An Interview with Daniel Mirante

Tristanna Emani

Added on November 21, 2020

Daniel Mirante is an artist and researcher who has been influential in the development of visionary art education since 2010 through numerous workshops, public lectures and teaching positions with The Academy of Visionary Art, Visionary Art India, and the Art Pilgrim Project. In this interview we talk about art, evolution, consciousness, and his latest project, an online library and research foundation at

Chanting Down Babylon by Daniel Mirante
Chanting Down Babylon by Daniel Mirante

What is art?

Art is a fundamental function of the cognition and behavior of homo sapiens sapiens. I imagine it was also an attribute of our forebearers, such as cro magnon and homo neanderthalensis, where we have evidence of flute-making and petrogylphs going back 50,000 years. We don’t know if Neanderthals taught Cro magnon or the other way round, or if it was an emergent property of interbreeding in the Levant, Anatolian steppes and Mesopotamia. But we can assume great antiquity to this behaviour.

Symbol making enjoined with vocal sounds and thus developed the sophisticated capacity for abstract thought. The human neocortex contains a vast capacity for symbolic abstraction. We do not just live in a world of ‘things’ but of ‘symbols’. Art is a symbol making function through which we rise to metaphysical thought and express and circulate it back to each other, bringing forth the continuums of culture and history.

Why do we make art?

From internal necessity. As with the discovery of how to weild fire, symbol making now is a kind of ‘fire’ or light in the mind, that blazes forth, seeking a process of increasing integration with the mystery of existence.

Daniel Mirante at the Academy of Visionary Art
Daniel teaching at The Academy of Visionary Art, Vienna.

But what is the function of art? What does it achieve?

It expresses more aspects of what we are. We are rational creatures. We have some control of impulse. We are able to prioritise and categorise. Yet we are creatures also of an emotional and mystical nature. Through the imagination, we draw together correspondenses in our experience into personal or transpersonal meanings. Visionary art is transpersonal. It speaks to our community, culture or species, it expresses what Jung called the collective unconscious and the archetypes, or what our ancestors called the Gods and Goddesses. It attempts to integrate the various often cognitively dissociated parts of our being together into meaning-gestalts.

Ok, but in the long run?

As with technological progress and large historical events and social shifts, it is part of the evolutionary journey we are on. This evolutionary journey has not been linear. Presumably there have been disasters along the way that have wiped out a lot of our cultural memory. It truly is curious we do not collectively ‘remember’ much past 3000bc, Sumer, where it is said we ‘invented’ written language.

I don’t believe someone sat down and decided to invent language and heiroglyphs. Its much more likely that there was a gradual evolution from tribal symbols and signs, sounds and songs, and an increasing binding between visual and auditory, allowing ‘language’ to be enscribed upon rock and metal and papyrus, and thus transported across time and space in material artifacts, in much the same way binary has allowed us to digitise sound and vision and writing. Still, it seems Sumer is rather recent considering the species has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. I assume there has been some catastrophies along the way. Still, the ‘springing forth’ of development, of the evolutionary impulse rebounds from these ‘resets’.

So art contains this record of the psychodynamics of our species, and in the action of making art, and disseminating it, these internal integrative symbolic processes are transmitted into culture, sending their ripples forth, en masse precipitating the next layerings of our cultural evolution and digesting the historical elements that play through us subconsciously. Its somewhat encapsulated in Ken Wilber’s maxim “Transcend and Include”.

Jachin and Boaz by Daniel Mirante
Jachin and Boaz by Daniel Mirante

But why do some people make art and others do not?

I don’t know. But it may be a combination of enculturation, and individual psychology. It may be argued that some artists have a ‘hard problem’ internally in the form of an emotional or metaphysical struggle which works out through a preponderance of artistic impulse.

With the people I have taught and worked with, there seems to be a developmental stage in which people got ‘shut down’. Usually this is in the years of early puberty. Young childrens work is generally celebrated as a kind of miracle. Later adults bring in more baroque systems of approval and disapproval which are based in comparisons to external reality and skill. This is enough to knock many off the horse, and they can spend their entire life discouraged.

This is why I have found a lot of the work around teaching art works with the psychology of the inner child. All children seek to create and play with shape and color. An adult makes an interior judgement if there is any point to it, if it has survival advantages. Since it often doesn’t, it gets put very low on the list of priorities. I find increasingly I have to make it to the easel early in the day, so that my mind does not become over-rational.

Therefore, if this is really about resurrecting the powers of the child, it is about our consciousness integrating further back in time to our child-capacities to create unselfconsciously. So this is effecting a psychological ‘neoteny’ – in other words retaining a youthful psyche, which is sensitive and receptive and neuroplastic.

Where do you see art going in the future?

As consciousness evolves further, it integrates with more awareness the totality of its being – the biographical subconscious, the sexual impulses, the inner child, and then it reaches back into territory that is more difficult to ‘nail down’, such as cellular memory traces, perinatal psychology such as Stan Grof has charted with the birth-perinatal matrix theory. Its very interesting to consider some of the strongest formative influences on adult psychology, in terms of general character, could be laid down in the womb. I believe as we were woven into being through the incredible processes of gestation, that there were fundamental levels of consciousness already present. I consider that perinatal psychology some of the main revolutions in latter-20th century psychology. This is sacred ground – the place of origin. As humans are able to approach this ground like our ancestors did through shamanism, through death-rebirth rites of passage, we will bring forth more of our latent ‘wholeness’ and develop much more understanding of ourselves.

Simultaniously however we are in a dynamic process of continuing technological unfurlment. I take the idea seriously that we moderns are still integrating the new knowledge of ourselves living on a globe orbitting one star of many, in a vast galactic tide of unimaginable vastness. And we also have to deal with healing a lot of collective trauma from the world wars. It seems to me that 1938 to 1947 initiated a new era. Splitting the atom, discovering the vast Saudi Arabia oil reservoir, the first sex change operation, and LSD and other neurotransmitters were all discovered in these years. On top of that, the charting of DNA, then space travel, home computing, the internet. Fractals and self-organisation theory have given us an entirely new visualisations and vocabulary for defragmenting conceptually our experience. Experientially we are in new territory as beings, and art is a profoundly helpful practice to integrate this new reality.

How do you distinguish visionary art from contemporary art?

The answer to that cannot be surmised simply hence the Era of Visions Library and the Laniakea projects that I have been initiating. But to summerise, visionary art comes out of religious and metaphysical traditions. Although a vast amount of visionary art is primarily propelled by the psychedelic revolution and post-war adjustment period, it is also closely connected to mandala and ikon painting, and the narrative painting of the Renaissance. These threads are not very dominant in contemporary art particularly.

The other thing I would point out is that if contemporary art tends to operate on the principle of ‘great artists’ and successful artists who ‘stand up and above’ the rest of us – purportedly – then visionary art operates with much less distance between its most famous artists and its audience. The gradient between audience and artist is much smoother. The community is more participatory. There appears to be a very lively educational framework that exists outside of reliance of university institutions – although I would like to see students within the university institutions supported more in making a case for the importance of visionary art. Hence again the hope that a growing library will be of benefit in helping us build the history and context of visionary art.

Thankyou for the interview Daniel!

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