Thursday, June 2, 2016

Joseph Beuys Plays with "The Blood"

Mozart in the Jungle is an Amazon series starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Rodrigo, the conductor of the New York Symphony. When Rodrigo is moved by someone else's music, he emphatically declares that that person "plays with the blood." If the fictional Rodrigo were to visit London's Tate Modern and witness Joseph Beuy's Coyote, he'd emphatically declare that Beuys plays with the blood, too. Tate Modern's caption:
Beuys's Action I Love American and America Loves Me took place in May 1974 in a New York gallery, where he spent three days locked in a room with a live coyote. As soon as he got off the plane, he was wrapped in felt and loaded into an ambulance, then driven to the gallery without touching American soil.
I didn't choose this piece because I can relate to Beuys's relationship to America or its politics, I don't understand what that is about, but I can relate to and deeply envy his willingness to risk his own self for his art - it's bleeding, spilling forth from this image, infecting my nerves. And it make me want to cry. Until fairly recently my deepest desire was to surrender entirely to my art. In every sense, I wanted to abandon all for the ecstasy of creation and enlightenment. There was no greater high. I write, but my best work has never been of my own making. I put pen to paper and The Divine guides me, gives me language I have never used before and shows me glimpses of places I would have died to revisit. I've always been terrified of that part of me, the wild, reckless side that would give all to be recreated in her art - to create and be one with one's creation is to know God - what my god is to me.

When I was about 7-years-old, I recall looking upon myself in this ornate mirror I had. It was an intimate space that I shared with no one, except myself: me at 7, me before 7, me right now, me someday after now, me someplace else. I would see me as a continuum, someone that eternally existed. I loved this woman-child infinitely and I knew then, like I know now, that my "animal" was much closer to the surface. I don't know how to describe the relationship but she was there, this part of me I cannot control, that is feral. It is through her that God speaks - in her wild, unrestrained, unabashed self - she is free. I have known and felt The Divine when I have written. But I don't feel it every time I write and that saddens me and, on more than one occasion, it has pushed me over the edge.

My story is disjointed, littered with false starts. I've had a brain tumour, heart surgery, two autoimmune diseases, and PTSD. Part of me feels dead inside and it has been a battle to resurrect myself. There are years I remember as dream states. I watched myself interact but I don't remember the feelings beyond complete exhaustion. My essence had only enough to survive - that beautiful, wild side of me was dormant, barely holding on and I was the walking dead.

None of my illnesses have inspired amazing poetry but they have led me to freedom through enlightenment. I now know how to live forever. It's probably not going to be through my writing, though. No, it's much different. I got sober. Now I get to help women achieve their own sobriety and find their own version of God. People who were slaves to their addiction, like I was, can find a way out and know peace, know love, know how to occupy their own divine space and to unravel what "God" means to them. We can have healthy relationships and have healthy boundaries. Nothing feels better. Not even writing a divinely inspired poem. I live forever through sharing my love of self and in loving I am reborn. It all sounds very hokey and covertly christian, but I'm not and it's not.

In spite of my redirected purpose, this newfound passion, I remember what it feels like to be embodied by something greater - the geyser that would overwhelm me - that feeling like I will die if I don't write immediately. And, truly, something does die when I don't write immediately because whatever I would have birthed becomes lost. The moment is gone. Will all that stifled pressure erupt to create more breath shattering poetry? I hope so but I'm holding my breath just to have it maybe taken away. And, honestly, I'm not that good at it. I'm not John Milton, Arthur Rimbaud, William Blake, Stephen Crane, Li-Young Lee, Margaret Atwood, Charles Bukowski, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Marilyn Chin, Robert Haas (you get the idea). But my life is blessed with meaningful relationships and I no longer await for ecstasy to strike once or twice a year. This photograph affects me - reminds me of who I was before sobriety and when I was willing to go to any length to pursue my art. I wanted to go up in spectacular flames, explode in such a fury that the very breath of those around me would feed my backdraft. The feral side of me is quieted now, kept -for her own safety- in a corner, but I remember how she feels when unleashed, and Joseph Beuys would have been her ally.

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