The world is in a state of considerable upheaval, on a great many fronts at once. I am currently fascinated by (obsessed with) thinking about self-definition and mental health, acculturation and role within community (the very obvious and powerful life-meaning that everyone is so crazily searching-for in ever-more narcissistic and expensive inward-spirals), and the many giant-sized questions which to me, can only be solved along this route. Things like: culture, environment, sustainable non-exploitative economics (again, crucial life-meaning stuff) and last, but most definitely not least – genuine, non-delusional hope.
It saddens me to add the non-delusional part to that, but it’s important to point out that wanting to feel better or feel relevant, is different from working to actually be better and more relevant – one involves overcoming the petty-self, importantly.
It’s hard to talk about great big ideas lately. We’re all so stressed and busy with our personal pain and challenges. Most people want a simplified one-aspect version, or a clear step-by-step path to a fixed goal. When I say I that am determined to find a way to dance us all toward more compassion wisdom, balance, inclusion and fun, that will sound to many like a vague impractical approach and goal – not so, I insist.
Here’s the thing, I can actually run-down every tendril of my reasoning with great specificity (wrote an entire philosophy book I won’t ever publish, just to get my own thinking super-clear), but as good as rational argument might sound in a living room (or pub), I have not found it often changes lives.
Inspiration on the other hand… Inspiration can pick up our whole lives and mode of thinking, and set them down on a brand-new track, with enough fresh excitement-inertia to carry us through a good deal of new-learning incline.
But how do we approach inspiration which is at once creative, political and spiritual, and yet not pompous (always distancing) in any of these voices? My own closest-approach to this result so far has come in poetry (though I’ve sought-it also in line-work, and in music).
My friend Echo Railton has her own extraordinary take on these themes – and I felt a deep sympathy for her approach and quality of energy from the very first time I saw her work (looked it up before sitting for her class). Better still – she can even teach this enchantment – a most unusual achievement!
So first – that ugly thing in the rearview mirror (late-industrial capitalism, post-modernism, boomer-individualism, anti community and anti intellectual alienation on a mass-scale) seems to be a product of reductionist materialist thinking. As soon as we have decided a model is representative, from that moment we become seduced by the model, and increasingly ignore the reality it was created to investigate. This is Western-civilization-standard, now – everyone trying to live on a virtual map, while ignoring the actual territory.
What does Echo do, to lightly transcend these traps, and reductionism itself, at the same time? – She invites us in playfully, with plenty of joy and clear sincere markers to her ecstatic process, along the way. (I’m very big on leaving such breadcrumbs myself – art should always make you want to art!).
Her political art does not preach, instruct, command, bully or compel in any way – it lightly seduces into playful integrating insight. There is nothing in the least bit trivial about this – playfulness, love, empathy, kindness, laughter – these are the human tools which are first-repressed in every dictatorship and exploitative patriarchy. The antithesis of brutality and mob.
George Monbiot, amongst others, has recently been making the case that scaring people about the environment has in many cases done more to increase fear, than to educate. Fear is naturally reactionary, conservative, anti-social, non-cooperative, pessimistic, greedy. How on earth can we possibly win the natural earth back, with tools like that? (And seriously folks, how did it take us all so long to notice the way we were stoking reactionaries? Truly maddening, how much time and energy we’ve misused).
I mentioned before that I forgo quite a few modern advantages because I don’t like what they cost others – but this isn’t sanctimonious or maudlin – I really can relate to poor kids in other countries, and don’t want to make their path any harder, if I can help it. It’s the way my imagination extends warmth outward for others who I will never see, that makes these sacrifices easy.
Likewise, my friend Nada’s lovely insight. “If I was going to go vegetarian, I would just think about my favourite cow, and what a nice person she was.” Again – extending our love and empathy outward, like inspiration, can change our day-to-day living, ongoingly, in a way that feels light free and easy, even if it does involve changing many comfortable patterns.
The other thing Echo does which is infinitely admirable, is use what could be considered waste-materials, and prove that there is great beauty yet to find, should we be willing to play-with our perceptions – get involved, have some genuine fun with our local reality!
I used to have a friend who insisted that there should be clowns and celebrants in every anti-nuclear parade – and I believe he was right all along. Emma Goldman, too – we want “the revolution we can dance-to” or we just aren’t interested. Not only as a smart joke – that’s a psychological reality!
Which means the most responsible things we can be doing right now, include play, connection, reaching-out, charming, and uniting spirit heart and mind.
NOT because someone told us (Logos-force) but just because we love it!
Some of Echo’s recent charming, cool, playful, insight-inspiring and always viewer-engaging work can be seen from Jan 15th to Jan 20 2018 – at 750 Lakeshore east (Dark tools architectural lighting) as part of E is for Earth.
Many wonderful repurposed waste-textile works from other artists, also. GO!
— All photos and artworks, courtesy of Echo Railton – many thanks to her for that, and for the invite to the opening – Nada and I both had a really fantastic time! Great to see you, too!