The reflections which I wish lo share with you spring from my own artistic experiences and therefore are perforce subjective. They refer to the deep layers of the creative process and to me they are a kind of confession.
In artistic work taken seriously, it seems impossible to separate the manual activity from the mental one. Theoretical reflection may precede materialization, but it may also appear as a deep synthetic motivation of what has been done as a result of an intuitive impulse of the heart and hand. It seems that this interdependence of idea and matter has expressively been emphasized by Conceptualism whose postulates have come to stay in art If art manifesting itself in works and thoughts is to be internally motivated, it seems that what is essential is the question of the area, region, space in which its realization takes place. For art is a specific activity peculiar to man which reveals his complexity and complication. Art reveals forcefully man’s inner split into a Person and Antiperson, thus naming the learned and rationalizing activity of consciousness and the destructive or illogical threads of unconsciousness or subconsciousness. It follows from recent studies recapitulated by R. E. Orstein and D. Galin in the USA and by V. Z. Deglin in the USRR that in over ninety-seven per cent of people (right-handed) the centres of verbal and written as well as mathematical symbolization are contained in the left hemisphere of the brain which controls muscle movements of the right side of the body, while the centres of recognition of shapes, intonation and melodics of sounds, as well as the sense of dancing rhythm are located in the right hemisphere which governs the movements of the left side of the body. As a result, the activity of the left hemisphere makes it possible to recognize the order of time, and of the night – the order of space (1).
So it seems that art may be ascribed to the activity of the right hemisphere of the brain, which, alas, is dominated by negative emotions, lack of prospect and sense of purpose. Negative cognition may be a dream in art in the literal and figurative meaning. Sleep, as the American researcher G.L. Hartman maintains, is in fact a process of repairing nerve connections worn out in one’s conscious state, selective commitment of newly acquired knowledge to previously memorized material. Worth noting are the present writer’s achievements, however modest, in the field of dreaming in art. Several dozen experiments in dreaming in a pyramid (a wooden model of a pyramid) carried out in the years 1978-8O are remarkable for their repeatability and consistency. Also, one is intrigued and puzzled by the prognostic power of dreaming. I had never thought of Afghanistan in my conscious state, but the events of the end of December 1979 had been revealed to me half a year before that date with particular vividness. Dreaming as an artistic process is also worth noting because it seems unlikely that it can ever be fully recorded or registered. Our inward life manifests itself in such complication and variety that any description of it is like stripping a princess of her robes in an amateurish way. Consequently, what remains is Modesty, daughter of virtue, the rest is silence.
Looking for space for art, an area where it manifests itself, one cannot possibly overlook the artist himself. The artist’s gesture may be an energetistic mark on canvass, it may appear in a sculptor’s composition, but it may also be the trace of a bird in the air, a fish in the water or a snake on a stone. The transitoriness of such art has the wonderful charm of a poetic phrase which once heard rings years later like a familiar thought. My respect for body-art and performance arises from my respect for man. The uniqueness of the individual manifests itself here with immense power and gives one the delightful sense of contact with the original. The falseness of any doctrine reducing people to the so-called masses is revealed by this art quite distinctly. The space of the body / art work shows the limitations and, at the same time, the infinity of man. The artist is there-fore finite and limited by corporeality, but at the same time through the body he shows the spirit, reveals the common plane of infinite materiality and spirituality in the Gnostic Gospel by Thomas (verse 77) we can read. “I am Fullness, Fullness has come out of me. Fullness has come to me. Split the tree, I am there. Fift the stone, arid you will find me there”. This interdependence between I and Fullness, individuality and wholeness seems to be the goal of art as an unrestrained joyous cognitive reflection. The space of the body /art work assumes an eschatological character when we wake up to the fact of the Resurrection. According to the belief in last things there is not a snowball’s chance of the body being obliterated, annihilated. The body whether pulverized, crushed, burnt or dissolved in quick-lime, will resurrect by virtue of definition when the times arę fulfilled (the wholeness of time is completed). Body-art / art work is therefore based on incredibly durable material which notwithstanding apparent limitations has a timeless dimension: Me who has come to know the word has found the body, which the word is not worthy of ” (2).
In this perspective a different view must be taken of the various practices of mortifying one’s body: flagellation’s fasts, cilices. It seems to me that these practices were rather an expression of respect for the body a special treatment of it with the view of enhancing spiritual sensations. In the Middle Ages flagellant practices were so wide spread that uneasy popes would send out bulls to stop the epidemic of flagellation. Nowadays this form of mortification has been somewhat modified, but the principle has remained unchanged. Thousands of people make killing efforts in practising different disciplines of sport, regarding these efforts as (and culling them) pleasure. Much the same can be said of fasting: instead of fasting on Fridays as in olden times, those bent on slimming fast permanently kept calling it watching one’s figure. Since this special interest in the body is so universally accepted body-art as an expression of artistic activity is, l daresay, the most honest method of artistic expression. it is an art of truth.
Also performance as an extension to body-art makes one think. In point of fact performance is body-art practised in the social space, before an audience, among people. Consequently, it is not a new discipline, but only a new mode of practising body-art, an art of one’s self. To make the substance of performance fully comprehensible, I would like to adduce the description of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The Transfiguration also prefigured our own Transfiguration and Resurrection. The true Transfiguration and Resurrection is to take place when the times have been fulfilled – nowadays what is achieved m this respect is through the agency of art.
In the loose (3) space of peripheries in which art may manifest itself, I make out a particularly interesting and mysterious region “The devil is… a mysterious, but tangible and persona! reality and not a symbolic one. What is more, he is a domineering reality (“The prince of this world” as he is called in the New Testament, which repeatedly speaks of his existence), a sinister freedom opposing God and ruling over people as we can learn from the history of man-kind — those countless numbers of recurrent calamities which it is impossible to ascribe solely to man’s doing” (4). The particular emphasis put repeatedly on the personal existence of the devil is consistent with the whole Judaic-Christian tradition and by the same token with the present day culture. This personal reality of the devil is in itself a MYSTERY if we try to understand his role and place in man’s history. A reality controlling evil and breeding evil cannot come from the good Creator. In this case infinite goodness appears doubtful. There have been attempts to resolve the dilemma of God and the Devil by the construction of Gnostic or dualistic systems of thought. On such assumptions it seem that God in creating goodness created all spiritual and invisible things, while Satan all corporeal and visible ones. “The prince of this world” is therefore a demiurge organizing the world, but at the same time a fallen creature and his evil may result just as much from his spite as from his ignorance. The assumption that good comes from God and bad from the Satan disassembles the Absolute Being who is neither entirely good if he allows to exist, nor omnipotent if he does not know how to deal with it. Consequently, this would be the dilemma of different levels of mental development towards perfection. Thus, evil would be the state of special treatment of free will, more broadly of freedom. It could be free will abused by an ignoramus. And maybe only Theilhard de Chardin’s conception of evolution towards good (from evil to good, from imperfection to perfection) seems to illuminate the MYSTERY of evil and good, for it points to these two phenomena as the beacons showing the direction of man’s development.
The searing emanation of evil seems to fade when we have named the evil, deciphered it, and determined its range. Devilishness does not occur (or very rarely) preceded by its resounding admission of being devilishness. Centuries ago, folklore has it, the devil would don fashionable outlandish clothes and lure people with mellifluous words. And nowadays he will appear looking exactly like eminent personalities of the silver screen. My interest in demonism does not originate from a desire to stand in for exorcists, theologians or philosophers. I feel I am competent in the realm of art and it is to this realm that I wish to point as a sensitive instrument of knowing the spirits of good and evil. Art which, to my mind, is an altruistic amusement and at the same time a Tragedy (5), is qualified for an artificial investigation of what is time of our reality whose area is defined by the Absolute and the Satan. The instrument of art is sensitive to these extremist phenomena because the precision of this seismographic instrument registers the states of our minds. Person and Antiperson, which. being elements of good and evil divinity and devilishness, are at the same time ourselves. The experiences of the art of loose space seems also to indicate the proper vocation of the artist. which is to define and name nostalgia and despair, fear and anxiety, but also Hope and Love, who are true daughters of God.
July, August 1987
(1) A. Wierciński: Antropologiczny szkic o antypersonie. (Anthropological Essay on the Antiperson) “Literatura na świecie” No 10. Warsaw 1979.
(2) Thomas’s Gospel: Apocrypha of the New Testament, TN KUL. Lublin 1980, verse 60.
(3) A. Lachowicz: Wprowadzenie do teorii luzu czyli energii utraty (introduction to the Theory of Looseness or the Energy of Loss), Kuwait 1996 (typescript).
(4) A report on the State of Faith. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger talks to Vittorio Messori, published by Michalineum. Cracov — Warsaw — Struga, 1986.
(5) L. Szestow: The Philosophy of Tragedy.
Translated by Henryk Holzhausen