Saturday, April 25, 2015

individual expression, part 1

Since establishing this idea, I have thought of a number of examples that apply and hope to outline a few to continue this dialectic.  I think in one sense, there is a link between individualism and American ideology that is actually fairly common, but I don't think that is the full extent of the historical basis (particularly because the United States is relatively young when it comes to art history, and certainly not the first to use the idea of art as expression).  I think this is more historically entrenched in the history of visual art (and other disciplines, perhaps) and will be harder to question and more difficult for people to accept, but these ideas are worthwhile.

I should also restate some of the texts that I have been reading that is certainly contributing to this thinking, primarily Dylan Trigg's book The Thing, Ben Davis's 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, and Eugene Thacker's In the Dust of this Planet.


The ongoing assumption has been that art is a matter of individual expression, and has been critiqued, theorized, looked at, and thought about as such.  At the very least this is a gross over simplification, if not a terrible mistake, because it does not acknowledge the complexity of an individual identity.  I must be careful of my verbiage here, because a lot of these words have philosophical baggage (identity, for one) but what I am referring to is the individual that produces/creates art.  I think this can also be the same for a group of artists functioning as a unit to produce a single art work (such as the Guerrilla Girls) that can be assessed.  What does not fall under this delineation is a group like Bruce High Quality Foundation that organizes classes, exhibitions, etc, which gets into the downward slope of "social practice as art", and I don't want to go into that here.  Mainly, I'm talking about an individual artist working on their artistic product.

Looking at artworks as individual expression assumes that one can know the individual and know, by looking at a body of their work, what they are expressing.  The inherent fault in this is that an individual may have some similar traits from one creation to the next, other traits of the individual have changed.  The individual is not a collection of their work, nor is individual a constant during production of a single work.  Individuality manifests itself in a number of ways and includes moments of disconnect (not fully understanding one's actions, being at odds with ones self) as well as moments where one individual overlaps and mirrors another individual.  These manifestations of individuality are so complex that it is questionable whether one can effectively evaluate "individual expression" as the motive and origin of the art work.

In watching Chris Marker's film La Jetee, the character of 'the man' is the subject of an experiment made necessary by the nuclear destruction of Paris (and, presumably, most of the rest of the world) after World War III.  The men organizing the experiment inject the man with drugs that aid him in to travel back in time, and along with electrodes that cover his eyes, he is able to place himself as an individual as an adult in a time before the war, where he eventually interacts with a woman that he remembers from a day on the pier.  The organizers of the experiment also learn how to send him in to the future, where he meets humans and is made aware that the race survives.  The man knows that his time is limited and is no longer useful to the experiment or its organizers, and chooses to return to the past to meet the woman on a pier.

One analogy that Marker's film provides is an evaluation of the individual in a way that is not often thought about, even though we know and accept (since Einstein) that time is relative.  Certainly the film is speculative fiction in form and genre, but I see La Jetee as a parallel to the complexity of individuality; the concept of the individual should not be restricted by time, nor determined by time.  I am completely able to return to thoughts, moods, and mind-frame of different times in a way that makes my own individuality parallel to itself as opposed to linear recurrences.  If I get angry every time I'm driving a car, it is not time that determines my anger but the context of driving.  Other individuals also get angry while driving a car, and all of these occurrences of anger in driving are called road rage--not linked to time (other than, one could argue, since the invention of the automobile) but linked to the context of the individual.

Both of these words, too, are problematic in a phenomenological sense; if one doesn't take into account the complexity of the individual, phenomenology can be relegated to the realm of outdated and modernistic (if phenomenology is only the philosophy of an individual in a restricted sense it can not necessarily account of a multiplicity of realities, or at least there is some contradiction in this).  Expression, too, then is an issue in terms of its origins in the individual, a sort of paradox (an individual studying and thinking about something created by the individual, which probably can't be fully evaluated).


No comments:

Post a Comment