Leave a man alone in the woods, surrounded only by earth in all it´s many forms, without that vein of electricity that now connects us all, with no distractions but that of his own imagination and with an inevitabilty that is almost mundane he´ll turn to creation, to art to amuse his mind and satisfy his soul…
Well this is my first blog post… hopefully there´s some logic to it….you might have to bear with it for a bit though.
I arrived back to la finca a few weeks ago, after a month spent dazedly wandering around Morocco: searching for artisans working with lime and with earth, looking for ideas for the domes but more than anything just happy to be on the road again with no destination in mind. I spend days aimlessly walking the alleys and bazaars of the medinas´of Marrakech and Fez. I was astounded by the medievalness of the latter, it´s stinking tanneries and deafening blacksmiths and the rows of decapitated sheep´s heads (or were they goats?) lining it´s butchers market transporting me back in time.
I travelled into the Rif mountains to find the hashish farmers and their crop. I watched and helped as they beat the weed the finest hash I´ve had the pleasure of smoking. I spent a blissful weekin the blue alleys of Chefchaouen drinking sweet green tea with the local hawkers and shopkeepers, hiking most afternoons up high into the valley to listen to the evening ´´call to prayer´´ reverberate across the landscape, and it was always the highlight of my day. The rooftop of the riad in which I stayed overlooked a man slowly plastering the adjacent building and I admired his work so much that I asked to join him. We spent a great afternoon slapping a lime and earth mis over a wall made hotch-potch of whatever it seemed had come to hand for the builder. Rocks, bricks, gravel, wood, adobes. We plastered over all of it whilst talking of his family and of mine and of his king and a little of my queen.
I travelled south to the coast, spending a hedonistic couple of days getting merry on morrocan red wine and kef with a couple of Berber friends. I spent my last week in the traditional fishing (and now surfing) villages of Tafedna, Imsouane and Sidi Kaouki. I watched the fishermen bob in their small but sturdy wooden boats pulling in lines of mackerel and nets full of mullet. I walked the docks and smelled the fishy stink and I felt the pull of recognition of my time as a fisherman on Australia´s west coast. I remembered the romance of an ocean where nothingness exists and I remembered the purity and exhiliration that accompanies the storm.
I returned to Spain and the domes with a new love of a country and it´s peoples and left Morocco with a heavy heart and a bag weighed heavy with kilo upon kilo of natural dyes.
I got myself some colour in my life.
Now to be frank I´ve never really done any art, not since I was a kid at least. I´ve never been particularly intersted in it either, in fact quite the opposite. I f asked I´ve normally ventured the opinion of art´s uselessness, of it´s unimportance and impotence in a world so full of war and hunger. I´ve railed against the unskillfullness that can be percieved in modern art. Art for art´s sake has never been a mantra of mine.
As I started decorating the inside of the domes I had no idea how things would turn out, but the great thing about plastering is that it can be a form of meditation, it´s repetitive hands on work allows the mind to wander, to focus and blur thoughts together. As I layered on a clay plaster, kindly brought to me by a friend, Pedro, from the red hills of Zaragoza, I began thinking of Straw Dogs, the philosopher John Gray´s devastating critique of modern humanism. He describes how through the enlightenment we in the west have in effect killed God and done away with Christianity only to replace Him with ourselves and Christianity with an unshakeable faith in progress. He argues that we have placed ourselves above evolution, that we now believe that we are masters of our own destiny, that through the organ of technlogical progress the natural laws of this planet somehow no longer apply to us as a species. He talks of the devastating effect that this beñlief is wreaking on our planet. He discusses the theory of humans as a plague on this planet in depth and the evidence for this plague is not hard to see. Over-population is a problem that only grows everyday. Climate change is, I think, finally accepted as a scientific fact and yet we still invest vastly more in dirty, cheap fossil fuel extraction that in renewable energies. I myself have participated in the rape of our oceans, with industrialised fishing making deserts of the sea. Wars over resources has always been a part of human history but now they proliferate the globe like never before.
It is this faith we have in progress, that technology will save the day, that sustains us. This belief in our own infallibility, that we can bend the laws of this planet to our will, that somehow we are no longer animals, that evolution stopped with the human and that we cannot be made extinct.
In Straw Dogs Gray wrote of humans as not only the most destructive but also the most creative of animals and so as I plastered the earthern walls of my dome I inevitably thought about art. And do you know what? Art for art´s sake. I believe that now, because without art, in all it´s myriad forms, what else do we have to offer? Only a species careering towards it´s own destruction and that of the enviroment that sustains it.
A good friend of mine, Grant, told me last summer that a true artist is someone who masters their material. Well if thats the case, earth and clay are my materials but I´ll never be their master beacause I´m playing. If you mix earth and water you get mud. I´m a kid again and I´m playing with shape and colour and mud.