Presence



See also:  [(art) concepts]
           [Relics]

           

Presence

"THe Powers of Presence: Consciousness, Myth, and Affecting", by Robert Plant Armstrong, LCCN NB 1098.A753, ISBN 0.8122.7804.6 (Univ. Penn Press, 1981, Philadelphia??). BEGIN BLOCK QUOTE [P.3] Chapter 1: The Powers of Invocation, The Powers of Virtuosity. In all cultures certain things exist, which tough they may appear to be but ordinary objects, yet are treated in ways quite different from the ways in which objects are usually treated. Consider, for example, a wedge-shaped stone about two inches in length and no more than one and aquarter inches at its widest part. The casual observer may think it to be no more than a stone brought to its presence shape by the natural processes of wearing away that time brings about. More sophisticated viewers will observe that it has been worked to such a shape. But, whatever the case, it is un-likely that either observer will be preared for the honors paid to such a stone in a Yoruba village in west-central Nigeria, by a Shango priest, who will bow before it, clapping his hands and reciting praise poems to it. What is this thing? Is it a god? Is it a relic of some special merit? Does it own power? Is it a work of art? Perhaps to the questioner's great suprise, each of these answered may be answered afirmatively: The stone celt is in some respect or other of divinity, meirorious, powerful, and a work of art; or, more properly, it belongs to that order of phenomena of whhich what we call "works of art" are but a sub-order. Such things as the wedge have spatio-temporal existence; they eventuate from process of their making. They are, in these respects, quite clearly objects. But, at the same time, peoples' behaviour toward them argues that they are something more. Further, consider the instance of a drum at the court of the king (the Asantehene) of the Ashanti people of Ghana. The instrument is played as any drum might be, but at the same time it si deemed to be of a sexual specificity (some are male, others female), it is offered sacrifies, and poetry is also recited in its honor, the poetically established virtues some-how, enriching the drum itself -- as indeed do [P.4] its sexuality and its received sacrifices. Another instance: At a cross-roads outside a Yoruba village a simple mound of earth is not a mortar pile, nor its it an accumulation of ant dredgings. One notes that a chicken is being sacrified to it. Clearly this extra-ordinary treatment to accord a mere bit of mud! Such speciality of treatment, distinguishing heese things as exeptional among objec ts, comes about because the ends these things serve are not those simply of the body, as the ends of ordinary ojbects tend to be, but rather special ones. Indeed, the ends they serve are those of the state -- in the case of the drum -- and of the self. In ways that have alwasy been most difficult to study, such thing tend to gratify the human psyche.l Thus, the celt, investigation reveals, gains psychologocial power because it derives from the thunder god -- it is the essence or seed or distillate of thunder; the drum is in some important sense the voice of the very soul of the Ashanti people; and the mud is a shrine to Wshu, the Yoruba god of indetermiancy. What better place to honor such a god than at a crossroads? One proceeds on a journey in greater confidencde knowing that his choice of path has been presided over and validated by the blessings of the appropriate god. Although in our culture we do not make sacrifices of blood to such special things [ie, *art*], yet we too have analogous "objects". To them, Americans and Europeans, and Japansese -- for example -- also offer "sacrifice". We may or may not write poems to them, [NOTE: The poem based on Pollock's life] **** but we lavish our resources upon their purchase and up-keep. And we house them in some of the grandest structures our culture produces, designed by our most gifted architects and executed in the most expensive of materials. But, it is not only the housing of such works that is expensive. There are also the services that they must have: Insurance, guards to protect them against vandalism and theft, conservators to cure them of their ills and to maintain them in the greatest degree of health, specialists to mount them and place them in dramatically disposed and lighted displays. END BLOCK QUOTE

The Usual Suspects

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