For generations, artists in the Euro-American traditions, like ancient Greek heroes, accepted the idea of posterity–the hope for an enduring place in history and myth, that they, and their work, might defy mutability–hope for a kind secular immortality; artists and poets might die, but art and poetry was forever. On the brink of collective human suicide–and even if we should survive our human-made catastrophes, it will be but for a blink of the universal eye–who can believe in such a thing, now?
I’ve been thinking about this for some time. My work will never achieve an enduring status, and even if it did–what posterity…? when, in a few generations, there will no humans left on the planet? And in the immensity of time, before the sun consumes the inner planets as a red giant, who can maintain the illusion of a lasting memory, of a lasting anything? What then, can take the place of that old fantasy–dead as the gods who belonged to that vanished world? What, but change itself? Like Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Seed. Rather than imagining, how works of art might endure, think of them in terms of what they do, as themselves, agents of change–which they are. As works of art and poetry have always been… done?
Lubricants to slide us another step into a future we can only know when we get there. The only past worth saving, is what will remain as we break the chains that bind us to it, the past that will survive, because it changes with us in a future we create together.
Stuff on the web is forever. I lost the files with most of the photos of work made before 2016. Typing up journal entries from our Wells Fargo trial, there was mention of a paining I did soon after: the broken nosed 3 foot (My Master’s Voice RCA dog that I used as a model at the Ox. I stuck torn up pieces of the subpoena’s from the trial to that piece, and called it Subpoena Dog. I gave it as a gift, so couldn’t take another photo of it… but when I Googled, Subpoena Dog Willard Art–there it was! #133, from March, 2013. 32×22, Acrylic on Masonite–the rough side.
The mothers milk of the State is the Blood of Martyrs 36×27
…Threw Down their Spears
40″ x 24″ Cardboard, string, dirt, wood, acrylic on Masonite. Another early piece, from December of 2012. This was a leap forward in gaining confidence in what I was doing.
View more work at Saatchi Art, and on my web portfolio: ART BY WILLARD For photos on this blog, click MY ART on the right panel and scroll down.
Some variation in wording. I’ve gone with what I’ve heard on the street–Assata Shakur’s words come alive in the throats of comrades, rather than searching for the “authentic” dead letter original.
Just finished Samuel R. Delaney’s The Motion of Light on Water: Sex and Science Fiction. Writing in the East Village, 1957-1965.
Will take me a long time to find words… I can’t remember a book that touched me, took hold of me like this… wrenched me, wrung me out.
I was born in 1941, Delaney in ’42. I was a child and came of age in the Midwest: Chicago, Kansas City, summers in east central Michigan. Delaney, in NYC. So very different–but so much of the external social climate of a childhood in post war America, the 40’s and 50’s–so much, the same. What we shared, was the bloody sword that slices the body from desire–that creates what he called “the split subject”…
” … the space between the two columns (one resplendent and lucid with writings of legitimacy the other dark and hollow with the voices of the illegitimate)–that constitutes the subject, it is only after the Romantic inflation of the private into the subjective that such a split can even be located.”
Like Delaney, I was looking to art and writing to negotiate the chasm, but shaking off the dressing of ‘legitimacy’ was so much harder, took so much longer–the weight of the Midwest was suffocating, and sex was at the center of it, the poisoning of desire that makes the body itself an empty vessel, spiritually empty, trying to belong to something utterly alien to me, and failing and failing and failing…an impoverishment of that spirit–which is the life of the body.
It can’t be a coincidence, that I returned to making art after 40 years, at the same time that I was able to embrace sexual desires that had been latent, but buried …. for at least that long. It’s no good being coy! Name them. You have to name them, Delaney says. If fucking is good — so is sucking cocks! Or wherever else you body wants to take you!
Forty years — that should have been a wilderness — not a desert, but a rain forest paved over. Like weeds in the cracks of concrete, something kept pushing through, pushing out into the light. Forty years…
… so many lost lives, so much damage, so many scars.
As I clicked to post this… it came to me, that I have a whole series of paintings and drawings of broken concrete… how the psyche seeks to find bodily expression. You do these things, and don’t know why.
No one could have greater regard for the value, and necessary autonomy of creative work, than me, but art doesn’t exist outside of political reality, and an artist, of whatever medium, who disregards how their work is employed, will be themselves complicit in the uses to which their work is put.
Yes, I’m thinking about the musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra–who go to Israel to bath in the blood of murdered Palestinian children.
This is so terribly troubling for me, because I hold the music they serve, and all of the arts, in such high regard.
Because they have refused to accept their own agency, and allowed the machinery of economic “necessity” to determine what they will, and will not do, they defile the art they are devoted to, and themselves with it.
Better there be no Great Philharmonic. Better they ply their trade busking on the street. Better shut down the monstrous Kimmel Center–temple of money and poisoner of art and artists. The more money it takes the make a work of art, or performance, the greater the pollution.
In this world, the best artists will perform for the people, make their art from trash on the street.
Capitalism defiles everything
Nothing can remain Sacred in this world, until we cleanse it of the disease of Capitalism.
Why is it so hard to find committed, radical/anarchist artists–committed, both to making art, AND to working together to find ways to make art outside the capitalist, gatekeeper, gallery to investor system? Cause no one can do this alone.
One of the factors in what makes me so discouraged, and depressed in my efforts to make art.
It can’t be just talk. It has to be action–discovering, creating through action. It has to begin with saying: we can’t do this anymore! We can’t work within the system anymore! Enough!
And then–looking at what we CAN do–and doing it!
Though the material and social problems involved are unique to each medium and form–this is something that should be addressed by artists of all kinds–dancers, theater people, poets, musicians –together, as a collectivist work.