Monday, July 19, 2010

The Art of Being Empty

pensamento mudo

Lygia Clark

After watching my inspiration turn to ennui recently, I received a note from my Muse, herself a highly respected plastic artist and painter in Rio. It was about Lygia Clark, a Brazilian plastic artist who frequently explored the emptiness of form in her work. Clark wrote that artists must not worry when they feel empty, because this is a natural condition for creative people.

Only when an artist is full are they ready to create, much in the way a person eats too much and they explode (vomit) in a furious burst of creative and emotional energy. What results is a large amount of painting, sculpture, music, etc. coming from the artist.

Filling up, Clark adds, is a process that takes time. It cannot be conjured up on a schedule; it means painfully collecting inspiration from routines among daily life: washing the clothes, taking walks in the neighborhood, having a quiet coffee in a shop alone, buying groceries, or just sitting on a bus while returning from work.

This is good to know because I often putter, waiting for inspiration to replace the emptiness. This means I cook, clean, sort, walk, nap, ponder, and move objects around a small basement apartment.

By contrast inspiration is a feeling of fullness. Often, but not always, the words begin to flow like water coming out of a fire hydrant. My best writing comes from making myself a “full” vessel, allowing the gods to pour their words into me.

Then for the next few days and weeks the cat or dog may not get fed. If I do buy food I might leave part of the groceries on the bus, along with gloves and umbrellas. The laundry does not get done. No one is dusting or vacuuming the carpet. I seldom make good conversation while full of inspiration. My circle of friends gets smaller.

In my fullness my characters jump off the page; they are extraordinary in their hopes and desperately seeking something beyond their grasp. They love and want to be loved. They face conflicting motives by what they try to conceal during the day and what they fear losing at night. They make a journey of discovery and then rapidly fade to black.

Implied in Clark’s statement is the notion that inspiration is found in daily life and that life itself is art.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reality Returns In Brasil's World Cup Loss

Even Christo on the Corcovado opens his arms in frustration trying to coach the Brasilian team to the 2010 Copa. You can see the disappointment on his face.

My friend tells me that players from Paraguay, Chile and Argentina were warmly cheered by thousands of fans when they returned to their home airports. In Brasil, however, the players were forgotten by their fans and their coach was fired soon after returning home. The media is now creating a new tempest by arguing about the hiring of the next coach. My friend says that Brasil really doesn’t need a coach. “Everyone in Brasil is a coach.”

She is most pleased that Brasil is not playing in the finals of the 2010 Copa. “Now the country can get back to reality.” By this she means the people can begin to look more carefully into the upcoming elections in October, because President Lula will be deprived of taking all the credit for coaching Brasil to the World Championship. “Lula has claimed credit for everything else in the country, why not the Copa?”

Lula was openly critical of Dunga as coach before the Copa began and now has no one else to blame. Hopefully the president will turn his attention to inflation, joblessness and corruption, which is a principal issue in Lula’s presidency, she says.

She and many others want the media to investigate Lula’s manipulation of finances in which he chose not to support Varig, the struggling Brasilian airline, claiming a lack of funds but then decided to spend vast sums of taxpayer money to revitalize Cuba’s depressed economy. Lula also gave licenses to international corporations to exploit the Amazon’s mineral and hydroelectric wealth, while telling the world press that the Amazon is Brasil’s problem to resolve and other countries should stay out of its affairs.

My friend is relieved the people are no longer swept up in futbol and hopefully they will turn their attention to the lies Lula has painted blue, gold and green recently.

As the 2010 World Cup winds down there are still the occasional vuvuzela (horns) blaring from apartment houses, a few fireworks here and there, and some cheering from the noisy sports club around the corner. My friend would prefer people in Rio give up their love of futbol entirely.

No political movement or religious organization commands a greater loyalty than futbol in Brasil. But this is a kind of hypocritical allegiance because the disillusioned fans are already dismantling the old structure before it falls and drags everyone else with it. Because futbol demands such conformity, my friend argues that it takes away attention from important issues, such as building a sustainable and prosperous culture.

The odor of Brasil’s exit from the Copa will leave a bad taste on the tongues of futbol fans for another four years. And my friend is already thinking about leaving Rio for a month when it hosts the finals during the 2014 Copa Mundo. Carnival is noisy enough for one year.

For the next four years the Carioca will have to find joy in other pursuits. This would leave only samba, the beach life and beer as the other gods people pray to each day.