Ivy-Clad: Mirrors, Masks, Magic, and Art

Sannion asks: “how much is too much? Should you always put it all out there or is it okay, even necessary at times, to hold some things back? Do you always have to be honest, vulnerable and pushing against limitations? What if the things you feel called to express are somehow counterproductive to the greater purpose of your art?”

Art—the good stuff, at least—is all made by bleeding. Enough is already too much.

You have to hold something back: it’s a matter of survival. You must retain some essential kernel of self, whatever that is, hidden away in your heart-of-hearts, so that, after you’ve created—ποιῶ, facio—until you’re dry and dying, there’s something left to regrow from. Because you must always be honest, especially when you’re lying through your teeth. That honesty makes you vulnerable, even as it makes you powerful. And art that isn’t pushing against some limitation, even if its only the artist’s own endurance, isn’t really worth doing. It might be fun for the spectator, but not to do.

In all these things, art and magic are very much the same: the whole point is to split yourself open and stir up whats inside, mixing it with what’s outside and what has never been and what just might be, if only we dream hard enough. Artists and magicians call upon dreams and images, draw them out of the ether by rite or by sheer will, and manifest them in the material realm. Spirits, paintings, narratives, curses, symphonies, motion, pleasure, creation, sculpture, ecstasy, destruction. We stalk labyrinths of mirrored hallways, staring into the abysses that can only be found within. We embrace each distorted image for the truth it reveals, and listen carefully as it whispers to us of the secrets that cannot be found in the mortal world. We craft masks fabricated from our dreams and nightmares, stitch them together with our own tendons, and then endow them with such glammours that only others of our kind can see the grotesque materia at the heart of the wonders the uninitiated applaud.

One must hold something back, lest one be consumed utterly …. but, at the same time, the degree to which one holds back is the degree to which failure is almost assured. And yet … only we can know the things that we keep back. Only we can judge what is too precious, or too awful, to share. What will contaminate the work. What will overpower the work.

We ride the razor edge, and we are always bleeding.


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