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  • Alina Barlogeanu

From Art to Acupuncture: re-rooting Rothko

French version here. Warning: These few paragraphs may rattle Rothko fans. These are merely my personal feelings and hold no "objective" value (assuming objectivity exists, which I highly doubt).

eagle and faces
The Omen of the Eagle, 1942

As I wait my turn in the queue for entry to the Fondation Cartier on a typically Parisian day (that is to say, cloudy and rainy), I encourage myself to open my mind to give Rothko a chance to touch me in some way or another. You'll understand, it's not quite my cup of tea. Yet, I like many kinds of teas, including the "teas" that are symbolic and abstract. However, I have never really understood the appeal of large colored squares. To each their own limits.

I move through the rooms, and I have the same feeling that I've experienced countless times during my university studies when I was studying contemporary theater: the theory is interesting, it twists the brain, it lays out grand principles, it excites, and then... you see the work. And there, generally, it falls flat.

I did not appreciate Rothko because his work mirrors my own state of mind from that period (a state which characterizes the vast majority of students in higher education): everything is concentrated in the head, a lot of reflection, not much feeling, not much body (an interesting thing because it's the era where he decides that figuration and the human body in particular does not suffice for the expression of the human condition).

Here we have a being with a real quest for transcendence, who is interested in myths, literature, archaic rituals, the unconscious, fascinating subjects, and yet the form of all this does not convey the scope that the painter aims for.

On the other hand, what is very clearly seen is the mental mechanics at work. In some ways, the canvases from the '40s remind me of works by Picabia: one understands nothing without decoding the texts that accompany the paintings. On several occasions, I found myself inspired and excited by the texts only to be disappointed by the image.

How could we have helped Rothko through acupuncture? How to make him reintegrate his body, help him to come back down to earth by making him leave the mazes of his mind to enter into sensation? This not with the aim of cutting him off from his aspirations, but on the contrary, to root him so that he could experience the direct experience without the intermediary of the mind?

Personally, I would have done a treatment in 5 elements (again!), but this time with the elements in cross. I would bring the vertical axis towards the horizontal, that is, I would move Water towards Wood and Fire towards Metal but through Earth:

Water towards Wood: 3 Kidney reduced / 9 Spleen tonified / 1 Spleen reduced / 3 Liver tonified

Fire towards Metal: 7 Heart reduced / 2 Spleen tonified / 5 Spleen reduced / 9 Lung tonified

Alas, we will never know what follow-up in acupuncture could have done for the artist, how it could have transformed his work. But fortunately for us, we have the chance today to use this technique both to root ourselves and to try to approach transcendence.


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