"Filmed at the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh, The Wake explores issues of life and death, imprisonment and freedom, and sleep and dynamic reawakening. For this video, Dana Levy released one hundred monarch butterflies and filmed them among the museum’s specimen drawers, cases, and cabinets, creating a haunting tension between the living and the dead."
"Artist Felipe Luchi has created a unique advertising campaign for Go Outside Magazine that reimagines familiar gadgets like the iPhone, a mouse, and an alarm clock as jailhouses. Each image depicts an individual escaping from these prisons, and you can see the more detailed, full resolution images at the artist’s website."
~ Kimberly Streams, from "Ad Campaign Illustrates That We Are Prisoners Of Our Own Devices," Laughing Squid, April 24, 2013
"It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good.
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhlemed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil."
The Facts of Life: Egolessness
by Pema Chödrön, from Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion
The second mark of existence is egolessness, some-times called no-self. These words can be misleading. They don’t mean that we disappear—or that we eraseour personality. Egolessness means that the fixed idea that we have about ourselves as solid and separate from each other is painfully limiting. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem. Self-importance is like a prison for us, limiting us to the world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up very dissatisfied.
We have two alternatives: either we take everything to be sure and real, or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality, or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious—to train in dissolving the barriers that we erect between ourselves and the world—is the best use of our human lives.
In the most ordinary terms, egolessness is a flexible identity. It manifests as inquisitiveness, as adaptability, as humor, as playfulness. It is our capacity to relax with not knowing, not figuring everything out, with not being at all sure about who we are, or who anyone else is, either. Every moment is unique, unknown, completely fresh. [From this perspective], egolessness is a cause of joy rather than a cause for fear.
See also: "We Must Learn to Love Uncertainty and Failure, Say Leading Thinkers," by Alok Jha, The Guardian, January 14, 2011
There was a dream
One day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage
I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid, with a head full of doubt
So I scream till I die
Or the last of those bad thoughts to find me now
There’s a darkness upon you that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell you what’s wrong and what's right
And it flies by day and it flies by night
And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it
Green Finch and Linnet Bird
by Stephen Sondheim, from Sweeney Todd
Green finch and linnet bird,
How is it you sing?
How can you jubilate,
Sitting in cages,
Never taking wing?
Outside the sky waits,
Just beyond the bars,
How can you remain,
Staring at the rain,
Maddened by the stars?
How is it you sing
How is it you sing?
Green finch and linnet bird,
How is it you sing?
Whence comes this melody
Is it rejoicing or merely halloing?
Are you discussing
Or simply dreaming?
Are you crowing?
Are you screaming?
Ringdove and robinet,
Is it for wages,
Singing to be sold?
Have you decided it's
Safer in cages,
Singing when you're told?
My cage has many rooms,
Damask and dark.
Nothing there sings,
Not even my lark.
Larks never will, you know,
When they're captive.
Teach me to be more adaptive.
Green finch and linnet bird,
Teach me how to sing.
If I cannot fly,
Let me sing.
* * * * *
"Lyrics, even poetic ones, are not poems," states Stephen Sondheim in the introduction to Finishing the Hat, a collection of his lyrics from 1954 to 1981. "Poems are written to be read, silently or aloud, not sung. Some lyrics, awash with florid imagery, present themselves as poetry, but music only underscores (yes) the self-consciousness of the effort…Poetry is an art of concision, lyrics of expansion…Poetry doesn't need music; lyrics do."
"Green Finch and Linnet Bird," sung by the character of Johanna in Sweeney Todd, may not be a poem, but to read it without its haunting, angular melody is to "hear" it slightly differently.
~ From Knopf’s Borzoi Reader Poem-a-Day from today. Visit the site to hear actress Kate Levy reading Sondheim’s lyrics.
Excerpts from Antony Gormley (Contemporary Artists) by John Hutchinson, E.H. Gombrich, and Lela B. Njatin:
To Meister Eckhart, art was religion and religion art. Artistic form, in his view, was a revelation of essence, a kind of revelation that is both living and active. “Work,” he wrote, “comes from the outward and from the inner man, but the innermost man takes no part in it. In making a thing the very innermost self of a man comes into outwardness.”
Much of Antony Gormley’s art is based on his understanding of Western and Eastern spiritual traditions, and his work resonates when it is placed in this context. Like Eckhart — or, indeed like Joseph Beuys — Gormley believes that the artist is not a special kind of man, but that every man is a special kind of artist…He works with “types,” with universals, and yet he roots his work in subjective experience…But what concerns Gormley more than anything else, is the paradoxical manner in which man, while containing infinite space, is also contained by it…His sculpture deals with what he sees as the “deep space” of the interior body, yet he is also concerned with “touch as gravity” and “gravity as the attraction that binds us to the earth.” Its key strength, perhaps, lies in the artist’s determination to accept nothing until is has been lived and internalized. Gormley’s work is structured and methodical, preconceived to a certain point, and then realized in the process of making.
To Gormley, the body has a relation to the external space within which it exists as well as to the inner space it contains. And in a  installation made for “Places with a Past,” an exhibition of site-specific art at Charleston, South Carolina, Gormley combined a series of works — Host, Field, Three Bodies, Learning to Think, Fruit and Cord — in order to explore that relationship.
The Old City Jail, which contained and became part of the installation, could be described as having the shape of a body: the original rectangular structure is rather like a torso; its later octagonal addition, like a head. And in order to emphasize its parallels with his body cases, which are sometimes connected to the outside world through orifices, Gormley removed the boards and glazing that had sealed up the prison’s doors and windows.
This allowed light and sound to enter the prison, to enliven what had hitherto been dark and dormant, and to engage time as an active element in the installation. In the artist’s words, “the building became a catalyst for reflection on liberty and incarceration.”
On the second floor, Field, a set of terracotta figurines, faced a similar vast space that contained only Three Bodies—large metal spheres, made of steel and air, which the aritst has described as “like celestial bodies fallen from the sky.”
Above Field was Learning to Think, five headless lead body cases that were suspended from the ceiling, in a contradictory evocation of both lynching and ascension. The corresponding space held Host, a room containing mud and sea water — “The surface of the earth described in Genesis…the unformed, the place of possibility, a place waiting for the seed,” according to Gormley.
Learning to Think, Antony Gormley (1991)
In the octagonal extension, two related organic forms, Fruit, were hung on either side of a wall. Only one was visible at a time in order “to reconcile opposites not in terms of differentiation but by mirroring,” Hidden from view, and at the center of each sculpture, was a space once occupied by the artist’s own body, linked to the other side, though mouth and genitals, by steel pipes. The final piece was Cord, made of many tubes inside one another — a kind of umbilical lifeline between the “seen” and “unseen.”
Body & Fruit, Antony Gormley (1991/93)
In this installation, one of great richness and complexity, Gormley brought into play the full panoply of his ambition. Working with lead and clay, as well as with the four elements, Gormley alluded to physical and spiritual containment, body and mind, outer and inner worlds, feeling and thinking, birth and death, growth and decay.
And if the contradictions inherent in Learning to See give strength to the artist’s conception of inner vision, the dualities evoked by the installation at Charleston are subservient to a sense of passage towards expansiveness. The emotional depth of the work can be ascribed to its refusal to exclude either the particular or the universal: it encompasses both historical specificity and a sense of shared human experience. In formal terms, this is achieved by the undermining of the Modernist notion of the self-referential object. While each of the elements of the installation can be separately contemplated, they are most meaningful when perceived as parts of a larger whole. In that sense, they are like parts of a body.