Art and the Master Signifier?


If you listen, not to what artists do, but those who devote themselves to talking about what artists do (and not all who engage in this are Gatekeepers—though criticism lends itself– all too seductively– to Gatgekeeping), it sounds like a search for—an almost religious quest—for just that: a master signifier.

Who or what then is the master?

But what artists (and I use this in its most inclusive sense, in terms of the media employed: visual, performance, literary, musical… and fusions of all these.. )–what artists do, again and again over time, is defy and abrogate and replace the reigning master. Those who don’t, in time, are left behind, left out. Artists who no longer live and create in their own time, in the communal time they inhabit, are they still artists?

And where is the master?

Is this contradiction, this incommensurate desire, the search for that which does not and cannot exist, and its value… its authority, authenticity, embedded in the negative—in the power to hold together the impossible wish with its acknowledged failure?

Such that, the artist ask, not for belief, but the capacity to entertain the contradiction—to maintain the tension between belief and … not credulity… not reality.. but whatever that reality might be which stands outside the illusion…nothing less, than the capacity to hold the tension… drawn and quartered, the draft horses chained right foot and arm, to left foot and arm, and the Master Signifiers lashing the whip!

Will the work… as you enter its aura… hold?

Hold the tension?

… that they cannot rip you apart… sunder your body.

That’s all I ever hope for from any work of art.

Such a small thing in a difficult world… to be an artist.

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