A humming serenade to the “awareness of awareness” from which our creative restlessness springs.
“When you are thoroughly able to understand these diagrams and the truths they inculcate,” the eccentric Victorian psychologist Benjamin Betts wrote of his geometric diagrams of consciousness, “when you look at any forms of humanity it will not be at their outward appearance, neither at their hapless struggles after vanities, but at their unhappy Ideal.”
It is the greatest human desire. Poetry would be impossible without it. Music would not exist without poetry. It is enticing, and even clarifying to make visible what the soul can only see.
Tanya P. Johnson was an environmentalist and artist who became aware of the global chorus of human mortality that COVID had made. She began to prepare for her death. She set out to “hack” her own consciousness, to “express the awareness of awareness,” to create something that was “at once a download and an upload,” to map “the metaphorical and ephemeral horizon line that holds together and separates states of consciousness.”
Her series is the result. The Wisdom Engines: Technology to Enhance Happiness and Evolution — a mixed-media meditation on “metaphysical and ontological ideas regarding the nature of being, existence and truth,” rendered in “vector maps of perception, boundlessness, and life force,” partway between Hilma af Klint’s mystical paintings from the early 1900s and Thomas Wright’s 1750 illustrations for his revolutionary Original Theory of the Universe or New Hypothesis.
An elegant tribute to Emmy Noether’s legacy, the tragic and pioneering mathematician Emmy Noether is implicit in the artwork. His work helped Einstein resolve the greatest mystery of relativity.
Some of the pieces are drawn on paper from centuries-old ledger books; some explore the liminal space between wakefulness and sleep — that space at the edge of consciousness, of which Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote so beautifully; some explore the transition from life to death — that ultimate gauntlet of consciousness.
For a kindred spirit in a very different sensibility, couple with David Byrne’s line drawings of possibility.
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Since a decade and a half I’ve been writing for hundreds of hours each month, spending thousands of dollars every month. MarginalianIt was known for the infuriating name Brain Pickings its first 15 years. Thanks to the support of readers, it has been free from ads and still exists. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. Donations are a great way to make your life better. It makes a huge difference to support this cause.
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