Monday, April 20, 2015

oh, the agony...

A lot of these issues have been reoccurring since Roberta Smith's talk at the Des Moines Art Center. Other issues have come up in correlation to a book by Dylan Trigg titled The Thing.  Both are interrelated, but it might take a bit more than a single post to connect.

Two comments of Smith's are what is lingering to me; one was the "real artists suffer" comment, the other was an answer to my question in the audience.  I asked Smith if she thought whether artists should be able to talk about their work.  Her response was that it wasn't our purpose to talk about the work, our job is to make it.  She also commented on it being a product of graduate school.  She isn't upset, per se, when artists talk, but she'd much rather look and see and she feels most often that artists hinder seeing with talking (I'm paraphrasing, of course). I get this sentiment; I understand it from both sides--how great it would be to not have to think about my work and just make it (which is idealistic and false; it's a misnomer made by non-artists) and how great it would be to not have to speak publicly about my work; I also can see where experienced art patron/critic/supporter would rather look on their own and not be influenced by what the artist has to say.

It is hard, though, as an artist, not to see this as a position of power held over artists: either keeping artists docile, keeping them producing for the market, or exerting some other kind of control.

I'm starting to look into this as a point of research; figuring out historical models (albeit likely on a larger scale affecting more detrimental forms of power) but hope to think about these things in perspective, particularly in late capitalism.

Trigg's book, too, has impacted my thinking about artists in the history of art and, perhaps, something that has either been overlooked or not discussed in art, particularly the artist's position in movements classified as Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and others.  Trigg is making a case for a new type of phenomenology that acknowledges a complexity in the concept of a body, which has always been the assumption of phenomenology--the study/thinking about what a body can sense.  Trigg, and others, acknowledge that this is a mistake--even Merleau-Ponty can be interpreted as to realizing the complexity of "a body" as a singular concept.

Likewise, whenever we think of art making (or the artist, for that matter), particularly when we assume "art as expression", we are talking about individual expression.  Even so-called contemporary political art and social practice art still assumes individual expression of political statements and "making something better".

Not only is this incredibly problematic to assume such individualism is the single source of expression (albeit the American way), but I absolutely believe/confirm that this is the wrong conception of expression, and that an individual/body is much more complex.  It is incorrect to assume that Monet was, theoretically, a single individual for the duration of his life as a painter and it is incorrect to define his "expression" in a singular way.  Certainly criticism and history allows for multiple interpretations, but these interpretations, though differing slightly on his aesthetics, view, outlook, influence, etc.  all assume his body of work coming from a fixed individual, which is false.

More on all of this soon.


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