Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Living Seed

The joke is on me. As I’ve been studying sigils, I was under the impression that the term sigil had some connection to the word seed; after all they both start with the letter S. Ha ha!

Actually sigil comes from the Latin meaning seal. There’s three years of Latin and toga parties down the drain.

But for the sake of metaphor, imagine a sigil as a seed, either semen (hey, we’re adults here) or as the type of seed you would plant in a garden. The difference is biological.

I was watching an episode of Family Guy to receive my daily intellectual molestation and Peter Griffen makes a comment that theater is a living thing. The synchronicity is interesting because that was the idea in my head about magic and art.

The seed is planted, tended to, and allowed to grow on its own. This is a basic attitude towards life. Plant want you want to reap, tend to it, and reap what you have sown. The pessimist in me wonders at times what I have sown.

Is art alive? For the sake of argument and philosophy, yes.

Your sigil, your poem, your song, your film, your dance -- they're all living growing things.

Art is alive and I haven’t a clue what that means!

I’ve heard Simon and Garfunkel ask, is the theater really dead? That makes sense to me at a poetic level. The hopes and investment and interest and belief in the power of art has worn off. We no longer give our attention to the theater and have replaced it with the consumer culture of the movie theater, but isn’t film just the theaters latest incarnation?

If something dies, then was it alive, and how?

I’ve heard of stories where characters take over the story; the writer loses control over the plot because the characterization takes over. Spider-Man would never do that!

I once found myself wondering if Harry Potter minded all of the ridiculous fan ficton being written about him, the bad fan fiction having him do stupid things or the badly written cross-overs. Harry Potter leads a busy life, never has time to rest with all of the adventures he goes on inside people's heads and on their websites.

At times I’ve developed a certain reverence for characters I’ve created, a feeling of love or attachment to them. I’ve heard of authors who have cried because they killed a character or ended a septology.

But characters we love personally don’t always attract a faithful audience. Is there any writer here who hasn’t had a character or concept justly killed by a critic? The character may seem alive inside our imagination but can’t carry over to someone else’s head.

Back to sigils as living things, let me make a slight tangent. I’m exploring this living seed concept rather than just writing an expository essay.

As a little girl I was particularly fond of the Frankenstein story, of the obsessed scientist who creates life by sewing together dead body parts. The Frankenstein myth has other forms. Pygmalion and Galatea are the more artistic aesthetic pair, the enamored artist who sculpts the perfect woman, only to fall in love with her. The goddess of love and beauty Venus Aphrodite turns Galatea into a real woman in the same way the Blue Fairy turns Pinocchio into a real boy. The Jews have their golems, created from clay and breathed life with a single word written on their forehead. Alchemists have their homunculi, little men originally thought to be the substance of sperm, a model of a human in miniature.

When we create characters, we create golems, galateas, homunculi. Traditionally these creations in magic served to attract success, protect the magician, and act as a conduit and reservoir for magical power. The Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game had various types of homunculi and golems made of all types of substances and functions: homunculi made of circuitry, golems of wood or glass or car gears, etc.

You need to give body to your emotions and ideas, both the horrors and pleasures, so that you may heal your hurt and be inspired by your pleasure.

One of the magician’s initial responsibilities is to create such an entity, a voodoo doll through whatever medium is preferred. I would ask though how a dancer or musician might create their golems. Perhaps a song or dance titled with a name or an album of phonic names.

This artistic homunculus – I should come up with a name – homo artis – needs to be as real as possible. Should it be confined to one dimension? Should a musician limit her homunculi to just a collection of songs? The magician should strive to add new dimensions constantly: create a MySpace music profile to the homunculus, add artwork or album covers, let the identity of the homunculus take over as a stage name.

Writing homunculi is similar to creating and using fiction suits. Create a character and explore the dream worlds through that character.

Over the past few years, my Galatea has been a character I named Bradbury, originally a male character based upon a reoccurring male figure in my life, but I’ve since recreated Bradbury into my own image, an androgynous female character. Only recently have I realized how flat she was. I’ve had to focus my energies on drawing her, fleshing out how she would respond in certain situations, giving her a lover to interact with and a mission in life.

The homunculi starts out as a sigil. My initial experiments with sigils have them in abstract typographical form but the more I look into a concept, a sigil simply needs to be a sensory image symbolizing a desire: this could be a picture or sound or heck, why not, a taste. The ultrasigil adds in multi-media (sound, visuals, modeling, intertextuality) while the hypersigil develops the sigil across the four dimensions, providing personality, plot, and time span. How much needs to be added to make the homunculi real?

What we are creating is our own godform in a different form (perhaps). I need to write more about godforms at some point (another blog, perhaps) but to summarize the casual touching comments I’ve made about them, godforms are living stories, sigils in divine personification. Zeus is the lightning sigil, Mercury a communication sigil, Athena a war sigil. We worship these godform sigils to gain access to the power of the lightning, of communication, of military strategy. A magician should choose his pantheon (collection of godforms) and study them, study the art devoted to these godforms and the stories devoted to them.

Your homo artis then needs his or her own artwork and stories.

What then is the purpose of creating these homunculi? Success, protection, power? These old school concepts don’t really translate practically in today’s magic sphere.

The homunculi is often used (or was) as a model of consciousness. Imagine that inside your head was this little man who was driving you around like a robot. The Eddie Murphy movie Meet Dave uses this plot. This homunculus is you but if we remold the concept, imagine that like the Pink Floyd song goes, there’s someone in your head who isn’t you, a secondary self.

You are your conscious mind while this homunculi is a subconscious self. Some psycho-historians have speculated that our interior monologue thoughts were once separate from us, so that muses and gods were whispers in our heads rather than our thoughts. This would explain schizophrenia.

The homo artis represents your artistic self, your magical self, that may be in conflict with your conscious self. Your goal should be to bring harmony with your conscious and subconscious selves.

Perhaps you’ve heard of right brain/left brain theories. The left side of the brain is supposedly responsible for logical orderly processing while the right side is for creative pursuits. I’ve seen this because many people who I know as artists are highly disorganized while highly organized people tend to be artistically stunted. A general observation with many holes in it.

Often our conscious and subconscious selves are in conflict with each other. It’s our fault. We try to tell our subconscious what to do like we were in a doctor’s office telling the doctor the diagnosis.

The orderly brain is critical of the artistic side and then we wonder why the artistic side doesn’t want to talk to us anymore. How about we let our brains do what they’re supposed to?

The artistic side needs daydreaming, fantasy, chaos, lack of restriction, and party time to thrive. It produces but creativity also needs organization. I’ve noticed that with the soft copy scans of my comic books I download that the files are done by partners, one scanning and the other editing. Your subconscious mind creates the art, your conscious mind organizes it.

Your homo artis should be the first person to talk to in any artistic endeavors. The simplest way is to either talk outloud to yourself. With today’s cell phone craze, do we really pay attention to people talking to themselves? (When I was in middle school, one of the popular girls made fun of me because I was always talking to myself!)

This Question and Answer session can dig through ideas. The creative process needs verbalization, the expression of ideas to stew. Part of creativity is expressing ideas, often crappy ideas, to build into better ideas.

Talk to your gods. Talk to your homunculi.

Or write your conversations down:

K: what do we want to write about today, Bradbury?

B: I don’t know. Give me a second to think. I think you need to write more pornography, or at least a good love story. You’ve been heartbroken and never really had a chance to express what it’s like to be in love. You just stare at pictures of your old boyfriends and feel hurt. You also want a buffalo chicken pizza but remember your diet.

K: OK, then, how do I get this love story started?

B: From the beginning. Two lovers meet. Think about that fish tank scene in Romeo and Juliet, Claire Danes is hot, er, I mean Leonardo DiCaprio is hot in that scene.

K: How do you want to be seduced, B?

Your homunculi is your Oracle.

Back to my original question, how is art alive? You create something that takes on a life of it’s own.

But I keep thinking back to Alan Moore’s Promethea, whom Moore refers to as a living story.

How can a story be alive, my left brain asks? A character I can see, but a story?

Tangent: when I set up my MySpace profile (back before I moved to Facebook), the profile had this sense of uncontrollable growth. My first couple days were just entering in information about myself, posting pictures, uploading music, and doing design work. Suddenly I had thirty friends within one day and comments posted all over the place.

A story in itself, the more memetic it is, can become alive by being passed down through generation to generation, from author to fan, from book to film. The art lives beyond the artist. Promethea is not one person but rather a series of characters appearing through different authors: more ontologically unsound, Promethea is a story rather than a character. The fictional character of Promethea actualizes in the real world through the writing of stories. G’ah, I need to dissect the ontology of Promethea more. (As I'm putting titles in their proper italics, I keep wondering if I should put Promethea in italics. Is Promethea the book or the character?)

I’m also thinking about Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and the comics letter column which like with any fan interaction gets a life of its own.

I read one commentary on e-mail correspondence between lovers which commented that the e-mails are the relationship. Traditionally our sense of self, our identity is shaped by verbal/social communication but in the digital age, we are investing ourselves into soft copy transcripts of our identities. Our IMs and txts become representations of ourselves. So do our stories.

Like with MySpace or the Promethea meme or the Invisibles forum or any fan fiction, there’s life and energy.

I haven't completed my thought or found resolution to my idea of the sigil as a living thing, but I need to Banish, take a bath, and prepare for a midnight preview of The Incredible Hulk.


Patrick said...

Interesting post, I feel like the notion of stories being alive requires a belief in the collective subconscious, or Immateria as Moore calls in it Promethea. When you write a story that takes on a life of its own, it's not like you're making it up, it's like you're tapping into the essence of the story that already exists, that's why certain choices feel 'right' and others just don't seem to work.

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