2005/03/16

What is visual art?

A short post to put my writings in this blog into perspective.
This post is a repeat of my post Painting (3) about the systemic map of my inquiry into "what is visual art?".


I approach this question from the historical perspective of the changes in human societies over the long haul. I can't indeed bring myself to be satisfied by abstract intellectual constructions about art that I feel are so much empty talk that time fast washes away. University libraries are replete with such art theories but these theories seem not having much enlightened humanity. I'm even tempted to assert that they are part of the problem with the contemporary confusion about art. Many times I have this troubling feel that thinking is, like, caged into specialist fields where chain reactions of words are imposing themselves upon the mind of their speakers without bringing any substance to the debate their voices are participating into. Much noise ensues not much sense. But it seems that this does not disturb our "all-knowing art bureaucratic word machine". If I write about art, instead of spending all my time painting it's not to add some more words to an already overflowing box, it is simply because I'm not satisfied with what I read and writing imposes the logical rigor that helps me to clarify my own ideas which is basically what I'm running after.



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About the systemic map of my inquiry into "what is visual art?".
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We are part of a continuum, part of the history of mankind, more particularly we are acting inside one moment of that history one among the global population in that specific time. It is not as if we were inventing the wheel we just flow a little further on what has been built before us.
The validation or invalidation of the sense of our actions, in painting or whatever else, is thus determined by the flowing or not of the content of our actions into the future.
For sure we are not divine and we don't know what the future has in store but we can maximize the chances the content of our actions being part of the flow towards the future by understanding the long haul historical process of what we are doing. That's what I'm trying to achieve through my writings about visual arts.


I distinguish 4 "scales" in the long haul rythm of the artistic pulse:

1. THE ROAD OF HUMANITY:
.....= the energetic contact between humanity's polarities:
..........--> societies
..........--> individuals

2. THE AXIOMS OF CIVILIZATIONS:
.....= the founding building blocks upon which societies build their future. At a certain juncture on the road of humanity societies adopt axiom like foundational ideas and values about what reality is all about upon which they later will build cultural add-ons. Those building blocks are somehow similar to the foundations of a house upon which is build the visible structure of that house that's why they are called "founding building blocks". Each civilization has its own founding building blocks and they are actively shaping the paths taken by their societies.

3. SOCIETIES STABILIZE AROUND WORLDVIEWS:
.....= a society reaches stability when a large majority of its citizens make theirs a given worldview. This gradual and evolutionary process follows 2 tracks:
.........--> the road of humanity
.........--> the path given by the civilization's axioms

4. THE FUNCTION OF VISUAL ARTS:
.....= creating the visual signs of what is shaping into the worldview of the day in order to share that worldview with all members of society.
..........--> along 99.8% of the time span of the history of human culture the men of power imposed the worldview of the men of knowledge of their day upon all members of their societies and visual artists were nothing more than image technicians who created visual signs of those worldviews at the attention of all members of their societies.
..........--> somewhere along the road of Western societies towards democracy the men of knowledge went their separate roads from the men of power and in the 20th century the worldview of the individuals started to fragment. Not being imposed any longer a worldview to illustrate the image technicians (artists) were left on their own to define what their visual signs should illustrate. Never educated in anything else than the use of their brushes they were generally "bete comme un peintre, stupid as a painter " as says it so well Marcel Duchamp. There were indeed not many Leonardos. The fragmentation of the worldview of their societies did not help them and the "all-knowing art bureaucratic word machine" was surely of no help either.
..........--> In our times of great confusion, I think, it is our first duty to re-establish sense in the art of creating visual signs. The art is not a question of technique it is a question of content...

Interested, visit me at:

thinking about art and society
daily clippings of my best readings
laodan on the web

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