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John Dewey on Fear and Binaries


The eminent early 20th century
American philosopher John Dewey... 

In this above quote, he is on his grand project (to restore "experience" to philosophy)--to debunk all binaries, so it seems. E.g., Life vs. Education, is a good place to start that deconstruction.

Then he goes on, in a passage analogously, where he critiques those that derogate the "lower" aspects of reality (so-called) vs. the "higher" aspects of reality (so-called) that have become so common by the 20 th century in philosophy, and education philosophy and psychology. He wrote of these sensory aspects: 

"Since sense-organs with their connected apparatus are the means of participation [with reality, with Life, with living organisms], any and every derogation of them, whether practical or theoretical, is at once effect and cause of a narrowed and dulled life-experience. Oppositions [i.e., binaries] of mind and body, soul and matter, spirit and flesh all have their origin, fundamentally, in fear of what life may--bring forth. They are marks of contraction and withdrawal [i.e., fear-based]." (Dewey, 1934, pp. 22-3). 

This is not the only passage I have been reading from Dewey, in my recent study of his writing, where I am reading into and between the lines, and sometimes reading explicit calling out of fear in our knowledge and knowing systems--like it is a massive weight on us and life-forces, it is like he is speaking a language of fearlessness. I'll be writing a chapter on his philosophy (fearlessness) and education for my new book The Fear Problematique (2022)... more  to come. 

[NOTE: for another of my FM blogs on Dewey and fear and fearlessness go to:]



Dewey, J. (1934/2005). Art as Experience. Penguin Group.






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Well, after a lot of years of making documentaries, in the 'wild' style of art, activism, and education... Micheal Moore has just had his newest film released last night (mostly on the Trump election and following disasters to democracy in the USA) and on "fear" (and "terror") of all kinds of fascist waves going on all over the world.. I look forward to seeing his latest film, and it is not because I love everthing Moore does and how he represents people and problems--the big and "wicked problems" that we have to face as humanity... but I like to see how he uses his art, smarts, and technologies to "create curriculum" for the 21st century.

I followed his work closely in the post-Columbine highschool mass shooting and how he approached the American "Gun Problem" (aka "Fear Problem") in his movie that won an Academy Award, Bowling for Columbine" (2002). 

I won't say much more at this point until I see the film, and listen to interviews of Moore... with the question in the back of my mind: "Is Moore a good artist, activist, educator?" and so far, I think he is a better artist-activist than he is an educator, and particularly I am referring to how he handles "fear" as a major topic... which runs all through all his best documentary works... in Bowling for Columbine he really was making a film about the growing "culture of fear" ... and its consequences...which, arguably, I would speculate have been brewing for a good 30 years in particular, and the symptoms are arising (e.g., gun violence) etc... and if you watch his 2002 award winning film, it is the "best" dealing with fear as a topic... and of course terror is not far away... in Fahrenheit 11/9 we'll no doubt once again see him dealing with "fear of Trump" and everything Trump represents ... watch carefully how he "teaches" us about what is going on and how best to understand fear/terror and how best to manage it... transform it... if he even gets to anything so complex... my critique of all his works (as he is a typical activist) is his stereotypes and polarizations (simplifications)--to create his stories. 

RECENT VIDEO RESPONSE of mine to Moore's interview on "Democracy Now" tv program (with Amy Goodman):

 Most recent video (2nd one)

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This image is from the book cover of Santiago Zabala's (2017). Why only art can save us: Aesthetics and the absence of emergency. NY: Columbia University Press. The art piece on this cover is The Ninth Hour, sculpture by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.

I added the yellow text... because I thought this was the kind of subtitle I would give if I had written such a book like this. I appreciate the title (as extreme as it is and which publishers these days like and often chose without the author having the final say). The point in my teaching of the importance of the "arational" (not irrational) modality of fearwork (like this image and book) is we need more than rational fear management/education to tackle the Fear Problem. 

The concept of "emergency" is critical to the study of fear-risk and who gets to construct and use (sociopolitically) "emergencies" of all kinds, real or imagined... as this is all part of the Fear Problem today... a dynamic called the "culture of fear" and/or "risk society" or "fearscapes" depending on various authors and critics... artists (and arational modalities) have a lot to contribute to both the problem itself and its solution. Which way will artists go? 

I look forward to reading this book and having discussions on aesthetics and other arational domains (e.g., dreaming, trance, meditation, bodywork) in fearwork ahead... there's so much to do! 


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Still image of myself in the video: "Fusion Coloring" (2017). Video by Greg Wendt

I have always been interested in various lines of development in the human potential. The cognitive line, the moral line, the self line, fearlessness line, and particularly the aesthetic line. For how our development takes place along these various lines, as developmental psychologists call them, one can relate how one perceives fear and fearlessness, and thus, how one is capable to manage and/or transform fear and enhance fearlessness. That's a hypothesis of interest that requires research.

For myself, I have utilized aesthetic practices of various kinds, often related to the arts in some way, and I still practice this. The following 16 min. video is one of my first teaching videos that just begins to explore this relationship and how you can develop your aesthetic line... and assist the movement toward fearlessness... hope you enjoy this video, and feel free to pass it on, and send me comments.

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I would be very interested in a visual representation of the dialectics suggested in Wilber's model, between healing and growing, awakening and presencing.

I am not sure how to get started on this:  it brings up some fear, perhaps in part because Ken's work doesn't address trauma very well.


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As Barbara and I have been on this sabbatical for five months in Canada, it has been our focus to embody the idea of 'artist-in-residence' wherever we go. Currently, we are in Winnipeg, MN, Canada for a few more days. We've stayed at Pete Sarsfield's apartment just off the Assiniboine River and near downtown. It is an exquisite location for us on many levels. Living (house sitting) in another person's dwelling, especially when you have never met them, and they are on holidays, is interesting. I have taken a rather anthropological (ethno- and autoethnographic) view to this ecology of experiencing, especially as Pete's apartment is so invested with his values, philosophy, care and aesthetic sensibility, as well as his politics. But this blog is not about Pete, rather it is all about the art I have engaged in while in his apartment and this area at this time in history. 

The most provocative images, in my view as artist and a/r/tographer come from experiencing the environment on the way into his apartment and then the art and books he has that line his walls and floors. Yes, I said floors. He has mounted art pieces on the floor in the living room, so, without more text at this time as I bring in my interest in fear and fearlessness into this art project at apt. 709, let me show the photos I've taken to accompany this blog and give you a more full aesthetic sense of the ecology of experiencing I have been involved in for the past 5 days here....

First, the hallway down to apt. #709, and we can see the touches that Pete has added to the architecture of a rather bland 1950-60s type apartment complex:


Next, we get a little closer to see the additions he has made to the hallway of which no other apt. has such a deliberate signature as this one...

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