Tunes for a Monday Morning
Myth & Moor update

Art, activism, and the soil we grow in

Painting by Kristin Bjornerud

Following on from Saturday's post, here's another insightful passage from Writing the Sacred Into the Real by Alison Hawthorne Deming:

Kristin Bjornerud"In 1997, I was asked by the Orion Society to lead a conversation at the colloquium in honor of Gary Snyder when he received the John Hay Award for his writing and activism. My assignment was to address the question, Does activism compromise one's art? The question was very American, as Snyder pointed out. In [continental] Europe and Asia, an artist is a public person -- seeing the responsibility to use some of his or her skills on behalf of society. I answered the question by saying, Yes, of course compromise occurs. The work of activism exhausts us and makes us grieve; it takes us from our studios; it makes us scholars, negotiators, combatants, administrators, and business heads when we would prefer to be makers, dreamers, healers, and dancers. And if art is made to serve our activism, it can lose its elemental engagement with the unknown; its freedom to be outrageous, obscure, absurd, and wild; its need to speak the truth as it cannot be spoken in political discourse.

Kristin Bjornerud

Kristin Bjornerud

"Asking this question is like asking, Does culture compromise nature? Does love compromise solitude? Does eating compromise prayer? Does the mountain compromise the sky? All of these are relationships of complementarity, correspondence, call-and-response, the mutualistic whole of existence.

"Gathering in Snyder's home place, listening to stories of the Yuba Watershed Institute and the building of the Ring-of-Bone Zendo, and celebrating the poet's work provided a lesson in how radical an act it is in this culture to live a life devoted to something other than capitalism. Yes, we all participate in it. Yes, we are all complicit in environmental degradation and overconsumption simply because of our position in the global food chain. But we can make life choices that nuture more meaningful and sustainable relationships. To live a life devoted to art, to spiritual practice, to service to one's community and ecosystem, restores faith in our collective human enterprise. Work on the culture is work on the self.

Kristin Bjornerud

"Art can serve activism by teaching an attentiveness to existence and by enriching the culture in which our roots are set down. Culture is both the crop we grow and the soil in which we grow it. And human culture is the most powerful evolutionary force on Earth these days. The grief we feel at abuses of human power is the first positive step at transforming that power for the good. Legislation, information, and instruction cannot effect change at this emotional level -- though they play a significant role. Art is necessary because it gives us a new way of thinking and speaking, shows us what we are and what we have been blind to, and gives us new language and forms in which to see ourselves. To effect profound cultural change requires that we educate ourselves about our own interior wildness that has led us into such a hostile relationship with the forces that sustain us. Work on the self is work on the culture."

Kristin Bjornerud

The images in this post are by Canadian artist Kristin Bjornerud, who was born in Alberta, studied at the Universities of Lethbridge and Saskatchewan, and is now based in Montreal.

Kristin Bjornerud"My watercolour and gouache paintings," she writes, "explore contemporary political themes, ecological motifs, and personal narratives through the lens of folktales, dreams, and magical realism. In these delicately painted tableaus, a world is revealed wherein dream logic pervades, where women swim with narwhals and vivify hand-knit fauna. These eccentric landscapes are uncanny projections of a possible world where familiar activities are imbued with a mythic quality while, at the same time, extraordinary deeds are carried out with unruffled poise by proud, unconventional heroines.

"My aim is to create contemporary fairy tales that act as a medium through which we may consider our ethical obligations to the natural world and to each other. Retelling and reshaping stories helps us to understand how we are entangled, where we meet, and how our differences may be viewed as disguises of our sameness."

Kristin Bjornerud

Kristin Bjornerud

The passage by Alison Hawthorne Deming above is from Writing the Sacred Into the Real (The Credo Series, Milkweed Editions, 20010. All rights to the text and imagery above reserved by the author and artist.


Thanks Terri today is a crucial day for this country.

As an artist this pulls me into asking if I'm relevant.

Good the theme
Embedded of dirt
She dark
She cover
She vomit
Liars kick
But the theme
Of dirt stick
To their feet
Track um down
When them sleep.

Good the theme
Smell rotting
Their bones
And shines
Sift out gold
In the molars
Take um
Back when
They be dead
Gone the theme
Earth going read
When she
In the dark
Empty of

Once again, wonderful post.

”how radical an act it is in this culture to live a life devoted to something other than capitalism”

As a life-long bohemian, I can only say... Indeed.

"Work on the self is work on the culture"

Of course you're right, but it may destroy your credibility. People initially perceive your art as something beautiful, when it is only a ruse to get them to believe in something you want. Is your art is dishonest? I don't think so. But fakery is everywhere in nature, you know. Apparently, we need it to survive (another theme). The Truth, whatever that is, is a much trickier question.

Now you on it.
Identity not static
She change
Truth tricky?
Identity trickier.

I once knew an artist and her husband who believed, in fact it was their motto, that "art saves the world". And I believe this can be true if we use our ability to perceive and define, implement it into writing, painting or music. As a poet, I am first a witness to the changes and the experiences around me, and then a voice. As a poet, I learn from the earth and the natural residents she has put upon her landscape. They, perhaps, are the wiser witnesses to the environment and what comes forth. They have a language of their own, an innate knowledge of how the planet is struggling to survive and how we have contributed to her downfall. Especially here in the high desert of Southern California, I sense a spirit of place, an ancient consciousness that has embodied its trees, fields, rocks and animals, a conscious that speaks out in subtle ways.

The Witnessing

The Joshua trees
sink their Jurassic toes
into a field bordering
the golf course

and watch as sprinklers turn on
swinging their long necks of water
toward some higher trees.

As they rise and reach for the green
leaves, the blue breadth -- they become akin
to shy herbivores

who rustled the canopy
and strolled the earth (one perfect day)
before a giant rock
cratered their world
and showered the air in flames. The planet
a molten clock of extinction.

Now the slim fountains arch
and sway in the summer light
as if it were their last, most beautiful dance
before dissolving into dust
or salt spray spitting
from the tsunami's mouth,

as if it were a sudden rite
reminding us
of the aquifer's gift,
its underground rivers
and the rain that soaks through

or runs along the gutters
of roof and curb, rippling
with the thumbprint of life.

Hi Mokihanna

Love the tone of this poem, like a native dialect professing the truth about earth, the wisdom her dirt, the soil that covers and shelters what grows, the soil that buries liars and false prophets. In the end, she is a dark womb that in her darkness
needs to be heard, vomit the pollution and be allowed to sprout new life. Thank you so much for sharing this!

much enjoyed,

You hear good the voice.

Love the art!

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