Sunday, October 28, 2012

TELESTIKE (or making your statue dance)

Gothic Era Torsos - Musee de Cluny

Bodies & Heads of  Students Sketching

Heads of the Kings of Judah c.1220
The Cluny, in the heart of Paris, or perhaps even one of the heartbeats of Paris, is one of my favorite haunts.  I'm drawn back there again and again.  This time they had me at torsos--by the time I made it to the Lady and the Unicorn, I was undone.  Plato said in The Sophist that, "we make a house by the art of building, and by the art of painting we make another house, a sort of man-made dream produced for those who are awake."  So wake up and smell the marble! The serious students bent over their sketchbooks filled me with envy since I never made it past Stick Figures 101.  But I feel like a powerful God now with my digital Holy Grail.
Since the Italy Tarot Tour, something rather subversive has been whisking inside me, like eggwhites into meringue.  Some might say Je suis "folle" = I'm a madwoman, but NO, Je suis une fana de statues (I'm just a fan of  statues).  I believe if we look more deeply with our eyes closed, we will discover that they are as alive as the person sitting next to us. And I've got some pretty good authorities to back me up.  The eminent art historian, E.H. Gombrich, states in his book:  Art and Illusion, in a chapter on the study of Pygmalion's Power:  "The artist's aim is not to make a likeness, but to create something real." 

Telestike is the mystical/magical animation of inanimate statues. In her illuminating paper, "The Secret Lives of Statues", Angela Voss, a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Kent in the U.K. as well as director of the M.A. for Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination (add on to that her diploma in Early Music from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London) talks about the ancient texts of the Hermetic Neo-Platonic  traditions in which statue animation and Theurgic rituals aided in the alignment of human souls with the Gods. "Both humans and statues could become divine through a process of cultivating an intense form of symbolic perception which brought divine and human worlds into single focus."

 See I'm not a crackpot!  And if that's not enough for you, even the musical group "Dead Can Dance" talk about drawing animacy out of inanimacy in their music:  see  Toward the Within - "Rakim".  And if you go to a blog called "Echoes from the Temple", Monte Plaisance reveals to us that he/she concocted a recipe used to animate a lifesized Telestike of the Goddess Hekate--the statue supposedly danced off the altar (and broke into pieces).  I wouldn't want to see that happen to some of my favorite statues so I'm just talking to them (quietly so passersby don't get alarmed).

George Sand - Jardin du Luxembourg

George Sand getting ready to leave the garden

Serendipitously, it was George Sand who brought the famous tapestries to the public attention in her writing. 

The Lady and the Unicorn - à mon seul désir
I've lost my notes on who this is, but I think he is a worthy escort for George

I spent a joyous Sunday in the Luxembourg Gardens.  It was as if all of Paris had shown up to play their parts of lovers strolling, men juggling, women smoking, old and young talking, reading, musing and snoozing with the play of sunlight and shadow on their faces--red, orange and yellow leaves tumbling down around the statues--who also played their parts perfectly--pretending to be simply stone. 

We live in a time where people think they have to be Artists with a capital A. I am reaching back into a time and a history of creation in which works of art were "transmitted or channeled", where creator and creation were inseparable. These days I feel acutely the loss of the fragile world of interiority that Tom Cheetham talks about in his "Green Man, Earth Angel..." book.  Perhaps we can use the "Magus-Magician" (related to the Mercurius of Alchemy), Tarot card to help us descend into the darkness of inanimate matter. 

Jean Dodal deck MAGICIAN
Also from "The Green Man..." - "What alchemists called 'matter' was in reality the unconscious self - 'The Soul of the World', Anima Mundi, (Âme du monde) 'imprisoned in matter'".

Watch how children do it, they haven't forgotten. They inhabit invisible worlds. They embrace the Magical Kingdoms with a sense of wonder, and they don't have to pretend because they "remember".

Girl and her magic tree - Jardin du Luxembourg

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Still or Kill "The Watcher at the Gates of the Mind"

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