Darius Sanai for LUX magazine
LUX Contributing Editor and artist Maryam Eisler has been photographing some of the world’s greatest artists over FaceTime and WhatsApp for LUX. As the project evolves, our online exhibition Confined Artists – Free Spirits: photographs from lockdown by Maryam Eisler will grow, accompanied by musings from the likes of Marina Abramovic, Larry Bell, George Condo, Eric Fischl, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Marilyn Minter, Shirin Neshat and Laurie Simmons. Below, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai introduces Maryam’s brilliant and original oeuvre, and Maryam herself muses on her inspiration, after which we present her works in all their raw and un-retouched digital glory.
The lockdown around the world is having an unprecedented effect on every aspect of human life. Many people have lost their jobs or have seen their businesses imperilled. Others feel helpless as they see the suffering and sacrifices around them.
In such times, the raison d’etre of creativity and artistry comes under scrutiny: who can have time for anything unrelated to the clear and present danger caused to humankind by these strands of self-replicating RNA?
But creativity is part of what it is to be human. Somewhere in our DNA (itself a complex remake of the same nucleic acid that is coronavirus) is a program for the unique human desire and ability to create art, and appreciate aesthetic, for its own sake. Some of the greatest artistic creations in our history, from the temples of the Nile to Picasso’s Guernica, have emerged from horror and hardship. Artists cannot stop creating, even if the art world, that very contemporary construct, has temporarily stopped working.
When Maryam Eisler, one of our contributing editors, called me with an idea, a couple of weeks into lockdown, I knew it would be worth listening to. An artist and author, Maryam is the archetypal peripatetic global art world citizen: born in Iran, educated in France and the States, resident in London.
Maryam said she had started a project photographing her favourite artists as screenshots on FaceTime and WhatsApp. I said it would be an honour to run her project as an online exhibition, and also in the pages of our summer 2020 print edition. The project gained momentum, to what you see here today: some of the most celebrated artists in the world, captured in a casual moment, on a phone, and unedited. A true sign of our times. Over to you, Maryam.
MAY 3, GREENWICH VILLAGE, MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, HOME
Our notion of self is delusional. Our identity is a fantasy. In our true nature we abide in eternal light and the world is perfect. Buddha Mind, Atman, God, the names are many, the experience of our true nature is one. At times we may get a glimpse of it through beauty and art. Truly we are only the Witness, pure, blissful, undefiled, of the fantasies of the self. These fantasies are neither good nor bad: they include joy, pain, fear, hope, they even include our own death. Whether we are aware of it or not, our true nature remains untouched, so all we need to do is to observe tenderly our skillfully woven delusions and enjoy the ride!
In this mystical view, refined through the ages by countless sages, even the pandemic is just another facet of the sufferings we encounter when we forget our fundamentally compassionate, ecstatic nature.
On the other end, if a big truck is going to run you over, will you sit and meditate or will you run for your life?
The pandemic is the dress rehearsal of the future. The pandemic is visible, the future is invisible but it is here, cleverly made invisible in plain view: twenty years of illegal wars for oil, the reckless destruction of biological and cultural diversity, the transformation of the American republican party into a suicide cult, the triumph of an economic order whose goal is to make lots of indifferent stuff and indifferently throw it away, man-made poverty, man-made tyranny, man-made refugees, at the root of it all man-made economy.
The economy is not a dogma dictated by God, the economy is an invention of men.
There are partisans of this economic order. To them, economy comes first and human life is just an afterthought, a hindrance to the aimless accumulation of wealth.
If the market could get rid of the human race it would. The partisans of our absurd economic order, which we all know is killing the earth, like to tell us: ‘this is life.’ Maybe what they mean is ‘death is life’. Or maybe what they mean is: ‘your death is my life’. Fighting to save ourselves would be inelegant. Fighting against the partisans of death would turn us into them. We have to change with them and not against them and this will require great imagination, more imagination than the most accomplished artist can ever offer.
It is an old story, playing one time too many: the lambs coming to the rescue of the wolves.
It is happening now, a few blocks from where I write: first responders, nurses, doctors, firemen, workers holding the city together, embracing the silent but eloquent simplicity of love and service. Light attracts darkness, but darkness breeds the light.
West Village, New York