Continued from the current direction in contemporary art..
So what is the plan? Ive outlined in myriad ways what is wrong with the direction of art, and what is missing from contemporary statement. In that last post I basically chewed it all to bits, how very judgmental of me. To some degree I have already outlined a plan (in previous posts) which I am sure is as maddeningly intangible to you as it has been to me every step of the way. A plan which is, in summation, to follow the path of the self above the art, to seek meaning through art, and to make the art secondary to the self as a ritualistic pursuit enfolded within the process of creation. Focus on the progression and the movement rather than the product. Find what is truly creative, universal, and the essence of art. Let the product follow, and the individual artist lead. When we follow an ideal, a movement, a set of accepted ideals that no longer invite a legitimate pursuit of meaning and no longer hold a predefined purpose, we invite the possibility that they will betray the future. Your path, my path, the path in an individually possessive state, these are the paths that lead the artist forward. And when the artist moves forward then the void can follow.
At this point, just let me point out something that may be helpful. We are no longer looking at the wide view of the entirety of art the same through this change. The entirety of the view of art must change as well. It is not creation that is the focus, it is now that we focus what is within creation, and progression over production reflects this.
Humanity does not create. Humanity lauds, curates, and focuses creation, however what exists in creation is there and has been there before and after humanity. The reversal of the words (“creation as the focus” switched to “the focusing of creation”) is a succinct representation of the reversal that exists within the work and the process. More than anything it is a reversal of personal perspective and a devotion to that newness of sight. When I say humanity does not truly create it references the quote “everything has been done”. It it’s barest simplicity this is quite true. The world is what it is, the creation we live in is what it is. Whatever we do is simply a reorganization of what are puzzle pieces holding the fluidity of the possibility of change in their ordering and understanding, but not their base nature. This corroborates the hunt for newness and rejection that art holds so dear. Humanity, living in a world where contributing an entirely unique human creation is nearly if not truly impossible, is destined to contribute what then? What is the point? Who am I then? And if humanity will not ask for fear of the answer or the lack of a satisfying answer, modern humanity concludes any preoccupation is a good enough one for today to drown out the pain of that unanswered question. That preoccupation is the societal wave, which art has now readily surrendered itself (its self) to.
Let me return to a sentence in the previous paragraph to provide some clarification that I think may be necessary. “When I say humanity does not truly create it references the quote “everything has been done”. It it’s barest simplicity this is quite true.” I would even venture to say not only has everything been done, but that everything was already done long before we arrived. I relate to this idea more thoroughly later in this post.
I wonder aloud if it has occurred to an artist out there that the course of human history has already followed an underlying purpose that simply lies in waiting? That meaning and purpose are present, underneath the lies humanity tells itself, and have been building for millenia only to be revealed when humanity decides to practice acceptance of the life and self that exists?
Searching for purpose, for meaning, or denying this search, has been a long standing occupation of humanity. Despite the admonitions of fine art as we know it today in the heart of postmodernism, humanity is still deeply enveloped within the search for meaning and purpose, even through an adamant denial of it. An adamant denial is a sign of deep involvement, just the rejection of it. Humanity may be hiding this to varying degrees for every individual and group, but nonetheless it goes on flowing as strong as ever. This is the true reason church is the church we know today, the reason science has so many devotees. The reason any endeavor finds eager and willing accomplices. The more comforting and wide-ranging the endeavor, the more devotees. The comforting nature and scope of that endeavor is directly related to the breadth of the painful question it can soothe. The search for meaning and purpose is the reason so many things find devotees.
I would invite the world, (if I could, and in tangible ways I cannot. I am essentially nobody from nowhere, sitting in a bubble whilst I play out this internal theater) to take a long hard look at this notion. That the search for meaning within humanity over the course of the entire history of human consciousness has been nothing more than a series of comical stumbles that has produced and created nothing outward of significance that was not already there. The search for meaning in many ways is not a search insofar as it is an illumination of a void that we entered into upon birth. And a growing void in art, the closer we move toward total exposure to what the world has to offer. And at the same time move toward a total and complete inability to do anything about it.
Birth, as individuals and as a collective conscious force in life. All the buildings in the world, all the works and wonders, all the societal structures, all the accepted truths, the reformation, the enlightenment, the modern age, and the whole of the life staged by man has served to truly create nothing substantial and lasting in the realm of the truth within individual meaning and purpose. All of this amounts to nothing when one asks of the self “who, what, where, why am I?”. It has created nothing elementally necessary to life and we have seen no real difference in the core experience of life from the world of today all the way back to the world of the caveman. Don’t ask how I know what cavemen lived like. It’s evident. The sun, the stars, the world of nature, and the moments in which humanity sees itself and wonders. That is all as it has ever been, for any living person across all time. Nor do I believe it will ever change. The only thing that can truly change is how we see the world and ourselves. We can add or subtract our sight and the possibility of certain basic things such as a state of wonder, (inner) peace, (inner) joy, satisfaction.
We have curated our seeing (or lack) of meaning, we have not engineered the nature or existence of what meaning is. All of the constructive effort within history has yielded no crop of definitive purpose with which to live each day. Philosophy, psychology, sociology, at best they have revealed in expression the truths that fall evident to any given human being in the course of a life, whether they are felt without words in a moment or they are expressed. This is what postmodernism could very well be saying, that human is powerless to create anew so there is no meaning. While that powerlessness within man may be entirely true as a feeling of self awareness (or lack thereof), it does not automatically deface meaning altogether of it’s own accord. That is the mistake of postmodernism if that is it’s purpose, so very arrogant. Meaning does not cease no matter who says so. But as all mistakes in history, they exist in order to be replaced by answers and ideally, forward movement beyond the error (and often as a direct result of learning and discovering through the exploration of that error). What the failed search for meaning discounts is an objective possibility of truth. It’s only objectivity can be personal, and is truly determined by choice. This proposes that meaning can be absolute, for one individual and through that individual, shared. And that such meaning is and can be determined by choice of which only that individual can be certain. It proposes there is an inner certainty. And that it can be achieved through a path of successful choices, that success to be determined by acceptance of what cannot be denied or changed, and rejection of what stands in the way painful or not.
Despairing the lack of meaning and true form that a human can him or herself create (which is lightly referenced in the power of the paint over the representation, in abstract expressionism), despairing the purposelessness of originality (as Koons would best represent it) or even more-so the complete impossibility of it, defacing the past as a tainted journey (as Jake and Dinos Chapman may represent it with their defacement of Goya, as does the deconstructive nature of the history of art overall) due to the tainted product of the present, these examples are quite valid in their assertions regarding the current state of art and humanity. The Chapman brothers are generally accepted to have defaced Goya in order to destroy what captures their obsession (they destroy what possesses them), but other inferences such as the above one can be made. The meaninglessness of postmodernism does abound for humanity, currently. Maybe or maybe not for the individual (we all see and search meaning whether we divulge this to anyone, even ourselves), but certainly for the world society. It exists as a burning question in it’s wide rejection, but is doused by the failure to achieve any lasting satisfaction of it.
All perspectives, all throughout the past are valid for their time and place, and needed for their purpose. The beautiful thing about it all is that if the world finds an answer not to the general liking, no matter how prevalent it rules sociologically at any time, it will change in another time. It will be torn down and replaced. What the drive is does not really carry importance. Boredom, unrest, or one upping. Or at it’s best and deepest stated as a burning desire for meaning and to destroy whatever has not given that meaning. (To destroy whatever does not give peace of self, and then destroy the father and mother for the pain of having the self). Wherever that drive surges from, the world will find a way to change what doesn’t quite fit. We’ll pick, we’ll prod, we’ll poke, until the flaws are found and someone somewhere finds a way to undo what is done, and to redo something that looks better (not that it is better). Following this line, what looks better is only better looking because it is new.
Today is not an empty end unto itself, postmodernism and the course of art history will say so. And in putting forth that appearance, today would be sorely incorrect. But this is a fantastic diorama of the state of the human impatience. If the answer cannot be found by now, are we now to profess there cannot be one? Not quite true, not at all. It can only be given from the source. The true individual self and common life, the source is so obviously the very place that seeks it. How can you be so utterly foolish as to never look in the one place it will most likely be? Not by accident, that’s for sure. For fear of discovery, not for ignorance.
The current art brings about nothing in terms of an answer to a question that still exists. For we still seek the answers, do we not? Quitting a search out of a desperate futility does not erase what may exist in answers. There is no end if we still search, no matter how strongly it is declared by how many souls that reject search. And even if the search is widely abandoned, it must be abandoned by every living soul, and then entirely extinguished as a flicker of desire, in order to truly cease. Those statements of the absence of meaning, however true, lack the satisfaction of a response. They serve only to make honest the despair that still abounds. How do we answer that?
I would say that if you want a reversal of the same repetition of the same answer (or non-answer) then begin to look wherever you have not been looking. I started this passage with a statement on the possibility that humanity has been existing in a world all along that holds purpose and meaning that has existed the entire time. Not waiting to be invented by man (who cannot truly create which renders this invention an impossibility), but rather just accepted as it stands and where it has stood all along. It is the lack of simple acceptance in the world and of the nature of the world as it already is, as time has passed by, that has eluded society, humanity, and “progress”. The destruction of the obstacle is what has eluded the human, done constructively. Not done with the motivation of finding flaws, or rejection, or to take a throne for the self. But the true destruction of a true obstacle that stands in the way of receiving life, only because the individual can see the obstacle as the obstacle that it is and act without prejudice. How can it take a world of so many people over so many generations so long to understand the proper use of self awareness to be for it’s own sake?
There already is meaning, simply waiting to be uncovered, rather than created. And uncovering this meaning necessitates a process in which humanity accepts not being placed in position to create but rather to allow. To pursue an existing path rather than forge one. Not to rule the self or the world, but to serve the self and the world a. To serve the world a helping of what it is, not a personal vision of what it should, could, or would be. To take in the offering of life as it has stood and waited for all time past.
A true progression is a series of choices, as choice is very much within the capacity of humanity. What exists, exists. In one form or another, nothing is truly unique or disconnected. The only thing that we can create is possibilities for the human experience, through choices and the ways in which they alter and assist in determining a path through time. This living work is the clearing of vision in order to receive the sight of life as it unfolds, rather than the creation of sight as so many artists, movements, and modes of change within history have so vehemently (and to a purist, both blasphemously and hypocritically) claimed unto themselves. In hopes of refuting that, I will say that in no time of history has any artist really created anything but their own ability to see what they could not see before (but which was there to be seen). And that no human seeking accomplishment for the self alone has created anything new, ever.
Newness has never existed. It has only been claimed and theorized upon as the presentation of individually defined newnesses at points, without understanding it’s true nature. The true nature of anything cannot be understood without an understanding of the true nature of the self. On the deepest level newness itself is only a theoretical concept. And that theoretical concept derives from the experiencing of receiving to sight what has been unseen, hence it is new to the individual who perceives it for the first time.
What has been done is merely a pathway of choices that have served to focus something unseen (if speaking of visual art) and return it as something seen. This history within life has been an unfolding of consciousness. And the final step of unfolding that consciousness, with great humor, is the realization that it has been nothing more than that all that time. With that conscious understanding anything can be understood and become new.
The new direction is an acceptance of an existing conscious state, step by step from a new beginning. The new beginning being the realization that the unfolding consciousness is the only meaning within life to seek, which has been there, quietly occurring (like a cliche comfortable pair of slippers and a pipe in front of the fire when you get home from work) at every moment. That unfolding of consciousness in all it’s complexity is best summed up by one word. Living. If God were present, or an all knowing computer (or whatever form you would choose for the giver of any answer to any question), the answer to the question of why life is would be for living.
This is the whole of the meat and potatoes of what I do. There is no plan but the plan to live according to how my self would crave to do so. There is no new. I know my desires at their core and within their full range and put aside their specificity. I maintain my drive above my direction I am being driven towards. There is meaning, and purpose, but the purpose is only to be with meaning. And the meaning is to seek purpose. I place the symbol far above the object in terms of importance, as it is in truth (this is a much broader statement in it’s meaning than I am fleshing out here, and I will do so later). The singularities such as events, moments, specific meanings, specific purposes, strictly defined accomplishments, these things are present but in no way stand alone above the bigger picture or above each other. They stand where each belongs. If it is a big moment, it looms larger than smaller moments. If it is a powerful purpose, it holds power above a lesser purpose. All things specific determine their place through choices. And none of those things stand above the self or the whole.
This theory will never go so far as to claim the perfection of a singularity (what a niche, theory, and direction really attempt to do). The perfection of a singularity is the attempted exaltation of a human, not humanity. There is no lasting perfection of a singularity for humanity, as no singularity exists above time and the processes of life beyond personal control. Even the individual is not a true singularity, because the individual does not exist without life. And life does not exist for the individual.
Time casts it’s net over the entire world, and will not hold still for one individual or any product of that individual. This idea is to accept of the course of existence and your natural place within it, exerting the choice of which you are capable, and ignoring the glory of the (im)possibility of original creation. The glory of the possibility of original creation is not a glory and never was, only a purported possibility. It will never be more than a theorized possibility, and will never be real and lasting. Why? Because it isn’t real and isn’t lasting. It couldn’t be simpler. Stand back and look at this – what exists exists because it exists. What does not does not because it does not. It is crucial to also ignore the despair of acknowledging the impossibility of original creation and responding to it with the eradication of meaning entirely. I believe any individual will find no despair in that concept, so long as they seek their own rightful place in the order of the world and their life, and the confluence of the two.
Within the postmodernist landscape we see the previous course that led to all of these statements, proudly displayed. From Warhol’s absurdity of production (canned art), a statement on the modern age that had been waiting in the weeds for centuries in order to be spoken clearly. This is the driven knife into the heart of the lie art had been an unknowing participant in for a long era. That lie being the glories of the modern age and their professed creation of modern man.
As a natural opponent of that statement in painting, we have the abstract expressionists and their depth of meaning and religious unformed images. If the truth becomes something which cannot be accepted, create nothing to oppose it. It is a valid nothing as an answer to production, but not an end. Has art (and painting) really progressed beyond this tug of war in the last 50 years? Everything in between representation going back hundreds of years, forward to abstract expressionism being the peak of non-representation is one or the other, part of the construction of technique or the deconstruction of form. Form, for the purpose of this discussion, is the beginning. And formlessness proved to be an insurmountable end for painting to bear.
This deifes culture and production by defying the representational image altogether. Grasping onto meaning and holding tightly for dear life in the absence of recognizable form, making the paint itself the new golden calf. A progression from the pervasive influence religion and the modern idea revolution held within art. In deconstruction we have seen that run it’s course. Technical study and skill, modern age development deconstructed the purpose of the artist. Without self (the self).
Religious subject matter unraveling to simply an unformed depth of feeling deconstructed the meaning, the same exact level of religious reverence, without the meaning of the individual. Without form (the void). The human has been reduced to but a line, no form and no life, but time moves forward in a line nonetheless as in the Barnett Newman painting above. Time is all that is left and life continues. Without form or meaning.
As a side note, has it occurred to an artist at any point that having two concurrent modes of art existing separately is a mistake of union? You have the self and it’s representation, and you have the void and it’s representation. Can someone show me when art unified them? You’d think before we give up and dive on into meaninglessness and declare the deconstruction complete and extinguished, there would be at least a vague attempt at that union. It makes me think that the path of art has not been a deconstruction at all. It speaks more of a destruction, but whose?
As these dead ended directions faded so does the possibility of originality, as it becomes evident everything has indeed been done. If anything were ever done? When you destroy everything as a matter of a daily principle of a hunger for newness (a guise for fear of self) for thousands of years, then it’s safe to assume at some point everything will be done when there’s no rubble left to reduce further. Art has entered the age of particulates. Works so specific and so thoroughly distilled that they are as atoms to the human conscious experience. The problem in this metaphor is that while particulates may very well be the building blocks of a physical existence, they are imperceptible and inconsequential to a philosophical and meaningful existence. Large questions rule those arenas, and particulates mean nothing. Between represented images and everything possible outside of representation, at that point what is left for a world of art that has had it’s beginnings in deconstruction and thus has reduced itself to a cumulative near zero as a result?
Koons and related artists follow with reference to the trite nature of searching for originality in kitsch, and essentially, pop crap. I’m not as much interested in the reference that pop is crap, I mean the work focuses on popular crap. It’s normal to reference in art what abounds, and pop does abound. It is not normal to do so for a failure to be capable of producing an answer from within after the world of answers has left you high and dry, or has left entirely.
Commonplace, everyday, pointless. Commercial. Kitsch. This thrives on to some degree with Hirst, in replacing the artist with the salesman and the art with the actual sale as the art. Koons is all the salesman he is, but if you thought Kitsch had little substance then meet Hirst. His work is entirely the sale of the work, and in that is highly valid. In everything else art might have been, it is not. How deeply can art delve into self reference and commentary on what is evident and previously existent in life before it exists for nothing at all?
Concurrently with abstract expressionism, minimalism abandons the representational image entirely beyond the step taken by the abstract expressionists, the 2 dimensional surface, and paint/color entirely.
Lowbrow art has it’s seed at this point as well, beginning with an underground culture attempting to run in reverse to the mainstream. Lowbrow develops into and out of street culture, through a representational perspective but without fine art acceptance or the representation of what fine art has held previously. It declares “I am”, and “You are wrong” to the disappearance of representation and the “everything has been done” mantras. It is devoid of meaning beyond the individual exercise, and essentially can be seen as a widespread contest between artists in proof of technical skill. It says “you are an artist if you can prove your chops” and “art exists if we make it”. Not quite. Graffiti as a vein of lowbrow says the same general thing in a boiled down state that is easy to recognize.
Minimalism and related minor movements develop into a mainstream vein of art where the simplicity and non representational nature of it makes it a perfect option for public and corporate art. It holds no questions, it’s just there, and it is clean. Clean of meaning, clean of statement. Money buys it, money moves it, and it stirs nothing which is what it is supposed to do, like so much elevator music for the eyes or radio stations playing while you are on hold on the phone. The fact that it stirs nothing has made it a perfect “escort” so to speak, for the non confrontational and non stated perspective of those whose interest it is to make no waves, just money. It’s the comfort of a clean nothing, and the expected presence of finery.
Along the way minor movements develop that call for a return to past movements, that refresh styles and ways of seeing and creating that call to the past. However they lack the context of history and so became a banal version of something that once was. Valid to some degree, but never able to represent art as a whole nor forward movement within the world of art. They represent a yearning for a day when we create a revisionist history and see the glory art held in a mirror to a imagined past that never truly existed. Regret, remorse, reminiscence, and most of all, a revisionist memory of the picture of those moments. And besides, that is nothing new. Neo-whatevers have been around as long as pharoahs have been saying they wanted neo-whatever places to rule and summarily drop dead in. The borrowing of past aesthetic is not a new invention. But it is a convenient one for any generation to pass the time between more entertaining changes.
Where does it go from here? It can go the way of society, with the endless repackaging of old ideas in order to make them appear new and designed to continue life support endlessly. Time itself as it relates to consumption and interest continues to be propped up well beyond it’s date of death. It can go that way, as it has before. Prepare to see many more recalls to refitting old styles, in retro waves returning to us again and again. And on and on, ad nauseum as far as the other ways it can go. In that direction doesn’t it really continue to go nowhere?
More fitting within this blog is to ask, where can I go?
One possible answer is to deface and curse meaning itself at the frustration building with it, but you know I’m not here to do that. This is what we see a bit of in the Chapman brothers, which is merely the only works of defacement I am aware of. For certain there have been countless others I have not studied, nor will I. Painting itself, defaced from Warhol to now, in many ways faces it’s attempted destruction because artists are truly frustrated at it’s continuation without a purpose and meaning.
What am I here to do?
I will provide a couple small examples of my answer to that, but I have already pointed out the importance of following the overall view rather the specifics. So it serves to reason the theory and view should be outlined before and well above the examples.
I am the self, everything else is the void. I will utilize choice as a tool of the self, within myself and within the opportunities I am able to illuminate within the void. The rest is up to you and what every other influence within my life will allow. It is my responsibility to allow what arrives. And my method to align my self entirely with a path of illumination. Living the method is the only way to arrive at the self. And living the method serves at the same time to arrive at the illumination of the possibilities of the void.
There is an idea I had sketched up some time ago. Here is a shot of the sketch.
And a second sketch of the same basic idea.
Concept sketch 2
The figure is intended to be sporting a face and figure refracted and fractured in a Cubist(ish) fashion. The clothes will more than likely take on a loose representational and sweeping style, romantic in their execution, perhaps soft and cold. The shoes, perhaps a direct reference to Van Gogh’s shoes. There are no shoes that hold more daily truth and capture the viewer so strongly with their humanity more than Van Gogh’s. The background itself, perhaps it is repetitive and washed out of color. The bricks, a mind numbing pattern of pieces smaller than they would be through direct representation. To both disappear into the background and entrance the viewer. We are not discussing a work that is cohesive in it’s execution and a signal of the “signature” of the artist. We are discussing the organization of work in which the elements speak together to the story it is telling and what the story requires to be told. We are talking about a system of visual narrative.
The face is fractured, one eye looking up to the sun searching for meaning, while the other looks to the floor searching for the self and the source of the sorrow. Two forms of prayer, one of humility and one of question. How can you have a figure looking both up and down for the self and the direction? Many ways I am sure, but at this point I feel it is very necessary for me to execute works in a way where the reasoning is as evident as possible. Cubism’s aesthetic fits with the discordant lost nature of the figure and of the possibilities of an unreal form it allows. The use of many perspectives at once creates a fractal aesthetic, and can allow certain possibilities. Forget the real beginnings of cubism at this point set in the painting of differing perspectives at once. It becomes (cubism) whatever we need it to be to help us speak. It’s context is lost in this, but it’s context is long gone anyway. Time moves on. This doesn’t mean there is nothing left for that art but the buying and selling of it. Those differing perspectives need not be confined to the form only, they can make statements on the differing perspectives life introduces into the human life.
The clothing. A romantic sweeping flowing tattered gown of a broken life. Cliche maybe, but this is just an example. It could be done a million other ways in reality. The shoes fall in line with the clothes, but in the heavier style. They weigh the heaviest of all, binding humanity to the earth upon which we reside. Trudging heavy footsteps in a failed life. Bound to the life we are faced with, and forced to choose or to not exist. The background repeated pattern may as well be any place, in time or on earth. It stands apart from no other time, with it’s lack of color, and stands apart from no other place with its repetition of form. And the bottle points to the meaning well above our understanding, and our struggle with that. The stairs are right above our heads, but on our heads and out of reach at the same time.
The point is that every choice of composition and execution of form, all elements are chosen individually and placed within the image according to their meaning far above any other concerns. My work is a stratification of the past, present, and future. A card catalog if you will that points to anything and everything as possibilities for the utilization beneath an umbrella of meaning and symbol. You may think a work about sorrow or the unsuccessful search for the self which makes a homeless individual the central focus is trite, but I would just respond by saying it is fitting, trite or cliche as it may be. Fitting is what we are looking for in every way, rather than the glorification of anything we can find that hasn’t fit yet (originality).
Quite a bit of art is trite. Much art is obvious when it is executed, and what captures us about it is the capacity of a person to see it and make it a reality, where we could not. But great art, truly great art is not trite, it is fundamentally internal. Real. Universal. Makes no statement other than a confluence of meaning, expressed visually and aesthetically in a way that can be stated in no other way. It is a search for the intangible qualities (and the finding of) that make great art. I will answer why to make great art in a later post. It is still a valid question after all of this theory. Why even make great art?