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" Live out of your imagination

not your history "

Stephen R. Covey

Hermeticism as Art

August 8th, 2009

From the BBC website:

A hermit is re-entering society after spending 40 days and 40 nights in Manchester Museum’s Gothic tower.

Ansuman Biswas, 43, from London, chose 40 objects from the museum collection during his isolation, where he contemplated “loss and extinction”.

He posted his thoughts on the items on a blog, as well as practising yoga and meditation for up to five hours a day.

Mr Biswas, an artist, told the BBC it had been a wonderful experience which he hoped to repeat in the future.

“It’s flown by really. I wish I could have another 40 days and 40 nights,” said the hermit.

“There’s so much to do still and I’ve got lots of ideas that I’ve run out of time now to realise.

“Except I could continue to do them in real life, or whatever real life is.”

Human skull

Each day Mr Biswas studied one object from the museum’s vast collection of 4.5 million artefacts, which he had chosen in advance.

He mused on its relevance to the world and posted his thoughts on a blog, sparking debate among members of the public.

The items included a human skull, an extinct St Helena giant earwig and a honey bee.

“The objects have been a revelation,” said Mr Biswas.

“They’ve just opened up areas of thinking and it’s been a chance to really look into different disciplines and different ways of looking at the world.

“So the opportunity and the time to do that has been the most amazing thing, really.”

See a videoclip of the hermit at the BBC site here.

From Artdaily
Born in Calcutta and now based in London, Ansuman Biswas has a wide-ranging international practice encompassing music, film, live art, installation, writing and theatre. He often works across and between conventional boundaries, those between science, art and industry, for instance, or between music, dance and visual art.

He has an established solo practice and also works in collaboration with other artists. He has worked with a range of art institutions such as the Royal Opera House, The National Theatre, Tate Britain and Tate Modern, but he has also been invited to work with many non-arts institutions. Amongst these are the National Institute of Medical Research, Hewlett-Packard’s Research lab in Bangalore, Portsmouth Cathedral and the Russian Space Agency.

Over the last few years his work has included directing Shakespeare in America, translating Tagore’s poetry from the Bengali, designing underwater sculptures in the Red Sea, living with wandering minstrels in India, being employed as an ornamental hermit in the English countryside, touring with Björk, spending two days blindfolded in an unknown place, travelling with shamans in the Gobi Desert, playing with Oasis, collaborating with neuroscientists in Arizona, co-coordinating grassroots activists in Soweto, being sealed in a box for ten days with no food or light, making a musical in a maximum security prison, redesigning Maidstone High Street, being a soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, running seminars on democracy for monks in a Burmese monastery, and even flying on a real magic carpet in Russia.


Lady Godiva is Alive & Well and Living in…

August 8th, 2009

Regular visitors may have noticed that the most popular post of all time on this blog is mysteriously (to me) entitled Saluting Pru Porretta aka Lady Godiva

In order to research whether this is due to Pru Poretta’s immense popularity, or to a fascination with Lady Godiva that outstrips interest in, say, Climate Change, Druids or Alanis Morisette, or whether it is perhaps a WordPress malfunction, I’ve decided to try checking the Lady Godiva angle first…. Forgive me for involving you in this research project. So that you get something interesting about Lady Godiva if you have surfed here, here is an extract from my forthcoming book (Reaktion, Spring 2010) ‘A Brief History of Nakedness: Nudity in Religion, Politics & Popular Culture’ :

The Legend of Lady Godiva

The first instance in British history of naked protest is probably apocryphal. In the Flowers of History by Roger of Wendover, written in St.Albans and Westminster Abbey in the thirteenth-century, the story is told of an eleventh century couple, Lady Godiva and her husband Leofric of Mercia. Taking pity on the local townsfolk of Coventry, Godiva asked her husband again and again to lower the crippling taxes he was imposing on them. He refused to listen, until one day, growing tired of her constant entreaties, he said that he would, provided she agreed to ride naked through the town. She accepted his challenge but issued a proclamation that all citizens should remain behind closed doors and not look out of their windows when she rode her horse with nothing but her long tresses of hair to hide her nakedness. In a later version of this story, written in the seventeenth century, an extra character was introduced: Peeping Tom, who disobeyed the order not to watch. It was this incident that provided the comedian Tony Hancock with perfect material for a joke:  ‘Take the case of Doubting Thomas who was sent to Coventry for staring through a keyhole at Lady Godiva. Can anybody prove he was looking at her? Can anybody prove it was he who shouted ‘Get your hair cut!’
Historians now believe the story is legendary. It is such a striking tale, they believe that if it really happened it would have been recorded in contemporary histories. In addition, there is only evidence of a tax on horses rather than people or property in that region, and since Coventry was only established as a town in the eleventh century it would hardly have been big enough for such a gesture. The evidence is stacked against it having taken place. But like all good stories, if it isn’t true it ought to be, and people have found the incident inspiring from the moment it was recounted.

Earth Pilgrim

August 8th, 2009

I have just finished Satish Kumar’s biography ‘No Destination’ and have felt so inspired by it I have joined The Resurgence Trust, which produces Resurgence magazine, which focuses on eco-spiritual issues. If you join online they will send you a free copy of Satish’s documentary film ‘Earth Pilgrim’ which is the closest television has ever got to creating a meditative experience. It features him talking about life and his love of Dartmoor, and has the most beautiful photography. You can see read details about the trust here.

Here is a quote from the penultimate page of ‘No Destination’:

“The Roman Empire did not last forever. The British Empire, over which the sun never set, came to an end. Communist control of the Societ bloc, once so powerful, has disappeared into history. Slavery ended, apartheid ended, and there is no reason to believe that the ecologicaly unsustainable and personally dissatisfying forces of materialism manifested in money-dominated economies will last forever.” Satish Kumar