I recently borrowed a book from the library about G. I. Gurdjieff, a Russian esoteric thinker of the early 20th Century. I chose a book about him (in this case by the novelist John Shirley) rather than by him because I thought it would give me a broader overview of his life and ideas - and be written in a more modern, direct style.
Shirley's book often references In Search of the Miraculous, written by one of Gurdjieff's students, P. D. Ouspensky (published in 1949). This title is commonly accepted as the seminal book about Gurdjieff.
I had heard this title before. When I moved to New York after college I worked in a non-profit art gallery called Exit Art. One of the exhibitions staged during my time there explored the history of performance art, highlighting pieces that required an extraordinary level of endurance by the artist, whether mental or physical. The exhibition included a piece by conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader that particularly caught my eye. The piece was represented by a melancholy, grainy, black and white photograph of a sailboat at sea. The cursive script along the bottom of the picture read In Search of the Miraculous.
I assume that Bas Jan Ader borrowed the title from Ouspensky. Otherwise it's quite a coincidence.
|In Search of the Miraculous by Bas Jan Ader, 1975. Photo from MOCA archives|