Re: [-empyre-] making a meta-living
I'm sorry to jump in here (I'm usually just a lurker on these lists :)
I once said to Alan Sondheim (who fell apart afterwards) that I could draw
a straight line through a graph that included Giotto, Michaelangelo,
Courbet, Monet, Cezanne, Seurat, Leger, Richter, Lissitzky,
Malevich, Mondriaan, Beiderman, LeWitt, Flavin, Riley (etc..) and
what concerns me lies on the extension of that line.
What lies on the extension of that line?
It seems that plenty of the artists cited in your lineage were
engaged in what could be deemed, 'novelty' at their time, whether
fashionable or otherwise. And whether lovers or haters of,
'BritArt' it's perhaps a bit too soon for us to generalise and say
that all the artists falling under this umbrella term are actually
stuck in a culdesac!
Perhaps I have less faith in the Authority of History than you.
Jon - I agree that non of us have any idea about what will be going on
in 150 years time (if humans are still here). I was invited to join this
list to discuss my practice and I have tried to respond to people's
questions and posts honestly and from the heart. I hope I made it clear
that the statement (above) is merely a personal opinion - something that
motivates me as a creative individual and helps me identify myself. As
a "late career" artist who has seen precious little economic reward for
my work I have to have some foundation that makes all the sacrifices
seem worthwhile! And I hope that doesn't make me appear bitter, life so
far has been a wonderful adventure!
I have to admit that my visits to the Turner Prize or Saatchi Gallery
(or Asia Pacific Triennial, etc... etc...) leave me feeling emotionally
distressed and often close to tears. However, as I have said before in
this dialogue I defend those artist right to do what they do absolutely,
but I don't have to like what they do or think it's appropriate,
significant or whatever. My personal opinion is that they have been
misled by bad memes, poor teachers, and -yes- a poor appreciation of
history and the contemporary context. And, proving my own internal
dichotomy I have to admit that the only "definition" of art I have ever
felt any sympathy for was McLuhan's "art is anything you can get away
I don't believe history has authority, it's not directed and (like the
universe or DNA) has no purpose or goal. Nevertheless it does have
patterns though I guess these patterns are different to each of us in
this postmodern age. And I guess this leads me to say something that
arises out of my last post which was hurried and incomplete.
One of the problems arising out of the dialogue that Mitchell has
engendered on this list is I believe (another personal opinion) the
confusion between containers and contents.
A bottle is a class of things (I hope I'm not getting too Platonic) that
contains stuff. That stuff can be nutritious drinks, medicines, illicit
stimulants, alcohol, poison, cleaning fluid, petrochemical fuel, or it
can be empty, and the list goes on...
In the world of literature (or better writing) the relationship between
the container and content was well explored in the 19/20th century by many
key figures - Peirce, Wittgenstein, Shannon, Lyotard, Resnais, etc...
In the visual arts I don't think we are anywhere near the understanding
that semiotics and semiology have given us of language. I think this is
because visual communication is both pre-linguistic (ref. my earlier
posts) and also much more complex than the serial linguistic model.
One of Russell's students - Spencer-Brown is a key figure for me - his
boundary grammar can be used to build the whole of logic and thence
mathematics. AND it's also essentially a visual (indexical as well as
symbolic to use Peirce's terms) language.
It's my belief that it's only now, with the computational tools we have
only recently developed, that we have the means to really explore these
concepts - the relationship between art as a container and art as a
means of communicating ideas. And this is what I think is important,
this is what compels me to do what I do. And this is my answer to your
question "What lies on the extension of that line?".
There's another concept here that's useful - the distinction between a
pure activity and an applied one. Pure mathematics is introspective -
mathematics analysing itself, applied maths looks elsewhere for its
I see what I'm doing as "pure" art - art that explores itself - and I'm
not interested in content apart from what may emerge spontaneously from
the process itself. A key part of my aesthetic philosophy is my
commitment to a belief in that emergent potential - that purely
random symbolic manipulation when subject to appropriate attractors
can produce structure and "meaning". The universe itself is proof of
this potential. 16 billion years from a hot plasma to humans beings (and
no gods driving the bus).
I'm also very suspicious of "content motivated" art - just as I'm also
suspicious of applied art (which is driven more by marketing than utility).
A very good friend, the late John Lansdown, once told me he considered
designers to be the "slaves of the yuppie culture". As I would suggest
are many, if not most of the artists associated with BritArt. Your
good self, of course, excluded!
But I should get off my soapbox and stand aside and look forward to
hearing what Ken Rinaldo and Mauro Annunziato have to say.
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