Holy Hell

The summer is still hanging on even though it’s about to be fall. It has been the hottest September in 160 years here in Sweden. I absolutely loathe heatwaves. I miss rainy days, dark clouds, stormy weather, grey skies and fresh air. But I guess these are the last days of summer.

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From “Holy Hell” (2016)

I watched a great documentary on Netflix yesterday –  “Holy Hell”, about a charismatic spiritual teacher who formed a cult in California in the 80’s, called “Buddafield” and the filmmaker was documenting the events and lives of the members, with his camera, during his 22 years with the cult. I am very creeped out by most religious beliefs and spirituality that is based on a leader (a God or a teacher) and the submission of his followers. People might think I’m into religious spirituality because I’m writing so much about the inner core and how to embrace the inner world. But I’m not. I am so not into that at all.

"Ship of Fools" by Mia Makila. 2008

“Ship of Fools” by Mia Makila. 2008

When you hear religious or spiritual people talk about being filled with light and energy from reaching some kind of spiritual ecstasy, they always describe an “out of body experience”, like the spirit has been liberated from the physical body. To me this is the opposite of what I want to experience. For a person who has been dealing with PTSD for two decades, and a dissasociative disorder, where you separate your mind from your body to survive traumatic experiences and memories, there is nothing holy or liberating about the out of body experience.

2014

2014

Once you start to protecting yourself with the dissasociative state, it is hard to go back to experiencing things with both body and mind connected. I still separate myself at times, even though I’m not going through another trauma. I separate during sex. In arguments. In situations where I don’t feel safe.

This is also visible in my art from a year that was particular hard for me – where I only created octopuses. An octopus doesn’t have a body, only a big head with tentacles dangling underneath:

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From my old blog:

“It was so easy for me to separate my emotional experiences from my carnal existence. In some situations I could actually feel how I disappeared, how I drifted, far, far away from myself and abandoned my body – just as I felt abandoned by life and love.
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When you are sexually, emotionally or physically humiliated and destroyed, you feel completely invisible. To not be seen, to be ignored, to not be listened to – even though you are pleading for your life, trying to connect with the abuser to stop the violence and humiliation,, you are completely extinguished as a human being, not only emotionally but in a way even physically. You feel invisible. Your body is still there, but it doesn’t matter. You are just an object, a meat blob. Like closing your eyes but still being able to see everything that is happening around you, everything that is happening  – to you.”
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The most significant thing for me now is to reconnect and experience life (and myself) with everything I am. It is the most spiritual thing I can imagine – to experience happiness, creativity and pleasure where I am deeply connected between mind, body and spirit.
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It isn’t about finding a light in other people – or from a divine leader to be able fill the void inside your soul, it’s all about finding it within yourself and then do something wonderful with it – as a contribution to the external world. That is what spirituality is to me. A self-intimacy and self-compassion that turns into a balanced and warm energy that I want to share with other people. It is simply about taking responsibility for your own happiness and then sharing it with the world – or with somebody else who is your equal so you won’t lose that sense of inner balance and connection. The beautiful inside-the-body-experience.
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About white, black and the infinite nothingness

 

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A still from “2001 – A Space Odyssey” directed by Stanley Kubrick (1968)

 

The first thing I do when I start working on a new canvas is to paint it black. The blank, white surface makes me very uncomfortable. It’s almost a compulsive act, to fill the empty space with…something, anything. The black paint is the perfect domination. It forces out the nothingness, eliminates the emptiness, tames the blankness. I always do this. Most of the times I let the black background be part of the painting, sometimes I change it to some other color. But I never let it stay white or pristine. The sterile white creeps me out.

Ever since I watched Kubrick’s “2001 – A Space Odyssey” for the first time, I’ve been convinced that Death is this white sterile room of passivity and helplessness. Most likely I will die in a hospital, surrounded by nurses in white, in a room with white walls, sterility, bright lights or daylight. My last suffering will take place in a white environment, while I’ll find peace in my sleep, with closed eyes – away from all the white.

For me, Death is not a passive continuation of Life. Death is not the eternal silence that follows my last breath, it is in the hours, minutes, seconds before I take my last breath. Then I simply stop existing. There is no Death for me. There is only living or dying – both part of life, not Death. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t belong to any religion and I don’t share the common idea of Death as something mysterious yet tangible or as a concept of rest and eternal non-existance on Earth but a resurrection in some other dimension. When I die, I don’t exist anymore, I’m not resting, I’m not transported to another dimension, I’m not a ghost – I only exist in other people’s memories, through my art and in photographs. To rest or sleep is part of being alive. We can visit other dimensions whenever we want while we are alive – by using our imagination, by asking questions through science, philosophy or art – and by listening to the heartbeats of life itself. It’s all here. It’s all here right now. If we dare to explore it –  because life and love can be overwhelming. Our potentials and the power in our own hearts and minds can be frighting. As soon as we start asking questions about ourselves or to question our lives, we are forced to be responsible of it – to change and lead our own lives. I call this “the conflict of independence”. When we choose to change the course of our lives, when we start to lead it in a new direction, we are faced with loss. Perhaps even loneliness. It is a painful process. But we are rewarded in the end. Nothing feels as good as the inner freedom and to be true to who we are, who we truly are. But to do that, we have to sacrifice a lot. It’s easier to numb our hearts, to let our minds fade into a blank space while we go through the motions, fall into ruts and the endless routines of every day life. To depend on people, to take their company for granted – to allow them to take us for granted. To stay where we don’t belong. To sacrifice or compromise our inner wildness, our curiosity, sexuality, perversions, dreams, desire, magic. Our nature. To accept replacement pleasure. Replacement enjoyment. Replacement everything.

To me, that is the real Death.

I’ve died so many times in my life.

The last time I died was a few years ago. In a time where I denied myself pleasure and happiness. A time when I turned my back on my true nature and replaced it with dependency, a compromised intellect, spiritual castration, denied sexuality, artistic suicide, neglect and passivity. This is also visible in my art from the time. All my digital pieces where so foggy, almost faded out, covered in whiteness, like I was afraid to exist through my art. Like I thought I wasn’t allowed to be loud. To be alive. Like I wasn’t allowed to take up space and demand to be seen.

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Two versions of my digital piece “My Neighborhood”, the lighter version is from 2012 and the darker version from 2014.

When I look at these works, I feel sad. I can see how lost I was. Almost erased in my sense of existence.. I was deeply depressed, lonely even though I was in a relationship, and so lost in myself. I had abandoned myself and my true nature in every way. I remember the mental paralysis that followed as meeting the true Death. Death came in daylight. Death was in the numbness. Death was in the comfort zones – and in the comfort itself. Death was in the suffering. Death was in the lack of choices. In the passing of time. In the waste of dreams. Death was in the isolation. And in the intimacy I had created in myself by accepting a life that didn’t feel like mine; spending my days alone in a house that wasn’t mine, in a relationship with a man who never felt like mine, making art that didn’t feel like it was part of me.

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A selfie from the time I was making the decision to leave

I had turned into a blank canvas. An untold story. An empty space.

It took me about a year from the time I decided that I wanted to change my life and to leave the man, the house and the dead life I had been living for a long time, until I could do it. That’s what numbness does to your ability to change and to break free from destructive things. I know how it feels to die and it doesn’t have anything to do with endings or eternal sleep.

To expect Death to be some kind of extension of Life is a presumptuous idea. It creates this relaxed attitude that Life is not the only opportunity to exist or that life is a passage. Life is incredible and precious. I don’t take it for granted anymore. Life is whatever you make of it. It is also the element of unexpected pain and suffering – but also the treasure chest of magic, love and creativity. Death is simply nothing. Life is everything.

When I am filling the new, white canvas with black paint, I have created a space of shadows that allows the possibility of new life and creativity to be hidden within it. Just like the Universe, the blackness of the paint holds a whole world of dreams and accidental beauty, born out of chaos and creation.