Remembering the September 11 attacks.

A piece of the fallen World Trade Center.
A piece of the fallen World Trade Center.

It’s hard to believe 18 years has gone by. To me, the morning of September 11, 2001 doesn’t seem that long ago. Even though I observed the horror of 9/11 on television from the other side of the country, it’s one of those life changing memories that will never fade.

I realize the human world is full of tumult and antagonism, but I pray we all might finally learn to live in peace. Life is short enough as it is. Even though our many different ambitions and beliefs might come into conflict, why can’t we simply be kind to one another?

Over the past six years while blogging, I’ve experienced a few respectful moments in San Diego that remember the September 11 attacks. Each was deeply moving. If you want to revisit some of those images, here are the links:

9/11 Firefighter’s legacy: Two Sons and Stickball.

Freedom Bell at Balboa Park’s Veterans Museum. (The bell is cast from metal that includes steel from the World Trade Center towers.)

Photos of cool aviation event at Gillespie Field! (One special airplane on display during this event was painted to honor victims of 9/11.)

Heroes at San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

A dark, disturbing look at art Beyond Reason.

Close photo of bronze figures of Tim Shaw's Middle World.
Close photo of several bronze figures in Tim Shaw’s Middle World.

A very disturbing and powerfully thought-provoking exhibition has recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. Yesterday I walked through the dark galleries that contain Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason, and this morning my mind is still digesting the half dozen fantastic installations created by the celebrated artist.

Tim Shaw is a Northern Irish sculptor who, as a child in 1972, witnessed firsthand the bombing of a Belfast cafe during Bloody Friday. That exact, horrifying moment is recreated in a bloodless, abstract way in his installation Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous. Eerily spinning trays hover in the air above suddenly upset tables and chairs; the shadows of fleeing people stream across surrounding windows.

That same feeling of malice and inescapable chaos seems to echo elsewhere in Tim Shaw’s work.

Walking through the dim galleries containing Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason feels inhumanly bleak. Little light, the low sound of a hollow, echoing, machine-like vibration all around, no human warmth. Like the corridors of a dark artificial video game world where there is no hope for actual daylight. Where synthetic horrors await around corners.

Themes explored by the six immersive installations range from the primal, unconscious complexity of human beings, to cynical exploitation in a materialistic society, to the uncertainties that rise in a technologically directed world.

I found the first installation that I encountered, Middle World, to be extraordinarily rich with symbolism. A massive sculpture, Middle World presents many small bronze figures that appear to have emerged from ancient mythology, Shakespeare, or the fleshy canvases of Hieronymus Bosch. The weird, expressive figures, some in masks, are arranged on a throne-like stage above what seem to be stalactites and beneath what seem to be Gothic columns and skeletons in catacombs. The sculpture incorporates the shapes of objects that are both modern and ancient, commonplace and supernatural. It’s a mixture of space and time and human passion and compulsion and perplexity. A melting, flowing work of sculpted substance like an unending dream.

Other more disturbing installations that compose the exhibition concern dehumanization and include subjects like the silencing of free speech, vigilantism, human exploitation and depravity.

Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be presents two rocking-chair-like figures that are in constant back-and-forth motion. Both are gagged, and the muffled voices that emerge from either are unintelligible. According to a nearby sign, the piece represents how voices are silenced with money, and how people are influenced by the proliferation of disinformation on the internet. (What it fails to mention is that billions of ordinary people now speak their thoughts more freely than ever because of the Information Age. As a blogger who pays close attention to such things, I can tell you that many ideas don’t go unheard because of stifling propaganda or censorship, but because the internet has become a complete babel of voices all desperately competing to be heard.)

Another unique installation concerns technology and our evolving understanding of what it is to be human. Aptly titled The Birth of Breakdown Clown, the interactive sculpture seems to have a great deal of potential. Visitors enter a small room and stand before a human-like robot that moves its head and limbs while engaging with the audience. A member of the audience is invited to stand before the robot and converse with it. Breakdown Clown is said to possess artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, during the performance that I witnessed, I couldn’t detect any sort of autonomous machine intelligence, or even working speech recognition. With an odd combination of humor, condescension and poetic rambling, the Genesis-quoting robot guided the entire conversation. Its often disconnected statements and responses were apparently composed by the artist.

Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason as a whole is a very forceful, challenging work of contemporary art that will strongly engage active minds. It presents unspeakable horror. It isn’t for the squeamish. It’s an examination of human darkness and potential inhuman darkness. It undertakes a quest for understanding. That which has come into existence tries to understand its own creation. An electronic clown tries to define the Mystery that underlies all things.

However, to my thinking, darkness should be contrasted with light. And clowns that are witty have a beating heart.

These photographs were taken by my poor old camera in very dim darkness, where no flash photography is permitted. The images are a bit blurry, but somehow that makes them more potent!

If you want to be intellectually challenged, and journey through galleries that are filled with warnings, uncertainty and darkness, check out Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason, which is now showing at the San Diego Museum of Art through February 24, 2019.

Middle World. Mixed media, 1989-Current, by artist Tim Shaw.
Middle World. Mixed media, 1989-Current, by artist Tim Shaw.
Ancient symbols and strange figures contained in Tim Shaw's Middle World.
Ancient symbols and strange figures contained in Tim Shaw’s Middle World.
Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous, Working Drawing I. Ink, charcoal, and collage, 2015, by artist Tim Shaw.
Mother, The Air Is Blue, The Air Is Dangerous, Working Drawing I. Ink, charcoal, and collage, 2015, by artist Tim Shaw.
Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Defending Integrity from the Powers that Be. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Alternative Authority. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
Alternative Authority. Mixed media, 2017, by artist Tim Shaw.
The Birth of Breakdown Clown, an artificially intelligent, interactive, speaking robot by Irish sculptor Tim Shaw.
The Birth of Breakdown Clown, an artificially intelligent, interactive, speaking robot by Irish sculptor Tim Shaw.

If you’d like to read a few philosophical works of fiction that I’ve written–stories about the complexity of life–about the mingling of darkness and light–please visit Short Stories by Richard.

How to assist the families of Navy SEALs.

The Seal Family Foundation, taking care of their families while they protect ours.
The SEAL Family Foundation, taking care of their families while they protect ours.

If you’re inclined to help military families, who face challenges that we civilians will never know, I’ve learned about an organization that is worth your consideration. The SEAL Family Foundation provides assistance to families of U.S. Navy SEALs.

Navy SEALs see frequent deployments, operating in places that are extremely dangerous. That means Naval Special Warfare (NSW) families can face a range of difficulties.

To learn more, and possibly provide a donation, visit the SEAL Family Foundation website here.

Terror victims remembered at House of France.

French flag and Eiffel Tower as a peace sign. A memorial for the victims of the Paris terror attack.
French flag and the Eiffel Tower turned into a peace sign. Part of a touching memorial for the victims of the Paris terror attack.

A candlelight vigil was held last night at the House of France in Balboa Park. The House of France is a member of the peace-loving House of Pacific Relations International Cottages.

During the vigil, the victims of Friday’s ISIS terror attack in Paris were remembered, and loving support was displayed in San Diego for the good people of France.

I walked by the House of France early this morning. The candles were still lit.

A candlelight vigil was held last night in front of the House of France in San Diego's Balboa Park.
A candlelight vigil was held last night in front of the House of France in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
Candles remain lit the morning after the vigil. Signs, messages, flowers and letters show support for France and love for those who died during the Paris terror attack.
Candles remain lit the morning after the vigil. Signs, messages, flowers and letters show support for France and love for those who died during the Paris terror attack.
Pray for Paris.
Pray for Paris.
Je suis Paris.
Je suis Paris.
Personal sentiments are written down by San Diegans with ties to France. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Personal sentiments are written down by San Diegans, many with ties to France. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Sending our love to Paris and the rest of the world.
Sending our love to Paris and the rest of the world.
La France est la joie de vivre. A memorial for the innocent victims of the Paris terror attack. Hope, love and beauty cannot be conquered.
La France est la joie de vivre. A memorial for the innocent victims of the Paris terror attack. Hope, love and beauty cannot be conquered.