Reification Rhumba

This photograph is a still-life of The Golden Calf, Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (wagging its price tag on the tail), the Bwinka Bull of the Chinese Zodiac stomping toward prosperity, and Hanukkah Gelt given to kids on that holiday.

Richard writes:

Firstly, I want to bring forward 3 words not in common usage. Here are some links to get you along the path, but if my Cliff Notes version are good enough for this story… good enough. (Clifton Keith Hillegass, the progenitor of the “Cliff’s Notes”, dropped the apostrophe in 1967)




Ekphrasis—the verbal or written description of a work of art used as literary device. 

Consilience—the joining of 2 modes of thought, specifically it is used in Biology to talk about the exuberance species have for making more species, and then looking for that source, coming from a common ancestor. Today, we use this idea to talk of the common well that Art and Science draw from. 

Reification—Marx-ists use this term: to talk about the thing-ification of labor; the alienation felt by workers when they are seen as cogs in a machine. In art it is the fetishizing of objects originally made to connect our inner and outer lives, now glamorized as fa$$$hion art. (not that there is anything wrong with fashion, but the market place causes some ugly distortions.)


“Open your Ayes—The Reification Rhumba” is the title of the photograph—with ekphrasis on the Shrine to the Golden Calf.

When we fetishize things they become reified. Thing-ified. What does this do to Art? When art is thing-ified, the spiritual gravity loses it’s meaning and usefulness to our well-being.

Think of the Biblical story of the Golden Calf put up by the newly-freed Hebrew slaves. Tired of waiting for Moses to bring the rules for the next step, they build an idol to worship. Their spiritual longing was thing-ified. Impatience is surely one big trouble of our own age as we scroll and flip channels.

Into the cloud of unknowing presented to us in great works of art, we impatiently wait for some Moses of Meaning, so we haul them off to the auction house to find meaning in money. In times of trouble, these works are our guide and succor if we just have patience to let them unfold. The Cloud of Unknowingwas a 14th Century mystical text—a contemplative prayer.

What does Les Pommes painted by Cezanne have to say about our unresolved issues of living inside a democratic republic, so troubled as we are? Maybe re-focus, re-claim what is ours, our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Maybe those apples can tell us if we cease to see them as a picture that sold for $41,600,000. If you look closely at a Cezanne painting you can see his loving gaze drift across some fruit on a table, searching for meaning in form. His struggle to excize form with paint, led the cubists on their journey. And that journey is quite enough if you let it drift yourself. And then, there is the Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog, selling for $58,400,000. in which the whole “meaning to our soul” stance has leapfrogged, so that—the ONLY meaning left to us is the price.

We currently live in a world where our very information has been thing-ified by the Algorithm. How can we reclaim our Republic? By relaxing into that cloud of unknowing? That cloud Cezanne entered and came out with visual miracles. The Word will come down from the mountain, if we are patient enough to open our “Ayes.” Art Works. Yes, it does. Aye, Eye Captain.

Here’s Jon Batiste’s FREEDOM to sing us out…after all that think think think

QR Code for Jon Bastiste’s Freedom
QR Code for Reification Rhumba

On display at the 32nd Annual Spring Art Show, May 14-22, 2022 at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center

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