Catacombs

“Keep death and exile daily before thine eyes, with all else that men deem terrible, but more especially Death. Then wilt thou never think a mean thought, nor covet anything beyond measure.” -Epictetus

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About a year ago I posted a time-lapse video consisting of a hundred skulls being painted, each measuring 4×5″.  Since then I’ve painted about a hundred more and put together a show of them in Asheville.  The title I gave the show was Catacombs, and the location I chose was Izzy’s, a small narrow dark cafe resounding with moody instrumental music.

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Creating a Composition and Gathering Insight

“Because of the envious nature of men, it has always been no less dangerous to find new methods and institutions than to look for unknown seas and lands, since men are readier to blame than to praise the actions of others.  Nevertheless […] although it may be irksome and difficult, it can also bring me a reward from those who are kind enough to keep in mind the goal of these labors of mine.  And if my poor intellect, my slight experience of current affairs, and my feeble knowledge of ancient ones make this attempt of mine imperfect and of little use, it will at least show the way to someone with more ability and a greater capacity for analysis and judgment, who can carry out this intention of mine, which, although it may not bring me praise, should not earn me blame.”                                          –Machiavelli, The Discourses

On Sundays I plant myself in Izzy’s café with an assortment of books.  As I read I mine for anything useful.  I mine through books mostly of philosophy and theory, underlining, noting, and trying to gauge the value of each new find, trying not to forget the majority of everything as time passes.  Even if I leave it at that, making no further attempt to organize the bulk of it all, I come away feeling stirred and inspired.  If I put a little more time in the following evening and try to compile the various pieces, try to form a new coherent whole that lends my own work strength, I grow more inspired and confident, witnessing my own literary golem begin to emerge, taking up my cause with its mismatched parts sourced from various pages. Ergo my plan, to carefully over time puzzle together an outlook and position increasingly supportive of my own aesthetic.

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Gathering and Processing

An excerpt from popular culture:

“I understand now that boundaries between noise and sound are conventions. All boundaries are conventions waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so… My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.” -Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

A jump back to 1872:

“…Does anyone say that the red clover has no reproductive system because the humble bee (and the humble bee only) must aid and abet it before it can reproduce? No one. The humble bee is a part of the reproductive system of the clover. Each one of ourselves has sprung from minute animalcules whose entity was entirely distinct from our own, and which acted after their kind with no thought or heed of what we might think about it. These little creatures are part of our own reproductive system; then why not we part of that of the machines? But the machines which reproduce machinery do not reproduce machines after their own kind. A thimble may be made by machinery, but it was not made by, neither will it ever make, a thimble. Here, again, if we turn to nature we shall find abundance of analogies which will teach us that a reproductive system may be in full force without the thing produced being of the same kind as that which produced it.”
-The Book of Machines, Samuel Butler

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A point of departure

“It was therefore fated that philosophy degenerate as it developed through history, that it turn against itself and be taken in by its own mask.  Instead of linking an active life and affirmative thinking, thought gives itself the task of judging life, opposing to it supposedly higher values, measuring it against these values, restricting and condemning it.


And at the same time that thought thus becomes negative, life depreciates, ceases to be active, is reduced to its weakest forms, to sickly forms that are alone compatible with the so-called higher values.  It is the triumph of “reaction” over active life and of negation over affirmative thought.  The consequences for philosophy are dire, for the virtues of the Continue reading