Friday, September 28, 2012

Art and Science in Smackdown!

In  his article "Science is more beautiful than art"  blogger Jonathan Jones says:  “From the Higgs boson to searching for life on Mars, science is overtaking art in its capacity to expand minds and inspire awe”
Anyway, it is surprising to see this because usually its religion that takes a huge bashing in the realm of “expanding minds and inspiring awe”. But it’s true that all three domains offer up such. Ah, the good old days when religion, science and art were seamlessly integrated like a zygote. Art and science  (not to mention church and state) could not possibly have been separated as it wouldn’t have been conceptually possible to tease them apart in the first place.
Art, science and religion (and, hello, philosophy) are all things that lay some claim to addressing “the meaning of life” and that they should go from integrated to disintegrated is the cost of technology.  Or something like that—I’m saying technology because it actually progresses.  (Thinking doesn’t really progress, if you ask me because our brains are essentially the same ones we started with when we crawled out of the Rift Valley.  Thoughts have changed, mind you.  But I don’t think we are more intelligent.  I feel I am on pretty shaky ground here, I’m no neurologist but this is my blog blah blah blah.)
Science is about empirical thought and testing and retesting.  This ends up with people on the moon, which, you’d be nuts to say isn’t impressive.
I’m not even going to go into the can of worms that is  the morass religion finds itself in today with regards to “its capacity to expand minds and inspire awe”….but ART?  Art can potentially enchant in many ways science cannot.  But does it bother?
EdwardWinkleman is upset by the article owing to what he sees as a false dichotomy.  What’s with the “us versus them” mentality?  Well…yeah…but that in no way accounts for the fact that science IS outdoing the arts with regards to  the “capacity to expand minds and inspire awe”.
I can see if all we are talking about is images, then art isn't doing so bad.  I like that pic of Neil Armstrong, but its neck in neck with this image:
And, I gather, in the minds  of many adoring fans, the frenetic sentimental spun-sugarvomit images of this guy:
But we're talking more than images. Why?  Because image is something that artists have fled from.  Image is too superficial.  Image is what those cheap and trashy celebrities traffic in. Art, especially conceptual art, is not about images.  Like science, its going for some deeper truth. least I think so.
If Art operates in a realm separate from science, the question remains, is it doing its job?  Oh right—its doesn’t have a job.  Art is unemployed.  No one can really persuasively argue that the function of art is “to expand minds and inspire awe”.  That’s quite a presumption in these post post post modern times.
Ugh.  Why am I even bothering with this nest  of iniquities?  Ok, as an individual artist, I have taken it upon myself, as MY job “to expand minds and inspire awe”
 And I can see with my very own eyeballs and hear with my earballs and sense with my heartballs  and get a shiver in my bellyballs that many people find much art bereft of awe and inspiration.
I won’t be giving examples to protect the possibly innocent.  But you know what mean.  You, the viewing public wants an art experience that’s awesome!  And this happens a tiny proportion of the time.  Like maybe at a blockbuster Van Gogh show.  Or with MUSIC, which I am not going to go into because as far as I can see, its got its own claim to awesomeness that’s very, very different from “visual” art  (Cliff notes: visual processing in the brain is radically different than auditory processing.)
The question is, has there always been so much dreadfully unsatisfying art?  Was there ever really a time when it was understood that the function of art was indeed “to expand minds and inspire awe” and therefore artists worked like crazy to make that happen?  Because I think that history tends to flush the toilet and we forget that there’s ALWAYS a vast proportion of art that utterly fails to do this.  And it ends up in dumpsters.
On the other had, there’s some good reasons to see that expectations of art have changed and they may liberate artists  from the oppressive chains of doctrine!  Woot woot! Artists are free to work with no master, be that political, intellectual or even practical….Hooray!  But... the cost of that is in the area of relevance!
It all comes down to expanding minds and inspire awe.  You can’t, on the one had say that art has no function, that it is not beholden to anything or anyone, that it is for its own sake only and then say that it does have a function.  If its function is “to expand minds and inspire awe” then artists need to get to work because the competition, i.e. science, is fierce!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Not Knowing

I’ve been posting a lot of images to FB lately and people get a kick out of either trying to figure out what they mean, or coming up with their own meanings.  This is fine and part of the reason I post them.  It makes perfect sense that this would be a natural response to a mysterious image.

But my experience of these images is a lot different.  Let me go back in time a bit.  I am a product of a late 20th c. art school education.  In my studio classes I was required to discuss works in progress.  These discussions with critics and other types of instructors (mostly visual artists themselves) were verbal, naturally.  Duh!--that’s how people  communicate…it would be pretty darned strange if we’d done it via charades or smoke signals or anything other than spoken language.  The most common approach, for those of you who didn’t go to art school is that the instructor, initiating the critique says, “What are you working on?”…. What a question!  I know, I know, it sounds so very, very harmless!  But how wrong you would be!!!   
 The damage that tiny inquiry has wrought...its no joke to say that alone has brought art to its knees….  A far more pernicious question, and one that is so standard now as to be reflexively unquestioned is the one of meaning.  An artist is required to know, a priori, what the work means.  How that can even be in the age of POMO (wherein the meaning might be said to arise from the context of the viewer, not the mind of the maker), is pretty insane.  But regardless...there it is.  ‘Tis de rigeur in ths day and age when an artist is seen more as a manufacturer of meaning than of objects or images.   Sigh…….

Why is it so bad?  Because after four years of interactions that are based on that model, the student artist internalizes the injunction that, at the outset of their project, they should know what they are doing.  This leads to a culture in which artists often know what they are making.  And uh oh—that’s NOT GOOD!  At the very least, its not very creative, as one would be engaging in the act of re-creation (recreation) whatever it is they have in their noggin. 

I could go on an on about how that innocent question inverts the creative process so its exactly back wards—but the Cliff notes are that perhaps, in artistic creativity, its is just fine to arrive at the answer after the project is done. Or, dare I say it?  Maybe never?  Let your fingers do the walking and let the viewer do the interpreting.

All this is leading me to another aspect of my childhood, wherein I dwelt on images I couldn’t figure out and this was good!   Some of these images were Danish political cartoons by Bo Bojensen.  My parents had three books of his, all in Danish.  They spoke tha language and I could have asked them to translate (and I did on occasion) but better than that was to NOT KNOW.

And now, I arrive, finally at the point of this essay.
Being able to read is good.  Being able to read images is good too!  Duh! But also, there is great value in not knowing.  I recently found out this is a Buddhist thing.

Knowing is comforting.  It allows us a sense of security and a feeling that there are certainties and universal truths.  “This is a chair, it means I have a place to sit”…but as soon as something is assigned an interpretation, alternatives are lost.  Inspiration is negated, exchanged for classification.
It seems to me, the end of an image is when you KNOW it.  I don’t want them to end…so I don’t try to know them.

I love the fact that the images I post could have multiple interpretations.  When people suggest a lot of potentialities, and there’s no one that seems superior to another, then I know I have selected a fan-freaking-tastic image.  An image that will live for a long, long time, dancing around in human consciousness,  effervescing, evanescing and mutating and morphing and hop, skipping and jumping around playing hide and go seek while we keep trying, keep seeking and keep dancing in time with it. Yee ha….! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gorky's Granddaughter

No, silly! I'm not Gorky's real grand daughter!  I am the grand daughter of Mr and Mrs Edwin Ivor Thompson and Mr and Mrs  Abraham Isaac Schaechter!  Gorky's Granddaughter is a very interesting website with artist's interviews for your perusal and pleasure. Here is the interview with me--made on a recent saturday afternoon.  I really do spout off on a number of topics including sausage casings, U2 and the Baroque.  I also model the snake fabric as an attractive muumuu!
Please check out other interviews at their site here!
 Meanwhile, apropos of nothing, but in the spirit of my religion: ANCESTOR WORSHIP, here are my real grandparents. Top; Schaechters, Bottom; Thompsons.