Friday, April 10, 2015

Dan Hansen at Benchmark Tattoo: An Artist Statement

"There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres." ~Pythagoras

This month, Dan Hansen's latest work is on display at Benchmark Tattoo in Duluth. A few weeks ago I shared an interview with the artist here. What follows is a more extensive statement about the show, its meaning and the challenges he overcame to achieve it.

Title: Sofia
Greek translation of sofia is wisdom.
Artist: Daniel Hansen

The function of my show is to present a work of historical fiction. This work is the lost writings of Pythagoras. He was born on the Greek island of Samos, sometime around 569-580 BC. Pythagoras was a philosopher, mathematician, and founder of a religion known as Pythagoreanism. He is attributed with coining the word "philosophy" which means lover of wisdom. He is most famous for his Pythagorean Theorem in mathematics. What is known about Pythagoras is written from other philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Plutarch among others. There are no text that were written by Pythagoras himself, although it's rumored he wrote poems under the name Orpheus. It can be difficult to sort out the facts from myth. There is controversy as to whether he existed at all. However I love a good myth and the claims of what he did are quite fascinating indeed.

It is said that Pythagoras traveled to various places such as Egypt, Chaldea, and Phoenicia. He studied in the mystery schools of Egypt. Wherever he went he gathered knowledge of geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and esoterics from secretive mystic cults along his journeys. He collated all this knowledge into his own religious system based on numbers. He integrated everything of the known reality together as a seamless continuity. Geometry, mathematics, astronomy, grammar, music, and philosophy were inseparable from one another. In his system all things in creation were comprised of numbers, ratios, and relationships. An interconnected universal code that acted as a programming language of which reality was built.

The Pythagorean Brotherhood was a secretive mystery school he established in Croton where he taught his knowledge to initiates. He was a very democratic individual. Women were treated as equal and allowed into the brotherhood, something that was unheard of in that era. He believed in Transmigration of the Soul or reincarnation. Pythagoras was also a strict vegan but discouraged eating of beans because he thought that flatulance was part of the spirit escaping the body. He became a political adversary to the ruling class who feared his radical ideas and distrusted his secret society. His school was burned to the ground. He was then chased down and murdered.

This show is exploring his number theology of the base 10 number system, numbers 1 through 10. Each number's philosophy is explained in a quasi-biblical writing style in parts. It also functions as a creation myth. I used many ideas from various philosophical successors of Pythagoras because so many seemed to be heavily influenced by the Pythagoreans. I added some of my own ideas in the mix too. I did the text and visuals in Adobe Illustrator and used Photoshop some with file preparation for the print shop. They are printed on 24.8"x35" papyrus sheets I ordered from Egypt.

There was an entire fiasco with getting the paper shipped which was delayed 4 weeks, and then the printer breaking down at the print shop for 3 weeks. It was beginning to look like this show would never happen. Then everything started coming together. Working at a feverish pitch for the last week and a half, my assistant Lucas Anderson helped me age the papyrus by burning the edges with a lighter. We were going to darken the brown of the paper with watercolors but the wetness made the paper wrinkle. We needed the sheets flat enough to photograph in order to create the additional prints for sale. Getting the photos for prints was a real lighting challenge because of the reflectivity of the paper and the ink was so shiny. We couldn't use the flash or bright lights. We closed the shades in my apartment and set the papyrus on my futon. We had to block off light coming in from the window. We also had to time the shots with the movement of clouds covering the sun (which was very synchronistic of the universe to supply for us) so it was dark enough in my apartment with the abysmal fluorescent bulbs as ambient light. It all happened to turn out great though. I think the photos turned out to look much better than the original prints. Oh the irony!

The questions lingering might be what prompted me to have this show? Why Pythagoras? How did you even discover him in the first place? This is where things get socially risky to admit.

It all starts with me duking it out with a grim neuromuscular disease my entire 36 years on this periwinkle globule that is earth. I could not fit in anywhere. I was stuck in an assisted living apartment with no hope of ever feeling like a valid human (or like John Travolta in Battlefield Earth would say "Man Animal"). You name the category. Social, career, romance, politics, ideology. I was a total failure at it all. Everything felt disjointed, disconnected, faulty, suspicious, irrelevant, cruel, absurd, and a complete waste of my time. I dropped out of UMD in 1998 and it seems as though I fell off the face of the earth for about 17 years. I was on a deep search for escape. What I didn't realize was... I was on a quest for meaning.

It was about 2006 and I fell down the conspiracy rabbit hole. Suddenly there was an answer to all the heinous continuity breaks that had been plaguing me all my life. The world was controlled by 4000 year old satanic vampire bankers controlled by grey aliens controlled by reptilians controlled by mantoids controlled by the Annunaki! Ah hah! That sure made a lot more sense than "stupid politicians" or "it's the Koch brothers".

At this time I was an atheist. I thought that satanic stuff was just a bunch of ancient L. Ron Hubbard fluff with psychopaths taking themselves too seriously. We're obviously controlled by aliens was the conclusion at that point... only I wasn't about to worship an alien called Xenu who flew here in a DC-10. I thought everything was micromanaged like in the Soviet Union from (1965-1971) but on a world wide historical scale.

Then it occurred to me, after watching the 800th alien documentary on Youtube, that these things were trans-dimensional. They were coming from another dimension. Maybe the dimension was hell. Maybe aliens were actually demons. That's when I started to rethink my atheist mindset. That was a real crisis. I was beginning to enjoy my "anything is permissible" brand of nihilism. That's when I started to study the occult and what the heck this sorcery business was all about. That's when I had another epiphany: it's all consciousness manipulation.

A line from the movie 'Jacob's Ladder' states it perfectly: "The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth." That's when I started thinking maybe these aliens/demons are just another form of legend and myth that can certainly manifest itself but will come in the guise of whatever cultural goggles a person has strapped on. That's when I pulled off the aliens, conspiracies, and occult goggles and put on the comparative religion/mythology goggles. That's when everything became clear to me.

It dawned on me that there doesn't even need to be pre-planned conspiracies when there's a little thing called synchronicity that's occurring under everyone's nose constantly. Those odd improbable coincidences that happen all the time. Those synchronicities led me to my man Pythagoras who may or may not have existed. He helped me gain a sense of perspective on the universe and a sense of myself. And where I'm actuality at and what it all means! That's why myth is real and why we all need it.

I'm going to end this with a quote from one of my favorite new guys Jordan Peterson: "Reality isn't made from matter, it's made from what matters".

Thanks to Benchmark Tattoo for hosting this exhibit! Thanks to Bent Paddle and Carmody's for supplying some great beer! I'd like to thank my assistant and compadre Lucas Anderson for being my right hand all these years. Oh the high adventure and perilous journeys we've weathered together. Love you Bro! Couldn't have made it without you. I'd also like to thank Alicia Gaskin for rescuing me from PR oblivion as the clock stroked midnight. You really packaged and tied this effort together. Love you too! Was fun racing against the clock with you. I'd like to thank ShelDon for being a clutch player in getting these prints off at the last moment and making papyrus history with me! Thanks Melanie! A big thank you to my parents Mark and Wendy Hansen for producing me and facilitating this mound of madness on 4 wheels all these 36 years. I know it hasn't been easy but we all lived to tell the tale! Victory lap! Thanks Mom and Dad. Love ya! Also a shout out to my PCA’s at Superior View Apartments for getting me out of bed and loaded with caffeine every morning. Thanks, love you too!

Daniel Hansen
Facebook: Dan Hansen

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