Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is This True?

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"Could reality come into direct contact with sense and consciousness, could we enter into immediate communion with things and with ourselves, probably art would be useless."

Bergson

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10 comments:

nothinghypothetical.com said...

I don't see how. Even those persons who lived in a time where participation in representations was the ordinary, art was in fact a means of that participation.

Today's art with its insistence that representations are idols without participation, would certainly be pointless. However, here I am speaking only of truly modern art.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

Hmmm...I wonder if the author might mean something more direct even than that which was experienced back when participation in representations was the ordinary. I wonder if the author might be refering to a kind of completely mystical/intuitive/telepathic (not that these are all the same thing--I'm strugging to find the right term!)union in whose light art would seem somehow regressive?

What do you think?

nothinghypothetical.com said...

The author might be getting to that, but if we accept the premise that the cat is out of the bag (and can't be put back in, and probably shouldn't be) as far as returning to a time of participation in representations, then we must move forward using our imaginations to final participation (ala Owen Barfield).

But cavemen made cave paintings of bulls. That's art, though not art in the modern since because art in the modern sense pre-supposes that no participation can happen in representations. Art has become vulgar (though it is not doomed to be so, and can be sacrementalized) and concerns itself with the self.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

I will have to think on this one; I love a lot of contemporary art, and feel that I do participate in it on a deep level. I appreciate this conversation; thank you!

nothinghypothetical.com said...

The question is, what are you participating with? I'd argue it isn't a representation because modern artists (iconographers perhaps aside) don't believe they are facilitating participation.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

I think I am participating in shared wonder expressed through color, shape, etc. Have you read PICTURES AND TEARS? It shows how nonrepresentational art can be very moving.

nothinghypothetical.com said...

I've never read it, but given my very limited understanding of modern art (AA class in college and a COM class that had a section on visual signaling) the premises invalidate the thesis.

In fact, the COM class in particular dealt with the biological/neurological study of color and form. That I can put certain shapes in a certain arrangement in certain colors and cause some primitive facility of the brain to react as if I had seen, say, food, or something sexually arousing, isn't the same thing as participation.

In fact, I would argue that it's dangerously close to manipulation. Now you can consent and even enjoy being manipulated (you can even manipulate yourself... as anyone who has ever put on a blues record when they were sad, has done; myself included). That doesn't change the causal relationship in the experience.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not so much arguing with you as trying to wrestle with intentional causation in participation. Has human consciousness changed such that it is no longer possible to participate in shared representations? If we employ imagination (as Owen Barfield suggests) are we merely simulating participation?

Anonymous God-blogger said...

Well, I have to confess I know nothing about Bergson. Just speaking from my intuition, though, positing that nonrepresentational art is manipulation represents a slippery slope--is jazz a manipulation? And come to think of it, why isn't representational art manipulation as well? I don't know if the following blog entry from a few years ago might help clarify the way I see it, but here it is, an extended quotation:

Saturday, December 13, 2008
Meaning/Suspicion of Art
"Many religious people, bearing in mind the Second Commandment's prohibition against the making of images, tend to be suspicious of art. Many more have a particular dislike for modern, abstract art. Yet one has only to look at the frost on a windowpane or at dewdrops spangled on a spiderweb, or to study a cloud or a handful of sand, to realize that our Creator God is not only an artist, but an abstract artist par excellence. He seems to have a passionate interest in pure color, in mere line, in sheer energy, and in the fundamentals of texture and shape. He likes geometrical patterns, but He also likes randomness. He enjoys stripes and splashes and dots and whole fields of plain paint. He appears to love form and design for their own sake. Lay down an empty picture frame on your lawn, and you have a work of pure abstraction--that is a painting that represents nothing but itself.

True, the things of nature are not without symbolic power. Grass which 'is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire' (Matt. 6:30), can become a symbol of transcience. But is is also simple grass. Dawn can be a symbol of renewal, but it is also merely dawn. God cannot be called a representational artist, for when He created the world and everything in it He was not copying anything. He was not depicting or representing any other reality, for there was no other reality except Himself. All His creations were but emanations of the inner workings of His own spirit.

This is the way of the abstract artist. While the representational artist attempts to show, more or less acurately, what the eye sees, the abstract artist is not so much interested in what the eye sees as in how it sees...Abstract art is a picture of the inner eye or heart of the one who looks. Or better: it is a picture of the looking itself.

If the abstract artist has one real point of contact with the objective world, it is his medium. The medium itself fascinates him. 'Let there be light!' said god, and in the same way the artist says,
'Let there be paint!' God's question to Job--'What is the way to the abode of light?'--could serve as the ideal motto for the abstract artist, whose whole preoccupation is with the inherent mysteries of light, paint, canvas. To the true abstractionist, paint is like music: precious for its own sake, quite apart from any cognitive meaning. It is like the eyes of someone we love: what do they mean? The very question is demeaning; they mean nothing but themselves. That is, their meaning is too large for expression. It is not that such meaning is vague; rather it is too powerfully particular. As Felix Mendelssohn put it, 'The meaning of music is too specific for words.'

from The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason

nothinghypothetical.com said...

Actually I have a greater problem with someone who attempts to present "realism", because they inherently objectify (that is, they "other") the subject matter.

I think of most abstract art as a direct result of "realism" and much of it attempts to grapple with the problems "realism" created in art. In that sense I appreciate the tremendous effort some modern artists have committed to the task.

In particular I think impressionists are some of the least manipulative artists and closer to my understanding of participation than realism.

True abstract art presents some philosophical problems for me, but no more than the aforementioned realism.

I wish we lived near each other as I'd love to visit a few galleries together and discuss this at length with a suitable cup of tea.

Email me sometime. ddickens at gmail dot com

Anonymous God-blogger said...

That would be fun although I don't know much theory--mostly just my own reactions!