I CHING’s HOUSE OF KEEPING STILL: MOUNTAIN
© 2015-2021 Lili White
The I Ching (1000–750 BC) or Chinese Book of Changes, is a classic text, an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy, which set the heart of traditional cultural beliefs. Consulting the I Ching we can engage with our current issues of life.
As a “reflection of the universe in miniature”, it describes 64 specific states or processes of human energy, called “hexagrams”. Invisible, non-the-less alive, their potential appears in the empirical world, acting in it. What humankind perceives are the effects. Hexagrams are formed with 2 trigrams; and there are 8 trigrams that use the essences found in Nature to describe the energy states we are subject to. “Mountain” is one of them.
The I Ching is an ancient Chinese oracle started out in a pictographic “language.”
#52 has a double trigram aka Mountain / mountain.
I chose purple as the color to represent the type of energy “mountain” represents, as it seems very quiet and contained.
As language itself is a living thing that constantly changes, different words are used to evoke the meaning behind its hexagrams. MOUNTAIN revolves around “stopping” when the situation calls for it; but also “moving” when the time is right.
It is about quieting one’s heart and mind, so the is no “self” and no “other” thing, or person.
Words that could be used to evoke it are something like: tending, bound, still, quiet, base, calm, stop.
One of #52’s most basic associations, “tending,” can refer to one’s Triadic nature of body, soul and mind.
As a primal symbol, “mountain” is connected to China’s Mt. Tai, one of 5 sacred mountains, that was seen as being a Gateway to the Underworld. Many cultures, except the one that permeates the general American population, have some relationship with their ancestors, with their dead.
The dead are missing in American culture. Perhaps the only time we can see it mentioned is in a public memorial somewhere, or in a super-natural or horror film.
The Irish Hunger Monument in lower Manhattan has a quote on it, “People live in each other’s shadows” meaning, we need each other, what happens to one person affects each member of the community. The I Ching evidences that there is really no mind/body split that we have been taught since the time of Descartes. “Humanity’s task is to live with the dead,” says The Lament of the Dead; James Hillman & Sonu Shamdasani.
To acknowledging that the dead are still here, and that they are the accumulation of human history, I included a cluster of “ancestor figures” surrounding the main figure in #52. They show what is often suppressed, and reveal another level of living engagement via the augury’s pathway.
I interpret I Ching hexagrams, based in gestural performance derived from “authentic movement technique.” This improvisational dance practice allows a type of free association of the body. Impressions from the interior, unknown surface, validating a non-rational knowledge birthed through the body, rather than the thinking, parsing mind. This exploration of liminal space residing next to “consciousness,” eliminates “explanations”.
I make the films to make a record of my musings on the subject, versus finding a meaning for the stance taken.
This is not about ‘reality’ thinking.
This cinema describes a double-movement, where the inside is presented on the outside as the body’s movement.
When editing, the figure connects to intuition, imagination, and I Ching references from its beginnings in neolithic times, into the present. Pictures from collective memory, and associated images found in mind and body, recombine into cinematic imagery “painted” with computer techniques, presenting a dream logic. The figure, no longer human, becomes a “personage,” framing the actions that occur.