The Impossibility of Realist Art

This is a comment to the post below–rebloged from Alien Ecologies.

The ‘realism’ of the artist was never that of the scientist, even when their work drew on geometrical perspective, was colored by optics, and anatomically rendered. The pictorial plane never truly “represented.” What was suggested there has always been both more and other than the named subject, even when following conventional rules and stripped of other worldly intentions (see Hubert Damisch: A Theory of /Cloud/ for a case study of development of internal resistance to pictorial realism from Correggio to Cezanne).
The moment an artist accepts what they know to be true–and let’s that realization influence what they do (even more so when meticulously following realist conventions, because the contradiction between the claim to representation, and the dependence on these conventions is all the more disturbing), there will be a desire to deal with the fact of that contradiction–in the work itself. This is not a flight from reality–material or otherwise, but commitment to it. There is no art without the “meta.’ Naive realism simply chooses to let illusion stand for the real, without calling attention to it. I would go so far as to suggest that this contradiction, the failure of representation, is the generative engine that drives change. I think that can be said for abstract, ‘non-representational’ art as well, with the fault lying, not between the claim to a ‘subject’ that exists in the material world and the pure fabrication that is the art, in the failure to entirely reduce the aesthetic object to the  picture plane, or surface form and matter of 3 dimensional works. There is just no way to exclude the viewer, who is no mere observer, but actively participates–enters the work and moves through it–creating something like a virtual reality that changes with every viewer, across cultures and spans of time.


55 Days of Occupy Philly: Day 21

October 26, 2011
60 – 42 Partly cloudy


I will be posting these for each of the 55 days of Occupy Philly on Dilworth Plaza, from October 6, 2011 to November 30, the night of our eviction.

To view all posts to date, click: 55 Days of Occupy Philly.

Letter to City/State/Nation/World…Dear Ones …
     … among the stars, winding through back alleys
     boardrooms backyards fields plowed & fallow
     shattered glass we woke 

     last night we woke to a child’s cry
     to relieve ourselves     from dreams
     to the smell of smoke      to drums
     to helicopters in morning mist      to old men 
     foraging for rags and tobacco butts rich
     men setting the alarms lockstepping minds
     vaulting secret desires 

Dear World… 
     …last night we called 
     for clarifying questions, concerns of state amended 
     wings to woolen coats defied the northern wind 
     blew our tents like flags across the square, sang 
     songs unheard since the first
     king first 
     sent our children to slaughter our neighbors
     shackled our labor, heaped 
     wheat in towers while the people starved

Dear Wheeling Galaxies…
     … your billion sons & daughters
     on this speck of earth reclaim our commons
     throw off the shame of ownership, the prison state, release 
     love’s body, make all worlds 
     a home for all, hold 
     all in common – refuse!
     to end this song, refuse – to end
     this poem, this occupation – here
     begin again, here --
     here on the Commons of a thousand cities
     to begin again we rise, we rise again like 
     Adam in the garden of desire!


Is there a Capitalist Aesthetics?

In reading some of the essays and criticism on HYPERALERGIC, an idea began to form…  don’t know where to begin with it. I mean, the idea that there is an aesthetic force to capitalism that has been internalized, infusing and corrupting the machinery that guides artistic vision & produces art. I mean something more and other than marketing–how the utterly corrupted gallery to investor pipeline determines what and who will be recognized and rewarded, and who and what will be rejected. Yes, that’s a part of it–in as much as artists are influenced by their belief that this is the, or even ‘a,’ measure of success; I’m thinking of something deeper, placing capitalism in the operational place in the visionary machinery occupied by kitsch for Clement Greenberg. There was clearly something I was reacting to in Greenberg—his capitalist historicism–the idea of progress in art and how it serves to first exploit and than erase everything and everyone outside the privileged circle.

I’ll have to give this more thought.