Saturday, May 31, 2008

Votive Garments

These collages are my doodles of Minoan votive dresses - you can see the original Cretan Bronze Age faience ones in the black and white pics here. My coloured versions are also responses to the pre-restoration "Snake Goddess" - you can see her without her head just here in this picture of the so-called "Temple Repository" contents from Knossos. I'm fiddling round with ideas about votive textiles, paper dolls, mammalia/udders, sacrifice and the psuedo-art-sacrifice of Herman Nitsch.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More 'offensive' than budding breasts?

There are a lot of artists who are much more 'offensive' than Bill Henson. Here are two of them: the Surrealist Hans Bellmer - who I actually like very much although I do wonder what he was thinking (reminds me of a TV show I saw on Japanese men who had really well-made life-size sex dolls which they treated as real); and the arty British brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman, now they are just offensive - but I think they are making a joke, a very black one, yes, but still some sort of jokey comment on something... I haven't actually ever researched them, so I don't really know what they are on about. They are obviously lunatics though, and I admire that.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Art and the Budding Maiden

I'm rather interested in the brou-ha-ha over Bill Henson's current exhibition in which photos of a girl in the early stages of adolescence have been considered way too "sexual" and "distasteful" by the media and politicians. Apparently he might incur obscenity charges because of the photos. As soon as I saw the invitation to this now infamous show (we have a copy of it at work) I immediately thought of this Blind Faith album cover pictured here. While Anna Schwartz in The Age has some interesting things to say about child sexualisation and how yes, while it certainly exists, Bill Henson's work is not the place to be looking for it, I don't know that I've ever heard any complaints about this obviously much more sexual image here. I do recall reading that the band asked this girl's parents if she could pose like this on the album's cover, and they said yes (it was the 70's after all). I wonder if it is a case of it being a Rock Music context and am reminded of Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page's 14-year old girlfriend Lori Maddox, or The Rolling Stone bass player, Bill Wyman's 13-year old Mandy Smith - no one has ever said anything about these cases except for a bit of eye-rolling and from what I've read, both Lori's and Mandy's parents consented to the relationship (maybe because these musicians were obviously rich) - and that now reminds me of Elvis and Priscilla Presley! Another example is Jerry Lee Lewis and his 13-year old wife Myra Brown who was also his cousin and while there was parental consent here too, apparently this was a bit of a scandal in England but not in the USA. I just think that such young girls are mentally too young for sexual relationships with men in their late 20s and older, but perhaps not? Obviously men, not just decadent musicians, have been getting really young women as sexual partners for centuries - they're going to be really compliant aren't they, and they won't have had much other sexual experience with which to compare the performance of these men. NOT that I am linking such behaviour with Henson, I'm definately not, but I'm just saying that old(er) men and really young women are not anything new. While in the current climate of tension about "child sexuality" this Blind Faith image looks quite scandalous, I also think that it is actually quite an attractive image, from an artistic angle, and Henson's images are too. Although he's not my favourite artist in the world I don't think his current exhibition needs to be labelled as so terribly "sexual" - I think we're obviously betraying *our* (society's) uncomfortable-ness with and anxiety over the exposed adolescent body. There are many angles to this sort of imagery and questions about modern sexuality or lack thereof. Certainly it is a *modern* concern with "pedophilia" that has the censor's knickers in a knot and I am all for protecting young people from predatory adults. But this art kerfuffle has me seeing the question from several sides and I'm undecided on it so far. Especially since I have become aware of just how much weird and unequal sex went on in the ancient world. We're uptight about it now, and we should protect young people, but the whole question of the history of sexualities is really interesting and maybe we could have a look at that in order to contextualise ourselves in regards to "sex" today. I certainly do not think Henson's exhibition should have been closed and the prudish focus on it has actually made the images *much more* titillating rather than less. It'd have gotten much less attention if it had not been targeted as some sort of child sexploitation. Bill Henson is an aesthete, if people want to go finger-pointing why not look at proud pedophile William Burroughs? Have people forgotten that its only recently that anyone had a problem with "underage" sexuality anyway?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Women, Sacrifice and Cows

We're having an exhibition soon called 'Bias Bound' and I'm fiddling around with ideas for it. These are some half-done dolls which are informed by my study of the ancient world at University. They combine ideas about women - particularly women in Minoan garments such as the so-called 'Snake Goddess' - and animal sacrifice, particularly cows. They aren't meant to be historically correct, of course, and are simply collage sketches of ideas that just float around in my mind - although I am interested in links in ancient religion(s) between women and cows. I thought I might give them monstrous or angry heads, which I haven't done yet, and maybe arms, possibly holding snakes.

Friday, May 9, 2008

'Sign of the Witch' back cover blurb

I am totally honoured and chuffed that David Waldron asked me to provide a blurb for the back of his new book 'Sign of the Witch' (Carolina Academic Press 2008). Here's what I said:

The contemporary Witchcraft movement is increasingly finding itself under the spotlight of academia’s critical gaze. While to some adherents the examination of our history, beliefs and structure appears as a bright and intrusive light probing the dark crevices and tangled tales of our beloved tradition, for others objective academic scholarship is exciting and a welcome aid in the process of self-reflexivity. Waldron’s identification and critique of the core aspects of the modern Witch’s identity provide what should be seen as an invitation for practitioners to remove our rose-coloured glasses approach to our own history and instead to take on board the results of rigorous investigation. For the general public, by whom Witches are so often misunderstood, an academic examination of the movement can only enhance the likelihood of tolerance and understanding that are the essence of religious pluralism.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Geeks and the Irrational

Yes, Geeks, not Greeks... it's me attempting to be funny, referring to E.R. Dodd's book about Dionysian religion (which I own but haven't actually read)... seeing as my attempt at being rational (below) was more a case of stream-of-consciousness babbling. Yeah, this picture has absolutely nothing to do with that... Oh, except for, I guess, being an example of the persistence of Hermetic thinking, still very prevalent today, and that's irrational, and geeky. C'mon, don't say it isnt!

The Last Rational Pagan?

Yikes! I just noticed on my Aegean Archaeology lecturer, Louise Hitchcock's blog that she has me listed in the sidebar as "The last rational Pagan"... Besides that being a provocative statment to other Pagans - and let me emphasise that I didn't say that myself, although I do appreciate that Louise thinks I'm rational, thanks Louise! - I'd better quickly put up a post that makes me look rational then!!!! Yeah, its a problem, being kinda in the middle of, on the one hand modern Paganism, which is obviously a religion, and on the other hand being so attracted to Richard Dawkins' and his so-called "militant atheism"... and then it's rather shocking when one discovers through academic research just *how different* ancient paganism(s) are from what is purported to be Paganism today. Although... that does not mean that I think contemporary Paganism is not Paganism, just that many of the historical claims of modern Paganism are complete bunkum. But we've known that since at least 2000 with Ronald Hutton's "Triumph of the Moon", haven't we. But still, there's more to be done, more modern claims to be dissected. Sabina Magliocco has done an interesting analysis on Raven Grimassi's "Stregheria", and I think there's more to be looked at with that from a Roman religion angle. Sarah Iles Johnston is rumoured to be considering analysing Hellenic Reconstructionism... There's lots to look at, lots to do for people with an ancient religion bent to focus on in comparing modern Pagan religions with ancient ones... There's going to be a bit of that - at least from the angle of "Goddess worship" at the next World Archaeological Congress in Dublin in June. I've heard its all going to be "very respectful" to the religionists. Dawkins would have an apoplectic fit... although last I saw of him on TV he seemed very restrained - too restrained I thought. I like it when he argues against religion, its terribly stimulating and frankly, it needs to be done.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Roman Holiday

Who feels like a Roman holiday? ME, that's who. I've just spent ages writing an essay on 'mola salsa' a floury, purificatory substance made out of salted spelt by the Vestal Virgins for use in animal sacrifice. I also covered 'suffimen' also floury, but made from the ashes of calf foetuses torn from sacrificed cows at the Fordicidia and mixed with ashes of the tail of the October Horse. This research has proven to be another confirmation that ancient pagan religions are *nothing like* modern ones - not even Reconstructionism really, as so many aspects are omitted.