In "20/20 Blake" paintings and engravings selected from
throughout Blake's productive life appear onstage as projected stage
sets. The audience wear 3D glasses to experience stereographic illusions
created from digital manipulations of the paintings and engravings
enabling live performers to appear in the artworks. The text is based
on Blake's writings, "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", "The Book of Thel",
"The Book of Urizen" and "The Song of Los". Lyrics from Blake's prose and
poetry are drawn from his complete works.
William Blake (1757-1827) was not a man of his time. Though a visionary
artist and romantic poet responsible for introducing novel methods for
merging visual and poetic imagery Blake favored the sensibilities of
antiquity over the prevailing aesthetics of the pre-industrial age of
reason and science that defined the London of his contemporaries.
Largely ignored by the general public and thought mad by some who knew
him, Blake kept faith with his visions, never doubted their reality and
addressed some of his art directly to, "Children of a future age".
According to Blake, spirits regularly appeared to him including the
soul of his deceased brother Robert, a false God of fear and punishment
called Urizen, the ghost of a flea, and the giants, demigods and
Goddesses, Los, Thel, and Enitharmon to name a few. Skirting the edge
of poverty through most of his life and eking out a living as an engraver
for hire with his wife and assistant Catherine, he was once compelled
to accept payment from the commercial importer Wedgewood to
illustratrate a tea service in a catalogue of fine china. Though Blake
claimed to have experienced apparitions of the characters he pictured
in his paintings and engravings it is through his prophetic books and
poems that he commands the reader to
"...see a World in a grain of sand
Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of
and Eternity in an hour".
The visions and voices depicted in "20/20 Blake" are drawn from the
many metaphysical encounters Blake was engaged in throughout his life
and work. His iconoclastic irreverence toward natural science and organized
religion were expressed in his many reworkings of biblical themes and
archetypes. Blake ridiculed Old Testament notions of a stern
authoritarian God by depicting Him as a tottering and decrepit deity
named, Urizen, (a play on 'your reason') often pictured with Iaasak Newtons
measuring compass artificially dividing the human from the divine. Christ,
on the other hand, is often pictured as a sensual and herculean metal worker
named Los who is unaware of his divinity and sometimes chained to a rock.
In Bakes prophetic poem "The Book of Thel" a Goddess by the same name longs
to learn about things of the flesh while in "The Marriage of Heaven
And Hell" (1790) moral codes are ridiculed for, "cursing the fairest
joys". In a series of aphorisms he called "The Proverbs of Hell" Blake
proclaims, "opposition is true friendship" and satirizes contending
spiritual philosophies of the afterlife. Preoccupied in many of his
drawings and paintings with death and deathbed scene's Blake had his
face cast in a plaster mask five years before his death in 1827.