New column: Badger's eye view
Main image: Donald Judd, Untitled, 1991. © Judd Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Don Stahl
Allan asked me to write a column on uncomics, Buddhism and Modern Art for this site. I’m just going to use it as an excuse to write about the things I’m excited about. So I’m going to start with my basic Buddha goal, “may everyone be happy”. Because after all comics or uncomics should make you happy.
Although Buddha’s solution isn’t huge sales for everyone, he recognizes that we all suffer; we cling to things like big sales. And when we stop clinging to those things we can be happy. From there Buddha taught there is cause and effect continually, in all of life. Cause and effect is pretty much comics.
Then he used meditation to develop concentration and the ability to analyze everything from stupid news events to angry texts to famous art.
Buddha broke the world down into the five aggregates:
- Form, the basic elemental structure of the world (the five senses plus the intellect)
- Sensation or feeling, what we get from the form, it’s just positive, negative and neutral
- Perceptions, these are the labels we apply to the sensation, all the judgements we make, the words we use
- Fabrications, all the “big ideas”, likes and dislikes we manufacture from all of the aggregates
- Consciousness; our mess of a brain at work what we use to walk around in the world
As you understand how your brain works, a raging emotion can be pulled apart and eventually let go of as what seemed huge becomes much smaller. Over the last fifteen years I have been shocked how much happier sitting on my butt, trying to watch my breath in this context has made me.
When I first walked into a Soho loft long ago filled with 30 plywood boxes all the same size, with simple internal divisions inside, by Donald Judd, I didn’t understand that they were first aggregate form.
I did feel that it was good, the second aggregate. The simple perfect craft provided a decent amount of visual pleasure in the relationships between the planes, the industrial craft and the repetition, where some of my perceptions or the 2nd aggregate.
Almost everything was overwhelmed by the main one which was “THIS IS COMICS!”. From art school to the drawing I finished yesterday may be fabricated from that one main perception. And here I sit conscious of my intersecting aggregates that make me.
So these articles will be about art from Donald Judd to Matisse, Joan Mitchell, Stuart Davis, my comics, perhaps politics — and life, because as Buddha says, “If this then that”. Or, next month there should always be another comic.
Mysticism and religion filters through much of Modernism and non-objective work. From Kandinsky, Malevich and Hilma af Klint to much of the Abstract Expressionism and Minimalist music and art. A good look at how Zen Buddhism filtered into the art world in the fifties can be found in Kay Larson’s Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists.
A good overview of the modern neuroscience research into Buddhism is Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism is True, for those who need science to justify themselves.
A nice chatty overview of the science and Buddhisim is 10% Happier : How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works: A True Story by Dan Harris.
The manual for sitting on your butt, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, an American born Thai trained monk.