Sunday, 23 September 2007

Making Art Make Art

Difficult subject this. I've always been an early adopter, this grew from a means of escaping a working class background into a full blown life commitment, with the making of art the central and overwhelming thrust of all that I do. When young, I used to tell myself that I simply had a creative urge, that I had to make marks in whatever medium was at hand, later, on the discovery of image making with other than a brush or pencil enraptured me, then that focussed down to the sheer excitement of moving images. I say excitement but that doesn't quite touch the meaning I have in mind. It's an imperative and there's a joy in the knowledge that I've found the means to realise the imperative.

A little while ago, Daniel Chandler of Aberystwyth University noted the individual use of early websites to make a statement about an individual's likes and dislikes. Prior to Utube and Myspace, people were making websites saying things like - "this is my cat, cherry, I like Vivaldi, Bon Jovi, or Kasabian, this is how you make flapjacks" - or whatever else it was that enthused them that they used to present a version of themselves to the world. Myspace systematised the tendency and people could simply list who they are. A consumer fetishistic approach to the self. Of course, my art tendency is just a more sophisticated and early adopter version of a humanity that knows that there's soon going to be about twenty times the current number of hominids in the world.

How does one define oneself in the midst of ubiquity ? When the most ordinary consumer can consume green and blacks, travel to canada for extreme biking, or choose any place on the planet, any act to 'define' themselves ? And, in 100 years time, when web3 has addressed and solved starving humanity's problems - where are we amidst the onward thrust ?

If you read Ray Bradbury, J.G Ballard, or especially Nigel Kneale (Quatrermass) one proposition is that the solving of problems generates psychosis which eventually destroys us. If you read Blake or his inspirer, Swedenborg, then you'll see a heavenly future wrapping us in it's war pink rosy glow. Popular entertainers like Lucas in the last Star Wars showed a ind of art that is in fact made from gingerbread - it's cheesy, it's holographic, it's gauche.

This is the problem for the artist. We have a long tradition of thinking out side the box. In fact that's been a major part of what we've done in creating 'art'. Painting on a cave wall with berries and roots is pretty amazing thinking outside of the box for a hunter gatherer (if you believe that tale of what we once were) - making images that carry ideas of the world around us that stimulate thoughts/feelings/intuitions/insights in others - if that's what art is (well it has to be something) - is a fair calling for a person. But given that calling, and given that the strategies are mostly now investigated and understood, and given that fame comes to those who shock (mostly), then elegant, subtle art that strives for a resonance with the undefined in the viewer of the work is hard to recognize amidst the noise in the art marketplace.

So this leads me on to another thought: I want to make art that can be seen in not only a national, international context but also a local context - I want to realize the making and exhibition of art (and exhibition is half of the equation) in a way that no matter where it is shown - it works. Some art works because it is in the Tate, Metrolpoiltan or Uffizi gallery, working because the sheer act of appearing on those sites 'says' a lot about what you will see - it says at least, 'look at me - I wouldn't be here unless I have weight'. But we all know that if someone chose a dustbin to look at in that context - we would all look (thank you Duchamp - very important moment that one).

So yes, the exhibition space is of course important, but what if you put the work in the Phoenix Art space in Glastonbury ? In a way, it's a far more rigorous space in that those that go there know that the fact that we're all alive at this particular moment is pretty amazing, so given that, what might the artist present to us with that in mind ? Comments on consumerism, the state of the world, political battles, documentations of far flung tribes (especially Tuaregs - how fashionable are they in the contemporary artists mind!), no, the more trite art can't stand up in the local space given also that local artists are often emulating the greater art they've seen and the work is often substandard (and sometimes the audience is painfully insulting in its ignorance). But my point is that somewhere in all of this is the possibility that making art can or should be as valid to show at the Phoenix as well as the Tate Turbine Hall or the Louvre.

In some pieces I've made which have exhibited both internationally in mini turbine halls and locally, the local exhbition space has generated a different feel, a different way of experiencing the art - the art itself has been transubstantiated in the act of exhibition.

Local/interactive art which invites the viewer to take part - it does not say: 'Don't Touch'.

My work generally is inviting you to touch it - which, given it's virtuality, is an impossibility. In this liminal boundary, there is much benefit, there is room for the viewer/experiencer to make it their own.

By inviting the viewer/experiencer to take part in the artwork I feel as an artist that I can communicate better as the work is non-presecriptive or dogamtic, but gently persuasive in the best sense of the word. Participants can then take part and reflect whilst doing so in their own personal way and take away from the work what is theirs, and not mine.

I just want to re-state a review of a piece of mine, not for the ego value, but because the reviewer is getting something that I inuitively feel and is just rising to the surface of articulation:

Terry Flaxton's shrewd and paradoxical installation contributes to the deconstruction of traditional video. The restless and versatile British filmmaker refuses usual interactivity, and displays, instead of a normal screen, a laid dinner table; then invites the viewer, through a very precise projection, to try to match the virtual fellows' gestures. An unforeseeable and bewildering end follows. Techne Catalogue October 2005 - May 2006

The key here is the statement of how this work 'refuses usual interactivity' and this act ' invites the viewer, through a very precise projection, to try to match the virtual fellows' gesture'. The virtual fellows.... Though material, we believe we all exist, the bodies around us perform and on faith we believe that something within them is just like us, is experienceing the world just as we do. So the artist feels the need to speak to the interior experiencer through any means possible, and last century we saw the artist take any hold of any means they could get hold of - even their own material shit - to speak, sometimes too loudly and unsubtly, to that which resides within.

But the artist has existed within the definition of the indivdual. There is a history told at many universities that charts the growth of the idea of the self. Maybe ten thousand, or one thousand years ago the boundary of the self was different and also, differently defined to the self, experiencing their own self-nature. But now it's digital times and the paradigm shift is occurring once more. Prior acts of art that relate to the idea of a self that is a consumer and experiencer, in fact a doer and a knower, is profoundly placed within a Newtonian if not Euclidian universe. ...Clocks and mechanics, equal and opposite reactions, the second law of thermo dynamics...

General humanity hasn't yet caught up with the paradigm shift, spoken through science, the apogee of materialist gesture, formed and articulated by Einstein, Plank and Bohr and hasn't yet faced up to the fundamental immateriality of the universe, of themselves. I'm not sure that our famous contemporary artists have yet, being born of an idea of existence that is set back in time in terms of the paradigm shift, are making art that deals with the deeper issues beneath simply serving up 'art' as it has previously been defined. I have to apologise to any of them who have faced up to this issue, not in artistic terms because they've made their mark and who cares what I think anyway, but maybe some are struggling with this issue beyond the fetishism of conceptual, consumerist art.

I now need to define, or find a description of how or why that might be possible within the act of more highly defining my own virtual works - I have to examine why 'virtuality' seems to provide an important key to the problem as I try to overcome the formal constraints to let the 'content' whatever that really is, speak.