Remember me on this computer
A portrait of the artist..
What do you do and why do you do it?
Hillel
15 Apr 07 19:24 IST

Hey artists, where's the passion? Why is this site so damn genteel? State your positions and be prepared to defend them. You took up this activity to express something. Maybe you went to art school (hopefully you got over it), maybe you're self taught (lucky you). The thing is it's something you have to learn on your own and spend your whole life learning but to what end? There's some faint glimmer of something in your mind and you go after it. Well what is it?
I get mad as hell because it seems every second person you meet is an artist. I read obituaries in the paper, "So and so died. He was a retired life insurance salesman, a good husband and father, avid golfer, gardener and artist". I've spent my whole life learning how to do this shit and some prick takes up painting when he retires and he's my peer? I meet someone at a party, "So what do you do?" he asks, I reply, "I'm an artist, a painter." He looks at me kind of funny and says, "Oh yeah, my mom paints." or worse he asks "What do you paint?". Here's a guy that's heard of maybe Rembrandt and Van Gogh from the movies and of course Picasso because everybody in the whole wide world has heard of him even though he probably wouldn't recognize any of their work if he accidentally walked into a museum. So I say "Paintings." and walk away to get another drink and he thinks to himself "What a fucking asshole." and he's right because I won't demean myself by actually having to explain what it is that I do paint which would bore the hell out of him anyway. The dead insurance guy, when he was active in business wouldn't hesitate for a second to go into a three hour long lecture about the differences between whole life and term policies if he was asked what he did. Of course even if I did go out of my way to try to explain to Mr. Normal Person what it is that I paint and the whys and wherefores of it all, the next question would be, "Oh yeah, well can you make any money out of that?" and we all know the answer to that one and I'm reluctant to go there because the next logical question is "So why do you do it?" and I really don't have an adequate answer, or at least one that Mr. Normal Person and the rest of society would understand but I suppose they are entitled to an answer that doesn't make them look stupid or feel that all artists are a bunch of full of shit, pompous assholes.
So my question to all you artists is what to you do and why do you do it? If you have an answer like "I paint portraits because I get commissions to do them" or "I love flowers because they have really colourful colours." or "I work in a Taiwan studio and paint 300 seascapes a day because I make $35 a month doing it." don't bother answering.



karen
26 Apr 07 22:16 IST

So, why do you paint? why dont you tell us ? and please don’t tell me you were born an artist and had no other options, we always have another option (you could have been a very good writer ). I think it has something to do whith feeling special, different . Once you call yourself an ARTIST you feel superior to the rest of the people that are working their way in life, usually much better than we do, BUT WE ARE ARTISTS.........

I have asked myself that question , Why do I paint? Is there something I want to express? Does that make me more interesting to other people? Am I a bit masochist? What moves me to paint? Colour, light, flesh, emotions, anger, solitude, silence, mainly , I would say, the opportunity to dive into somebody elses spirit, or maybe it is the only way I can communicate to others what fascinates me, or is it what hurts me.. Is that important for anybody? I dont think so.

There is something romantic about being an artist that I´m not sure about, I enjoy as much as I suffer painting, and usually It never comes out as I thought it would, we always pursue something that escapes, why? I dont know , or maybe I´m just having a bad day.

Hillel
27 Apr 07 08:51 IST

Karen, you're fantastic, the only person brave enough to respond to the ravings of a drunken lunatic. I admit I was somewhat embarrassed when I read the thing the next day however sometimes some truth does come out under the influence and I suppose that it does express some of the frustrations of an old, failing and soon to expire, lifelong artist, so I won't apologize for it.

My question was not "Why do it?", that question has already been asked on these forum pages. I think it had more to do with having a good response to society's question to us, rather than our own questions to ourselves and our own answers, which are pretty much what I said on my home page about myself and I believe to be the truth about my fellow artists. I do believe we are born artists, sure there are choices, you can do whatever you want if the art doesn't work out for you but I don't believe you can maintain another life or profession indefinitely and without regret. Francis Bacon said that if the paintings didn't sell he would have got into something else, he was an interior designer before he started painting. I don't believe it for a second. Once he found painting he would never have given it up because that's who he really was, success or not, "an artist!".

In my experience and from my talks with fellow artists I think you're correct that we artists do in fact feel special and different even though they, our neighbours and family are more than likely doing much better (materially) than ourselves. I think, and once again from experience and talking with others that "that special feeling" (real or not) comes from mother. We were mother's favourite because we impressed her with our images and the things we made with our hands and the depth of our thoughts. Whether the feeling was real or not is not important, the point is we felt it. I'd like to hear others' opinions on that. We carry that specialness within ourselves and that brings me back to my initial question because by being special we're also resented and mistrusted by our sisters and brothers. So what is our response to their often genuine questions? I frankly don't know how to respond and maybe it doesn't matter but I just wondered if others have a strategy in dealing these things. When you asked the question to yourself your response makes perfect sense to me but somehow I think that kind of talk enrages our sisters and brothers who think we're full of shit, lazy malingerers who say strange things that they don't understand just to throw them off our track.

In any case I'm very glad you responded to my remarks which were, even in my drunken state, more or less intended to entertain and provoke. Sometimes I look at this site and it's so damned boring. I know what conversation is like with my fellow inebriated artists in the flesh and somehow I wish it were more like that on this site. Why do we censor ourselves? Just let it rip. Good English, bad English...who cares, just express yourself to your fellow artists. By the way I doubt I would have made a good writer having barely made my way through elementary school. That's why, being an ignoramus, I have little inhibition in expressing myself on line. However, formal schooling or not I've always read a lot and have the utmost respect for good writing and as a matter of fact I've always been struck by your abilities in that department (also Maria's). I was waiting to get to Trapani to find out how and why you're both so eloquent in English.

This site could be great if people could just open up a bit more. Picture yourself in a tavern talking with your art buddies. You know how the talk goes and what fun it is. Stop being so self conscious and self censoring. What's the worst that can happen? You'll look ridiculous, so what? We're artists, we always look ridiculous. Our artwork looks ridiculous and the best pieces initially look the most ridiculous but we have the guts to expose our work to the public so why not here to our own peers and fellows who actually understand us?

Maria
27 Apr 07 09:51 IST

Written language can be much richer than spoken but it lacks immediacy. When you read what I write you cannot hear the tone of my voice and you cannot look into my eyes. You certainly cannot read my body language either. Of course you can do all of this over a drink with your fellow artists in Canada. So, speaking for myself, dear Hillel, I will never write anything I haven’t thought of well. Our peers and fellows here were yesterday’s strangers, and now that I think there is a chance we can “understand” each other I intend to cherish our relationship (at least till July when we ‘ll be able to pat backs or slap cheeks, whichever way it goes). And another thing: have you ever entered a chat room with artists? Such useless bull. I am so very grateful that there is no instant messaging in this site. This way one has the chance to have a really interesting conversation. And enjoy good writing…

Now, about being mom’s favourite. Well, I am an only child and I wouldn’t know. But I am sure I didn’t feel very special till recently (some ill chosen boyfriends in my teens life made sure I didn’t feel too special). I always found drawing well so easy, that I didn’t understand why others were impressed. To cut a long story short, I don’t have to face sisters or anybody else’s comments the way you do. One reason is that they accept the fact that I make a living making murals and teaching so they leave my art alone. The other reason is infuriating but true: I am a woman. It is still ok for a woman to have a profession that isn’t very profitable. Of course many of those who think that, wonder why they don’t see flower vases and sunsets at my shows, but no here no there. I must say that I walk away to get another drink the way you do, too.

karen
27 Apr 07 11:47 IST

Well I never was my mother´s favourite, maybe that explains my not feeling an Artist, and needless to say "special", who knows.
My mother promised me solemnly never to hang one of my nudes in her house, which in a way I understood and made me paint them whith more conviction. I agree with you in one thing, you can never forget about this and go on living like nothing ever happened, once youve tried it you know you will never stop doing it, sell it or not. In any case I wish I could write like you or get drunk and uninhibited like you but I can't, I havent got a wild life like Bacon or Modigliani and therefore I can only paint about my own states of mind. But I do appreciate your writing while drunk , it is much more interesting! now, seriously it always makes me laugh and think, and maybe I wouldn´t have talked to you in person as I do here, considering you are a well known artist and I am not exactly outspoken.Yesterday while writing I was quite enraged about a comment on my paintings as being coarse (I think that could be the translation ) and thought that almost everything that sorrounds us today is mediocre and coarse, and stupid.
About being a woman ( I just read it , maria) you're right but dont forget that they are never going to consider your painting as serious , as professional as theirs, unless you act like a man and forget about everything around you and dedicate exclusively to YOUR activity, Can we do that??

Maria
27 Apr 07 19:32 IST

Well, Karen I don't quite agree with "they will never consider your painting as professional as theirs". I think we are on the right path to get over this between artists. I was refering to everybody else.

Nevertheless this is another big issue to discuss, and maybe we should open another topic for it.

Hillel
29 Apr 07 20:52 IST

About perceiving oneself as mother's favourite, it's only a theory I have based on my own talks with other, I must admit, male artists. Perhaps for women it's being dad's special girl and for an only child like Maria, well obviously there was no competition. I'd still like to hear from others on the topic, not that it matters but it's interesting. As far as being a woman artist goes, I agree it's still more difficult than for men, although we also have families and have our responsibilities and have to provide, and then snatch precious little time for our art. Once the babies arrive life (especially for an artist) becomes difficult. It's somewhat easier for the male artist to keep all things going than for the female who is under tremendous pressure to either give up her family or her art. The demands of family and society are much greater on her and her art usually loses out, takes a back seat or has to be put on hold for a number of years.

For the truly ambitious artist it's easier for the male to abandon his family for his art than it is for the female whom society will never forgive. The courage it takes is unbelievable, or maybe for their own sanity they had no choice, I'm thinking of Louise Nevelson or Alice Neel as a couple of examples. Karen and Maria if you don't already know of the American painter Alice Neel's work you really must check it out. Her portraits of friends and family, often nude, are filled with energy and life and her biography, filled with despair, tragedy and finally triumph is inspirational. Very few of us and that includes myself have had the wherewithal to make art their one and only mistress for whom they sacrifice everything and maybe that's what it takes (no Karen, I'm not a well known artist, quite the contrary) but in this life you usually can't have everything. Something must be sacrificed.

Jim
08 May 07 10:29 IST

Dear Hillel, You asked me about what I did etc. many months ago, and I took the time to coherently respond. I see that this recent posting of yours is already over three weeks old, and nobody has bothered to make a comment. I haven't had much time to frequent art forums over the course of the past year,and I had to pull out of the Trappani adventure because of other obligations but I have been to Germany twice and California in the last six months.On my visit to Germany in November of 2006 I was in Cologne, and Berlin. In Berlin I walked into a retrospective of work by Rembrandt. There were a number of people who were part of the audience that day who probably buy paint and canvas from places like Walmart, and it wouldn't surprise me if a mention of their artistic endeavors didn't somehow make its way into an obit one day. Perhaps we have people like Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys, and Jacques Derrida to thank for the insiduous nature of present day public perception of what art is or isn't etc......... but who the bloody hell cares about all of this moronic imbecility. Today young people jerk off on an old newspaper (Dash Snow) and people like Charles Saatchi pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for it. I hear about these things and it still makes me wince, but its taken me thirty years to develop my talent into something I feel is viable and I don't have the time to go on the war path against an officialising of the mediocre other than to take out the work I've done in the past which hasn't sold, and rework it into something better, and hopefully more noble in regards to what I now feel is credible. As long as I continually question my standards I know I'm going in the right direction. You don't sound complacent, so you must still be hungry, and anyone who is serious about making art knows that great work doesn't come from an over feed cow...........courage.....Amities,
Cortland

Hillel
10 May 07 23:59 IST

Thanks for your answer
Monsieur Cortland but from the sounds of it you've got no problem with a response. You make something and people buy it. That's good but what about the people that make things that nobody wants yet they keep doing it year after year. They don't even get to to show the stuff because galleries don't want stuff that people don't want. So they just pile the stuff against the wall and the piles get deeper and deeper, year after year until they barely have room to move around in the little corridors left to them and eventually they die from lack of space and air and their loved ones bury them and then have the task of disposing of all the rubbish they left behind. They've got to be crazy, right?

Jim
13 May 07 11:09 IST

Dear Hillel,
If you read my response well you'll obviously see that not everything I make sells, because I indicated that I often take old works which have been leaning up against one of those walls you mention, and rework them. Yes, when I do exhibit I have been fortunate enough to sell enough of the work to move on down the road a piece, but I didn't do any one man shows for nearly fifteen years, and sold exclusively out of my studio so I know all about long dry spells without steady income, or ego puffing articles etc. I also sometimes work on uncommisioned paintings for two or three years, and these works are not exactly easy to sell because of the price. You ask me about people you have no more breathing space because they're surrounded by unsold work. My response to you is; how many paintings did Leonardo Da Vinci, or Vermeer leave behind? What was the philosophy of the German Architect Mies van der Rohe......"Less is More"..........Everyone thinks they are Picasso today. Picasso's essential message had nothing to do with production. This was a side product of a personality who more than anything else taught us that we need not confine ourselves to any given style. In a world where people speak more and more of the problems of over consumation, and the need for ecological conservation etc. isn't it one of the artists principal tasks to confront this new challenge in regards to her or his productivity, and step back away from the easel long enough to really think about what one is doing in the larger spectrum of things. As far as pure handy readily available pocket change,the internet provides numerous avenues for people to sell their art today. Making a living as an artist has never been the easiest way to go about suceeding in a material world, but isn't ours a choice that has the spiritual as its principal touchstone, and not the clammering glitter of the star studded red carpet in Cannes.

Maria
15 May 07 19:58 IST

I am not sure whether I interpreted your comment right, Cortland. Are you saying an artist should reflect on whether his or her work adds to the piles of rubbish with no real use on this planet, or do you mean that mediocre painters should give it up because painting a hundred paintings a year won’t make them any better (well, this is true)? I think I must have missed your point, but in case I didn’t I would like to say that I trust most of us have felt mediocre, useless rubbish makers at some times in our life, but if we had to definitely admit such a thing, most of us would most probably commit suicide.

Jim
27 May 07 17:32 IST

Hello Maria,
I responded to your question a little over a week ago, but for some reason my reply wasn't registered. The short version of what I wrote would simply be "Consciousness implies Responsibility".

Maria
10 Jun 07 18:45 IST

A friend of mine handed me this Tennessee Williams’ play. I am sure you all remember Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”. What struck me was Tennessee Williams’ preface. So I decided to quote him here because I think he got closer to describing what we do and why we do it, than any of us has.


“Of course it is a pity that so much of all creative work is so closely related to the personality of the one who does it.

It is sad and embarrassing and unattractive that those emotions that stir him deeply enough to demand expression with some measure of light and power, are nearly all rooted, however changed in their surface, in the particular and sometimes peculiar concerns of the artist himself, that special world, the passions and images of it that each of us weaves about him from birth to death, a web of monstrous complexity, spun forth at a speed that is incalculable to a length beyond measure, from the spider mouth of his own singular perceptions.

It is a lonely idea, a lonely condition, so terrifying to think of that we usually don’t. And so we talk to each other, write and wire each other, call each other short and long distance across land and sea, clasp hands with each other at meeting and parting, fight each other and even destroy each other because of this always somewhat thwarted effort to break through walls to each other. As a character in a play once said, ‘We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins.’

Personal lyricism is the outcry of prisoner to prisoner from the cell in solitary where each is confined for the duration of his life.
[…]
The fact that I want you to observe what I do for your possible pleasure and to give you knowledge of things that I feel I may know better than you, because my world is different from yours, as different as every man’s world is from the world of others, is not enough excuse for a personal lyricism that has not yet mastered its necessary trick of rising above the singular to the plural concern, from personal to general import. But for years and years now, which may have passed like a dream because of this obsession, I have been trying to learn how to perform this trick and make it truthful, and sometimes I feel that I am able to do it.
[…]

Of course I know that I have sometimes presumed too much upon corresponding sympathies and interest in those to whom I talk boldly, and this has led to rejections that were painful and costly enough to inspire more prudence. But when I weigh one thing against another, an easy liking against a hard respect, the balance always tips the same way, and whatever the risk of being turned a cold shoulder, I still don’t want to talk to people only about the surface aspects of their lives, the sort of things that acquaintances laugh and chatter about on ordinary social occasions.

I feel that they get plenty of that, and heaven knows so do I, before and after the little interval of time in which I have their attention and say what I have to say to them. The discretion of social conversation, even among friends, is exceeded only by the discretion of “the deep six”, that grave wherein nothing is mentioned at all. Emily Dickinson, that lyrical spinster of Amherst, Massachusetts, who wore a strict and savage heart on a taffeta sleeve, commented wryly on that kind of posthumous discourse among friends in these lines:

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
‘For beauty,’ I replied.
‘And I for truth, - the two are one;
We brethren are,’ he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

Meanwhile! – I want to go on talking to you as freely and intimately about what we live and die for as if I knew you better than anyone else whom you know.”

Schirinzi
05 Jul 07 19:41 IST

I'm asking help to open my space art on art process, could me lell how can obtein that? thans claudio schirinzi.

Anthony
25 Jul 07 01:35 IST



On April 15th last Hillel Kagan challenged his fellow artists to express their passion.

What do you do and why do you do it, he asked.

He later admitted that he was embarrassed by his outburst of passion explaining that it was made under the influence of alcohol. Thereafter, he conducted a polite and comfortable chat with other members of the forum.

The following is my response to the challenge. No apologies, no excuses, no punches pulled.


BEGINS

Artists? Who the fuck do they think they are? What the fuck do they think they are? What the fuck is art anyway?

Well, the first thing to be said is that all artists are human animals and the human animal occupies a very narrow band on the spectrum of existence.

Let’s take a quick look at what that existence is and the place that humans occupy within it.

First, there is what we humans refer to as the known universe which is about 15 billion years old. Within that universe there are billions of galaxies with billions of stars and planets in each one.

Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, has about 400 billion stars and we humans, who have only been around for about a million years, live out our pathetic and brief existence around one of them, the sun.

And what about other life forms within the known universe? Well, I believe there are billions of them spread out across the universe. Some are more advanced than us, some are not as advanced, and some are more or less the same. So we are not unique, we are just one of countless billions of creatures that live in this particular existence.

Then there’s existence in the other direction. Are you aware, right now, of what’s happening on the ground beneath you as you read this, whether it’s carpet, earth or even stone? Life, teeming life, no matter where you are, billions of different creatures living out their lives according to their own place and level of existence.

On we go, right down to the sub atomic level, down to the amazing and quirky world of quantum mechanics and beyond.

But now let’s come back to the human level and you. You are only one of billions of humans, you are severely restricted to your own experiences, you live inside your head and you can never experience what others are experiencing in their heads.

You can look at a bird, elephant, shark, tree or mountain or your lover but you can never be in or really experience any of these animals or things. Your experience of existence outside your own brain is very limited.

Essentially, you are nothing more than an instant of consciousness that is born alone, lives alone and, ultimately, will die alone.

Furthermore, you can only see a very limited amount of this tiny planet, only meet a tiny number of fellow humans, only experience a very limited number of experiences before that instant of consciousness is snuffed out, like a candle flame, forever.

And this is just to confine ourselves to the now, it is not to mention the events and human experiences of the long past and the unlimited future. I think you get the picture. You, in common with all other human animals occupy a very, very narrow place on the spectrum of existence.

Now, here’s something that’s very important. Everything, every single item, creature, event, including humans, within that existence can be described as art.

From existence itself, to galaxies, to planets, to life, to the piece of shit stuck on the side of your toilet bowl – it’s all art. I challenge anybody out there to name any living thing, any object; any event that is not or cannot be interpreted as art.

Every galaxy in the universe is art, every star, planet and civilization in every galaxy is art. Trees are art. Ants are art. The mad events going on in Quantum Mechanics are art. The dirt under your finger nail is art. Art is everywhere and in everything.

So, where the fuck does that leave artists? In other words what the fuck is an artist if everything is or can be interpreted as art? The answer? - Artists are manipulators.

When an artist creates a piece of work, he is merely using his mind and mechanical ability to rearrange existent material that reflects something he sees in the outside world or he is projecting into the outside world something that he ‘created’ inside his mind.

It is the human mind, in cooperation with a physical mechanical ability to manipulate materials outside the mind that creates human art.

And remember this; the artist’s hands, brain, materials, and even his thoughts/imagination and experiences are all part of existence, they are all part of the natural order of things in the particular universe that we happen to inhabit.

Look at Mount Everest. Its art, or perhaps more accurately, it’s natural art. It’s got structure, colour, beauty and presence. So what’s the difference between natural art and human art?

Manipulation of existent materials is the difference. You, the artist are an existent material, your brain and imagination are existent materials, the tools and paints you use are existent materials, the energy, both physical and mental, you use to create art, are existent materials.

You look at the mountain and by a process of physical and mental manipulation of existent materials you create something new, something that nature did not create although all the material have been provided by nature. You are manipulating natural materials to re-interpret natural materials already in existence.

Natural art, specifically, is all of existence, all of nature, all of everything including the human body and mind. Human art represents a tiny fragment of that existence and is created because humans have a certain physical/mental capacity to manipulate the materials of existence.

Human art, specifically, is the ability of humans to take existent materials of nature and manipulate them into various representations that reflect their own place in existence both physical and mental. Art is manipulation, artists are manipulators.

So, if art is the manipulation of existent natural materials by the human animal, what is an artist, why is it that some humans have artistic capability and the great bulk of humanity does not?

The best way to answer this question is by asking another one - why doesn’t every human have the same abilities and talents as a Leonardo Da Vinci or an Einstein? The answer, of course, is obvious. Every human is different; every human is born with a particular brain that provides certain abilities and talents.

The great bulk of human brains are average. The great bulk of humanity is talented enough to make a living, copulate to make some more humans, have a couple of pints and die.

A tiny, tiny percentage of humans are born with above average brains, with a brain configuration which gives them above average abilities in certain activities.

Einstein, Shakespeare, Hitler, Caesar, Plato, Caravaggio and Sheridan are just some of the more obvious examples.

I have already defined human art as the ability to manipulate the materials of existence. I now want to define an artist as a human that has been born with a particular brain configuration that provides him with the ability to manipulate those materials. Let’s call that brain configuration - the creative spark.

If you have that creative spark then you are an artist. It means you have an ability to see things in a particular way, to see beyond the obvious and you also have an ability to manipulate the materials of existence so that your unique way of seeing reality can be manipulated into existence and put on display for all the great unwashed to goggle at and pass their ruthless and mostly ignorant judgement.

But how do you know you have the creative spark? How do you know you’re not just an average Joe Soap masquerading as an artist?

Well, to find out let’s take a walk down the hall of life. The hall of life begins at a very early age. It’s lined with doors on each side and right at the very end, there’s a coffin. It is important that the coffin is always, to some degree, kept in sight. It’s a salutary reminder that time and talent should not be wasted on the journey down the hall.

Although there are many doors on each side of the hall only some of them have signs indicating what’s beyond - Education, sex, work, ambition, love, pleasure but most doors have no signs at all.

Most humans are average so they travel down the hall only opening the safe doors that have names. Many humans are restricted by other humans as to which door they may or may not open. A few are brave enough to open an unknown door and find they are unable to handle what they see/experience and never do so again.

The artist doesn’t open any doors -- He fucking blows the shit out of them all, especially the unnamed ones. He uses his boot, a fucking shotgun; a cannon, a fucking bomb to smash the fucking door down, he strides into the room without fear and faces whatever he sees there.

Here are just a few examples of what might face the artist beyond the doors.

SEX. Man/woman, man/man, woman/woman, man/dog, it doesn’t matter. He sees mad, wanton, uncontrolled, lustful sex, real fucking sex. He sits down and paints what he sees.

He than takes his work out into the hall and shows it to the great mass of average humans who are carefully and boringly making their way through the hall of life.

NATURE. Could be a tree, river, mountain, flower, storm. The artist sees, I mean really fucking SEES what he’s looking at and puts it on canvas or whatever medium he’s using so that the great mass can experience what they are unable to see by their own faculties.

WAR. Ah stupid, stupid, stupid fucking war. Look at all those fucking mad normal humans butchering each other. What a crowd of primitive morons, all doomed, eventually, to total and well deserved fucking destruction. You paint the fucking idiots while they practice their imbecilic art. Then you take your work out into the hall and show them what they really fucking are.

YOU. You burst into a room and find yourself there in all your mental and physical nakedness. You SEE everything about yourself, your deepest, most secret, and most frightening characteristics. You manipulate the materials of existence to create an accurate representation of that you.

Then you take it out into the hall and show it to the great mass of humanity, the vast bulk of whom will completely misunderstand what you are trying to portray.

But what they think doesn’t matter a great deal. What matters is that you ruthlessly stay true to the truth and have the balls to show it to everybody.

And what kind of reaction can you expect from the great mass? Astonishment, disgust, praise, incomprehension, tears, hatred, fear, even violence – any or all of these reactions are good.

There is only one response, only one nightmare reaction for the true artist – Indifference.

If your work doesn’t get any reaction, if your work is seen as just another ordinary object in the ordinary world of the non artist, then you are not a true artist. You are just one of the masses with perhaps a little talent and a tentative curiosity.

I’m 55 years of age and I’m an artist. The creative spark only activated about two years ago so already I’ve traveled more than half way down the hall of life and that fucking coffin gets more visible every fucking day.

But I’m kicking down doors big time and I’m going to continue doing so until I reach that fucking coffin, then I’ll kick the shit out of that too.

And when death finally grabs me and begins to put me down, I’ll be kicking and fucking screaming – do your worst you fucking bastard, do your fucking worst, you bastard, you bastard, you bastard,…………


ENDS

Anthony Sheridan
Philosopher, commentator and general shit stirrer.

eli
25 Jul 07 12:24 IST

I believe this is a site where to discuss about art between artists, not to question if artists and art exist or not ... whether we don't have clear limits or there are no casts and hopefully there is no such an art religion, I guess that someone who starts puking within this place should be at least be able to show what he is capable to create himself.
so, what are you doing here, Sheridan?
this is not Free Radio FM

Maria
25 Jul 07 17:29 IST

Nice try Sheridan.
However, your text fails to make its subject distinct let alone present a valid argument to support whatever you intended this text to be about.

Suppose that you intended to provide a definition for the term “art” or/and “artist”. The choice of picking your argument out of a field that is more relevant to physics and biology is an ill one. And that is for the mere fact that the field of artistic practice is a different one. It is the field of human experience (no matter how insignificant in the cosmos) and any query on the nature of art has to do with identifying the order of objects of intentionally created such form, that have such properties, material or other, which form a perceptible, meaningful, content. The experience generated by the perception of this content is of a completely different sort of that generated by the sensual perception of ordinary objects in nature, which, contrary to objects of art, do not have any content and can only be contemplated and therefore described as beautiful, ugly, disgusting, shocking etc. I should add that mere representations that lack content which can be aesthetically appreciated and thus become objects of appraisive claim and not descriptive affirmation, automatically join the order of ordinary objects (no matter of how high craftsmanship).

Therefore, the galaxy and the stars no matter how awesome, the ants and the dirt under your fingernails, are not art. Neither is foul language. Regardless the fact that it has the effect of offense or attraction, depending on age, intellectual level, moral background and level of emancipation, all factors once again irrelevant to art.

Now, after having mixed astrophysics with Hitler and human excrement with Einstein, let’s suppose that you tried to define the term “artist”, or maybe artistic behaviour, (or was it artistic sex life?) or whatever the point was anyway.
You will most certainly be disappointed to find that even though artists manage to manipulate mater in such a remarkable way that it carries meaning from their lonely life in their heads into the heads of other prisoners of the human little brain, they seldom behave in a common way. Your literature about their heroic walk through the hall of life could impress an editor of a monthly magazine for amateur writers. But, take my word for it, many artists make their way through life struggling against the awe of their experience that sometimes get too much to master, and worse, gets too much to manage to share.

You know, there was once - I don’t remember if it was in the 30’s or when exactly - a way to write poetry that was very trendy. It was called “automatic writing”, and it consisted of starting to write in a condition of emotional charge, whatever came to mind, until the writer achieved discharge. Sigmund Freud used it also as a therapy means. Some good poetry came out of few of these writings. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended to avoid this kind of self expression when it is attempted to present serious arguments on a subject most thoroughly investigated by uncountable monsters of philosophy.

P.S “If your work doesn’t get any reaction, if your work is seen as just another ordinary object in the ordinary world of the non artist, then you are not a true artist. You are just one of the masses with perhaps a little talent and a tentative curiosity.”

This is true, I give you that.

Caoimhghin
21 Nov 07 12:49 GMT

This thread started with 'Consciousness implies Responsibility'. Maybe it would be good to get back to basics and look at the relationship between the artist and politics. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Some Notes on Political Art
What is political art? What makes art political?

It is very difficult to define political art. Views on what makes art political can range from the idea that all art is political (i.e. it either implicitly supports or explicitly opposes the status quo) to pointing out, for example, the obviously political murals on walls around Belfast. As a way of narrowing the former and broadening the latter I suggest here a view of political art that uses three categories: Portrayal, Promotion, or Projection.

Portrayal
In the first category ‘Portrayal’ covers art that says ‘this is what happens if, is happening now or happened in the past’. This kind of art describes events or situations that people find themselves in as a result of social or political structures. Any political perspective is implicit in the art but is also free-floating. For example, a painting of a white man whipping black slaves describes a particular situation where the black man may say, ‘Yes! That is how we are treated!’ yet the slave-owner may say, ‘Yes! That is the way to treat them!’ Thus both sides can see the confirmation of their point of view in the work of art.

For the slaves, the ultimate effect of such art may be positive or negative. In a positive sense it may create group awareness and solidarity, or, in a negative sense, it could also consolidate inertia, a feeling that nothing can be done to change the situation. The art styles or movements of Realism, Social Realism and Naturalism could fit into the category of ‘Portrayal’.

Promotion
In the second category of ‘Promotion’ ways and means towards the resolution of the problem are presented. That is, a particular aspect of an event is highlighted over other aspects. This aspect would concentrate on the people or groups who are actively struggling to change the situation in which they find themselves.

Thus one view of an event, that which would encourage others or strengthen an activism already present, is promoted over images of the event that may have the opposite effect. In this case, the politics of representation takes precedence over the representation of politics.

Unlike ‘Portrayal’, this type of art is harder to manipulate from an opposing point of view. The politics is generally explicit and can have a positive inspirational effect. The art styles or movements of Socialist Realism and ‘Political Art’ (e.g. murals, banners, posters etc.) and Social Realism to a certain extent could fit into the category of ‘Promotion’.

Projection
In the third and last category ‘Projection’ refers to art that takes disparate elements and then recombines them to form a new image. It is an art which says ‘This is what could happen or could be if ...’. Art styles or movements such as Surrealism, collage, utopian or visionary images would fit into this category. Such speculative art can have a positive effect of providing inspiration by suggesting ideas that are outside one’s usual ways of thinking, and can be implicitly or explicitly political.

For example, a picture showing the Rock of Cashel (ancient fortress in Co. Tipperary, Ireland) with a Japanese Shinkansen bullet train speeding by may be a jarring conjunction of images but suggests the possibility of a super fast transport system in Ireland. Therefore it has social and economic implications for the Irish State which in turn makes it implicitly political.

However, like in the first category Portrayal, opposing political viewpoints can claim this image for their vision of the future. The same scene would be explicitly political though, if, for example, ‘Workers of the world unite’ was written on the side of the Shinkansen.

Thus it can be seen from the above categories that the representation of particular actions or the inclusion of particular types of text ties an image down to an explicitly political perspective. The past, present and future, with some overlapping, are also covered in this way of seeing or defining political art.

JP
28 Nov 07 23:43 GMT

I find it of personal interest that I attended the same artschool as Caoimhghin, though perhaps 10 years or more earlier that he.
Furthermore, I recognize the emphasis on the politics of art that was prevalent also during my years there. Then I was first exposed to the work of Hans Haacke, an artist I continue to admire greatly. I loved how he would turn on his apparant benefactors to expose how they manipulate art and the artist for their own ends, usually to do with consolidation of their financial and political influence. (In an Irish context this would also have been to do with the affirmation of British military domination and colonialization to "civilize" the ignorant Gaelic savage - an unresolved question even to this day, considering northern Ireland still being a part of the queen's empire).
Indeed art as a symbol of social elitism is a story we are well aware of, through it's long history of patronage by church and state.
Also of interest is the idea of artworks being a mechanism to underpin, or represent, the social mores of the society at any time. One example I remember being the discovery and celebration of the Venus de Milo as a masterpiece of art in victorian times. As you well know, that work represents a mostly undressed woman with no arms. Some would simply say that this image well represents a classic victorian male view of womanly perfection as sexual object who, because armless, cannot physically resist the dominance of the male "of the species", and hence it's popularity at that time - even more so as it is a product of ancient Greece, the root of the civilized Western world, hence a guarantee of truth.
Following this line of manipulation, we enter into the realm of the hipocracy of the artist playing the role of deviant from the norm, yet at the same time helping to legitimize the norm in it's manifestation of financial/political dominance in return for personal recognition and financial security.
It comes back to Caoimhghin's statement of "Consciousness implies Responsibility", and how you relate (or refute) such a thesis - raising the challenge of should the artist think beyond her/his preoccupation with tecnique and process, and consider instead the role of the artist in today's society, and what is, if any, our collective/individial responsibility in respect to manipulation by the powers that be.
Should we instead be coming together to propose an alternative art world that reflects the artist, and not the financier?

Hillel
29 Nov 07 22:46 GMT

Historically you can always look back and see how artists and the tools of their art have furthered political agendas, be it church or state. Strangely, removed by several centuries the commissioned agenda becomes less perceived than the innovation of artists to push their purely artistic aims and ambitions beyond the confines of their assigned tasks. Were there true believers among them? More than likely but the ones we seem to extol were the ones that pushed their own agendas while seemingly working with their sponsors and you really never get the feeling that they truly believed in the politics of their assignments, however like admen and publicists of today they had to make a living.
Most artists I'm aware of are fairly apolitical having other concerns that preoccupy them. They know how the world works yet for some reason artists believe that what they do transcends politics and communicates to another side of humankind that seeks hope and salvation in the wonder and beauty that the world has to give them through their naturally endowed and then heightened and improved upon senses.
When an artist of today, noncommissioned and free to do whatever he or she wants, chooses to convey a political aim, I become highly suspicious of the artist and their art. That includes your Mr. Haacke or the filmmaker Roger Moore or Ben Shaun or the Russian Constructivist poster and pamphlet makers, Mexican muralists and so on and so forth They made and make interesting things and quite often things of beauty and interest but so do the artists and film makers that advertise soap and toothpaste and at least they get a weekly paycheck.
So what's our role as artists? As I've said time and again... to open peoples' eyes, ears, minds to that which eludes them, no political intrigue intended, I'm speaking of pure human experience appreciated to the utmost. If in the end we create some kind of commodity that will be exchanged or qualified by merchants, traders or collectors, that's a thing that's beyond our control. Let them do what they have to do and let the politicians and "propagandizers" do what they must but above all leave the artists alone to continue on their singular paths.

Abby
04 Mar 08 02:26 GMT

Hillel,

I'm so glad you recommended this site to me. Finally a place where people will be honest, although I do agree with your initial statement about this site being pretty tame. Let's turn it up a notch. "Why do I paint," in answer to Mr. Normal; because I am an artist... I can paint... I have the need to express my ideas about our society. I contribute to history and society unlike Mr. Normal who goes along with society and doesn't make his mark.

My biggest pet peeve about Mr. Normal's is when they ask me what I paint, of course. I answer, "Abstract Expressionist oil painting." They say... "So what inspires you to paint what you do?" Ahhhhhh. I just told Mr. Normal I paint abstract expressionist oil paintings, doesn't he get it? I have to calm down when that happens and say to myself. He doesn't know. How could he in our society of bubble-gum rock and fast food? So I help him... I'm bored when he talks about life insurance premiums definately, but most people who ask what you do for a living are just making small talk, but when Mr. Normal asks me why I paint, or what is my inspiration... I think, maybe naively, that he wants to know or he wouldn't have pursued the conversation past what do you do for a living. We need to break down the walls between artist and viewer for a greater understanding and appreciation of art in all its forms. As an artist I do not feel like I'm living a romantic life. Romance doesn't include scraping by by the skin of my teeth every day. I suffer for my art because I must. I didn't have another option in my life. I still don't. I don't know that I would want another life style though.

Hillel
04 Mar 08 17:02 GMT

Abby, you make some very valid points about our obligations as artists to reach out more to the general public. Anybody we can infect even slightly with the art bug has the potential to be a possible buyer of art one day. The massive attendance at blockbuster museum events shows an openness towards art, of course those shows are publicized like crazy. I think the commercial galleries have to take some blame, I'm sure the snooty environments in many of them turn off a lot of people who venture beyond the museum. In any case I agree, we should make the effort, we can only benefit.

Abby
05 Mar 08 19:36 GMT

In response to Anthony... A philosopher.


First of all, I found your arguments very convincing and energetic... perhaps "fuck" flew around a little gratuitously, but if you must... Your arguments seem very strong, but have some fatal flaws.

I agree with you that, "The mad events going on in Quantum Mechanics are art....Art is everywhere and in everything." I whole heartedly agree. I love quantum theory. I participated in a dialectic with an Oxford professor on quantum physics to Aquinas. I have studied Physics and Quantum Theory and Religion with rigor, both in school and as a personal interest. I would love to talk more quantum mechanics or physics with you if you have the time.

However, you say that we are only a part of this particular universe that we inhabit and that we, as artists, are only manipulating that natural existence. First of all, Universe implies everything. There are not many universes. The term universe literally means one song, one entity and all encompassing. So perhaps you need to revise your theory about many universes. Perhaps there are other worlds out there that are inhabited, but they are still all part of the one universe we also inhabit. I do agree that it is possible that there are forms of life out there that maybe more intelligent or less intelligent. We as humans, after all, only use 10% of brain potential... (and those people who use 10% are of the most intelligent of our species). It is interesting to note that humans only use 10% of our brains and 90% of the universe is, as of yet, undiscovered. It remains hidden behind the veil of our untapped mental resources. Furthermore, if we are all part of this one natural universe, as you say, and I agree... then are we not natural art and is the art we create not of the natural universe as well? Of course it is. Our art does not exist independent of this living universe.

I do agree that we have the ability, by virtue of our distinct brains, to manipulate the natural world in order to create art. And what a wonderful ability. We are, as artist's creators. Our art is everywhere in the natural world. You say, "Art is everywhere and in everything," that sounds like God... omnipotent, omnipresent, does it not? Humans have a frontal lobe which is what allows us to constantly have our eye on the coffin as you say. We have the ability to predict the future by virtue of our frontal lobes. All religious asperations stem from our frontal lobes. Our frontal lobes are what allows us to create art... to interpret it in a larger sense and to grasp things like quantum mechanics (things we can't detect with our sense perceptions, but know exist). So as artists in control of the creation of art (all encompassing), what does that mean for us as artists.

I believe it means we are the interpreters of the greater universe. We are the channelers of the information filtering through our minds (our frontal lobes). We are given the lofty prospect of showing the limited world our greater knowledge of the universe and our medium is art. Artists can be anyone who takes on the role of interpreter to the masses. We are the bringers of knowledge to the uniformed populace walking down the corridor of life. (love your metaphor by the way)

So we are not merely manipulators as you say... we are manipulators with a goal... to enlighten.

You follow the statement about artists as merely manipulators with the idea that it may also be that, "he is projecting into the outside world something that he ‘created’ inside his mind." I do disagree with this. We are creators, but we are not creating works independent of the outside world. Everything we create is a manipulation, as you argue, of the outside universe (nature or existence). We are not independent of existence. Things we create do not spring from nothing into existence in our minds (else we really would be gods... the argument of the unmoved mover i.e. the unchanged changer... as a philosopher you know what I mean)

You mention that, "Essentially, [I am} nothing more than an instant of consciousness that is born alone, lives alone and, ultimately, will die alone." How sad that you think this even though your logic in other area's suggest that you do not believe this idea. If art is everywhere and in everything, and we are art(natural art)because we are all part of the universe i.e. our minds and bodies then how can you say we are alone in it (the universe). We are not alone in our minds, we are a part of the whole universe. From a less relative argument, we are still all part of the universe and are all linked by the energy in everything around us and in us (Hello, Quantum physics) energy, quarks, neuclei, atoms, molecules, organisms, people.

Of course every human is different and our bodies are different from one moment to the next... our minds are different (on a scientific basis) from one moment to the next, and yet there is a part of us all that walks down the corridor, and we are all impermanent (please explore the law of impermanence for your self) However, there is the possiblity of an artist in everyone. We are all capable of being interpreters if we only direct our attention inward in order to explain the outside (the microcosm is indicative of the macrocosm). Here is an interesting truth that sums up this idea... "It is on account of emptiness that all things are at all possible," Nagarjuna. If there is the lack of an artist or a creator in someone, it is only because the possibility of being an artist exists and has not yet become realized. You are a good example... After 55 years of existence, you realized your potential as a creator, manipulator, interpreter. You were inherently born an artist. We are all born with the ability, as humans, to create and interpret by virtue of our frontal lobes, but it is our experiences in this universe that lead us down certain paths or to open certain doors at certain times in our lives. The doors were always there for us, just as they are there for everyone to either walk past or open.

"YOU. You burst into a room and find yourself there in all your mental and physical nakedness. You SEE everything about yourself, your deepest, most secret, and most frightening characteristics. You manipulate the materials of existence to create an accurate representation of that you." One of the doors of our lives we all need to open. Who are YOU? I would ask.. are you the sum total of just your deepest or frightening characteristics? I say no, we are not our sense perceptions.. that is constantly changing.. we are not our bodies as they are also changing.. we are not even the same personalities we used to be. For example you are not the same person you were when you were say 19 years old. You are a practicing artist now... an interpreter... a manipulator, but you did not practice art in the form you do now. So who are YOU. Look at the person reading this... Look at the person thinking about this... that is you, and you are part of the whole cosmic universal energy. There is no accurate representation of you unless you are able to represent the entirety of the universe in one piece.

If all this is true, and I believe it, I've seen it, and I live it... then why are you afraid of death. It is not an end... and who is the bastard... the universe that feeds your creativity and puts the doors on either side of you to choose.

Remember, "It is on account of emptiness that all things are at all possible," Nagarjuna. Death is not the end because, on a scientific level... energy is neither created nor destroyed... it only changes form. We are... therefore we are energy... we exist in this universe and therefore we will always be a part of it just in a different form. I'm sorry you are so afraid of death... especially at only 55. You have so much more to celebrate in life to be so cynical. You have art... the universe, in the palm of your hands... manipulate it change it so your happy... Pleeease.

Peace

Abby










Abby
06 Mar 08 15:23 GMT

In response to Anthony... A philosopher.


First of all, I found your arguments very convincing and energetic... perhaps "fuck" flew around a little gratuitously, but if you must... Your arguments seem very strong, but have some fatal flaws.

I agree with you that, "The mad events going on in Quantum Mechanics are art....Art is everywhere and in everything." I whole heartedly agree. I love quantum theory. I participated in a dialectic with an Oxford professor on quantum physics to Aquinas. I have studied Physics and Quantum Theory and Religion with rigor, both in school and as a personal interest. I would love to talk more quantum mechanics or physics with you if you have the time.

However, you say that we are only a part of this particular universe that we inhabit and that we, as artists, are only manipulating that natural existence. First of all, Universe implies everything. There are not many universes. The term universe literally means one song, one entity and all encompassing. So perhaps you need to revise your theory about many universes. Perhaps there are other worlds out there that are inhabited, but they are still all part of the one universe we also inhabit. I do agree that it is possible that there are forms of life out there that maybe more intelligent or less intelligent. We as humans, after all, only use 10% of brain potential... (and those people who use 10% are of the most intelligent of our species). It is interesting to note that humans only use 10% of our brains and 90% of the universe is, as of yet, undiscovered. It remains hidden behind the veil of our untapped mental resources. Furthermore, if we are all part of this one natural universe, as you say, and I agree... then are we not natural art and is the art we create not of the natural universe as well? Of course it is. Our art does not exist independent of this living universe.

I do agree that we have the ability, by virtue of our distinct brains, to manipulate the natural world in order to create art. And what a wonderful ability. We are, as artist's creators. Our art is everywhere in the natural world. You say, "Art is everywhere and in everything," that sounds like God... omnipotent, omnipresent, does it not? Humans have a frontal lobe which is what allows us to constantly have our eye on the coffin as you say. We have the ability to predict the future by virtue of our frontal lobes. All religious asperations stem from our frontal lobes. Our frontal lobes are what allows us to create art... to interpret it in a larger sense and to grasp things like quantum mechanics (things we can't detect with our sense perceptions, but know exist). So as artists in control of the creation of art (all encompassing), what does that mean for us as artists.

I believe it means we are the interpreters of the greater universe. We are the channelers of the information filtering through our minds (our frontal lobes). We are given the lofty prospect of showing the limited world our greater knowledge of the universe and our medium is art. Artists can be anyone who takes on the role of interpreter to the masses. We are the bringers of knowledge to the uniformed populace walking down the corridor of life. (love your metaphor by the way)

So we are not merely manipulators as you say... we are manipulators with a goal... to enlighten.

You follow the statement about artists as merely manipulators with the idea that it may also be that, "he is projecting into the outside world something that he ‘created’ inside his mind." I do disagree with this. We are creators, but we are not creating works independent of the outside world. Everything we create is a manipulation, as you argue, of the outside universe (nature or existence). We are not independent of existence. Things we create do not spring from nothing into existence in our minds (else we really would be gods... the argument of the unmoved mover i.e. the unchanged changer... as a philosopher you know what I mean)

You mention that, "Essentially, [I am} nothing more than an instant of consciousness that is born alone, lives alone and, ultimately, will die alone." How sad that you think this even though your logic in other area's suggest that you do not believe this idea. If art is everywhere and in everything, and we are art(natural art)because we are all part of the universe i.e. our minds and bodies then how can you say we are alone in it (the universe). We are not alone in our minds, we are a part of the whole universe. From a less relative argument, we are still all part of the universe and are all linked by the energy in everything around us and in us (Hello, Quantum physics) energy, quarks, neuclei, atoms, molecules, organisms, people.

Of course every human is different and our bodies are different from one moment to the next... our minds are different (on a scientific basis) from one moment to the next, and yet there is a part of us all that walks down the corridor, and we are all impermanent (please explore the law of impermanence for your self) However, there is the possiblity of an artist in everyone. We are all capable of being interpreters if we only direct our attention inward in order to explain the outside (the microcosm is indicative of the macrocosm). Here is an interesting truth that sums up this idea... "It is on account of emptiness that all things are at all possible," Nagarjuna. If there is the lack of an artist or a creator in someone, it is only because the possibility of being an artist exists and has not yet become realized. You are a good example... After 55 years of existence, you realized your potential as a creator, manipulator, interpreter. You were inherently born an artist. We are all born with the ability, as humans, to create and interpret by virtue of our frontal lobes, but it is our experiences in this universe that lead us down certain paths or to open certain doors at certain times in our lives. The doors were always there for us, just as they are there for everyone to either walk past or open.

"YOU. You burst into a room and find yourself there in all your mental and physical nakedness. You SEE everything about yourself, your deepest, most secret, and most frightening characteristics. You manipulate the materials of existence to create an accurate representation of that you." One of the doors of our lives we all need to open. Who are YOU? I would ask.. are you the sum total of just your deepest or frightening characteristics? I say no, we are not our sense perceptions.. that is constantly changing.. we are not our bodies as they are also changing.. we are not even the same personalities we used to be. For example you are not the same person you were when you were say 19 years old. You are a practicing artist now... an interpreter... a manipulator, but you did not practice art in the form you do now. So who are YOU. Look at the person reading this... Look at the person thinking about this... that is you, and you are part of the whole cosmic universal energy. There is no accurate representation of you unless you are able to represent the entirety of the universe in one piece.

If all this is true, and I believe it, I've seen it, and I live it... then why are you afraid of death. It is not an end... and who is the bastard... the universe that feeds your creativity and puts the doors on either side of you to choose.

Remember, "It is on account of emptiness that all things are at all possible," Nagarjuna. Death is not the end because, on a scientific level... energy is neither created nor destroyed... it only changes form. We are... therefore we are energy... we exist in this universe and therefore we will always be a part of it just in a different form. I'm sorry you are so afraid of death... especially at only 55. You have so much more to celebrate in life to be so cynical. You have art... the universe, in the palm of your hands... manipulate it change it so your happy... Pleeease.

Peace

Abby

Arnold
18 Apr 08 12:21 IST

Back in 1991, an incident occured near the town of Oka, Quebec, here in Canada. The press called it the 'Mohawk Revolt' and you can google it. But what it was is not so important for this discussion.
At the time, I was travelling with my family on the north shore of Lake Superior. To the east was Oka, and an important manifestation of a real issue, to the west was home and studio.
Which brings me to the questions in the topic - 'What and Why'.
A change of venue, to my 'portfolio'...