Translating the Invisible Wind – Part Eleven

by Geoff Hall on July 15, 2010

Art of Perception.
‘We only can know the ‘actual’ by contrasting it or likening it to the ‘imaginable’.  (Hayden White, ‘The Tropics of Discourse’, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978. p98.)

The Parables come to mind.  Jesus doesn’t preach, he tells stories and much to the chagrin of the Authorities, this seems to give him more power over the imagination of the crowds, than they do with their moral preaching!  There must be something in this, a lesson for today?  It is true to both past and present day, the Institutional needs outweigh the needs of the people.
Tithing becomes a self-righteous show to others and a maintenance grant for the Institution of Spirituality.  It doesn’t affect the needs of the supporters of the institute, and is set to keep it going in fair weather or storm.  The Newer Testament notion of giving is different from that of the Older one; you have freely received, so freely give.  In Jerusalem the new born community of Followers of the Way go for a common ownership policy, which in the main goes along the lines of ‘if you see someone in need’, talk to the one of the seven appointed officers and in the meantime sell any superfluous items you have and give the money to the deacons so that they can allocate to those in need.  Simple, huh?  Imagine this today, if the church saw an artist in need and responded in that way!

The language of Jesus though is unburdened from institutional needs.  He is one of the people and committed to their welfare.  He strangely though, doesn’t tell them what the new Kingdom of God administration looks like, but introduces his stories with phrases such as: ‘The kingdom of God is like’… or, ‘Picture this’… Now you’d think that ‘something new’, would need clear branding so as to distinguish it from the Older something, wouldn’t you?  Something like a clear an unequivocal statement of intent, an evangelical outpouring about the truth of the matter would help, no?  In a way we miss the statement, the branding of the new, but in those days the sermons from the Religious Leaders weren’t like this sort of stuff.  The difference was in the language; the connotation, the simile, the metaphor and it was stated thus, because Jesus’ language deals not with religious concepts (theologies of righteous living), but on perceptions of this new elusive Kingdom.  Rationalising this new thing won’t help, trying to find a logical conclusion to what it should be has its starting point in what is already established, the status quo.  You first have to perceive it and then move heart and soul to the new.

And what happens?  Do people ignore him wholesale?  No.  Do they all get what he is saying?  No.  To change the phrase used of the parable, ‘that in seeing they might not see’, let’s alter this to, ‘that in perceiving, they might not perceive’.  The work of the storyteller and the artist is not to convict people of error, nor convince people of truth, but to capture the imagination with the possibility of something new being born into the world; a change in the world order, justice for the afflicted and the disenfranchised, a change in the materialistic conceptions of life and the materialistic conceptions of art.  Conviction isn’t their job, it is something achieved in the heart, by the Spirit.

Let’s look at it in this light, from the quote at the top of our page, ‘We only can know the ‘actual’ by contrasting it or likening it to the ‘imaginable’.  Jesus in his parables was showing the crowds the imaginable, he was communicating perceptually.  However, the perceiving leads to understanding the ‘actual’ situation, it feedbacks to reality, to the place where the status quo appears unchangeable.  It is only through this percept that we can see that real change is on the way.

If as an artist, your work only points to the real, that is, you have been persuaded that one must communicate to an audience only through the phenomena of this life, then all this does is confirm that change is impossible, all we can do is move the furniture around; we cannot change the architecture nor the infrastructure.

In the next Translation, we’ll look at the work of the artist in terms of the percept, as opposed to the found objects of realism and proletarian art.

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