i feel like crit in art school was me bullshitting half the things and saying something overly complicated so that it would seem like i did research but it’s just to throw people off and i can’t do that here because everyone speculates every word i say ah
Julie Tremblay, 2014, charcoal, oil varnish on velum and Mylar, wind
(i really like her. it’s a pity she’s already falling apart.)
The shamanic trance is like the entranced artist, the ordinary laws of time are repealed, the illumination of daylight doesn’t apply. As intense as the flame absorbed by its own burning, as the wine intoxicated by its own alcohol, as the wind swept by its own gust, their paradoxical role of ferocious power is coupled with unshieldable vulnerability. Shamans and artists alike occupy an ambivalent place in society, treated with both savage psychological violence and fear as well as deep reverence. Consider how viciously hated and profoundly honoured was Ted Hughes. If I had met him, I would have wanted to kneel, an ancient fealty due.
Shamans have traditionally lived on the edge of their communities, and the quality of ‘edge’ is what marks original artist. The shamanic path and the artist’s way are both associated with the hero’s journey, as Campbell terms it, ‘the dangerous, solitary transit.’ Solitary. That’s the word. The path known to be stony and lonely, the unknown destination known only to be beyond.
In what is understood to be a self-portrait, Michelangelo painted the solitary, sad figure of a centurion in The Crucifixion of St Peter, and the young William Blake recast the figure, deepening the loneliness to accord with his own experience of being a visionary in a scornful world. ‘Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,’ Blake wrote in Vala, or The Four Zoas, in a bleak version of a universal understanding : as the Inuit shaman Igjugârjuk commented in the early twentieth century, ‘True wisdom is only to be found far away from people, out in the great solitude' [italics mine].
© Jay Griffiths, from her article ‘Forests of the mind’ originally published in Aeon Magazine.
[I learnt] to appreciate the wild grasses and flowers consuming fields that had once been mown ; to work my way through blackberry brambles with a brush axe, in the thickest spots, and on hands and knees with heavy clippers and loppers. Working at ground level, I learnt to hear the quiet : the gentle sounds that the curved blade of a sickle (the baby cousin of the scythe) made slicing through canes, the rustle and scurry of rabbits and mice through the underbrush ; the buzz and whirr of bees ; the angry calls of birds displeased at my intrusion on their world — and once, the unmistakable chatter of a rattlesnake.
© Keith Ferrell, from his article ‘Farming the Apocalypse’ originally published in Aeon Magazine.