I’ve been following the work of my good friend, the CMU graduate and Chilean visionary artist Alberto Almarza, for many years now. This weekend I had the opportunity to attend the first Pittsburgh Visionary Arts Festival, which Alberto organized and showed his work at, including his series of small intricate image boxes. It seems that in preparation for the event, Alberto has finally started putting his work online:
I haven’t had any really epic or interesting dreams since returning from our road-trip, when I was taught to fly by the witches and went on a journey into the depths of hell, but being immersed in mythology lately I started thinking last night as I was falling to sleep about just how many of my older dreams are mythic in scope, and woke at seven from this suitably epic adventure (though epic in a way much different than most of my dreams):
I was in a packed movie theatre waiting for the show to begin. A couple other kids in front of me wondered what the movie was, and as it started I knew it was a flick about the end of the world, one I had seen before and highly enjoyed, but also was living in. Something was really wrong and the crowd dispersed. My brother Devon was in front of me and turned around to talk. There was some tension between us, a sort of brotherly competition which the voice-over explained. My twin Scott showed up with his girlfriend Anne, who was dressed in wet blue-white robes and arguing with him or mad over something he’d done, though he only looked sheepish. We had to get out of there fast. Suddenly I found myself on a long rocky strand jutting out into the sea with thick clouds overhead. Alberto was with me and we were trying to figure out how to get to a square black prison or military outpost that loomed on an island to right far out in the sea, where Sophie and Sarah were being held prisoner. There were many military personnel swarming over the strand with surveying and radio equipment. I looked up just as the clouds parted to see an enormous jet black metal spaceship flying close and fast over the whole sky. Alberto and the soldiers also exclaimed at the sight of this monolithic apparition and ran around wildly, for it was the sign we were waiting for, a herald of the end. At the sight of the spaceship, the soldiers called to the prison, and soon an equally large black ship, like an airship carrier or square submarine charged from the island towards the strand at an enormous speed. Both it and the spaceship had a gothic quality that on waking reminded me of the Cathedral of Learning. The ship approached, looking like it wouldn’t stop, but run right into the strand, so Alberto and I scrambled down the rocky side to where a white ship had fortuitously pulled up, captained by young anarchist pirates out for a joy cruise, enjoying feasts and games on their floating party. I leapt from the strand onto the pirate ship, bowling into the revelers and upsetting one girl who wanted to raise a stink about our intrusion. At that the black ship swung along side, and a military officer leaned out to take the girl’s complaint. She however didn’t want to deal with the military, so instead the officer gave us each a grey coin that was like a demerit for bad behavior or token of our guilt. The anarchists wanted to sail off and continue partying, but I was more concerned with rescuing our lovers from the island and preparing for the invasion of both the army and the spaceship.
Continuing research on ‘the aesthetic’, Alberto and i finally found the collection of Brothers Quay short films at the Dreaming Ant. what words can i give to this? sheer genius, the stuff dreams are made of… intricate machines filled with strange tinketry, dirty mirrors, living dolls missing half their heads, objects that have a life of their own, moving in a jittery buzz like mechanical bees, the little gremlins engineering the contents of our nightmarish sleep. each vignette seems utterly familiar, yet inexplicable. as soon as you almost understand what’s going on the lights drop to that dream blue, the camera fades, blinks, fuzzes out, and the mind slips off comprehension. sheer genius, mastercraftsmanship, perhaps they sold their souls to the dark side…
one of the shorts, more explicit than the rest, was a historical lesson on the artistic technique of anamorphosis, used mostly in the 16th century, the couching of one image in another image so that it is only perceivable from an unconventional vantage point, full figures popping out of landscapes when looked at from the side. mesmerizing, and i begin to wonder how it is possible to achieve this effect linguistically, not just some code or cryptology concealing information in the letters and words themselves, but in the images, and themes. an enhanced symbolism where what is said is really a veiled allusion to something much deeper, that you would almost have to put your eyes parallel to the page to read… much the way that dreams function in the subconscious.
walking back at two in the morning, i was confronted by the surreality of sirens, flashing red and blue lights, a mass of ambulances and cop cars on the corner of liberty, a body being dragged in the light rain. flickering streetlamps. i shuddered. last month after watching Holy Mountain w/ alberto i witnessed a man sprawled out on the sidewalk near the hospital, one shoe off and the sock laying withered on the bricks and two security guards moving the van he was laying behind. and now this. it turns out a man was shot at the ATM last night, three times in the head. i can’t help but think it is some reminder from the universe that though i am trying to be patient with this work, shit does happen. and two blocks from home. or that the act of creation on one person’s part balances out with destruction and violence down the street. i am reminded of alberto’s horror several years ago, in realizing that everything we do has an intimate affect on the world around us, every negative thought, every moment of doubt and disturbed anger ripples out like we’re tapped into (or trapped in) some plane of crumbling energies. all the more reason to create, to sing, to smile at strangers, to live…
(from akira kurosawa’s “dreams”)
as i get my scattered notes and dreams together in some semblance of order (or several semblances), i’ve started researching cultural and artistic depictions of dreams in order to more fully capture the specific dream aesthetic i am going for. as my alchemical friend Alberto Almarza put it yesterday before we watched kurosawa’s masterpiece, “dreams are of light and water, but hidden in vases and lamps, in oceans and lighthouses. full of cliffs and deserts and forests, wind-up birds, compasses and clocks, doors and doors and strange ghostly figures.”
while watching “dreams” i was struck, as i was the first time i saw it, how his themes and images could have sprung from my own mind, or any mind, certainly winsor mccay’s mind portrayed in his “little nemo” comics; archetypal situations playing out the crux of humanity in a wealth of colors and melancholia. lost in a blizzard, walking through a dark tunnel, watching foxes dance in the rain, running from an erupting volcano. i’ve been there before. so perhaps have you.
Wandering around last night decided to stop by sarah and alberto’s to tell them of my absurd revelations and see how his art is ticking along. without knowing it i was jsut in time to watch one of my favorite movies ever, alejandro jodorowsky’s “the holy mountain”…
Filmed (and set?) in mexico in the 70′s, this is the surreal tale of a jesus coming back from the dead and fighting off his personal monsters and the horrors of the modern world learning the secrets of self-transformation from an alchemist and going on a quest to the holy mountain in order step out of time and become immortal. not only is this movie incredible for its use of disturbing sound collages and almost no dialogue, but the symbolism! my gods is just too blatant, nothing couched or hidden and drawing on so many sources at once it hits like a ton of gold bricks, especially the scene where the romans get jesus drunk and he wakes up in a warehouse surrounded by a thousand plaster copies of himself. simply harrowing in the best way. i’d recommend this movie to anyone with a keen eye, but forget that so much of it draws on occult literature and shamanic visions that not everyone can relate to or even has experience of. nevertheless it is a brilliant surreal adventure.
So instead of working or sweating, I spent all day (literally the last nine hours!) compiling my diverse writings from the past half a year, creating what is now over a hundred pages of articles, rants, ramblings, and poems detailing my experiences and experiments with living in a magical world view, as Alberto keeps on asking me to print out my writings. Yet again it is surreal going back through my life and seeing how I’ve changed, what I’ve forgotten, what I finally learned. What is important enough to be included. Like I am downloading all the good bits of my life and burning the rest. I’ve drunk too much coffee and stared at this screen for so long that it has created an invisible and unbreachable wall between me and the rest of the world. I am sitting at the quiet storm but I could be on mars there’s so much distance between me and those who walk a foot from the table. And I’ve got the shakes again, this slight tremor in my muscles as if they ae picking out all the subtle vibrations and amplifying them. No I don’t think it’s the caffeine, it’s been like this all week, along with the head rushes where the world disintegrates around me. Eh, I hope I haven’t broken myself with all the psychic breakthroughs. I can turn streetlamps and computers and other electronic devices on and off psychicly but I feel like I am a nervous wreck.
while reading through this file I found myself in one of the most intense cases of deja vu I’ve had in a long time. I was reading these words and then I saw Alberto reading them and sharing them with Sarah, and knew that I had had that vision shortly after I met her, here in this very spot. And that the people who are at the next table are there, from the vision, and then that person comes in and that one… It is passing now, but I feel like if I could stand it I could have followed that train of visions inward, moment after moment unfolding dreamlike, the future and past and present of this writing and its effects on the world, and those effects’ effects and onward. Like a stone causing ripples and I am looking down and seeing all of them colliding in the waters of time. I could let myself go into that right now, but I would probably faint in the process and scare the shit out of everyone here, but it would be so easy. And I think I see where that place is to get back to it. Brrr, I’m giving myself chills. It’s like when I located the sciptorum (the record of all things) and realized I could conceivably know all of it if that revelation didn’t kill me first. Or when I first realized the connection to all at the back of our heads but wasn’t ready to let myself go into it as my ego was still too strong and it would drive me insane. But I learned to do it, and can now and still come back without fear. But here I know I am still not yet ready, or the world isn’t ready. Standing on the brink of all this power, looking over the edge at infinity, wondering if I should jump…
It feels like the Universe is holding a knife to my chest and threatening to throw me in if I don’t do it myself.
So this drawing was supposed to accompany my last post (about da’ath and the tree of knowledge), but as is evidenced by the fact that it took me several days to draw it, it seems obvious that I’m much more willing to express myself verbally than graphicaly. Interestingly enough, when it comes to my own understanding of these concepts things are much more multisensory. A weave of words, lines, sounds, feelings, colors, tensions, etc. is conjured up by any thought, so expressing anything in just words or images falls far short of catching any intended meaning. And so of course, this picture is nothing like what I had intended it to be, but still manages to capture some of the nuances that have been bouncing around my head the past week. It also doesn’t help that I’m not trying to represent any sort of “truth”, but only shades of interpretation.
That being said, it should be obvious that the straight lines running towards the axis are supposed to represent the tree of life, or an ordered (linear) perspective of reality. I debated leaving a blank line between each of the trees around the circle, but once the pen’s on the paper, that’s that (and it amuses me to think of the trees as overlapping). The eye at the axis is kether, or non-local connection, or universal conscioussness (singularity). There would ideally be an infinite amount of tree of life lines connected here to show how everything is connected, but that would have been a bit messy. The radial lines are da’ath, the tree of knowledge, or the connections on which the various jewels (sephiroth) hang. They could also be seen as ripples emanating from the axis, like those caused by a stone dropped in water, and are thus also representative of the waves that are space-time and the primordial ocean of chaos on which an ordered perspective is placed to form the matrix/ net of reality.
The faint curving lines that look like lotus petals are an example of phyllotaxis, which is the method by which certain flower petals form along the golden spiral (taught to me by my good friend Alberto Almarza, one of the greatest living alchemical artists, but with absolutely no web presence of his work (yet)). I only penciled these lines in to see how they lined up with the paths of the tree of life, which they did remarkably well, except that they connect chokmah to geburah (15) and binah to chesed (17) through the abyss placement of da’ath and not to tipharet. Which would make sense if da’ath were actually a sphere and a higher harmonic of tipharet and not an infernal ghost in the machine.
The striated lines surrounding the spheres and the net itself indicate radiance, and are purely decorative. I also considered drawing an arrow to malkuth labled “you are here,” but thought it wasn’t all that necessary.
and here’s a little something I wrote the other day while immersed in the wonderful illustrations of Roob’s “Alchemy and Mysticism”:
Drawn forth from the flood
all being resplendent
in a single shared cup.
Drink your fill
and dance on the waves.
The whole world falls
at your feet
ring after ring after ring.
Where is the kingdom
with a thousand centers
Drawn down from the stars
and traced in the dirt.
At crossed roads
and the shifting shore,
standing with one foot
in the the sea. The tides
stop for no man,
they wash up and you
they sway back and you
Up and back, ceaseless
and serene at dawn
but so terrible
when they are gone.
So rise, plant both feet
in the air, the wind
waves as well; but across
but your skin.
Strip it away and away.
What is left for the wind
to caress but your soul?