Quote for Today: Bangambiki Habyarimana

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What if a man could write everything that came into his mind. You could find there gems of wisdom, depth of utter despair, heights of the most cherished hopes, killing fields where we slaughter our enemies, moments of faith and moments of doubts, dark chambers where we commit infidelity against our partners, counting the goods we have stolen, hell nightmares, heaven blessedness, cursing of our enemies and blessing of our friends, and many other things. If one could write his mind, it would be a mirror to other minds where they could find themselves and not feel as the only wretched souls in existence. Go on then, write your mind in a book and publish it.
―Bangambiki Habyarimana, Pearls Of Eternity

 

Public Domain Image via MaxPixel

Quote for Today: Wallace J. Nichols

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I wondered whether water is a mirror for our darker emotions as much as it is an engine for our happiness. Water quiets all the noise, all the distractions, and connects you to your own thoughts.

―Wallace J. Nichols, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do
Image: Dark Water Fade Out © Chad Cooper with CCLicense

Staring Into the Looking Glass: Creative People and Narcissism

Creative people are often accused of narcissism. Can we alter the negative stereotypes and bad behavior associated with artists?

Narcissus by Caravaggio

Narcissus by Caravaggio

Greek mythology tells the story of Narcissus, a young hunter who believed he was hot stuff because he was born from the union of a minor river god with a nymph. This boy was, of course, gorgeous and broke heart after heart, including that of the young nymph Echo, who lost her body in the mountains and was reduced to a mystical tape recorder, a disembodied voice that repeats what is spoken. One day, Narcissus stared into a pond and was so captivated by his own reflection that he either drowned or pined away and died. Not too bright, that Narcissus. Yet he gave his name to narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Are we artists and creative types like him? Really?

It is worth noting that the name Narcissus may be derived from the Greek word for sleep or numbness. The defining issue for him is that he is insensitive to others and unaware of the world outside of himself. It isn’t simply that he loves himself above everything; it is that he only sees himself. Everything and everyone around him seems designed to bring him his desires and nourishment, and yet he can never quite possess himself or realize his dreams. His lack of empathy has left him unable to understand his place in the world.

Deliberation © Aegis Strife with CCLiense

Deliberation © Aegis Strife with CCLicense

Our society, fond of sweeping generalizations, often takes the view that creativity is synonymous with social dysfunction. It is as if creativity immediately soaks up all the space in a person’s life, rendering the artist incapable of empathy or social graces. Where does this come from and why do we perpetuate it by putting up with rotten behavior from people with talent? Just as we encourage young athletes to focus exclusively on their practice or young engineers or scientists to immerse themselves in their studies, we tell young artists that they must focus on their art to the exclusion of other interests, people and experiences. This results in people in all walks of life doing their own thing in a vacuum. No one is listening because no one has been invited to listen. It’s a lonely world.

Self Portrait, Francis Bacon, 1971 Image © Bob and Wendy with CCLicense

Self Portrait, Francis Bacon, 1971
Image © Bob and Wendy with CCLicense

So, in order to save art we have relied on marketing. Unfortunately, the idolization and demonization of creative people which we favor does not encourage creativity. Creativity exists in spite of it. The romantic ideal of the artist as something of a monster might be good marketing– we seem to love it in our celebrities– but it is a barrier to communication, which is a major purpose of art. Richard Wagner‘s music is not great because he was anti-Semitic, nor is Francis Bacon‘s artwork outstanding because he was abusive and sadistic, although these qualities are present in their work. The Renaissance painter Caravaggio, famous for his beautiful chiaroscuro technique, was a murderer and a bully who attacked people in the street. Had these men been less unpleasant, their works would be more numerous and palatable to people today than they already are. Greatness lies in the ability of the art itself to communicate something about humanity, despite the shortcomings of its creator. Art is never quite what the artist intended, nor is it ever completely what the audience expects. It has a voice of its own. This is why some people are uncomfortable with art and some artists are uncomfortable with people.

René Descartes, Meditations métaphysiques

René Descartes, Meditations métaphysiques

As human beings we see the world through the mirror of our own consciousness. Each consciousness has its own beauty, its own patterns which are unique, exciting and worthy of exploration. At the same time, there is a danger that, in exploring our own views and ourselves, we might drown in our own reflection without ever communicating it to anyone else or sharing anyone else’s vision. This danger threatens all of us, from businessmen to stay at home moms. Art is one of the few vehicles we have for expressing ourselves and understanding one another. It is vital to our existence, whether we consider ourselves artists or not. Without creativity and empathy we are ants.

Some artists seem to relish the role of the self-absorbed Narcissus, while others are more like Echo, losing their own selves in order to mirror the nonsense of a culture that has lost touch with the world around it. What would happen if we recognized the artist in each of us and defined creativity as an attribute of all human beings instead?

This is part of our strategy at Synkroniciti. We aim to help artists get out of themselves and people to find the artist within. Check out our first workshop, Getting Unstuck, coming up in 2014.

Quote for Today: David Levithan

John Vanderpoel, Pencil Drawing of Young Woman in Profile

John Vanderpoel, Pencil Drawing of Young Woman in Profile

I thought about the word ‘profile’ and what a weird double meaning it had. We say we’re looking at a person’s profile online, or say a newspaper is writing a profile on someone, and we assume it’s the whole them we’re seeing. But when a photographer takes a picture of a profile, you’re only seeing half the face… It’s never the way you would remember seeing them. You never remember someone ‘in profile.’ You remember them looking you in the eye, or talking to you. You remember an image that the subject could never see in a mirror, because you are the mirror. A profile, photographically, is perpendicular to the person you know.

David LevithanEvery You, Every Me

Quote for Today: Christopher Isherwood

detail, Artist in the Bathroom Mirror, Pierre Bonnard Image © Stephen L. Harlow with CCLicense

detail, Artist in the Bathroom Mirror, Pierre Bonnard
Image © Stephen L. Harlow with CCLicense

Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face – the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man – all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us – we have died – what is there to be afraid of?

It answers them: But that happened so gradually, so easily. I’m afraid of being rushed.”
Christopher IsherwoodA Single Man

Shining Phantoms: The Reflective Sculptures of Rob Mulholland

Rob Mulholland is a sculptor and installation artist whose work can be found dotting the countryside and cities of his native Scotland as well as on foreign soil. His recent projects have included reflective figures, sculpted mirrors which become part of the environment and reflect movement and change within that environment. As leaves change colors and fall, clouds and storms pass by, daylight waxes and wanes, and people walk by, these stationary figures shimmer and change, creating a reflection of the mood around them. They can be eerie, ghostly, magical, and whimsical by turns.

Rob Mulholland, Vestige Image © Dougie Mathieson with CCLicense

Rob Mulholland, Vestige
Image © Dougie Mathieson with CCLicense

In 2009 he created an installation called Vestige, on the woodland walk near David Marshall Lodge. This installation deals with the relocation of sheep farmers after the First World War and the planting of conifer forests in place of the farms to combat a severe timber shortage. The results were the displacement of people from their farms and a drastic alteration of the landscape. Originally intended to be temporary, Vestige became such a hit the Forestry Commission of Scotland commissioned Mulholland to rework it in a more permanent medium so that it could remain on display indefinitely. The new sculptures are made from galvanized steel polished to a mirror finish. These figures are reflective in every sense of the word.

Rob Mulholland, Vestige © Marie-Hélène Sirois with CCLicense

Rob Mulholland, Vestige
© Marie-Hélène Sirois with CCLicense

My practise aims to explore all aspects of life. I’m interested in the theme of ancestry and continuity. Our world is in constant flux and our own personal lives are shaped by political and social powers beyond our control. I want to celebrate the individual, explore the resonance we have with the natural environment and convey how we are affected by the elemental forces of life and creation.

–Rob Mulholland, 2012, from his 2013 pdf book, available on his website.

Rob Mulholland, Vestige © Katy McDougall with CCLicense

Rob Mulholland, Vestige
© Katy McDougall with CCLicense

You can see more of Mulholland’s thought provoking work here.