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Art Monasticism

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This is an entry in The Future We Deserve - a collaborative book project about the future. See all the entries or talk about this entry.



"Let's talk of a system that transforms all the social organisms into a work of art, in which the entire process of work is included... something in which the principle of production and consumption takes on a form of quality. It's a Gigantic project." —Joseph Beuys

In contrast to other types of intentional community, monasticism is in decline in the global north.[1] Is it a social form that has lost its relevance to the developed, and increasingly secular world?

If we consider monasticism as an exaptation (a useful by-product) of religion, we can ask the question: What would monasticism look like, applied to something other than religion?

An art monastery utilizes monastic technology for art rather than religion.

Art monasticism considers:

  1. the monastery as an art form,
  2. art as a monastic tool.

If a monastery is a community that through a  set of agreements (e.g. rule, vow) about how to live together (e.g. in silence, hard work, prayer & contemplation) leads its individual members to a certain goal (e.g. God, dharma, buddha-nature, self-knowledge, wisdom, concentration, compassion, non-dual awareness, the perfect blueberry pie), an art monastery is a one that leaves the goal undefined. For an artmonk, art is a primary form of prayer, work, and therapy, which along with meditation and other traditional monastic activities, leads him/her to a personal or shared goal.

An art monastery provides an empty space in which an artmonk can progress as deeply as possible along a chosen path, using a set of traditional monastic tools.

"It is a radical contemporary experiment in social sculpture inspired by tradition: to apply the disciplined, contemplative, and sustainable monastic way of living to the creative process." [2]

What distinguishes monasteries from other types of intentional community, such as communes, ecovillages, student cooperatives, land co-ops, cohousing groups, ashrams, kibbutzes, and farming collectives[3]? Some of the unique elements that could be appropriated by an Art Monastic community include:

  • Unique structure in space (architecture with equality, eco-efficiency and mindfulness in mind)
  • Unique structure in time (shared schedule of work, meals and contemplation together throughout day)
  • Unique governance & social structure (monastic rules & vows about things like celibacy, renunciation & poverty, hard work, silence, etc.)
  • Unique practice (e.g. meditation, prayer, chant, "lectio divina," art-making, study, debate, philosophy, mysticism)
  • Unique goal (e.g. whatever it is that contemplation leads to, whether that's God, the absolute, non-dual awareness, awakening, concentration, peace, knowledge, etc.)
  • Unique members (avowed monastics who may or may not be separated by gender)
  • Unique relationship to society and ecology at large (ecological sustainability, a degree of separateness from society, subordination to a centrally organized spiritual lineage or religious tradition)[4]

The International Otherhood of Artmonks connects artmonks (whether they're inside and outside art monasteries) and provides them with the tools and models they need to exist in the world (but not "of the world").

The Otherhood serves artmonks in the following ways:

  • By bringing legitimacy to contemplative artmaking.
  • By connecting artists of a similar spirit.
  • By inspiring and instructing them in artistic and contemplative practices.
  • By getting them gigs & housing.
  • By commissioning, funding and producing works.
  • By building or adapting spaces (i.e. monasteries) for visitable longterm learning communities and spiritual research.
  • By giving them online tools to develop personal, intimate communities around the world.
  • By what it produces: works, books, articles, cds, concerts, festivals.
  1. "Between 1978 and 2004—nearly the entire span of John Paul II’s pontificate—the number of men in monastic and religious orders (not including priests) decreased by 46% in Europe and 30% in the Americas, while the number of women decreased by 39% and 27%, respectively. Compare this to the trend in the global South: During the same period, men in monastic and religious orders increased by 48% in Africa and 39% in Asia, with women increasing on those two continents by 62% and 64%." http://gratefultothedead.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/re-monking-the-church-new-monasticism/
  2. http://www.artmonastery.orgfckLRhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Monastery
  3. http://wiki.ic.org/wiki/Intentional_Communities
  4. http://otherhood.org/elements-of-monasticism/