'In search of emotional completeness and overflowing comprehension.' / 7 March 2014
I recently rolled around an exhibition I would be tempted to describe as invisible.
I find this frustrating. To be surrounded by a body of work that says nothing to me (to the point of invisibility), is somehow creepy; a disturbing and unsettling experience.
I need art to make sense of the world; to expand and finesse the identity I call self and my relationship to those I call others. Through art I may grow into rich diversities of unknown.
The artworks I am drawn to are works that reach inside me to reveal something I have forgotten, failed to recognise, neglected to respond to, or never had the chance to experience. 'If the remission of pain is happiness, then the emergence from distraction is aesthetic bliss. I use these terms loosely, for I am not making an argument but rather attempting to describe the pleasure that comes from recognition or rediscovery of certain essences permanently associated with human life. These essences are restored to our consciousness by persons who are described as artists.' (Saul Bellow's 'It All Adds Up')
The works that seem invisible are works that elicit that frustrated 'so what'; works that barely provoke any kind of reaction beyond the frustration; the practice that consistently shuts me out. They are works that fail to respond to the pseudo-visibility their creators attempt to bestow on them with complex explanations that disappear even as you read or hear them.
My responses do evolve, so I always attempt to hold back on premature negativity; I have learned to be patient, to be disciplined about allowing the work time to penetrate any barrier of initial indifference, to cultivate a 'temperament of receptivity' (Oskar Wilde), but is it not also part of an artist's creative process to facilitate that receptivity?
In ConText conversations I have been surprised to discover creators who are happy to declare that they only make work for like-minded people, certainly not for disabled people, and that the onus is completely on the audience or gallery visitor to put in any necessary effort: 'if they are capable of it'.
Devoting time and energy to work that persists in its invisibility is not merely disappointing, it can leave me feeling cheated, exploited and, on one rare occasion, brimming with art-rage.
When art makes me angry, I want it to be the artwork itself, not the suspicion that I am confronting someone abusing the notion, the essence, of artistic practice.
I can be talking about work that may be technically accomplished and often confidently exhibited yet apparently without the generosity, the courtesy, of any perceived attempt at accessible communication.
I'm comfortable with work that sits silently asking questions; as the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a century ago, “We should try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue'.
I'm comfortable with mystery. I like to think there will always be unknowns. But the kind of works that elicit that 'so what' of a non-reaction, don't qualify as mysterious. They appear to have been created for self-gratification. They may have technical points that preclude labelling them as bad, but for me, that gut and lingering indifference is worse than bad.
Invisible is as bad as it gets.
to my presence, the work
sits smug in a slapdash
or intricate iteration: either.
Potent and powerful
as the Emperor's new clothes,
each action a possible,
impossible marvel of
craftsmanship. Talent beyond
question by anyone with
status to preserve or with
ignorance to conceal. Work
just hitching a ride on the
naked Emperor's back.
And yes, the title of this blog is also a quote from the magificent Saul Bellow!