In 1970, German artist Kurt Vostell created "Concrete Traffic," a Cadillac almost totally encased in a shell of concrete. There is a sister to this piece in Berlin. The short-lived Fluxus art movement privileged happenings and this mummified car, a symbol of privilege and status in its times, is one of the most famous relics of Fluxus. You can see this conserved artifact now at a garage of the University of Chicago.
In June of 2017 I viewed this piece in person. Honestly, even though I appreciate emerging art generally, I had to ask the question: Is this piece really art? In what sense? The piece is, in all its bulk and heaviness, troubling.
But I began to see it as a metaphor of how we become encased in our egos, our carefully protected and conserved selves. Truth be told, I spend a lot of time re-running my own image and narrative of myself. One Buddhist author I am reading these days even uses a verb "to self" as a description of the constant self-referential buzz that goes on in our heads. Yes, I am most often encased in selfing.
In spiritual direction, a challenge to both the seeker and the spiritual director is to gently and compassionately break through--chisel through--the encasement and mummification that our souls, our spirits seem to prefer. There is nothing really porous about the mummified Cadillac that Vostell created. Yet, in spiritual direction we are looking for porousness, the ability to expand and to breath. Spirit and breath become almost synonymous.
When someone tells me that "God will never forgive me" that is a Concrete Traffic moment. Or, when another person retires but continues to try to live the busy life of whatever she or he did in the work place, that is also a Concrete Traffic moment. Encased. Mummified. Unchanging. How can I get out of my encasement, whatever holds me from exhaling and inhaling, whatever keeps me from spiritually expanding?
I wonder: What does this metaphor of the concrete encased Cadillac from the seventies say to you?