4 January 2015

Elegant fungi, and the lily-livered docents who squander them

"Although I admire Kant's conception of the beautiful, I worry that its literal interpretation unnecessarily constrains artists' opportunities, while incidentally regulating what art institutions consider art, thus relegating potentially useful artistic actions to alternative institutions, where their limited exposure minimizes their impact. Since remarkable artworks supersede their site and few public works fit indoors, art world hierarchies don't concern me. Still, one cannot ignore the connections between funding, institutions, audiences and continued opportunities. Even if most notable art world events occur first in alternative spaces, they recur in larger institutions as exhibitions or retrospectives, where more people remember and record them. (...)
To achieve what Kant envisioned, I recommend that the art world adopt the twin test of generosity (a gift that is freely given and received without any expectation of return) in lieu of the "beautiful," and non-instrumental (devoid of means-end relationships) instead of "purposiveless" or "useless." Otherwise, practical artworks, however generous and inventive, remain nonart. (...)
To distinguish potentially practical artworks from non-art practical actions, I recommend applying Arendt's 1961 notion of a free act as the concurrence of the "I can" and the "I will," making freely-performed artistic actions invaluable in themselves, independent of expected or desired outcomes. So long as artistic actions are performed freely, the artist (and engaged participants) gains a greater satisfaction from the doing than the outcome, making the capacity to act (the means) more fulfilling than some unpredictable outcome (the ends), even when the originating impulse is purposive. On this level, purposiveness resembles function more than intention, since the former is goal-oriented, while the latter is meaning-oriented. Having a goal and striving to achieve something is indicative of some action done for a purpose. (...)
Purposeful artworks that are performed in a manner intended to resolve particular problems rather than boost sales and/or career, remain no less vulnerable to rejection, failure, or neglect than ordinary artworks. Unlike scientific experiments, an artwork's success depends on spectators. Audience members decide whether to pay attention to and/or validate particular artworks, independent of their success at carrying out their intended purposes. For example, an artwork might achieve exactly what the artist had hoped, but be rejected as an artwork, while it may fail to achieve its intended goal, yet be widely accepted as a terrific artwork. One might find it surprising that neither the desired purpose nor anticipated outcome contributes to a practical artwork's overall success as art. What matters most for artists is the freedom to develop and employ whatever skill sets they have, as well as to carry out those projects deemed worthy of their time."
— Sue Spaid "Spellbound: On Breaking the Spell Cast on Artistic Action" in An Edge Effect/, edited by Bonnie Fortune (2014)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


mon chris