Tag Archives: Robert Smithson

The Riches Of The East.


 a penned mystic smIt may be said that Socrates was a rebel? He didn’t wish to follow no party line and when he was in 399 BC by 3 Athenian citizens of failing to worship the city’s gods, introducing religious novelties and corrupting the young men of Athens and told to renounce his philosophy in court, unshaken from his convictions despite being denounced as foolish by a large number of Athenians, he spoke,

“So long as I draw breath and have my faculties I shall never stop practicing philosophy and exhorting you and elucidating the truth for everyone that I meet…” (See Alain de Botton who says this promised him, ‘a counterweight’ to his own ‘supine tendency to follow socially sanctioned practices and ideas’ in his book The Consolations Of Philosophy). Botton goes on to say his ‘priority was to be liked rather than speak the truth. I didn’t publicly doubt ideas to which the majority was committed. I sought the approval of figures of authority and worried at length whether they thought me acceptable. but Socrates had not buckled before unpopularity and the condemnation of the state. he had not retracted his thoughts…he had [his] rational , as opposed to hysterical, confidence when faced with disapproval.’

All of my life, at least since I began to realize I was ‘here on Earth’ aged about 10 I have fought against that ‘supine tendency’. Maybe that’s what held back my progress in many situations in English society? My lack of conformity (or was it my face- it didn’t fit? or my choice of deodorant?) meant that I had to fight for almost every inch of ground I made.

Like Socrates I’ve been a renegade ever since ‘they’ rejected me at my secondary school, (‘they’ being the powers that be/the status quo holders who saw me as scum from a poor working class family who didn’t always agree with what they said) and I rarely if ever sought approval, especially not by altering my work and ideas. so, in simple words I paddled my own canoe. and my canoe took me to some strange and wonderful places, mainly in dream but also in some of my output. one renegade, the late great Jackie Leven, introduced me to Kabir and Robert Bly through his wonderful song Inside this clay jug. A lot of my work since hearing that song has been about the mysteries of life and mystical ideas. Some folk think mystical means ‘not for me that strange stuff’ but no, if you listen to Bowie’s music, at best, it has a mystical chime. It’s like searching for the lost chord and he found it sometimes like in Ashes to Ashes, China Girl and his last songs plus vids for Dark Star etc. Mystic is when you hear or glimpse that something which emanates from a place far away and deep inside you. Namaste. Om Mani Padme Hum. listen to Van’s Into the Mystic from his astral Weeks.

The wonder-full American artist Robert Smithson, who created The Spiral Jetty, on Great Salt Lake, Utah in 1970, was a renegade & a wordsmith too as witnessed in his Heap of Language sketch:

See http://www.robertsmithson.com/drawings/heap_p104_300.htm



“Smithson becomes exhibit A for the case that an eruption of the linguistic sign into art has fragmented beyond repair the traditional integrity of the object…” Thomas Crow in Prophetic Turns In The Life & Art Of Robert Smithson.

My writing also is part of my ‘art’, equally nowadays, as always, words play a role in my performance art. My 1975 buk, Apul-One, was a ‘work of art’ in its whole = images, words and book.

This renegade never did the obvious, rarely followed the rules and always bent them even if only a titsy witsy bit. Thereby he made it difficult, by not following the trend, the advice, the latest fad etc.

I remember going into Slade Prix de Rome scholar David Wild’s ‘life-study’ night classes and seeing a day student doing (copies of) hard edge American abstract painting by using masking tape to get straight lines on his canvas while I was learning how to observe and paint the figure. I made a conscious decision there and then I wouldn’t be doing no American abstract painting then nor not ever. (In fact a couple of years later I fell in love with Barnet Newman’s work in the big London retrospective of his work and did adopt some of his techniques, but in a way which used his ideas of fields of color which I then placed my images into with ‘zips’ (gaps) separating them. My images might be mimics of other Abstract expressionists set against realist images. So you see, I even broke every rule I set myself. The come uppance was that I kept my eyes open to different possibilities and I could be inspired by many things that the ‘mainstream’ art student would not look at cos it weren’t in fashion. Similarly, I liked Roy Orbison when the Beatles were all the rage, and Van Morrison when most folk hadn’t even heard of him.

Which takes me onto Hermann Hesse (HH), whose book Steppenwolf I saw in a Truro bookshop window in 1970 and on the cover was a Paul Klee painting so I was intrigued enough to buy and read it, so my journey into Hesse had begun. It was his writing which led me to the wonders from the East. Now when you looks at my recent works where I do things like poems inspired by Hesse and Dalai Lama you’ll agree they’re not the most fashionable icons nowadays, butti don’t care. It’s my art. Come back with me, to a day when the Upper Class (expletives omitted) led their campaigns for King & Country to conquer lands in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South America, Africa, to asia minor & China they were, for the most part, looking for gold or jade etc and they gottit in abundance as they stripped whole countries of their inheritance. BUT in fact they missed the real treasures which eventually filtered thru to the west via the likes of HH and scholars who studied unknown languages like Hittite & Ghandaran. The real treasures are more lasting than gold, they’re spiritual. Things like yoga, tai chi, and meditation, the religions of old (like Hindu, Zoroaster) and in Tibet’s case, new – Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century AD. Insight into our place in the Universe is being enhanced daily by astronomy & science but we benefit from things brought to us by Tibetan Buddhism, Muslim Sufism, ancient Indian ideas about the cosmos and the place of us ubeings in it which they anchor down thru yoga, Chinese (&Malayan) Tai Chi does similar things with mind/body equilibrium. Who needs the gold that artists like Damien Hirst use?

on a better note

Here’s a lovely song of Bowies sung as a tribute to another renegade. Listen to her pre-amble, it’s lovely too


I wanted to be an artist but I’m alright right now, right. (What is original & what is quality? Part 2)

Did you hear the joke, ‘Once I was a werewolf, but I’m alright No…oooow!’? Well once, only once, I wanted to be an artis but I’m all write No…oooow! In fact my art is my right, I have a write to be an artis. OK, back to the real.

Eva Hesse was an artist and groundbreaker of considerable skill but one day she woke up and realised something rather strange, that she didn’t HAVE TO make art, that life continues even when you do not make art.

On Originality. I want to mention Maria Popova’s stuff, she writes well, I could do an analysis or commentary but that would take ages I have not got and my fingers would wear out typing it in, so, you can take a look at her stuff here:


She quotes  Twain, “Substantially all ideas are second-hand,” Mark Twain observed, “consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them.” And she often refers to this ting called,

‘The power of the synthesizing mind and the building blocks of combinatorial creativity.’ See her article in:


Synthesizing and being combinatorial are, it seems to me, top requirements of creative process. When we used to assess kids doing ‘O’ level, or any other level for that matter, they got into top grades when you could see evidence of synthesizing. Interesting. Over the past 45 years of me being ‘creative’ I did two tings; I looked at the creativity of others and I stayed in touch thru mags like Studio International, Graphis and the Museum of Mankind, then again I ignored the work of others and tried to cocoon mysel in a hole in the ground so as not to be ‘influenced’ and I refused to watch what was prevalent at the time. I skrtled between the twain. But, in the end whatever you do has its progenitors. One of my heroes Popova mentioned was henry miller, not so much his Tropics more his humanist writings. I wer told by john Atkins, over 20 years after the event that the reason Calder did NOT publish my tome called ‘The Shrewd Idiot’ was cos me writings were reminiscent of Miller and Miller wer going out o fashion and punk was coming in. So me, the post-hippieman, what had given up his daily job in 1976 to consecrate on his art & writing, I wer too dated, out dated. Such is the elusivity of fame & four tunes. Have you heard the one about the fork ‘andles? Maybe I got lucky not getting published as there is a shortage of paper in the world or at least the tree that makes the paper. And my tome was a BIG tome which I did cut by half like Calder aksed me to, but really, for all our sakes it would be better if I produce it misen as an artisbuk, with some of it in the original handpen, some in the JilLittly typed-up version and some set in a computer type. In fact I move tward a new ‘style’ of crazed words and non-sense writings after Flan O’Brien and Louis Carrott wat rote ‘Alice’ fer Jeffersen Airplane. Vatch dis spade.

My recent work has been to do with mysticism. As I investigated the phenomena I found out aboyut whole cultural groups (civilisations) which ‘we’ (in the west) never heard of. The Gandharan community, a Buddhist group who lived over 2000 yearns ago whose influence is vast but most of us never heard of and they are not the only ones. http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Buddhist-Scrolls-Gandhara-Gandharan/dp/0295977698

So why is a cutting edge artis like misen looking at ancient stuff and mystics be blowed? Well, one because it’s all been done before and we need to get informed and two, becos nodoby elsa is it doing indeed. But seriously folks (said Spike Milligan again) nobody in the ‘art world’ is doing mystics right now so I am original, not really (cos everything has bin dun afore asn’tit). In fact I have a lovely buk called ‘Time machine’ http://www.jamesputnam.org.uk/inv_publication_03.html

In which several artists do work with an eye to Ancient Egypt. I wer doing that back in the 70’s. Am glad thur catching up wit me.

created to go in Big Six, lost on way to printers!
created to go in Big Six, lost on way to printers!

Now onto what I started today’s Blarty Phart for:

Robert Smithson (RS), famous for his ‘Spiral Jetty’ in the lake at Salt Lake City, & Bruce McLean (BM) and their relationships with ‘originality’ .

Land art & symbolic interventions is what Mel Gooding calls the work of Robert Smithson and the British counterparts like Richard Long in his book, Song of the Earth. http://www.thamesandhudson.com/Song_of_the_Earth/9780500510162

Bruce McKlean’s work is being shown in a stunning show at firstsite in Colchester thru the summer of 2014, til septembre.

It’s fascinating how ‘art’ so often parallels ‘science’. Whilst science is busy creating new ‘man-made’ elements some of which only exist momentarily, just long enough for scientists to be able to make deductions, artists like McLean in 1967 made ‘Floataway sculptures’ which were ‘predicated on the impermanence of their form’. Gooding goes on to talk about Sjoerd Buisman’s collaborations with nature which he notes have, ‘A keen sense of affinity with scientists…and are in certain crucial ways closely akin to the procedures of scientists.’

BM was photo’d as he carried mirrors into parks etc in 1969 but his action post-dated RM’s use of mirrors. And I thought, ‘Is that why they (rather sadly) call it ‘Post’ Modernism? Precisely cos it repeats, mimics, appropriates*.’ Lucy Lippard has a good take on RM & mirrors (see ‘Lucy Lippard’s Activism and Artists’ Books Activate Me’;  Vol 8 No 2, April 2014 http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/bnotebk.htm). RM was using mirrors back in ’64 with The Eliminator and 65 with Enantiomorphic Chambers. The British boys (and girls) were plugging into anything new from USA. (in the late 60’s I refused. I wer stuck in Europe still but that’s anudda storey.)

*Appropriationism is the mode now, Nick it all Nick Na Noo! And folk like Popova are writing tracts about how nothing is ‘original’. Except we, we with Buddhist inclinations, know EVERYTING IS original. It has to Be. Every breath you take is different, new, original if only cos the universe and beyond have never been in that position ever before nor never again. Everything is always on the change, in flux, and we cannot alter that. Copyright, intellectual right etc etc etc are there to protect, property etc but they are not ‘real’. When you read/red/reed say, Brautigan, you steal, you steal the words off the page into your mind what may be ‘high’ like his was wherever that may be or not to be ( I just nicked Shake’s spear!) The more folk what steals yer werk by listening, repeating, passing on etc the more your work is ‘out there’.

From the foothills to the footholds of the art.

So we ascertain that it is ok to be original and it’s ok to be not-original. There are some who would say that everything has been done before. A beautiful example of that I saw in the British Museum’s El Dorado show last month. I saw some gold flat figures about 1-2 inch high that’s 40 – 50 millimetres today folk.  They’d been crafted several hundred years back by Colombian pre-Columbian indigenous peoples. The BM made some nice enamel red on stainless steel replicas. I am aware that Keith Haring was influenced by other cultures and I am unsure if he ever saw these figures but the similarity with his ‘cosmic baby’ figures is extraordinary. In my previous blart I shewed a flower of Legers what I did not copy but again the similarity is enormous. In my book that does not make mine any less ‘quality’ or ‘original’, we both ‘copied’ flowers! The accidents which led mine to be so similar are just a happy synchronous occurrence. In fact, the final, well never final as I keep altering it, version has a different flower image in it innit?

leger flowa sm kbLeger’s flower

artist with offering
artist (what is moi) with offering

I shall harp on about this Venus stares image a lot in the future, so vatch dis splice.

Hey, talk abart appropriationism, Kenneth Patchen stole my Apulhed long before I created him, (he wer clairvoyant!) and also William Blake’s name (see the image ‘hurrah’ below), didn’t he? I don’t mind, I love his work and am borrowing the image below but only to advertise him, I was reading Tom Wolfe this week, ‘electric cool aid acid testes’ and I note how much he took from his hero Kerouac and of course Kerouac had his progenitoir, Patchen! Now, I have found many references in Cool aid acid test to stuff i am working with now, like Jung and synchronicity. As I sit ere in 2014 i can say truly that I had not seen Wolfe’s book previously. Strangely, he mentions Hopis, and other tings what i linger longer on over the years. My work on ‘the other’ hails from the early 70’s. I had a small task called survival to cope with in the years between and became a teacher of art to keep Beuy’s coyotes from my door. So, altho I never gave up making art, my activities and energies were often curtailed. Now am 64 and free of it, i just make art and mess and fuss and waves and wave bye bye for noo to yu.

drawn in comic about Sphinx
drawn in comic about Sphinx

apul patchen


This blart all © pete kennedy 2014 (real-lee?) except of course the hyperlinked stuff and the old jokes and the pyramids and ad infinitum. You cannot nick it appropriate it altho I know you are able but if I ketchup wid ya oil scorch yer pants but that would only hurt misen cos as you know we are all interconnected in destiny no matter how daft ye be.