Text

06/2012 Community Rule. Text as World

 

 

I was researching into the material for my latest painting Qumran when I noticed this image among other remnants of Dead Sea scrolls from a cave at Qumran, Israel. For some reason my first impression was that this particular image was of some sort of a map (you can almost ’see’ shapes of Africa, India and Australia in that picture). Later on I have decided to base my new painting on the image, history and content of that scroll. The scroll contains a part of Community Rule text – the set of regulations ordering the life of the members of “Yahad” – (direct English translation will be “Together” or “Togetherness”) – the group within the Judean Desert sect who chose to live communally and whose members accepted strict rules of conduct.  

Seeing text or its remnants as world was an appealing idea to me – not as opposed to “World as Text” but as another alternative. Besides, viewed as a seminal text to a certain extent – it does contain a world, or a world of promise, developments, and possibilities for future generations. Taken in its metaphorical capacity it triggered my imagination -  and I framed the altered image as a ‘world’ and am intending to present it as a ‘map’ of parchment with the mark-making characteristic of the other paintings within this thesis project. I am still working on this painting, studying the specificity of the script or font – even it is still readable in modern Hebrew of today that I know, there are differences. I want to learn these differences to be able to write the text into the painting as close to the original as possible.  One thing is already certain: the text will be written in oil – somehow for me it represents the most human way medium – with all its flaws, irregularities, and fragility.

The word “Yahad” – ‘togetherness’- correlates with the title of my thesis paper: Constructing a Place of Belonging. Finding or re-establishing this sense of belonging is probably, the most important task for every immigrant or re-located person.

In this painting I rendered the scroll as a map of a ‘world’ – which I interpret as homage to the world of biblical wisdom and to the interconnectedness of the world cultures. For me it also has a symbolic meaning of different continents connected in my personal experience.

 

 04/2012 Qumran, Descent & Elevation

The latest painting on this page is titled Qumran. Qumran is a name of a place in Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. I had an idea of this painting as a homage to an artist after a show of a well-known Canadian photographer Edward Burtinsky, who photographs land, makes images of aerial views of fields and quarries. One of his pieces brought about this memory of overlooking the Dead Sea from the top of the mountain ridge framing the hollow which was once filled with the sea water and now has its extremely concentrated remains far below. This place is rich with memories, traditions, and is also wrought with dispute: two borders divide the region of the Dead Sea into three territories: Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian. Every time I travelled along the sea shore to the Dead Sea resorts area I was well aware of the Jordanian border on my left but did not think of the border right in front one - Israeli-Palestinian one. Was I that arrogant?

When the painting was finished I knew I had to add the borders. No matter they will disrupt the beautiful flow of the grey-emerald oily with salt sea water; no matter they will block my journey back to that nirvana.

The background of the painting reminds me of pachment paper – roughly half of the Dead Sea scrolls were written on parchment – so I was thinking of that. They were found in a cave  – I had this added element of what might be associated with the cave paintings. The wiggly turqoise line along the contours of the sea are the copied line of levels of that sea in the 3-2-d century BCE when the scrolls were written.

 One of the sad discrepancies or sad realities in the narrative of the history of the scrolls I noticed when I was reading the Wiki info on Qumran: “Qumran is an ancient Hebrew settlement in the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank”. It is a postmodern world oxymoron. “Hebrew ancient site” but “occupied” anyway…  

Qumran info

Qumran (Hebrew: קומראן‎, Arabic: خربة قمران‎ – Khirbet Qumran) is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia. The Hellenistic period settlement was constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus, 134-104 BCE or somewhat later, and was occupied most of the time until it was destroyed by the Romans in 68 CE or shortly after. It is best known as the settlement nearest to the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden, caves in the sheer desert cliffs and beneath, in the marl terrace.

History

 

Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947-1956, extensive excavations have taken place in Qumran. Nearly 900 scrolls were discovered. Most were written on parchment and some on papyrus. Cisterns, Jewish ritual baths, and cemeteries have been found, along with a dining or assembly room and debris from an upper story alleged by some to have been a scriptorium as well as pottery kilns and a tower.

Many scholars believe the location to have been home to a Jewish sect, the Essenes being the preferred choice; others have proposed non-sectarian interpretations, some of these starting with the notion that it was a Hasmonean fort which was later transformed into a villa for a wealthy family or a production center, perhaps a pottery factory or similar.

A large cemetery was discovered to the east of the site. While most of the graves contain the remains of males, some females were also discovered, though some burials may be from medieval times. Only a small portion of the graves were excavated, as excavating cemeteries is forbidden under Jewish law. Over a thousand bodies are buried at Qumran cemetery.[1] One theory is that bodies were those of generations of sectarians, while another is that they were brought to Qumran because burial was easier there than in rockier surrounding areas.[2]

The scrolls were found in a series of eleven caves around the settlement, some accessible only through the settlement. Some scholars have claimed that the caves were the permanent libraries of the sect, due to the presence of the remains of a shelving system. Other scholars believe that some caves also served as domestic shelters for those living in the area. Many of the texts found in the caves appear to represent widely accepted Jewish beliefs and practices, while other texts appear to speak of divergent, unique, or minority interpretations and practices. Some scholars believe that some of these texts describe the beliefs of the inhabitants of Qumran, which, may have been the Essenes, or the asylum for supporters of the traditional priestly family of the Zadokites against the Hasmonean priest/kings. A literary epistle published in the 1990s expresses reasons for creating a community, some of which resemble Sadducean arguments in the Talmud.[3] Most of the scrolls seem to have been hidden in the caves during the turmoil of the First Jewish Revolt, though some of them may have been deposited earlier.

 

 

Embodied (24/01/2012)

My inquiry into the role of embodied mind in the process of perception, imagination, and creative production yielded more findings this year. What started as a passionate following of Merleau-Ponty’ idea of “embodied mind” which is central to his phenomenological investigations and “our situation as beings thrown into the world” has recently developed into a research of the embodied mind as an active agent creating new contexts. Several scholars and theorists’ works have been summoned for this investigation: Lucy Lippard’s The Lure of the Local, Edward Singerland’s What Science Offers the Humanities (an associate professor of Asian Studies and a Canada Reserach Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition at UBC), and Ellie Epp’s PhD dissertation paper Being About: Perceiving, Imagining, Representing, Thinking. 2002(Ellie Epp is a Canadian filmmaker, writer, and philosopher). 

I felt the need in this further investigation because my earlier ‘claims of territory’ or ‘conquering places’ seemed being shaken by a relization that this new land in a way, was claiming … me (still entirely in tune within the discourse on scape vs scope): the more I travelled through this landscape, the more I felt I was becoming a part of it. My skin was dried by the prairies’ winds and sun, my eyes were searching the horizon in the West for mountains (and inspiration); I was recognizing certain fields and landmarks and welcoming them as a sign of proximity to home and the possibility of rest for my tired body. My painting was parallell to my thinking about this land. I felt increasingly home.

The most crucial point I would like to make here is that whole bodies are “oriented and structurally responsive to their environments” (and not isolated parts of persons) (Epp). These whole bodies are capable of “becoming part of the landscape” through acquiring kinetic or kinesthetic experience in a place (no matter how short their stay in theis place is) just through moving or walking in the land (Lippard). In my understanding of Lippard’s theory, displaced people instead (or after/ or simultaneously) of painfully “re-membering their dis-membered past in order to make sense of the trauma of the present” (Homi Bhabha) are engaged in the positive process of “creating new contexts for their histories and themselves” (Lippard).

Edward Singerland claims that “the very idea of a unitary, conscious “I” in control of the dumb, animal-like non-self (the body, the emotions) appears to be an illusion… Perception is not concerned primarily with representation, but with action… Concepts are therefore not amodal, abstract, and propositional, but perception- and body-based”. Ellie Epp echoes this thought in her statement that “the cognition as spatially engaged… begins with acting and perceiving seen as interdependent aspects of evolved competency in the world”. Representing occurs by structural changes that are usually a combination of perception/action and simulation. Thinking often requires representational support; like representing, it is understood as necessarily grounded in a “prior aboutness of evolved, located bodies able to perceive, act and simulate”.

Works Cited:

1. Bhabha, Homi. “What Does the Black Man Want?”, New Formations, Spring, 1987.

2. Epp, Ellie. Being About: Perceiving, Imagining, Representing, Thinking, 2002.

3. Lippard, Lucy. The Lure of the Local. New York: The New Press, 1997. Print.

4. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. “Eye and Mind”. The Primacy of Perception. 

         Trans. Carleton Dallery. Evanston: Northwestern University press, 1993. Print.

5. Singerland, Edward. What Science Offers the Humanities. New York:

        Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print 

 
 

My Practice: Theory & Territory

I think, I map, therefore – I am.

Line appeared (or re-appeared) in my work after three years of uncertain dedication to abstract painting. Line organized and tied together my life experiences in space and time. It helped me to orientate my practice in the context of contemporary painting and project my aspirations into the future. (“To orientate is to hop back and forth between landscape and time, geography and emotion, knowledge and behaviour” (Stephen S. Hall,”Mercator”, from “You are Here: Personal Geographies”, Katharine Harmon, ed., 15)). Being an immigrant and having no physical space to call my own, I feel it as necessary to give some physical body to the experiences of passages I accumulated. That is why I paint spaces, places, and territories.

Irit Rogoff considers counter-cartography as an activity coming from the margins exceptionally important as it is revolving “around the structures and signifying systems by which knowledge is organized and conveyed”. Mapping found in contemporary art practices “re-situate” a theory of cognition within lived experience of concrete, qualitative subjects.  I welcome Rogoff’s interpretation of this new tendency in my practice of painting. As noticed by Edward Said, re-mapping is an attempt to define and re-gain clearly distinguishable borders, which in our world became to parallel to the achievement of coherent identities. “Beyond borders lies the perilous territory of not belonging” (Edward Said, “The Mind of Winter – Reflections on Life in Exile”, 51).

My art is political in the sense of being an ‘uncomfortable knowledge’ which I acquired first hand; art that refuses to serve as a moral compass. It asks more questions than it can possibly offer answers. The main question that I am trying to convey through my work at the moment could be formulated just like this: “What culture of knowledge allows me to know what I know? (which is often another way of knowing where I am). And what pattern, what grid of wisdom, can I impose on my accumulated, idiosyncratic geographies?” (Katharine Harmon, “You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of Imagination”, 15)

What direction do I see my practice take in the future? Possibly, due to the physical nature of my work (bodily involvement, energetic movement, etc.) I might consider making a few sculptures or installations while developing the same themes – identity, placement, and belonging.

Works Cited:

Harmon, Katharine. You Are Here: Personal Geographies & Other      Maps of the Imagination”. New York: Princeton Architectural Press,  2004. Print.

Rogoff, Irit. Terra Infirma. 2000. London and New York: Routledge,  2006. Print.

Said, Edward W. “The Mind of Winter – Reflections on Life in Exile”,  from W.J.T. Mitchell ed., Landscape and Power. Chicago: The  University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.

 

 

“-Scape”, not “-Scope”

 

 For the first time this year I felt how close my practice got to the theory I have been accumulating: I was working on my Oscillation piece and spent one whole day working on the particular “boiling” effect on the upper dark blue area. That area is 6′ long and 4′ wide and I literally stayed inside it getting the mark that would show that ‘radioactive’ swirl. At some point I felt being sucked inside that darkness…

Method: Painting a large piece (13′x8′) employing a gouache imprint technique with further developing it in synthetic polymer. Creating an option of turning the ready piece in order to achieve the ‘absorbing’ or ‘sweeping’ effect on a viewer.

Methodology: Creating a painting evoking the perception of it as a landscape, as opposed to landscope (or view). This conceptualization of landscape was elaborated at a conference on landscape which took place at the Burren College of Art, Ireland, in 2006: the participants argued that, based on the general concept of a landscape as a place we too are located, it should be clarified that the popular perception of it as an ‘image’ or ‘view’ might be faulty. This perception might have been promoted by media and multiple visual images we are exposed to, but the original root of the word landscape is much closer to the word “-ship” as in ‘partnership’, ‘collaboration’. It was noted that the meaning of the German word landschaft still preserves this connotation.

My painting is supposed to evoke the ‘oscillating’ feeling of being involved or literally ‘swept’ by global changes that turn lands and nations upside down – that shifting effect that wars and forced migrations produce on everything and everybody involved. The title Oscillation was chosen as a reminder of the certain regularity and the rippling effect of these changes.

Works Cited:

Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The World of Perception. 1948. Trans. Oliver Davis. New York:

Routledge Classics, 2008. Print.

Ziady DeLue, Rachael, Elkins, James, eds. Landscape Theory. New York: Routledge,

2007. Print.

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