Tag Archives: Art

Fear Spiders

If I dream about fear, my own fear, it is often embodied by a poisonous spider. The spider in my dream frightens me especially on moments when I cannot see it.

In real life, spiders only scare me if they are larger than my hand and faster than my arm. In dreams they emotionally disrupt me. They often co-occur with the collapse of my house. In a recent episode, there are giant moths involved, about 30 cm long, which have been eating the foundations of a wooden top floor. They live symbiotically with a black widow in her nest made of half composted, tar-smeared branches. The spider is hiding somewhere deep inside, behind the eating larvae which quickly evolve and fly off. I know I will encounter it when I clean up this nest. And it won’t be happy.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who, albeit below the surface, has a fear for spiders. I do wonder what causes that because honestly, they’re not that dangerous. Only a few exceptional specimens could kill you, but you’ll have plenty of time to find the antidote. It would make far more sense to dream about poisonous snakes or about an aircrash or a bulldozer falling un top of me, because those events are far more threatening. Why the spider?

A spider is generally blackish and has eight legs with which it runs rapidly and with a very light tread. More often, it sits still, hiding in a dark corner, or somewhere on its self-built sticky and artistic web. Most spiders have beautiful patterns on their back which deserve a better look. They are hunters. Top of the food chain. Prevent the blood from clotting, then suck their victims dry. To humans mostly harmless.

My mom and sister used to panic when there was a wolf spider in the house. Motioning after them, I did too. As the man of the house, I had to gradually learn that the easiest way to get a spider out of the bathtub, is to let it walk onto your arm, get outside and push it off the place of your body were it felt comfortable to stay. A spider is most scary when it runs, because we don’t know where it is going. The aspect of the unknown. I think her sudden speed also reflects the suddenness with which our fears present themselves to us.

Do spiders in my dream reflect my mothers fears from when I was a kid? The explanation is interesting in combination with the collapse of my house. The loss of control over my limited, constructed understanding of myself and reality. Is this fear culturally inherited? Is it psychologically entangled with the cognitive challenges of our childhood?

There’s another hypothesis I’d like to propose; one of more mystical nature. It’s connected to the number eight. The sacred geometry of it. In semi-dream mode I sometimes have visions of octangular, tunnel-like structures that seem to be a passageway to a certain insight or to my subconscious. The vision sometimes evolves into spider shapes, and even into highly detailed images of spiders with nice, colourful back patterns and fangs. It seems meaningful sometimes, as if these spiders have something to do with the access to my subconscious. Hiding in the dark, unknown corners of my mind.

The spider. A small, powerful entity that makes our imagination go wild. One day, she’ll trap the bug that ate from my corpse.

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Mental life

If you’d start a religion today, would you ban or allow violent video games?

The reason why I ask, is that my sister gave me Grand Theft Auto V for my birthday. Playing it brought me back to my teenage years, when a big part of my worries could be narrowed down to the question: “how can I beat the next boss and get into the next level?”. It also helped me see this game for what it really is: a piece of art.

GTA V, not unlike earlier versions, has so many facets that it is hard to know where to begin talking about it. The game holds a tremendous amount of possibilities: you can shoot down people in the street, do some yoga, blow up busses in a drive by, play tennis with a real or virtual friend or you can just light up a joint and enter in a fist fight with one of the innumerable clowns that materialize from the smoke. GTA V has storylines in which you make choices and feel the consequences of your actions and characters that support you or fuck you over. All of it happens in a world full of detail which would take you about half an hour to drive around in one of the faster cars, stolen or bought.

The game comes with an excellent package of sarcastic jokes about all aspects of western society, in particular media manipulation, New Age gurus and consumerism.  The in-game equivalent of Facebook, for example, is called Lifeinvader. It has its own office building in Los Santos, which you can enter to mess with the technology. Another example: the day you steal nerve gas from a lab somewhere in the mountains, the presenter of the news on the radio wonders why “the criminals went to great lengths to get their hands on a formula for cheap perfume”. Afterwards, the same radio channel broadcasts a commercial on why “Flow”, with its great packaging and advertisements by famous people, is far better for you and your self-esteem than tap water.

The game has the perfect combination of qualities to suck you out of your daily trouble into a dream where you are the ruler of your destiny and that of the imaginary other. It has doubtlessly had more attention than the Mona Lisa – during the phases of crafting as well as appreciation -, has brought in more money than most blockbusters and has probably made more people happy than Jesus.

Still, people world-wide fight a battle against the virtual violence in such games which has little more consequences than getting some virtual cops on your virtual ass. Easy to shake off once you have some experience. Opposers of the GTA franchise argue that the violence promoted rewires the back of the players’ brains. They believe that shooting people in a virtual world will alter the subjects perception of life and death in the real world, reducing the barrier to shoot people in real life. Personally, I have to admit that after playing GTA for several consecutive hours, when going to the almost closing supermarket for a beer and a pizza, the thought of blowing someone’s brains out may occasionally cross my mind when a random bastard walks in my way. Of course, it wouldn’t easily happen: I don’t usually carry a minigun around.

The discussion raises an interesting series of questions about the perception of the real versus the illusory, quite relevant in a society where virtual and casual reality overlap more and more. How big is the influence of actions in virtual worlds on our actions in real life? Can the power we feel while playing such games settle inside us as a day-to-day desire? Or could such games satisfy desires we already have, and thus make us live our normal lives in a calmer way? Would that just be a superficial thing, or could virtual lives be deeply nurturing?

Mankind has made fantasy more tangible. Young generations are growing up alternating between real and virtual worlds. From a young age onwards, we learn to discern the two from each other. I do believe that being in touch with virtual worlds helps us relativize our own lives, by making us accustomed to be view things from a distance. I’d guess that rather than having us irrationally import behaviour from one world to the other, games help us see things in their contexts and act according to the circumstances. So next to being masterpieces, I believe they might have educational value.

As long as we still eat, sleep and jump around from time to time in real life. Let’s not forget that.

A night with Sabina Nore

December 30th, 2013

Sabina is a soul with broad interest for many arts. She currently presents herself through the visual, having her work described with terms such as Fantasy and Surrealistic. With her rational and creative mind, she challenges the audience to break out of what she calls ‘loops’, repetitive ways to respond to situations. I am staying at her house in Vienna. Being around her is losing the sense of time. Day and night flow into each other and lose their grip on me. She has inspired me in writing. It’s almost midnight when we move to her atelier, and I start taking notes. While we talk, her son Christopher unleashes a cascade of photographic clicks, taken from any angle you could imagine. His constant movement and effort for the proper picture are impossible to ignore but they quickly become an appreciable part of the setting, Sabina’s life.

I’d like to let her paintings guide our conversation. She gladly explains them in more depth. We start with the Divine Fury, because that one hangs in the permanent collection of the Viennese Museum Für Phantastische Künste. It is also one of my favourites. It represents a goddess of vengeance. The painting is the first in a set of three, which together show a chronological story. They express female resistance against those who disturb the natural order. Though fury itself may appear negative, it is in fact an important thing. Goddesses of vengeance have been painted regularly since the Medieval Age, but they were historically depicted as ugly, because male painters perceived female goddesses that way. But the anger they possess exists with just reason. If you suppress the divine, there will be a reaction.

The Divine Fury shows a personification of the ancient wisdom that existed long before the emergence of religion. Her hair is tied to the tree of knowledge, this woman is knowledge herself. Weak men demonize women of knowledge. They represented women either pure as a muse, or as the devil herself. The bloodsuckers on the body of the woman on Divine Fury represent those who attempt to capture her energy. The burning cross on the background represents the burning of the witches. Wise female’s voices were violently silenced, sometimes even with mortal methods.

“So, she has all the reason to be mad…” I say
“Wouldn’t you be?” Sabina looks at me with a slight flame in her eye.
“Write that down!” – commands Christopher.

In Fury Rising, the second painting, the goddess breaks out to restore the natural order. It combats strong players who prey on fragile young beings. It removes the sources of mass delusion we are currently dealing with in society. The trash that is being sent upwards in the background represents the cleaning of the place when fury comes in action. There’s a medusa head statue on the background which is crying. From her tears grow roses. It is a renewal.

Sabina says that she was far less passionate to paint the third painting, but it had to be done to complete the story. It shows the fury as a content, blissful being. The pools have a male and a female figure in them. They are in balance. When everything is in order, there is no reason for fury. The painting is an important part of the story, because it shows what the fury strives to.

When I ask Sabina if these paintings also represent aspects of herself she answers that they have nothing to do with an internal conflict. She explains that she chose to build her own career so that she doesn’t have to deal with the crap society has gathered throughout the years. From a distance it is easier to see what others are facing in their daily lives. These paintings are about women setting the angry part of themselves free. Women’s drive for justice is not as hideous as has been framed for ages. That’s easier to see if you are not part of it. She tries to represent that in such a way that people understand it.

When I ask her if she ever felt angry while painting she answers she was all the time. She was the fury. Sabina becomes that which she paints. The emotional charge was highest during the first painting. Most of the emotions happened inside, invisible to others, but sometimes a spark of anger would come out. It was exhausting for her. After finishing the first painting, she realised that she had to paint a few more. She apologized to her family in advance. During Fury Rises, she repeatedly listened to the same song; hating the haters by Niereich, not something she would usually listen to. When she finally got to the third painting, there was no fury left.

We move on to the Privileged Lovers. The title was based on a poem with the same title by the mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi. It is about love without ego or games. It’s about giving yourself to each other without fear. An alternate title is The Quintessence, the place where the gods reside. I ask her if such love can last, she answers yes. She explains that a funny chain of events led to her painting this. She had started writing an essay about love with the mission to demythologize it and unveil the illusions poured over people’s hearts and eyes. She was ready to give up on the quest for the perfect other even if she had thus far always very strongly believed in it. While she started the essay in the belief that she had read too many fairy tales in her youth, she explains that fate set things up to change her mind. She didn’t want to finish the story. She first painted the Immortal Quest, which is essentially about the never-ending search for egoless love. After that, she painted the Privileged Lovers.

In this case she didn’t experience the love while painting, but something similar, seeing the potential. When asked, she says this kind of feeling cannot exist when you’re on your own. You can experience many other beautiful experiences while alone, but this one needs the meeting of Yin and Yang. She does not believe that just any two humans can reach it. Each one would have to be quite evolved. If either of the two has too much ego, that gets in the way, and then it is not possible to give yourself completely.

I ask her if she has tips on how to encounter such love. She answers that more important than finding the right match is to be the individual that can establish this kind of connection. If you find the one, but you are not ready, you might wrongly conclude that he or she is not who you are looking for. To become that individual who can recognize such a connection is a quest on itself. It is very blissful.

We move on to the final painting, Sub specie Aeternitatis. The title was a word invented by Spinoza, meaning “from the point of view of eternity”. The unique feature of this painting is that there are two versions: one with the foreground scene, and one without. The one without is called Aeternitas, eternity.

The background represents the hall of lives. It is the perspective where you overlook them all. Sabina believes in reincarnation. She has always lived her life from the point of view of eternity. Eternity is now for her. From the point of view of eternity, every moment matters. Living in the now means not to dwell too much in the past, nor to focus on the future all the time. If you’re always in the moment and make all choices from this point of view, every moment brings something important. You either give everything you have, or you learn something new. Sabina enjoyed painting this, because it meant being in the space of eternity, believing she could stay in that hall forever. Paint that from now on.

The woman on the foreground is a traveller. She is living her life from the perspective of eternity. Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe vitam. That’s Sabina’s motto. Seize every moment of our entire life. Seize life itself. By leaving the woman out in Aeternitas, Sabina stressed that this is not just a personal thing, but a choice anybody can make.

There are plenty of details left to discover in Sabina’s paintings, but I stop writing down her words. We spend another few hours talking. Christopher goes to sleep. We watch a film, then talk some more.

Graffiti and the Gravity of Gravity

By biking slowly you open up to the surroundings in a different way than when you’re quick. I am holding my steer loosely and at ease. Me at my finest. Or that’s what I believe.

The speed bump near my house does not come unforseen. Passing it every day, I know it very well. I wouldn’t say I appreciate the bump. It is a nasty one, to which I have to anticipate quite a little each time I go with speed. Tonight, I am going slowly, so there is little danger. Or that’s what I believe.

So it happens that my mind drifts where my body was an hour ago. Mr. La Luz gave us an inspiring talk on how he avoided sudden bankruptcy of his catering company by selling 50.000 obligations of 1 euro within 3 days, helped by social media.

I get called back by a shock. It was the bump. I see two tourists come from under the graffiti ornamented bridge to the right. They are about to become spectators of a struggle between my physical appearance, my bike and what Newton once framed as the attraction between two bodies.

The steer shoots to the right. That’s where the sidewalk starts. It’s stuck. I am quite surprised that I managed to lose control at this idle pace. I am an individual who commends himself for heaving escaped perilous situations. I have regained control during slip events and even when I had tyres stuck in a tramway. Indeed, when I moved to the Netherlands ten years ago, my quest was to master the bike better than the Dutch. I have learned to make sharp curves without holding my steering wheel. My traffic radar – a basic Dutch city biker’s skill – works without a flaw. I have lifted the daily need of transportation to an art. That’s how I am able to afford this looseness in the first place. Tonight, the bricks of the city of my ancestors disagree.

As I grab the steer and try to pull it back, the bike bends. The pedals capture my feet while my back wheel pushes the entire cascade forwards. Did I brake? I cannot tell, but something changed. My front wheel makes a sudden shift to the left. Up till now, the situation seemed out of control. Now it is. The saddle catapults my body, while the bike takes off below me, only to find its way back to the ground in a swift parabolic motion. I follow a similar curve, and reach out to the ground with my left hand.

One of the great things you can buy in the Netherlands, is a basket for the front of your bicycle. You wouldn’t imagine how handy they are. Gloves too hot? In the basket. Crate of beer? In the basket. Just bought a nice plant? Into the basket it goes! The basket – my friend, my friend – the basket. Or so it has me believe.

While my hands stroke the floor, my ribs discover the solid character of my precious basket in a wholly new way. The air rushes out of my lungs and some limbs fly by. It doesn’t take long until I’m safely back on the ground, knowing that I’m not sleeping on my side tonight.

In the ideal scenario, the two tourists who just witnessed my life flash by continue their pace pretending that nothing happened. I know before I look up, however, that this is not that scenario. It is perhaps for that reason that I make my groan sound as manly as possible. When I look up, I see them coming to my aid.

“Are you ok?” . “Well, I’m still able to breathe, so I think so.” and in a different tone “I have no clue how that happened!”.

“Don’t worry, man” says the guy, “it happens to everyone…”. He deserves this gaze of death.

The Devil’s Mount

Berlin, summer 2012

I feel it the instant I walk through the door. Sound surrounds me. Every footstep, every click of my fingers, every single breath I take echoes around in the spherical shape I’m in. The sound fades with mathematical precision, until I make another move and ignite a new cascade. What my ears hear is all that matters.

Berlin’s great! After a two-week holiday at Zuzana’s place in Slovakia, we are now staying at Taicia’s. The city breathes art. Many squatted buildings are settlements for people to create. One solders a horse out of metal waste, others paint. We found a stage on the street, with music no one really liked but everyone appreciated, just because it’s Berlin. And then you have the remnants of the Wall, meandering through the city as a dried up river of torn emotions. It reminds us of our schizophrenic past.

We stumble upon a free exposition hidden somewhere deep inside a building near a bridge. The theme is resistance. The walls show pictures of demonstrations in all corners of the world this past year. There are pictures of the Arab spring, Occupy and Pussy Riot. Somewhere on a tile there’s a line that compels me. “The only real revolution is inner revolution”. I buy a book about the sacredness of trees.

It’s like finding yourself in a fully new game. I like to sing. I usually use my voice to reconnect. I now freely let sounds emerge from deep inside me. In my mind’s eye I see a stream of energy leaving through my mouth, far out into space. Alex Grey-like patterns. Everything is connected.

We arrived at the Teufelsberg after a half an hour walk through the woods. This building was built by the Americans to listen in on conversations by the USSR. It has been squatted and the walls have been adorned with amazing graffiti pictures. It has a tower with an enormous orb on top. I’m running around in it. Clicking, jumping and bungling around in euphoria.

There’s a window. Everything’s purplish red because the sun sets in the woods.