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”).

Covering this in the media? Send questions via this form.

See how we made the video

Breaking Together – a video of poem and painting

An Ode to Mauna Loa

An Ode to Mauna Loa: Breaking together with the living One

At 421.21 ppm
Feedback screams its piercing sound
Rising rates after lockdown
We’re falling down
the Long Mountain of Life

We’ll turn away no more
As the breaking of Life
returns to our threshold.

What was pretended now breaks apart
Both in us and around
We’re breaking together with the living One.

Continue reading “An Ode to Mauna Loa”

What Is It Too Late for? Poem to Mark the Scientist Rebellion

“Why We Rebel? Scientists have spent decades writing papers, advising government, briefing the press: all have failed. What is the point in documenting in ever greater detail the catastrophe we face, if we are not willing to do anything about it?” Scientist Rebellion, 2021

Some have called it a 4-day climate hunger strike. During my solidarity fast with the Scientist Rebellion, I took time out to reflect on how I am feeling and what I think I know at this time. Not for producing structured arguments, but for welcoming any integrative knowing of self, society and nature. To help, I attended morning sessions with other fasters, hosted by the Reverend Steven Wright of Sacred Space, Cumbria. I felt lucky and grateful to have such a wonderful invitation to presence and purpose, as well as to have the camaraderie of fellow fasters. As a result, I had another go at poetry, on the theme of discovering what is most important when we let go of old stories of self, other, society and nature. An audio recording of the poem is below, on my youtube channel.

Rev Wright hosting the morning reflections and prayers with scientist rebels
Continue reading “What Is It Too Late for? Poem to Mark the Scientist Rebellion”

Dropping Demons with Chamunda – as scientists rebel for life

On March 25th I will be fasting for 4 days in solidarity with a nonviolent Scientists Rebellion. I am looking forward to joining dozens of other scholars online each day, being hosted by Reverend Stephen Wright, as we reflect on our place in the world. If you are an academic please consider joining us. I have booked my annual leave and intend a bit of a brain fast, away from my research and inbox!

I may have another go at poetry. Here is something I wrote last month, after a Kirtan, as I explored the insights from Hinduism on the sacred feminine, based on the stories about the Goddess Chamunda.

Dropping Demons with Chamunda

If you think you know who you are singing to, then you are not singing to me.

If you think you know who you are praying to, then you are not praying to me.

Continue reading “Dropping Demons with Chamunda – as scientists rebel for life”

Gyva Lithuania

Gyva Lithuania”

Land of water and wood,

of witches and whiteness,

ancients and patience.

Flat lands of high hopes,

dreams and screams,

in creation.

The raw heart of Europe,

Gyva Lithuania.

Jem Bendell, Vilnius, August 22nd, 2007

lithuaniaAuthors notes: After a week in Lithuania, part business, part pleasure, part personal exploration, I wanted to capture the earthiness of the country. It has some unusual characteristics, explained to me by my host. Its language is very ancient and incorporates a lot of Sanscrit, it escaped some of the early Christian conquests so has some pockets of pagan thinking, and it only recently opened to capitalism so there is a mixture of local trade and international connection. It seems not many people know about the place, or can get there, as it’s not an ethnically diverse country. It had to wait a long time for independence, and there is a greater sense of calm about the pace of change than in some other parts of central and eastern Europe. People are thinking a lot about the potential for the future… it seems an optimistic country, but there are pains in the birth of their new society… problems with a whole generation working abroad, and a lack of social protections at home. Lithuanians point out they are the geographic centre of Europe, if we consider Europe stretching up to the Ural mountains. Perhaps the rest of Europe might learn something from this fresh, raw, heart of a continent that is only beginning to recognise its true size and diversity. Some Lithuanians I met have this implicit understanding of Lithuanians’ role in the region. One weekend I was chatting with a two ladies about what their future environmental lifestyle business would do, possibly starting with an organic shop, and we brainstormed on names. I suggested words related to life. We settled on “Gyva”, which means “alive”. I looked it up… it is derived from the Sanskrit word which is sometimes spelt “Jiva”, as used today in India, that describes the eternal life in living things. So it will be gyva… when its launched… I’ll check in to every so often to see how they are getting on. Gyva sounds a bit like viva, so i used it that way in “gyva Lithuania”. And I call Lithuania a land of water not because of the rain, which gives the country its name, but because of the lakes… there are so many small and medium sized lakes dotted amidst the many pine forests; a fisherman’s paradise. All these things are in the tiny poem. My favourite Lithuanian talked about treating words like essential oils: getting as much in to as little. That’s why i like poetry. (or it could be im too lazy to write long poems… hmm)…

The photo is from:

Total Woman

I read that authorities in the canton of Glarus, here in Switzerland, where the woman known as ‘Europe’s Last Witch’ Anna Goldi was beheaded back in 1782, rejected a motion to clear the woman’s name but has instead ordered an official study into the life of Ms Goldi, to determine, scientifically, if she was indeed innocent. Anna Goldi worked as a maidservant for a doctor in Glarus, who told authorities that she repeatedly put needles in the milk of one of his daughters, apparently by supernatural means. She was arrested and admitted, under torture, that she was in pact with the devil.

News which has prompted me to share one of my latest attempts at poetry, written during August while I was in Ticino, the Italian bit of Switzerland. Because I think we still suffer the effects of the witch hunts. Perhaps it’s a bit more pretentious than my last attempts (which u can see by clicked on the tab ‘poetry’), and any comments however bad are welcome.

“Total Woman”

A glimpse of the past
that’s hidden by flames
so hateful to our nature
how they smoulder still
in the hearts of those
who see right to smother
the true might
of a total
total woman.

as if God was male
as if Life was stale
as if beauty was pale
as if unity fails
what mortal ‘moral’ madness

but now
she glimpses the path
that kindles my flames
so grateful to her nature
what a bolder thrill
from a heart that glows
to give one another
the true might
of a hopeful
global woman.

Jem Bendell, August 13th, 2007, Ticino, Switzerland.

Poetry in Hiking

Last week, after 3 days hiking in the Alps, sitting with a view of Bleumlisalp, I made my first attempt at poetry…

Water moods

Like the avalanching snow

Or the rushing streams

You like your moods

Like the glacier melting

Or the cool mountain clouds

You like your moods

Like the meadow below

Or just trampled snow

Do I like your moods?

Like wind, like air

Do you care?

Like water, all that water

Should we?


Thank You Sun

The rays through the clouds

The pink light at dusk

Sun, may I thank you?

Perhaps that’s pointless

As you’ll burn on regardless

But now, you burn through me

I see the rays as beauty

I see the pink and wonder

I’m being thanked for being

And for knowing you are there

So thank you too, Sun.

copyright jem bendell, july 27th 2007