What was left behind. What we leave behind. Where we find ourselves sometimes. Artifacts. Mystery. Whispers & Echos. Mementos & monuments. Lives once lived. Places to begin again.
This Quarter’s Theme (October – December)
Welcome to months of exploring ruins. The Soul Wild theme* for October-December 2017 is Ruins. Over the upcoming months we will explore what has been left behind. We will endeavor to understand what the past can teach us, imagine the lives once lived & explore the way we hold on to destruction in our lives and how we can let go.
We will wander through cobblestone streets, research the history that surrounds us and reach out to souls long gone in search of beauty, understanding & awe. We will get lost & become found, each day rebuilding upon foundations we forgot existed but have longed to remember.
Ruins Exploration Preview
We will photograph today & yesterday.
We will use imagination to travel through time.
We will learn about daily life in cities long gone.
*Here at Soul Wild we work with a specific theme every 3 months to help us frame our creative exploration in a meaningful way.
Yves Klein was not your typical artist. He did not use your typical materials to create art. His first piece? He claimed it was the blue sky.
With that sort of audacity it might not come as a surprise that he also patented his own color: International Klein Blue. His works are provocative and intriguing and at times, for some art critics, infuriating. Like us, he found invisibility worthy of exploration – lack of sound, lack of structure, single-colors and empty spaces all served as materials from which to create his art.
For me, learning about him was like entering a whirlwind – with every piece expectations dropped and I was wound up in wonder. If I had to compare him to a type of artist it would be more of a director then a painter. His vision is what makes his art special. He orchestrated experiences with art.
What follows are a few hand-picked works by Yves that I felt would support our deep dive into Invisibility.
Emptiness. Invisibility. Voids. How do you create something out of nothing? What is nothingness? How does the ‘lack of’ effect us. There is an eloquence in absence. But more, absence can be threatening, joyful, humiliating, desired. Klein found ways to structure absence and art. Many of his works explored the idea of what was missing versus what was there.
One of Klein’s most famous works is literally called The Void. Imagine the scene. It’s April 1958 and a crowd of hundreds of people are waiting outside the Iris Clert gallery in Paris. Some of the people in line hold small postcards stating:
Iris Clert invites you to honor, with all your affective presence, the lucid and positive event of a certain reign of the sensible. This demonstration of perceptive synthesis sanctions the pictorial quest of Yves Klein for an ecstatic and immediately communicable emotion. (Opening, 3, rue des Beaux-Arts, Monday, April 28, 9 p.m.–12:00). Pierre Restany
The gallery entrance is draped in blue and on either side of the door are Republican Guards dressed in full regalia. Besides them, two guards who according to Klein were meant to guard the guards. The crowd is full of the energy that comes with anticipation…excitement and a slight sense of unease. The crowd is so large that police and fire vehicles are on the scene anticipating as well. What is behind those doors?
The attendees are at last let in by Yves himself, barely able to move because the crowd is so vast. They fill up an empty space and look at the only thing there is to look at, a single display case, painted white and empty. They might have heard Yves explanation of the work before they came:
Recently my work with color has led me, in spite of myself, to search little by little, with some assistance (from the observer, from the translator), for the realization of matter, and I have decided to end the battle. My paintings are now invisible and I would like to show them in a clear and positive manner, in my next Parisian exhibition at Iris Clert’s
Some people laugh and walk out, others stay for hours pondering nothingness.
I remember when I was younger thinking this type of work was meaningless – maybe it was just to abstract to me. But now I understand absence (and abstraction) at a deeper level. I imagine for each person absence means something different. Is it purity? Is it loneliness. Does it make you afraid or does it comfort you? It seems to me that Klein was trying to move towards purity with a boldness that made that movement special. For someone who once said “My paintings are the ashes of my art.” the invisible might just be the perfect medium of expression.
On a side note, if you ever get the chance to time travel and feel the call to attend this event, DO NOT drink the blue cocktails. Attendees reported urinating blue for a week after the exhibition (much to Klein’s delight).
Leap Into The Void
When I was a photography student I fell in love with photo montages (not the digital kind – I like those, but there was something special about the ones created before we had the technology to make them so easily).
Leap Into The Void expresses so many things at once. First is the idea of danger (again related to invisibility). Is the man in the photograph really leaping into nothingness? Our will something at the last minute save him? Or…can this man fly? We will never know the answer only the moment captured and the moment is enough.
What I love is that Yves really did leap. He HAD to leap to create this piece and he did it all while wearing a suit! He was caught by a net, but still he did leap. At first glance it seems a clever trick, something that makes you look twice, but for me there is truth in the jump he took. For a moment he was flying, he was freedom, there most likely was fear and the void was real.
It’s as if he captured the human condition perfectly – the way we move through life, at times leaping with no safety net, at times believing that we just might be able to fly, at times fully of defiance and joy.
“Even in its presence, this symphony does not exist” – These were the words Klein used to describe his Monotone Silence Symphony. He only performed this work once in his life. It consisted of a group of musicians holding a continuous tone for 20 minutes straight followed by twenty minutes of silence. The performers were performing silence as well as their instrument.
The work has been performed many times since his death but I particularly loved a story about one of the performances from the New York Times about a performance in Paris in 2007.
The performance was held at a church and the door to the church was open. During the performance a pigeon came in and sat in the church where everyone could see them and for the entire 20 minutes of silence he did not move. When the silence ended he flew away.
There is a power in what we can not see or hear, an energy you might say and this work allows us to focus on it. Time weaves itself into the mix as well. Imagine 20 minutes of silence, what it feels like at the 5 minute mark and how that differs from what it feels like at the 10 or 20 minute mark. And what of the moment when the sound turns to silence? I can only imagine how abrupt that might feel, how disconcerting.
In some ways I wish I never read about Yves work, I wish I could experience it without the knowing. There is something lovely about the way he surprises and shocks. He was an artist who used the unexpected to startle viewers, to wake them up. He saw depth where there was no visible depth, he forced us to feel silent shadows and empty spaces. His work makes me want to rethink the limitations I place on myself and my work. It makes me want to open myself up to abandon and cut back some of the constraints of how I approach life.
What did he see in the invisible that we do not? What did he hear in the silence that we fail to hear?
Invisibility comes in many forms. Sometimes it occurs because something has no physical form, like a thought or a feeling. Sometimes it occurs because we purposefully hide something, like a scar. And then sometimes it occurs because we simply do not have the physical capability to see something or to see the details of that thing.
Picture of a damaged nerve
How much of the world do we miss because we simply can not see it? If we could change the level at which we perceive something what else woulc change? The other day I watched a tiny ant try and try again to figure out how to carry the wing of a termite to it’s home. The wing was too large, the ant too small. I watched as it made decision after decision about what to do – I watched a world I don’t take the time to look at often because of it’s size and I felt filled with wonder.
Single cell of a respiratory virus
Photographers have found fascinating ways of capturing tiny worlds. Microscopic images of ordinary objects are sometimes beyond belief. A moth wing looks like the most delicate lace, shark skin looks like something made by man, the human tongue, quite honestly, is a tad too close to a horror story for my liking when you view it up close.
You might be surprised to find out that two of the photos in this post are from the Center for Disease Controls electron micrograph collection. Not the first place you might think to go looking for artistic images right? But that is exactly the point – Beauty exists in places we don’t expect it to. The world will never stop amazing us. If you are feeling a drought of inspiration or a lack of awe, changing the level at which you view the world can change everything.
Detail of Moth Wings – Original Photo by Pitschuni on Flickr
Next time something strikes your interest look closer and then closer still. If you really feel inspired, get a microscope – go in search of the tiniest of tiny treasures. The world is large, but it is also very very small and that my friends is a beautiful thing.
In order to uncover buried parts of yourself you first must remove your armor but before you can do that you need to know what type of armor you are wearing. On a piece of paper draw yourself wearing armor.
Where is it most dense? Where is it the thinnest? What is it made out of…diamonds, scales, mirrors? How heavy is it, does it weigh you down?
We do not need to destroy our armor, only become aware of it and discard or lighten what is no longer needed.
By knowing how we protect ourselves we also come to know what we fear and what holds us back.
Dear you (yes you, sitting there reading this post), I want you to be creative. I want you to experience the joy of building time for creativity in your life, to sing with paint, to doodle away your sorrows, to learn about yourself through self expression. I want you to infuse your life with color and texture and curiosity. Here are 100 reasons to be creative inspired by blogs all over the world. Click on a reason to read the blog post that inspired it.
This creative exercise is part of a series related to uncovering buried aspects of yourself through art. If you complete this exercise & would like to share what you create, use the following hashtags: #iamsoulwild and #pastpresentpoem.
Write A Poem in the Past and Present
Create a poem written in past tense describing what you once were.
Change the verbs from past to present. How does that feel? Which sentences make you feel better in the present? Which sentences make you feel better in the past?
Before I talk about all the experience of creating my #Eavesdrop Poem, I wanted to share with you what I made. It’s short, super short, but I’ll get to why that is a bit later.
Seen Clearly – an Eavesdropped poem
Take off your outline
You think it matters
This understanding of you
But I think you alone
Is so nice
Without your bags of worry
Your words become roses
Made to matter
Exactly as you meant them to be
One of the most enlightening things about writing this poem was actually the experience of collecting words. When you stop talking and start really listening you begin to see people in an entirely new light. The words they use have nuances and depth, the adjectives that pop up over and over like little clues are more telling then the sentences are, the tone and rhythm of conversations are really like poems themselves especially when you listen closely and meaning falls away as you deepen your observation.
There is so much to be heard and so many people that want to be heard. That was the biggest takeaway for me, people want to be heard and a lot of the time we aren’t truly listening.
Writing the #Eavesdrop Poem
I really really did not collect enough words. For anyone who is going to try to do this my biggest piece of advice would be to collect a huge amount of words, more then you think you’ll need and to collect them from many different people in many different scenarios. The tone and types of words change so much based on who you are around, the more diversity you can create in your words, the easier it will be to write your poem.
My poem was short for this reason, next time I’m going to take down at least 5 times as many words and I really don’t think it’s so bad if you add a word or two of your own. I didn’t but I really wanted to and there were a few poems I couldn’t complete because I was missing a few words.
What the Eavesdrop poem exercise does best is that it forces you to really listen, to really use your sense of hearing and then it gives you a starting point for your poem. If you want to embellish go ahead, make it truly your own, let your words intermingle with the words you heard.
I would absolutely love to hear your poems. If you complete the challenge send them my way or share on social media. I’m almost 100% certain yours will be longer then mine! Good luck to all my fellow challengers.
This creative exercise is part of a series related to uncovering buried aspects of yourself through art. If you complete this exercise & would like to share what you create, use the following hashtags: #iamsoulwild and #singsong.
Sing A Song You Used To Love
Choose a song from a period of your life when you felt alive. Listen to it and try to remember what it was like to listen to it at the age you first heard it.
Now sing it. Sing it out loud in full abandon. Sing it with passion and energy.
How does that make you feel? Does it bring back any strong feelings or passions that you miss having in your life? Will you allow them more space in your life today/
Every month here at Soul Wild I will be setting up a creative challenge for everyone who is looking for ways to add a little more creativity into their lives. This month our challenge is to create an eavesdropping poem.
Your Creative Mission – Create An Eavesdropping Poem
Pick one day and spend it collecting sentences, phrases and words you overhear. Spend the entire day collecting conversations but don’t tell anyone what you are doing!
You can do this Harriet the Spy style & save your words in a notebook, scribble them on a scrap of paper or save them in your phone – whatever works best for you. The only rules are that you write down exactly what you hear and that you don’t let anyone know what you are up to.
You have one entire day to collect your words. At the end of the day put down those pencils and let the words swirl inside of your dreams for a night.