As Lady Day once said, "Hush now, don't explain." This is a place I not only want to visit, I want to live there.
Robbie Robertson, is a singer-songwriter and guitarist best known for his work as lead guitarist and primary songwriter for The Band. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
Taking on unexplained phenomena project By Judith Margolis
Among the results of a Google search for the title "Unexplained Phenomena,” is a website that features updated UFO reports streaming in constantly from all around the world. Even if it’s possible that those particular strange things in the sky are nothing more than balloons, ordinary aircraft or birds mistaken as astronomical objects, doesn’t it make you feel better to know that numerous investigative organizations stand alert, world wide, keeping track? Meanwhile people most attached to UFO theories hold fast to the notion that humans have been warned, and have known about such things for years.
So what is real? And how will we know it when we see it? The heat of new technology has come to demand that people operate a whole constellation of baffling mechanical, electronic and digital equipment in order to communicate — cellular phones, computers, printers, scanners, cameras! Did you know there are computer games for toddlers? Yet, does anyone know ANYONE who has mastered their own cable TV / DVD / home entertainment system?
This unexplained phenomena project is an ongoing collaboration between two artists who have long been interested in visual expression about "extraordinary mysterious encounters with the unknown,” and who came to this project through committed life-long art practice. Victor Raphael has contemplated immense space in his work, in moving and still photography, as well as hand painting in gold and metal leaf. In the late 1970's, his series of images transformed the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán outside of Mexico City into a UFO landing site.
For graphic designer, David Jordan Williams, the “unusual and the mysterious” has informed his music album covers, as well as his fine art and fashion photography. His history of lofting Frisbees and other circular devices into the air and photographing them, led to experimentation with the visual effect of UFO's flying through the sky. Both artists practice respectful, intelligent (read “highbrow”) contemplation of the cosmos / “what lies beyond” with the sheer delight and (read “lowbrow”) entertaining notion of flying saucers.
When Raphael and Williams visited each other's studios in September 2008, their shared inclination to apocalyptic speculation mixed with wry, matter of fact observation, provided the common ground to begin their collaboration. Using both traditional and digital methods, they seamlessly executed the conjoined works so that distinguishing each artist’s contribution is virtually impossible. The works also boast a disarming authenticity of NOT having been raided, as might be expected, from stock photo banks. All their UPP imagery began with photos taken by one or the other of them during their travels abroad or on field trips originating in Los Angeles.
The ongoing upp is a sensual arena between credible accounts and wishful thinking — between Knowing and the Desire for Surety. At first we may be distracted by bafflement and a "what the..????" response. But then, with careful scrutiny, both the humor and seriousness of this undertaking becomes apparent. With repeated viewing, the work begins to ask questions. Why do people flock to archeological sites or ancient temples, as shown in “Blue Mosque UFO” or Stonehenge Storm,” or take civic pride in icons of architectural achievement such as that pictured in“Bay Bridge Sighting?” What is, in fact, important about a place associated with Transcendence and Foundation? Even as an answer forms you begin to suspect ridicule or a gag. But maybe not. After all, if your God is the God of Art, can’t Jackson Pollack’s grave be a designated sacred place?
Ah, now you get it. This work pays homage to the origins of Magic. If you’ve ever lived in LA then“California Bungalow UFO” is business as usual, and chances are you’ve been caught in a traffic jam up on Melrose and “Iris at Paramount Gate” is a glimpse of something that may just have appeared in front of your very eyes.
Let’s face it, these boys are having fun. “Ephesus Antikythera UFO” looks as if the flash mob choreographer with the CD player is about to arrive and get that rag tag group of droopy people up off their asses and dancing! Right now they are so busy looking at the ground they don’t see the miraculous right in front of them. Whether it’s the uplifting glory of the Natural World or Fandom for a drunk who created an entirely New Visual Language and then wrapped him self around a telephone poll, the question is, how can a place that is crowded with traffic and ordinary people be the portal to so much Magic? And that place is simply the world and we are in it.
Maybe the lesson here is that open-eyed wonder is available and can be glimpsed at any time.
Some of the Raphael and William’s images extrapolate about the influence of painting and the ability to render luminous fluidity of light, for which both Raphael and Williams owe a debt. I am taken by the obvious reference to painters J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) and Claude Monet (1840-1926), especially Monet, who reached maturity as an artist when both photography and psychoanalysis were beginning to abduct painterly consciousness.
Philosophers have long speculated on phenomena that looks entirely different when viewed through the lens of theology, than it does in a science fiction context. The basic fare of religion has been to hear voices and sounds from other times and to believe in supernal beings of unusual form, which inhabit or visit from worlds unseen in our world, wielding awesome power beyond mortal ability.
Wait! Does this sound suspiciously like a movie plot about space invaders? Or perhaps it mimics the documented origins of various major religious doctrines.
While the sequential narration and time-lapse pacing of the UPP slide show suggest encounters with realities that are difficult to fathom, these, at times puzzling and at times sublime images, also behave like garden-variety literary/film/television science fiction. Raphael and Williams are referencing a time when the space program actualized our wildest dreams about outer space and then collided in the daily newspaper with glum Cold War politics and wild-eyed conspiracy theories.
Psychologist Carl Jung, whose theories on the nature of the unconscious mind, and archetypal imagery brought attention to Alchemy and Kabala as metaphorical models of psychological process, took on the UFO issue. He determined that, whether or not the reports out of Roswell were in fact credible, proving impossible-to-prove-Truth is ultimately less important than understanding the human desire for proof about a World beyond our world.
If that is so, then we are being brought far beyond the creamy, gee whiz nostalgia of sci-fi sensibility to a surprising and challenging nexus where rational consideration of, and fanciful ecstatic ruminations about what is meaningful intersects with all manner of religious issues.
In these times, over-whelmed with multi-tasking, and an early-childhood imperative to be plugged in, artists Victor Raphael and David Jordon Williams are beseeching us to Slow Down. An inclination to search for meaning inevitably follows. The duality of possibility in the argument between Biblical versus Star Trekian theology almost always focuses on belief that there is a life beyond this world OR disputes over how a commitment to “rational thought” might disprove that belief.
I suspect Raphael and Williams, like many artists, seek images that will transform their own view of the world. And through their creative process, they seek to affect our view and how we see things. Any one who has ever taught drawing knows that the point is not only what the hand can accomplish, but also about how we look at things. The unexplained phenomena project calls upon the viewers imagination, the most "God - like" aspect of human ability. It instills in the viewer the potential to look at things differently than before. Not bad for something that may not even be real.
ABOUT JUDITH MARGOLIS
“Israel-based American artist, Judith Margolis, draws on the spiritual when confronting the political. Her paintings, drawings, artist’s books, multi-media collages and essays aim to celebrate, as well as question, to berate and poke a finger at, how utterly unpredictable and unintelligible, LIFE is. Her sense of identity and the essence of her art, spring from a life-long feminist consciousness, a radical educational philosophy of de-schooling society, commitment to counter-culture social activism, and an extreme engagement with and ambivalence about religious tradition, especially, but not exclusively Judaism. Mostly, she loves to look at, and is sometimes healed by, how things appear.
Unexplained Phenomena Revealed
Cultural Weekly readers have long been fans of unexplained phenomena, the collaborative art project by Victor Raphael and David Jordan Williams that fuses photographs from around the world with mysterious encounters.
“We should not rule out the unexplained or the exceptional when considering what is real and what we know,” the artists tell us.
Their work has just been collected into a new book, unexplained phenomena project, which contained 39 images, an essay by Judith Margolis, and an introductory note from Robbie Robertson. The e-book also contains rich-media video.
unexplained phenomena project can be ordered here.
As a bonus, here is their latest video.
Image © Victor Raphael & David Jordan Williams
Image of the Week
Floating Rock at LACMA
unexplained phenomena project is a collaboration between artists Victor Raphael and David Jordan Williams. The series includes images from around the world and explores extraordinary mysterious encounters with the unknown. unexplained phenomena project hopes to elicit in the viewer the idea that we should not rule out the unexplained or the exceptional when considering what is real and what we know.
Victor Raphael is a multi-media artist based in Los Angeles who artwork has been exhibited internationally and can be found in many collections including the Bibliotheque nationale de France, The Polaroid Collection, LACMA, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Raphael has had Museum retrospectives at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, at Pepperdine University, in 2000, a 30-year survey at USC Fisher Museum of Art in 2009, and most recently, in fall 2011, a retrospective at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA.
David Jordan Williams is a award winning Photographer and Graphic Designer based in Los Angeles who divides his time between commercial and fine art projects. He is represented by three stock agencies, Getty Images and Corbis / Veer. His Fine Art Photography is represented by Soho Myriad in Atlanta, Los Angeles and London.
Image: ‘Floating Rock at LACMA’ © Victor Raphael and David Jordan Williams