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Belief
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In a world where so many values—social, artistic, political, religious, cultural, economic—have been questioned and contested in this era of great transformation on a global scale, what do you still believe in? Numerous books and essays have clustered around “the end of . . .” or “post- . . .” perspectives after a century of turmoil in every sphere of life on every continent. Previously sacrosanct beliefs have been turned upside down. Against this background, artists and intellectuals have continued to rethink their relationship to legacies and to the public, to explore new processes and materials, and to find meaning in personal struggle.

What are your strongest beliefs in relation to your work in the world? How do these beliefs inform your work?

Carolee Schneemann

Why is “belief” disheartening? Because subject to reprisal, betrayal, shifting, proprieties. Why didn’t PAJ give me “desire”? I have certitude for desire, of desire.

. . . belief . . . ghosts, shadows, cement, asphalt, skyscrapers, spit, bones, blood . . .

I believe in seasonal hallucinations and the possibility of the daily paranormal . . . pantheism . . . witchcraft . . . the spinning moon.

Belief is not conviction. I am convinced of the necessity of my work, of labor, of animal devotions.

Belief “held to be true” . . . “received theology as true and existing.”

I have confidence but not belief. I have conviction, contradiction, uncertainty, vulnerability, the lightning slash of lust.

Excuse me, I believe you are in the wrong seat . . . Sorry, but I believe your paintings are vacuous . . . I believe you are sitting on my sweater . . . I believe it was here a minute ago . . .

I believe in going to church on Christmas Eve and I believe in Santa Claus!

I believe most conspiracy and assassination theories. I believe we live in a web of deception, historic deviations shaping the dynamic of my militaristic culture.

I believe in alternative medicine, acupuncture, exercise, orgasmic pleasure, film light, and growing herbs.

Erik Ehn

Belief is when we stop caring. Belief, firm, is nothing. From it we may advocate, we may add or debilitate; in itself, it is perfectly indifferent, a space free from anxiety, because nothing is owned or argued. It is prior to challenge, and it offers no challenge. If one absolutely believes, for example, in the equality of all persons under the law, one does not argue the ground of this belief, except to reconcile others to it, but the belief itself is axiomatic, absolutely initial (one may even believe first in equality—which is mathematical and apart from the human—and then applied to persons). This space (of not-caring, of nothing) will always sit inside our affections, perceptions, biases . . . but it doesn’t need our feelings, and the closer we get to it the more our feelings seem like a kind of argument we don’t have to make; the belief is with us and doesn’t profit from our justifications. You can’t argue to or from a belief; it reveals itself. It is that by which you are called (called by that which speaks in an untranslatable language from an utterly alien place).

I believe in nothing, in two senses. I’m finding wonderful articulation for the mystical brand of nothing outlined above in Marguerite Porete (burned at the stake, and sure, why not—a full-out threat to Force):

Such a Soul no longer loves anything in God, nor will she love anything, however noble it may be, if it is not solely for the sake of God and for the sake of what God wills, and for the sake of God in all things and all things for the sake of the love from God. And through such love is this Soul alone in the Pure Love of the love of God. Such a Soul is so transparent in understanding that she sees herself to be nothing in God and God nothing in her.

So on. This “nothing” business, then, is straight out of Porete, but also out of the usual gang—Avila, John X, Ignatius and Lorca, the Beatles of Spanish Zen. When writing is working, it doesn’t mean anything, it happens.

The other kind of nothing: I absolutely distrust my ability to read the world; I don’t make fetish of my opinions. Or...


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