I spent the weekend with family and friends at Betty’s Bay, towards the southern tip of Africa. I used a handicam to gather about 2 hours of images, video footage for my new VJ project. The environs are spectacular, and for one whose traditional icons of contemplation are mountains and horizons, I was surprized to find myself drawn not to panoramic grandeur, but inwards.
Drawn towards detail, closeness and simplicity, and away from overview, remove and the large scale. Aware of close-ups, where the essential nature of objects is revealed. Seascapes and big cloud draped mountains just aren’t sitting well with me at the moment, at least in the context of imagemaking.
And so I ask, why is this? I’ve always been a big big-picturist, always thinking globally, scouring the universe for meaning, and tirelessly surveying eternity. I’ve not been one for smalltalk. Ask any haridresser. And I have always been disparaging of the tinyness of my own attempts to engage the world.
Maybe the inner person is weary of grandeur. It’s well accepted that the soul seeks psychological balance. Whereas I might harp on about the History of Western Music, or the Greek influence on the Enlightenment, perhaps my soul is saying, snuggle up and enjoy your little space, your time, your family.
But I suspect there is yet more to this. I think there is a move afoot by a subversive, backdoor G-d who says, yes, Bono and Anita Roddick taking on Globalisation are alright by me, but I am doing a new small thing. Bishops, priests, politicians, leaders, just let them be, you just pay attention. Prophetic blogging elements such as smallritual or smallfire echo this sentiment. I saw a superb, if somewhat intellectual posting on HauntedGeographies called “Let us space”; I quote
This is the idea that a fragment or torn segment of map can somehow speak for a whole territory, the rent in the canvas that reveals a universe. The macro understood through the micro … To some degree, fractals already contain the DNA of their parent– the shard that refracts a universe.
I think there’s a difference between images for ritual and images for other purposes, such as narrative or feature film, study and documentary, or to drive home a message as in advertising. Ritual lends itself towards repetition and contemplation, and moves into a space rather than along it. It is not goal driven or justified via entertainment, education or communication, although it can be any of those.
As far as music goes, I’ve also wondered why repetitive, pattern-based music has currently got such a hold on me. Underworld – trance, techno and ambient, Massive Attack – downtempo and triphop, Propellarheads and bigbeat, and the (classical) minimalist Steve Reich, provide a wealth of groove-oriented sound.
I started out my musical life with a few implicit rules such as “Non-repetition is good”, “Simplicity is stupid” and “Many notes are superior to few”. I don’t really know where those rules came from, but it’s taken a lifetime’s journey to unlearn them.
Another facet of this discussion is that the world has over the last century shifted from an object based view to an energy based one, spearheaded by the newer and emerging cosmologies (Einstein – Hawking etc). Furthermore, in the world of painting, light-based Impressionism and beyond took us away from the classical enlightenment notions of objects. As such, it is appropriate to explore energy (and the effects of energy) in our imagemaking. Images of the elements are for me a very powerful source of ritual. I spent time shooting wind, water, fire, and light.
“The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”
– Thomas Berry, quoted from Rob
Wind is especially poetic and pertinent; for according to John 3, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
For me, it is the time for small ideas. Away from Grandness, Marketshare, Acceleration, Accumulation, Influence. 1 Corinthians comes to mind –
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
But this is more than a lesson in humility, or a moral observation. It is rather an aesthetic, a design principle for life. It is something to celebrate.