January 2009, COAGULA ART JOURNAL, Issue 95




In our efforts to evolve the human species, there are times when we must decelerate our advancement in order to ascertain and evaluate the proper course. In other words, when you’re lost, it’s best to pull over to the side of the road and check the map.
Recently, two leaders of great power were asked the question, “When does Life begin?” One scratched his chin thoughtfully and replied, “I do not know. That answer is above my pay grade.” The other leapt up, shouting, “I know!” and continued with the specifics of his adamant answer.
Knowledge and power are perceived to be synonymous. Humanity is blindly and aggressively eager to embrace both. Unfortunately, this mad dash creates blinders to beauty, joy, and truth. It blurs the interconnectivity and universality of all things. This should not be. In this life, there are many things that we simply do not know.

As a life-long Southern Californian, I have experienced several earthquakes of small and large magnitudes. Geological sciences have taught us that the movement of tectonic plates and fault line pressure are the cause. Holy Mount Olympus! When the solid ground beneath our feet begins to hurl and heave, education goes right out the window. My reaction to an earthquake is the same as that of an ancient Greek, “Zeus and Hera must be having a helluva domestic disturbance!”
We are predisposed to fear. Ask any comedian. If you leap on stage to tell a joke, the odds of getting a laugh are slim; you will get more snorts than snickers. On the other hand, should the comic produce an Uzi Machine Gun and swing it around, the majority in the audience will either duck or run. We recognize fear faster than a laugh. For proof positive, shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.
What is the power of knowledge? ‘Knowing’ comforts our fear. Knowledge, or the perception of it, offers security and well-being.

As of this writing, there is no species on earth greater and more formidable than the Homo sapien. Humans are the fastest, brightest and most fierce. No other organism is as complex nor advanced. No other animal has challenged nature so thoroughly and aggressively. Our roar echoes loudly. Like King Kong thumping his chest atop the Empire State Building, we humans have sought the highest, safest and most comfortable roost.
Superior to the salamander, the human mind has the ability to perceive, remember, evaluate and reason. This volition is tempered by emotion and feeling. Ego is the bastard child of this confluence and it is where the trouble begins. The human ego is as omnipotent as it is fragile. We want to feel that we are invincible and we dread that we are not.
If knowledge is power, then the converse must also resonate. We are deeply afraid of the unknown.

The evolution of a living organism is reactive to the changes in the physical environment. The wooly mammoth shed its fur as the Ice Age warmed up. The teeth of a meat eater grew sharp while the mandibles of the vegetarian became as flat as a millstone. The ape stood tall because it is faster to run on two feet than gallop on all four.
Quite simply, the engine of all human progress is efficiency and therefore comfort. Jonas Salk invented a cure for polio and ended great suffering. New Yorkers prefer to winter in Florida. A Duxinana mattress beats a bale of hay. A Gulfstream G40 will get you there faster than a horse and buggy. A full belly is preferable to a hungry one.
Mystery furrows our brow. Knowledge, or the illusion of it, soothes our anxious soul. Knowing is comfort.

Our innate desire for comfort is adamant, fevered and unyielding. Knowledge offers well-being, a calming effect to the unknowing cause and vagaries of Chance.
Conversely, we are frightened by what we do not know. From Paris Hilton gossip to the cure for cancer, like a junkie needing a fix, we need to know. This yearning has created an opportunity.

‘I know.’ No two words are more powerful nor command more respect. ‘I know’ packs a greater whollop than a baseball bat.
It is an old trick, an easy tactic. Fear and power are the best of friends; they have a working relationship. The threat of barbarians at the gate is a great way to unite a community.
Adolph Hitler did not want the Jews to wear lederhosen and he proposed a (final) solution; his campaign for ethnic purity found more than a few supporters and motivated a nation. The Spanish Inquisition was a success; Catholic conversions hit an all time high. The horror of Islamic radicals shopping in our suburban malls had enough juice to launch an invasion of Iraq.

Frank Sinatra sang it best with “How Little We Know”. In late October of 2008, an urgent conference on global warming in London was confounded by the inconvenience of a freezing snowfall, the first October snow since 1922. Medical science has made astounding advancements in the last century but we are still uncertain if red wine will kill you or enliven you. Sadly, we know more about outer space than we do about our seven seas, after all we are a water planet. In truth, with great humility, we must admit ‘how little we know and how much there is to discover.’

The art world has never taught us much but it has demonstrated an approach. Beauty must be revered on bended knee. With grace. With humility. Far away from the beating of the war drums. Faraway from the shrill scream of ‘decency’, ‘value’ and ‘Where’s my MTV?’
Art preaches the infinity of possibility. What if? What could? What the heck? To admit that ‘we do not know’ is an act of bravery and heroism, a beautiful gesture. To admit that ‘we do not know’ speaks of study, maturity and higher thought.
As anyone over the age of 27 will tell you, ‘Life It’s Own Self’, must be approached with humility, respect and grave consternation.

Tall in the saddle, wearing the laurel leaf of a victor, one might venture, “I dunno.”

There is a great beauty in the reverence for the things we do not know. It offers a world of infinite possibilities. Chi, Luck, Chance, the Holy Spirit, whatever one desires to call it, there is a thread that runs throughout all living things that cannot be denied.
Life is so beautiful and so mysterious. The force of Nature cannot be denied. The change of all seasons is so precise. Time, thyme, is so sweet. The DJ keeps the beat. It all keeps moving. Faster than you. Faster than me. It all keeps dancing.

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His new show, FORTUNA RISING begins September 17 and runs through February 28 at Western Project. 21 events will blossom over 21 weeks at