Exquisite Mindscape is a live experiment virtually inspired by the 21st century and art, featuring the correspondence of two artists: Stephen Gibb and Sabina Nore. The only way to know more is to read on.
- The Imaginarium February 13, 2012 Sabina
My thoughts have traveled from (exquisite) mindscape to Imaginarium, to something grotesque or uncanny, to the circus and my fascination with its visuals and the symbolism. However, when I say circus I am stuck at the older version of the same, maybe up to the 1930s. I am as unfamiliar with the modern circus as I wish to be with the symbolical circle of existence.
Speaking of grotesque and uncanny, the German equivalent to uncanny is “unheimlich” which, if translated literally, would mean “unhomely”. There’s a picture in there somewhere. The unhomely circus of existence.
Bringing German into the mix reminds me of Freud who said that the uncanny “derives its terror not from something externally alien or unknown but, on the contrary, from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it.”
Stuck in the unhomely circus of existence…
- Unheimlich Maneuver February 13, 2012 Stephen Gibb
Stuck in the throat like something that can’t be spoken. Stuck in the spot where the Heimlich maneuver becomes the “unheimlich” maneuver, lodging the words deeper in the throat causing translations to interbreed and create their unique chaos, a circus spectacle. Stuck where the hands of time rust in place and the madness unfolds in an endless stream of consciousness, until the ringmaster becomes self-aware, stumbling on his rehearsed delivery, rendering the audience unconscious, catatonic, vibrating in harmonic resonance with their DNA…
- Circus Spectacles February 14, 2012 Sabina
Let’s construct the visual.
A person wearing circus spectacles stares at the audience in the mirror…
- The Midnight Circus... February 15, 2012 Stephen Gibb
I was always fascinated by the idea of a Dark Carnival (actually a band from Detroit), or a Midnight Circus (Cries from the Midnight Circus is a song from The Pretty Things) or the idea behind the story Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury) where the conventional circus is upended with something off kilter, uncanny. I think of freaks, side shows, acrobats, exotic animal…I like the circus idea. Maybe we can build around that notion. Circuses are travelling shows, entertainment brought to your town, usually for enjoyment, frivolous yet thrilling. What if this circus has another agenda, deeper, more profound…? Now I’m reminded of Robert Pirsig’ mention of the “chautauqua” in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
Let’s dive into this a little more…
- Circus Freaks February 15, 2012 Sabina
For me there are two ways to approach a circus.
One, as a place full of natural mutants or freaks whereas, when I say that, there is no negative connotation whatsoever. One of the nicest things I can call a friend is “freak” and I always chose to surround myself with such people, because they are the interesting ones. In that sense the circus is a stronghold of the unusual, the different and the refreshing.
The other way to see it is through the aspect of performance. Nothing is real, nothing is genuine. It is all fake and merely a colorful illusion, put in place for spectators and for the money, to then be torn to pieces, stacked into cages and boxes and carried elsewhere.
So you see, one view is, for me, extremely positive, the other extremely negative. Which do you want to go with? Or do you propose a third or forth approach?
- trompe l'oeil of Olay February 15, 2012 Stephen Gibb
It’s all deception. Nothing is real. Nothing’s surreal (say that 5 times fast). Art is the oldest illusion of all. We’ve conned ourselves into thinking of art as some lofty ambition, some noble discipline that brings us closer to the gods. It is fakery. It mimics life, it strives for verisimilitude, it tries to attain some intangible level of sublimity, but it’s just art and a form of entertainment when you strip it right down. I think that’s why I love it so much – it’s my facade, created and controlled by me – no one else uses it like the next person since we all create our own art facades. It may resonate with deep feelings, emotions and personal investment but it’s essentially paint organized on a panel (organized being the key word).
So I guess what I’m saying is your dual view of the circus is valid from either perspective. I think I’d like the circus to be a stage or setting for presenting the “main event” in the centre ring. Use the circus metaphor to house the central theme. It’s funny but people often use “circus” synonomously with chaos, but could a circus ever really be chaos?
OK Sabina I totally missed your post on Circus Spectacles. We could start there…a sort of interspection by looking at one’s self from a circus-themed perspective.
- We are the freaks February 16, 2012 Stephen Gibb
An image is taking shape in my head. I picture someone looking into a gilded mirror, only it’s just a plywood cutout of a person and we can see this because we are viewing the cutout from behind as if it is us, almost as if we were about to peek through the cutout eyes. The reflection is also visible to us, and I sort of imagine a Victorian woman, maybe even a sideshow freak like the bearded lady. Beyond the mirror is the the dark depths of a circus tent with the raggle-taggle crew and performers strewn about. I see a gorilla disguised as the Ringmaster directing the audiences attention to something in the centre ring, something profound…
- Something Profound February 16, 2012 Sabina
I don’t know Stephen… I don’t think it’s all fakery. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I would rather be a fool with noble ideals than a bitter cynic, at least at this point of my life. I don’t mean to imply that you are a cynic, I hope that’s a given, nor a fool. This is simply me getting warmed up.
Being a cynic is like being a joker. The cynic is a nihilist of sorts, and so is the joker. Could fear be at the source of both their attitudes? Fear of rejection perhaps?
If paint is organized on a panel it doesn’t make it any less profound. The universe itself is organized. Chaos is organized. Just because there is no obvious pattern or order, visible to us, doesn’t mean that something is any less profound, any less sublime. The circus is definitely not chaos, I agree, unless we say it is organized chaos. Like preparing a scene in a play, and the scene is meant to depict chaos. If all goes well, and if the actors do their part, then the audience will perceive it as chaos, however that impression is intended and what is behind it is studious work and organization.
Something profound in the center ring. I like that, but let’s not address that yet. I would like the center ring to remain a mystery for now.
What if, instead of the plywood cutout, there are glasses or spectacles of some sort in the center (same position and view as you described for the cutout), and the image in the mirror that is visible through these glasses in not the same as the image in the mirror outside and around that area?
So the viewer of the picture is the one looking through the glasses. There is no mediator between the viewer and the mirror, except for the glasses?
Could the aforementioned center ring be visible through the spectacles?
Beyond the mirror, the dark depths of a circus tent fading into a starry night sky. The whole background would be darkish, the mirror somewhat brighter, and the area visible through the glasses the brightest, the clearest.
Would a court jester have a place in this picture? Not a clown… but a court jester.
- Marquis de Facade February 16, 2012 Stephen Gibb
I think you are fixed on the spectacles, with their clear allusion to illusion and vision. That’s OK, but I have a sort of affinity to the “facade” component of performance. The clowns and acrobats and magicians are there for our entertainment, a contract between the audience and performer. I paid – you entertain. Entertainment is a facade put on by the performer, an interface. It usually has nothing to do with what is going on in their private life so it is not a genuine extension of themselves - hence the facade connection.
I like the stars, the darkness, the mystery. I aslo like the jester, I see him as a surprise element, maybe a little unsettling in appearance, kind of popping into view…
- Masque de Charade February 19, 2012 Sabina
I may have been fixed on the spectacles as I saw them very clearly, and they looked really good too, but I can easily shed that vision in lieu of a new one.
A facade or a charade. Charade goes better with the jester. A Venetian carnival mixed in with the circus. Everyone wearing a Venetian mask, even the animals.
I am not really trying to make any sense at the moment, rather going with the flow. Not sure that any of this is worth keeping.
The music from the Tomb Raider game comes to aural mind, the Venice theme… which adds an element of chase…
The music is playful as well though. Children playing hide-and-seek, angry adults handing out Venetian masks to the kids, angry because it’s not proper to go outside and play unless you are wearing yours.
Masks are a pretty obvious symbol. Too obvious for a main feature but may work as an added goodie. What do you think?
- Masque of Amontillado February 20, 2012 Stephen Gibb
OK let’s start to build an image. I like the mask idea. Let’s somehow use this as a central image, perhaps the masked figure engaged in the mirror??? The circus or carnival becomes a reference to what is going on inside the masked chatracter’s mind, the reflection in the mirror being the reality. If you agree that this could be a foundation to build outward from, we can proceed to flesh out the secondary details. It all depends on how far we want to fine-tune the consensus. Do we have to scrupulously describe every detail down to colour and position or do we rough-out the scene with ambiguous latitude for interpretation?
- Solidifying the Cast February 20, 2012 Sabina
Yes, it’s time to start solidifying our ideas.
Masked figure engaged in a mirror. – Yes!
Being that the circus is an outward spectacle and all about performance and audience, it makes more sense to me as a reference to “reality”, even if it’s a distorted view of reality (though it doesn’t have to be distorted!). By the same token, the mirror is reflective, introspective; the character gazes into the mirror to find the true self, unaffected by the surrounding circus. It works either way though, and maybe that’s an added charm of the dual outcome.
As for fine-tuning the consensus, and how far to go, I’d say that we should agree on some must-have elements, general meaning, but details like color, position, etc. should remain a surprise. How about we each name a few things that must be included as part of the general image? The general setup we have pretty much already described, haven’t we?
- It's a wrap... February 20, 2012 Stephen Gibb
Masked figure (central figure), mirror (central prop), circus (setting). Those are the three elements that HAVE to be included in the image. Is that too general? I don’t think so. If we start splitting hairs as to what circus elements be included it could take months to arrive at an agreement. I’m sure with this as the launch point it conjures an image in the reader’s mind just as it does in ours, but the results will inevitably be vastly different…or not…
- Creation Launch February 20, 2012 Sabina
I didn’t mean to split hairs but simply each of us to list a few (three or so) must-have elements (details), but we can do it this way as well. The image started conjuring up a long time ago, and shifted and changed a few times too, so yes, I am fine with wrapping it up and getting down with the fun part!
Any time frame? Shall we wait until each of us has completed the painting and then present it on the same day, or how?
- Strap on your pressure suit February 20, 2012 Stephen Gibb
I’m ready to go.
I just wonder about the value of any kind of exchange during the actual art making period, or would that cause interference and influence the other in an adverse way? Kind of like “no peeking”… But I think “peeking” would be cool too because it would continue the process of a long-distance collaboration. Should it be hidden, both in description or in actual posted images?
Maybe we could aim for a target date. How about the 15th of March? That has some significance doesn’t it?
- Inspirational Peeks February 21, 2012 Sabina
It could be interesting to share the progress half way through, or so, and risk an accidental additional inspiration.
March 15th is a Thursday…. so we could present what we have on March 1st and then again on the 8th?
- Let's go! February 21, 2012 Stephen Gibb
- the rough edges March 1, 2012 Stephen Gibb
This is where I’m at so far…Just some simple sketches to build around. I wanted to make the mirror a character in the painting so it has become anthropomorphised into a face with cloven hooves for feet. The masked figure is ambiguous as to its logical position relative to the mirror and as to its identity (is it the viewer?). The circus tent will be dark and foreboding and the ringmaster will have a sort of perplexed look of not quite understanding his role in these bizarre events. Just like the expression I wear every day….
- Subjective vs. Objective March 1, 2012 Sabina
Cool! I really like how the mirror looks, as well as the “abyss” in front of it.
As for me, I got into my painting – big time, but I accept the suggested format, so I’m not going to reveal the whole picture yet either. Instead, here are two details, each containing numerous details….
As you can see I am painting in black and white at the moment. Color and additional details come at a later point.
For instance, the main character in front of the mirror will probably be much more “fleshy” and muscular.
In the second picture is one of the scenes that shows something that is happening in the ring, a boy infatuated with it all, and right at the entrance of the circus tent, a rabbit that’s coming out of a top hat. The magic is spilled right at the entrance, so to speak, but that doesn’t make a bit of difference.
The child is outside the ring, but it can’t wait to join the circus. What it doesn’t know is that it is already chained to it, and doesn’t have a choice but to eventually become part of the spectacle. The nail is stuck into the ground inside the ring (not visible in the above picture, obviously) and would pull the child in to face the same direction as everyone else who is “playing along”. Direction, and who is facing which, is important in my painting, but that will be more clear when a bigger part of the picture is visible.
- Progress March 9, 2012 Sabina
Well, I didn’t get as far as I had planned for this showing, but here is what I have so far.
- March 9, 2012 Stephen Gibb
Here’s where I’m at so far…about a day behind schedule and some interesting details still to be added…stay tuned.
- Secret agenda of the Midnight Circus March 16, 2012 Stephen Gibb
- The Unhomely Circus Of Existence March 16, 2012 Sabina
I am not 100% sure if my painting is completed, but this is what I have at the moment. I need some distance from it to see how I’ll feel about it being finished then. I hope you like it!