The Technology of Enchantment
The aim of this blog is to give you, as the artist or the spectator an understanding of the technology of enchantment, in the production of Art. To illustrate how the technology is developed I will use an anthropological three phase structure demonstrating the process the artist goes through to create the artwork. And how the same technology engages the viewer in that enchantment. How this technology differs from other forms of technology? What is enchantment?
Leonardo gives an accurate definition of Art. It underlines the significance of Art as a science communicating to everyone. I love this definition; yet, want to make a small distinction here. Science is a body of knowledge and its practical application is Technology. It is the technology that is the subject of our blog.
The special quality of enchantment explored in this blog is the element according Art its royal status. Art communicates on a higher level through the unconscious mind in a transformative process or technology discovers new visions. We are able to discover the unseen, unspoken and explore beyond the rational mind. It explores the mysterious and timeless nature of worlds. It is worlds within worlds and the Artwork.
While ‘Technology’ includes, computers, machinery and all things mechanical it has a much more encompassing and rich history. Its’ history coincides with the evolution of human life on this planet. Since earliest existence humans have used technology. The making of stone axes, spears, fire, clothing. Even the making of marks on caves walls to know when to hunt and when to restrain hunting. All required technology.
In its elemental form technology is the application of knowledge. It is the technique or skill, to apply tools and methods. It allows systems to produce goods and services. It protects, improve and enrich lives. Though, the production of weapons protects some lives but destroy others. Technology, regardless, has allowed humans to thrive for around 200,000 years. Providing shelter, food, clothing, medicines, communication, and protection. The human capacity to produce artwork is a special form of technology made possible by the human unconscious mind and a mechanism or structure called the Technology of Enchantment. It is without doubt a very sophisticated technology functioning to produce ‘enchantment’, communicating on a deep and profound level of the human mind.
The quality of enchantment is completely reliant on the ‘artist’ using tools/materials to imbue the artwork with enchantment. Below describes a structure or the process and the parts needed to invoke enchantment.
This process is a three-part structure sometimes used by scholars explaining patterns of processes. Anthropologist, Arnold Van Gennep, in his ground breaking work, ‘Les Rites de Passage’ used a three phases structure to explain the patterns of changing states in societal status. Births, deaths and marriages are stages we experience throughout our lives they represent a change of status within the social order. I will overlay Van Gennep’s three part structure to explain how the technology of enchantment is harnessed to engage both the artist and the spectator altering their states of consciousness and moving them into a new state of being. Thus engaging the artist in the creative process to produce the artwork and also allowing the spectator into the world of the artwork.
The Preliminary Phase
Preparing for the journey.
Gathering together everything needed for the journey. Get ready to step without fear into the Tardis. If you are the Doctor, that is.
- Choosing the container, or circuit breaker or separator with boundaries.
This provides a space allowing us to leave behind the predicable and the
known. It creates space in which to play and explore.
It’s the lens or looking glass Alice in Wonderland uses. It’s the Frame around the picture. It is the Box containing treasures. It’s the sculptors Stone Block. It’s the Void. The hole. The space. The canvas. The piece of paper. The clay. The stage. The human mind craves structure. The container is a structure breaking the pattern of normality. The human mind craves structure. The container is a structure breaking the pattern of normality. The structure means there is a designated boundary or border. Disruption of the continuum occurs as we step over the line or border. It breaks the expected pattern of normal or usual experience. It provides a safe space to play.
- Materials or the physical medium. The materials such as paint, textiles, words, charcoal, pastels, wire, mesh, clay, stone. Some materials can can also be the container like the potter’s clay or the sculptors stone block, for example, when we start to work on the clay or stone block we disrupt the status quo by changing its boundary. But mostly the medium is what we take with us into the container to make the artwork, such as the paint and the words.
- Tools. The keyboard, the computer, the Pen, the Brush, the Film, the Hands, Musical Notes, Potters Wheel, Musical Instrument.
- Acquired Skills to use the above materials and tools to perform the creative piece.
The second phase is the Liminal Phase
Moving over the threshold – this is the creative process, the betwixt and between phase. This phase is where unleashed creativity happens. It is neither one state of being or another. It is the Netherland – the party/celebration. ) It is where anything can happen.
The third phase
Creation of the artwork incorporation or aggregation into the new state of being. We have arrived into our new state. If we allow ourselves to imagine following Alice into Wonderland we can get a sense of the three phases.
We stand on the threshold of the container, the story. Looking into the void of the hole, which enchants us and beckons us to follow the white rabbit. We step over the edge of the container. We open the book. We fall down the hole into another world where chaos, ambiguity and paradox reign. In this is a space we explore the impossible. Calling into question our belief systems and perceptions.
There is a tension created between our lived experience and our new experience. Once we enter the experience of the rabbit hole we are unable to retain our previous state of understanding. We can never be the same again and are changed forever. Transformed into the new state of being. Changed forever we wake on the grassy bank, wondering if it was a dream or real.
What is Enchantment?
Enchantment is intoxicating to the point of playfulness. It engages with paradox and ambiguity. Enchantment is a state of being, developed by the artist to manipulate elements. To shine a light on all the possibilities and unlock – ‘essences of worlds’. By this I mean engage in a new vision: that which is often hidden or overlooked. Enchantment turns the mundane or ordinary thing into the extraordinary. Enchantment invoked by the artist invites and encourages the spectator to be curious. Things become “curiouser and curiouser”. The spectator is engaged and transformed. Resulting a new view of the world or has discovered a new world. Transformation of this nature can seem unsettling or disorientating. Not to the point of fear but curiosity, pleasure, fullness, liveliness and enrichment. There is sense of something not quite understood. It leaves us feeling disrupted but also alive, attentive and curious. We experience a sense of wonderland and are inspired (we take a breath in) – we are in the world of Enchantment. Enchantment describes what we often miss in the ordinary every day world. Neglecting to look more intensely or to notice the essential creativity of our relationship with the ordinary.
In our story of Alice in Wonderland, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and enchanted. This is also true of the characters Alice meets on her journey down the rabbit hole. Eg the March Hare, The Cheshire Cat and the Caterpillar. Ordinary things become extraordinary and enchanted. Lewis Carroll knew how to create enchantment. He drew us down into the rabbit hole with Alice. Falling Into a curious wonderful world where anything could happen and did.
Once we have experienced the technology of enchantment at work we are awake to the possibilities around us. We can fall into enchantment quite unexpected without using our rational mind. One such moment for me was seeing the marble statue of Winged Victory of Samothrace – Nike ,2nd century BCE in situ in the Louvre Museum, Paris. She become imprinted on my memory and captured by imagination and I became enchanted with her mystery.
While this example of enchantment is my subjective view, the Nike, however, is considered by the art world, a peerless masterpiece of Greece Art. Over all there are many mysteries surrounding this statue. Her maker is unknown, her history vague and together these things seems to render her enchanting. Otherwise how could a broken statue recognized as a masterpiece be anything but having enchantment. No one has ever seen the whole statue. The Nike was found in 1893 broken. Broken with both wings, both her arms and head gone. Only the lower torso and legs remained. Although reconstruction of wings renders it less deconstructed. The viewer is immediately drawn into her story. How, why, when and where did she lose her wings? What did she look like? Overwhelmingly, we want to give her wholeness with our ‘structure craved ‘ mind. In my research Art Historians speak of the masterly execution of her wind swept robes. They do not speak of her brokenness but seem to gloss over those missing parts. The question is, would this still be a peerless masterpiece if she was whole? The missing parts accentuate the flowing robes, engaging the mind in a creative story. Making her an enchanting, alluring object of intrigue and the peerless masterpiece she is considered.
The idea of invoking enchantment into our artwork is an appealing project. I would urge you to consider the possibilities when you go about your daily lives. Consider the many encounters you have each day that seem quite ordinary. Consider applying a little imagination to the ordinary or the broken. Surprise yourself and find the extraordinary. Thus, open the door to an extraordinary world. As artists we must take courage and be fearless in our pursuit of enchantment for ourselves and for others. We have an obligation to open up these worlds and bring enchantment and enrichment to our communities. In this way we can offer hope, today and beyond, for a better world.