Tag Archives: art theory

Human vs. Animal (2)

Anthropomorphobia is the fear of acknowledging in nonhumans qualities we wish to consider only human. Anthropomorphobia is traditionally associated with anxiety responses to fictional animal characters displaying human behavior in works of fiction like “The Secret of NIMH”. However, with the development of androids and robots that mimic human behavior, the concept of anthropomorphobia has been adapted to include nonliving stimuli.

Interesting neologism with some profound possible consequences: the abject sphere of human psyche denying its roots which have been always deeply existing within the womb of Mother-Nature.

Humans excel in being humans; ‘humane’ means ‘divine’ – a step beyond this illuminated Olympian circle of ‘humanity’ – one is in a grave danger to slip into that chaotic inferno of natural world – of Beasts and Monsters, of Wild Creatures and unpredictable Elements…

Humans dread being ‘inhuman’ more than they dread being dead. There can be hardly any fear more deep-seated and penetrating and more repressed at the same time.

Yet – let’s beware my fellow human animals – ONLY what is HUMAN can be INHUMAN. In countless records – from simple myths and folk legends to complex ideologies and works of art – we are faced with the fact that the most alienating, monstrous forces are shown to reside not in some intergalactic spaces but deeply within the fabric of the human species itself…


Chaos Theory, Fractals and the complexity of existence…

I’ve promised you few notes on “Fractal Ontology”. Well, here they go…

The term bridges philosophical notion of ‘ontology’ -(Greek meaning: ‘theory/science of being’) with the phenomenon of ‘fractals’ taken from the natural sciences and maths. Going deeper – ‘fractals’ originate from the Chaos Theory, and this is where one probably should start all the explanations.

Chaos Theory is a dark horse of contemporary science. Two hundred years ago  it would be unthinkable – Newtonian perfectly organized world-view, with its deliciously logical mechanics, was too strong to allow any serious benefit of a doubt.  A hundred years ago Einstein’s genius abolished the rule of determinism, reductionism and objective knowledge in science – his contribution was so revolutionary and complex that it hasn’t been fully digested yet; practically, one can easy predict, that our 21st century would be a completely different fairy-tale if it wasn’t for that one man and his theories…

The ‘scandal’ of Chaos in science had started to develop in maths (with regular experiments being conducted in 1920s onwards), then had been followed by physics, chemistry and biology  – where scientists observed irregularities, even randomness in the dynamics of systems considered as ‘ordered’ by the traditional views. From various chemical reactions in micro and macro-cosmos to weather and climate – universe has started to display itself as – in fact – infinite chaos, rather than the absolute order, as humankind was keen to believe for ages.

In natural world, there have always existed structures and phenomena, which proved to be impossible to describe by traditional Euclidean geometry or Newtonian dynamics… Mountains ranges, clouds, coastlines, crystals, lightning, blood vessels –  boundless, captivatingly beautiful, unpredictable in its evolution though fairly self-similar, they generate themselves forever expanding accordingly to the rules, which cannot be completely captured or explained, simply because they’re no definite rules… Epitomes of Life per se – the face of Nature in its most primordial, creative and self-sustaining structure… These are FRACTALS – children of the organized chaos of the Universe. Yet “chaos” here doesn’t simply mean ‘anarchy’ but ‘a higher order’ – out of confusion and complexity life emerges as a functioning organism, it may be unpredictable and extremely sensitive to any stimulants – yet – it displays that innate tendency to form into patterns and structures – it fosters and commands order despite of all forces that act against it.

Fragmented, ‘broken’, complex, inexhaustible – this is the ‘fractal’ theory of existence (transplanting scientific concepts on the philosophical field). One of those very few examples where the nature of the human thought and the nature of the physical world interweave so closely and creatively.

Focusing on the creativity- ‘fractal’ world-view belongs to the oldest, most pre-thought, deeply spiritual as the example from the ancient “Book of Kells” (above) shows. There are many symbols and primitive art images created by ancient civilizations, which show their intuitive reading of nature as fragmented, ‘fractured’.

Picasso’s portrait of A. Vollard (above), just like many cubists works from its analytical period picture the fractal vision of reality – looks like art preceded science in its practical applications of the Chaos and Fractal Theory (though calling it with different names)… In many abstract and abstract expressionist works, from P. Klee and J. Pollock to postmodern works (look above -work from the “Fractal Gallery”), often digitally generated one can easily noticed how that chaotic, ‘broken’, non-linear (as opposed to ‘classical’ ordered) representation of reality prevails presenting itself with innovative spirit, confidence and haunting beauty.

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Note: Due to the immense complexity of the issues presented and the brief nature of blogging, one cannot consider this article as ‘informative’ in a scientific sense (due to simplifications and the fragmented outlook). Its intent is mainly that of promoting science and its theories. Care will be taken in my further research to develop this, here introduced, art-science affinity concept. Extended information on fractals can be found online – here are some of the links: FractalOntologyWikipedia, Chaos Intro, EnchantedMind and many more…


Liminality in Art (1)

This is meant to be an attempt in coining a new term in the Art Theory field.

Curiously enough, the term Liminality continues not to be recognised by the modern dictionaries of English; even though numerous (stated below) researchers have been using it in academic papers. It doesn’t exist as an aesthetic concept or any distinguished phenomenon in the contemporary fine art. Yet, what I would like to claim and what is the reason of this article is my knowledge that this very notion has been persistently influencing the way of defining and interpreting art of the last decades at least. Though never or very rarely (in its adjective form of the liminal) applied as such by the art critics and scholars it has been circulating in the air each time the hybridity, borderline qualities, formlessness or intersemiotics of the Postmodernism has been loathed or admired.

From Latin limen meaning threshold ‘liminality’ is an existential (metaphysical) subjective, state and realm of hovering ‘between and betwixt’ of two (or more) different planes, spaces and/or existential qualities. First described in anthropology (Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner) as a social theory of the liminal states – spaces of a ‘temporary outcast’ when an individual or a group is being placed by the society on its margin in a ritual of purification and/or recognition. It has got also its usage in the contemporary psychology where the liminal means sub- or unconscious state with one’s sense identity being ‘hold’ or dissolved to some extent. In contemporary philosophy J. Derrida  has been called the ‘philosopher of the liminal’ due to his deconstruction attempts of the integral and solid tissue of materiality (more about it in the next parts of this series).

In visual art the ‘threshold’s ‘ aesthetics has been described on the theatre, cinema and performance field (notably S. Zizek, S. Broadhurst) and some curatorial and critical attempts has been made to embrace the liminality of the contemporary artistic expression done by more or less traditional media. Yet, it’s basically the ‘no man’s land’ when painting or sculpture is considered – those realms remain, for the today’s critique and theory (and not surprisingly, by any means) immune to any ‘revolutionary’ ‘new’ aesthetic refurbishment; it became a sort of an ideological cliche – that it’s more convenient to blame painting for its impotency (it’s ‘dead’ anyway, why bother then?…) than to inject any potent conceptual spirit into it by an affirmative reflection.

When J-F. Lyotard has called Postmodernity the nascent state, the state of a permanent ‘becoming’ (The Postmodern Condition, 1979) he basically admitted its innate liminal character; and those artworks that seek to address this condition (both deliberately or not) are probably best recognised for their aesthetics (or anti-aesthetics) of incompleteness – sculptures/installations look as if the artist ran out of the materials to finish them to a decent level; paintings seem to be painfully ‘hanged’ by their own guts with indescribable forms, unidentifiable colours and freaky techniques; videos cry out for any structure, even a hint of a narrative. Their ‘becomingness’ is the only existence they know and it comes invariably as disquieting or even disturbing for the audience. No without a reason the primitive societies considered the liminal states as dangerous, unclean (Turner); and those affected were isolated ‘pro publico bono’.

As hazardous and monstrous in moments as the liminality in art (and beyond it) seems to appear it is also probably the only truly creative state, which – if used wisely – can result in some profound discoveries and metamorphoses. This fructile chaos and the storehouse of possibilities (Turner) is a goldsmith’s workshop of the contemporary art; even though some purists rise an alarm that the state of the constant flux and indeterminacy (where ‘everything goes’) will annihilate all the miserable bits of art that left – let’s be positive… Art is best cared for if it’s accepted just as it appears and shapes itself through the mill of the human spirit; even if refuses to ‘become’ and fit any new uniform – so what?… As far as  minds and hearts are enflamed by it, even with a doubt, even with a turmoil – it fulfills its calling of the ‘fifth element’ – the force of life and death, possibility and danger, sanctus and profane

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In the further studies on Liminality in Art (being a part of my studies on the Contemporary Art) I would bring closer the views of the scholars, philosophers mentioned above, as well as I will try to illustrate the theory with some artworks.


Modern, postmodern and conceptual – a date with the ‘now’

Let’s imagine that they met as actual beings – the ‘modern’, the ‘postmodern’ and the ‘conceptual’ – at a round table in a cafeteria. The ‘modern’ is classically beautiful yet it wears rebellious clothes, there is a spark of a charismatic idealism in its eyes; the ‘postmodern’ is the ‘modern’s twin sister, yet it does everything to look bleak and ugly, the ‘conceptual’ is a thoughtful man, who looks like he lost before even he had started for good… They are apparently on a date – the three of them… You cannot be aware of what is going around today without meeting them – and where one name is mentioned the others follow like shadows. But the date lasts for the last hundred years of more… Our trio would like sometimes to perform a cold-blooded murder in order to get rid of, at least, the one of them… c’mon, who would stand a love-hate relationship for a hundred years?…

Did conceptual art mark the end of Modernism? Is Modernism really “gone” – since we still use terms interchangeably – those of the ‘modern’ and the ‘contemporary’ (just look to any modern (!) dictionary of English), and we still live the dream of Matisse’s passions for painting’s powers or Picasso’s gutsy genius of the revolt? If it’s not ‘gone’ – why is – the ‘postmodern’ so tempting and unavoidable in a sense, that even in order to mock the vices of that cynical, deliberately ‘ugly’ twin sister we are bound to use its own way of reasoning, which is never purely ‘logical’ or ‘innocent’ but always syncretic and questioning? What about the ‘conceptual’ (‘Art’) condition of today? How is it (if at all) defending itself against ever-growing accusations of its complete ideological and ontological failure? And – why on Earth – why still do these three keep our contemporary minds under the spell, so it seems impossible to think, feel and create beyond the world of their ongoing date?

In 1994 speaking in the Independence Hall, Philadelphia Czech Republic’s “philosopher-president” Vaclav Havel defined our times as those where”‘everything is possible and nothing is certain”… But – wasn’t it, after all, our grand-grandfathers’ intuition and our fathers’ truth? And what exactly – if – again – anything at all – has finished or underwent a substantial metamorphosis after the trauma of the last century bloody wars? Is our ‘human condition’ different today than it would be at the turn of the 19th and 20th c.? What is it what we undisputably share with the engineers and ‘shakers’ of the last century? Wouldn’t be that never truly expressed, yet always painfully alive sense of the new and forever Paradise Lost – of a serious and one-way Exodus from the Great Romantics sublime universe of the perfect unity, profound meanings and a superior order. This is what the human genius in its pure Kantian, Nietzschean, Darwinian, Freudian, Einsteinian form, exploding on different fields and within comparatively short period of time has left us with – with our world and our human condition as a multifaceted, ever-changing, mighty storm… But the storm in itself is illuminating and a huge step forward (as it appears to be even on a purely scientific basis), yet – in most cases it has been used to wash people’ brains, to throw them into lives, which they are – themselves – the least controlling factor of…

Is there any way to make us – on a bigger scale – to discuss it all, to become aware and to foster a change, a turn ?… anything what would bring us back to ourselves, to what we really are (or used to be), what we are truly capable of ?… Would art be one of the possible answers – art, which – just as at our above-mentioned ‘date’ – sits at the same table with the past, which always refuses to go and with the present, which always refuses to become?… Can art be any answer at all? You are right to doubt seeing some of the most popular artistic ‘mascots’ of today, celebrated the way Matisse’s least significant apprentice would refused to be engaged in…

But ‘the date’ is on – we can mock it, we can join it, we can invent an alternative. But first of all – we cannot be afraid of thinking on our own. We have to come back to the true value of a disciplined thinking, because – as one of the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters puts it: “Either you think or others will have to think for you – and they will take all the powers from you”…

For further reading, for fun as well:

A World History of Art, (ed.) Honor, H. and Fleming, J., 5th Edition, Great Britain, 1991
Baudrillard, J,. The Hyper-realism of Simulation, 1976 in Art in Theory 1900-1990, (ed.) Harrison, Ch. And Wood, P., Oxford, 1993, pp. 1049-1051
Hopkins, D., After Modern Art 1945-2000, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2000

Godfrey, T., Conceptual Art, Phaidon Press, London 1997

Kosuth, J., Art after Philosophy, 1969 in Art in Theory 1900-1990, (ed.) Harrison, Ch. And Wood, P., Oxford, 1993, pp. 840-849
Sokal, A., Bricmont, J., Intellectual Impostures, Economics Books, New Ed edition, 2003


Jacques Derrida’s riddle

O right, he was maybe rightfully accused of philosophical sophistry, obscurantism and … nihilism (it’s amazing, that in the post-modern reality ‘nihilist’ still sounds for some like an insult…) and it’s true that, as skillful thinker he is, as awkward writer/ author he happens to be… History of philosophy, art and even literature knows dozens of cases of those very good artists/philosophers/critics and quite poor writers, whose texts ‘taste’, at best, like a dry sole of an old boot… Yet some of the names became quite famous just because the deceiving esotericism of their work – as the public, especially that more ‘initiated’ one seems to like being ‘challenged’ by extremely obscure messages… And less they understand (or they think they do) the more they admire the point of view… But lets leave it…

Jacques Derrida (b. 1930) – French philosopher, most famous for his methodology of the ‘deconstruction’ of a text (philosophical, literary), but he is vitally interested in making statements on aesthetics and art theory/critique. What appears to be his most attractive catch-concept is the strongly displayed and proved by applying a special technique (‘Deconstruction’ per se) conviction that in the world of human phenomena there is no stability of meaning-s, there are no absolute ‘truths’ or ruling ‘Ideas’ (rejecting Platonism – and consequently a big chunk of modern philosophy based on that, like Phenomenology) and popular in deciphering opposites such as ‘good’-‘evil’ are ‘violent hierachies’ which tend to shut up possible interpretations. Derrida longs to reach ‘b e y o n d’ Good and Evil (here Nietzsche’s influence is quite clear) – whatever that conceptual extremism implies, even if it would mean to destroy all possibility of clear communication between an author and a reader, a creator and a receiver… or is it, maybe, a painful labour to deliver a completely new in its quality connection between humans, free from all simplifications? …

As soon as there is language, generality has entered the scene.he famously said.


Consequently, deconstruction opens up a text/ a message by ‘crushing’ it into multiple, equally valid ‘readings’ and several meanings. With all that fluidity, ambiguity and lack of stability any unity and communicative power of a text is a matter of its internal logic and ‘metaphysics presence’… But – what does it mean???… And one can hear a ‘deconstructor’ saying: – That can ‘mean’ many things… Don’t expect to get a peace of mind just because somebody gives you an easy, ‘accurately’ sounding answer.

Language, the most powerful code of communication among humans and one of the favourite themes of the modern philosophy (a separate branch of ‘philosophy of language’ has developed in 20th century becoming an important part of Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Existentialism, Deconstruction) – it’s language – spoken, written, visual, based on signs, notes, based on … silence that will remain a center of attention for people of thought in this new era, simply because we automatically associate ‘language’ with ‘meaning’ and ‘connection’ and both seem to be extincting phenomena at the beginning of 21st century…

What is Derrida’s view on the visual language of fine art? It’s been most comprehensively unfolded in his “The Truth Of Painting” (1978) series of essays/meditations on the meaning of art and it was Cezanne’s claim: I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you that had provoked him… Here, quite naturally, questions about the truth and meaning in painting/art became questions about truth and meaning of its ‘language’ – visual/pictorial, intentional/conceptual (what stands ‘behind’, what was the artist’s intention?) and the language of the critique. And, as one may easily guess, the founder of deconstruction doesn’t believe that we can ever arrive at any decision as what would constitute the ‘truth’ and the ‘meaning’ in art. There is no possibility of making any authoritative critical statement or aesthetic judgement, at all – let alone being able to render and/or ‘read’ the ‘truth’ itself (whatever it nay be) in the work of art.

Never mind what anything means – so-called meanings in art won’t give it a full presence – full presence is impossible, never try to put what you see in neat ‘drawers’ (categories, genres), never feel safe when attempting to decipher art in a context (cultural, social, personal – of an artist, psychological etc…), never take any critique, or even a dozen of them as an authoritative ‘sentence’ on a particular artistic piece…

That view corresponds well with, partially intuitive yet firm declarations of many artists that: Two qualities of a work of art? It must be indescribable and must be inimitable. P.A. Renoir, All good painting inexplicably has got free of all possible explanations. Frank Auerbach, Art is made to disturb. Science reassures. There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain. Georges Braque and so on, and so on…

Yet, we still want and need to know “WHY?” – the big question… You can produce works of genius – but – why? The ever-lasting game of ever-confronting powers – the power of demanding the expression of the ‘truth’ and the ‘meaning’ and the power (artist’s) to remain silent, or even unconscious, protecting and respecting those mysterious activities that make art happen… And that game of tension and struggle has been shaping the ‘soul’ of art (again, whatever it may be) through decades and appears to be especially formative for the art of today and tomorrow.


How not to become a good artist:

  1. Think about yourself not in other terms than that you are…”an Artist”. You must be one since you are using canvas and oil paints…You are definitely one when you manage to sell your work on e-Bay or from your web-page… If you have a shadow of a doubt – go for an extremely cold shower…
  2. Bath yourself in expensive materials: easels, quality paints and brushes, top-range electronic devises (cameras, projectors, computers etc.) for keeping you going on your research…And don’t forget you are nobody without just perfect airy and spacious studio… Don’t be naive to believe that there are masterpieces out there made by means of the most ridiculous junk… Anything looks better when executed with 30$ brush…Doesn’t it?
  3. Leave philosophy for philosophers, psychology for psychologists, human anatomy for doctors, all sort of science for scientists – your job is that of an image-maker… Honestly speaking, you don’t need to know Plato’s conceptions on Ideas or how human muscles look inside to paint a perfectly convincing figure…Don’t bother with a thought than maybe art is something beyond a profession/hobby of… making art. To make it even simpler – don’t bother with thinking/reflecting at all… Just let your colours go….
  4. If contemporary dilemma gives you a headache, let it go too. You don’t need to be painfully struggling how to answer to the modern chaos, you can start to paint just like Caravaggio did or limit yourself to the “eternal” themes: apples, scenic views, literal portraits…
  5. Stick to your medium, preferably throughout your entire life… Don’t even try another techniques, media, approaches because there’s a danger that you will like them and you may change your style and way of working (complete disaster!)…
  6. Under no circumstance leave your work without an eloquent, wordy explanation. Be “universal” and translatable, easygoing and pleasant for everybody otherwise your less intelligent viewers won’t have a clue at all and your nasty critics will make a flying saucer out of your innocent platter. Or just face it – they won’t bother at all, they will go for Warhol-ish enjoyment… Train yourself to make a cool-headed vivisection of your art even before it breathes its last…
  7. But – if you prefer to go for another extreme – you must self-create yourself for a weirdo…if you are good enough, they will avoid you making up messages of “genius” out of your crazy, neurotic, limited talk…
  8. Size and colour matters so let your work SHOUT with bright “expressionistic” WOW, underline your focal point and exaggerate as much as you can, go for an elephant format – everyone will think you are brave, bold and modern and even those who wouldn’t distinguish Michelangelo from Caspar Friedrich will say “that stuff just has to be art“…
  9. Sacrifice your pieces by closing them in a proper gallery, museum, society etc… Design your work for being presented that way – always professionally framed… Posh, puristic and without life but – does it matter? Street, pubs, outsiders’ exhibitions and fairs or even Internet is no place where a decent art would take place.
  10. Sooner you become a self-proclaiming expert on art the better. Have a strong and only view on how to make glazes, how to study properly, if artist “x” is a complete kitsch and what is art actually for… Don’t let others to make fool of you… you know better, don’t held any true dialog or discussion with equally advanced people – all they want is to prove their point.

Being loyal to all or some of those tips you have a great chance not to become a good artist. But you will always have an opportunity of becoming “an Artist” – for many it’s good enough…

07/12/2007

11….. Have your say on this theme….


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