by Carol Warner Christen
(Swans - August 27, 2007) Is it possible that art -- any type of art -- is actually "places, where all the different kinds of truth fit together" as in a chronosynclastic infundibulum? (1) Kurt Vonnegut used the infundibulum in his writing; I used it in my art. I sit here looking up at a collage of a moonscape I made years ago in black and white with a single touch of blue in a jeans outfit. It started with a cutout of Vonnegut's infundibulum whereby a man with his arm through space is reaching out. The moon's surface is gray and the space background is black.
A very tiny moon lander was centered on the moonscape in front of a huge alien sculpture behind the man hovering above the surface in his "box," which is partially clear. To the left is a pile of rock-like boulders where the man in the blue-jean outfit has his back to us because he is pissing into a rock cavity. He and the rock take up one-third of the picture. A crocodile form is coming out of the rock on the ground next to a human face. The man is standing with one foot on the reptile. Towards the front of the collage are tiled artifacts, some with faces, and some as debris with a tinge of blue-green color. If the man steps back he would break them into more pieces.
The other side of the infundibulum has a tree-like stump with a very old woman dressed in black with a hat; she is peering around the stump. To her surprise, on the other side, is a nude young woman attempting to hide modestly by pulling one leg over the other and bending from the waist as she peers at the old woman on the other side. In front of the two is a huge black and white face of a woman wearing a shirt neatly buttoned from the top. She looks at us looking at them. Above her head are two scantily clad humanoids next to a complex bolted structure next to the fearsome face of an idol. Alongside the black and white face is a landscape of cacti.
The starkness of the moon and the meanings contrasted let the mind flow to consider and be startled at the juxtapositions giving respite to the ordinariness of modern life. There are truths in the infundibulum, which is the collage.
Another piece I made is still a plaster cast because to pour it would destroy the infundibulum and leave me with an ordinary but lovely young nude model even if she does have four hands. The model's name was Kitty. I made a sketch and took it to the Chicago Art Institute School to model in clay and pour a cast. I was going to a community college, The College of DuPage, and the Art Institute at the same time. I sculpted the nude Kitty into a clay form; poured a very thick layer of plaster over her and waited for it to set up. When it was dry, I scooped the clay out and propped the cast up to look at it.
It was stunning as it was. When looked at, the sculpture shifted position and came out into the third dimension here due to the light in the depths, instead of remaining merely indented. Her legs are folded and her arms are somewhat distorted as she lays her head on her knee. Two other hands appear to be holding her, too, besides her own two hands. Her breasts and hair appear fully in this dimension depending on the lighting. People love looking at her; different lighting changes what we see; and, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
What if life is a chronosynclastic infundibulum? Reading Vol. 1 of The Curse of Ignorance, on page 325, Arthur Findley in 1947 wrote this paragraph:
At the beginning of the 14th century B.C. we are at a time of social and economic revolution when the barbarians threatened all civilisation with chaos. Instead of confining this new discovery only to productive purposes, stupid humanity employed it for destructive purposes, just as in our day precious petroleum was wasted to destroy the labours of past generations. Plundering now became general, and tribute consisted of the removal of old wealth to new owners, new wealth becoming a secondary consideration. Poverty consequently increased, trade declined, and culture vanished.
If humanity continues to funnel truth or fiddle around while "cities burn," over and over ad infinitum, then generational ignorance is our great flaw. The problem today, however, is that we have invented the ultimate destroyer of worlds: nuclear weapons. Such weapons can never be put to productive purposes on a planet with an 8,000-mile diameter. I once calculated the number of nuclear weapons needed to devastate all the landmasses on earth using the stated perimeter of one hydrogen bomb. The number was less than 100; it was 90 bombs and our planet is totaled. Since we are storing 30,000 and the Russians and others have more than ten thousand extra, we may all soon find ourselves as obliterated "strings": the tiniest masses in the universe if the trigger-happy of the human race proceed on their current course. Our vice president champions their use against Iran and he has made the Russians very afraid, once again. Who are these fools who continually promote destruction rather than benefits for all of life? They want new owners for the oil wealth they covet that other ordinary people, such as Iraqis might use for their own benefit, not ours. That is plunder.
I was five years old when the only two of such weapons hit Japan; I was learning to read the newspaper headlines. I was totally shocked and still am. Even if only two were used, many, many more have been tested. Ask the islanders in Bimini. Consider the use of Nevada and the prevailing winds over the years; I remember strontium 90 getting into milk. My very best employer screamed at me across the drafting room that dropping those bombs on Japan saved his life in WWII. He sincerely believed that. It never occurred to him that two cities of men, women, and children were killed to save him.
We all seem to live in infundibula -- funnels of beliefs to suit ourselves, funnels that limit our horizons. Myopia brought on by a lack of real culture and consideration for others. Myopia extended to destroy, not to build. Can anyone tell me how life in 1400 B.C. is any different than life in 2007 A.D., besides the lack of nuclear fallout? "Poverty consequently increased, trade declined, and culture vanished." As above, so below.
Granted, we have invented scientific and medical wonders; and, then we denigrated the scientists and limited the use of the medical breakthroughs by the poverty we are now creating. We threw our technology into China for new wealth and our people are getting poorer and our babies poisoned by lead-painted toys, among other problems with this arrangement. Our resources are depleting at a rapid rate; we refuse to back off and become one with simpler technologies and better farming for health practices. It seems as if some humans insist they are more equal than the rest of us. The rest of us permit them to have their high and mighty ways. How stupid is that?
If different lighting changes what we see, then what is hidden by the powerful manipulators of reality, as one current branch of government claims to have a special right to do, then, once again, the people do not matter; we are chimerical to them. We mean nothing to the Executive Branch; we are absurdities if we think we do. Every single important human right has been removed by a manipulated Congress and a packed Supreme Court. Three hundred million people have been outflanked by two and their flunkies, the neocons. Cons, is what they all are; artists; con-artists, media manipulators.
There is a soft sculpture in my studio of my husband watching television. His eyes will never look at the viewer because he is busy. He stands for all of us who need distraction rather than attention after a day's work. A bed-and-breakfast owner who saw my last art show returned later with an old remote control since I didn't have one and gave it to me for the piece. If I made a new piece in this line, it would be a video game morphing into a cell phone with everyone in an infundibulum of their own; the consequences of this isolation be damned. Maybe, little funnels all the same. Nothing human.
When 9/11 happened, I made another piece out of solid wood painted white. The buildings are tall thin pieces of black wood along the bottom. The center of the piece is a gigantic red and yellow wooden airplane propeller flying. I've read that many of the Saudis in that scenario were alive and living overseas. So, the hidden dimension is who really flew the planes? Will the light shift so we can see? Or, will the darkness of the Middle Ages fall once again, this time on citizens of the United States as we bomb our enemies back to the Stone Age to start all over again to bomb our enemies back to the Stone Age to start all over again, again, again, generation after generation until there is no planet and deformed humanity as our progeny. So much for the enlightenment of yore.
There is a saying: stupid is as stupid does. We are more than that; we are more than the sum of our bodies; we are more than the matter that makes us move, and live, and breathe. If we grow into our fullness, the horrors will end; we will rebuild fairly; we will never allow the "big men" to rule or run roughshod over us for money, for fame, for riches, for privileges. Education of a higher sort is called for now before we have to practice abasement before the Executive Branch and its spies and armies. Is that too much to ask? Did we fight a Revolution to kowtow to a dictator rather than a king two hundred thirty years later? The latest news today (8/15/07) said that the Executive Branch will have no use for the Congress of the United States after the coup or disaster or something wicked this way comes.
It is time for a new art piece made of many funnels holding many truths because, right now, the one funnel we all believed in has been, and is being, smashed to smithereens by those who think they are smarter than all of us. Every-day people, the We in the Constitution, are head and shoulders above the plotters in government who have lost integrity, reason, and have absolutely no verifiable ethics. No dictators of old survive; no enthralled peoples stay that way for long; no one will get away with this theft of our republic either for very long. Our soldiers do have mothers and fathers amongst us and children, too. It's too bad Kurt Vonnegut left before the end.
1. From the science fiction novel The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut the phenomenon chronosynclastic infundibulum is defined as "those places ... where all the different kinds of truths fit together." (back)
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