Powerful, beautiful, alive

I cannot see, in an art work, anything which is not myself; but I can see something I have not admitted to myself. The human being contains multitudes. The whole human being, the artist, speaks to the whole human being, the viewer. Content: suicide and internalised prejudice; and also overcoming that in celebration.

It seems to me that my conscious mind is a filter, preoccupied with what a human being, and in particular this human being, should be. The “shoulds” come from outside, from parents and the wider society. The brain, being part of a whole organism, calculates what others desire and what it can get away with, and produces a simulacrum of that, while underneath there are greater possibilities and desires. Primo Levi observed inmates of Auschwitz who wanted to live by the rules, a common human desire, which might be understandable in Jews- I fit in, give unobtrusive service, try not to be noticed, and thereby might survive- but in Auschwitz the rules were designed to starve and freeze the inmates to death, and so that route to survival was no longer open.

This crushed response of traumatised Jews in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, or Venice in 1516, is not the Jewishness of Naftali Bennett. Bennett, the politician of the settlers, may be a bad man, an oppressor of the Palestinians; but outrage at him can still be antisemitic, insofar as it is outrage because he is uppity.

You need a queer eye to read Francis Bacon. His lover George Dyer committed suicide in a hotel bathroom. Triptych 1973 may show him dying, that black stain seeping out being his life draining away or death coming upon him like a wraith. A straight woman guide led us to Triptych 1972, and suggested it was the same, the death, the man crushed. No. Those pools on the floor, I was sure they were cum. These figures are ejaculating, a glorious, joyous climax, more I think than most prostates would achieve, a superhuman effervescence of life. Coming, he feels immortal.

You need a queer eye because the straight might see the poor oppressed gay having a ghastly time then dying, poor soul, wasn’t it awful to be gay with all that homophobia? And I see Bacon, the gay man who knows exactly who he is, being it and showing it. Elsewhere in his work subjects have manly energy, physically and psychologically imposing, with a sense of threat, but here they are soft gay men and glorying in it.

Partly I do not listen to you because my concern is not to hear what you have to say but to maintain and affirm the societal consensus, what we should think. Or, perhaps, you would free me if I could hear you but I am not ready for that.

I want you to find this offensive- and then laugh in delight. If I am I in all my Light this is not taking physical goods which are not mine, so that others have less, so much as dancing new moves which will embolden others to dance their own.

I do not see my power, my inner Light, because I imagine it ought to be good, that is, good as the societal consensus would see good. And it is so much more than that. It could feel like a threat, or danger, because it is so alive. It wants to shine, for shining is its nature, and thereby to draw out others’ light. The Light is hard and soft, gentle and commanding, all that is possible in a human, made in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful.

I want everyone to be uppity. I want us to dance together, showing our abundance. Jesus said let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Francis Bacon

Bacon needs a queer curator. I am enraged reading on the wall, as if Clear Fact, the isolated male figure, which has been read as Bacon’s lover Peter Lacy, communicates a sense of anxiety and hopelessness, which has been read in relation to the continuing illegality of homosexuality. They are from 1954, before the Wolfenden Report, yet I see no anxiety and hopelessness here. In the paintings I see exuberance, joy, and the need to seize the moment. The trouble with anxiety and hopelessness would be that at the time some might read it as hopelessness that Bacon suffered from the terrible scourge of homosexuality, and feared he might never love a woman.

I look at man in blue IV, and it depends where the body is. If this besuited man is leaning forward on a desk, that is one thing, but he could easily be lying on his tummy, propped up on his elbows.

He could be kicking his heels up behind. If that’s a desk, he would need to be in a hole in it, or lying semi-prone. I often see playfulness- there is a sense of humour in these paintings far more often than that caption-writer might see- and self-assuredness. I am not sure about the man in cap, which could be a Nazi haranguing an audience, mouth wide and shouting. It seems possible to me that Bacon is the voice of monsters, portraying us unashamed, just doing our thing.

I chose the book I bought on Bacon because its third paragraph made me LOL: according to one story, he was sounded out as to whether he would accept the Order of Merit, but replied, No, ducky, give it to someone else, it will give them so much more pleasure. I don’t know if his homosexuality would have prevented him being honoured in 1992 when he died- possibly- but I want the story to be true. How could we know? Why would he feel any need to tell the truth in words, rather than in pictures- to help the stupid keep up?

The most conventionally beautiful thing here is Isabel Rawsthorne’s hair. She stands outside, and the hair is much prettier than in the photograph.

Reading about Bacon’s right wing anti-progressive feelings of pointlessness and cruelty of the world- I remember looking at a dog-shit on the pavement and I suddenly realized, there it is-this is what life is like– I wonder if I am reading into the work my own projections from my own character. I passionately want to see other people as they are, and use his art to aid me in this, confronting myself with his reality. I saw a painting of a seated man and standing child as bleak, with the man ignoring the supplicating child, but bleakness is not my main impression. I doubt Efrat would want people to look at her wheelchair and gush about her “bravery” any more than I like my transition called brave. We play the cards we are dealt. If straights see alienation and despair here, even if they are Allies, they are blinded by feelings of superiority.

After the Gender clinic

This is a serious Trans post, which will give all my other fans warm fuzzies about Self-Acceptance and Personal Growth, even though the title is yet again click-bait for t-central. After counselling, I went to the Tate.

I loved Sculpture Victorious, and after eating my packed lunch in the sunshine went for a tour. The Tate is deserted for the Chelsea Flower Show, and I talk back to the guide: she asked if I was an art student, I don’t think sarcastically. We end with the base of a crucifixion.

-You know about Francis Bacon?
-Didn’t he write “No man is an island entire unto himself”? I am on a roll today.

She gives her interpretation, then I give mine. “I want to give an LGBT interpretation.” There he was, Out when it was really dangerous, a Sodomite or Invert because “Gay” had not been coined, a “promiscuous homoSEKKKKS-ual” inspiring disgust in right-thinking people, who would fail to see his courage, and deny his humanity. These are self-portraits. They are he, they are I, blind, screaming, yet Not cowering away. They stand there and face outwards. I will not hide, or run.

Bacon said he wanted to paint mouths like Monet painted sunsets, she says, and if you look at the layering of the paint you will see he did just that. His father was an army officer, who threw him out of the house, so he went to Paris and lived with a sugar-daddy, she tells us.

She sends us off to see more Bacon. I am not sure this was the one she had in mind.

25 years later, these may also be self-portraits. To me, they are all in the moment of orgasm. Pools of ejaculate cover the floor! Again, he says, I AM HERE but in a more joyous manner, though still with something which a day ago I would have seen as twisted monstrousness. No longer.

She had said that in 1947 people hated the triptych, and I understand. Looking at a work of art or reading a novel I like to sympathise with the subject. Knowing that it will be impossible for normal people to sympathise, he flings this ugliness in their faces. I Love him, and I love these creatures.

Arted-out, I walk to the Tube. I told Serra that I want to fear less, but no: I want to fear more! I want to rejoice, exult, luxuriate in my fear, let it effervesce in me, for it is my vulnerable Power. Part of this is because of Mrs Mounter, whom the guide showed us. I see in her fear and confusion, yet she looks out at us or the artist, resigned. There is self-respect and even authority there.

On the train I chat to Izzie, who is 25 and teaches PE at a fee-paying school. She tells me how facilities in state schools are really poor, and how her class sizes are 15 tops. She has had a job interview which lasted from 9-5 the previous day. She got fed up telling different people the same things, but is not fatigued because she resides in the pupils’ living quarters, so is always on duty. Her best sport is netball, her worst tennis. She is not bad at Badminton, because like netball it requires a loose wrist.

At the bus stop four women and I pet a pretty, friendly staffordshire bull terrier cross, and chat to her owner. So much connection!

The Art of Accompaniment

What did the Pope mean? Accompanying others, to encourage growth in the Christian life? Angry as some conservative catholics have been, I could give a conservative interpretation: the Catholic church still believes it has morality cornered, sorted, specified, and the Christian should be nice in encouraging the other to see it his way. This is more effective than angry denunciation, but the result remains the Catholic one size fits all: gay BAD, contraception BAD, etc.

I hear the words on accompanying as a Quaker, and they are lovely. As a Quaker, I would say we are continually learning, and I have to be as open to learning from the other as I expect her/him to be from me. Someone who wants to teach me is interesting as a specimen, but the content of the teaching is probably worth little. I have met too many bores, know alls and closed minds- if you spent just an hour in their company, they think, and paid attention, you would have the world as sorted as they.

It is not worth doing this accompanying with everybody, says Francis. It has to be a pilgrimage with Christ to God: those who seek to avoid God are self-absorbed, and accompanying would entrench that. (Oops. I don’t think this is me, but it is a wee bit close to the bone.) The accompanier must protect the sheep from wolves who would scatter the flock. There is one Catholic moral view, and the opposition is a deadly threat, rather than an alternative way of seeing, or a worthwhile attempt at what is Right and true. To the Quaker, there are no wolves.

The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37). Someone good at such accompaniment does not give in to frustrations or fears. He or she invites others to let themselves be healed, to take up their mat, embrace the cross, leave all behind and go forth ever anew to proclaim the Gospel. One truth, one perception.

One might find Francis a conservative with a concern for PR, rather than a liberal. One can see chinks of light: every believer must study the Bible (p175) and in it will see the contradictions, lines of growth, and Love. You cannot be a conservative once you start to think.

The heart of [the Gospel] message will always be the same: the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ (p11). God constantly renews his faithful ones. I want to see hope here, that Francis might want his flock Christian, rather than merely Catholic- but the more I study his words, the more I see that is a leap of faith.

To celebrate having one thousand followers, I include these two polls. I would love to know how many of that thousand actually read this.

Scanning

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e4/St._Andrew_Stratelates_%26_St.Theophanes_of_Naousa_Orthodox_Icon.jpgIn Tate Britain, my coat is over my arm, and my right hand is out scanning the Qi in the art works, especially the sculptures. I love that Paolozzi. On the Frank Auerbach, the paint is smeared on and piled up, crevices then piles an inch thick. I had not seen paint on canvas like it. Opposite is a Francis Bacon, study of a dog: I recognised it was his by the shape of the creature, and the peculiar shade of red round the bottom edge. Large parts of the canvas have no paint at all.

I was scanning at the 5Rhythms dancing last night. I scan with my right hand, give energy with my left, so if blessing I would raise my left hand. Both hand chakras do both, but the left is stronger at giving and the right is stronger at scanning. I had scanned before, but I got the idea here that one hand would be stronger at scanning.

I have a sceptic-rationalist explanation for this practice. I am applying my intuition to the art works, and I am using the sensation of heat or cold in my hand to make a non-verbal channel for my intuition to reach my consciousness. It is another way to respond to the art work.

Over coffee, Helen and I discussed whether intention is necessary to make something “art”. I do not think technical skill is necessary, that is craft, only, but “Fountain” was art because of Duchamp. I spotted two labels hanging from a tree, each with a word on, and wondered if that was accidental or whether it was “art”. Perhaps both: machine-made art has a human intention and human creator behind it, but if an object found by Duchamp is art, why not an object I notice myself? If it raises a response in me, similar to a response I might have to a found object in a gallery, does that make it art, or something else, just as valuable in that moment?

Back at Helen’s flat, after salmon and wine I gave my rationalist explanation of the scanning, and she asked why? I have noticed that I do not know what I like, only what I ought to like, or what it is permissible to like- permissible by me, of course, I have internalised my own bonds. Or, what I have learned that it is possible to like, I prefer to learn that from others, it is easier than noticing myself. So here am I noticing something which I love and value- scanning for Qi- and I need to create a rationalist explanation. Why? Why can I not just like it because I like it?

Because I am so terrified of insanity. I delayed transition for years because I imagined that it was not real, it was a fantasy, I was sliding down the slippery slope to a sexual fantasy. And- the female self is me in a way the male self never was. And- my intuitive self is me in a way the rationalist self is not, a deeper, realer me. I am still terrified, still craving the reassurance the rationalist explanation gives me, but trusting my instincts might fulfil me more.

Saying I am “scanning for Qi” is a verbal formulation applied to a spontaneous act, an act I find valuable. Perhaps I do not need that verbal formulation either. St Theophanes has his right hand up- what is he doing with it?

There was an Edwardian sculpture of children playing on a beach. The marble is beautiful, and the girl’s hand is so perfect. The artist has even caught a slight depression in the skin of the boy where the girl’s hand touches it, an effect which astounds and delights me. I can see why Pygmalion might fall in love with such a creation.