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<eyebeam><blast> another way?

olu oguibe wrote: 

'Theory has to be "experienced" in its proper dimension and it is part
of life! To _practice_ theory is not (should not) to step out of life,
because it is (should be) an open field  of conceptual engineering that
is involved in complex and highly creative development of forms of
survival and fighting. French philosopher Eric Alliez writes about the
"phenomenology of the concept": theory can't be only "understood", it
has to be life experienced, it is a field of sensorial comprehension!'

Ad Rienhardt wrote:

The one thing to say about art is that it is one thing. Art is
art-as-art and everything else is everything else.

Let's step back for a moment. I think the arguements about the place of
theory, which includes, as I see it, arguements for an ethics of beauty,
is based on an ages old misperception (by those in the arts) of a lack
of or continuing need for independent critical discourse. There have
been but a few who have taken on the responsability of whiping the
unruly artist mob of self indulgent diletantes into shape, after they
were loosed on the world by the church, who had kept them in check for
centuries. Until the conceptualists took it upon themselves to police
their own (outside of the art historians who are charged with cleaning
up the messes left by dead artists, and the dealers who groom the lucky
few who get on the ladder of success) philosophers and poets have been
the lonely caretakers of the art discourse. In the past few decades
artists have had to catch up on their philosophy to stay in the
discussion, often at the expense of both art and philosophy (or
linguistics or psychoanalysis etc.). Discussions on "beauty" have become
the arena in which we vie for the prize of arbiter. Will the art
discourse be a part of philosophy, language sciences, psycho analysis,
etc? Or can we as artists find refuge in the pure sciences? Maybe we can
be musicians. They have had some success at avoiding the grasp of other
disciplines. OK, I know we asked for it by our territorial grabs and
desire to play amateur academic, but let's step back. 

It is valuable to remember that, but for a brief moment, the visual arts
of the Judeo/Greek/European lineage have been indentured to their
subject. For centuries it was to Christian scriptures. Then their was
the brief, but for now discredited, modernist period where artists such
as Rienhardt could proclaim that art was something unto itself. (I know
artists who privately talk about visual primacy--speaking herasy by
going against the fact that all is language.) What does this mean? I
think it is simply a yearning for freedom. Let's be clear. We asked for
it! And now artists must contend with what appears to be the need to
justify their art making as either not offending public taste (even
against charges of blasphemy) from the right or against charges of being
nothing more than commodification from the left. Artists are often bad
boys and girls. They would rather play than study. Ethics must play a
part, just as it does in all endeavors, but let's focus on inclusion and
access rather than proscriptions for the art itself. 

Art is indefensible.

Seriously. I have seen over the years a gradual chilling effect as
academic discourse entered the art making process. Artists needed jobs.
They had to teach. As technique became less definable, and theory became
more important, artist/teachers learned to speak theory. Some became
theorists of a sort. Others mimicked the language. Most felt obliged to
justify their work in terms of philosophy or semiology etc. Art
magazines for a period of time stopped taking works of art for their
subject and instead took "subject" as their subject. Then as times got
tough, dropped the theory altogether and just talked about popular
culture as if it were art, in vague generalities as do most popular

Even in this forum, for the most part, works of art are excluded from
the discussion in favor of larger issues. I understand completely that
the artists at the gate are hungry and must be dealt with in a careful
fashion. I do the same. It's called editorial prerogative. 

Lest you think I am claiming to be apart from this, I have no doubts
that my magazine will either move in the direction of popular viability
or fail. Or both. I'll hold out as long as I can with a retreating
guerilla action, but I've started pretty far down the slope. 

I will reveal some secrets. 

Artists often say to one another, if they like a particular piece or
show, "Your work is beautiful." This is complimentary rather than
Kantian. There is a catch here. If you think Peter Schjeldahl's
statement "Beauty happens" is BS, then you are left to join the fray of
the theorists or just go back to your studio. Most of us know that
feminist politics in the 70s saved art from the dustbin of history.
There was a trade off on all sides. We who are old enough remember Chris
Burden's anguish, cutting, burning or shooting himself as the last gasp
of total male domination of the arts. This was real. Theory has been
useful for artists, but mostly by being misread. 

There's got to be another way.

Bill Jones

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