“Yoga, meditation, and the martial arts access the soul by way of the body. The physical leads to the spiritual. The humble produces the sublime.”
- Steven Pressfield “Turning Pro”
I have been volunteering with the Studio Pavilion at the House for an Art Lover in Glasgow for about a year now. I started as an invigilator and over time had the opportunity to engage myself a bit more in the running of the gallery. At the beginning, coming to the gallery one day a week was the only thing I had going on in my life. It was after the time of a break up from a relationship that was as freeing as it was binding. Enlightenment thrives in polarity.
The gallery’s exhibitions are great, although apart from one, completely different to what I would normally stop to look at. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity, that one day a week, to see people, to see others living their lives, being, and most importantly to speak with them. To speak about art with others.
Over time I saw many visitors. Some come and go, not feeling engaged with the show, some stay for a bit, read about the concepts and works presented, sometimes they smile with understanding, sometimes they roll their eyes with disbelief that this could be called art.
There are also those, like me at the time, who come in just to be around people, to talk with someone, to hear somebody’s voice, to validate their fleeing existence by having other eyes look a them.
On few occasions I had men flirting with me, I even received an invitation to meet someone who I thought only wanted to see me naked. It’s all good. I can read them, I can sense what they want, what they came for. As an invigilator, I am there for them, but only within the bounds of the bright space of the gallery.
On occasion there are those who come by as a company of their mother, their sister or brother, usually an elderly, after they’ve been for a lunch or a coffee at the House for an Art Lover cafe. They are those who don’t follow art. They know it’s there, on the walls, sitting flatly to be pretty. They don’t think they need it in their lives, they don’t get it. They’ve never tried it, they’re professionals of other disciplines.
Those visitors I enjoy speaking with the most. They’re not a challenge. They’re fun to read and let be read by.
Yesterday, we had a visit from an elderly lady who came in with her son. The man seemed like a professional, dressed smart, in a checked shirt, fairly laid back, with his sleeves rolled up. He looked at the piece on the floor and said: "I don't understand it".
We conversed for about 5 minutes, during which time I explained to him the basic concept of the exhibition and pointed to the other pieces in the show. He still couldn't see it. I then started asking him about his daily chores. Does he clean? Twice a year, was his reply. Does he iron his shirts? No, he hangs them neatly after they've been washed so they iron themselves.
I then asked him about any activity that he focuses on in his daily life that takes him to a place of being in the zone, in the flow. He said he loved cooking. From then on our conversation started being meaningful. He suddenly related to the idea of making fun from the mundane, which to him meant being competitive. He smiled as he realised that if he had to do something he didn't find appealing but which had to be done, he could use his interest in being competitive and have fun doing it. He could be good in it. He could find himself in it.
We started laughing and I could see a sparkle in his eyes. I knew he got it. I knew he understood a part of himself he didn't realise before.
To me this is what art does to people. It allows humans to connect with one another and it allows them to find connections within themselves. Art helps us grow as it clarifies the laws of the universe that simply are. Unlike man made laws, we can’t abide or rebel against the spiritual laws. Like gravity, they just are.
Tessa Lynch and Rachel Adams’ ‘Stoop Stoop Stooping is Stoopid’ exhibition is a conversation “about Frances Gabe’s invention, the self-cleaning house, as a framework by which to look at laborious making techniques and connotations of domestic mess.” To me, the pieces displayed reflect upon finding fun in the mundane, about finding your place of flow, your zone, that is as transcendental as it is based in reality. Through our physical engagement with the task or material at hand we can reach for clarity in our mind. When we put our bodies through a physical activity we let ourselves go, releasing the tensions brought by the outside world.
For Mrs. Gabe it was cleaning, for my lovely visitor it is cooking, for others it can be walking in torrential rain high up hills. Whatever takes you to that place of forgetting your Ego, is the place that reveals your true Self.