6 December 2011
I can do it without doing it
I can turn the gray sky blue / And I can make it rain / Whenever I want it to / And I can build a castle / From a single grain of sand / And I can make a ship sail / On dry land / But my life is incomplete / And I'm so blue / 'Cause I can't get next to you (The Temptations - I Can't Get Next To You, 1969, Tamla Motown)
I can do it without doing it
by Bálint Rádóczy
There is a peculiar duality in the movements of art in our days. As the notion of medium, of the original aesthetic criteria becomes irrelevant by its limitless extension, as meaning and content disappears though its ambition to only be defined through context and framing, as art begins to use languages of other disciplines, as Duchamp asks “Can one make works which are not 'of art'?”, as Thomas Mann says “art always throws off the appearance of art”, and with the statement of Albert Szent-Györgyi stating that all establishments are essentially serving the purpose of their own survival before any other cause — one would come to the conclusion that art — just like mankind itself — is trying to conquer the world. As it expands, evolves, becomes more sophisticated — its structure becomes vulnerable. It needs institutional framing, “the art system” or “the art world” - an artificial duplicate with very similar attributes as of the real world. Art creates all the symptoms of life - in a hermetically closed lab, much like a “second life”. But why?
Art lacks a satisfactory definition. It is defined and re-defined every once in a while, but artists themselves, who are now a part of an “art world” that is a pre-existent framework — therefore their existence is considered unquestionable and manifest — simply don’t ask this question very often. Art is something that we do because we are artists. They are no longer triggered to understand the cores of their own action. In an age of fragmentation, of decentralization I might be considered a mystic, but I do think it is essential to work out a valid reasoning of the very principle of art (as I think there is one).
In life, a self does not perceive itself as a whole, legit, real entity: it recognizes its incompleteness, its lack of control. But it also realizes that it perceives all other entities otherwise: the idea of relativity is introduced. This might be the point where the notion of the simulacrum appears: all the world is a veneer, all things appear visible only in relation to another, and we cannot experience ourselves from the inside — so we create appearances (particularly the appearance of control) for others to make believe. Art is a means of “knowing thyself”, an act of self-definition, of self-approval, self-justification, where the notion of “self” can refer to the individual as well as (for example) humanity itself — any level on which the self wishes to perceive itself. Our sense of detachedness as “Mangelwesen” strives to pursuit plenitude. It is a pursuit of control, of power, of possession. Omnipotency.
An important aim in art today is to eliminate all means of mimesis. We say: art is not an imitation of life. Art is not life, we created something that stands on its own and it has nothing to do with life anymore. Behind all the negative definitions what art isn’t doing today lies an expression of power (see the pop-cultural reference on the top): I can do it without doing it. But even if we get rid of all things counterfeit, mimesis itself cannot be eliminated — its merely taking place on a much larger scale, on another level of approach: existence itself is being aestheticized. It seems as if art is trying to outgrow not only its own self: to peel off appearance, to eliminate surface, to get rid off its aesthetic character but — redrafting Duchamp’s question “Can one make works which are not 'of Life'?” — to swallow life in whole, too. Fatally, all it finds beneath the surface is another surface: It conquers territories never imagined, searching for its own existence, all the time not realizing that it is its own intention that turns everything it touches into an aesthetic notion — and in a sense consumes, destroys, kills everything with this act.
“Once a label is on something, it becomes an it, like it’s no longer alive.” (Kurt Wagner in: Morcheeba – What New York Couples Fight About, Label: EastWest – 0927-44180-0, 12 Mar 2002)