It requires much attention to step away from the usual point of view in order to see differently.
Not only is this what I’ve come to learn over the last 33 years of living, but it’s a practice I feel I was hardwired to embody.
I was recently exposed to several philosophical texts that investigate this in a course offered at Step Not Beyond – a school and philosophical disposition that goes toward the very limits of thought and experience, but never beyond them.
In the “Atmospheric Thought” class, we explored ways to creatively occupy and move through different spaces (or “climates”) by reading work written on the edge of biospherical and biopolitical thought.
All of the texts we delved into remained loyal to the school’s ethos of being “a tightrope walker, an acrobat who lightly treads across the abyss that is internal and external, creative and political.”
My own work, whether realizing it or not, has always been about navigating in-betweeness and bridging the gap between dualities.
As an artist, I’ve always been attracted to and aspired to create images of dream-like or disorienting quality – paintings and photographs that vacilate between definition and soft-focus, darkness and light.
As a writer, I seek to find the magic in mundanity and bring fantasy back down-to-earth.
And as a clairvoyant, I am still learning to resolve the washte and the wakan, the five senses and the sixth.
For me, all the texts in the class evoked the old adage of being in the world but not completely of it: outsiders cut off from the “civilized,” those not enslaved to rigid polarities, those who can “see” in the dark (the dark being the unknown).
Together, the writings covered a beautiful and oblique alternative to the assured and ordered approaches presented in many of the world’s institutions, be they political, artistic or otherwise:
Henri Lefebvre’s “Vision,” found in The Introduction To Modernity, recounts a hallucinatory experience of being “out to sea,” detailing the spatial dislocation that occurs between consciousness and forces of nature. Vilém Flusser’s “Exile and Creativity” presents the notion that those “exiled” from mainstream systems are the only ones capable of true creative action, as their outside perspective requires them to abandon the security of tradition, doing more than repurposing what has always been done. Isabelle Stengers’ “The Cosmopolitical Proposal” proposes that we may need more “Diplomats” -Deleuzian/Dostoevskyian-like figures who question authority and inspire a slower approach to finding solutions, challenging the certainty of “Experts” who politic without fully considering the consequences their decisions have on the earth and ALL its inhabits. Ernst Jünger’s “Sicilian Letter To The Man In The Moon” is a sober hallucination (to steal our teacher Dejan Lukic’s term) that brings the author to the line between the real and the magical, where he is confronted with immanence as evidenced by a full moon’s seeming sentience. Roger Caillois’ “Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia” uses the biological mimicry of insects as a means to contemplate human transformation and the capacity of a copy to devour its original.
Students in the course were encouraged to respond to each week’s topics through writing, images, etc. I had a difficult time deciding upon what form my response would take (but this is it). I wanted to make watercolor paintings but never arrived at what images would best address the ideas presented.
The day before our last class meeting, after being inundated by day-to-day tasks and trivialities, I stepped into a particular room during sunset and was struck by its orange light. I completely stopped whatever it was I’d came to do in order to observe the beauty of the “change in tides.”
I wanted to capture the light in a photo, but wasn’t successful. But immediately afterwards, I realized I’d just had my own “Sicilian Letter” moment, as nature had pulled me out of the context of “reality” into something sublime for just a few moments.
So, I decided my response to atmospheric thought would be done in photographs. But I quickly concluded that taking new photos, other than the sunset’s light below, which was a natural response, would be too contrived. Therefore I thought it a better idea to select older photos that I’d taken during periods of time when I myself was in these atmospheres – be it physically, mentally, or both.
Photo  was taken during the aforementioned sunset.
Photo  was taken when I lived in Los Angeles, during a time when my life was at a crossroads (one of several). It was the first time I felt guided by or communicated with through the out-of-context appearance of various animals. For example, hummingbirds in the complete absence of flowers or trees, and a big black snake in the middle of downtown LA.
This photo captures one of the two doves that perched near my bedroom window every single day.
Photo  was taken in the middle of the first night I moved to Barcelona. Jetlagged, I was physically disoriented but this physical out-of-sortness would go on to manifest as the continual psychological disturbance I felt as an immigrant in a foreign country.
Photo  was taken at the end of last year (2018) as I contended with re-experiencing the “exiled” feeling I’ve felt in my hometown and amongst my family, since I was a child.