|Please note: this is a rough sketch of an article I likely will not have
time to complete (there's a lot of "real work" on my plate these days),
but it may be of interest to some people so I post it even if it is not
Update: this article was eventually published (February 12, 2014) on the Society for Animation Studies blog
James Ensor, Willem de Kooning, and "Visual Karaoke."
|More and more often, I see digital images appear in various forums focusing
on digital art, images that, to me, are to Art what karaoke is to Music.
Simple as that
Because, in the Art that I "know" and practice, the main issue is one of connecting with -and seeing/making emerge- the holy grail of creative work, the elusive underlying form.
That which is always present in one's perception of "whatever" ("perception is constitutive" and "Each one of us is a brand new point of view on the world" as Maurice Merleau-Ponty so well stated), but which almost always remains aloof, elusive, "hidden."
But "hidden" in a strange way because, as Derida said, it's really about "making the visible visible."
It is worth noting here that Alberto Giacometti said: "I could paint all my life the same chair."
"To cater to the appearing as it appears" (Edmund Husserl) is a very tall order, but one that may be what one's creative life is/should be about.
Using source material (images/videos) "naively" only adds surface icing to the taken-for-granted "literal" structure of the source material, source material often not even created by the ones using it (hence "karaoke").
How does one connect with that elusive (and dynamic, it evolves with our ever-changing perception) underlying form?
Options abound, but in order to be (relatively) successful, they all require a "simple" step: whatever "structure" one started with/from has to be lost in the course of the work, it has to "die" (taking along one's expectations and intentions) in order for "something" to be (re)born (more on that below).
There is no other way.
Short of that dying, we're talking mere illustration (in a pejorative sense), mere dabbling, pretending, "camp" (as my old friend Mercedes Matter used to say) in fact, "visual karaoke."
A "simple" step it is, but as T. S. Eliot puts it eloquently in his essential "Four Quartets" (Little Gidding V):
"A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything)"
Picasso once said: "What saved me is that I became more interested in what I found than in what I was looking for."
But it was Giacometti who really nailed it (he was talking about a little pocket-knife, a "canif," with which he gouged/shaped the clay of his sculptures): "When I no longer know how to hold this knife, then, and only then, have I got a chance for any kind of breakthrough."
He also said: "j’ai fait un immense progrès, maintenant je n’avance qu’en tournant le dos au but, je ne fais qu’en défaisant." (I made immense progress, I now advance only with my back turned to the goal, I only do by undoing.")
It's been said that talent is demonstrated not by how much one knows how to do, but by how well one can function when no longer knowing what to do!
It's as if the "digital revolution" serves most people in their dedication to avoid this "working by way of not-knowing" instead of helping them deepen their understanding of their nature...
It is as if the digital realm had taken Art back to the 19th Century, to the hay-days of the Salon, days during which painting (for example) was assumed (had?) to be a re-enforcement/glorification of the societal model of "reality" as posited by the bourgeoisie's world-view (its Weltanschauung).
Not all that different from the parading (pseudo) "avant-garde" which is, in fact, just another form of trite conformism...
Yet, the societal models of "reality" evolve, one only needs to read critics of the early shows of the Impressionists to realize that those very images, the reproductions of which now grace a multitude of living-rooms walls, were deemed disgraceful at first (to say the least).
Granted, there's a nasty twist that has occurred since the 19th Century, likely triggered by the atrocities of WWI (and the many other butcheries that followed), a loss of faith in (our) humanity, resulting in a hidden (or not) agenda that posits, as its credo, that "Life is a bitch and then you die."
It's easy to understand that, for those who have subscribed to that faith, "fudging is/has to be the order of the day," if life has no meaning (found and/or created), to succumb to karaoke would make perfect "sense."
Why die in/to (as?) the search for the holy grail when everything seems doomed, pointless?
The widespread belief being that "the eye works like a camera and we all see the same thing(s)," why suffer (through) the search for "the real" when/if "we all see the same thing" and our/my gaze holds nothing unique, worth living "for?"
Witness the experience of James Ensor (who is much much more than the painter of the masks he is famous for) while he was a student in Art school (in Brussels): one day, the director of the "Académie," who actually was fairly sympathetic to Ensor, looked at one of his paintings and the still-life that was his motif, then leaned over Ensor's shoulder and whispered in his ear: "Do you have any problems with your eyes by any chance?"
This could have been the still-life in question:
Not all that different from what Breton yelled at Giacometti when he found out that Alberto (then a prominent member of the Surrealists) had "gone back to working from the visible:"
"A face, a face!!!? Everybody knows what a face looks like!!!"
Well, Giacometti did not know (any longer) what a face looked like (neither do I), that was especially demonstrated to him, by him, as soon as he tried to draw/paint/sculpt "what he really saw."
|As I said earlier, I don't know either, and I too have done a considerable amount of looking/drawing/painting (still am):
|(more here: http://www.vudici.net/awn/awn_natural_media_th.html)|
I had the privilege to "teach" at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture (http://www.nyss.org/) for a number of years, before it became just another degree-granting institution.
I am convinced there is more to gain from learning from one's "mistakes"
than from somebody else's (relative) success, especially if those "mistakes"
are recurrent (if recurrent, they probably are "loaded...").
"what has been lost
It's precisely this succession of finding/losing, doing/undoing, finding/losing,
doing/undoing, for as long as one can sustain it (which is why Bill de
Kooning told his Black Mountain College students to work "all Summer
on one piece of paper or one canvas") which
creates "true Art," the one that "comes back on its own..."
Only (visual) karaoke...
|What about this one?|
And this one?
|No, they are not "Abstract Expressionist" pieces, they are significant details from the following two James Ensor paintings (painted long before Bill de Kooning and Philip Guston were born):
|So, if you are still "with me," I submit that "Great Art" is not the result
of mere technical proficiency (if it were, there would be no "special, even
magical quality" to the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Cézanne, Giacometti
and all), it is not that which gets done through "knowing" but
rather, it is a manifestaton of all that we are and can be when we no longer
limit ourselves and our actions to the dictates of our discursive mind.
More about "all that" here: http://blog.animationstudies.org/?p=346
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