The Art Museum In Sacred Context

by Bob Carroll

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Although “art” and “museum” are universally recognized terms, the popular connotative definitions of these words do not always accurately reflect their etymological and historical roots. Also imperative to understand are the special meanings Adi Da Samraj attributes to the words “museum” and “art.”

Art in the past always arose within a cultural context and functioned there. Only over time did art get separated out from its context, its culture and its sacred event and so forth, and become exhibited entirely separate from that.

The etymological history of art points to the Indo-European root ar-, which meant “put things together, fit together, join.” In Latin, ars meant “skill,” and its stem art- evolved into Old French art, which in turn became the source of the English word art.

Both the activity and the concept of “fitting together” remained the primary definition of art until the 17th century, when the word began to be associated also with painting, sculpture, and other artistic activities. This activity of putting together or joining is visibly enlivened in what Adi Da describes as His “monumental fabrications” or artworks.

Defining art as a means or activity of “joining” or “putting together” also provides a few elementary clues about Adi Da Samraj's art. Some obvious examples of “making art” are His joining of multiple images to create a prolific array of stunningly original suites. His compositions frequently reveal an enormous range of pattern, everything from the most exquisitely beautiful compositions of parallel line and repetitive geometrical motifs, to tangles and knots of intentionally incoherent ocular and auricular statement. This, as well as the use of disjointed arms and legs and other body parts and additional deconstructed imagery, and most saliently, the joining of the participant, or event attendee, with the kinetic stream of imagery, light, and music in front of him or her, all produce a uniquely intense participatory confrontation with apparent reality.

How does Adi Da Samraj, who has been “making art” His entire life, define art? Speaking about art in general years ago, He said:

We are heart beings. It is what we want to celebrate with each other. So we develop forms that express that understanding. If we fail to recognize our true position at the heart, we lean on technique and knowledge to manipulate appearances outside the heart. You see this in much of the art that basically expresses an orientation to the conceptual mind.

Art should inspire us beyond our fear. It is a way of concretely communicating that one is lived. It is a way of consorting with the ancestors in animistic spirit worship. Art is not a matter of copying elemental things. That is just a tradition of art. Art is the presumption of the life-sign in everything. It is a response to the life-sign. The making of something that ultimately is regarded to be something of aesthetic interest in a response to the life-sign.

True art should not have anything to do with the discursive mind. It is a different kind of inspiration, not seated in the body or the apparent personality. It is a motion to which one must submit oneself so that the body is made to endure physical and emotional pain in the spontaneous and psychic process of being overwhelmed, of being radiant. It should be a sacred incantation of involvement with Transcendental Consciousness, the creative resource of Being.

We might ask how did the word “museum” evolve into its present usage? In museology, the study of museum theory, scholars generally offer the academic concepts of preservation and interpretation, plus inquiry and acquisition, as the collective driving force behind the human propensity to build and use museums. While valid on one level, that interpretation fails to take into account a fundamental, ancient aspect of human life—the sense of the sacred. Paleolithic burials, for example, sometimes contained collections of significant objects such as fetishes and talismans.