God Is My Only Friend. SWAC Gallery, Brussels, Belgium. June, 2016
God Is My Only Friend
In the Beginning was the Word, and God sang the Word because the Word had to be heard.
The German word for ‘sound’ is ’Ton’, which is also the word for ’clay’.
God leaves his fingerprint.
In mythology, Prometheus fashioned man from clay, and into that clay Athena breathed life, while
Adam, of course, was “shaped from dust”.
What is God’s tone as he animates clay matter?
Clay is dumb. Dumb clay speaks if it is pushed, pulled, pressed, squeezed and cut. What does it matter? Hinduism and physics agree- there is no matter- it’s all energy wavelengths and frequencies and the sound of the universe of creation is um, um… OM.
The artist becomes the Frankensteingod of his creation.
He leaves his dumb fingerprint in the clay and the clay gets up and dances.
‘Actaeon and Artemis’
Actaeon, the Hunter, roaming the countryside with his dogs, has come across Artemis, chaste Goddess of the Hunt as she bathes with her female attendant. Caught slipping naked into a pool of water beneath a willow, the goddess is enraged by this intrusion, and transforms Actaeon into a stag. The hunter’s pack of dogs, finding their master now unrecognizable, turn on Actaeon, and tear him to pieces.
We see the face of Actaeon, in cameo, white, mute and clouded in stunned mid-transformation within the head of a stag, framed by a hedge, which divides the stage into two halves. Overhead, atop the hedge rests a full moon. The female moon, disdainful of men, aloof and cold is associated with Artemis. We are faced with a figure of the Artemis of Ephesus whose shoulders are hung with bull testicles. Clinging to the trees are nocturnal moths. On the opposite side of the hedge Actaeon is attacked by his dogs who no longer recognize him. Actaeon’s dogs are joined by what we might assume is a small black poodle belonging to Artemis. Her orange tabby cautiously peers around the corner of the hedge, standing on a broken column, curious to see the savage scene. The vignette looks like an altar of sacrifice decorated with birds straining at song.
‘Apollo and Daphne’
Apollo pursues the nymph Daphne who flees from the amorous needs of Apollo, effulgent God of Culture.
Apollo has insulted Eros, mocking the God of Love’s arrows. Both gods are archers. Incensed, Eros sends a lead arrow into Daphne inspiring hatred. Eros then sends a golden arrow into Apollo which inspires love and desire. The nymph, who, as an emulator of Artemis, the sister of Apollo, wanders the woods as a virgin, has already asked her father the river god, Peneus never to force her into marriage even though she is an obviously attractive female pursued by many men. The god falls in love and the chase is on.
Running through the forest they are almost evenly matched, but as Apollo seems ready to catch Daphne on the banks of a river, the nymph calls on her father the river god in desperation to save her which he does by transforming his daughter into a laurel tree. Apollo’s arms close around Daphne’s body even as it stiffens into wood and bark, her hair turning into leaves and her outstretched Christlike arms and hands into branches and twigs, her eyes reflecting fear of her pursuer and shock at the results of her request. We can see the face of Peneus in the waters’ currents, flanked by water nymphs who giggle at the transformation of Daphne into an evergreen laurel tree whose branches Apollo, in defeat, vowing everlasting love, will devotedly weave into a wreath to honor poets and musicians, crowning heroes of culture in a triumph of love over lust.
In the sculpture on either side are images of predation and capitulation.
‘Echo and Narcissus’
Echo, a mountain nymph with a beautiful voice has been condemned by Hera, as a mindless chatterbox cursed to repeat only the ends of words from sentences of what others have said, a curse issued in punishment for misleading the goddess. While wandering the forest, Echo sees Narcissus chasing deer into nets and follows him, lovestruck. When she timidly approaches the hunter, Echo is callously rejected and lurks nearby in sorrow, eventually swallowed up by cold mountains, lost, her self disappearing, her voice dwindling into an anonymous, servile remnant that resounds along empty crevasses and the abyss of forgotten identity. Narcissus, meanwhile, has fallen by a pool of water, riveted by his own image reflected on the surface, his attraction to himself fully evident. He wastes away, like Echo, an echo of Echo, inward-turning as much as Echo was fascinated by someone one outside of herself. A Narcissus bloom sprouts by the pool. Colorful sonic blooms ripple through the mountains.
Welcome. The Golem is a crudely shaped, uncultivated animated being made out of clay who can be used as a slave under favorable conditions, and under unfavorable conditions will become hostile and dangerous. The Golem is a figure whose path and function are determined by words and letters, animated by the Hebrew word “truth” written on his forehead. He can be deactivated by removing a single letter from “truth” which changes the word to “death”. A word denoting God written on a piece of paper placed in the mouth of the Golem can also animate the being. In the Talmud Adam is originally a Golem, a mindless, clumsy speechless creation, anthropomorphic, but not fully human having been shaped from dust and close to the divine. The sin of Adam was consciousness. Destruction and creation. The famous Golem of Prague was fashioned to defend Jews from the destruction of antisemitic pogroms and in one version of the story fell in love, but when rejected he became violent, and in another he went murderously berserk, and in another has to be put in a synagogue where he fell to pieces. Europe has its Golem.
‘Thou Art That’
‘Neti neti’ is a Sanskit expression meaning ’Not This Not That’ as a way of seeing the totality of creation by eliminating what is not God, in order to distill the essence of God.‘Tat Tvam Asi’ or ’Thou Art That’ is the opposite method of understanding the Ultimate Reality- seeing everything as a manifestation of God, a unity in multiplicity. To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. Some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night. The Poet sings his songs of experience of the senses, he always sings God.
‘The Feather of Truth’, or ‘Chaste’
Turning around the world-wheel axel, turning around a tree, turning through a forest of emotion, the I, You, Me of romantic love, a definition of self dissolved into a fusion of individuals, a godlike state of unity in a lover, finding god in a mate in play on a merry-go-round and round.
We see a butterfly and a caterpillar as symbols of transformation. We also see a scorpion on the ground threatening the tread of lovers.
The baboon and the ibis are representations of the scribe of the gods, Thoth. The feather of truth was weighed against the heart in the afterlife of the ancient Egyptians to judge the moral quality of a person’s life. It is a peacock feather with which the heart is written.