Sunday, April 13, 2014

emancipation (after Ranciere).

I've been formulating a new artist statement--I think that this is incredibly important for a number of reasons, but the main motivations now are due to rewatching Painters Painting (available on DVD and much more affordable than it was previously) and reading The Emancipated Spectator by Jaques Ranciere.

Ranciere, in his writing on forms of emancipation, is easy to surmise in some senses; he is certainly talking about broader ideas that extend beyond their subject matter.  In The Ignorant Schoolmaster, it takes the form of a Jacotot teaching students something that he himself has not learned, the stultifying (normative) relationship between teacher-student is that the teacher knows and teaches and the student must learn what the teacher is professing; it is emancipatory to eradicate that as the normative form of education and, instead, think about the teacher and student learning in tandem--reading material for the first time, discussing texts, etc so that the student might know something other than what the teacher teaches.  The student, approaching a text with the teacher, might learn (and subsequently know) something that the teacher would have never thought to teach in the traditional relationship.   Likewise, there is a normative (or stultifying, as Ranciere uses it) relationship between the spectator and any form of art.  I'll save describing this relationship until I finish the book.  What I'm taking from Ranciere, though, is that these normative relationships continue to exist--and, by analyzing them, we can become emancipated from their predictable and unhelpful parameters.  Ranciere is analyzing cultural phenomena as far as I have read, and in that way incredibly beneficial to us involved in contemporary art.

Painters Painting does an incredible job of placing art in a broader cultural context.  When I originally watched it, I just thought it was amazing to see the artists talking about their work--I pictured myself somewhere between Rauschenberg and Stella, both full of energy and kicking against the negativity (I have always kept Rauschenberg's words on not wanting to waste time being anxious or depressed with me in the studio) that a number of the ab ex painters poetically dealt in.  The whole premise, though, has much more depth to it; including talk about dealers, the market, and issues that we are still dealing with today.  I hope to read the introduction and will plan to post a transcript of parts of it, as I think it has some amazing implications today.

This, all, has spurred continued thought on how painting relates to the cultural fabric of the contemporary and global context.  I think, for myself, a form of the Ranciere-type emancipation has come from not producing a body of work but reveling in unabashed exploration.  This obviously provides problems with cataloging and keeping track of my work, but to be able to approach every surface as an entirely new opportunity is the greatest freedom I've known in art making.  Certainly, things build and form loose connections between one work and another--but, perhaps most importantly--connections form from work made years ago, a cycle and resurfacing that I could not have predicted in a lifetime.

If the normative relationship, then, is for an artist to work in body of works that then communicate a particular subject matter (and help the viewer to understand that work because of the subject matter), I am proposing that stagnation occurs in the structure of the body of work; knowing and learning can become predictable.  Emancipation occurs for me in the unknowing of where a work might lead.

Certainly, there is something akin to "style" that surfaces, even among the numerous and disparate works that I make.  My argument, here, though, is that for me, exploration is a essential part of making art.

Perhaps yet another strike against me in terms of the marketability of my work.  Look for a newer artist statement soon that addresses some of these issues and hopefully better encompasses what is going on in the studio.
Untitled work on paper, 2014
acrylic, tape, ink
15" x 11"