Friday, March 29, 2013

On Art, Part I

(This is Part I of a four part mini-think piece on art. Every section qualifies and contradicts every other section. Okay?)

Art, especially good art, only exists during the act of making. As soon as a piece has been "rendered," it is a corpse, despite any giant swell of thoughts or feelings its maker or its audience may have towards it. Art is only the relationship between the act of making and the action of what's being made. This relationship is an exceedingly fleeting thing. In the act of art-making, the artist must contend with not only all of his own thoughts, feelings, lived experience and technique, but also with the press of the world upon the moment. Whatever is built in such an instance cannot be carried past the moment of its issuance and thought of in the same way. In fact, unless it is being born to die in the instant it is made it cannot be called art. 

Our museums, our galleries, our libraries, are all graves and graveyards. Nothing more. We are, with all of our sincerity and all of our fascination, merely tomb fetishists. This is not to say that there is no merit in commemorating and adoring dead husks, the traces of what was once art. In fact it's a wonderful, inspirational thing to do. Inspirational and pathetic. I mean neither of these adjectives pejoratively. Pathos is worthy in that it can draw both passion and empathy out of the heart. One might say, "This line by Dickinson, this movement by Brahms...they have carried me, they have sustained me, they have moved me toward better versions of myself." This is all very fine. But such a person, moved though he may be, has only been contending with his own associations, prompted by contact with something that is already dead. Therefore let us call corpses and their graves by their true names. Let us also note that many figures who call themselves artists and art lovers are merely carrion birds. Eaters of dead flesh. A lot of worldly gains can be made eating and regurgitating rotten meat. But such practices are neither the true pleasure nor the worthy provenance of the artist. 

Even an exceedingly well-made thing is a dead thing. The person who recognizes the inherent futility in any attempt to resurrect the dead can begin to taste what it means to be an artist. Art, in all forms, only exists as such in the space between its birth and its death. No artist can be "finished" with any piece and think he continues to be an artist. An artist is only an artist in the moment of making; art is only art during the moment of being made.

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