‘Concerning the Spirits of Art’; also, launching Axe and Hammer

I’m not quite sure how to approach the distribution of this piece, but it’s very important to me having written it, and it’s important to me that I get it into the hands of interested parties.

Concerning the Spirits of Art is a piece at least a year in the making, if I’m to be honest with myself, and I could not have done it without the year I spent with the Twins. I don’t believe that it’s especially groundbreaking, but I have not seen anyone say the same things yet, and I believe it’s important that we start.

The text is 20 pages long, and is both a centennial response to Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art as well as a call to fellow polytheists and animists to re-consider the place art and artists have in their religions and lifeways. I say a few things that will earn me loud disagreement, and other things that will maybe prompt readers to see certain concepts in a different light.

Here’s my introduction to the booklet, entitled Kandinsky’s Mirage:

Art fails when it’s insecure about what it means to achieve; mark-making cannot fool the viewer on its own. So bearing that in mind, I will be forthcoming: this treatise aims to sow the foundations of a thoughtway that sees art and life-in-the-world as one again. That is, I aim to do no less than build a movement to re-enchant art for those who know the numinous.

Exactly one hundred years ago, in 1917, Wassily Kandinsky wrote a treatise on color, form, and quasi-spiritual philosophy, Concerning The Spiritual In Art. Kandinsky, one of the founders of the abstract painting movement in Europe, was a devout Eastern Orthodox Christian for most of his life and therefore was in the unique position to speak on the interplay of art and spirituality in the western world, and in his short book sought to reinvigorate the formal painter with the fire of inspiration plumbed from no less than the wordless depths of the human soul. Unfortunately, being entrenched in the promissory doctrines of both materialist progress and transcendent religious salvation, he effectively predicted and embodied the destructive values of our current culture that has, ironically enough, since proclaimed that “art is dead”. His spirituality, moreover, was ignorant of spirits as we, polytheists and animists, understand them. Perhaps art would not have died if those spirits were still known.

Kandinsky’s optimism and the colorful whimsy of his work belie a dangerous trajectory that we have been on for the past 300 years – that we believe it is possible for humans to exist apart from the natural world. In this polytheist’s response to Kandinsky’s call to artistic enlightenment, I will argue that this was never so, cannot be so, and should not be so; I will also explain how we as animists and people of many Gods might turn away from this centuries-old mirage and make work that reinforces our relationship with spirits both small and vast.

And the topic headings I have:

  • Kandinsky’s Mirage
  • What Art Is
  • A Human Birthright
  • A Human Obligation
  • Art As Animist Practice
  • Art As Communion with the Spirit World
  • The Problem of Digital (Non-) Media
  • On Storytelling
  • Art As Augury
  • On “Ghostwriting”
  • Where We Might Go: Re-Enchanting Art

The booklet, shipping included to the US, will cost $4. Everywhere else, I think, will probably be $6.

I’m also going to take this opportunity to launch my zine distro, Axe and HammerConcerning the Spirits of Art will be the first title I have available; hopefully the first of many. Or at least the first of several. If you’ve got a zine or other that you’d like me to list, hit me up. If not, then please keep an eye on the site because I do plan on writing more and distributing my work the old fashioned way.

The logo needs a little changing – ideally, I’d like to draw or carve it myself. But that’s a project for another day. (Maybe another day this week if I’m lucky.)

A fruitful, mischievous, and auspicious May Day to everyone! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be sulking about not having $75 to spare at the moment.

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