#778, and Judging Value in Ones Own Work

#778 follows the text. 22″ x 26″ Acrylic on stretched canvas.

Subjectivity in judging art. How does one judge one’s own work?

I see ‘the viewer,’ not as singular, but as a collective–a whole cultural constellation filtered through each individual, so while each sees as an individual, we also see through the eyes and mind lent to us by their culture, in a particular historical moment.

Subjectivity is complex and inclusive, which means it’s possible to develop our capacity to make judgements, which, while not being “objective,’ are much larger than what one usually means by “subjective.” Such judgements are not fixed verdicts–as they change (or rather, what they point to changes), as culture changes, but good critics–rare as they are–know this.

John Berger. Hubert Damisch.

My question speaks to this. In assessing the value of one’s work, doesn’t there cling to our judgement, a remnant of belief (trust, would be a better word)… that we are able to discern a value that is not so limited, that is not chopped and diced into disconnected individual ‘subjectivities,’ the way we are taught to see ourselves in late capitalism, value and meaning that is inclusive, an emergent vision of some part of what it means to be human in the world?

#778.JPGView more work at SaatchieArt,
on ArtFinder, and
on my web portfolio here ART BY WILLARD
For photos on this blog, click MY ART on the right panel and scroll down.

Advertisements

How does an artist judge their own work?

This is how I would answer that question.

What most consistently matters to me is where this piece is taking me, so my liking, or judging a work to be good, is never entirely about that work–but something I see before me, something that doesn’t yet exist–or hasn’t been realized (as in, made real). That may be something I don’t see until later, after I’ve made–maybe–many many more pieces. Finding the almost hidden signs that mark the trail. I find it most satisfying when those are the pieces that others are drawn to — like, ah! they get it!

Imagine having the entire oeuvre of an artist before you, seeing each piece in the order of its making for the first time, and trying to suss out what will come next, or what will represent the apex of their life work, never knowing if that point will ever be achieved, whether the next piece will be a detour, a dead end, from which the artist never returned, but continued to turn out work that failed ever again to realize the promise of what they had done before–it’s like that, only I’m the artist. THAT describes the character of my anxiety about my own work. Nothing that anyone else will see till my work is over.

There’s a Yeat’s quote, along those lines–I believe he writing about William Blake. “In the beginning of important things—in the beginning of love, in the beginning of the day, in the beginning of any work, there is a moment when we understand more perfectly than we understand again until all is finished.”

Edit

The art is not in the painting

images1

One

The art work is an eidolon. It exists in the memory and experience of those who have seen the object that engendered it. It is not the physical object. The eidolon is as powerful as the number of people who have viewed, read or heard it, and carry it with them. The power of the eidolon is that of a shaper. It alters and shapes perceived reality. Its power is cumulative and collective.

Two

The artist views a face, a garden, a city street, patterns in broken pavement, an image in a dream: hears tone and timber in a voice, birdsong, wind: feels in their own body how bodies move — or all of this and more in the torrent of words that surround them. This is the compliment of what might become the eidolon, but is not yet. It is only now a private vision, a kind of pain, unease, something that does not want to remain private, where it will become a disease, a symbiant that may fade and die—or kill its carrier… or find voice and body, form and duration in the thing we misname, as ‘art.’ It first becomes the eidolon as the artist takes it in, standing aside even as they make it, to see, listen, move beside it as it moves from their body, into its becoming. The artist may feel this as healing—but what it heals, what it saves them from, is the unborn thing, the art that found no becoming in the world, where it gathers power and being in the view of others.

 

Artists, Class, Revolution

Walking thoughts… ideas come to mind, walking here and there and back: to the el, the wine store, to the Fresh Grocer. Sometimes they kick off something that comes back to me. A couple days ago, I was thinking about artists—not ART, artists. About making a living (or at least, paying for art materials), in a capitalist system, when one is a confirmed, convicted, solidarity-convinced anti-capitalist. And it occurred to me, that one could look at the problems through the lens of class—that the structures and machinery of class reproduce themselves on particular strata, and this seemed particularly helpful to me in understanding what artists deal with.

The connecting point in these thoughts, was meritocracy—how, because class is not like castes, frozen across generations for all time, but somewhat permeable, it’s easy to ignore how class, in itself, is as unchanging as an South Asian caste system. That individuals are able to climb the ladder, does nothing to overthrow the range of beliefs that justify class inequalities for those who benefit from them, or to offer serious challenge to the ideologies that use those beliefs.

What beliefs? The ‘natural’ superiority of men… (white men), is way up there at the top: patriarchy and Euro-Anglo-American racism–used to excuse, what otherwise would make what capitalism, colonialism, slavery, have done, and continue to do, to the mass humanity, intolerable. What does that have to do with, meritocracy? With art? With the capitalist class system?

Everything.

Capitalism creates, maintains, and perpetuates inequality. All the way back to the Adam Smith, this has been acknowledged, and because it so flies in the face of the most minimally developed sense of justice, is addressed in all the ideological variants that would defend and promote capitalism. For Adam Smith—it was the Invisible Hand, which, (grossly misused since) would correct the worst abuses, and prevent capitalism from becoming what it has, in face, become. But nothing has been more useful, or done greater violence, the social Darwinism and eugenics. Here was the perfect foil, the perfect answer, to justify belief in the inferiority of the masses, and if an individual here and there, rose up and proved themselves superior to their birth—the genetic mythology perfectly accounted for it, and supported those who would protect the superior races and individuals, while justifying their suppression, and attempts to control, or better, if they proved less than useful and docile–eradicate the untermenchen.

How perfectly the Art World recapitulates this! With its gallery to investor pipeline, a gatekeeper system, meant to identify the Elite, and (hopefully) erase from memory, if not from life itself all the outsiders! Women! Blacks! Colonials! A Patriarchal system (where are the women from how many generations past?) Where are non-Euro artists and their work, but as appropriated by the (even if late-acknowledged) Masters? There is such thing, as ART, let alone, an “Art WORLD!” … if it is not as varied and multiple as there are worlds and peoples! If it doesn’t crash through and DESTROY the gatekeepers and their system!

Those were my walking thoughts… how, I asked myself. .how is it possible, for anyone who calls THEMSELVES an artist—to accept this system? To define their idea of ‘success’ by it’s terms? To not throw themselves into the struggle to create—to IMAGINE… as artists do.. a new and better world?

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.

 

Breaking free from the Art System

images

I want to post a second comment I left on CLCLARK’s blog on Luhmann’s system theory, Systems Serve only Themselves. This has been a concern of mine for some time, expressed in several previous posts.

I see several problems with art as an autopoitec system. The first being, that ‘art’ is an artificial construct. For this, it might be enough if it were more narrowly defined, say… “Euro/Anglo Art.” It’s been a project of art history to treat art as a universal—even while concentrating almost exclusively on European traditions until the assimilating of Japanese, Chinese, African and “primitive” styles by European artists forced the door open to the rest of the world. This greater inclusiveness, however, was more in the nature of colonizing the European idea of art as a universal, drawing on products, which, in their own cultures, served a wide range of activities, and were in no way part of something, neither their makers nor those  who these objects served, thought of as belonging to an autonomous system analogous to a Western idea of ‘art,’ a process not unlike the transformation imposed on European religious objects in the development of the idea (or system) of art in the West.

Also, as autopoitic systems are differentiated from their environment, but subject and responsive to outside perturbations, these responses can be absorbed in their development. With organisms, other forms can be physically absorbed and incorporated: viruses, mitochondria. The point I’d make here, is that what we mean by ‘art,’ is not just a system responding to other systems, but one—perhaps even more than any other—that has incorporated them into its DNA. The Western ‘art system’ co-evolved with capitalism, patriarchal institutions, hierarchical value coding, in such a way that these are more than external systems that use or perturb it, but are embedded in its generative structures.  This is what informs my question about finding a place as an artist—outside that system. Escape from the controlling subject: “Art.” Deteritorializaion from the master subject and its self-cloning powers. Thinking of Deleuze… escape from the root, to the rhizome!

 

Revolutionary Narrative

images

Revolutionary Narrative… what makes a story that does more than rearrange the conventions we use to reinforce our assumptions about the world? How do we find our way to stories that refuse to confirm our expectations–but rather, shatter them with the unexpected–not simply of ‘incident’… of what ‘happens,’ but of the very structures of reality?

Someone I once knew challenged the merit of Joyce’s Ulysses because it doesn’t exist as a completed whole. His argument went something like this: in the thousands of minor and some not so minor differences in the existing manuscripts and proofs, there is no way to decide what a definitive, authorial edition would look like. What we have, then—is a collective assemblage representing no single aesthetic vision, and therefore, does not exist as a unity. Setting aside arguments for how collective, even accidental productions, might come together as unified systems—which is how I would have responded at the time—the more basic, and unexamined assumption here, is the idea of unity itself—that there can ever be such a thing as a ‘whole.’

There is no such thing as ‘a’ novel. Or poem. Or story or… as a single, aesthetically (or otherwise) coherent, systematically organized structure or system, such that every part relates to every other to create a unified, and unifying whole. And it is this, not because there are as many readings as readers, or because every possible interpretive translation (all interpretations are translations) is necessarily limited, that we can never comprehend a literary production as a whole—as convincing as these arguments might be—but because there is no such thing. It does not exist. That is not to say, Joyce’s Ulysses doesn’t exist. It does. In different versions, and each version is made of parts that are always greater than any hypothetical, always inconceivable whole. I say ‘inconceivable,’ not that we can’t conceive of the possibility of an aesthetic whole—but that it will be impossible to point to what that might actually be. Sort of like the way we talk about God. Imaginable in general, but inconceivable in the particular. Or for that matter, how we think of collectives of power… of the State…which has more than a little in common with the way we think of God.

The End of the Genre Wars — Please!

The Critical Task

images

from January 2010

One can only hope for readers who notice the cracks you’ve left, and the light that shines through from the other side.

I’ve been thinking about the Trace. As through a cloud chamber an energized particle passes, ionizing the cloud medium, marking the path of the particle–a trace that is not itself the moving particle that made it, but its sign. So a poem, a work of art. What is left on the page, the canvas, resonating in our hearing: the Trace of the encounter that is its meaning. An absence marked, or mark of what is absent.
The critical task, both necessary and impossible, is to evoke through a second level encounter with the Trace (the Thing left to mark the Absence… the Lacanian Real ?) — the shape of the relationship between the remnant and that which is no longer there and cannot be reclaimed, renamed, recounted. A second Trace, a second Absence.

Maddie Crum reviews Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island

aepyornis-subfossil-shell-fragments

Satin Island
by Tom McCarthy
Knopf, $24.00
Published Feb. 17, 2015

“Last year Tom McCarthy wrote thoughtfully and passionately against the merits of Realism — that is, the mode of writing that prefers to describe events straightforwardly, under the pretense that such a style conveys truth more accurately than, say, stories about magicians or time travel. He dismisses the latest crop of Realists lauded by critics, namely Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose My Struggle is said to weave the epic and the quotidian together in the space of a single paragraph. Instead, McCarthy praises writers such as William S. Burroughs, whose photography keenly shows the approach he takes in his writing. Burroughs cuts up photos of city streets and reassembles them, forming fragmented images and explaining, “Consciousness is a cut-up; life is a cut-up.”

Read her review on the Huffington Post.