Brownian behavioral dynamics suggests that neither the darkness nor the light will hold sway forever and that miracles, which are actually a misunderstanding of the condition of rarity, do happen. The miracle we need is to collectively grope our way to a place where deep and abiding wisdom prevails over compulsion.
And so 2018 begins. Like most people I know, I found Trump and the Republican hegemony of 2017 thoroughly depressing. Bad things happened and I felt impotent to do anything about it. The year was an affront to everything I believe in. I can barely watch the news anymore.
This has led me to wonder if my full throttled focus on making art is selfish and self-centered. There is nothing about the art I am making that addresses our national fiasco head on. Shouldn’t I be fighting more directly? Is it wrong if I am not challenging the mess makers and attempting to alleviate the suffering they are leaving in their wake? Can I legitimately say that continuing to make photographs in the way I have always done is a sufficient response or any response at all? Or am I, ostrich like, burying my head in the sand of my comfort zone hoping the threat passes me by without my having to make a sacrifice?
A long time ago I came to the conclusion that all creatures are at the mercy of compulsion. Every actor on the cosmic stage has no other or greater purpose than to do what it's compelled to do. When pivotal moments arrive, compulsion dictates what is to be done. The chaotic and complex interplay of all that compulsiveness, a Brownian motion of behavioral manifestation, will sort itself out into the future we inherit. Nothing says that future has to be an attractive one.
I am aware that this belief might seem cynical. I am aware that it suggests we don’t really choose our fate, that we can’t choose to be noble or any other particular way if we are solely driven by our compulsions. Simply put though, we are what we are and we do what we do. This isn’t a pretty conclusion, but the evidence I am aware of, including the events of the past year, seems to support it.
And so the dynamic interplay of compulsive behavior leads to large swaths of time, place and cultural expression that are plunged into the depths of darkness, bathed in eternal light, or, mostly, swathed in the dull grayness of the spaces between. Brownian behavioral dynamics suggests that neither the darkness nor the light will hold sway forever and that miracles, which are actually a misunderstanding of the condition of rarity, do happen. The miracle we need is to collectively grope our way to a place where deep and abiding wisdom prevails over compulsion.
In spite of my take on the power of compulsion, I have always bathed myself in the warm and hopeful waters of enlightenment humanism. I have had faith in the upwelling of intelligence as an increasing of eternal light. I have believed its progression to be irrefutably positive and that its light would eventually win out. This past year has made it harder to hold on to that belief. The only way I can is to imagine that somewhere in the universe the upwelling has not led to self immolation and instead culminated in true enlightenment. I pray that somewhere in the vastness of the space/time continuum a civilization has found a way to wrest themselves free from the jaws of compulsion and that for them, wisdom has gained the upper hand and holds onto it.
In the meantime I turn to Robert Adams to supply me with a defense of my compulsion to make art:
“It is the responsibility of artists to pay attention to the world, pleasant or otherwise, and help us live respectfully in it.
Artists do this by keeping their curiosity and moral sense alive, and by sharing with us their gift for metaphor. Often this means finding similarities between observable fact and inner experience — between birds in a vacant lot, say, and an intuition worthy of Genesis.
More than anything else, beauty is what distinguishes art. Beauty is never less than a mystery, but it has within it a promise.
In this way, art encourages us to gratitude and engagement, and is of both personal and civic consequence.”
Robert Adams, Art Can Help, p9
I hold onto this thought as I step into 2018 with, surprisingly, a sense of hope and optimism.
I am excited to have provided most of the photographs for this very engaging book.
From my friend Steve Ventura:
OH, GOOD PEOPLE! Take out your calendars and circle this date right now: Monday, January 8, 2018. That's my birthday bash - with a band comprised of four of my favorite musicians of all time - Joe McPhee, Herb Robertson, Lindsey Horner and Chris Corsano - BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! - Mike Faloon's amazing book THE OTHER NIGHT AT QUINN'S, about Jazz and other adventurous music at Quinn's over the first four years of its existence, is at the printer right now and pre-release copies will be available at the 1/8/18 show. AS IF THAT WEREN'T ENOUGH, this show will also accomplish something I've been wanting to do for quite some time, namely: Reunite Lindsey Horner and Herb Robertson on stage after 20 years of forging ahead on separate paths! These two musicians were a major part of many of the most forward-thinking and adventurous jazz recordings of the 1980s and they will join Joe McPhee and Chris Corsano to form a band for the ages at this show. Really, mark your calendars NOW!
I am excited to have provided most of the photographs for this very engaging book. I can't thank Mike Faloon enough for making me a part of his terrific project. I should have copies of the book for sale in the New Year. It will become generally available in spring of 2018.
Griffin Museum opening and exhibition dates announced for the 8th Annual Self Published Photobook Show
The 8th Annual Self Published Photobook Show will open at the Griffin Museum of Photography on March 8th and run through April 1st, 2018. The reception will be on Thursday, March 8th from 7-830 PM.
My book "meditations" will again be part of the show. You can read more about it in this announcement.
The show will expand to include a number of additional books submitted to the exhibition curators.
Celebrating the Creative Process has opened at the PhotoPlace Gallery in Middlebury Vt. If you find yourself in the area, please stop in and have a look. Nice gallery, really good work in the show. I am humbled to be part of it.
My book meditations has been accepted to Catalyst Gallery Small Works Show, in Beacon, NY, which opens December 9th and runs to January 7th. There will be three copies of my special edition of the book which includes two 5x7 loose prints suitable for framing. The book is a limited edition of 50, all hand crafted by me. Regular edition copies are available through my webstore.
This announcement of the books inclusion in the Annual Photobook exhibition describes the book in more detail. And if you find yourself in Hudson New York, don't forget to stop by the Davis Orton Gallery and have a look at the show. It's a good one.
What I am reading: