Saturday, September 22, 2012

MANA origins

Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty, or God, it is not, as the sesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy, it is not the expression of man's emotions by external signs, it is not the production of pleasing objects, and above all it is not pleasure, but it is a union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress towards well-being of individuals and of humanity.
– Tolstoy

"Everybody is looking for their way home." 
Rashit Suleymanov

This year we are making a documentary about the role of the artist in the community and the power that art has to bring people home. In this post we are going to talk about MANA's origins.

MANA Studio originated in Spring 2009 while Ted and me were sitting at an ice cream place and discussing the value of freedom of being able to experiment and explore. The first name for the experimental film club we came up with was Sarascroutum. The term MANA sprang a little later.

We have discovered that the tribes of Melanesia and other Australian aboriginal peoples thought of their world in terms of MANA.

To them mana is power or influence, not physical but showing itself in enabling a man to do or to get what he wants. This "mana" may be in anything, men, wood, trees, animals, stone, or any object large or small, and can be invoked by charms for use. Living beings, spirits or men, liberate it and set it free for use through prayer and sacrifice or charms. Certain things have "mana" for particular purposes; a stone for instance, will have "mana" for making yams grow big; a charm, a form of words, has "mana", e.g. to bring rain. Some spirit has associated itself with the stone or bit of bone, or whatever it is, and works through it. So men have "mana" because of some spirit whose power they can use. Eating the flesh of the tribal official would give one “mana”, which makes those tribes cannibal. MANA studio does not practice cannibalism, however we believe in the power of art. Art is MANA to us.

As Carl Jung states in his book Man and His Symbol:

• The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium. This is what I call the complementary (or compensatory) role of dreams in the psychic make-up.

• For the sake of mental stability and even physiological health, the unconscious and the conscious must be integrally connected and thus move on parallel lines. If they are split apart or dissociated, psychological disturbance follows. In this respect, dream symbols are the essential message carriers.

• Sign - always less than the concept it represents

• Symbol - stands for something more than immediate meaning

If we are to see things in their right perspective, we need to understand the past of man as well as his present. That is why an understanding of myths and symbols is of essential importance.

Aboriginal art carries its’ traditions and symbols for approximately 40,000 years. They dream, and through the symbols that they create by dreaming they connect to their unconscious and keep the harmony between the body and the spirit and the world around.

A Yanyuwa man from the Gulf of Carpentaria (Mussolini Harvey) has described the link between body painting and the Dreaming:

In our ceremonies we wear marks on our bodies, they come from the dreaming too, we carry the design that the Dreamings gave to us. When we wear that Dreaming mark we are carrying the country, we are keeping the Dreaming held up, we are keeping the country and the Dreaming alive.


Aboriginal peoples give us clues to how symbols bring people home. Here is a photo of the turtle we took downtown Sarasota.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Art Honesty


After a long time away from MANA, we, Malika and I, finally began putting together a project that translates the very reason why we created this studio: making art, with honesty. 

In the world today art suffers from many diverging intentions and results. Many times, art becomes a commodity or even an object of adoration – such as in museums and galleries. Also, there are times artists shock the audiences for the sake of gaining fame and recognition.

To many art professionals their notion is changing from creation into production. Who creates for the sake of creating? Express for the sake of expressing? Communicates for the sake of communication? Things seem to shifting to the extent that such questions make sense to some of us. For some reason expression, communication and creativity are not necessarily considered to be a fundamental human need any longer. In fact, art is viewed by many as something not needed in society.

We realize this is not a new problem, in fact it has always been a struggle for art to exist, and in part that has almost been something that perpetuates art in society, this constant effort to nurture it, it is actually a very natural thing. From ancient times, cave paintings, dance and music have always been part of who we are as species, the way we interact with each other. Art came out of the most common human experience, the one of being part of this race, having a sense of pertinence to our communities and express that value of connection somehow.

Quote from Malika's dad: "We are all looking for a way home". Looking into the art scene in the local community of Sarasota, we find Clothesline Gallery, a place that brings people together through the arts. Exploring the role of the artist socially and historically, we see this is one magical thing art is able to do, create concepts that unite ideas, individuals and dreams.

This feels as essential as needed these days, and making this documentary, just like any MANA project is a reflection of that desire to make people understand and feel part of greater forces, the ones that unite us as humans, and makes us what we are.
In a sense I've made the same film over and over again. asking the same simple question: "who are we?" which transformed into "Who am I?"
– Ken Burns