond the aesthetic block of static art that hangs on the wall and becomes p(art) of our lives. Home studios and user-friendly programs and interfaces now allow individual digital fine artists, such as Laurence Gartel and filmmaker Bob Judd, to produce their own audio-visual visions on DVD. Trial and error process focus the artist’s eye on the current state of he image and his/her reactions to it. Trained image makers know what they need and choose the relevant tool.
Art history language is translative and descriptive, not generative. Validity has standards, but they become outmoded periodically, and must be revisioned to prefigure inevitable transformations. The aesthetics of juxtaposition is fundamental; it is a primary modality of simultaneous display that can either 1) temporarily shock, negate, or scandalize, (cultural value); or 2) lead toward lasting aesthetic and symbolic tensions (aesthetic and psychological value).
Juxtaposition can shock, surprise or inform. However, once the shock circuit [artifact of the DaDa era] is closed, the effect will not repeat again in the same individual. There is a world of difference between threat and shock or lasting aesthetic effect. Primary tropes tend to characterize the creations of those who work in this assemblage modality, revealing their mental shorthand, their private symbolic and iconographic lexicons.
The second form ignites the potential of disparate elements in a new ‘force field.’ It becomes a ‘strange attractor’ around which our eye and consciousness can circulate and recirculate. This is one form of the iconography of high art, Rauschenberg effectively argued. His was a challenging balance between aesthetic signification and spectatorial reception.
Collage can seem random or purposeful, assembling symbols or elements that “want to live with one another.” Some artists just ‘know’ what wants to live together, what is aesthetically pleasing and psychologically congruent or challenging, what juxtaposition still has something to say beyond simple pattern saturation. Minimalism, or classical juxtapositions of opposites, is too sparse for such rich, complex vision.
Rauschenberg continually rejected an aesthetic of nihilism, shock and negation through his whole career preferring complete esthetic freedom, eschewing art and historical battles already waged by predecesors. His works changed focus, evoked multiplicity, and multiple perspectives. He preferred the unresolved.
Neo-dada attitudes of the pre- and post WWII era have carried over into post Postmodern underground art with multimedia performance artists, who are socially disengaged or culturally and politically frustrated. Even this seemingly negative response to pain seeks to engage with “process” and “life” which is not separate from “art.” But, by definition, much of this “art”, often identified with the Fluxus movement, is not lasting, frequently consisting of artifacts or ephemera.
These edge and extreme artists are idiosyncratic and narcissistic, but generally not socially toxic, anarchistic or apolitical but quite political and often spiritual in their statements, rhetoric, and performances. They have broken free of the museum and the artworld and found their own validation. But provocation can’t last indefinitely.
The history of the avant garde is discontinuous, turbulent, nonlinear, chaotic, just like its art. All of its metaphors strongly suggest the randomly punctuated rhythms of Chaos Theory. Its reference points reinforce this description, reiterating complex feedback loops, strange attractors, and producing big effects [such as radical cultural and political effects] from minor perturbations.
Iona Miller’s Psychogenesis: Updates:
In the 1990’s, Iona Miller created 400 posters, 24 x 36, from the most prevalent form of trash available: discarded magazines, the base of the garbage pyramid. While they are commonly used, she found a unique means of doing so. Of course, the strongest constraint of this medium is availability, listening to one’s inner voice on where to go when to find the raw materials. If you listen closely enough, knowing what to save and discard, they call to you.
Miller recycled this ‘found’ imagery into a series of self-therapeutic works, which she later discovered contained a virtual encyclopedia of psychological archetypes, the “strange attractors” of the psyche. She compiled the more symbolic, rather than merely aesthetic, of these process art works in Psychogenesis: A Journey through Inner Realms of Wonder and Imagination via Modern Iconography and Recycled Imagery, at the turn of the Millennium.
The avant garde alleged the praxis of life is to be renewed and renewal was the unrelated therapeutic purpose of this project. But this ‘art’ was uncontrived, claiming no commercial purpose or drive, naivete. It has nothing to do with the institutionalization of art nor discursive rules, nor social criticism, nor overarching historical frameworks.
Nor is it expressing the avant garde strategy of using shocking assault on the division of art and life. It had to do with getting what was inside out. It is life in motion and its strategy is to take the commonest most discarded thing, appropriate it and activate its healing talismanic potential, turn lead into gold, giving it a new potency beyond the transgressive power, a force that comes from the emergent power of the one true thing.
These works reappropriate the ordinary, the mundane and recontextualize it within a meaningful whole of which the viewer is an integral part. It is motivated by the urge to connect with the life stream, the flow of psychophysical energy or libido that animates us. It is driven by jealousy of time to fulfill its expressive goal before death finds another unreleasable hostage, for even as I am writing this I hear about the sudden death of a friend of 25 years. Now, I have gone digital and begun merging myself in this series, particularizing the images even further.
The Psychogenesis preface begins:
“Welcome to my world--a world ensouled and enlivened by imagery. A world of the seemingly familiar, yet peculiarly mysterious: the vast landscape of consciousness, fluid temporal movement, the undivided flux of creation. Many people have allowed me to tap into their dreams, their inner streams of realities, their nether realms. I conclude that our local existence is nested in a vast collective domain, abode of symbols, guiding archetypes, and myths. We contain and are contained by Universe, and we are not different from that. This eternal world outside spacetime is the contact point for sacred time and space, the container for that which never was but is always happening. Since its source is complex, its coding is intense. Archetypal images enfold multiple meanings, modes, potentials, dimensions.
The human psyche is inherently polytheistic, polymorphous, continually in motion.We are experiencing not just the revival of ancient images, but also the harvest of all the world's cultures, belief systems, ways of knowing, seeing, doing, being. Gradually we discover that these stories are our own stories, that they drive the amplified rhythms of our own lives, depending on and enhancing us, filling us with a sense of the fractal resonance of the mythic life within our own.In our modern culture every image, mundane or divine, has been used and abused.
In the Postmodern Era there is no new iconography. In imagery and art, there is nothing new under the Sun. Everything, which can be used from religion, myth and symbolism, has been used and can only be recycled -- recycled like these collaged images from the trash-heap of society. The material for these images was literally someone's garbage. My task was therefore, as usual whether doing art or therapy, trying to turn alchemical lead into gold."
Here, in this animated world, images are lovingly juxtaposed with their complements and contrasts in naturally corresponding clusters of symbolism. They share the same metaphysical essence. Some images just want to "live together." Symbols held in the subtle net of a visual field become particularized imagery; they become personal, unique. The familiar is combined with the mysterious, reflecting a singular surrealistic vision. It embodies a truth rather than providing meaning.
The familiar becomes unfamiliar or “unknown” once again in the juxtaposed context. It helps us confront mystery, to stand in the Mystery. Reflectaphors, or reflective metaphors, repeat themselves in each image or poster, as well as jump from image to image--i.e., they echo themes among the various pieces as the series unfolds itself in self-similar fashion, like the iterations and reiterations of fractals.
So, Anima Mundi bids you welcome and acts as our tour-guide or hostess. She coaxes us deeper into the labyrinth of desire and fulfillment, where each of us finds our own resonance, the imagery, which speaks the loudest or clearest, or beguiles with the mere whisper.
To experience psychic reality means to be in soul, in the realm of the imagination, as if interacting with its inhabitants and locales. Inner visionary experience, be it wrathful or beatific, is an expression of soul. Through images the unconscious affects our worldview, health and relationships. Imagination not only conditions our reality; it is our reality. Soul is the middle world between gross materiality and the spiritual world.
Matter, spirit, and ego fight over the soul. Yet soul is a primary experience, virtually our only way of being. Each wants its unique fantasy to reign uppermost. So, the first task is to distinguish soul from spirit, so the body may unite with and be enlivened by both.
This is a psychological approach to art and life--giving voice to soul, living life as art. It means the return of a subjective feminine eye on reality. It means the enlivening of our bodies and the world of nature with imagination. When we see soul as the background of all phenomena, we become aware of the animating principle and develop a relationship with Her.
All images arise either from body processes (instinct) or psychic forms (spirit). Whether instinct-controlled or spirit-controlled, images are related to physiological processes. They appear psychologically as images, but work physiologically. They produce emotional or visceral manifestations, but not in any causal way. The images don't produce reactions. The image is the entire psychophysical gestalt.
The soul generates images unceasingly. Artists are able to capture and express some of that ceaseless flow. The soul lives on images and metaphor, especially epistemological metaphors--how we know what we know. These images form the basis of our consciousness. All we can know comes through images, through our multi-sensory perceptions. So, this soul always stays close to the body, close to corporeality, to what "matters."
Let the images come into your body. Embrace the image. This is art that is not separate from life.
Physical reality becomes psychic, and psyche becomes real--it "matters." The difference between soul and external things no longer matters. Inner and outer world are both real and in fact One World.
Image, metaphor and symbol bridge the abyss between matter and spirit. Images are the subtle net that unites symbols. They are integrated with feeling, mind and imagination. We can see soul in all natural objects. We can notice our fantasies constantly conditioning our experience of reality. Knowledge of spirit doesn't come from ideas, even revelations, but through a reflective process.
I began this series of collages shortly after the death of both of my parents three days apart from one another. Though I painted years earlier, I am not a trained artist, but a clinical hypnotherapist with a strong Jungian background in symbolism. Realizing I could use this for processing my own pain and grief, I began them as Art Therapy. I had originally made a few as examples of process work for my students in a college class I taught, called "An Introduction to Depth Psychology."
I found in my therapy practice a tendency for clients to present certain recurrent motifs, such as black holes, "blacker than black," tunnels, images of chaotic breakdown, etc. Prior, I had been writing a book called Dreamhealing, about Asklepian dream healing, a technique developed around the metaphors of the then-new science of Chaos Theory which is now known as Complexity. In this deepening process, the client becomes each element the imagination presents in turn. Immersed in this process imagery, I sought to create some visual images, which might intimate this experiential material.
So, my posters are gestalts: waking dreams, where all elements are co-temporaneous, existing in time holographically--presented together even though they image a dynamic process. Each of them constitutes a shamanic dream journey--a full immersion in the inner world. They are postcards from the inner journey, snapshots of milestones along the Way.
None of them are contrived beforehand -- all were emergent experiences of just letting the images work themselves. No theme was determined in advance. The posters themselves dictate some of what must happen on them. In order for them to appear seamless, I had to hide or disguise the seams in various fashions. Yes, sometimes "less is more," but most often more was needed to insure a seamless quality. This was not a project where minimalism could ever prevail.
Part of the burden and joy of working in this medium is using what one has, or can find, what is spontaneously available. Jungian psychology uses the notion of the bricoleur, the craftsman who works with that which is at hand, including self-imposed rules. This includes the psychological situation as well as the materials. My grief work accentuated the death-rebirth motif, which is ubiquitous in therapy in any case.
In their formative stages, the elements were not fixed on the canvas, and sometimes due to electrostatics, heat, and gravity "things moved of their own accord." Almost invariably, this was an improvement over any intuitive or deliberate placement I might have made. So, it was a process of flowing with the animating process, rather than dictating the process.
Later, they organized themselves into larger groups. There were obvious thematic connections for some of them, but others were not so obvious until there were hundreds of them. Their order has no relationship to the time of assembly. I have never re-sorted them, but for some reason the over-all story of the text for each leads seamlessly into the next, providing a narrative stream. The text for each piece suggested itself long after completion through a recognition process, or sometimes immediately by synchronicity. They assembled themselves and with one another by a process I can only describe as "synarchy."
The awesome pandaemonium of imagery flowed forth spontaneously and my ego could not fight its way free. Rather, I had to surrender to the forces that often crossed my subjective will. I was a slave to the process for some time, producing several pieces a week for long periods of time, and sometimes even doing more than one per day.
The mystery images are a compelling source of transformation and healing, and it worked! The physician healed herself, or rather opened to the inner healer and let time take care of the rest.
MAKE ART NOT WAR;
SEEK COMMUNITY NOT PUBLICITY.
AESTHETIC ARREST vs. SOFA ART
"The object becomes aesthetically significant when it becomes metaphysically significant." (Joseph Campbell)
Mythologist, Joseph Campbell was one of those thinkers who constantly asked himself, "What is the meaning of this?" In books, lectures and interviews, he made frequent skirmishes into the field of art. And like a lot of those who never took brush to hand, his thoughts were idealized and sometimes muddled. Campbell had attitudes about what was "proper" art and what was not. He thought the personal was dangerous in art. "When an artist's images are purely personal this finally is slop and you know it when you see it," he stated. He didn't often say what "slop" was. He was particularly hard on portraiture--he thought portraits were hobbled by the need to be what they represented.
At the same time, many of Campbell's insights are valuable. Campbell saw everything through a lens of myth, metaphor and the metaphysical. He saw "proper" artists as exalted mystics.
"The way of the mystic and the way of the artist," he said, "are very much alike--except that the mystic does not have a craft." In admiration, he realized that through studio disciplines, artists deal with universals. He named a lot of these universals--from rhythmic patterns to a sense of wonder.
He felt that proper art had to be an art that performs a function. When this function is added to the concept of kinesis (movement), then you have what he called "aesthetic arrest." By this he meant that the innocent viewer is stopped dead in his
tracks and has no choice but to stare in awe.
It is in his understanding of St. Thomas Aquinas that we see the Campbell mind at work. Aquinas thought that proper art had three modes: Integritas, Convenientia, and Claritas.
Integritas means wholeness. Campbell demonstrated this in his lectures by putting a picture frame up to a chair and isolating it from its surroundings--making it a thing in itself.
Convenientia is the way the chair is arranged within the frame: creatively, sensitively, thoughtfully cropped or monumentalized.
Claritas is the "aha" quality that puts meaning into the chair, its significant "chairness." Campbell called this "the tricky part," and noted that only then "are you are held in aesthetic arrest." This is not just "viewfinder thinking," but what he considers the top level of creativity. In his view it is a profound application of aesthetic arrangement and metaphorical thought that squeezes out the real meaning and value of the things of our experience.