March 22, 2012

Ontology of a Rabbit

If you wonder where the world of a flying rabbit comes from, the answer may be an even stranger thing than you first imagined.  

When I finished this little piece, I said to BSP “I don’t know what to call it...” – and BSP asked the usual question, “Well, what’s it about?”

Ontology of a Rabbit (c) 2012 Kit Lang (indoor lighting)

And I explained that this piece was about perception and reality and said that the title should convey that the world this rabbit was flying in was not a dreamscape, or an alternate universe outside our own, nor even that it was our present universe transformed by a fortunate confluence of stars, time of day and lighting – but that – in the rabbit’s mind, this was the “real” world – and who are we to say it isn’t?

Branch is made from a dark brown fabric with copper threads running through it;
leaves from gold mesh, hand sewn with gold thread

That just because we don’t see the world this way doesn’t mean that it isn’t real – it only means that we don’t have the correct perception, beliefs and societal constructs in place (i.e. that rabbits fly and that leaves are jewels)  to believe that its real.

We agreed that was a tall order for a title.  :D

Look Ma, I used beads!

But while I was making this piece, I was having Deep Thoughts (no relation to Jack Handy) about anti-realism (i.e. that there is no objective reality – life is how you perceive it); cultural relativism (that reality is constructed by cultural and mental iconography, religious and political movements and societal constructs of what is “real”); and moral relativism (ethical standards, morality, and right or wrong are culturally based, and that therefore, we all decide what is right for ourselves, dependent upon our particular culture.)  

Light tan suede, copper & brown silk from the challenge fabrics plus my own shiny fabrics.

I suppose you might wonder why I have been thinking about these things, but in recent weeks there have been some news stories out of the United States that have raised issues that had me feeling quite depressed.  In particular, what was “hot” during the construction of this piece:

Painted lutradur nose and eye

The Kony 2012 meme. That video propaganda was so carefully constructed that it got a shocking number of people to agree that we in the West ought to involve ourselves in the civil war in Uganda and further, that we ought to pursue that war despite the facts that doing so would:

Rabbit`s body made from that amazing snow dyed polyester fabric

a: support armies who use children to fight their wars (although that was the very problem Invisible Children particularized with Kony); and that

b: by supporting Invisible Children’s chosen army, we were supporting soldiers who are currently literally raping their way across Uganda leaving in their wake rape’s attendant despair, demoralization, physical and psychic pain, disease and children.

A flying Easter bunny!

And when the figureheads of Invisible Children (those behind Kony 2012) were asked about these issues (and a host of other, problematic issues with their campaign), they said “Any help is better than none”.  And apparently, millions of Americans and Canadians agreed, as evidenced by their ‘likes’ & ‘shares’ on Facebook as well as their monetary support.  Moral relativism at it’s best – invisible children indeed!

Mr. Bunny`s tail is made from one of the painted squares in the challenge bag.

And I was also thinking about the kerfuffle with the United Nations several years ago with respect to the fact that their “universal” human rights were objectively Western.  I mean, “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms” sounds awesome and every single one of us in the West can get behind that statement with a hearty “Goooooooo West!”; but said statement is a subject of continued and ongoing objections from non-Western countries, and with good reason - because how can universal human rights even exist, in such a culturally diverse world?

Japanese paper for the inner ears. 

And just who are we in the West to point fingers and say “Bad dog!” when American women’s right to have control over their own bodies (in 2012!) is a topic up for debate on the US national stage right now?  Cultural relativism – how you disturb me.

So… no matter what y/our stand is on the West’s involvement in Ugandan civil war/the pursuit of Kony: or whether your personal belief is that a bunch of men should get to decide for women in the US that they ought not to have access to birth control without having their right to privacy and their personal dignity invaded; and that their employer should get to be the one who makes that decision for her, or whether you believe that some wrongs are less wrong when they are done in the pursuit of a “greater” right;

Wings are gold leather turned backwards for the suede - with some of the beige japanese paper for the design

...the pervasive question that covers it all, is: Is it all right that one group’s morality carries the day for all groups? And who knows if we can agree on the answer to that question? But I’m quite sure the one thing we can all agree on, is that these are deep thoughts for a flying (?) bunny!

But that’s the funny thing. Sometimes when artists create something – even something as whimsical as a flying bunny in a fantastical fairy-tale looking world – there is actually some rather serious thinking going on behind it.  And sometimes, the incongruity of a flying rabbit seems the perfect vehicle to carry that mental turbulence.

Ontology of a Rabbit (c) 2012 Kit Lang - outdoor lighting (what a difference!)  

All of that said though, I really *do* think this is the “prettiest” thing I’ve ever made.  :)


P.S.  Process posts here and here  and I am linking up with Amanda from Don't Tell Quilts for TGIFF


Amanda said...

That is gorgeous. Art really is the word for it. I love all the detailing and little touches. It has a feeling to it.

Happy Scrappy said...

You are sooo right Kit. About perception and reality and cultural relativism. And I sooo love your flying bunny. Great work!

Laura said...

Oh wow, it's gorgeous! Would you be interested in being part of a bloghop in June?

Deborah O'Hare said...

Who knew a flying rabbit could mean so much!!
The contrast between the indoor and outdoor shots show how it doesn't take much to make us see things differently:)
Great piece Kit.

Flo @ Butterfly Quilting said...

Wow!! Art and philosophy before 8 AM! thank made my morning coffee more interesting!
And I LOVE this piece...the quilting and embellishment is quite amazing..not to mention the whole meaning of the flying bunny.

Robin said...

My favorite of yours so far. I loved this before reading the story of what was going on in your head during its creation. Amazing.

Margaret said...

I commend to you the book I am reading currently:
"Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue", by Paul Woodruff (Oxford University Press, 2001). "Reverence is the virtue that keeps human beings from trying to act like gods." -- and it is not only a "Western" concept -- it existed in the teachings of and among the followers of Confucius...and ideally, underpins the UN's statements on human rights.

Becky said...

Wow! I agree, you are a philosopher and an artist. So many relevant topics, and yes, such indignity and injustice. Great fiber art piece, and I agree that there is often much mental energy that goes into an art piece. They really provide clarity and meditation for me as well. Thanks for sharing!

Kit Lang said...

Thanks Robin (is that you, Robin, my old friend? Or are you a new friend?) :)

Linda Teddlie Minton said...

Much food for thought here, as well as a delicious little piece of art. I love, love, love it!

M-R said...

Wow, so much to process visually and philosophically. Your rabbit is stunning, Kit, in any reality. I must be living under a rock, but I'm not aware of the Kony 2012 issue so I'll go find out more. I have been following along on the debate in the States and I've found it to be truly astounding in its ridiculousness. I do hope it wakes up the next generation of women and men to the realization that although women have made great strides for equal rights, true equality is still an ongoing challenge. Shades of a Handmaid's Tale...

Chinton said...

Your art is very appropriate for me today. I've been reading the racism that's coming out about the Trayvon Martin case. It makes me so sad that there is so much hate which is combined with ignorant righteousness. I just don't know how we can change people who believe they are always right even when the evidence is overwhelming not in their favor.

I don't understand what is so threatening about women controlling their own bodies or young black men walking down the street with a bag of skittles.

Your flying bunny is beautiful.

Carol M said...

I rarely follow posts to "come see" but I am really glad that I responded to your invitation. First, because I love your bunny and his perception of reality and second, because I love the way you think!

You asked "Is it all right that one group’s morality carries the day for all groups? "

What a great question and one that is not being asked loudly enough in public places.

quilthexle said...

WOW - a stunning piece, and lots and lots of things to think about ... Thanks for making me think!
I totally agree that your flying rabbit (maybe it's a fairy dressed up as a rabbit?) is the prettiest quilt I've seen by you till now. It is sweet - in a very satisfying way (hope this makes sense ..). Is it a favourite of yours? Or will it become a favourite?

lyric said...

Your artwork has such lovely texture - and a wonderful composition.
Your writing is clear and deep and thought provoking. I have to admit, with much embarrassment, that I fell for the Kony thing and feel ashamed for not doing my research.
I've been following the Trayvon case as well - and am both heartbroken and outraged that this still happens - although I know it still does. People do create their own reality and the refusal to look outside of their box creates tragedy.

have you named the piece yet? How about "relative reality" or "relativity" or something close?

You are a wonderful artist and the world is a better place for having you in it! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your work.

mckittycat said...

I love your flying bunny and even more the issues that you raised. We too seldOmly take the time to discuss these and the effects that they have on our lives and on those around us. Thank you for bothe the beautiful artwork and the provocative thoughts. Mary Ann

Jacqueline Bryant Campbell said...

That's a whole lot to think about, but really a flying bunny says it all. Excellent piece (of philosophy AND art)!

Allison said...

this is a beautiful piece of art!

Michelle G said...

I love your flying rabbit and the thoughts behind it are so provoking. I confess I stopped watching news and reading the paper a few years back because I found the news so depressing. But after your comments I am going to look these issues up on the internet because I am stunned that such things would go on.

Sheila Frampton-Cooper said...

Wow Wow Wow... that's all I have to say. :)

Colleen Kole said...

I love this Kit. Every piece is better and more intriguing -as are your profound thoughts on all these issues.

Not doing the hard research on some of theses issues is really frightening. The internet allows for quick information but it is not always complete so hasty judgement is made.

Thank you for sharing and pouring your heart into your work as you can really tell on this piece.

Kit Lang said...

@Chinton - I find it so hard to even think about the Trayvon Martin case - as a mother of two young Black men (21 and 18) this kind of story is my worst fear. What happened to Trayvon could happen to either one of my sons - at any time - and so the whole story makes me feel literally nauseated.

Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts to the conversation.

Kit Lang said...

@Carol M - thank you for coming by - and yes - that particular question really needs to be asked - A LOT.

Susan Fletcher King said...

Did you ever read the children's book - "The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings"? Your beautiful artwork recalls that wonderful story and in many of the same ways, your questions and consciousness raising are just as valuable! There's good art and deep lessons to be had here.

Kit Lang said...

Hi Susan,

No I have never read it - but I will certainly try to check it out. And thank you!

Beth said...

Your piece is amazing and your rabbit made me look up ontology in the dictionary. Very well thought out comments by YOU. The up close photos were really great in showing the texture esp. of the leather, suede and paper.

elle said...

I think we are happy when we figure out our own reality which is especially difficult in this present world. Reality for me has the complexity of your art but the simplicity of the joy in a happy bunny. And it IS sometimes difficult to skip through this earth and keep ones hope and joy. But, we can and rabbit wings, jewels in the grass and sparkly leaves all make it easier. Great piece, Kit.

Sheila said...

Wonderful piece Kit , really special !!!

Kathleen said...

Thank you for giving us the philosophy that goes on behind the scene of your creating. My favourite class at art school was on of the profs that put the works into the historical context of the times & how they influenced & were influenced by the times. And I agree that yours is a Beaut! I wonder if Rabbit is male or female?

Connie in Alabama said...

Existential Bunny?

Kit Lang said...

You're very welcome, Kathleen. I think a boy since I've been calling him "Mr. Rabbit". :)

Connie, perhaps he does ponder existentialism as well, but I think that currently, he has enough to think about! :)

Sam's mom said...

Your words have me thinking Harvey: the other mythological rabbit. Suggesting that other people's warped reality might also be idealism and crazy hope...Something "reasonable" or so-called PC folks don't dare mention or won't consider. But in fact, we all have our flying rabbits, don't we?! I like yours--and your values, too. --Eleanor Levie

Crystal said...

This is so amazing! I love your words and your bunny (and beads!). I'm especially drawn to the colors and textures...a masterful use of both! As always, I remain in awe.

Faith said...

This is a wonderful creation. And, yes, very pretty. I thought so before I read, but after reading, I think (again) that an awful lot of what an artist is thinking comes through in what they are doing. Maybe it isn't always obvious, but I do love learning the background and then looking again at the art.

Linda Kittmer said...

Wow Kit, this piece is absolutely beautiful. I love it!!! And your about though provoking. Very interesting read this morning. Thanks.

Baa-Me Kniits said...

Beautiful work and a beautiful post....I think it is the prettiest thing you have ever done also :-)

liniecat said...

What a stimulating post to read.........I love the bunny, symbolic or not, he carries with his glee such a wealth of hope and possibility.

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