Zen Spot #81 -- Mindfulness, meditation and an esoteric peephole February 12, 2018 00:00
South Jersey used to be filled with pig farms. Demand for apple cores, potato skins, carrot tops and other rotting vegetables was so high in the 1960s that my grandmother, and her neighbors, would hang pails full of the rot from their second floor kitchens, into the alley behind their houses, so the pig farmers could collect free food for their livestock.
By looking at the barn door above, there’s no way to know if pigs or horses or chickens thrive on the other side. That swirling nose-bending aroma of rot hanging from second floor kitchens is nowhere to be found.
I believe about Dada what I believe about Zen
Dada is an early twentieth century European literary and art movement that, simplistically, embraced chance, absurdity and the ordinary, as the building blocks for a movement that was antithetical to even itself. A movement that is not a movement, that has to be a movement, retreating from being a movement.
A voyeur named Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp was, arguably, the most famous Dadaist despite rarely committing his identity to the movement.
His opinion that artist’s tend to create the same thing over and over again is incisive. With the exception of only a few artists, he’s on point. The whys and hows can be debated but, if one stands back and takes a critical eye, his vision was uncanny. He saw artists. He saw himself. He created within his viewpoint.
The creative act, for him, was not a language within which an artist could become fluent — including himself. The creative mind could cultivate a language but, once cultivated, only a few pieces could be conceived before having to learn a new language.
Cheek to cheek
Getting too close to painting in a gallery or museum will quickly result in a viewer being warned to step back behind a real or imaginary line. Imagine mashing your face into a Picasso.
Every hole is a peep hole
We are all voyeurs. Submit evidence to the contrary. To me, it’s only a matter of degree, self awareness and motive. Voyeur is a charged word. It can make people’s knees buckle, if only because they are physically contorting their bodies to look within, like tilting one's head when trying to more fully understand something.
Looking inward means nothing without looking around though. Interdependence. The clear, pure mind requires soap and the mind isn’t a soap factory. That said, peep holes are charged holes. A level of guilt is associated. Filth sometimes. Shame. Zen.
Something to voy
The first time I saw the Pig Door, I didn’t know what was on the other side. In an odd place, finding the door is like finding a Ferrari in a cave. I knew the door didn't protect a freight elevator or a grain elevator.
Two peep holes are bored into the wood — in the center, about five inches apart and approximately five feet off the ground. Peep holes in a barn door. And they’re not well marked. One needs to come upon another voyeur to know that there’s something to voy.
The vagina and the landscape
Smash your face against the peep hole. There’s a vagina inside. Well, not just a vagina. A naked lady, laying in a field, with mountains and brambles surrounding. Holding a gas lantern. But the vagina’s there. Loud and proud.
Neither a vagina worthy of Larry Flynt nor Georgia O’Keefe, it is disconcerting, if only because it is at the back of one of the best collections of Dadaist art in America. This barn door is in an art museum, not a pig farm. Unless you’re a pig.
Quiet on both sides of the doorway
The door is at the back of the last gallery in the north wing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the Louise and Walter Arensberg gallery. All the way in the back. Take a scooter.
Do not lean against the wall
During my last visit, the voyeur within had just lovingly mashed my eyeballs against the peep hole for the fifth time. I leaned in, like most people. Ten finger tips pressed against the wood to keep me steady and make sure that I kept all my teeth if a pig came barreling through from the other side.
Face mashed. Finger tips. Leaning.
When I finished, the gallery was quiet. I was alone. It was late. I sat on the ground, to the left of the door and leaned back, intending to be mindful . Shortly, a security guard reminded me that patrons shouldn't lean against the walls.
I should have leaned against the door and listened to the pigs.
Zen. Dada. Mindful.
An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.