Monday, March 2, 2009

Three pounds of linen

We are taught as viewers to look for meaning in art, and as artists to create meaning and be aware of our intentions. This rests on the supposition that our conscious mind is reliable and an authority. We are also taught that this meaning or intention should be expressed in words, and once it is, the meaning and intention will gain value.

I certainly think that words about art help us navigate it – both in making it, and in looking at it. And I have to say that artists who shy away from discussing finished work irk me. I don’t care how you say it, but say something (if asked).

That said, I am growing more and more interested in word-less perception, in feel and in disjointedness as rich vehicles of complex meaning. For this interest, I thank new artists I am meeting, the bodywork that I’ve been practicing for a few years, Tibetan studies, and most recently the transcribed lectures that Jose-Luis Borges delivered in 1977.

More on these soon, but in the meantime, here is a description of the relationship between non-sense and enlightened intuition from Borges’s lecture on Buddhism:
We always think in terms of subject-object, cause-effect, logic-illogic, a thing and its opposite. We must go beyond these categories. According to the Zen masters, to reach truth through sudden intuition requires an illogical answer. The neophyte asks the teacher, “What is the Buddha?” The teacher answers: “The cypress is the orchard.” An answer which is completely illogical but which may awaken the truth. The neophyte asks why Bodhidharma [the monk] came from the West. The teacher replies: “Three pounds of linen.”

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