It’s been a while since my obsession with the “technicalities” of art has been extant; it began with me wanting to understand postmodernism. I concede that in this particular regard, my thought-process has been woefully confined to a linear track. Even so, the implications of a particular label cannot be so many in number.
It all began with the discovery of ‘But Does It Float’, where most of the works were modernist, postmodernist, deconstructivist or avant-garde. For such fancy labels, the works are no different from Vonnegut’s, Huxley’s, Pynchon’s or even Lucas’: instead of continuing to abide by historical precedents and the recreation of Biblical events, the provisions of industrialization, capitalism and anthropology have been put to good use under the auspices of democracy and liberalism to express the artist’s ideas of or on the apparent-reality as he/she sees it. However, the labeling has gone far beyond the reaches of an artistic excursion by titling the works and thereby firmly establishing the character of the systems of thought in that period and, therefore, denying that work of art a fundamental right to ontological autonomy, i.e. autotelic.
In doing so, any work of art, by way of abiding by a “genre”, as it were, dooms itself to social inclusion in matters of any social interest. In fact, since postmodernism can broadly be defined as a reaction to everything modern, a principal postmodern epoch has already occurred: the Bauhaus school of Walter Gropius in pre-World-War-II Weimar.
Ironically, the Bauhaus movement was (and is) an influential undercurrent in modern art. For the same reason, my appreciation of art began with the implications of postmodernism and, moving back and forth in time, observed it though a lens of social inclusion and social causes. Then again, the society was shaped by the same forces that shape society today but in different measures since the pre-industrialization years, and therefore condemning works of art from those periods as reactionary demands a “re-focusing” of the social lens; however, the reactionary nature still persists.
I must note at this point that some artists, especially those of the Macchiaioli Group, dedicated their works to the movements of light during the day they were fascinated by (and only painted outdoors as a result), thereby not seeming reactionary; however, the luminist period in art history itself was born from a desire of artists to reinvigorate Italian art by “emulating the bold tonal structure”, a characteristic feature of the works of Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Tintoretto.
Does art have a non-reactionary existence?
That brings into consideration the reactionary individual and his position in the society, rather the reasons and demands due to which his reactionary nature seeks expression. The evaluation of art (in an attempt to clarify my position) is an expression of interpretations, an analysis of the semiotic content, its comparison with the zeitgeist, and, eventually a construction (or reconstruction?) of the artist’s intention with his or her creation and how it deviates from the existing (and trending) forms and methods of artistic expression. Since I myself have had problems, rather difficulties, in evaluating anything for what it is, my perception does not come with a reasonable positional independence.
That being stated, let me remind the reader (as is due this veritable retrospection) that position-dependency is of two kinds: “nowhere” and “away from somewhere”, which will be laid out as and when it becomes necessary.
In 1977, David Lynch’s debut directorial venture, Eraserhead, was released; of course, I wasn’t alive then, but when I did watch the movie, it was definitely the first artistic product that delivered an experience of spiritual quality through the use of shadows, dream-like imagery and a storyline that did not make a point by way of its enaction but through a commendable adaptation of it on the big screen (i.e., great cinematography). While watching this particular movie did I have the realization that art went beyond paints, brushes and the canvas, when it struck me that it was only a deft assemblage of emotions presented so to convey something.
By liberating a production from its womb of tools and techniques, we bring it to some sort of a “semantic maturity” by letting it define something, by letting it be representative of something (abstract or no), just like young men and women become eligible voters and driving license holders when they turn 18 (in India), while the continue to remain citizens of the nation. These emotions can be anything: celebratory as in architecture, calculated as in architecture and fractal geometry, emotional as in poetry, dance and fiction-writing, existential as in lifestyle, habits and speech, etc.
However, having expostulated to such lengths, it dawns on me that the elimination of the reactionary instinct will be difficult if not impossible. Art that is created for the sake of anything from emotional expressionism, social causes and/or commercial purposes poses the threat of being hollow and capricious. At the same time does art present, rather proffer, any capacity to be more contributive and less corroborative?