scruta

Either you are sorting it out, or you are full of it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Art of Endless Recursion

Ferret
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about art.

Honey
Yeah?

Ferret
I’ve been trying to figure out the role of gimmickry in art. I mean, I think art hinges on a gimmick of some type, but then goes beyond that gimmick. I can’t stand how modern artists give us some gimmick and then refuse to explain it.

Honey
Well, some of them do.

Ferret
I know that, and I think it’s good when they do, but you know that a lot of them don’t. It’s funny because people often talk about the kind of intellectualism and elitism that plagues contemporary art, but I think ultimately it’s very democratic. An artist tries to make everyone an artist.

Honey
What d’you mean?

Ferret
I would argue that true art is defined by that moment where an artist takes a gimmick and then voices a specific interpretation, or creates a specific effect in the person perceiving the art. The effect of Rembrandt’s use of shadow and light, for example. In the case of an open gimmick, where the interpretation is left to the viewer, they are suddenly required to participate as an artist, making the interpretation, taking whatever effect that they would like to from the art.

Honey
Yeah, but I don’t know. I don’t think that an artist is supposed to create a singular effect though their work. If they are able to produce a specific effect through their art, then that seems like a gimmick too. It means that there is no depth to the work at all. The great thing about art is that it doesn’t limit itself to one particular form of expression.

Ferret
No, you are right, but there are works of art where this kind of open gimmick is focused on more timeless or general questions. Where the artist reveals something about the world, and doesn’t haphazardly apply a gimmick.

Honey
But you have to take into account context. It might not necessarily be a function of the art or the artist. Take Duchamp’s urinal for instance. That work of art has been reconstrued so many times beyond what could be considered Duchamp’s original intentions as he defined them. It has unintentionally revealed something about the world.

Ferret
Didn’t somebody try to smash it?

Honey
I think somebody did smash it.

Ferret
Probably some performance artist feeding off of Duchamp arguing that he redefined Duchamp. Can destruction be creative?

Honey
Well, I think so.

Ferret
I think so too, but I find it suffers from the same kinds of problems that I have with all creative or artistic endeavors. I certainly agree that it’s worth while to take the piss out of Duchamp sometimes.

Honey
Ferret…

Ferret
I know, I should flush that one away, right?

Honey
Stop. Please.

Ferret
Okay, well, it seems we’ve come full circle. All of art may very well be gimmickry, but gimmickry may be a lot.

Honey
I think so, probably more than we realize. If anything, I think that art spins us in circles, from gimmick to gimmick, from one theory of aesthetic to another.

Ferret
So what then? Can we ever get outside of the loop?

Honey
Why do you want to get outside of it?

Ferret
Well, the whole thing seems to me to be a like an endless carousel where you are trying to make a judgment about the world around you, reflected in the mirrors, only to find that your perspective is constantly in flux. You get nauseous… I guess where I’m going with this is that I don’t like carousels.

Honey
I don’t blame you. I’ve always thought that they were hokey, and not too much fun to ride.

Ferret
I know, even when I was a kid, I didn’t get them. Okay, maybe there’s a better way to look at this whole art thing? What do you think?

Honey
I think so. How about this: I once had a dream where I was lost in this strange German beer hall, and I was trying to find the exit. It was so immense that I couldn’t see any walls near me that might suggest an end or a way out. And the longer I walked, the more I realized that there was no end. I just kept walking along the rows of these long tables watching people eating and drinking and having sex. Every type of food, every type of drink was consumed by every kind of person I could imagine, breaking now and then into orgiastic furor. Suddenly, when I came to the realization that there was no end to it all, all of these people began dancing on the tables wildly, failing their arms and legs as if they were trying to exhaust every possibility of movement, every orientation of their bodies. I could see patterns of dances coming through like waves from tables beyond my vision. The people would come together in these new dances for several moments, and then as they dissipated, return to their continual flailing, only to receive a new dance a moment later. I watched this for a while, until finally I asked one of the dancers why they wouldn’t stop dancing. He said, “We have to dance. If we don’t dance now, we will die.” I think that art in general moves just like those dances that I saw. It is what drives us forward without apology. It is the one thing that continues to animate us to something beyond ourselves.

Ferret
I do like that idea. But would we really die without art? Without its continual redefinitions?

Honey
I don’t know if we’d die literally, but I think it’s an essential part of our selves. We can’t imagine existing without it.

Ferret
So you’re saying that I’m stuck on the carousel?

Honey
I think so.

Ferret
Dammit.

posted by ferret at 3:43 pm  

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