Monday, September 10, 2012

An Imaginary Review

Artist have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is
to change it.

I am not an artist, at least not a visual artist, so of course my
views do not count much more than a hill of beans, a bucket of warm
spit. Well maybe they count a little, as anyone can study - perhaps in
spare time between working and children and the invariable quest for
transcendence, and through patient study understand several of the
received wisdoms about art. One may understand and still be unable to
create art themselves. My concern is to review with having any actual
art works involved. I am not so much interested in 'attacking' an
artist or a single work, or group of works. My wish is to use this
essay as a skeleton. A skeleton that I can flesh out with my obscure,
unloved words. A skeleton I can use to conceptualise a review.

Driving in the car, damp, overcast, drizzle. I heard part of a static
interrupted interview on RN the other day. An artist, a photographer,
had created a series of black and white photos. The works were tidied
up with care, framed and put on the walls of the gallery with price
tags and a catalogue. The smoothness of modernity. The exhibit, as
they were by all accounts accomplished and beautiful works of art, was
a success.

I parked the car in front of the independent bookshop where I work,
and having moved from family car (a penis shrinking Tarago) to shop, I
switched on the radio to catch the end of the interview. I thought
about what I had heard long into the afternoon, as the blue skies of
spring wrestled with the early rising clouds of slow to leave winter.

More than any actual art works, which I had not seen, and most likely
will never see, it was his interview that I was interested in. Here I
am on sturdier ground in my ability to add anything to the
discussion. Specifically I was moved by one small sliver of the
interview. When the artist described her work as probing the
boundaries of art & photography.

The word probe was what caught my interest and prompted this
confessional. Our verb probe comes from the Latin probare, which has
several meanings. Which is understandable seeing how Latin was spoken
for many hundreds of years over the, at that time, largest empire in
the western world. These meanings can in the present context mean To try,
test, examine, inspect, judge of any thing in respect of its goodness,
fitness, etc.

I started to write this is the darkness of night, when windy sleet and
rain pelted down on the roof and windows of the wood fire heated
house. I can also see the word probe having a weaker connotation, in
the sense of an army probing the defences of the enemy. A section of
the army will move forward and test the enemy and gather
information. Usually they are ordered not to launch a full scale
attack. They just move into contact, find information out, and then
pull back into the relative comfort of their trench line.

Others will of course disagree with me, and that is to be expected. I
have a particular point of view, and a particular ideology and way of
seeing the world and our interactions with the world. Many will say
that probing and trying to describe and understand the world is
enough, some will go further and say that is all art can do. In this
they will argue against the idea of didactic art. That art should seek
what it wants and that it has no need to go further.

Again let me reiterate that I do not wish to be seen as attacking any
art works or any artist with this article. What I am saying, and am
happy to say, is that art needs to go past the probing of the
world. As the world moves into a dangerous new era. To paraphrase from
The Will to Power 'For some time now, our whole Western culture has
been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is
growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a
river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is
afraid to reflect.'

In short, in prosaic words, we are going to hell in a hand
basket. Never before have we had to ability to wreak global damage on
the planet. We have been able to destroy little bits here and there,
the over farming of Libya during the time of the Roman Empire, the
cataclysm that was Easter Island. Now we are able to create universal
catholic destruction. Gaia is seeking to shake off the poisonous
bacillus that is humanity.

Now is not the time for art to describe the world, not the time to
engage in art works. Now is time for art to stake a claim, to chose
sides and not look back. The goal is no longer to probe
boundaries. Art must become part of the dream factory, the imagining
of a new and better world. The borders are well understood, as are the
false dichotomies of male/female, black/white, right/wrong all of this
is understood. The boundaries are meant to be overstepped, erased. As
the chalk lines after a shouty and hard fought sweaty football match
fade and dissolve into the ground with the rain and dewy mornings, so
should the boundaries of art erode and wear away into the meaningless
dust from which they arose. 

Now the time has come for artists to gather their courage and storm
the gates of heaven.

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