Where is the UN?
If there is any tangible benefit from our endless traveling for the last 25 years, it’s feeling sincere empathy for the people we’ve met around the world, especially when they are in trouble.
The nature of war is to slaughter. Alas, the nature of the soldier is to unequivocally obey the orders of his or her superiors. But it is a learned nature, not a natural one. Emotions are systematically amputated. through threats of physical and mental reprimand and punishment.
Only once such obedience has been instilled can soldiers beat and execute civilians without remorse or regret. All they have to do is wave the flag of duty and obedience. No different from any other era in human history. We have not evolved much, despite high-flying thoughts of ourselves and our in essence superficial accomplishments.
These skulls were captured near a place in Cambodia called “the killing fields” where millions of people were murdered during the brutal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. I’ve published this image before, but when I saw it just now, it reminded me of a quote I like to recite. The image illustrates it perfectly:
I believe in life before death.
Now, does this mean I don’t believe in life after death? Or, just that whatever happens to us after we die should in no way be confused or conflated with what being alive is like? I haven’t given it much thought.
The quote was “given” to me by an old friend and whenever I’m at a crossroads or ambiguous about taking “a plunge”, I try to remember his quote.
I’ve not posted about it before, but about a month ago, I was accepted/invited to join the Swedish Artists’ Association, a society of artists of which Eva Bonnier, Bruno Liljefors and Carl Larsson were members.
I’m reminded of Groucho Marx’s quote about joining associations: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”
Initially, I was dubious about joining. Would it be a club for mutual admiration? Or, would there be some tangible benefit? Perhaps my art would have some kind of seal of approval because I was a member. We’ll see.
The new piece above is called “The Scream of Approval” and represents how I sometimes feel when the over-analyzing gets to me.
Here’s a new piece called “Flushed”. It’s dreamy and has several ingredients that I used because they somehow reminded me of a recent interview I heard with Amanda Knox. Amanda is the American exchange student that was accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher from Great Britain. Knox was definitively acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court, but after watching the documentary (Netflix), I couldn’t shake off an inkling that she and perhaps all involved in the case, were concealing something. That her plea of complete innocence was at least partially disingenuous. As someone close to me pointed out, Amanda Knox is super manipulative. It’s as if she’s flushed some evidence down the toilet. Metaphorically speaking.
From an early morning walk around downtown Hyderabad in southern India. Like in any big Asian city, walking around in the wee hours, before shops have opened for business and pedestrian and street traffic has yet to become overwhelmingly intense, meeting locals is easier.
Hyderabad is the joint capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states, and I spent about a week in rural areas of Telangana filming a demonstration of device-to-device wireless technology.
I’ve been to India a few more times after this scene was captured and have always enjoyed my visits, regardless of purpose or assignment.
“Palm Tree Pearls” is a new piece for my “Resurfaced” series. A collage of images shot in Southeast Asia during my lastest visit. Superimposing or blending photographs that individually have little emotional pull on me but that together create something interesting continues to fascinate me. The Resurfaced project has forced me to look at my world differently. To see the uniqueness in the mundane and discover compositions within compositions within compositions. The base image for this piece was a string of LED lights wrapped around the trunk of a palm tree. If you look carefully, you can see the inverted lights to the right in the painting.
I’ve gone cage diving with Great White sharks, ballooning at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, walked with lions in South Africa, and gone jogging in Death Valley California during a balmy 55C/131F morning. All exhilarating adventures that provided an adrenalin rush and a story to tell. But of all the more or less precarious things I’ve done so far, climbing up and down from the ridge of “Volcan de Pacaya” was definitely among the most treacherous.
I remember it being unbelievably steep and that there were no marked paths or signs after ascending from the tiny village below the mountain. But it wasn’t so much the walking on hot, edgy, razor-sharp lava rocks or, jumping over narrow streams of lava, which was not easy for a novice volcano climber like me. Instead, it was the gentle rumblings from within the volcano’s opening just a few hundred meters above that gave me the heebie-jeebies. What if there was an eruption while we were up there?
I’ve heard of a shop in Moscow where one could buy souvenirs from several famous destinations to give the impression to your guests and neighbors that you’d actually been there.
In the film Total Recall, customers of a virtual travel agency offered a neurological implant that could provide a wide range of false experiences.
Perhaps in the future, virtual travel will be the most reasonable way to travel. The most guilt-free, risk-free and cost-effective way to experience places in real-time. Hundreds of people would wear body cameras and have microphones streaming live video and audio from places like Paris, London, Moscow, Rio, Tokyo, and Mallorca.
Above: the piece to the left is called “Arrival: Val d’Orcia” and the one to the right is titled, “Arrival: London”. More of my resurfaced series here.
This was my view a few years ago below The Leaning Tower of Pisa after a weeklong visit to the Amalfi coast.
Some thoughts on Qigong which will hopefully clear up the mystical connotations associated with the practice.
Many new practitioners of Qigong have unreasonable expectations. These anticipations are often followed by disappointment. While Qigong provides many benefits, you should not expect the practice to be all-curing. It cannot be that. Qigong is not a religion. It is not your superhero.
Qigong can help you to achieve balance and harmony, inwards and outwards, through an intentional, holistic approach to life. First and foremost, practicing Qigong will provide valuable “tools” to maintain a balance, an equilibrium, between your mind and your body. The very meaning of the words Qi Gong means “energy gathering” or, “to work with energy”. Your body encapsulates a lot of energy. Qigong will not only help you release it but also spread it throughout your body and mind across time. This is achieved through movements, through stillness, and, arguably the most important of any conscious activity, breathing.
Qigong has many facets and paths to help you move forward in life. Start small and let it grow within you. By keeping your initial expectations at a reasonable level, you will certainly find that practicing Qigong is a powerful ally in your quest for health and clarity.
This is a new piece for my “Resurfaced” series called “Twenty Six” a composition of surfaces from a dozen different cities on three continents.
It’s a long time ago, but I distinctly remember thinking that when I turned 26, I had somehow reached “Peak Life”.
From 26 and onwards, I would be closer to 30 than 20 and, worse yet, I still hadn’t come up with a master plan. I was completely focused on surviving and trying to figure out how to make use of my creative abilities.
Today, at more than twice that age, I realize that I was thoroughly wrong about reaching Peak Life already at 26. Somedays, I don’t think I’m there yet…
This was my view earlier this morning. I shot it through a window using an old camera from 2013. A Fujifilm x20. Digital cameras don’t age very well, but the x20 is still fairly capable and useful. There was a beautiful full moon when I took the shot, but the camera just couldn’t capture it the way I’d seen it. So, I took a close-up of the satellite that orbits our planet with a 400mm lens and then superimposed it on the above composition. Deepfake or ShallowFake?
If you’ve seen the deepfake videos of Tom Cruise and know a little about the real Tom Cruise, you might find it interesting that the people behind these eerily accurate videos chose him as their subject matter.
Sometimes, the fog rolls in with impressive speed. A clear sky can within moments, not even minutes, be replaced with a thick, silent mist. The obscured view displaces my focus and leaves me feeling a bit perplexed, lost even. Then the levitating fog slowly rises and moves on.
Lars, a friend, who’s actually an old boss, dropped by yesterday for a coffee and a glazed donut. He’s a few decades older than I, but in enviously good health, physically and intellectually. What a blessing for him and his family.
I’ve never judged anybody by something as trivial as age, gender, or ethnicity. In my worldview, the only thing that really matters is substance. I can find something interesting, at least for a little while, in almost anyone that can somehow intrigue me with their profession, life story, or creative endeavors.
I can even find remarkably superficial people, folks that hide their true selves behind a pretentious facade, to be if not interesting, then at least entertaining. For a while.
It’s been said of me that I wear my heart on my sleeve. That I lack a filter that would otherwise help me to navigate emotionally through life. But the older I get, the less I feel inclined to play games like hide-and-seek. The, I-am-who-I-am/take-me-or-leave-me-mentality is certainly preferable at my stage of life. At any stage of life, really.
The collage above is a multi-generational, multi-geographical theme that includes images from visits to India, France, the US, and Cambodia. It’s aptly named Geogenerational.
I shot this collection of locker boxes somewhere, but I can’t remember when or where. When I saw it in the archives just now, it reminded me of how full of surprises life is. That sometimes, our curiosity takes us places we hadn’t expected. I thrive on curiosity. It drives me forward, takes me on adventures and creative challenges that help me evolve as an artist and a human. However, sometimes, I get the feeling that I open too many creative boxes at once and spread myself too thinly.
From a visit to the far north where, several years ago, Elle and I stayed a night at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.
We each had a big, comfy sleeping bag placed on a wide and thick reindeer fur. It was cold, but also exciting to fall asleep in a room where all the furniture, including the bed we were on, was made of solid blocks of ice.
When we woke up, Elle looked around and said, obviously surprised that we had survived the cold night, Papa, we made it!”.
Now that this usually chilly winter is coming to a close, it seems somehow reasonable to feel a sense of hope about the future. That we made it to the other side and lived to tell stories of cold winter nights.
This dreamy night shot is from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. I took it late one night just before the flight back to Europe.
I thought of it as a metaphorical image for my strange dreams that I think the chemotherapy is given me. So far, the injections have provided few benefits, but, fortunately, hardly any side effects, either. Aside from these really weird dreams. But those could also be related to our strange times. Or, both. Probably both. Maybe I should see the dreams as a benefit?
This morning I watched an interview with cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman where he claims there is solid scientific evidence that people trying to seek the “truth” about their existence, the reality of life, be that religiously, culturally, or cosmically, do not fare as well as those that just “playing the game”. Ignorance is bliss, in other words. From a biological perspective, natural selection, the survival of the fittest, and so on, I can subscribe to Hoffman’s theory. All animals are quintessentially programmed to survive and procreate. Everything else is basically fluff. Insurance policies, tools of power, myths.
Taken to its extreme, Hoffman means that the philosophical field of existentialism, the quest for the meaning of life, is just a waste of time and doesn’t really help humanoids survive or evolve. On the other foot, it’s the eternal quest for truth that makes life an interesting journey: What is my purpose? Where do I come from? What happens when I die?
Here’s the interview.
This concrete pier is not far from Vejbystrand. It’s on a beach called Eskilstorpstrand (near Båstad). I found it uniquely fitting for the hint of optimism that ineluctably arrives in my mind with each and every spring. I saw the round lifesaver at the end of the pier as the poetic metaphor for the elusive vaccine.
I’ve not heard anything about when or where the vaccine will be made available to a mere mortal like myself and honestly, I’m having a hard time grasping how both local and central Swedish governments have fumbled the rollout of the vaccine. Yes, yes. I realize it’s a complicated project, logistically and quantitatively. But the vacuum of relevant and updated information does not bode well for the country’s recovery. So maybe the pier’s even longer than it looks. Or, maybe the lifesaver is an illusion. I hope it’s not.
I captured this surface in an industrial area of Da Nang, Vietnam. I think artists should be willing and brave enough to share their political convictions and societal opinions often and in any way they can. I can’t help but feel engaged in things and subjects that at least momentarily grab my attention and my heart. The American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has recently died. Good riddance, I say. The vile rhetoric he spewed through his show and social media made for a widely successful multi-decade-long career. Sadly, his racist, misogynistic bullshit will linger in many dumb-ass listeners’ ears for years to come.
I think the saddest thing about folks that buy into viewpoints made by people like Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, is that they don’t understand how fake it is. That neither of those fine gentlemen genuinely believe in the opinions they orate. It’s a schtick, a product, a mantra that has made them famous and wealthy.
In America, disingenuousness is part of the social culture, institutionalized, even. It’s how so much business is done. The old saying, “There’s a Sucker Born Every Day” prevails. Success at any rate, at any cost. I hate that about the US of A. It’s shameful. No wonder no one knows what’s true and what’s not anymore. I realize it’s a form of salesmanship, albeit taken to an extreme level. Mitch McConnell is masterful at it. Most seasoned politicians and businessmen are.
Rush’s particular brand of undermining, doubt-sowing rhetoric can also be dangerous when it reaches critical mass and becomes the main source of reference for millions of ignorant people. Just like if you constantly watch Fox News or CNN/CNBC, you’ll inevitably become swayed and skewed to that source’s agenda.
But once again, the only real agenda is rating and advertising sales. Money. Beseeching listeners and viewers that either don’t understand what critical thinking means or just don’t care has become the norm. Eventually, I suppose you become so brainwashed that even really reasonable counterarguments are no longer allowed within your field of view.
Unsurprisingly, Trump awarded Rush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But for what? Because Limbaugh was supportive of Trump? No, because both men knew the PR value would push their agendas forward. It’s the old I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine, exchange. Two old, obese white dudes fondling each other, knowing good and well that the award will stir up the liberals and enthuse the conservatives.
Anyway. Spring is knocking on the door. I can hear it from here.
It’s almost to the day one year ago that I flew to Sweden from Malaga, Spain. We’d been living there for just two months when we realized that this whole pandemic thing was not to be taken lightly and that it would likely have a very negative financial impact on our livelihoods. I jumped ship first and Charlotte followed a few weeks later.
Do I miss Malaga? Absolutely. I miss the cafés, tiny tapas hideaways, and soaking in the sun from our rooftop terrace. I miss seeing people on the streets, hanging out with friends, and taking a long walk ending in a cozy lunch in the old fishing village Pedregalejo. I miss going out for drinks with friends Sam and Sirpa, feeling untethered and unworried. I miss shopping at Mercado Central de Atarazanas, the old market where so much great food was beautifully displayed and reasonably priced. I miss drinking a glass of a caña, a cold beer under a huge umbrella or palm tree on the way to or from a shopping tour.
For close to 25 years, Charlotte and I have been the architects, the designers, the conductors of our lives. And I miss that too. But I don’t feel sorry for myself. Nor does Charlotte. Instead, we feel appreciative of both what we’ve had and what is here and now. The future may not look so bright right at the moment. But eventually, someday, we will return to Malaga, drink a couple of cold cañas, and munch unabashedly from a large bowl of those huge, sumptuous green olives from one of my favorite shops at Mercado Central.
The above image was captured in Malaga, somewhere near our apartment. Which, incidentally, I don’t miss.