Archive for October, 2009

“The Acts of Individual Talent”

October 2, 2009
Triangulation Series 225

Triangulation Scroll Series Nº 225, 49 x 68 inches; oil on canvas; 2008

  • The usage which the visual arts serve is a complex demonstration of varying dimensions whose expression seeks not to explain meaning but express its intent:  If you will, to bring about a clearly independent act of interpretation, over which the artist exerts no control as creator.  From this, arises the sublimity of the psychological condition that is partly visual delight and passion renewing and nourishing a spirit of partnership with its mode of expression:  The intend expresses  ‘one is what one perceives;’ i.e., a quality of energy and a temperament independent of the intellect, separate from the craft itself and apart from the images’ residue .

RM- Confessions of an Ever Emerging Artist

A harmful but enticing, state of affairs develops in the visual arts when the ethnocentric-artists align themselves with the adjuncts to commerce and their proxies (commercial institutions and art dealers on the one hand, and foundations and curators on the other), all of whom serve as instruments of indoctrination and publicity for the dictation of style, theme and content, and in giving markets:  The entertaining ‘circus’ of mass culture.

The Zeitgeist of multidisciplinarity and the crossing of frontiers seek to justify the relevance of the visual arts–in its sales and resales–through their contortions of its contextualization, validation of its avant-gardism.  The study of the methodological principles of interpretation gauges the arts’ importance and place in the world of gimmickry and fashion, which are far removed from the dynamics of origins.  As such the visual arts find themselves in approximation with the modalities of narrative but expressed in the language of commerce.  The artist now is succumbing to an ethos of expanding academic sophistry (the parcels-for-sale of commercial art-history and the critics from the mass media).  The result is not so much a lack of insight but a desperate impulse to cultivate greed and to strive for status; this indication of a bourgeois, sentimental enlightenment and authority avert any derogatory notion of a therapeutic or hobby genre as anything other than menial and disenfranchised.

And so it is that the ensuing adaptation of analytic discourses into politics, philosophies, semiotics, linguistics, psychologies, and mathematics outline the obvious while absorbing the seeds of self-destruction.  In other words, the universal urge of a visual necessity finds itself transmogrified into commercial success.  Self-expression compares to commodification: Personal fulfillment is to be equated with making money.  Can we suppose this mercantilism arises out of the genre paintings of the 17th century with the emerging power of the bourgeoisie to decorate their homes with this style of painting?  Ultimately, these merchants of taste and consumerism seem to have missed the point that one’s perception of an image cannot be replaced by its description.  To do so would be to substitute a jargon–piece of gossip for the visual intend.  Visual signification derives from internal intend:  For example, an encoded tag of a work of art can never replace the joy of experiencing it.  Art is a manifestation of observation as such is basically immeasurable.  Passion and quality of energy need not require explanation, or, in particular, its manifestation should not be interpreted neither for its pecuniary worth nor for its valuation–or enrichment of a given elite[1].

There is a tendency on the part of any artist in his/her approach to consolidate the supremacy of their egos and minds, with the verbal and the visual in a hieratic creative process; at this very moment this rationalization extinguishes both probability and logic (in other words, it becomes dead!).  The lame allusions to the Conceptual, self-aggrandizing conceits; or to the simplistic Kitsch of popular iconographies, biases turned into cliché; to the orientation of Gender or Identity, affirmations of self-discovery, or to the flaunting of Geo-Environmental Installations, with its fixed dimensional constants; all fall short of their promise to deliver something new or important:  Declarations of approval however abound.

Many of today’s mainstream-artists mythologize the uprooted specimens derived from the trivial and the prosaic.  Coming from a world we know about and live in, instead of a world we don’t know yet; these agents celebrate derivatives of tyrannical forms of erudition.  Rather than enhancing our sense of perception, they extend an alienation that comes out of ambition and ownership, and make ubiquitous desire for the object enveloping our ordinary lives.  This gregariousness and massive consumerism disconnects and makes us slumber in a technological era that purveys everything except sensitivity and human interconnectivity.

Collectors, museums and galleries—today’s greedy usurpers of culture–welcome the glitz by which they turn art into a commodity and their power as plutocrats to satisfy the ignorance created through their Circensian parade of market indices. By definition the mythomania of stardom promotes only the few; every selection of one is a rejection of many [The Rise of the Meritocracy[2]].  The result of complacency fuels the alienation of 90% of active artists and creates therein an artificial paucity of resources, thus giving value to those market indices which ultimately result in the excessive struggle for survival.  Rather than art giving strength to the collective unity, a sense of sectarianism separates everyone into a race of competing ideologies over commerce.  The truth of art is left to search among competing opinions over what is relevant.  These unstable times of ours, of hunters and the hunted, of plunderers and the exploited repeat themselves in the annals of history.  A true analogy might be made, concerning the ignominy of certain Papal legacies or some of the horrors of inquisitorial prosecutions; there come to mind the 15Th–century iconoclasm of bonfires, or more recently the failure to denounce the Third Reich; or the failure of other venues to condemn the despotism of certain States, be they communistic, imperialist, autocratic, under the banner of revolution; or those economic manifestations promoting greed, unbridled political power, genocide, and the suppression of human rights.  Just as those who readily burned and suppressed the great works of humanism as products of heresies and apostasy, contemporary avatars of absolutism and abrogation overwhelm us with a new age of barbarism.  Globalization, investing itself only in economics and not in the diversity of mankind itself, leads societies into the stupor of self-destruct consumerism.  The arts, humanities and sciences, certainly, have become a lucrative ploy for products and technologies that reduce the “meritocracy” of employment, and the access to education; in the worse case scenario they have increased the parameters of extreme poverty.

Whether it be for the sciences or the humanities, history has taught us that the authority of any given period is radicalized by the struggle of an individual or groups of individuals, who were dissatisfied with the status quo ante.

This still remains true.  Yet conformity, indifference, defining ourselves by the supremacy of personal success obscure inquiry on the disadvantaged.  It is an empty gesture for one to defend the free market progress in the arts of today, or of any other given period.There have been innumerable artists whose accomplishments did not depend on a resplendent financial support or an irrefutable explication of competing narratives; sometimes, their ultimate measure of accomplishment came about despite the obstacles they had to endure–as well as the mores and instability of cultural vanities which opposed them.  Their works may have come to have a great deal of recognition either towards the end of their lives (as in the case of a Paul Cézanne, who preempted 20th-century Modernity throughout his first forty years of obscure labor before landing a first one-man-show); after their deaths (as in the case of a popularized Vincent Van Gogh, recognized for his sublimely “outsider” creations); or even centuries thereafter (as in the case of great works by anonymous artists from Greek and Roman Antiquity, plundered, destroyed and stigmatized during the Dark Ages; their interest was not to be revived until the 16th and 18th centuries), when the capricious dictates of fashion made them relevant.  And then, there are those who lose or regain their relevance, as in the case of François Boucher during the French Revolution, whose reformulation awaited until after the fading of a Neoclassicist Age-of-Reason –towards the end of the 19th century.  In the same manner, we have had the banal chasing for “the new” through the shooting stars of the late 20th century.  And finally, there are those who will soon revert to oblivion in our incipient 21st century, dependent on the accelerated whims of fashion and marketplace; and, as they are sifted by a system of valuation and the codification for time-tested relevance!  Whether caused by the destructive qualities of our own cultural care (high-, middle- and lowbrow), this constant striving of our own vanities, our emphasis on pleasure seeking and its discontent, or what is today a manifestation of the Capitalist market-place, this obfuscation with profit margins has demonstrated sufficiently to be an unrelenting allegiance resulting from acquisition powers and schemes:  The root of a dominion of power struggles, competition and divisiveness, a movement far removed from generating social equity in any endeavor.

What is to be done to liberate us from such schism? The answer is not to be found in a newly utilitarian bartering-system or in any bartering system at all:  Monetary or otherwise, in the corrosive belief that competition breeds progress.  The answer could be encountered in the rejection of a collector’s system of greed, or rather, the recognition that the quality of artistic creations cannot be pursued as a commodity to glorify a meritocratic elite or any other historical determinant derived from caste and political power while getting the better of a global community.  The answer cannot be attained by dulling our senses by the taxonomy of the intellect, but by a different kind of enlightenment.  The answer is to be found in the recognition that our own perfidy overcomes us, that any form of exploitation or alienation, either based on excessive power, intellectual hubris or superstitious belief, is not only undesirable but also destructive of our collective well-being.  The answer is to be found in an egalitarian preservation and enduring cultivation of all the arts as a transcendental testimony of our most profoundly sensitive sense of humanity–not in a fixed system derived from extremes forms of inequality, supported by factors of social stratification, hierarchical regulations, fashion modalities, ideological greed, or lucrative obsession.  If support for the arts were to be sought after, would we not need to start by assessing the irrationality of our oppressive system of valuation, perhaps our own cultural irrationality?  Isn’t this internalized and mechanized social and economic miasma outwardly manifested enough?  Where do we project the future of humanity, if it is not merely a reflection of our chaotically obsessive past, our own abandonment? Have we perhaps abandoned, as individuals, our realization of a Summum Bonum, the supreme good from which all others are derived, that the whole of mankind may live in peace and harmony, in simplicity and without distinctions?

Ricardo Morin and Billy Bussell Thompson

[1] It is hard to recognize nascent art forms when they are on the rise, and  by the time they are widely appreciated their best days are behind them= a pertinent excerpt from Blank  Slate: the Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker; 2002

[2] Michael Young, Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2033: The New Elite of Our Social Revolution, (New York: Random House, 1959), p.12 [London: Thames & Hudson, 1958].  Young’s pejorative conception, set in a dehumanized [dystopian] future is based on the existence of a meritocratic class that monopolizes access to merit and the symbols and markers of merit, and thereby perpetuates its own power, social status, and privilege.

Triangulation Series 555

Triangulation Scroll Series Nº 555; 49 x 33 inches, oil on canvas, 2008


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