The end…of a season.

by Geoff Hall on August 30, 2016

August 2016 – The end…of a season

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes.

The Group Logo was designed by Barry Dunnage.

The Group Logo was designed by Barry Dunnage.

 

The Group has been around for 15 years. We started in 2001 and have experienced many changes and seasons along the way. It all began with an initial talk at the UWE  (Bower Ashton) Christian Union, which led to us meeting in various places; some good and others eventually unwelcoming.

 

We’ve had many wonderful evenings together at the Tree House, I would call them spiritually vital and since our inception in 2001, one thing stands out; namely that we have all grown up, well aged, a little.The needs are no longer the same, but I think our heart’s desire to meet together seems undiminished. I’d like to thank you for supporting those evenings together, the ‘Set All Free’ exhibition, the ‘Imaging God’ Conference as well as  ‘Going Deeper’ at the Colston Hall,  which we bust a gut to play a part in, but it turned out to be something we renamed ‘Scratching the Surface’!!

 

The 'Set All Free' Exhibition at the Grant Bradley Gallery, Bristol. (2007)

The ‘Set All Free’ Exhibition at the Grant Bradley Gallery, Bristol. (2007)

 

It feels to me like the end of a season, it’s one of those deep resonances that I can’t ignore. The new season hasn’t arrived yet; we are I think at one of those in-between moments, neither in summer, nor in autumn.

 

What I’m not saying is that there won’t be the ability to promote your work through our network, or meet me for a coffee or beer in Bristol, Bath, Gloucester or Exeter. Rest assured, you can bend my ear any time. What will happen with the blog over the coming year, is that I’ll run it down until next August when the GoDaddy contract runs out. It will then disappear from the internet. I’ll stop the monthly ‘letters’ as from today, but I will keep the email list together, so that we can easily promote our work to one another.

 

I’ll spend a bit more time developing the geoffhall.co.uk website, once the bugs have been eradicated and it’s no longer red flagged by Google. The Arts Mentoring Group page on Facebook will continue.

 

It’s been a joy to be a part of and serve our community, but after 15 years the shape, the form of it needs to change. BUT, fear not, I’ll still be looking to put on the odd Tree House evening, when projects warrant a night together. Plus we are still meeting together fro the ‘Rebirthing of God’ sessions each month, which is a real encouragement.

It’s just that I have this ‘feeling’ of seasonal change. For sure, there are many things I’m wrestling with at the moment, some of which I can’t share. However, please share your thoughts with The Group by using “REPLY ALL” on the email, on anything I have shared here. There’s also a ‘Comments’ button on the blog for you to post any thoughts.

If you want me to remove you from the email list, then that’s okay, just let me know.

Oh, and you can still find me here, at the Upptacka Shop!

Available at the Upptacka Shop!

Available at the Upptacka Shop!

Peace and Love,

Geoffx

Pro-creation – Co-creation

by Geoff Hall on July 29, 2016

July 2016 – Pro-creation – Co-creation

Salt, yeast and mustard seed.

rp_The-Group-logo-13.jpgOur work is likened to some earthly things, elements that transform the very substance they are added to.

 

The trick to the efficacy of these elements is that they need to added to part of something bigger; part of a meal, or planted in a garden.

 

Sub-cultural spirituality removes us from this bigger context, because it is deemed to threaten the distinct elemental identity, which needs to be preserved at all costs. Artistically, this spirituality is removed from the mainstream cultural flow and so the fruitfulness of our work never materialises, to transform this world.

 

These elemental things need to be, and play a part in, the mainstream because that is where God is busily at work; the God of the whole of life and not just the part of life that we can control with the right words, theology, symbols or rituals.

 

Salt, yeast and a mustard seed do not need to be special, sanctified ingredients, somehow, mystically bearing the image of Jesus before they are added to the other mundane stuff of life. (Symbolism ‘ad nauseam’).

Jesus Potato Chip

Jesus Potato Chip

They just need to be what they were created to be. To be music, poetry, art, dance, film, theatre, or literature and mixed in the whole batch of contemporary culture. This will inevitably lead to a loss of their distinctive (primary) identity so that it can transform the meal, the bread, the garden. For the dough to rise it needs the yeast, but its measure cannot be the same as the dough. It needs but a little. (According to Google – for 500 grams of flour, use about 2.5 grams of yeast). Nor do we need a genetically modified super mustard seed, for it to grow big enough so that the birds of the air can rest on its branches. All we need is the ‘smallest of seeds’ and the endurance to wait for it to grow to such a bird resting state. This is not the art of the quick fix or instant gratification.

 

The sub-culture demands a fixed identity; fixed by rituals, the right words or symbols so that we know it has integrity. But, just as we need to lose our life to find it, so we need to lose our sub-cultural identity, to find our true nature and calling. Preservation may sound like a good thing, but when it’s attempted so that we can protect what we value most through isolation, this then moves us towards nostalgia and sentiment; and sentiment gives rise to kitsch.

The Head of Christ, by Warner Sallman, 1941.

The Head of Christ, by Warner Sallman, 1941.

Warner Sallman’s ‘Head of Christ’ springs to mind, with its idealised, Western Jesus along with the hidden symbolism of the Host (forehead) and the Chalice (temple).

 

So, as we gambol on towards Christmas (ahem), where we are taught the power of our incarnational nature, let’s take a moment to check out where we are culturally located; in the mainstream, where the heartbeat of God is to be found, or the sub-cultural rivulet where we curate a collection of recordings of the aforementioned heartbeat, from times of yore, and bask in the reflected glory of past victories.

 

Here’s the big question. Is the art we are making based on nostalgic yearning and sanctified symbolism, or as Walter Brueggemann put it,

“To speak metaphorically but concretely about the real deathliness that hovers over us and gnaws within us, and to speak neither with rage nor with cheap grace, but with the candour born of anguish and passion.” [The Prophetic Imagination, p45].

The human cost of famine.

The human cost of famine.

 

I know where I’m headed…and it’s taking quite some time.

Peace,

Geoffx

Mary Palmer

by Geoff Hall on June 29, 2016

June 2016 – Mary Palmer

The Group logo designed by Barry Dunnage

The Group logo designed by Barry Dunnage

It’s 7 years since our friend Mary Palmer left us. She died from cancer a day after my birthday in 2009. We were both born in that most glorious of years, 1957. I was 10 days older than Mary and indeed still am!

 

I met Mary through some mutual friends and somehow we hit it off. Maybe being born into a year of National turmoil – there was a National Strike in ’57 – meant we shared something in common. It’s interesting that we are both poetic souls.

 

Just before she passed on, to a much better place, I went to see Mary and we talked about sharing a common faith and spiritual grounding, although at that time Mary’s was more mystical and Celtic than mine. It seems I am now being led in the same direction.

 

Our discussions were broad and included being alienated because of our artistic ‘leanings’, seen by some to be worldly & sensual and no doubt devilish too. We talked about filmmaking and part of our conversation appears is in her poem ‘The Way’, published by Awen Publications in her final book, ‘Tidal Shift’.

Mary Palmer, 'Tidal Shift', published by Awen Publications 2009.

Mary Palmer, ‘Tidal Shift’, published by Awen Publications 2009.

Mary left me with an encouraging word, that I should  rise above the naysayers, those who at times undermine our confidence as artists and want us to “stay grounded, forget the sky”. (‘Grace’, p144.) Mary wanted me to soar like the gull. Her poetry eroded the boundaries we allocate to things like spiritual and physical, sacred and secular. She knew there were no such divisions; no duality in her understanding of the world. Mary told me that I ‘had what it takes’, not to forget it and that I should press on regardless.

 

It stirs within me the words of another mystic poet, Rumi,

 

‘As you start out on the way, the way appears. As you cease to be, true life begins. (from The Big Red Book, p408).

 

As a fellow artist, I hid these things in my heart. They have stayed with me, nestled away from the abrasiveness of the ‘daily grind’. We’ll see if Mary’s words are prophetic or not in a year or two!

 

Grace

give us the grace

of gulls

 

soaring

over earthbound lives

 

when caged by fear

release us

 

when tired or sick

restore

 

when headstrong, we fight the wind

and crash

 

give us the grace

to fly once more

 

despite voices

that cry

 

‘stay grounded

forget the sky’

 

Mary’s Celtic spirituality meant that she was connected to the earth as well as transcending it. Her word images are metaphors which point beyond our experience of the world around us, to capture a moment, a brief moment of bliss. They are pointedly sensual and I’ve noticed that mystic poets (St John of the Cross comes to mind) always seem to stir the most sensual images and translate their meaning from the here and now, to an eternity of bliss. This is epitomised in the poem ‘Pomegranate’; the sensual qualities of the fruit were revered by none other than King Solomon in his ‘Song of Songs’. Perhaps at heart, he was another mystical poet.

 

Pomegranate

 

Nipples hard as stars

cusps sharp around

a sticky dust of anthers.

 

Tonight, I will let you

gently tear my chiffon veil

 

reveal the chambers of my heart.

A honeycomb of ivory seed

a casket of ruby crystals.

 

You will prise them out

one by one

amber, rose, crimson

 

bittersweet moments on your tongue

gone before you can savour

memory and myth

 

with each seed

you will almost taste me

yet your thirst is never quenched

for still you do not know me.

 

Spiritual ecstasy delivered through sensual ‘memory’ and myth, but even after such experiences of earthly delight ‘you (still) do not know ‘Me’. It isn’t enough, but one day, in the great reunion, we shall drink wine and eat sensual fruits and sumptuous food, sit and listen to the poets, reveal the love we have for our One and Only.

 

As we celebrate Mary this month, please follow the link above to Awen Publications and support a local independent publisher. I shall leave you with words published in Mary’s first book, ‘Iona’, which is also published by Awen.

 

Blessing of the Road

 

May the hills lie low,

May the sloughs fill up

In thy way.

 

May all evil sleep,

May all good awake,

In thy way.

 

And you can see Mary perform at the Tree House here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4jsYJNVTkk

 

Peace,

 

Geoffx

The Artist’s Autobiography

by Geoff Hall on May 31, 2016

May 2016 – The Artist’s Autobiography

Four years ago, ‘The Artist’s Autobiography’ was published by Upptacka Press.

On re-reading it, I must admit to being shocked at how forthright I was; maybe that’s a sign of growing older. It’s probably the most ‘direct’ book in the series and challenges us to understand ‘who’ we are as artists. The context is very much rooted in the angst and pain of suffering, not in a ‘nirvanic’ space of spiritual bliss.

 

The Foreword was written by our friend Bob Covolo, of the Brehm Centre in Pasadena. http://www.brehmcenter.com/

 

“For too long cultural formation and spiritual formation have been separated. With this final instalment we have the complete prescription for re-joining two ventures that were never meant to be apart. May we take this vision to heart, and join Geoff (and troublemakers like him) on this inward journey that moves us outward.” Bob Covolo.

Hall, Geoff. The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 69-71). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Published by Upptacka Press. 2012

Published by Upptacka Press. 2012

Bob was reiterating the words of Henri Nouwen, and not offering a personal slight, in that,

“Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents in a dimension incompatible with society.”

Hall, Geoff. The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 758-759). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

Troublemakers? Creators? Agents? It all sounds subversive, and that’s because it is.

The Artist’s Autobiography stresses the need for community. It realises that we cannot find out who we are by ourselves, but only in relationship to other people. This is a community which sees no separation between cultural and spiritual formation.

 

“We are here to cause trouble to those in power; to overthrow oppressive Governments through subversive art, to show that the spiritual dimension we work in is more potent than their arguments and pretensions which work against the ‘knowledge of God’.”

Hall, Geoff. The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 761-764). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

But this is not the domain of the self-infatuated artist, whose only story they tell is their own. More and more, as time passes the gravity of the situation should be hitting us, that we cannot work alone. The Great Lie is “There is no such thing as society, there is only the individual.” (Margaret Thatcher). That is merely a way of managing consent for evil policies which destroy communities. However it seems that it has been a contagion which still influences artists today, even those who claim to have some sort of spiritual revelation.

 

“…the spiritual community…reveals the image of God in the personal and communal life; working together in different spheres of life; it is through understanding that the last word on Creation is not destruction but renewal, it is revealed through a suffering community (koinonia pathema) wherein we denounce the power of the powerful and put on the mantle of the serving community, in our industry cells which embody investment in people and the things they create.”

Hall, Geoff. The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 770-774). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

The work of such a common-unity is not just a re-imaging of society, but a re-imagining of it, because the re-imaging and re-imagining must be connected, not just of society, but also of God. Our art (imaging) should reflect our commitment (re-imagining) for the good of all people.

 

“The spiritual community needs re-imagining and who better to do this than the artist whose life longs for such a context, the artist who sees into the future. With this in mind, what is this space like, how can we describe it?”

Hall, Geoff. The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 457-458). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

A word on suffering

I’ve already mentioned the “koinonia pathema”; the suffering community. Bad things happen to good people. We do not know why, but we have probably experienced it in our own lives and with our own families.

There’s a reason we need community. In terms of identity this is because we cannot know our true self by gazing in a Narcissan mirror. No matter how fondly and intently we gaze, we will not receive a revelation about ‘Who’ we are.

Another reason is because we cannot face life alone. Bad things happen to good people; things like illness, financial hardship, bereavement. We don’t know why the righteous suffer, but they do. Community is not a place for trying to find the answer to that ‘Why?’ question, but is an act of solidarity, of compassion and love.

During a time of mourning, the Jewish faith has a practice, which I think we should embrace not just at times of ultimate loss and the passing of a friend or family member, but for illness, times of a wilderness trial, financial hardship, and irreparable relationship breakdowns. This practice is the rite of ‘Shiva’.

 

At the heart of Shiva is the rite of silence, of being with people who are suffering, not to give them trite answers, (Job’s comforters beware!), nor to share our special revelation about a new theology of suffering, but simply to show a deep connection to our friend at a time of hardship, knowing that we all pass through this valley of the shadow at times in our lives. Whether that’s a physical illness, mental anxiety or depression, maybe this practice can help us in the cultivation of silence and stillness, as well as humility.

Another aspect of Shiva, is the covering of mirrors. This is not a time to look at oneself and reflect. It isn’t a time of self-assessment. Mourners would gather and would not speak, but sit in silence. Knowing that answers to the ‘Why?’ questions are the most difficult to find, probably because there is no answer we could understand, this side of the rest of reality. People may want to help you self-reflect, but they are the ones who are uncomfortable with the mirrors being covered over!

To my brothers and sisters, all I can offer is to sit with them in silence, unless they wish to speak, but I will not offer them platitudes, but presence. It reminds me of Nouwen’s creation of a healing space.

 

“…a friendly space, where [the visitor] may feel free to come and go, to be close and distant, to rest and to play, to talk and to be silent, to eat and to fast. The paradox indeed is that hospitality asks for the creation of an empty space where the guest can find [their] own soul. Why is this a healing ministry? It is healing because it takes away the false illusion that wholeness can be given by one to another. It is healing because it does not take away the loneliness and the pain of another, but invites [them] to recognise [their] loneliness on a level where it can be shared… When they enter a house with real hospitality they soon see that their own wounds must be understood not as sources of despair and bitterness, but as signs that they have to travel on in obedience to the calling sounds of their own wounds.”

Hall, Geoff. The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 461-467). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

This is one aspect of being a real community of artists and not just an aspirational one. We need each other, not just to help us find our artistic ‘identity’, but also to bear one another’s burdens. This will probably define us more than the successful development of a new ‘style’ of artwork, film, dance or music.

All of this and much more is available in The Artist’s Autobiography. Check it out and let’s have a conversation…or just sit in silence together.

Peace,

Geoffx

Translating the Invisible Wind

by Geoff Hall on April 29, 2016

April, 2016.

Translating the Invisible Wind, published by Upptacka Press, 2012.

Translating the Invisible Wind, published by Upptacka Press, 2012.

4 years ago ‘Translating the Invisible Wind’ was published by Chris Lorensson’s Upptacka Press.

 

Translating is probably the most mystical book in the series, affirming that art is a spiritual discipline with a task, an end game in mind.

 

Robert Bresson said it this way; that we are to “Translate the invisible wind by the water it sculpts in passing.” To work as an artist is therefore, to translate what the Spirit, the invisible wind; it is sculpting, moulding here on earth and expressing it in whatever medium we work with.

 

Part of this discipline the artist is committed to, is not just mastery over their tools and materials, but to pay attention to a bigger story than ‘my artistic struggle’. They need to transcend the limitations of self-involvement, of personal infatuation.

It is best summed up by Russian Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky,

“I believe… that an enormous task has been entrusted to art. This is the task of resurrecting spirituality.”

Hall, Geoff (2012-07-23). Translating the Invisible Wind (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 524-525). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

He goes on to say,

 

“With the word spirituality I first of all have in mind a person’s interest in what has been called the meaning of life. This is the first step at least… We have asked ourselves the question of why we live… and the artist who isn’t preoccupied with this question is not an artist… it is when we begin to take on these questions [of existence] that what we call true art arises.”

Hall, Geoff (2012-07-23). Translating the Invisible Wind (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 527-530). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

The artist is a translator; a means of perceiving what the Spirit is doing in this world, but also artistically in the medium of our calling. It was Philip K Dick who wrote ‘Comprehension follows perception.’ Our work as sculptors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, poets, dancers or writers, is to discern what is going on in those fields, begin to critique it and then move the conversation along.

Perception relies on percepts, that is, a concept which depends upon recognition by the senses. Perception is not some inferior means of communication, falling well below rationalism and accurate information to express the ‘truth’ of the matter. It is the artists work to create the percept, be it in sight, sound or movement.

 

As artists we need to go beyond mastering our materials and the ‘process’ of creation, we need to be attuned, to perceiving what the invisible wind is sculpting. We can only do this through dedication to our discipline, of seeing what others are saying and showing and then entering into the conversation. And that converse-ation is merely the ‘keeping company with’ implied in old Latin meaning of the word. Who are we keeping company within the cultural mainstream? If we want to reach people we have to escape the sub-cultural stream and participate in steady flow of contemporary culture making.

 

“The artist who simply focuses on capturing the ‘material’ world has not understood this purpose for the arts; to help answer the spiritual yearning within. Whether this is conceived as the focal vision of the artist or the gathering of the ‘found object’ for the conceptual artist, spirituality is diminished and we are left with all the angst and confusion of Existentialism. The Existentialist God is a silent God, at some distance from our plight, unsympathetic and judgmental and probably worst of all, unwilling to help.”

Hall, Geoff (2012-07-23). Translating the Invisible Wind (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 532-535). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

When I look at the masters of cinema, like Ingmar Bergman, I see spiritual languor. It was Tarkovsky who noted the difference between his God and Bergman’s, namely that Bergman’s God is silent and Tarkovsky’s is conversant in so many ways.

Bringing that up-to-date with a contemporary filmmaker like Lars von Trier, what I see is a despairing, melancholic existentialism; a vacant earth bereft of goodness and corrupted by evil; in short all matter is evil.

How as a filmmaker would I counter that? How would I converse with von Trier, save in the language of his medium and not in the language of criticism. It’s a long term commitment not a short term critique.

The Great River flows slowly and we have to see what the Wind is sculpting as we pass by. Translating the Invisible Wind looks more deeply into this and you can find a copy here at Upptacka Press.

Peace,

Geoff

 

The Cultural Way of Being

by Geoff Hall on March 31, 2016

March  2016 – The Cultural Way of Being

Five years ago, ‘The Cultural Way of Being’ was published.

rp_cover-cultural.png

 http://upptacka.com/publications (All quotes are from the Kindle Edition). TCWB was at the time, a kind of manifesto of intent, moving on from the Wilderness into the postmodern ‘desert of the real’, but still finding the sand in my socks, shoes and the pockets of my threadbare, holey jeans.

 

About 30 years ago, I read Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘The Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular and Christian Options’’. Handed to me by Richard Russell, it was a challenging book, especially as it called for cultural power and efficacy, at a period when I was unemployed for most of the time.

 

“Insofar as power has been entrusted to [us] as a creature, it is always cultural. It implies a historical calling and task of formation for which the bearer of power is responsible and of which [we] must give an account.” [Herman Dooyeweerd, p67]

 

Heavy stuff, but the whole idea of having this kind of cultural power for an ‘historical calling and task of formation’ depressed me; for how could a working-class young young adult in Hartlepool ever hope to have a formative role within society?

 

My whole desire was never to play in the sub-cultural sand-box with my toys. I never felt at ease there and wanted to be a part of mainstream culture, because that’s where my gifts were taking me. Even back then, I thought along those lines, or at least it was stirring within me. But it all seemed like part of a grand design that I couldn’t possibly participate in. But the quote below seemed to make sense. Dooyeweerd spoke about it this way, of,

 

“…the Cultural Way of Being. Cultural activity… always consists in giving form to material in free control over the material. It consists in giving form according to free design.”

Hall, Geoffrey; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-07-11). The Cultural Way of Being (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 126-128). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

My internal paradox was that I didn’t believe that ‘free design’ could be achieved as an artist when you were always trying to fit in a message and never understanding that the art itself was the ‘message’. (Yes, even then maybe McLuhan was having a sub-conscious influence on me.)

 

So, that pointed to the first step of the process and my aim not to be a propagandist, but of allowing the art I would produce, to speak for itself. But a strange sense of completeness didn’t follow after that. Yes, I was and to some degree still am, shaking out the grains of sand from my shoes and in many ways Dooyeweerd’s Reformational philosophy still appeared aimed at people who were fortunately located in a culturally powerful class of citizens and not for someone coming from the working class north-east of England, who couldn’t find a job. (This was the 1980’s and Thatcher was like a rampant lion threatening our very way of life. In fact it was more than threatened, it was destroyed).

 

What I learnt gradually, (over some decades) through people like Craig Bartholomew, who allowed me to write for “The Big Picture” magazine, was that it takes community to make a difference and not isolated, autonomous individuals. This led me to writing this passage in The Cultural Way of Being,

 

“For when artists gather together in a creative community which shares freely with one another, when they are assisted by publishers and gallery owners, patrons and soul-mates, then art can move from the personally expressive to the culturally formative and historically potent.”

Hall, Geoffrey; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-07-11). The Cultural Way of Being (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 120-122). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

This is what we lack today, a lively, discursive community within which we can play, and be culturally formative…as well as redemptive.

 

Paul wrote to a bunch of dissidents, those rebelling against the power of Rome.

 

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides [everything!]. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.”

Hall, Geoffrey; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-07-11). The Cultural Way of Being (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 196-199). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

A topical theme, this resurrection life. But again it is something we cannot live or express alone. Our looking up is not to a secret heavenly realm, looking to escape earthly torment, but to what is going on around Christ here on earth; for the resurrection is for here and now, to make a difference, to give away free samples of salt and light to those who live in darkness and need to reinvigorate their taste buds with a pinch of salt in the dish we call life.

 

Alas, we seem to have locked away the source of light in a safe place, along with the salt, so that it won’t ruin, to save it for a rainy day, or an apocalyptic day of hailstorms and locusts. What we have seen over the last century of culture-making is an abandonment of the mainstream for the safe and quiet waters of the sub-culture; it’s a protective rationale, when your God is set in the context of the world and strangely appears smaller. Sound the retreat!

 

“Our evacuation from the cultural domain has led to a lack of physical evidence for the life of God. Our evacuation from the arts and media has led to a lack of perception of God—of Creation in all its glory, the sheer wonder of human life, of love, of intimacy and beauty.”

Hall, Geoffrey; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-07-11). The Cultural Way of Being (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 280-282). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

The Cultural Way of Being is something we should aspire to, because it is something at the very core of our being that stirs the desire to cultivate a new way of art-making, a new way of life. It’s all because that is what God is like, who is at the very core of our being making things new. You can learn more here at Upptacka Press.

 

Peace,

Geoffx

The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real

by Geoff Hall on March 30, 2016

February 2016 – The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real
Five years ago this month, ‘The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real’ was launched at Cafe Kino in Bristol. You can still find it here as a PDF.

Upptacka Press (All quotes are from the Kindle Edition). Maybe it was a sign of the times, but we were banned from using the Café again, because of our ‘religious’ commitments! Go figure, even equality has a preferred style of shoe; some more comfortable than others.

Upptacka Press
The next four entries on the blog will cover each book in the series ‘Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape’. In many ways it will mirror some of the questions raised in the “Simple Questions of Artists” series. Here goes,

This is a quote from my favourite filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

“I believe that it is always through spiritual crisis that healing occurs. A spiritual crisis is an attempt to find oneself, to acquire new faith. It is the apportioned lot of everyone whose objectives are on the spiritual plane. And how could it be otherwise when the soul yearns for harmony, and life is full of discordance. This dichotomy is the stimulus for movement, the source at once of our pain and of our hope; confirmation of our spiritual depths and potential.”
Hall, Geoff; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-01-26). The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 82-84). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

It seems to be that kind of season whereby we think of the Wilderness. Maybe it’s that winter stirs within us thoughts of attrition and scarcity. If you’re going through a season of Wilderness living at the moment, then now is the time to pay attention. The wilderness has a sign written above the entrance. “This is not an Exit”.

This arid season is not a sign of rejection, nor of punishment, but it does make us feel challenged and tested. It’s the Way of the Spirit to draw us into such seasons; a Lenten purge if you will.

“The Wilderness experience will teach us…who we are and what we are here for – our calling.”
Hall, Geoff; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-01-26). The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Location 130). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

This knowledge of our calling reminds me of something Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Without this, our work will remain incoherent, a cacophony of competing voices and therefore competing styles. How many of us are instructed, aided by our weekly institutional commitments to take the time not to affirm, but to reflect on who we are? Knowledge stems from love, or ‘epistemology of love’ as Tom Wright called it. If we know we are loved, then the journey of discovery can begin.

“But the Wilderness, in all its harsh reality, teaches us the gift of love.”
Hall, Geoff; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-01-26). The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Location 133). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

For we are woven together by and for love. This is our starting point and not rejection, nor a depressive mood, nor a black dog day. It is the Wilderness and not the marketplace that is our testing ground. The marketplace is for product, the wilderness for the heart. If we focus on the marketplace to tell us who we are, it may only confirm our anonymity.
5 years ago I shared these thoughts about the marketplace.

“The artist wants to get to the marketplace to participate in the conversation. The theologian wants to control the conversation. The artist wants a free-forming discourse on the plastic horizon. The theologian wants to measure the distance to the horizon and make sure nobody goes beyond it.”
Hall, Geoff; Lorensson, Chris; Hall, Mark (2011-01-26). The Wilderness and the Desert of the Real (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 209-211). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

The marketplace is, culturally speaking, where we should as artists be situated; not in a car boot sale for the art of a sub-cultural domain.

Sunrise shadow over Mt. Kilimanjaro

Copyright Mark Hall, 2011.

Like Jesus, before we experience our sojourn in the wilderness, we should know who we are.
Jesus was given a glaring affirmation of his identity with a voice from heaven (God) telling him and the crowd that he was God’s beloved son. Then he is ‘driven’ by the Spirit into the wilderness. Whether it was in a 2CV or Volkswagen Beetle I’m not sure, but what a massive polar swing. However, it is not the swing between being loved and being rejected. Jesus in the Wilderness is still God’s beloved son.

Is that what we carry with us into the desert terrain?
The first question in our series ‘Simple Questions for Artists’ was ‘Who are You? One thing we experience in the Wilderness is the silence; so different from the noise of a crowded marketplace which is full of things that wrestle for our attention.

It was the Desert Fathers who in the 4th Century began to record their practice of ‘stillness’ in this terrain. One short instruction stands out for me, from St. John of Karpathos, and it is this,

“at all times cultivate intense stillness” [saying #9]
“The Philokalia”, Vol 1. p300. Palmer, Sherrard and Ware. Published by Faber & Faber, 1983.

For it is in this stillness, that the voices of despair and depression, anxiety and stress are quietened. We reconnect with our heart and we know the Love of the One and Only. It doesn’t matter if sales are down, or the agent is not helping us, for that doesn’t define us. We need first and foremost to understand that we are loved.
This is the point of departure for knowing our identity, which then helps us understand what we are here for, but that is for the next time, when we consider ‘The Cultural Way of Being’.

“Everything that happens has a small beginning, and grows the more it is nourished.” St Mark the Ascetic. [The Philokalia, saying #171]
Peace,
Geoffx

Seeing Rachel – latest news

by Geoff Hall on February 9, 2016

Hi,

Handy Cloud Productions logo designed by Rob Creet.

Handy Cloud Productions logo designed by Rob Creet.

Our latest film, a feature length production called “Seeing Rachel” has just officially entered the development stage.

It’s a psychological noir genre film about trafficking and organised crime and is set in Bristol, UK. Christopher J Reynolds is the Executive Producer and Ben Richards the Producer.

We are currently working with Lorensson &Co and Just Design to create the branding for the film production as well as all the social media feeds.

We’ll be shooting the teaser trailer in March/April and have a massive worldwide launch of the trailer and website following that.

From the website you’ll be able to join the email list, which will allow you to gain access to up-to-date information about the film’s development and give you access to exclusive videos and competitions.

 

In the meantime you can read the latest news on my Twitter account

Geoff

Simple Questions for artists – #4

by Geoff Hall on January 28, 2016

January 2016 – 

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

 

 

 

We are following Seth Godin’s 4 simple questions for writers/artists.

 

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is it for?
  3. Who is it for?
  4. Will it spread?

 

This month it’s our final question, ‘Will it spread?

“After the person you seek to reach reads this, will she share it? Shared action is amplified action.

Your resumé is written. So is your Facebook update, your garage sale ad and the memo to your employees.

Writing can make a difference. Write to make a difference.

 

#4 – Will it spread?

When we think of our work spreading to reach an audience we may dismiss this as wishful thinking. We don’t have a marketing or publicity budget; we are local artists after all, or just make art for our own enjoyment.

 

Godin sees the writer (and the artist) differently, as people with a passion which bubbles up and has to be released; as people working to make a difference. He’s not considering art for art’s sake, for the disinterested gaze of the viewer, or reader. Our context is drawn from the last blog article was this:

 

“So, what fears can we discern, what dreams do people hold for the future, indeed what nightmares, what are the prevailing attitudes towards the various crises of life? (Terrorism, poverty, displaced communities, climate change, corporate tax evasion, gun violence in America, hunger in the UK, peace).

 If we are conscious artists (word play there) socially connected, then in whatever art we are committed to, it should address such things.”

 

Here we have moved from art for art’s sake to a conscious or intentional art. There is no need for art for art’s sake to spread, but for the intentional artist, this is their life-bread.

 

We cannot escape the Media with its preponderance of stories concern one crisis or another, be it refugees, the weather or disease. The Media feeds on such things; it’s the nature of the beast. Journalists look for conflict, not resolution; they breathe the toxic air of retributive justice and have no taste for restorative justice. The blood trail from tales of vengeance is much juicer it seems, than conflict resolution.

 

'The Sum of all Evil' - Hell/Hellscape 2012/13. The Chapman Brothers

‘The Sum of all Evil’ – Hell/Hellscape 2012/13. The Chapman Brothers

 

 

In terms of our thinking about conscious (intentional) artists, am I talking about the same thing? Should we all follow the horror shows which the Chapman Brothers display to our eyes? Isn’t that the spirit of Postmodernism, to highlight conflict without resolution? As long as it offends an audience’s sensibilities, then the artist has done their job, right?

 

 

Wrong.

 

We seem to fall foul of this notion of freedom of speech, as the right to offend. But as consciously spiritual artists, our work should be focused on changing perceptions, raising consciousness and not desensitising our audience with the shock and horror of life. Therefore I’d like to offer a different notion of the freedom of speech, one which awakens us, which enlightens and illumines a path towards justice. After all, justice is one of the ‘first things’ we should be seeking, isn’t it?

 

Right!

 

And so to answer Godin’s final question, ‘Will it spread?’

 

Godin asks us whether the person who has read or seen what we have created, will pass it on? This is what he calls ‘amplified action’. We are not in control of this, but our audience is!

 

Whilst we don’t have access to massive budgets, we do have access to… yes I’m going to bang that drum again…social media.

 

Many sadly still see this as a fad or a distraction from ‘serious art-making’, but social media is here to stay. The forms of it may change, but one of the ways we connect with other people these days, is through social media.

 

How many of you have a Facebook page? How many of you have a Facebook page for your business?

 

How many of you have a Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest account or an About.me page?

 

How many of you have a weekly or monthly Blog or a website?

 

I’m speaking to those of you who do have one of those things.

 

How frequently do you update your sites and accounts? How often do you connect with the real people behind their Twitter handles and avatars? These are the devices which will help our work to spread around the globe. We need to be social media activists. We need to interact with people.

 

My question is simple. Do we want to earn a living from the art we create? Let me try another tack, Do we want our work to have an impact on society, to make a difference?

 

If so, then it’s time to get serious about using social media as a tool to advertise our work. Nowadays, it’s the way we can build an audience and expand awareness beyond the confines of our studio or small circle of friends. You don’t need permission to do this!

 

Here are a few words written in ‘The Artist’s Autobiography’ published in 2012 by Upptacka Press.

 

“Forget the Institution’s continual reminder to you of your unworthiness and weakness, along with its claims as a legitimate intermediary. You don’t need one; there’s you, a mirror and God looking back, it couldn’t be simpler than that. You don’t need anyone to hold up a lens for you to look through. You don’t need someone to describe what you see and tell you your shortcomings, or point out the poorly proportioned parts of your body! Let’s note this again; there’s you, the mirror and God looking back at you!”

Hall, Geoff (2012-07-23). The Artist’s Autobiography (Spiritual Direction in a Postmodern Landscape) (Kindle Locations 362-369). Upptäcka Press. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Here’s what Henri Nouwen states about this process,

“Spiritual formation requires taking an inward journey to the heart. Although this journey takes place in community and leads to service, the first task is to look within, reflect on our daily life, and seek God and God’s activity right there.” ‘Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit.’ Published by SPCK, 2011. p. XIX.

 

Please note, Nouwen’s accent is on community, not splendid isolation, for that is how we grow as artists. It is also on service, not as rulers and demagogues but servants, helping people to see the light, of awakening a consciousness for justice.

 

Will it spread? Let me know your thoughts by clicking on the ‘Comments’ tag below.

 

Peace,

Geoff

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

And so I’ll return to Richard Rohr’s prayer for ourselves, our friends and family and all people of the earth.

 

May we be free from inner and outer harm and danger.

May we be safe and protected.

May we be free of mental suffering or distress.

May we be happy.

May we be free of physical pain and suffering.

May we be healthy and strong.

May we be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

 

 

Be Well.

 

Geoff

Simple Questions for Artists – #3

by Geoff Hall on December 21, 2015

December 2015 – Simple Questions for artists – #3

Who is it for?

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

Mentoring for word, image and performance art.

 

 

 

We are following Seth Godin’s 4 simple questions for writers.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is it for?
  3. Who is it for?
  4. Will it spread?

 

We’ve relocated those questions to the artist and this month we are looking at ‘Who is it for?’

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we’re speaking to ‘everyman’, but in fact we are speaking to people who engage with film, poetry, dance, music, or art. This is not everyone in the world.

If I started to expound the glories of Tarkovsky’s films and his cinematic aesthetic as a metaphor for his transcendent spirituality, for some of you (sadly) your eyes would start to glaze over. Some have complained that his films are ‘difficult’, as if all we were meant to create was an ‘easy’ art; an art which glosses over the state of the world and the complexities of the Fall. This is not necessarily propaganda, but could be the point where Disneyland meets the teachings of Jesus. “Thy Disneyland come, Thy theme parks be built, in Europe as they are in America.”

Minnie Mouse as the Mona Lisa. Courtesy of strangecosmos.com

Minnie Mouse as the Mona Lisa. Courtesy of strangecosmos.com

 

Whilst working with Producers in the USA, they would keep telling me to find the universal story, or discover universal themes. What I think they sense is a transcendence which can be fitted into any genre; appeal to a wider audience than just fans of conspiracy tales, or supernatural dramas. What it’s actually addressing is art, in this case a TV drama which is a socially conscious, that speaks to a need, or in fact several needs.

 

We know what they are. We see a bloody, violent world, people having a growing sense of alienation and powerlessness; nihilistic fatalism as we apparently approach the end of the world, a world of glaring inequalities, poverty, famine and epidemics of deadly diseases. The fruits of continual conflict and warfare.

 

Seth Godin asks this question of us, ‘Who is it for?

“It’s almost impossible for a piece of writing to change someone. It’s definitely impossible for it to change everyone. So… who is this designed to reach? What do they believe? Do they trust you? Are they inclined to take action?”

 

We mentioned in the last ‘Simple Questions for Artists’ about making intentional art. Intentional art means we have to be ‘socially conscious’ if we want to reach the world of our audience, indeed to develop our audience.

 

Godin goes on to say this.

“Most inventors and marketers start with what they have (the stuff) and try to work backward to the ‘who is it for’ question. It makes a lot more sense to go the other direction. Identify a set of fears, dreams and attitudes and then figure out what sort of story fits that lock in a way that delights the consumer. Then go build that.”

 

Did you pick up on that?

 

“Identify a set of fears, dreams and attitudes and then figure out what sort of story fits that lock in a way that delights the consumer. Then go build that.”

 

The worst kind of art is that which suggests, or its raison d’être is to get people to go to Church, or be part of this or that institution or club. Say the right words, in the right order and you too can be saved and rise above the violence in the world. (Hogwarts meets Ecclesiastical dogma – ‘wingardium leviosa’ as the say in parts of Gryffindor and Canterbury).

 

I wrote this a few years ago,

 

“We have lost the vision for an art informed by our faith, that isn’t determined by the power symbols of the institution. Such are the times of our sojourn under the influence of the propaganda from the secularised institutions of art and politics. We have long lost, through neglect, the human connection between artist and patron. This is quite different for the artist (of any medium) who has formed a dependency on the institution to provide a means of producing their work. Art-making decided by a bureaucracy tends towards the needs of the bureaucracy and not of the population-at-large outside of its doors, nor of the artist.”  Translating the Invisible Wind – Upptacka Press website, Part 6 ‘Propaganda’.

Upptacka logo copy

 

 

So, what fears can we discern, what dreams do people hold for the future, indeed what nightmares, what are the prevailing attitudes towards the various crises of life? (terrorism, poverty, displaced communities, climate change, corporate tax evasion, gun violence in America, hunger in the UK, peace).

If we are conscious artists (word play there) socially connected, then in whatever art we are committed to, it should address such things.

 

Who is it for?

 

It’s for a world barely coping with the tragedies of this current age. As far as I’m aware not one of the Syrian refugees is looking for refuge in Disneyland Paris; so let’s not provide them with signpost art, but with the art of compassion, of calls for justice and speaking truth to the powerful.

 

An art, not of propaganda for the status quo, but of non-violent resistance; of non-cooperation with evil and civil disobedience. An art which cries out in the wilderness, that we will not consent to the violence and injustice of the current troubles.

 

To do this, we have to be ‘this’. To transform, we must be transformed. Some have called this incarnation, which this season of joy reminds us of. Embody the art you want to create.

 

Happy Christmas.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

AND FINALLY…

And so I’ll return to Richard Rohr’s prayer for ourselves, our friends and family and all people of the earth.

 

May we be free from inner and outer harm and danger.

May we be safe and protected.

May we be free of mental suffering or distress.

May we be happy.

May we be free of physical pain and suffering.

May we be healthy and strong.

May we be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

 

Be Well.

Geoffxx