sculpture

Listening is Much More Effective

Derailing My Train of Thought, Thomas Wightman

Papañca, the Thinking Mind Run Amok
by Ajahn Amaro, from "Thinking"

First, it isn’t the case that the mind is inherently thinking all the time. Rather, thinking is a highly conditioned activity. In the teachings, the process is described in this way: We come into contact with things—objects in the world or our own thoughts. Each moment of such contact is accompanied by feeling which is pleasant, painful, or neither. Whatever is being cognized is then named. The Pali word for this is sañña. Most often, it is translated as perception but the English word “sign” comes from the same root as sañña. Sañña is a kind of designation. There is a raw sensing of a stimulus and then our memory moves in and names it. “That is the sound of a dog barking.”

Conceptual thought begins to cluster around that naming. That is, that which we name, we then think about. This is called vitakka. We may think, “I wonder who owns that dog.” “Is that the same dog I saw yesterday?” Then vitakka takes off. It blossoms into what is known as papañca. This is conceptual proliferation. It is the mass of thoughts and conceptions, which burden the heart and mind.

In this process there is a simple raw feeling, sensation or thought. There is no particular feeling of self or other with that. But as the process takes off, as the naming takes place, we begin to get a sense of me in here experiencing the sound of that dog out there. As the thinking (vitakka) kicks in, the sense of self and other becomes more concrete and the sense of me not only experiencing this but also being burdened by it becomes more and more solid.

As meditators I am sure you have seen this pattern. With practice, we start to recognize this pattern. We see how it works.

Usually we are caught up in the activity of mental proliferation—half way through our great novel or fully through the saga of how our first marriage could have been “if only…”—before we wake up and remember that we’re actually still in the meditation hall, and that it all started with the sound of the dog barking. “That sound reminded me of Binker, our dog. We got the dog when we first got married. Maybe if we hadn’t had the dog, the marriage would have worked out.” Then we track it back and see where it began.

As meditators we see how this pattern occurs over and over again. The mind’s propensity is to think habitually. It takes almost nothing to trigger it. For example, I spent most of my youth listening to rock music at every opportunity. So when I entered the monastery in Thailand, I spent the first few years singing inside my head. My mind was so used to listening to music that for the first few years everything that happened at the monastery was a cue for a song. It could be a leaf falling off a tree or a car going by. It could be the clanking of a kerosene tin or comments that people made. It could even be just the random thoughts in my mind. Any one event, word or thought could translate into a lyric. It was like a Bing Crosby and Bob Hope movie: “That sounds like a cue for a song...” Before you know it you are playing the entire soundtrack. I was staggered by the amount that the mind remembered and conjured up!

That is the mind’s habitual mode. It picks things up, chews on them and keeps creating—all from a moment’s stimulation...

So for myself, I have learned that the best way to deal with excessive thinking is to just listen to it, to listen to the mind. Listening is much more effective than trying to stop thought or cut it off. When we listen there is a different mode employed in the heart. Instead of trying to cut it off, we receive thought without making anything out of it.

Plagued by Doubt, Thomas Wightman

See also:

Amaro, A. (July 20, 2010). Thinking: I. Understanding and relating to thought. Mindfulness1, 3, 189-192. Retrieved from Springer Link

The Medium is the Message by Thomas Wightman

Illuminated Manuscript

Brian Craig-Wankiiri

Your Body is a Holy Book
by Gil Hedley, from Beyond the Leaving

Your body
is a holy book,
a scripture ~

the pages
of your flesh
are marked
in exquisite detail
with the finest hand,

inscribed by spirit
with the poetry
of love,
lessons of mercy,
miracles,
angelic hosts,

and the story 
of your life
perfectly told,

an illuminated manuscript 
of a sacred writing 
epic in scope,
majesty
and grace.

Every hair
on your head
and line on your face,
every rushing tide
of wind and wave
moving you 
from within
this living testament
bear witness
to the truth
layered
within you ~

Study this text
with conviction then,
reflect with care
upon its meaning,
and enjoy
the divine
inspiration. 

Invisible Clouds

Tres Esculturas Monumentales de Javier Marín en el Parque Eulogio Rosado

Easter Morning
by Jim Harrison, from Saving Daylight

On Easter morning all over America
the peasants are frying potatoes in bacon grease.

We're not supposed to have "peasants"
but there are tens of millions of them
frying potatoes on Easter morning,
cheap and delicious with catsup.

If Jesus were here this morning he might
be eating fried potatoes with my friend
who has a '51 Dodge and a '72 Pontiac.

When his kids ask why they don't have
a new car he says, "these cars were new once
and now they are experienced."

He can fix anything and when rich folks
call to get a toilet repaired he pauses
extra hours so that they can further
learn what we're made of.

I told him that in Mexico the poor say
that when there's lightning the rich
think that God is taking their picture.
He laughed.

Like peasants everywhere in the history
of the world ours can't figure out why
they're getting poorer. Their sons join
the army to get work being shot at.

Your ideals are invisible clouds
so try not to suffocate the poor,
the peasants, with your sympathies.
They know that you're staring at them.

Another Chance at Spring

Tres Esculturas Monumentales de Javier Marín en el Parque Eulogio Rosado

Spring
by Jim Harrison, from Songs of Unreason

Something new in the air today, perhaps the struggle of the bud
to become a leaf. Nearly two weeks late it invaded the air but
then what is two weeks to life herself? On a cool night there is
a break from the struggle of becoming. I suppose that's why we
sleep. In a childhood story they spoke of the land of enchant-
ment." We crawl to it, we short-lived mammals, not realizing that
we are already there. To the gods the moon is the entire moon
but to us it changes second by second because we are always fish
in the belly of the whale of earth. We are encased and can't stray
from the house of our bodies. I could say that we are released,
but I don't know, in our private night when our souls explode
into a billion fragments then calmly regather in a black pool in
the forest, far from the cage of flesh, the unremitting "I." This was
a dream and in dreams we are forever alone walking the ghost
road beyond our lives. Of late I see waking as another chance at
spring.

Containing and Contained by Infinite Space

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.

Old Jail, Charleston, exterior

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 [1991] 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.”

gormley-body-fruit.jpg

Body & Fruit, Antony Gormley (1991/93)

gormleylearningtosee5.jpg

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.

Making Waves

“Making architecture is like writing a novel; making a work of art is like a poem.”

~ Maya Lin, from “Maya Lin’s ‘Wave Field’,” video produced by Erik Olsen & Carol Kino, New York Times, November 2008 

Groundswell,” 1993. Forty-three tons of recycled, shattered automobile safety glass. Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus

"The Wave Field," 1995. Shaped earth; 100 x 100 feet. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Blue Lake Pass,” 2006, Duraflake particleboard, 20 blocks, 36 x 36 in. each (68 x 210 x 269 in. overall)

Storm King Wavefield,” 2008. Earth and grass; 240,000 square feet (11-acre site)

maya-lin-waves-what-is-missing

Video still from Maya Lin’s tribute to vanishing species titled What is Missing?

Digitally Archiving David

Scanning David

From The Digital Michelangelo Project:

“Recent improvements in laser rangefinder technology, together with algorithms developed at Stanford for combining multiple range and color images, allow us to reliably and accurately digitize the external shape and surface characteristics of many physical objects. Examples include machine parts, cultural artifacts, and design models for the manufacturing, moviemaking, and video game industries.

As an application of this technology, a team of 30 faculty, staff, and students from Stanford University and the University of Washington spent the 1998-99 academic year in Italy scanning the sculptures and architecture of Michelangelo. As a side project, we also scanned 1,163 fragments of the Forma Urbis Romae, a giant marble map of ancient Rome…Our goal is to produce a set of 3D computer models - one for each statue, architectural setting, and map fragment we scanned - and to make these models available to scholars worldwide.”

Scanning David “The motivations behind this project are to advance the technology of 3D scanning, to place this technology in the service of the humanities, and to create a long-term digital archive of some important cultural artifacts.”

“On the left is a photograph of Michelangelo's David. On the right is a computer rendering made from a geometric model. Constructed in December, 1999 at a resolution of 1.0 mm, the model is watertight and contains 4 million polygons. For a brief overview of the steps required to build this model, click here.”

Laser scan of the David

Small Wonders

 

 

Party Bed, Charles LeDray

workworkworkworkwork
by Charles LeDray
Institute of Contemporary Art
Through October 17, 2010

workworkworkworkwork consists of hundreds of objects, including shirts, pottery, paintings, necklaces and magazines that recreate displays of objects for sale that homeless people frequently put on New York sidewalks. (Bing, 2003) The piece is not classified by object, however it is more of a confusion of pieces, each “grouping is ordered in its own special way, as if different senses of order were involved, individual orders—different levels of marketing and presentability.” (Saltz, 1992)

~ Wikipedia

Mens Suits, Charles LeDray, 2006

 

Excerpt from “Life’s Wear and Tear,” by Sebastian Smee, the Boston Globe, July 16, 2010:

Charles LeDray treats clothes as surrogates for human identity, particularly male identity, and for the many types of work that go into constructing it. As such—and unlike the fashion industry, which is founded on an unblinking faith in the potential of clothes to communicate power, beauty, and self-worth—his work is intensely alive to the pathos clothes can communicate, and to the many senses in which they just don’t . . . quite. . . fit.

LeDray, who was born in Seattle in 1960 and lives and works in New York, gives this “not quite fitting’’ a literal twist. The majority of the clothes he makes and transforms into sculptures are small. Too small to wear, but not so small that they seem precious or cute.

And yes, LeDray makes them. All of them. By hand. Himself.

Today, when the actual making of art objects is frequently displaced from the hands of the nominal creator to various anonymous assistants, there’s an atavistic appeal in LeDray’s displays of virtuosic skill and dedication. But it’s not just a sentimental appeal.

The time LeDray dedicates to the making of his pieces — in some cases as long as three or four years — is as much a conceptual tool as the medium itself. Painstakingly cut, carved, stitched, sewn, and thrown, his sculptures crystallize, through ironic devotion, a sense of pathos. They sharpen our awareness of the expendability of things…

Thinking of the artist working away, with scissors, pins, needle, and thread, I thought of W.S. Merwin’s great poem, “Separation’’:

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

Overcoat, 2004