“…like the cave paintings, forty-thousand years ago…” I say.
“Deep inside the earth, there’s this maze of tunnels. You get to a certain age. You go through this ritual out in the wilderness. Then one night. You’re taken into the cave. Total darkness. Maybe you drink some kind of potion. You’re led through pitch-black passages until you get to this place of fire – light flickering across the walls. You see all these amazing beings – men hunting, animals running, jumping – a wild stampede. You’re totally tripped out. Your eyes are wide open trying to take it all in. It’s like…wow, man, what’s going on?”
“It’s art but it’s also religion.”
“Exactly.” he says. “Forever people knew that artists had this…power to make unknown things feel so real – to push and pull people in all these different directions. They had to control it somehow. All the rules and regulations had to be wrapped around this power or people would totally ignore them.”
“Right – and just dance around all day.”
“It’s always been like that, though…artists stirring up whatever is going on and the people in power trying to control it, trying to channel it and use that power for themselves.”
“Or like Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. The Pope and all the priests wishing they could give people visions. But all their sermons and preaching don’t do it. It takes Michelangelo to paint these pictures of God and heaven and all of a sudden people for the next five-hundred years get an idea of what the supernatural world might be like…”
“Museums are the same thing really.” He says. “You have all these galleries and they feed into this system where people with money and power can manipulate the culture. Eventually though, artists just take it right to the people – which is where it should be – in the streets.”
“It’s like New York, right now. They can’t keep the graffiti writers away anymore. It’s all over the city – it has a life of its own. Wherever you look, people’s tags are everywhere.”
“Really man, whole trains just covered with these incredible colors and writing. Where it was just dark and dirty there’s this art everywhere now…just appearing like magic.”
“It is magic…magical. This power that’s always here…that has always been here…behind everything…sometimes it’s hidden…then it has to come out. And people are always trying to figure it out.”
“It’s something being said…messages…these mysterious messages…and where they are…where they appear…”
“You’ll just be going about your day, you look up, and there’s this image of a crown that wasn’t there yesterday. And everything looks different all of a sudden. There’s this energy where there wasn’t before…”
That’s how it would go between Keith and me. The ideas would be flying so quickly we would complete each other’s sentences. In dialog like this many of the distinctions between minds are dissolved. A new unity is born – a thing in itself, an entity, a new identity. It is what the project between us was – is – about. I promoted the idea of the communality of aesthetic vision. Haring collaborated with people in unique ways. For us, collaboration began with streams of…ideas.
We talked about everything but we knew that below the surface it was one dialog about two things – art and life – and the many mysteries connecting them. How to say it without losing it, without losing the spirit of it? To make a mark, to say something, to make another mark, to say another thing, to lose oneself in the other…
But what is the essence? What happens when ecstatic moments of personal transformation are recorded? What is preserved? What is lost? Most often, we are left with mere shards of experience, vapor trails, ripples in ponds – vessels whose shapes are shadows in the sunset.
Can the experience itself be transmitted, whole and intact?
Perhaps it can, by understanding the very act of defining the path is what annihilates the experience. To travel with this understanding is traveling simply and lightly. It is to travel with nothing at all. This is what we have.
And this is the project…
First image: Keith Haring, NYC, 1985. Photo by Tullio Francesco DeSantis
Second image from the collection of Victor and Sultana Lallouz
Third image: Tullio Francesco DeSantis, “WWXIII”, 1980