Breaking Together – digital art for social impact

One practice that is recommended for people engaging in art as a therapeutic aid is to paint everyday on the same canvas. Yes, that’s right, it means painting over your previous day’s creation! Including anything amazing you might have painted. To engage in this art practice properly requires painting each day with a passion for expression and detail, even while knowing you will destroy it the following day!

There’s something special about painting over something beautiful that you painted. It’s a practice of relinquishment and non-attachment. A practice of giving earnest attention to the process with non-attachment to the outcome.

It echoes the sand mandalas created in Buddhist monasteries. They take days or weeks to create, with each contributor knowing it will then be brushed together into a pile.

These are microcosms of a ‘knowing’ that we all have.

Because we all create while knowing that whatever is produced will disappear. We may lower that knowledge from our consciousness, but underneath we all do still know it.

Not just the sandcastles of warm childhood memories. Not just the incredible creations from centuries ago. But also the most cherished creations of ours today will, one day, be forever gone. Painting, poems, books, businesses, laws, victories, landscapes, families, planets. All will be lost. And for that, all is more wonderful.

With that in mind, in the process of making an audiovisual experience with one of my poems on ecological degradation, I asked Balinese painter Kan Kulak to paint prayer hands and then paint over them. In his flow, he decided for those hands to bless Mount Agung before returning into that volcano.

That process is represented on film and in a gif that is now a Non-Fungible Token (NFT). It might be ‘non-fungible’, but it is not indestructible. Like anything, the video will disappear one day. The physical painting will soon be on its way to a gallery, but also, one day, will be destroyed. The high-definition photo of the painting will be experienced around the world more than the painting, yet will also disappear one day. As will the gif that shows the moment of the praying being painted. As will all of us involved in its creation. As will all the children who will be helped through the auction of the digital art. As will the phase of the natural world that gave rise to all of us. This lack of permanence never undermined our desire and drive for creativity and right action. Only the chronically deluded would pretend otherwise.

This artistic process resonates with a core idea in my poem “An Ode To Moana Loa”. The destruction of nature by one part of nature called homosapiens is extremely painful. The video of the painting process is shown backwards so the biodiversity disappears before fracturing upon a recent peak of C02 part per million. Another pain is that the great injustice of this destruction is that the ones who have produced the least harm are the ones suffering the consequences first and most. In solidarity with them, we can try to slow and reduce the damage, no matter what comes or how bad it gets.

Adjusted to the certainty of future losses, we can focus not only on all we can save but also what we can create within the tragedy. The creative activities that produced the video are only the start of the story. The poetry, the painting, the music, the filmmaking, and the digital art are just the opening chapters. Will this story involve new chapters of support to transform lives in the here and now?

Will you write yourself into this story? You can do that by sharing this blog far and wide, especially with people who could support Balinese children by making a bid on the digital art.

The auction of the digital art begins today, September 28th 2021 from this link, and continues for 3 weeks.

Or perhaps you could place a bid? It is for a good cause. Which is what this is really about. Because an uncomfortable secret in the art world is that art is actually abundant. We can all become artistic and produce art. The scarcity mentality about art is a reflection of how our culture incentivizes us to commodify and control everything. That process involves the constant telling of stories of value and ownership, until they embed as ‘common sense’. The assumption in the art world is that art’s value requires those stories of scarcity. In the case of this particular digital art project, the fact there is only one certificate of ownership for the digital picture and for the gif is less relevant than the opportunity to participate in something wonderful. Perhaps someone will make a statement against the fictions of art by placing a bid!

I mention this aspect of the art world as stories of value and ownership can become counterproductive. Such as the story of money – what it is, who gets to make and distribute it, and how we relate to it. So much downstream damage has been done in the world because of the way societies have chosen to create and refine their stories of money. Therefore, it feels somewhat poetic to auction this particular digital artwork for cryptocurrency, with all the proceeds going to charity.

The “Breaking Together” video:

How the video was made:

The auction raises funds for the Bali Children’s Project.

Please consider making a bid at the auction site, or telling your friends and colleagues who might be more crypto-savvy and able to make a bid.

The poem is An Ode To Moana Loa by Jem Bendell

The artist is Balinese painter Kan Kulak. The film maker is Wekku Ari Saaski. The musician is Darinka Montico. Stay in touch with future developments at Bali NFTs.

Jem spoke on currency innovation in a TEDx ten years ago and delivered a keynote speech to the UN on currency innovation in 2018 (“the technology we need is love”).

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See how we made the video

Breaking Together – a video of poem and painting