Fear the Monkey King
Fear the Monkey King was inspired by the news that New York Artist Chris Savido’s work “Bush Monkeys” had been the cause of closing an art exhibition in the Chelsea Market, a public space, because the artist had made a portrait of George W. Bush using the repeated image of monkeys swimming in a marsh. Evidently, the Chelsea Market Manager shut down the entire art exhibition. For many reasons this happening deeply concerned me as an artist because, I make works of art and that is my work. My contribution to the world (my artwork) is just as integral and essential to the functionality of society as a surgeon performing surgery, a construction worker assembling a building or an elected official holding office, to serve the people. We each in our own unique way contribute to the complexity of our society through our work. How we value the work done by others is up to each us to decide on our own.
It could be said that freedom of speech, freedom of expression (a free mind) and freedom of choice are all essential parts necessary to successfully accomplish one’s life and work, whatever the discipline. A symptom of a society amiss concerning these rights reveals its self when “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are manipulated by private organizations, governments or otherwise.
The Artist is a maker of things. Artist employs their imagination to materialize from their minds, art object both ephemeral and tangible for all the inhabitants of the world. Their art objects are birthed from their unique perspective and vision/version of reality. Art objects become real because the artist make it so. Through discipline and practice the artist brings something into the world that never had been there before. In doing so the artist is actually changes the fabric of reality, where there had only been a thought now a physical and or experiential thing exists because of the artists work.
The transformation of thought into object is a profound and amazing accomplishment of the Artist. From the Artist mind an art object becomes form and the newly formed art object has the potential to ripple through time in a way that the temporary physical body of the artist and his or her thoughts do not. Naturally our bodies expire and along with the body our mind and all of its thoughts will go too. However, the art object lives on, and in that way so too does the artist. The art object will continue to touch the minds and hearts of all who come to witness the work.
The public perception of the artist work will change over time based upon many different factors. Some artwork will grow into favor while others will fade away. This is not unnatural because we know that all things come and go and then come and go again. Everything is in a loop of coming and going always. I appreciate the Buddhist Philosophy concerning impermanence because it allows for a space to open in the mind were we are more free to let go of all attachments. Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced “tick not hon”) is a Zen monk, poet and peace activist and in his book you are here he writes:
“All these things are impermanent, just like the body. The continuation of life and death is possible, yet nothing is permanent. There is only continuation, only manifestation, because birth and death are just ideas. Being and nonbeing are just concepts. Reality is free from all these ideas and concepts.”
How we value art is determined personally and collectively and it is not a permanent reality. Artworks can never be forced upon the witness because we have eyes that see and minds that choose to see what we want, and what we don’t want to see. Engaging with an art object requires one to become mindful, which is the action of focusing on ones own thoughts and perceptions. One’s personal thoughts and perceptions are not the thoughts or perceptions of the artist. The art object helps to generate a portal into ones mind. Going through the gateway is the choice of the observer and is not a forced action by the artist.
If the art object where to be made invisible, silenced or shut down by outside forces then its potential is lost, and the mystery of its inherent phenomena becomes denied to all. The potential to actually cause change in the world by expanding, altering and sometimes changing the perception of the spectators is lost. Art objects both ephemeral and tangible have the power to awaken people and that is why Activist artist are sometimes feared.
Activist Artist are agents of change making, we are acute observes of the world, we make works of art to wake-up humanity by turning the lights on in places that other wise would remain dark and unobserved, but are none the less essential aspects to understand and integrate into ones whole understanding of what it means to be human.
To deny one the potential to expand his/her consciousness is a diminishing and controlling mechanism. And anything that diminishes and reduces ones potential to grow goes against the nature of life itself and one’s free will. When we look at the nature of life (all life, plant, animal and planet) and free will we see that everything is maximizing its effort towards its own greatest potential and in doing so everything is expressing its free will. For example, when you place a plant in a room with sunlight on only one side of the room, the plant will actually move towards the sunlight because it knows that the sunlight will maximize it potential to grow. The houseplant is exerting its free will to thrive. When every living entity is thriving based upon the fulfillment of its desire to experience life in its entirety, then we all benefit as a collective because all of life is interconnected: Consider the houseplant growing towards the sunlight. The houseplant is healthy and strong and it grows due to the good sunlight, good soil and our faithful watering. The happy plant then produces more oxygen, which improves our breathing, which causes us to think better and then we potentially act better to one another. Interconnectedness can also be exemplified when considering the earth beneath our feet. The earth has all the proper nutrients to grow healthy plants, which producing amazing food, which we eat making are bodies and minds healthy and strong, which then allows us to care for one another and to create more freely and with less effort. The sunlight, the oxygen, the soil, the water, the plant, its fruit, our bodies, our actions and creations are all interconnected. So, when a government or any other entity censors art or otherwise that government or entity is taking away it’s citizens individual and collective birth right to their free will, and also denying them the opportunity to maximize their potential to grown into their best possible version of themselves. When each person is able to build his or her best self all of humanity prospers. Good makes room for more good.
One of the most, if not the single most amazing part of being human is the freedom of our minds. Quite literally it is from the mind that ALL things man-made comes to fruition. Someone had to imagine it before it could materialize. We do not come into existence to have our mind controlled by outside forces. We come to life to experience our selves in relationship to the abundant beautiful natural world and all its inhabitants. When we look deeply at the planet, which so miraculously supports all life we see abundance. Abundance is the nature of our planet, which we are interconnected to as one of the earth’s inhabitants.
If we look at human life and perceive it to be interconnected with the laws of nature we can see that we are not in control of it. And even though we have managed to affect the natural order of the planet negatively and repeatedly, the phenomenon of abundance in nature still persists.
Forests do not ask if they can self propagate and grow hundreds of feet tall, Rose bushes do not ask permission to bloom their buds, the sea does not negotiate with each falling rain drop to determine which ones will be included in its waves. The sky does not grant permission to cumulous clouds, but not stratus clouds to pass through its blueness.
The abundance of the planet causes all of life to flourish. When censorship is imposed upon a people the phenomena of free will and the natural law of abundance, which are life rights are taken away. For these very elemental reasons censorship is an act against the betterment of humanity because it denies us the opportunity to fully realize our greatest potential and to exercise our free will. The saying goes, “free your mind and the rest will follow.” Artist and all people must be free to express, explore and discover the content of their minds and body. All artwork should be available and accessible to all spectators who wish to see it and grow. Artworks grow life!
Fear the Monkey King, is a companion painting to Blood Stain Star, and I’m riffing off of Chris Savido’s work “Bush Monkeys”, which was the cause of shutting down an art exhibition, and what I would consider to be censorship. The monkey in my painting wears a red and white striped crown, which sets upon an American King; The one and only George W. Bush, whom I have depicted here as the monkey king.
The role of King verses President felt apropos at the time, because as more and more information became available about the alleged weapons of mass destruction, being non-existent, the more it felt like we as a country were invading and forcing democracy. Rather than diplomatically finding solution to world conflicts. A king forces and a healthy democratic society has a conversation to develop a strategy that will be for the betterment of all of humanity.
A king rules and all under his reign adheres to his single proposed vision/version of reality. Our democratic society elects its leaders to office and our right to vote and choose who we want to serve us is an amazing freedom. I believe whole-heartedly in the ideology and the practice of “right actions” taken in an effort to more fully realize “freedom for all”. In a democratic society there is no single voice or vision/version of reality being made manifest by a King or Queen. Democracy as I understand it is the blended vision of all people whom form the version of reality that we each live interconnected within.
We the people of America express our unity through voting our conscious. When you look up the word conscious, the word “awake” is part of the definition. To be truly awake one must be fully aware and to be fully aware one must have the ability to look inward to see his/her self in relation to self. A few good questions to ask ones self in an effort to assess ones awakness are: Who am I? What has formed what I value in the world? How do I participate in the world? How do I avoid the world? Do I live a life based upon right actions and right thoughts? This is not an exercise to build self-judgment it is a way to measure nonjudgmentally if you are participating in the waking world the way that you want to be or not. Whatever the outcome the beauty of life is that you can always change your mind and actions.
How one attaches meaning to ones perceptions determines how we define who the “I” of me is. We tend to believe that how we perceive something in the world makes it so. Yet when we look more deeply and closely at our perceptions we can see that they are not solid forms in the world, they are ideas about the world. Perceptions are ephemeral like music and dance, they are here one moment and then gone the next.
Misperceptions led to wrong actions and wrong thinking post 9/11 and the majority of those wrong actions were based upon building up misguided perceptions. The Bush administration, through their consistent fear-speak, which is equals to wrong speak, constantly pressed the American people to perceived that there were weapons of mass destruction, targeted at us and the rest of the free world. This was not a real thing it was a perceived thing and because perceptions are not real and wrong actions were taken, misperceptions continues to reverberate globally, which are evident in the constant acts of terrorism, which are now measureable as a global phenomenon.
We have been following the path of wrong action and wrong thought for many years, which has been to keep alive the perception that there is a constant threat of terrorism and then to act on that threat with the wrong action of war. War is always about amplifying division of some sort between peoples, land or possessions.
Terrorism is real and we are seeing it nearly every day, why, because we as the human race have amplified misperceptions concerning one another and our relationship to the planet. Humans hold tight to the misperception that we are different from one another and that we have different values from one another. This is a misperception, it is a wrong thought, it is not real nor is it the truth that we are different. When we pause and look deeply at the meaning of what it means to be human we see that the core of humanity is more alike than different. We are all one human race requiring all the same ingredients to thrive. Every living thing requires the sun, the air, the earth, clean water, food, compassion, empathy, companionship, and the freedom to grow. All of which is right here right now on this planet available if we make it so for everyone.
The perpetuated belief that there is the “other” continues the illusion that there is an us and them pitted against each other. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Truth is that there is one planet that we know of that sustains our kind of life. On our planet there is land and sea. The land is not limitless it is a fixed amount of space; the sea is massive and at this time seems to be growing. All animals share the land and all animals stake their territory or they migrate from place to place based upon food supply. In other words the earth keeps us alive and we need the land to live. And so humans stake out a territory or we migrate just like every other animal on the planet. The illusion of ownership of land, weather it be migrated to, or purchased, or concurred divides humans. The earth and all of its land and sea is not belonged to any one species. The earth does not make the distinction of inviting one person but not the other person, this spices of animal or plant but not the other to participate in all of its wonder and abundance. Every earthly living entity is interconnected and becomes alive because of the earths capacity to sustain life. As long as humankind hold to the misperception that he or she owns land we will stay divided. When humanity frees its self from this perception, which we know is not real then we will see that there is truthfully one planet that we all must share. We do not posses the planet, we do not own the earth we are a miracle of its making. So let’s heal our minds of misperceptions and the rest will follow.
Sadly we humans repeat time and time again the wrong action of dividing and concurring land because we perceive the land to be something that we can posses. Which leads me to greed, some lands have more desirable natural resources than other lands and because of greed we fight to have possession of those more richly supplied natural resourced lands. In my painting Fear the Monkey King, I have seated the king on a thrown of oil. I did this to specifically draw attention to Bush’s wealth accumulated through oil. And we all know – all to well of the great wealth of oil, which the lands of the Middle East hold.
Greed and Power is at the heart of Fear the Monkey King. To illustrate this I painted the points of the star from Blood Stain Star, onto the edges of the painting, Fear the Monkey King. Originally, I imagined the giant star as the teeth of a spinning saw blade. Here, I juxtaposed my fear of the saw as depicted in Blood Stain Star with the grin of the Monkey King, who gazing out at us with his deceptive and fearless smile. The points of the star/blade are not aimed at the king they are bending towards his will. The bending points of the star symbolize the use of force by the Bush administration. The Monkey King also demonstrated his power over the real mouse verses the written mouse from Blood Stain Star. The real mouse is my metaphor of Saddam Hussein, whom the Monkey King holds by the throat in his tail. As the most powerful military in the world we always hold the greatest amount of power. The wars of the Middle East felt like an abuse of power and I wanted to capture that feeling in the painting. The Monkey King smiles mockingly at us fully aware of his acts of deception.
Above the Monkey King the word King is spelled with each letter backwards, I did this this to represent the backwards ways of thinking that the Monkey King was teaching to his people. The Monkey King taught the language of fear, war, oppression and dominance – ways of thinking that shrink and diminish humankind’s potential to achieve unity, peace and harmony with one another and with our amazing planet.
The word fear is blurred out of the bright yellow orb, like a giant eye in the sky, held captive by the stories of the king. Like being hypnotized by the power and being made to believe that the fear will simply wash away. However we know the opposite is true and that fear only ever makes make more fear. And more importantly fear is only a perception. President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood this profound truth when he famously spoke the words, “Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself.”
The use of force and power will not heal the divisions of people and land because the use of force and power will always build enemies. The scenario created by the use of force and power will only ever create an us against them mentality. The use of force and power perpetuates a world reality, which holds its people forever held captive in a state of fear of the enemy and fear of the other.
And yet there is Hope! In our not so distant history other versions of reality have unfolded. And YES, Humans have the capacity to undue fear and create harmony without the use of force or violence. We have Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., men who walked this earth not so long ago whom inspired whole nations towards the betterment of all humankind using NON-VIOLENCE. It is the right actions and right thoughts of non-violence that these two men lived by that we should all be aspiring towards and teaching one another and the world. Especially as the self proclaimed vessel of freedom, which we profess ourselves to be as a nation, we should be teaching right actions and right thoughts and then live by those right actions and thoughts. Being non-violent is the starting place, which we should return to and start again. Imagine what that world looks like. Remember, that if you cannot imagine it then you cannot be it and if you cannot be it you cannot live it and if you cannot live it you are not free. Never be shutdown by fear or look away because another has censored a work of art. Go inward and decide what is for you or not but never let another decide for you. Be awake and fearless in body and mind.