Saturday, March 26, 2011

Report from Nathaniel Williams on March 5 Meeting in Philmont

On March 5th we had our second gathering in a larger circle, in preparation for the conference this summer on the image arts of painting, photography and cinema.  First off we took time to discuss the exhibit which is being planned to take place alongside the conference. 

 Nathaniel Williams began by sharing that his friend, the painter Dan Pate, had approached him about having an exhibit together.  They had shown paintings together previously in Hudson, NY.  When discussing what theme they might work with, Dan suggested fear and anxiety and their overcoming. 

 During the conference last summer a number of people were excited to learn about a project which was living between Jan Stuten and Rudolf Steiner, to create a moving light project, a new kind of puppetry.  It was to be a metamorphosis of light images, all created by puppeteers (not mechanical animation).  Steiner had suggested that the first show be on FEAR.

This is, indeed, the theme for the exhibit approaching this summer.  We are all working with the reality of “Fear, and Its Overcoming.”  Already at least six artists [have said they] will be creating work for it.  Laura Summer has begun working artistically with this process and she presented some of her paintings to the group that gathered together on the 5th.  As she developed paintings on the theme in her studio, she took photographs of the stages they passed through.  In two cases she had reproductions of each of these stages placed sequentially next to each other on a board.  As you looked over the images they transformed one into the other.  She then explained that she wants to show at least one as a slide show series at the exhibit.  She also verbally shared about the paintings she is now working on. 
After this we briefly spoke about the conference in August.  Then we had dinner and lastly gathered together to study the second version of Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”
This essay consists of compact observations which are concerned with the effect technological advances will, and do, exercise on culture and society.  The essay was written in the mid 1930s in Europe.  The particular technological development Benjamin  focused on is photography into film.  The form and style of the investigation is very full of character.  The method is dialectic thought.  The fundamental conviction is Marxist.  The observations are founded on the idea that through observing how a society deals with art, how it circulates art, how it sells art, one can discover a social consciousness. 

This consciousness changes through history, but we can access the awareness of past societies by such studies, and even prophecy the future of our own society based on the techniques of our artists and the characteristic circulation of our art among the population.  This is an exercise in foreseeing how our own inventions work back on us, changing who we are and how we interact.  The evening was spent primarily trying to live into the perspectives and conclusions of Benjamin.
Currently a small group is studying sections 3 and 4 of the second version [of Benjamin's essay] every Friday morning from 8:30-9:15 at Bright Wing Studio in Harlemville.   
The group decided they wanted to meet together not only on June 11th   which was already planned, but also on the 18th of April.  The meeting will be at the Columbia House in Philmont, NY and there will be a discussion on the exhibit and the Fairy Tale that Rudolf Steiner wrote called the Spiritual Being of Art.  The meeting will take place between 3 pm and 5 pm.  If you are interested in coming, contact Nathaniel Williams at 518-672-4090.  

-- Nathaniel Williams

 An excerpt pertinent to Tarkovsky and his mission especially in the light of this year's theme:

                FOR THE

"Here we are at the threshold.
This is the most important moment of your lives.
You have to know that here

your most cherished wish will come true.
The most sincere one.
The one reached through suffering."
(from STALKER)

In the entire history of cinema there has never been a director, who has made such a dramatic stand for the human spirit as did Andrei Tarkovsky. Today, when cinema seems to have drowned in a sea of glamorized triviality, when human relationships on screen have been reduced to sexual intrigue or sloppy sentimentality, and baseness rules the day - this man appears as a lone warrior standing in the midst of this cinematic catastrophe, holding up the banner for human spirituality.

What puts this director in a class all his own and catapults his films onto a height inaccessible to other filmmakers? It is, first and foremost, his uncompromising stance that man is a SPIRITUAL being. This may appear to be self-evident to some, and yet it is just on this very point that 99% of cinema fails. Man's spirituality is quickly and conveniently pushed aside in favor of other more "exciting" topics: man's sexuality, man's psychology, sociology and so on. In today's cinema, if spirituality is dealt with at all, it is never treated as the foundation of our existence, but is there as an appendage, something the characters concern themselves with in their spare time. In other words, while in other films spirituality may be PART of the plot, in Tarkovsky's films it IS the plot; it permeates the very fabric of his films. It can be said that his films vibrate with his own spirituality. As he himself states, in all of his films the main characters undergo a SPIRITUAL crisis.
An article by Gregory and Maria  Pearse:

Another good site:

posted by Rosemary McMullen

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