space age

“no matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been…we’re living in the space age”

whether the inevitability of this statement is true or not, the sentiment is sufficiently pervasive it is worth some examination. what is meant by the space age? it encompasses this projection of the technological achievements of man out into what was the purview of the deities. and with technology come projections not only spatially but projections forward in time. this concept of technology out in space and forward in time holds the promise of a broken world that will soon be “fixed” by man’s ingenuity. … tele-communication, extraction of mineral resources,  maximized production of consumer goods. the Futurist is nearby cheering on: faster, stronger, more. And in this digital age: instant, indestructible, infinite.

the space age indicates a global worldview from which there is increasingly no refuge for the community that wishes to keep the progressivist myth at arm’s length. these usually indigenous communities wish to continue living more directly from the earth, obtaining and distributing resources outside the channels of the governing powers of the western world. indigenous communities have had (and in limited ways continue to cultivate) an intimate and spiritual relationship with the past and the present right here on earth, rather than the tomorrowland technology of a “future out there”.

in many ways the duplicity of this technology concept is appealing in order to maintain the status quo. like religion, technology presents a happy, hopeful picture that is on the brink of attainment-full of promise and redemption. on the other hand, we can never quite keep up with the constant flow of consumer technologies, and in order to participate in this promised land, must keep earning and spending currency. the utopia remains tantalizingly out of reach. similar in function to religion, this love affair with technology as the defining concept for identity will drive behavior,  limit access to information, affect the psychic and spiritual conceptions of self, and in most areas of life subject the greater portion to the lesser few.

“no matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been…we’re living in the space age”

it would seem this is more of a warning and a lament. there is nowhere else to hide, for these ideas and strategies for managing societies, these duplicitious conceptions of technology that leak into the popular consciousness are but another manifestation of the progressivist, the colonialist, the conqueror. like the dedicated missionaries of christendom past, this utopian ideal campaigns around the world, winning the hearts and minds of cultures in all continents. and lurking within its shadows are threats of war, nuclear weaponry, militarization of societies, normalization of surveillance, greater disparity as wealth translates to access (education, food, water, natural space). by hook or by crook, we’re living in the space age.

when i stumbled on this video i was a little bit closer to consciously clarifying to myself what has been an intuitive connection between a variety of influences on the MX-93 film. it is trying to subvert and re-imagine this futurist utopia. furthermore, the religious-like mentality of the participants of Sun Ra’s world follow a kind of egyptian occultism. the power of technology to propel objects through space transforms into the power of the spiritual self to propel consciousness through space. projections “out there” not only move through our reality, but also the further “out there” we go in this film, the more mystical and surreal it becomes.

 

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Ideas from Languages of revolt; Dada and surrealist literature and film

etantdonnerobot

The following are some notes and observations I had as I read this book Languages of Revolt, which aims to show how the language of Alchemy was used by both Dadaists and Surrealists to break viewer’s paradigms and then rebuild them according to frame theory.

Alchemy as Initiation

This chapter presents alchemy, and in particular, the Tarot as a coded narrative describing the stages of man’s progression through the trials of life towards wisdom. The “occult” sciences refers to that which is hidden, where the alchemist is often shown with his eyes bound. In this way, he must turn his attention inward towards the “true science” of primary cause rather than the science of the phenomenal world.

I would also add that occultation implies action and engagement on behalf of the viewer-initiate. He/she cannot merely be a passive observer but must actively engage in the pursuit of wisdom. The occultation is in fact an invitation for the curious to draw back Sophia’s veil (The Priestess Card). There is a longstanding association of Wisdom (Sophia) as a divine feminine energy, a holy center, a sacred temple, the mother church, or the bride – both in alchemy and Christianity. Most importantly this energy is rooted in compassion so that all action (the male principle) is motivated by divine love. In this sense, it’s the key to the initiate’s fulfillment.

I am now appreciating on another level Duchamp’s Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even as I suspect it is a reference to the alchemical wedding. If so then we see the absurd result of a mechanical manifestation of the Shekinah from Duchamp, perhaps as a reaction to the industrialization and mechanization of Europe and America. If alchemy represents the highest pursuit of the soul, Duchamp is using the alchemical langauge to explore the place of man in a world that is increasingly mechanized.  What does it mean to automate human activity?

 

It seems The Large Glass is a critique on the stripping of the Bride, or the removal of wisdom’s “veils” by her bachelors. The bachelors in this case are an allegory for those who are pre-inititates. That is, they have not culminated their knowledge and accomplished the Wedding (the reconciling of opposites within the self into a greater whole). For me, there is a definite allegory of forcefully abusing the material world without proper understanding of consequences – this is the impetus behind the Nightmare sequence for MX-93. To strip the bride is to take away the heart from our philosophical sensibilities, leaving only the mind and the material world – a heartless, calculating, mechanistic worldview is what remains.

Additionally, Duchamp’s Étant donnés  has always seemed to me to be about the death of the Divine Feminine in western culture. Everything about her position, what is visible and not visible, suggests that the creative, nurturing, compassionate forces lie inert and lifeless in a field. The image is disturbing in it’s suggestions of foul play. The figure holds a lamp (The Hermit card) out, indicating to me that she is indeed this

Divine Wisdom, the light that guides the soul and illuminates the mind.  Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, al...

I have no idea if Duchamp meant all these things nor has the author discussed him, but  it’s likely he was aware of the occult and alchemical foundations of the dada and surrealist movements. At least it’s helpful for me to understand how other artists might have worked with the occult language in their work.

Meanwhile, MX-93 is himself enacting an initiation. He experiences the fluctuations between the poles of Heaven and Hell, but such a realization is only the beginning.

Style Reference

 

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Here’s a slideshow of my favorite style reference I’ve collected so far. I also find it helpful to enumerate the techniques and compositional strategies that define this look, somewhere between art deco, constructivism, and Bauhaus. Anyway here are my random thoughts on the matter and what I aim to incorporate in the film’s design:

 

I featured Lempicka‘s work  for the way she shapes human forms into geometry. She uses strong source light with little to no fill or rim. High contrast.

 

Cubism flattens space by creating broken gradients of light and dark values – tonal contrast within the frame, shallow space, hue affinity (analogous color) and saturation affinity.

 

Gradients-define edges creating linear elements. Mimic large artificial lights or “the night-life” atmosphere.

 

Futurism ideal of fast, strong, powerful, movement. Larger-than-life movement.

 

90/10 proportions keep coming up in these references, especially in regards to the details. These proportions feel monumental compared to 2/3.

 

On the diagonal, Worm’s Eye View – the monumental feeling; looking up at the scene.

 

Severe geometrical divisions of surface: Diagonal lines and triangles as surface divisions. Long Rectangles. Symmetrical compositions. Clean arcs and circles. Repeating shapes.

 

One point perspectives, low horizon lines.

 

Sun/ Sun Rays imagery: Prometheus

 

 

Flat shapes/areas of color

 

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace – Richard Brautigan

 

I came across this poem this week after hearing a radio feature of the Adam Curtis documentary of the same name. I believe this is a reading by the artist himself. Although I won’t use the nature imagery, I think this poem captures the sentiment of the Robot Heaven theme: MX-93 is looking for a paradise where he can abdicate responsibility to the larger universal matrix. Not to discount the very important element of surrender on the spiritual journey, but I am choosing to focus the film on the question of personal responsibility and action.

I suspect I will have to make some adjustments to show that MX-93 really believes he has found his salvation once reaching Heaven. And I am hoping it inspires some better dialog between the Goddess and MX-93 than what is currently in the animatic.

I also really like the cadence and tone of the reading. I don’t know what the copyright issues would be, but I would love to include a distorted version or quote of this reading into the soundscape of Heaven.