ESR 4 Blog March 2021: Jenny Fradranski

The volcano as an artist

Following up on the earthquake experience that I described in my previous blog post: you have probably heard by now about the recent volcano eruption in Iceland. Together with thousands of other curious people I already had the chance to visit Fagradalsfjall – Icelandic visitors described it to me as „a perfect eruption“ because it is so rare to be able to witness an eruption in such close proximity. As levels of gas and weather conditions are constantly monitored, Icelandic authorities are doing everything to make it safe to be part of this natural phenomenon. It is hard to put in words what it feels like to be so close to the inside material of the earth. The volcanos appearance is mesmerizing and constantly changing. It’s energy is captivating – you just don’t want to stop looking at it. The magma piles up in highly aesthetic shapes and testifies to the earth‘s becoming. Impressions that are hard to forget and are blazing a trail in my subconscious mind. A few days after my visit I woke up from a dream in which the volcano had disintegrated, lava was flowing everywhere, but then abruptly it turned into a frozen waterfall. I was devastated in the dream because the earth had stopped pouring its inside out and so I started to research the symbolism of volcanos and read with delight a text by Justine Ariel with the title „Volcanos and the unconscious mind: A case study“ in which she, among others, develops the idea of the volcano as an artist: „A volcano, in its paradoxical nature, is both formless and ordered, and it is the volcano itself that gives form to its own formlessness. In this way, the volcano is, philosophically, an artist, simply by existing as both a geological void and a physical form capable of emitting lava, gas, ash, and steam that can be seen and recorded by the human eye.“

Giving form to the formless is at the heart of the artistic process. It is an act of imagination, but also of world making which is a crucial aspect of socially engaged art or art as politics because it strives for social change, for birthing the new, like the volcano, which is the earth‘s pathway for a new phase of life. And although socially engaged art is addressing and opposing neoliberalism, capitalism, colonialism, racism, fascism and so on, it is actually extremely hard to overcome these structures while being part of them in some way or another. Like the magma that is forming inside of the earth, causing quakes before it bursts out, there are so many critical minds at this point in time gathering together to find pathways out of the crust of the old. The new might not erupt in a spectacle, but, rather, in a chain reaction – time-delayed, and in different forms, but it will. And it needs encouragement like that of artist Tanja Bruguere who in 2014 at the Creative Times Summit said: „We should stop using art to imagine. We need to start using art to build the imagined. We need to stop „getting it through art. We need to start living it, experiencing it because of art. We need to work on a 1:1 scale.”  With my research I not only want to observe this process of building the imagined but I want to be an impactful part of it. To figure out what lays ahead of me.

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