Architecture and Construction by Sapata Fofana-Dura and Santigie Fofana-Dura; electronics by George Lee, Zeal Mayfield, and me; concept and painting by me. Composed of about 1200 bricks cut from wood salvaged from multiple sources, including a from house fire, The Shrine of Humility was made to exist for only three months of 2018, and is now no more. The unsuspecting, possibly reluctant supplicant would enter the shrine alone and be cast into darkness, enduring this for some time, when at last they are granted a vision.
The relevance of any undertaking can only ever be proportional to its purposiveness.
The Shrine of Humility, or ANIMVS·SVMMISSVS is a reaction to the affronts to consciousness and dignity we face in a world of ever greater depersonalization and isolation. Technology has allowed us to consume more than what we could ever hope to actually assimilate, more than what our own native sensorial metabolic rate can sustain, whether speaking about the merely material, or sensation, or thoughts and ideas. It’s expected that we will consume many hundreds of images and impressions in any single minute of any day, a single image only commanding perhaps at most some few seconds of direct attention. In this way, impressions and thoughts remain only the constituent parts of unformed ideas, and may then never go on to ever being anything more than assumptions which cannot be consciously attended to, where no inquiry is possible. This sort of overloading of the faculties induces a psychological state of passivity, somnambulance, confusion, and purposelessness. Life is thus proportionally less lived.
What if we were to have an image which is only seen by one observer, in a liminal space, for longer than a few seconds, yet perhaps only for as long as any reasonable directed attention might last, knowing that the image is not extant elsewhere in any form and that sharing the experience is not possible. Neither artist nor viewers are looking for “followers” because there is no association of images to be had. And the image may only ever be experienced once. The purpose of this exercise is to remind us that this is in fact always the nature of any experience: an image that can be seen by only one observer does not possess an objective reality— objective experiences are the varying attempts to share what is ineffable, observed as a functional state by any present consciousness. Only you know for sure what you have seen, and of course even that is impossible.
Take back your Subjective Truth because it is the only Truth. Here is a humble shrine where we hope you may find a moment of illumination and awakening.
For further elaboration on these ideas and how this relates to the message of the Encyclical theme, please see the accompanying project monograph.
I have often held in my hand a black walnut. It has a shell like stone. It has many internal stony reinforcements. But in between is an unimpressive, unimportant-looking meaty substance that has a mysterious and tremendous power. If you plant this seed under certain circumstances, heat is produced inside.
Now, whether it is a seed, or a teacher, or a businessman, or a student, when we begin to heat inside, something begins to happen. Your leaders may put a lot of heat on you from the outside, but that doesn’t always do much good. The heat that does the greatest good is the heat that is generated on the inside. Success, like failure, is an “inside” job.
When this walnut begins to heat inside, it produces a mysterious power that breaks that stony shell as though it were paper, and a little shoot works its way up through the soil to become a great walnut tree. That is, there is some mysterious power inside of a walnut shell that has the ability to attract out of the soil and the air and the water all of the elements necessary to become a great walnut tree—including wood, and foliage, and blossoms, and fragrance, and fruit.
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We live in a wish-fulfillment society and are all drowning in beauty, yet in general people are possibly more demoralized than ever. Beauty and pleasure, at least as we now understand them, are clearly not ultimately satisfying. Art, therefore, must be edifying. If it isn’t then it is only just attending to the current sensibilities of the audience, and is therefore proportionally only just craft. The criteria for success with craft is well understood (paint pictures of Greeks standing around in places, in the style of Bouguereau; or paint wan looking people in rooms, like Sargent; or paint sweaty or wet people photo-realistically, for example). Contrariwise, there seems little point in making art of something which the viewer already fully accepts, and the more artistic something is the more inscrutable it becomes. Beauty, like craft, is being studied scientifically, and will also soon be well understood, and beautiful things are at all times being created almost totally programmatically through technique alone, which is to say, as a craft. We’re extremely susceptible to beautiful collisions of sounds (e.g., fancy words or “gorgeous” music), or beautiful forms of any kind, but it begins to feel vacuous and predictable, as just another pretty face or pretty painting. Then some artists try to ugly things up to relieve the boredom; and surrealism depends on the viewer having a rather normal, sane view of reality, and it seems like low-hanging fruit to just merely seek to scandalize normal, sane people. For now I’ve settled on making paintings that are pretty plain, beautiful or crafty enough, and on a painter’s technique that is good enough for our purposes, preferring to work on establishing instead a technique of thinking and technique of living life. The vehicle being, to achieve mimesis with portraits of ideas. This is all only a personal prescription however.