[-empyre-] self and others

gh hovagimyan ghh at thing.net
Fri Jan 15 00:35:33 EST 2010

gh comments below:

On Jan 13, 2010, at 2:15 PM, Christiane Robbins wrote:

> it seems that we always keep landing on this flea ridden canard –
> “what is art ?”

What is Art?

Flea ridden indeed! Analyze the question and you get the premise for  
an avant-garde. No-one asks that question anymore everyone even  
philistines know what art is and knows what they like. I'd pose the  
question differently and ask what is the difference between art and  
craft or maybe what is the difference between art and a theory of  
art.  Anyway, given the question I'd say that art making is part of  
the human psyche or mental structure. It 's related to and may even  
be the first shift to abstract thinking before the emergence of human  
language around 30,000 years ago. There are of course painting  
elephants but they've been taught by humans.  They do really nice  
Abstract Expressionist paintings but they don't paint portraits of  
other elephants. My favorite quote or definition of art is from Magda  
Sawon who says that an artist takes something and transforms it and  
then transforms it again. The second time it turns into art.

I've said in other posts that the support system for art is what  
defines art. There have always been artists in human society. Looking  
at for example a tribal society you might get shamanistic masks or  
maybe carved stone tablets of tribal laws and an arch to carry them  
around in. It seems there's always cross over or cross reference or  
commingling of art and religion.

Here's some more pertinent questions for the 21st century artist.   
Who do you make your art for? What market are you trying to capture?  
Is your art an extension of your life style? For example do you  
believe in Art=Life?  Do you need a college degree to be taken  
seriously as an artist?  Is there a path to professional advancement  
as an artist?  Do you think of your art making as a career? I could  
go on but you get the point.

My observation is that the current art system and type of art being  
made around the world except maybe in traditional or tribal societies  
is supported by a series of small cults or interlocking rhizomatic  
marketing systems.  It reflects global capitalism. Each artist/ 
gallery/museum gathers supporters who are essentially their clients  
or customers. The art that they exhibit is a variation on a number of  
personal obsessions or life style choices. People who agree with that  
lifestyle choice use the money exchange system to buy art that  
reinforces their choice.   It's like fetish masks but in this  
instance art functions in a small tribal clique of consumers with  
disposable income.   This is the "patron" of the artist that I had  
alluded to in an earlier post when I quoted  Rimbaud. The other part  
to this system is the theoretical or linguistic system that verifies  
art and its value. It also certifies that an artist is indeed an  
artists and that what they produce is art. This is of course the  
University or Academic system that gives out diplomas and produces  
many theorists and critics to write about art. This is the "poet"  
Rimbaud refers to whom Rimbaud refers.  So if you want to answer the  
question what is art there are two answers.  Art is anything that is  
exhibited and sold in an art gallery and art is anything that a  
critic or art theorist defines as art.

As an artist I try to operate outside this system or make proposals  
that break apart the structures of art. I like to challenge the  
precepts and principals of the existing structure.  This doesn’t  
garner me much support because I think of art as a liberation and  
transformation of the psyche.  It’s essentially an anti-marketing  

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