By now you all know that I am interested in how art gets to be Art and whether there is anything other than the ordinary human specialness that an artist has. This in turn brings me in opposition to the apparent establishment view that art is imbued by some sort of invisible talismanic property with the artists channeling it.
Part of the confusion is to my mind due to our woeful sense of causality. We happily believe that our homeopathic remedy made us better. Well we took the pill and we got better, what could be simpler? Well of course people who are poorly are a group that has an overall tendency to recover whether they take pills and potions or not. What the potion has done however is modify how we perceive being ill, it has reassured. It has also changed how we remember being ill after the event.
It is similar with creation. Our universe exists therefore it must have a creator. If it has a creator then that creator must be God. Well let me take you to the planet Bolg, where an eminent Bolg scientist has discovered how to collapse matter. You can give it as many limbs, tentacles and eyes as you wish. Bolg is rather careless and accidentally gives its equipment a much larger pulse of energy than was intended. A bubble of space time is created that expands exponentially extinguishing Bolg and its universe in an instant. As this experimental error develops matter coalesces, stars and planets form and on a certain blue world an ape looks up and wonders why.
Now our creator here just certainly not one we would pray to and indeed has predeceased its creation. It would do us little good if we could study the character and emotions of our creator in this case. Just as religion argues for the primacy of a Creator over the creation, current art thinking argues for the primacy of the artist over the art. That something ineffable flows from the artist into their creation changing its nature. More specifically the intent to create something is the real “Art”and the true moment of creation. If that is the case then merely declaring that the intent is there is sufficient the actual act need not be carried out.
I cannot help think this is a regression back to medieval thought, full of portents and hidden meanings rather than a continuation of the march of reason.
I am oddly reminded of how sympathetic magic works. You curse someone and tell them that you are sticking pins into a wax effigy with a few purloined toenails embedded. The important act here is not the cursing, the snitched toenails or the wax, but the informing of the victim of these acts of malign intent. If you didn’t tell the victim, superstitious or not, nothing would occur. There would be no benefit from a homeopathic pill given secretly. In the same way much art requires for us to be told it is to be considered in that category of objects. We therefore display the object in some context that indicates how we are meant to appreciate it.
So the art here is in the act of informing a viewer of the status of the object. The object itself is largely irrelevant. Artists have always understood this and put fancy gold frames around paintings to separate them from the mundane objects around them. The word for this is of course context. Mr Andre’s bricks would be less worthy of note in a builders yard. I don’t by the way dislike the bricks as they point out rather elegantly the problems of giving primacy to the artist’s deciding act.
So back to causality. That the artist caused the art is not in question. Whether others are caused to appreciate it as such is dependent on information and context. I am, I have to say, only mildly interested in such art, I am more interested in its history and the nature of it coming to be perceived as art than any aesthetic factor. For me art is something that can be appreciated as such without appropriate contextual hints. It all comes back to the skip test. If you put your masterpiece of cutting edge art in the skip without a frame to plinth would someone rescue it just because it was made by a skilled hand and brought visual pleasure?
Now for some art, not mine this time, but someone who was very influential on me and many others. Hugh Ferriss was an architectural draughtsman working in the 1920’s who’s moody renderings of future cities were both influential upon real buildings and many a dystopian setting for sci-fi films.
There are Futurist influences here and Ferriss worked with architect with connections to the Bauhaus. I always think that despite the moodiness and hints of later Nazi architecture Ferriss’ drawings are optimistic in that “science will conquer all” manner.
If you put modern cars in this no one would feel it was a dated image. It is dated 1930 just as the foundations of the Empire State building were being laid.
He was a master of cheating the perspective to get both ground level and the giddy heights to read convincingly. The dramatic imagined shadows from up-lighting and the base of the building dissolving in the light are wonderful.
Here again the streets glow, but oddly there are no individual lights and the monolithic buildings have no lit windows.
One of his more futuristic imaginings. Odd that the international modernist style lost such ambition and failed to produce any unified vision. This is why our cities are collections of disparate objects that have little connection one to another.
A more restrained drawing of the Hoover dam, I love they lonely figure.
I found this which I hadn’t seen before. It shows how he laid out and resolved his compositions. He is using curved perspective on the crosswise horizontals and linear for the diminishing edges. Also no perspective at all on the verticals.
There was concern at that time in New York as to how tall buildings would reduce the daylight in the streets below so a formula was devised to make the buildings step back as they rose higher. Hugh Ferriss was asked to do drawings to illustrate their effect on the building masses. These were later published with other work in The Metropolis of Tomorrow
I am off to France for what I hope will be an orgy of painting and drawing so next post will show if I was firing on all or any cylinders after my long break!