Following from the previous Cat and Mouse Game post.
Part of the issue with such hypocritical appearances as those I appear to put forth in my work and my writings, and which I described in the last post, is the ongoing search for a delicate balance. All things in the world we know achieve or attempt to achieve a balance, and portraying art faithfully and at it’s height, to me, is achieving that same balance.
One of the most pressing issues of modern art and it’s current state is the process by which art has arrived where it stands today and inherent concerns within that lineage. Such concerns have the potential to afford us a truthful vista upon why it is art has developed in the directions it has. The modern history of art has been ruled by newness, new isms, new movements, artists from all corners of the earth and all walks of life attempting to make their mark both literally and figuratively. This history and those who assist it’s human borne evolution intentionally or unintentionally have long placed increased value on originality and originators of new and unexplored territories. This is a trait of modern art, a consequence of the pursuit of a creativity beyond the boundaries of realism, imitation, and social utility, which were traits of the former art preceding the industrial revolution. All work which is, perhaps unknowingly and perhaps not, predicated on the strength afforded to them by the vehement denial of what preceded them. Forged on the publicly eviscerated flaws within the vision of the artists who laid the groundwork for the new in every movement left behind and the movement that followed. Destruction, to put it more strongly. Tearing down the old to make room for the new.
Context is important in such an understanding, as a metaphor came to mind that will help illuminate this. If we are tearing down to make room for the new, think of art as a bustling city, and refer to the vein of construction work in which tearing down is a bare bones physical reality. I need to make a physical metaphor of this phenomena of visual art, as art is not only about written theory and mental and spiritual constructs. Everything must be placed in the physical model to be understood as a part of the entire scope of the art we experience and create.
In such a hypothetical living city, assume construction tears down the old to make room for the new. It is important to note at this point that in this world there is a literal quantity of room (space) for all the new humanity could ever create, without tearing down the old (but still useful) constructs (we will not refer to the old and no longer useful constructs, as they are not remembered in their destruction or are torn down over time by nature itself). The context of the room needed and the nature of that need (where and why), the setting of the process, is more important and illuminating to the social process behind this deconstruction than the space itself needed in which to build. In this way the nature of the creators and destroyers trumps the resultant product. Why something is done runs deeper than what is done. Another example of how the artist must have the art follow the self and not the other way around, as it mirrors the social constructs we enact on a daily basis.
The problem lies in that in finite spaces such as our specific city, room is limited. So while the wide world has ample space that can house all the newness that could ever be built while allowing for the natural degradation of the old, and rest assured the natural (non man-made) world functions in this manner of natural degradation, the world of humankind, this concrete paradise, has exalted and may very well continue to exalt the new, and hold it above the old purposefully. This construct (and those who it is created by) may destroy the old and put the new in it’s place, with the direct intention of highlighting the contrast between the two.
The old is torn down to have new in it’s place, with the intention of not only replacing the old but contrasting it’s progressions and highlight it’s “superior” properties to what was in it’s place. The new rises in place of the old with a somewhat sinister and vampiric purpose. To make the new more than what it would be if it was simply new on it’s own. In part it becomes new, and more important, because of the weight of what it destroyed or what was destroyed to allow it’s presence to take it’s place. The death of the old, premature or not and deserved or not (as well as credible or not), feeds the grand reputation of the new with it’s death – and more finitely put, the social energy generated in the act of killing (this is the seed of shock art I propose). Quite possibly artificially sustaining the new with this charged energy, beyond the true merit something new might achieve by merit alone. This is a widespread social action in the life we see around us. New is thrown around without regard to weight of content, giving life simply from it’s novelty. But every day in this world is not a Spring day.
The setting of the stage for old vs. new is not to be overlooked as a key element in sociological desires for creation and innovation. The setting shows the motivation of the creators as intentionally thrusting forward, a subconscious beacon of what we have learned as a second nature to call progress. “Progress” has existed and gained strength on the death of tradition. It must. Otherwise it risks a lack of interest or understanding, a lack of necessity amongst those it attempts to enlist for it’s support corps, or a simple revelation that perhaps what is new is either not so new at all or not so grand as it may seem without that intoxicating and yet entirely anti-functional “new car smell”. Or that perhaps the average soul is likely to accept the present terms put forth by his or her immediate surrounding life, rather than press forward to discover new terms. It is a fine line between a necessity for forward growth, and the desire of the few to move their own interest forward. Therein lies the necessity of finding a balance in this.
I call progress foolhardy, used as it has been to trumpet the new without a deep examination of merit. Yet somehow it seems so unavoidable for the world of progress to proceed in this fashion. For one, such examination of merit has no patron. Not the average person nor the few who create out of personal interest. Beyond that, imagine a lone skyscraper meant and designed for the NYC financial district, erected in Antarctica. Who would fill it’s floors? Who would pay it’s bills, and why? Without it’s place, where it’s natural use exists, why should it exist then? In this way the social construct is forced to move forward by such erected projects and forced to a great degree to accept the terms laid out by progress without any choice other than to accept the terms or abandon the equation. Good questions.
Often times history itself calls for an answer and progress provides that answer. Whether or not the answer holds forward moving merit can be placed in secondary position to the need for anything at all to step forward and fill a gap. Maybe in a new world, a world we may be entering, where the immediate confines of physical space are suspended and the limitations of the connections of the physical world we have known are growing more inconsequential, growth shown by things such as the internet and the gifts of the information age, a world in which setting and forced progress has loosened it’s grip on the nature of necessity will be revealed. Then we can see whether or not merit in new creations can exist without an artifice of progress as support and the purported necessity of progress due to restrictive settings to buoy it’s youth.
In the same respect as revering the new at the mortal expense of the old, it makes no sense to keep and revere the old in order to push out the new to a setting or context in which it no longer functions and has lost it’s purposes. Neither absolute is truly correct, though it seems so necessary that some allowance must be made for a legitimate answer of some kind. Between two options, neither of which are entirely correct, where do we find a truth? With no answers we have no direction, this lack of constructive response implies a meaningless question. We have no purposes at all in that position and fall toward a tendency of repetition, of doing for the sake of doing as we remember the action of doing in a look at yesterday. Therefore we continue doing today because it is familiar. I must say that resembles a self examining postmodernist view all too much, reminiscent of the self relating art of the twentieth century. Looping endlessly amongst itself having abandoned questions entirely, perhaps due to an easy reconciliation between the frustration of an inability to answer such questions and the sight of the world continuing to move forward and act without such answers. Answers at the very least, whether we have them or not, imply questions in their act of being sought. Ultimately without such questioning I would say any progress is impossible no matter how shiny or shocking it may be.
Let us return from the world of metaphor back to the question of art. The modern history of art has increasingly built itself on the foundation of destructive action. Tearing at and tearing down the predecessor in order to establish the new mode of seeing. One act of destruction is not all that we suffer in this. In this line of action we suffer the eventual destruction of everything. Producing this art and this theory which needs so desperately the blood of the predecessor on which to float it’s innovation has an unexpected effect only a person of foresight can be made aware of. A succession of destructive art and theories produces an accumulation of destruction and little else but the remnants of it. Everything eventually has it’s day at the gallows. Accepting the death of the old with the glory of the new, and then doing so again and again, renders everything once new later destroyed. So everything becomes dead, and that is the only definitive end that can be reached other than a continual thirst for newness which becomes the only validity available. What is placed in the new position grows to be invalid, valid only by nature of it’s placement as new. And so works and theories and movements themselves no longer matter, only that they are considered new. New becomes art, and art successively becomes nothing.
Which is where we are. What we have today in art is a mirror of the world of the humming function of production without principle, direction, true originality, everything that art at it’s most idealistic (the time of the expressionists and symbolists) strove against. And we have remnants of the old art, pieces which are no longer distinguishable as pieces of any whole we know or remember, like so many eroded relics of a former mind. In the construction metaphor, they would be tattered bricks from what was once a building. Once in a while you will come upon a work of modern art which is akin to a dated cornerstone wrenched from it’s building, revealing more than the ordinary work, but still only a remnant in a memory. In these bricks and artifacts nothing of what was the structure from whence they came is held. Nothing more than archaeological curiosities. Modern art is nothing more than the production of individually advertised archaeological curiosities. Nothing more than home businesses pumping out tourist souvenirs of the artistic perspective of artists to whom art has evaded finding a stature of meaning. Some would call this very thing progress. And that such work, if it’s validity were greater, would withstand the test of time and last through the ages. Well, I would call that a shallow view. The strongest greatest architectural masterpiece one could imagine would not remain standing by virtue of it’s artistic and philosophical mastery when a wrecking ball is swung into it’s walls. The reasoning behind the presence and purpose of the wrecking ball is not the responsibility of the wrecking ball itself. In layman’s terms, progress can only be called progress if it is progress. Just because old is destroyed for new does not automatically validate it is as an act of progress, and the greatness of the old does not save it out of it’s sheer greatness.
Jeff Koons has answered to this, and if he has not done so directly or intentionally it doesn’t really matter. Making gallery works of souvenirs, artifacts, or any other pop culture items that symbolize these ideas of production, newness and detachment would not be very far at all from Koons work. I’m sure there are artists out there to take up this flag and fly it, though it’s not for me. I feel within every ounce of my artistic being that there must be a better answer to the questions of the modern art and the inherent deep issues, other than to mock it or continue to remove simple, basic artistic pursuit until there is nothing personally creative left. As any other, Koons’ answer follows the same line of response which has brought the Western art to where it is now. Mockery is tearing down, allegory is indirect, and exalting assumed progress and circulating newness is not all there is to creation. Mocking or attempting a reversal of newness and originality, as some have suggested Koons does, is the same destructive act of his predecessors. It offers no conclusive answer, and in it’s defense, promises none whatsoever.
I have to believe that there is the potential of a better way to be found in a balance and the knowledge that truth is a subjective matter of perspective, until it bears down to rule the individual. If there is no truth to be universally found, at least I, as an artist, can have the potential to find and materialize my own undeniable truth. My theory, and my life, is that answers and purpose are to be found in a balance of all things. This includes the purposeful destruction of what is aged beyond it’s ability to offer strength, not suitable, or outmoded, along with the acceptance of past work which held a true measure of quality and has been unjustly replaced with a new inferiority. As well the progress toward a clearer view toward the flaws of the past coupled with the quality a new perspective can afford the world of today. A balance which to be seen must consider truths and falsities in all things, where they lie, for what they are without an individual or collective bias. And therefore requires a vantage point which allows the seeing of all things in a complete picture of the world of humans and sociological action past and present, as naturally discoverable as the rotations and rhythms of the natural world itself. I believe the access to that complete picture can be discovered in simply raising sight to another level entirely.
If I continued the metaphor a bit further, know this. An argument can be made from any number of perspectives highlighting any side of this argument. Old, new, both can be made to be absolute, both can combined in any percentage. It is all a matter of seeing from one view or another. Long ago I assumed to myself that no real answers are to be found in unanswerable places. And that no answers lie in things that can be argued infinitely without end. Such arguments are not questions as they are never destined to be more than arguments if no definition can be achieved. The answer, and there is only one, is not much of an answer at all. It is more of a revelation. The understanding of what I described above. That any number of arguments can be made, that any number of views can be put forth and hold some measure of truth. That the only way to achieve a complete measure of truth is to accept all of the possible arguments and see them all for being a balanced collection of incompletions as they will always be. The complete picture is nothing more than accepting all of the incompletions and holding the vantage point of the process in it’s state of action. And a true balance is nothing more than seeking loyalty to all things through acceptance, and loyalty to no things through acceptance of the self as the only answer to the individual life one individual truly possesses, with the uninfluenced and undiluted self as the ruling article in any question and answer session. Or in this case, to the individual art.
On a related note, I recently felt the necessity of balance in the use of elements in order to portray their opposite. The opposite of a visual element can be achieved in it’s sensory perception of it’s presence, and not necessarily it’s direct portrayal. Often times a stronger sense of something is achieved through it’s opposite, and that opposite works this way when it finds it’s balance.
A canvas covered in blood shows blood. We see the blood, we feel the blood, we recognize the simple physical object of blood. It acts directly, shallowly, and obscures the power of action – literally and figuratively – giving only the presence of blood, and blood having been spilled. After that initial reaction perhaps more intricate perceptions of action or meaning can follow. But the first impression is bare and simple, and rules the work. Everything that follows falls under that initial rule and is subjugated by it. Assume this to be mathematically considered a number meaning all, just for the sake of making a point. This would be the distant past of art, canvases covered in the imitated forms of portraiture, of life, but so heavily reproduced that there is living action in the work. And yet they reveal little to nothing of the true nature of the forms they represent, of the depth of unknown possibility within the forms of their subjects.
A microscopic photograph of blood painted on a canvas does not show blood at all. It detaches entirely from the action, acts entirely indirectly, and relies on great external supports in order to return the viewer to it’s nature and meaning. It may show an organic nature, perhaps it portrays life in some distanced fashion, but not at all the action of living as people know it when they engage in that action. Everything that follows from this first impression of such a picture has to be gleaned in the same way in order to connect with anything resembling life. Assume this to be mathematically considered the number zero, for the sake of the same point. This would be the present of art, modern art engaged in deep examinations of minutiae of understanding and expression which are so deep into understanding that they have detached from the living state of reason and purpose. They are divorced from a connection to a humanity which art needs in order to retain connection with humanity.
A world of art which is in danger of distancing itself from humanity, due to it’s lack of necessity, would be well advised to attempt an art less likely to need great efforts on the part of the recipient in order to be understood. Simplicity of understanding would be the order of the day, if such a day were accepted to be a threat. At the very least, if great seeking is required to receive such art it should at least offer great rewards. “Oh, that’s what that is! Huh..” is not a reaction that usually implies the receipt of great rewards.
Somewhere in between none and all, we attempt this: A negligible but visually understandable spatter of blood within a setting of action shows life. It is the same object, the same product, but reducing it’s use to a more balanced application and visually introducing it’s nature through it’s action (redness will not afford it the consideration of being a spatter, action must be represented as well, i.e. the spattering) inspires an entirely new set of perceptions that reach the artist and the viewer in a way in which we understand it best. It gives an immediate sense of life and death, the presence of such things in our own lives. The spatter implies the course of the life we are in, and the living action within it. It strikes a balance of possibility that allows connection. And on top of that, it is through the implication of an opposite we receive it’s opposite. Loss of blood implies death, yet it is capable of creating a sense of urgency of life.
A totality of one thing only reveals the nature of that thing as it’s object, and reinforces the object nature of a physical artwork. A balance of elements creates something more than an object, it creates a mass of symbols done with effect. There is a language to that balance, and that in my view is the language of my artistic vision and purpose.