“Biology enables, Culture forbids.” -Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens
We are intricate organisms both physiologically and emotionally. Our basic makeup does not always easily reflect the norms of what is considered acceptable in society. So often we hear of, or perhaps are, people who never seem to fit somehow. Individuals who stand on the outskirts of the inner sanctum of society. The reality is that every one of us feels this way in varying degrees. No one is a perfect fit, no such thing exists nor could it. We must always bear in mind that every part of our existence is subjective. How we perceive things depends entirely on our personal context, the context of the larger society in which we live, and all are subject to constant and unannounced change.
Vivek Narayanan is a poet. For the last six years he has been working on a project involving aspects of translation practice focused on the oldest Sanskrit epic poem. Narayanan calls the project a “writing through” of the work. Initially he thought this would be a quick project but it turned into a deep dive involving four volumes of work.
“What we think of translation today…is more of a lexical translation,” Narayanan says, as opposed to historic translations that were often reinventions of the stories being told. He says while translating there is a certain alchemy that needs to take place during the process to breathe life into the story in its new form. Translation, he says, is an embracing of many methods. “A soul fusion technology.”
Naranyanan is also a poet in his own right. Some of his poetry takes the form of prayers, bringing together traditional and modern elements in such a way as to infuse this ancient form with a very 21st century energy. Sometimes this takes the form of stringed together phrases capturing the frenetic vibe of the world in which we live.
The “creative reader” is a critical component of poetry, separate from the creative writer. That is, a reader who can expand their range of hearing in order to delve into the layers the poet intended. The concept of sound infuses one of his poems and speaks to this concept in that the reader must bring a certain set of sounds to each reading of a poem.
To listen to Narayanan read some of his poetry and to hear more about his process and ways of thinking about the relationship between poet and reader, listen to the complete interview.
Lauren Mele is an artist based in London. At the moment her work centers on what she calls “fictional memories,” that is things that resonate in her mind but that have not actually happened to her. From there she has taken a deeper dive and begun looking at the figures from these fictional memories, most often images of women. Memory itself is always intensely subjective, Mele says. Recall is influenced by many, many factors. Mele begins her work with a physical space grounded in reality. From memory she structures the space on the canvas before creating a figurative scene.
These works ideally would be exhibited together in conversation with each other when they are all complete. At the moment, Mele has a painting in the group show Vienna Calling this September in Vienna. The work depicts a few women by the water with beer, cigarettes, “gluttony,” the artist says. The reason she chose this work is that the venue is in the vacant space of a former indoor pool.
When the work is together, Mele says the overwhelming senses are of gluttony, flamboyance, femininity, confidence, and female strength. Mele intentionally exaggerates flaws in the figures she paints and speaks to attributes she would like to assimilate in her own day to day. The work reflects her anxious tension and energy and walks the line between self-reflection and the embracing of flaws through the lens of feminism today.
Mele feels strongly about the connection between the inner life of an artist and what they portray to the world. Art takes the very personal, very intimate and celebrates it no matter how intense or grotesque it may be.
To hear more about Lauren Mele’s work and her thoughts on art, listen to the complete interview.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
Above all, be you.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Vivek Narayanan has been listening to composer Julius Eastman of late. He believes that listening with close attention feels like reading. Lauren Mele is one of several artists we have recently spoken to reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. A title to investigate for sure.
Manifest Gallery in Ohio offers an international call for artists to submit their Plein Air paintings with a twist. While traditional paintings created in the outdoors are invited, Manifest also wishes to explore what non-traditional meanings of Plein Air might be. Manifest asks what the process of Plein Air does for art itself. For more complete details and to submit your own work, visit the website. Deadline for submissions is August 31.
Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.
Sponsor: Whitney Museum of American Art – David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night. Jul 13–Sep 30, 2018. Beginning in the late 1970s, David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) created a body of work that spanned photography, painting, music, film, sculpture, writing, and activism.