zenpundit.com » myth

Archive for the ‘myth’ Category

Worlds within the world: studio of Kiefer, mind of Vollmann

Monday, February 24th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — the worlds within this world are to be found in the workshops of Anselm Kiefer and William Vollmann ]
.

Artist one of two: Anselm Kiefer:

Kiefer devoted himself to investigating the interwoven patterns of German mythology and history and the way they contributed to the rise of Fascism. He confronted these issues by violating aesthetic taboos and resurrecting sublimated icons. For example, in his 1969 Occupations series, Kiefer photographed himself striking the “Sieg Heil” pose. Subsequent paintings—immense landscapes and architectural interiors, often encrusted with sand and straw—invoke Germany’s literary and political heritage. References abound to the Nibelungen and Wagner, Albert Speer’s architecture, and Adolf Hitler.

Interwoven patterns? The Nibelungen? Albert Speer?

Seraphim? Jacob’s ladder, on which angels travel up and down? And in this time of nuclear and gas chamber holocausts, have they abandoned the ladder?

Seraphim is part of Kiefer’s Angel series, which treats the theme of spiritual salvation by fire, an ancient belief perverted by the Nazis in their quest for an exclusively Aryan nation.

Spiritual salvation by fire?

Okay, This fellow has the kind of dark mythological intensity that interests me. Let’s take a stroll through this man’s world — a deeper dive into his studio.

In we go:–

It was like a world inside the world. Huge metal slabs were leaning against the walls. Helter-skelter around them, on racks with wheels, stood large paintings of oceans and beaches, rivers and meadows, mountains and forests, some covered with corroded ravines of lead. Vitrines in every size were standing everywhere, filled with the strangest things: the roots of trees, rusty hammers, little clay pigs. Shelves that ran the length of the hall were stacked with balance scales, hooks, rifles, stoves, snakes, torpedoes, piles of bricks, heaps of dried flowers, even whole trees. There were more full-size fighter jets and a cage that was maybe 300 square feet that was filled with golden wheat and what appeared to be the cooling tower of a nuclear power plant with a bicycle dangling down the side.

Torpedoes! Whole fighter jets! Whole trees!

Kiefer‘s paintings, we learn, are overwhelming, dark and vast — Seraphim‘s a good example — enforcing silence before their enormous intensity. And then, suddenly — watercolors, “brimming with color — sparkling blues and brilliant reds” as bright as the moments of a life, and thus as intensely personal as the dark vast paintings had been impersonal and overbearing — as is, one is forced to admit, our century.

He’s an artist — exhibit number one.

**

Here’s exhibit number two: the mind of William Vollmann..

Deep dive number two:

Bill greeted me warmly and showed me around the art-making area of his bunker, where he has a power engraver—he was working on a suite of Norse block prints when I visited—and where he prints his Dolores photographs using an arcane 19th century method called gum bichromate, which takes up to 28 days to produce a single print. Then he led me to the walk-in.

What’s in here?

This is the meat locker, where Dolores’s parts are. When the electrician wired it up, he asked, “What do you use this for?” I said, “Oh, that’s just where I keep my victims.” There was a long silence….She’s got her dresses here and I have my bulletproof helmet and various stuff from my journalism in there

Lecter, Hannibal? “That’s just where I keep my victims”?

Vollmann, like Kiefer, is possessed of a world both dark and sparkling bright. The sheer extent of his variety, too, is impressive, overwhelming.

I have in my room at the Pine Creek Care Center only two smallish bookshelves, and in them one book of Vollmann‘s: Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater. I mean, how not?

Kissing the Mask is so packed with beauty, understatement — erotics, Japan, Noh, Vollmann himself, Noh backstage, behind-the-scenes, photographs — ” a string ball of thoughts” — I’d like to say “torpedoes .. even whole trees” but Vollmann‘s world within the world is other than Kiefer’s, as though there were room for two worlds within our world — three perhaps — though I’ve yet to encounter the third — “with Some Thoughts on Muses (Especially Helga Testorf), Transgender Women, Kabuki Goddesses. porn queens, poets, housewives, makeup artists, geishas, valkyries, and Venus figurines” Vollmann addsall this in small print at the bottom of the book’s cover.

And Valkyries!

It takes my reading glasses and a Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass to read these days, and my copy of the abridged, one-volume Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means is in storage — a book fate which I both mourn and feel intense gratitude for.

When Vollmann turns to consider violence — “to establish a moral calculus to consider the causes, effects, and ethics of violence” as Wikipedia has it — he spends twenty and more years on the task.

The abridgment, Vollmann says, he made in half an hour, for the money. Truth to the work’s title is to be found in the $700, seven-volume original set, 3,500 copies. Even with dollar-store glasses and Holmes’ magnifying glass — enhanced with the option of bright light the better to read by — seven volumes is beyond me, as 700 pages of the condensed would be.

And there are yet other Vollmanns, with other worlds..

**

Oh but let Van Gogh have the last word, eh, Vollmann?

Vincent Van Gogh, Japonoiserie, The Courtesan

**

Sources

  • Guggenheim, Kiefer, Seraphim
  • NYT, Into the Black Forest With the Greatest Living Artist

  • 3 am, becoming dolores: william t. vollmann exposes his female alter ego
  • Wikipedia, William T. Vollmann

  • Metropolitan Publications, Van Gogh in Arles
  • The Ping-Pong Possibility

    Monday, January 6th, 2020

    [ by Charles Cameron — Soleimani’s death prospects — does my title sound like the title of a Ludlum novel? Good! ]
    .

    I’ll do this all, or mostly, in tweets — things are happening fast enough that just watching my twitter stream is keeping me pretty busy.

    Okay: there’s a whole lot of mirroring going on. Commenting on the assassination of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, President Trump tweeted:

    Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…..

    ….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!

    To which a senior IRGC officer just responded:

    “If [US President Donald] Trump retaliates to Iran’s revenge, we will strike Haifa, Tel Aviv and wipe out Israel,” said Mohsen Rezaei.

    About Mohsen Rezaee.

    In both cases, we have threats, which we might say fall half-way between words and deeds, and which may also be pure bluster. It’s a thriller, to be sure, given President Trump‘s propensity to exaggerate in both speech and action.

    More mirroring, as commentator Wajahat Ali tweets:

    Trump promises to blast 52 Iranian sites for the 52 American hostages held over 40 years ago. Does Iran respond by threatening 53 US sites for the US backed coup of Iran’s democratically elected leader Mossadegh in 1953?

    On the other hand, as Evan Kohlmann teeeted, there are more reasoned voices on the Iranian side

    Iranian military official Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan: “We will not enter into an all-out war with America under any circumstances and we will respond appropriately to the U.S. strike. Iran’s response will be based on wisdom and reason and will be deterrent and influential.”

    No mirroring there — no ping-pong, no tit-for-tat, just restraint — an “appropriate” and “restrained” response.

    And breaking symmetry completely

    Former Ambassador John Limbert, one of the 52 Americans taken hostage by Iran in 1979, says “I for one want no part of the president’s posturing about Iran.”

    **

    As Jenan Moussa tweeted:

    :Expelling American troops from Iraq was a main objective for #Soleimani.

    Cynically what Soleimani couldn’t achieve in life, he might well achieve it by his death.

    Iraqi lawmakers have indeed voted for US troops to be expelled from Iraq.

    But look, there’s more going on there — there’s death mirroring life. And if you’ll take a moment to break from national security concerns, death mirroring life is precisely what Jean Cocteau shows us in his great film Orphée:

    Cocteau’s porophetic. There’s more death mirroring life in this quote from Soleimani himself, as reported in this tweet from the FARS news agency, August 2015:

    “Soleimani has taught us that death is the beginning of life, not the end of life,” one militia commander said.

    And that may be the wisest mirroring comment of all.. though Soleimani surely intended it in the context of that other quote I cited yesterday:

    The war-front is mankind’s lost paradise. One type of paradise that is portrayed for mankind is streams, beautiful nymphs and greeneries. But there is another kind of paradise. … The war-front was the lost paradise of the human beings, indeed.

    Mirrorings found, but paradise lost, I fear — not Soleimani‘s war-front, but its mirror-image, the paradise of hoped for Middle Eastern peace. That’s a mirror undone, when you consider the letter from Soleimani to the Iraqi PM that Brasco Aad tweets about:

    raqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi: “Hadj Soleimani was in Baghdad at my invitation. He was scheduled to visit me and carried a letter with him from the Iranian leadership on how to de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”

    **

    Okay, further reading:

  • New Yorker, Where Will U.S.-Iran Tensions Play Out? An Interview with Iraq’s President
  • I find JustKnecht’s Loom of Form and Meaning truly brilliant

    Friday, September 20th, 2019

    [ reposted from BrownPundits — by Charles Cameron — few things in life are as delightful as finding kinships of mind and heart ]
    .

    Brilliant, IMO — and hopefully of use to Ali Minai, Mike Sellers and others in the field of artificial intelligence — here the Loom is, as JustKnecht presents it on Medium:

    9 categories can be used to classify how forms, meanings and the connections between them change, develop and evolve in relation to each other. Put anything at the top left of this table, then:

  • re-express the idea of it in a different form (horizontal movement towards the right of the loom, e.g. from Mercury the Roman god to Greek Hermes and Egyptian Thoth), or else
  • reinterpret that particular form with a different idea (vertical movement towards the bottom of the loom, e.g. from Mercury as god to the metal or planet of exactly the same name), or
  • vary both the form and the meaning (with ideas and forms both contrasting towards the bottom right of the loom, e.g. follow Mercury into the domain of trees, according to standard tables of correspondence in European culture, to the fast-growing hazel — hazel groves often being associated with gateways to the underworld, and Mercury himself being a guide to the underworld).
  • **

    Further readings:

  • JustKnecht, The Loom of Form and Meaning
  • JustKnecht, The Loom of Verbal Reasoning
  • JustKnecht, Rattlesnake Games – Introduction and Example
  • JustKnecht, Connecting forms to contexts in Rattlesnake Games
  • **

    JustKnecht‘s Loom would be a powerful tool by which to analyze many uses of my DoubleQuotes format.

    My own HipBone Games, like JustKnecht‘s Rattlesnake Games, are inspired by Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game as described in his novel of that name — and there’s enough kinship between them that Derek Robinson‘s comments on my own games and Ai may be of use, mutatis mutandis, in setting a context for Rattlesnake Games, too:

  • Derek Robinson, HipBone Games, AI and the rest
  • On the literary transmission of terror: 2: cascading texts

    Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from 1500 pp via ~80 to 4, the amount of writing irate people can manage has been diminishing — next up, silence! ]
    .

    In 1999 — the year in which Ahmed Ressam on behalf of al-Qaida attempted to cross the northern border of the United States with a truck-load of explosives, hoping to detonate them at Los Angeles airport’s International terminal on the evening of the roll-over to a new millennium, but was mercifully stopped by a suspicious US Customs official and detained, currently serving 37 years in a Colorado supermax for his terrorist offence — another quasi-religious organization with terror on its mind published a manifesto.

    **

    The group was Wotan’s Volk, and their publication the “Exclusive Millennial Wotansvolk Edition” of Ragnar Redbeard‘s 1890 novel, Might Is Right, or The Survival of the Fittest.

    A Social Darwinist manifesto? plea for eugenics? Racial purity? — or is the book a satire on all of the above?

    It wasn’t satire when Wotan’svolk republished it, it was a manifesto for race war:

    Look at that sword — the phrase 14 Words inscribed on its blade refers to a popular white supremacist slogan coined by a member of the 1980s terrorist group, The Order:

    We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.

    Redbeard‘s book, like William Pierce‘s 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries, is more political pamphlet than literature — except in the widest sense of that term covering all textual materials including invite posters announcing the times and locations of church bingo sessions. Peirce‘s book inspired Timothy McVeigh to commit the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 of us: published or posted words have the potential to infect thought, and the fever at times spills over into violence. And Redbeard‘s 1890s novel inspired the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, killing three plus the gunman just a week ago.

    **

    But fiction is not alone in infecting thought that spills into violence: non-fiction “manifestos” — now also known as “screeds” — serve the same purpose, though with muted imagination.

    Anders Breivik‘s “manifesto” 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence runs to just over 1,500 pages, and draws on other sources, though many of them, like “Pamela Geller, Paul Belien, Diana West, the Baron [Bodissey] and Dymphna from the Gates of Vienna blog”, have disclaimed any association with Breivik, the use he made of their texts, or his actions, extremely, fatally ugly as they were.

    Breivik‘s sources, in fact, were many and various, as this para, one of thousands, illustrates:

    Since the publication in 1970 of his book The Poverty of Critical Theory, Rohrmoser has promulgated, in constantly varying forms, the view that Marcuse, Adorno, and Horkheimer were the terrorists’ intellectual foster-parents, who were using Cultural Revolution to destroy the traditions of the Christian West. Academics such as Ernst Topitsch and Kurt Sontheimer, who saw themselves as educators and liberal democrats, followed in Rohrmoser’s footsteps. In 1972 Topitsch, a critical rationalist who was Professor of Philosophy in Graz, had stated that behind the slogans of “rational discussion” and “dialogue free of domination” there was being established at the universities “a distinct terrorism of political convictions such as never existed before, even under Nazi tyranny.”

    **

    And Breivik‘s work was itself a call to arms, inviting followers of his Oslo and Utøya “Knights Templar” killings to follow suit — albeit in a manner presented as fiction:

    It [his “Manifesto”] also describes specifically how this hypothetical fictional group, “PCCTS, Knights Templar”, would choose to respond towards the so called ”enablers” or the so called “cultural Marxist/multiculturalist” elites that are allegedly allowing millions of Muslims to enter Europe. The book contains detailed strategies (guerrilla tactics, instructions to execute, political campaigns etc.) which normally would be partly incriminatory to anyone who published or distributed the book (had it not been fiction).

    Indeed, Breivik himself later argued that “his main motive for the attacks was to publicize his manifesto” [Bloomberg, via Wikipedia].

    Breivik claimed himself to be a “Justiciar Knight Commander for Knights Templar Europe and one of several leaders of the National and pan-European Patriotic Resistance Movement” and invited others to become “Knights Justiciar” thus:

    The European military order and tribunal; Commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici – PCCTS is represented by self appointed European judges known as ”Justiciar Knights” or “Knight Judges” (Latin: justiciarius=man of justice, judge — Knight=Eques or Cavaliere in Old Italian, Chevalier in French, Ritter in German)”. Any self appointed Justiciar Knight has been given the authority, by PCCTS on behalf of;

    1. The free indigenous peoples of Europe
    2. Those Europeans not yet born
    3. The legacy of our forefathers and fallen martyrs

    – to act as a judge, jury and executioner until the free, indigenous peoples of Europe are no longer threatened by cultural genocide, subject to cultural Marxist/Islamic tyranny or territorial or existential threats through Islamic demographic warfare. It is therefore within any- and every-ones right to act in accordance with the given guidelines.

    and:

    All free Europeans have a right and a duty to become “Justiciar Knights” for the order/tribunal

    **

    Breivik‘s call for more “Knights Justiciar” and more actions congruent with his killings in Oslo and Utøya, and in some cases the killings themselves, have infected other minds, albeit minds few and far between. JM Berger, author of Extremism and a friend of mine and this blog, describes the cascading waterfall effect:

    The Newtown shooter Adam Lanza reportedly collected news clippings on Breivik’s attack and other incidents of mass violence before he killed 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Other young men, such as the British college student Liam Lyburd, have been inspired to plan or carry out mass shootings based on their admiration for Breivik’s lethality, rather than his beliefs.

    Then, JM tells us, the Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Hasson attempted to follow in Breivik’s footsteps:

    planning a mass-casualty attack modeled in significant part on Breivik’s strategy, and bearing the marks of his belief system

    **

    Fast forward to this March, and the Christchurch, NZ mosque attacks. The shooter here, Brenton Tarrant, wrote at 87 pages a far shorter “manifesto” than Breivik‘s — The Great Replacement — albeit in it he linked his attack explicitly to Breivik‘s, writing that he “took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar Breivik” and claiming:

    I have only had brief contact with Knight Justiciar Breivik, receiving a blessing for my mission after contacting his brother knights

    Manifesto to manifesto, rant to rant, action to action, the infection cascades, spreads and, thankfully, dilutes.

    **

    A week ago, there was the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, and this weekend we have witnessed the shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH .

    The Dayton shooter I dealt with in the previous post, contrasting his leftist online presence with the El Paso shooter‘s online presence from the right.

    In the El Paso shooting, the motive seems clear. Crusius begins his 4-page screed thus:

    In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto.

    There’s the cascade. His immediate follow up gives his motive:

    This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.

    Further on he says, again referencing the Christchurch shooter’s rant:

    Actually the Hispanic community was not my target before I read The Great Replacement.

    He continues:

    This manifesto will cover the political and economic reasons behind the attack, my gear, my expectations of what response this will generate and my personal motivations and thoughts.

    And that’s pretty much what he delivers: lock, stock, you might say, and barrel.

    But enough: all this delving into killers’ minds is disgusting.

    **

    Documentation:

  • The Unabomber, Industrial Society and Its Future”

  • Ragnar Redbeard, Might Is Right, or The Survival of the Fittest
  • Anders Breivik, 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence
  • Brenton Tarrant, The Great Replacement
  • Patrick Cursius, The Inconvenient Truth
  • Added:

  • Dylann Roof, manifesto
  • The erasure of boundaries — also, findings at the K/T boundary?

    Monday, April 1st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Tolkien illuminates Arthur C Clarke, Robert DePalma may have made the discovery of a century or two, previous posts on borders and the liminal ]
    .

    Arthur C Clarke, #3 of Clarke’s Three Laws:

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    Perhaps a bit facile.. when seen silhouetted against..

    JRR Tolkien, quoted by John Garth in War in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, 1916 thus:

    ‘From the greatness of his wealth of metals and his powers of fire’ Melko constructs a host of ‘beasts like snakes and dragons of irresistible might that should overcreep the Encircling Hills and lap that plain and its fair city in flame and death’. The work of ‘smiths and sorcerers’, these forms violate the boundary between mythical monster and machine, between magic and technology.

    That’s a DoubleQuote!

    **

    There’s a parallel, if greater, boundary violation Tolkien points us to in his essay On Fairy-Stories, where he writes of the Gospel that “this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation” and declares, “Legend and History have met and fused.”

    That’s true alchemy here — a sacred marriage, hieros gamos..

    **

    Sacred marriage, too, is the topic of the 17th century predecessor of Tolkien’s work in fearful yet blessed spiritual fantasy, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1616) — beautifully translated bv Ebenezer Foxcroft (1690), and richly annotated in John Warwick Montgomery’s Cross and Crucible: Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654) Phoenix of the Theologians.

    Other books on magic / imagination worth considering:

  • Lee Siegel, Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India
  • Ioan Couliano, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance
  • Henry Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi
  • **

    Take a deep breath..

    **

    While we’re on boundaries, there quite possibly may have been a seismically major discovery relating to the K/T (Cretaceous / Tertiary, now renamed Paleogene) boundary on “The Day” itself:

  • Douglas Preston, The Day the Dinosaurs Died
  • .
    “When I saw that, I knew this wasn’t just any flood deposit,” DePalma said. “We weren’t just near the KT boundary—this whole site is the KT boundary!” From surveying and mapping the layers, DePalma hypothesized that a massive inland surge of water flooded a river valley and filled the low-lying area where we now stood, perhaps as a result of the KT-impact tsunami, which had roared across the proto-Gulf and up the Western Interior Seaway. As the water slowed and became slack, it deposited everything that had been caught up in its travels—the heaviest material first, up to whatever was floating on the surface. All of it was quickly entombed and preserved in the muck: dying and dead creatures, both marine and freshwater; plants, seeds, tree trunks, roots, cones, pine needles, flowers, and pollen; shells, bones, teeth, and eggs; tektites, shocked minerals, tiny diamonds, iridium-laden dust, ash, charcoal, and amber-smeared wood. As the sediments settled, blobs of glass rained into the mud, the largest first, then finer and finer bits, until grains sifted down like snow.

    “We have the whole KT event preserved in these sediments,” DePalma said. “With this deposit, we can chart what happened the day the Cretaceous died.”

    DePalma’s PNAS article:

  • Robert DePalma et al., Prelude to Extinction: a seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota
  • See also:

  • UC Berkeley, 66-million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor
  • Ryan F. Mandelbaum, Scientists Find Fossilized Fish That May Have Been Blasted by Debris From Asteroid That Ended the Dinosaur Age
  • **

    Earlier Zenpundit posts on liminality and borders, among them:

  • Liminality II: the serious part
  • Of border crossings, and the pilgrimage to Arbaeen in Karbala
  • Violence at three borders, naturally it’s a pattern
  • Borders, limina and unity
  • Borders as metaphors and membranes
  • McCabe and Melber, bright lines and fuzzy borders
  • Walls. Christianity & poetry. And nations, identities & borders
  • Limina, thresholds, more on spaces-between & their importance
  • with further references in:

  • The importance and impotence of language, #28 in the series
  • And another next, 26, mixed
  • Can you believe it? We’re at Chyrons & metaphors 19

  • Switch to our mobile site