'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Monday, 7 February 2011


I've decided I spend far too much time thinking. Or rather not that I spend too much time thinking. Thinking's ok. But I spend far too much time taking the results of the activity of thinking seriously. Giving it top billing when really second or probably even third billing might be a more appropriate level for something that's, well, interesting enough, but possibly rather less reliable as a source of wisdom than it gets credit for.

It occurred to me recently that my pony is one of the smartest beings I know. Her IQ might not give me a run for my money, but the fact remains, she's constantly teaching me things I didn't know. Important things - about generosity and spontaneity and forgiveness and relationship. Does she spend all her time thinking? It's difficult to say with certainty but I definitely get the impression not. I definitely get the impression that it's not the thinking part of her being that's offering up the wisdom. And yet the decisions she makes, if the word decision can even be applied here, definitely seem to have more wisdom in them than the decisions I apparently make as a result of all this great weight of thinking that I like to busy myself with.

So I'm mulling over all of this. I've been mulling over all of this for a few years actually. And then last night I came across a passage in a yoga book a friend leant me:

"It is about feeling. It is not about thinking. Although I've come to understand that the heart does think, it's not the kind of thought that comes from my brain. The heart has its own intelligence."

Maybe that's what my pony's up to? She's heart thinking. Sounds good to me. I'm wondering if perhaps I can make a few more decision with my heart intelligence and give my poor tired wee brain a few days off.


And then today I was feeling awed all over again by my recollections of the Martin Creed work at Hauser & Wirth, so I listened to the artist's talk on Hauser's website and to Creed's excellent and hilarious and ridiculous and profound single that just so happens to be called Thinking / Not Thinking (Work-1090). It's 1 minute 40 seconds long with rather a catchy upbeat and the words, sung in his likeable unpretentious Glaswegian way, go:

"I was thinking
Then I wasn't thinking
And then I was thinking
Thinking
Not thinking"

I feel I'm in the presence of greatness listening to this and watching the accompanying video with the tiny dog trotting across the screen and then trotting back, and then the huge dog trotting across the screen and then trotting back. Perhaps it's rather like the light going on and off. But a bit different.

The dogs, Martin Creed says, represent thinking and not thinking.

"The small dog represents thinking and the big dog represents not thinking. The small dog is someone trying really hard to think and control things and the big dog is someone a little big clumsy and out of control. I think that not thinking is better than thinking. I prefer not thinking but I think it's really difficult to not think because when you're not thinking you can't know that you're not thinking because if you did know you'd be thinking so I think it's better to do things spontaneously and instinctively, but you can't control that because if you were controlling it then it wouldn't be spontaneous…. Thinking basically is just not going to get you anywhere… Don't think about it."

Yeah. I've been vindicated in my anti-rationalist madness not once but twice in two days. Thinking, it turns out, is for wimps.

In the North Gallery though Creed gets a bit more down and serious about showing us how to circumnavigate the intellect and go straight for the heart. The dogs lend an air of cuteness and humour to Creed's wisdom. North Gallery lends the gut wrenching, cold-sweat inducing, terror of God and all that surrounds us to the art historical mix. I love a bit of terror. It's where the real stuff's at. If you think it's not terrifying out there in the world then look again my friend, look again! It's no use kidding yourself. Ultimately it won't get you anywhere. Nowhere at all.

For me that's what 'great' art does. It's what great artists have always known. You can talk to the intellect of course, that's fine, that's great in fact, fascinating. But don't overlook the heart. The heart is where the real stuff goes on - the light stuff and the dark stuff, the blood, the gore and the divine. Overlook that at your peril. Sweep that under the carpet and there'll be all hell to pay.

Tennessee Williams once said of Jackson Pollock that he 'paints ecstasy as it cannot be written.' I suspect any attempt to describe the power of Creed's work in Hauser & Wirth's North Gallery will come up against a similar lack. Certainly any attempt I might make. So I guess I'll just have to urge you to go and see it for yourself. But as the friend I experienced it with said at the time: "Probably not for the faint hearted. Or those in therapy." You have been warned.



Martin Creed
'Mothers'
until 5 March
Hauser & Wirth
Savile Row
London

1 comment:

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