In the documentary on the making of his film ‘Nostalghia’ (1983) titled ‘Voyage in Time’ (1983), Andrei Tarkovsky is asked to give some words of advice to young film directors. He addresses ‘cinema’ as a serious art and so, here, I recall his advice as it might apply to the broader category ‘art.’ The following restatement is fundamental my understanding of the true purpose and nature of art, and to the proper ambition of the artist –
Do not separate your art from the life you live.
It is required to contribute your own self to your art.
Be morally responsible for what you do while making your art.
Art requires sacrifice of your self.
You should belong to your art, your art does not belong to you.
In response to an earlier post in this series which referred to Bruce Lee’s ‘Lost Interview’, my friend, veteran Malaysian journalist and art writer Ooi Kok Chuen commented, “Bruce Lee is much misunderstood after all these years where he is seen as a supreme martial arts fighter. … his cult brand of Chinese martial art is more than stunning physical manoeuvres. It’s a philosophy, a discipline of the highest order, and on top of it all, a way of life.” Indeed, this philosophy/discipline was embodied in what I would call a post-traditional fighting system that Bruce called Jeet Kune Do. The Jeet Kune Do system seems to acknowledge the plurality of traditional forms while unifying then in a praxis.
In the interview Bruce Lee explains this praxis in terms of the relationships between martial arts, acting and life, “… all types of knowledge mean self-knowledge … [my students] want to learn to express themselves through some movement, be it anger, be it determination or whatsoever … to show … in combative form, the art of expressing the human body … it might sound too philosophical, but its unacting acting, or acting unacting. I mean, here is the natural instinct, and here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony … The ideal is unnatural naturalness or natural unnaturalness … ultimately, martial art means honestly expressing yourself …You have to keep your reflexes, so that when you want it, it’s there! When you want to move, you are moving. And when you move, you are determined to move …”
Another friend Hugo Moss, co-founder of Michael Chekhov Brasil responded to the same post by noting that Bruce lee’s praxis echoes that of Michael Chekhov (1891-1955), a Russian actor, director and teacher whose approach to actor training, rehearsal and performance continues to inspire artists around the world. Hugo notes that Chekhov posits the same “polarity of being in controlling and releasing yourself 100% free in the moment. It’s the creative process of meaningfully living ‘the tangible/material world’, ‘the cosmos/possible’ and ‘oneself’ in equal measure/harmony. … yes there’s a polarity … In the creative act there is part of it which is a “doing” in the traditional sense, but then there is a “getting out of the way” and allowing the creative moment to flow … [and] that flow [is] this threefold consciousness – ‘Material World’ + ‘Cosmos & Imagination & the possible’ + ‘Self’, [with] our gesture unifying the first two.”
In the light of the profundity of Bruce Lee’s contribution, Tarantino’s project seems frivolous at best and at worst, a folie.
I have loved Quentin Tarantino for his Reservoir Dogs and for Pulp Fiction and I have forgiven him for many a tedious and pretentious flic on the podium of these two groundbreaking works. More significantly, I have given him, and his celluloid surrogate Samuel L Jackson, licence to skate thin ice with regard to the ‘N word’. I gave this M_ _ _ _ _ R F _ _ _ _ _ R license on the basis that his oeuvre was A _ T; because rigid political correctness is tedious and damaging to culture, and even to the justice it purports to prompte; because I believed that Quentin’s ‘heart’ was in the right place on the questions of race in America; and most of all because ‘perhaps I did not get it yet’ but that ‘maybe I would on the next viewing’! Now, after viewing the jaded and reactionary Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (just once is all I could possibly bear!), I have clarity, and a correction to make – I was wrong! Quentin was wrong, QUENTIN IS WRONG! … Hey Academy of Motion Picture Arts … Dont give the C _ _ _ _ _ R an Oscar! It will only confirm your ensconcement in that quintessential, or should I say Quentinessential Americana of racism! … Kabali Da!
I am deeply moved by what Hasnul Jamal Saidon has written about the Dari Pusat Tasek show at Percha Art Space, Lumut Waterfront. (Dec 2019 – Jan 2020) in his Kebun Jiwa Kebun Jiwa Halus blog. Our time together in Malaysian art was short but very productive. I believe, however, that beyond our notable collaboration in developing electronic art in Malaysia, we forged an understanding of art that transcended materials media and market. You could say we both had a common interest in the metaphysical and the ethical aspects of art and of life in general. In recent years, Hasnul has developed his ethical concerns in terms of notions of belas (compassion, charity, love). I want to thank Hasnul, for an intimate and penetrating review which goes to the at the heart of the Koboi Project. He has written about my work with the insight of a friend, of a fellow practitioner as well as that of an astute critic and theorist of art. Hasnul has reached beyond the complex play of signs of the Koboi Project, to suggest the presence of the very simple belas that he has been developing in his own practice. Please visit – https://hasnulsaidon.blogspot.com/2019/12/baliklah-koboi-dengan-ayahanda-bonda.html?fbclid=IwAR1Q3DCfH1wh8Z4z_LCBvZPfUujjXkRN6N2ELuylArrJAIcNpKENI6visM
As faculty of the International Art Gallery of the Ismaili Diamond Jubilee Arts Festival in Lisbon, July 2018, I did two Portfolio review sessions. The photo above was taken after we ran well overtime in one of these sessions. The participants were Fashion Designer Maryam GH, Carpet designer Ilnaz Ataei, painter Nasim Ataollahi and astro photographer Danyal Ghanbary.
A monument to Andrei Tarkovsky was opened on the 29th July 2017 in Suzdal, where his own monumental contribution to Russia cinema, Andrei Rublev, was shot in 1965 … well over half a century ago. Andrei Tarkovsky was in my view the most important artist of the 20 century in any medium. Yes, that is a sweeping statement! … but I have just watched his films in the cinema – Solaris 3 times and Stalker twice in the course of the last week, and feel this claim is justified. I shall do my best to contextualize my hyperbole … and if I fail to convince you … perhaps, you might at the very least, understand where I am coming from (my perspective or paradigm)!
In a deathbed conversation with Krzysztof Zanussi, he said to his friend and esteemed colleague, “If I happen to die, please whenever you talk about me, remind people I want to be remembered as a sinner, as somebody who committed many sins …. “ Andrei Tarkovsky was Christian and I believe he was expressing, in this request, his subscription to the doctrine of original sin, which although different in orientation and nuance, is in essence similar to the Islamic fitrah (original purity) or the Buddhist dhukka (universal suffering).In all his work Tarkovsky struggled to express this sacred, understanding of the human condition in historical and psychological terms.
In his hands, film, the quintessential 20th Century representational medium, becomes both a medicine and a sacrament – an interface for healing and a window on salvation. He set this ameliorative and soteriological vehicle into motion in what Ingmar Bergman, no less, has described as “a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream”. Tarkovsky is the exemplary post-traditionalist, utterly contemporary in his engagement with social history and psychology … timeless in his grasp of the sacred. He articulated this timelessness in his films, his 7 technically and aesthetically masterful ‘sculptures of time‘!