Michael Garfield's Love Without End Tour Newsletter: 2020

20 May 2020

Navigating Radical Uncertainty & Making Art: Vital Conversations • Metamodern Weirdness • Digital Community • Biomechanical Easter Eggs

Hi Friends,

I hope you’re holding up through everything. A quarantine, you know, is from the Italian for “forty days” — that’s how long you had to sit there on the boat before debarking. Whatever brave new world awaits us must be really something, seeing as we blew past forty days a while ago…

I’ve already said my piece about how this crisis might help us find new and better answers than the ones we all got stuck on. Now, deeper into it, I’m just trying to help where I am able. That looks like starting some new (very modest) digital community initiatives, talking sense to crazy when I can, being present as a father and a partner, finding time to play guitar, keeping my head on straight…

The tiny devil on my shoulder tells me to remind you I have art for sale, and that you’ve never had a better opportunity to scoop up one of my originals (because the prices seem imaginary to me, now, and wouldn’t they look better on a wall than in a closet?). The tiny angel on my shoulder tells me I should give as much of it away as possible. I’ll do my best to find a compromise.

Don’t hesitate to write.

Love,

Michael


New Painting: “A Very Giger Easter”

Here I am before the inevitable quarantine buzz-cut showing off a new 30”x15” canvas I’ve been chipping away at here and there for a couple months. In contrast the rapid start-to-finish I’m used to from live painting, sometimes a piece at home will live in a kind of untouched half-done limbo for weeks at a time…and it feels good to linger and really contemplate that next step, like playing chess by mail.

This piece was one of those. Very nearly called it “My two-thousand-dollar-a-day FabergĂ© egg habit,” in honor of the great Bleeding Gums Murphy. Here it is head-on:
More close-up pictures on my Instagram.

It’s one of about two dozen pieces that I have for sale right now, and you can pretty much ignore the prices in my master list and make a “Crazy Eddie’s Fireworks” offer. My place is (REALLY) small and I’d rather see these pieces find a good home.

Help Navigating Radical Uncertainty


I feel weird talking about my day job in this newsletter, but it wouldn’t seem like an honest accounting of my creative work without letting you know about Complexity Podcast, the show I host and produce for the Santa Fe Institute.

SFI is the mothership of complex systems research, and for the last six weeks I’ve been lucky to work directly with our president David Krakauer — a brilliant evolutionary biologist whose work has inspired much of my thinking and writing — on a special mini-series exploring on how to navigate the radical uncertainty of our global crisis. (I’m especially fond of this one on surviving a mass extinction and/or market collapse.)

I’ve learned volumes doing this show and these episodes in particular, and it’s been immensely rewarding to know that these podcasts have been helpful to so many people at a time when things don’t make a ton of sense. I hope you find them helpful, too.

Join Our New Discord Server

Lately I’ve felt like social media is an ocean full of sharks and I’d rather just hang out in a cozy lagoon with a few close friends. Also, it feels like this pandemic hit the human species in our weak spot — namely, the civic life, the clubs and neighborhood communities that were eaten by the state and corporations in the last few decades.

If you would like a smaller, less diluted scene, I hope you’ll join us on our Discord server, maybe even hop on one of our ongoing Sunday video calls. I am amazed and humbled by the badasses Future Fossils Podcast has attracted to my life, and it would be awesome if you got to meet them, too.

New Future Fossils Episodes

Episode 142 is a conversation with one of my favorite fiction authors, Alex Shakar, about the profound darkbright bizarritude he channels through his two visionary satirical novels The Savage Girl and Luminarium — two works that show the möbius strip of sacred and profane, futurity and timelessness. We bounce off a long list of paradoxical domains, including saving the world with consumerism, metamodernism, ironic religion, virtuality, neurotheology, trauma and radical meaninglessness, the military entertainment complex, hikikomori, and zen comedy…


Episode 143 is a conversation with documentary film-maker Sanjay Rawal about his profound and inspiring movie, 3100: Run and Become — which explores the spiritual practice of long-distance running around the world, from the American Southwest, to the Kalahari Desert, to a remote mountain monastery in Japan. We discuss how Sri Chinmoy (a student of Sri Aurobindo, the founder of integral yoga), started the 3100 mile race in New York, and what it has become; how to be a documentary film-maker without engaging in cultural appropriation; endurance running as an integral yoga and an act of spiritual service; exertion as its own reward; and how ultradistance running and other endurance sports close the gender gap. This was literally a moving conversation for me — after talking with Sanjay, I put on my shoes and went for a run. I hope it does the same for you.


Episode 144 is a trialogue with film-makers Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown about their bizarre and wonderful documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs — and how a creationist amusement park in Kentucky provides a lens through which to examine the tense relationship between science, religion, and business in America. This is a conversation about what happens when premodern, modern, and postmodern worldviews duke it out on a landscape of rapid change for which none of them are sufficient. It’s about the surreal Young-Earth dinosaur museums of Late Capitalism. And it’s about our trust (or lack of trust), and where we put it when we lose the plot.

Go Deeper

13 April 2020

Cooped-Up Creativity: New Music • Psychedelic Eggs Galore • Future Fossils Episodes with Erik Davis & Nora Bateson

“The way we discuss what needs to be done now will shape what it is possible to do. This is not a moment to fix a machine, this is a moment to compose new cultures.”

Hey friends,

If you're feeling lonely, cooped up, or just in need of some smart conversations, I hope you'll join some of my friends and I for the weekly casual video hangouts we've been having every Sunday.  We've been talking about all kinds of things in light of our unprecedented situation: philosophy, economics, personal creative process, family life... We're having two more of these open discussions on 19 & 26 April at 2 pm Mountain. If it'd help you, I hope you'll join us. Details here.

And now, here's all of the new creative work I've bled into lately, for the benefit of everyone.

My love to all of you. Stay safe and happy, and don't forget to ask for help.

best,
Michael
New Single: Always Catching Up

My next album continues to ooze forth at approximately one song per four months. Songwriting and production is the one place in my life where I can create art selfishly, uncompromisingly, obsessed, and etch away at lovingly-crafted intricate and living works for months or years, feeling all the while as if I'm swept up in The Great Work.

The first two songs of this as-yet-unnamed, long overdue LP are here, along with their backstories.

Here's the latest tune, on time and mind, as well as lyrics and the story of its very psychedelic origins.

Walking, according to physiologists, is a controlled fall forwards.
Toddling to tottering, all of us are always one step from and one step toward.
But life's just like that. Languages grow at the rhythm of walking pace,
and every idea you inhabit is seconds behind your Original Face...

Four New Spring Paintings

Here are four smaller (12") paintings I've cooked up in the last couple cooped-up weeks. No names for any of these. Top two on stretched canvas, bottom two on cradled artboard. Check my Instagram for different angles/lighting/context. Each one is up for grabs; I won't make prints.

Commercial break: now is a great time to buy art, because the artists need support and deals abound. If you have ever wanted to own a piece of mine, drop me a line. I will be glad to show you what I've got and give you a post-apocalyptic (half or more off) discount...

 
 

And now, two awesome conversations that I hope will help you make good sense of life right now:

Future Fossils Podcast Episode 140

Listen & Subscribe anywhere you go for podcasts.

We’re extra lucky to have not one but three amazing guests this week: culture critic and religious scholar Erik Davis, philosopher and author Tony Blake, and trickster historian Mitch Mignano. A deep dive into the mythic and mystical dimensions of our moment — including nonhuman agency, the virus as teacher, Pan and panic and pandemics, solutionism isn’t the solution, the danger of efficiency logic, and a media diet for meditation on the darkness of nature.

Future Fossils Podcast Episode 141

This week’s guest is Nora Bateson, Director of the International Bateson Institute, author, film-maker, and founder of the Warm Data Lab. Nora is a magician when it comes to getting people to live the relational and dynamic, the embodied and incompressible. I’m honored that we got to sit down for a US-Sweden Zoom call and talk about how current world events touch down in the messy and beautiful everyday.

On Coronavirus, Complex Systems,
and Creative Opportunity

A transcript of Episode 139 in which I rant about our situation from the POV of an armchair systems thinker and weird artist, invoking everyone from Alan Moore to Charles Eisenstein:

"The best possible outcome I can imagine from this is to witness all of the creative and intelligent people who have been shackled to pointless, stupid, undignified work for our entire lives rise up and create something new and beautiful together. Emergencies often elicit the best of our humanity, a concern for the true priorities of our existence. These are moments when we are called to act on what really matters, and to contribute to our communities and to the legacy that we pass on, at a time when good ideas are unusually quick to spread."

ICYMI: Free Coloring Book!

No strings attached at all, but I do hope I'd get to see your pages when you color them!  (Pictured: my friend's kid going ham on some trippy doodles.)

And that's that.  Thank you for digging in.  I hope that you and yours are safe and happy...

26 March 2020

Making Sense of the Pandemic • Free Coloring Book • New Music & Paintings

"The future is too interesting and dangerous to be entrusted to any predictable, reliable agency. We need all the fallibility we can get. Most of all, we need to preserve the absolute unpredictability and total improbability of our connected minds. That way we can keep open all the options, as we have in the past.” 
– Lewis Thomas


While in enforced isolation due to a plague, college student Isaac Newton devised our modern theories of both optics and gravity. What will YOU do with your social distancing?

This opportunity for a new creative chapter is upon us at all levels, right now. Our national and global systems were stuck on suboptimal solutions and have demonstrated their inability to handle the complex and evolving crises of our emerging planetary culture. We now have a chance to break out, dream up local answers in massive parallel, and come back together in a stronger, more resilient (and antifragile) place than where we started.

Here's a short audio essay on how to make sense of this in light of complex systems research, with dozens of links to useful information in the show notes. Hope it helps.


For those of you with a sudden surplus of free time, I've decided to freeware the previously patrons-only Future Fossils Coloring Book for your enjoyment. It's a 25-page PDF of trippy doodles (some abstract, some of a natural history persuasion) that you can print out or color on a tablet. My only request is that I get to see some of the finished results!

If you want the "full experience," here are hours and hours of free music for your streaming pleasure, with a confirmed track record of facilitating awesome art sessions:

SpotifyBandcampSoundcloud (fewer tracks there compared to the other two)


And now onto some new art!

I painted the top two pieces in collaboration with Jamie Baldwin Gaviola (@flowstatepaint on Instagram). She started the top two and mailed them to me to finish, and then I had a wild hair to "breed" the two paintings. My daughter had her first birthday this week and in the weeks leading up, the two paintings Jamie started seemed reminiscent to me of my partner (the softer pastel sunburst grid one) and myself (the edgier and bolder peacock circuitboard one). The third painting, the square of blobby motion and expressive dynamic gooeyness in the middle, is unquestionably our child.


But of course no symbol can be contained by a single interpretation, even for one (honest) person, and as with all artwork, new layers and associations will undoubtedly reveal themselves over time.  The "daughter" painting was finished the night I also completed a new studio arrangement of a song I've been kind of "pregnant" with for the last several years, a song that first started taking shape the week my partner moved to Austin to live with me in 2014 and I got lost in the Texas Hill Country on ayahuasca (but that's another story). That song, "Always Catching Up," has a lot to do with the network latencies in our nervous systems and how we're always responding to a state of the world that has already transformed into something else. 

When I first played the scratch mix of the studio track for my friends in Santa Fe, the only visible star turned out to be Aldebaran, which is associated with the Archangel Michael and with militant peacocking. It seemed like I was being drawn back into the synchronicity vortex that subsumed me for over a month in 2017 leading up to the release of the Pavo LP & Martian Arts EP (I talk a little bit about that particular Chapel Perilous in the public liner notes to those two releases). Anyway, the latest canvas finished itself that night, and now here we are.

All three of these paintings are available for sale, or if you're playing it safe with your money still want a copy, they're available as cardstock and canvas prints in my shop (Jamie and I split proceeds).



02 March 2020

Back on Tour, BioHorror, DeepFakes, Cosmic Evolution, Psychedelic Therapy, World Travel & Space Exploration

I'll keep this brief.

In summer 2017 I wrote a story about how AI would change the very nature of reality. I shared it with some friends and read it as an episode of Future Fossils, but I never tried to get it published. Then it started coming true, and I knew that I had to get it out there while we still live in a world in which the categories "real" and "fake" still make some sense.

Now folks are sharing it on Twitter. I heard today that it's effective horror. I hope it helps prepare you.

Here it is:

(Artwork licensed by Giacomo Carmagnola.)

If you find non-fiction easier, here is an essay about our accelerating evolutionary arms race with deep learning AI fakery, and why it matters that we start to take these matters seriously:


(This is not actually a conversation between Jeff Goldblum, Tom Cruise, Ewan McGregor, Robert Downey, Jr., and George Lucas. Allow me to explain.)

–––––   New Artwork   –––––

Since most of you signed up to see new paintings and an artless update might be mild betrayal, here are the collaborations that I'm working on with friends across the country, after baby goes to sleep.

None of these are done, but they're all getting close. If you want any of them, let me know...

This first one is a 24" canvas with Gregory Pettit that we started just before I moved to Santa Fe:



These next two are small (16") collabs with Jamie Gaviola

She began them both and shipped them to me to complete:



I feel extremely lucky to be working with these artists, both of whom are not just masters of their craft but awesome people. Check out their other work!

(And, obviously, follow me on Instagram to see more updates as we finish these and other pieces.)

–––––   New Podcasts   –––––

I know I always say this, but it's true: Future Fossils just keeps getting better, and I am convinced these latest episodes are some of the best yet. Here's what you've probably been missing:

 
 

The Future Fossils Book Club just had an AWESOME conversation about Borne, Jeff VanderMeer's amazing postapocalyptic biohorror novel, which remixes "cute" and "weapon," "enemy" and "family," and makes us ask important questions about personhood and love and beauty.

Next up we're discussing VanderMeer's Dead Astronauts, so get in here and join us!

(Artwork licensed by Pat Hughes.)

–––––   Upcoming Gigs   –––––

I haven't traveled much since I became a father, but if you're in Austin or Phoenix this month maybe we will see each other! I'll be playing music and giving a talk at Cosmic Music Festival in Mesa, Arizona on March 28th and speaking on complex systems and society at the SXSW Interactive party for EFF-Austin (March 14th) and hosting a live Future Fossils Podcast at The Technodelic Temple for Andromeda Entertainment (March 17th).

More info at the links below:




12 January 2020

When Papadosio Came To Meow Wolf: New Music, Art, & Conversation From An Epic Weekend



2020 is feeling very black and white: revenge or compassion, hope or despair...not a lot of room in the middle as the social centrifuge picks up speed. Without wanting to come off too heavy-handed, it seems like all of us future-shocked apes find it easier to settle into an extreme instead of constantly exerting the extraordinary (non)effort it takes to remain a Buddha in this bedlam...

It feels important to acknowledge that we're organisms with metabolisms and the even most awakened person I have ever met (his brain scans show no blood flow in the brain regions associated with ego activity) said he gets a little selfish when his blood sugar is low. So take it easy on yourselves and let it be okay for all this molten transformation to congeal into a person when your energies are low.

Me, personally, I'd prefer to land on "optimism" when the music stops. My friend Mark Nelson, one of the brave souls who lived in Biosphere 2, inside a giant greenhouse growing all of their own food for two years in one of the craziest and most precarious experiments humanity has ever ventured, told me on Future Fossils Podcast optimism is a yoga. It's a practical approach that's less about what your tired brain believes is fact and more about what science shows is good for you, the animal that needs a reason to keep going. It's the difference between a mouse that keeps on swimming in the bucket and a mouse that drowns.

I'm waxing purple on all this because I've spent a lot of time in some extremely dark spots over the last decade and feel like it is time to change my tune. Still love and flex that gallows humor, but frankly, if we don't believe we'll make it through we won't. As – dork alert! – Guinan said to Riker when Picard was captured by the Borg and all seemed lost, "When a man is convinced he's going to die tomorrow, he'll probably find a way to make it happen."

The other opportunity, the one that opens into iterative branching possibility and, obviously, is more fun, is to adopt the "as if" attitude that we'll get through this — even if our weary minds can't help but trace the pattern of defeat in all we see. That's why I so believe in how some of my friends, notably Anthony Thogmartin, wield their public influence in full awareness of emotional contagion and the practicality of hope. I feel like every time I talk to Anthony he sets me straight — just through the force of his enthusiasm and his curiosity and passion for the weird and wonderful times that we live in. It's so obvious in speaking to him that "the world" is mostly epistemic, so thoroughly inflected by our colored lenses that it's comic how we think we know what's what. And that is why I cherish every conversation that I have with him, and every opportunity I have to share his wonder with the world.

I just had Anthony on Future Fossils and think it's the best way I could have started out this year — the perfect tone to ring out in an annunciation of what I think matters and what I hope to encourage in this next ten years. I hope (ha ha) that you will find the time to listen and allow his optimism to osmose into you. Surely it's pragmatic, to invite this in and help it tune you, like it tunes me, so that when I can't maintain the Zen not-knowing, I'm at least convinced of something good.

Chin up, my friends. For real: your body steers your mind...


This was my opening set for Papadosio on their "Desert Dosio" mini-tour, the first time I've played a show with my beloved old friends since 2013. It was a beautiful homecoming. The venue is amazing, the sound engineer impeccable, the audience loving and attentive, and the vibes high. I got to test drive some new arrangements. Overall, my favorite live show since I got to play Boom Festival in Portugal in 2016.

These are songs about living in an accelerating and mysterious world...dealing with the transcendent opportunity, turbulence, and anxiety of our century. Some of these songs are over ten years old and are only now just finding wings. If you would like to hear their fully-realized studio versions later this year, follow me here on Bandcamp or on Patreon and I'll be happy to update you.

Because there was an unanticipated glitch in the recording for the last track that kind of ruined the second verse, I don't feel comfortable accepting money for this live album, and hope you'll enjoy it as my gift to you. Thanks for listening!


Painted live at Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return to the music of Papadosio on 13 & 14 December 2019. Acrylic and oil pens on canvas (16"x20"x1.5", gallery wrapped).

I have no idea what I was thinking, other than that the music was excellent and I was set up right next to the subwoofer and five feet from the drums (reading 96 decibels on my friend's phone app), so the more-than-usually intense and gestural take on live painting was very obviously a result of my environment. Some kind of fractal psychedelic seahorse sigil.

This is what happens when after eleven years of painting at concerts you decide to finally let the music speak through the paint. When you let the energies of a band in an experimental growth spurt and a very full and intensely weird venue carry you where they may...

02 January 2020

One Final Dispatch From Last Decade: New Paintings, Music, Podcasts, & Reading Lists


"One's ideas must be as broad as Nature, if they are to interpret Nature. “
- Arthur Conan Doyle

"Einstein thought nature would protect us from the formation of black holes."
- Janna Levin

Happy New Year, everyone! This update is, I know, more than I can hope for you to actually digest — and that's okay. I'm glad you even took the time to check it out — and think you'll be rewarded with each step into it you take.

The reason for this tome is that I've been so busy making work of lasting value that I haven't had the time to share.  Exhibit A:


I've been working hard to figure out how I can balance old and new responsibilities (including sharing the extraordinary conversations I've been hosting for the Santa Fe Institute's Complexity Podcast, about evolution and ecology, economics and sociology). The art and music still comes, just slower, more deliberately than it used to. My hope is that you too value quality over quantity.

That said, here's the last dispatch from the 2010s, a few days late due to subspace anomalies:

A few new tees and tapestries featuring my artwork made it up on Acidmath's new website:

Because a lot of people have asked me for reading lists, I've started a new shop at Amazon where I list my favorite non-fiction, fiction, and graphic novels, and if you buy them I get some small percentage of the sale:


I also got a lot of airtime in the last few months — getting interviewed by The New Modality as an advisor to their amazing new magazine, and appearing on podcasts with Cory Allen and Hardy Haberland. I left Chris Ryan a voicemail he played on Tangentially Speaking, and got name-dropped in my friend David Titterington's awesome essay on "black goo" and/in the films of David Lynch. And my public talks were quoted extensively in Marzia Braggion's lovely experimental art film, "The Great Unknown" — as well as for one of the weirdest and funniest hip hop videos I've ever seen, Jonah Mociun's "Still Life (The Ensouling)".

Two new live recordings found their way online last week: the highlights from my concert for the Psychedelic Society of Minneapolis, and the ambient set I played in Arizona for Stargate Reunion. (The former's free and public; the latter an exclusive for Bandcamp & Patreon supporters.)

 

Note: I got to play the best gig ever in December, opening for Papadosio at Meow Wolf, and I'll have that for you in the next update — along with the live painting that I made with them that weekend, and the special episode of Future Fossils I recorded with their lead guitarist and my dear old friend Anthony Thogmartin.  It seemed a bad idea to bury that in this massive update, so hold tight!

As for the painting life, I've been waiting for a while to get my hands on the scan of this deliciously disturbing pens-and-airbrush collaboration I did last year with brother-in-arms Byron Aldridge. We are not making prints of this but the original is up for purchase, if you're interested. (24"x36" on gallery-wrapped canvas.)


And if you aren't subscribed to Future Fossils Podcast yet, the four latest episodes are easily four of the best to date:

 
 

Recent Patreon-supporter-exclusives include another four solid conversations (including a personal favorite with comedian Ramin Nazer), as well as our final book club call of 2019:

 

In parting, probably the proudest non-baby art I've made in the last several months were these two studio recordings, "Transparent" and "Signal." Listeners have likened them to everything from "the kind of music Bon Iver wishes he could make" to "like listening to The Flaming Lips for the first time."

You can dig them both on Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or anywhere you like to go for music. Or stream them while you read their lyrics and their backstories, on Medium:



Thank you for your attention!  Love and warm wishes,

Michael