Category Archives: theory of art

Artistic nihilism: The Matrix, a miasma in the air, or addicts and drug pushers?

I am keen to begin this new phase, here at Studio 14 in the Quarry, where I will do art instead of multiple crafts and services. In spite of money worries, which most of the crafts have not helped anyway.
In between petty concerns (such as attending to three boomerang pets) I’m having all sorts of ideas.
I hope to keep a blog as I go, on the ideas as they unfold. And a blackboard which I photograph as I sketch and jot thoughts down in chalk – real (black) blackboards and real chalk are good! (The solvents in whiteboard markers put me off, even though the whiteboard is seductively smooth.)
Media: probably acrylics on:
– ply/hardboard, possibly cut out and multi-layered for 3d effect?
– conventional canvas stretched on conventional frames? (how strange!:)

– reinforced plaster sheets, carved and painted

— illuminated book-like sheets. – writing surrounded by images and decoration; or an image surrounded by textual marginalia.

– ferrocement garden walls, carved in relief.
As usual with me, the medium complexifies and threatens to engulf the message – but i wont let it this time! A nice balance and dialectic instead…
The art will be non-ironic, romantic, in opposition to the Zeitgeist, naturally. Done outside the walls of the establishment’s opium dens of narcissistic nihilism.
How will the art world react to what I do? It probably won’t. But whatever I do I must keep myself ‘clean’ – the opiates are poison to everything I want to do with art. The decadence and philosophical bankruptcy of the art establishment has (mostly) put me off doing art for 42 or so years; but now at last I think I can do positive art and not be contaminated or tarred with the nihilistic brush, nor be discouraged and give up before I start…
I nearly did give up before I started, yet again, on Saturday, after almost no response to my post on art and then I looked at one or two Youtube clips on the subject ‘What is art’, which REALLY depressed me – I felt that anything and everything I might try to say with art will be viewed through the lense of subjectivism ; nothing will be see as more than self-expression, nothing will be taken to seriously REFER to something the artist believes to be objectively real and worthy of thinking about. All a person sees from within the mental bubble of subjectivism is the finger, whether it is being pointed at the moon above or the mud below.
Then later in the day I saw a new metaphor which is i think truer. I had been seeing the Zeitgeist or spirit of the age, the prevailing paradigm, as a sort of miasma we all have to breathe, and which I would somehow have to fight everywhere at once. But I think it is much more like a drug (the ‘blue pill’) which is pushed in the schools, the playgrounds, in books and plays and films, a drug individuals may or may not swallow (often too young to know its nature of course – hooked before they know any better. We have all been  more or less affected by it, so we are all either users or ex-addicts trying to stay clean.
But there is no irresistible miasma, thank God.
So, if I am careful, I can keep myself  ‘clean’ wherever I am, and then instead of fighting the whole drug empire, the whole self-perpetuating interlocking system of errors, I can just keep an eye out for addicts who have bottomed out and want a healthier life, and offer them the Antidote, the Red Pill, which dispels the personal miasma,  which allows them to be well and see clearly again. Or speak to young people who have not yet been hooked. Or just keep ‘singing outside the city walls’, and let those with ears hear.
The Zeitgeist drug is of course a complex cocktail of philosophy and art, and it is supported by social-financial structures which finance an army of pushers. Fortunately it isn’t the ONLY game in town, not yet! It’s not like the Matrix, where we are all literally jacked into the Machine. There are other drugs, and there is still good food and water (ok, and coffee) to be had.

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Filed under musings by the wizard, philosophy, the Quarry Arts Centre, the Zeitgeist, theory of art

What is Art and why do it?

For about fifty years I’ve asked this question, off and on. Maybe I’d have done better off just to DO it, but… ‘the philosopher is strong in this one’.

moe 4295 CROPPED

So, ‘Art’ was one thing I found very slippery to define, so I kept worrying away at it, even while I avoided doing it. (Acknowledgements required: When I was a Christian I found Hans Rookmaaker’s ‘Modern Art and the Death of a Culture’ helpful in allowing me to do at least a bit of art while still shackled to the evangelical imperative; and more recently (though I am not an Ayn Rand disciple) the ‘Romantic Manifesto’ by Ayn Rand. Her argument that art is the expression of a sense of life obtained through a philosophy of life is very clear.  Also (though I find Schopenhauer’s general attitude and pessimism hateful) ‘The World as Will and Representation’ has some good things to say about art as a means to ascend through the vivid perception of the particular to be the ‘pure, will-less, painless, timeless’ perception of the transcendent and general. And Robert Pirsig’s life-changing ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, really all about art, really did change my whole life; as did Nietzsche, despite his proto-nihilism.)

Now I feel I am brimming with answers, but mostly hungering to just do it and let the answers inform the art. Happy state, to be guarded against all that would divert this conative  energy into lesser tasks and diversions of all kinds! Narrow is the Way that leads to the enchanted land of Art… ‘O afternoon of my life! What have I not given away that I might have one thing: this living plantation of my thoughts, and this dawn of my highest hope!’ (Nietzsche’s Zarathustra)

So, while the ebook soundtracks upload for about my last ebook upload customer (touch wood), I’ll say what Art is. IMHO.

Art is being vividly conscious in the World, not on autopilot, sleepwalking, but intentional, conscious and self-conscious, and communicating something of what you sense  (see, feel, hear, taste, imagine, conceptualise, understand, intuit) when in that heightened – enchanted – state.

Or, as Robert Pirsig says, ‘Art is high-quality endeavor’.

But a precondition for high-quality endeavour of any kind is a high-quality structure of knowledge and belief, within which to frame that lucid awareness and that endeavour. This is where art can be ‘high’ or ‘low’, depending on the quality, breadth and depth of the structure of ideas in which it is set.

What has happened to ‘fine’ Art, when so much of the production of modern artists in galleries seems so ugly, silly or pointless to people who take pride in doing high quality work but would never call themselves ‘artists’?

Well, first, there is good art and bad art. Bad art is mixed, conscious with unconscious/derivative/insincere/crude/hateful even; framed within a narrow, faulty philosophy of life.

Secondly, some good art is about something bad the artist feels the need to protest/point out/ridicule/expose. So it will (partly) not feel good – there will be some discord. But good art still enchants and ennobles even while it saddens or angers. It doesn’t demean our existence, but gives us a sense explicitly or implicitly of an alternative, something good, something which is not that bad thing.

Bad art about bad things is merely rubbing our noses in badness (or meaninglessness). It’s loveless and joyless, disenchanted. There’s a lot of it about. It’s a cheap shot at life. It’s had a very, very long run, this kind of art, a century or more. Modern art of this ignoble, shameful kind should be refuted and banished from our galleries by total lack of sales (and replaced with good art sold with a good conscience), but modern philosophy (I mean the philosophy which is approved by the zeitgeist and therefore the universities) has no means to refute bad art or anything else bad, since it has itself become corrupted, by materialism, nihilism and relativism. Bad art is the offspring and creative expression of bad philosophy, and both together have presided over the gradual disintegration of the foundations of our civilisation. The Emperor of our culture is clothed in the filthy rags of its bankrupt father, the philosophy of materialism, relativism and nihilism.

The reason I love Art is because I know there is such a thing as Quality, such a thing as Good, such a thing as Truth, and I love to see those things shining through the particulars of things as portrayed in art.

Love, Beauty, Truth and Freedom, honoured in a coherent philosophy, and in word and deed, will at least set the stage for good art. Then we have to Just Do It. Whatever form it takes, in galleries or architecture or writing or everyday life. The final aim of Art is the  ‘re-enchantment of everyday life’. All of it.

Now that would be a Renaissance worth painting for! That’s the kind of art I will do while the sun still rises and I am still here to greet it. Here at the Quarry Arts Centre, probably, I hope. It’s a Good Place to be at, this afternoon of my life! Once I was a young man, and I worried about what to do when I grew up; now I am grown up, and I realize with Zarathustra that the final ‘metamorphosis of the spirit’ is to become the Child again, but with full powers of understanding and experience.

A final point, about Freedom, that controversial precondition for the truly creative artist to do his or her best art. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra says the the ‘reverential, weight-bearing camel’ of the spirit must become a lion:

‘My brothers, why is the lion needed in the spirit? Why does the beast of burden, that renounces and is reverent, not suffice? To create new values – even the lion is incapable of that: but to create itself freedom for new creation – that the might of the lion can do. To create freedom for itself and a sacred No even to duty: the lion is needed for that, my brothers.

…’But tell me, my brothers, what can the child do that even the lion cannot? Why must the preying lion still become a child? The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes.’

(Of the Three Metamorphoses of the Spirit, from ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’, translation by Walter Kaufmann)

So, a last unscientific postscript on art: it is the way we must go to become truly free, and ‘become what we truly are’ (Nietzsche again) – creative, playful, childlike, transcendent, godlike. Of such is the republic of Art and Eutopia.

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Filed under Love, Love Beauty Truth and Freedom, musings by the wizard, philosophy, the Quarry Arts Centre, theory of art