Sunday, January 08, 2012

Leave the Work Alone


Let's set the background.


Andre Lepecki:
What dramaturgy as practice proposes is the discovery that it is the work itself that has its own sovereign, performative desires, wishes, and commands. It is the work that owns its own authorial force.

This seemingly fairy-tale description of creation was once made clear for me by Alexander Kelly. Whenever working on a piece, there is always a point where the question that takes over the process is: What does the work want?

But here's another question: Why? Why is it the work's work?
After all, beyond a question of "ethics" (Lepecki uses the term), it is hard to justify why something being made by an artist should not obey the artist's ideas, needs and desires.


The most superficial answer is, because it works. A work needs coherence, as in, it needs to be a work to be a work, and the focus on the work's identity allows to be more effective and less prone to the artist's varying ideas, humor and temper. If the work wants it, there is little you can do but obey it. Consequently, you will think twice before introducing a foreign element. The piece needs to fit in the piece, not you.

Which brings us to another level. The work, here, becomes master. This means the artist is working for "someone else", and his burden is smaller. "Don't blame me - blame the work".

But also, this means the artist does not really "create". He "executes". Which is a comfortable movement towards the neo-platonian idealism we know best from Michelangelo. There is something, an idea, hidden in that matter (be it solid matter, movement or words), and the task is only to dig into it.

The above creates an important advantage for the worker: he can suspend his disbelief. For the duration of the work, he can be a believer, no matter how much doubt he has in regards to his own work. He is now free to move in whatever direction is necessary to deliver this being. And once delivered, he can complain. He can even complain while delivering it. But this, here, is the job, and one has to do whatever it takes to complete it.

All this is very nice, but most of the time, the work sucks. Most of the time, even those who claim to do the work's work make an impressive quantity of uninteresting, though certainly in a way uncompromising projects.
How do we deal with it?
Or, to put it more bluntly, who's to blame?
If in the beginning, "no one (except for the piece itself in its atemporal consistency) knows what it will be", than how are we to analyze its failure? Where are we to look for its sources?


Then there is the other scary option: the work doesn't suck. It works. Only it says something else than I do. The dream dreams another dream - which is not mine. How dare it! How dare it speak in my stead! How dare it take my moral will into the immoral pit hole, or the other way around, turning my cynical irony into a moralist's sword? How dare it ignore all the work I've put into being who I am? I do not want this thing which is not mine. I want it somewhere else, let it grow somewhere else, let the cancer move to another soul, I am cured, I tell you, I am at peace and no pro-ject can take that away from me. Consider me to be the PR manager for the daimonion, I might do what it pleases, but I am somewhere else, you will not find me here, the artist cries. I have worked hard to sell my soul, now please, do not let it keep on being mine.


27 comments:

Art em Rosa said...

hi, i'm from Brazil and i loved your blog! God bless you.

smallestforest.net said...

I loved this so much. You don't post often, and I wait impatiently until you do, but when you do it is a most wonderful thing to behold. Your thoughts, writing, your levity bring so much joy! My favorite art blog in the world. Thanks so much.

amaryllisalyssa said...

Oh, I absolutely love this. When I make art, I often have the same conflict going on subconsciously in the back of my brain.

SKWeathers said...

The argument about the location of art--internal vs. external drives--was a topic quickly swept under the rug at a fiction workshop I attended last summer. The writer facilitating the workshop seemed genuninely annoyed by the emergence of this line of thought and told us, not un-tersely, to stick to what we could manage without getting woo-woo--her words. I find the topic much too interesting and important to dismiss that way. I enjoyed your commentary a great deal. Thank you for taking up this thread.

DPLblog said...

Yeah, this is a good post. Who are we as artist to assume we know everything we're about to do? I've had what I thought were really good ideas that never came to fruition because they were fully formed as ideas, and didn't need a piece of art to become of them. Making the work, much like blogging, is an exercise in discovery. What you think about going into it isn't necessarily what you're thinking about when you come out of it.

Anonymous said...

wow, that's pretty deep, I tend to work spontaneously, with no actual plan and what happens is what happens :) let the work lead the artist, but I don't have the concentration to write as much.

Tj Aitken said...

The concept of "having" a genius was the ancient origines of the concept now stated as "being" a genius. When I create I decieve myself with the later and hope the former shows up.
Tj

illustration poetry said...

dont worry i wont say "great" let alone to promote a site (pffffttt, seriously?), just wanted to say that the video reminds me of a little scene from Funny Face movie.

Best Cannabis said...

The freedom to move, disbelief suspended, within a work is vital to my experience in terms of enjoyment whether the art is dance, painting, sculpture, or really any form of art. To see the art with the child's eye of wonder at first each time is a gift I try to share with those around me.

Shawnte said...

Nice blog! I am an artist too and I agree that I don't know what the heck is gonna come out of my pencil strokes 80% of the time. We're only human, we just dabble with stuff until we get it the way we want it xD.

florine foulon said...

That's a great post, I love this one!

Art Fist said...

Really interesting post. The constant balancing act is something I can empathise with.

artfist.org

Benjamin Marcus Raucher said...

Wonderful blog. I would love to see more posts

Benjamin Raucher

http://johnrickenbacher.com/ said...

I too have struggled with the 'whose work is this anyway?' question. I am still mulling it over, but consider if you will that possibly it could be a part of ourselves that we just have never listened to before...another extension or corner of our voice who is tired of waiting to be heard. So now, seeing its chance it forces itself forward and WILL be acknowledged. Just a thought.... Thanks for bringing your thoughts to the forefront...

Jesse Morris said...

Why do I draw or paint in the first place? There are so many other things I could be doing with my time. I do because it gives me pleasure. And I'm selfish. And I like to share.

Art Fanatic said...

In my mind, it is not just about an artwork and what it "says"...but also what the viewer brings as his/her personal baggage and what that lens allows that person to see...what message is conjured up? In this era of Conceptual Art...unless the message is blatantly simple, there is a wide spectrum often to how an artwork is understood - all in the eyes of the viewer.

roman liberty said...

really interesting, you should post more often

art said...

really a loving blog

DPLblog said...

I agree with Roman Liberty. When's the next "New Art" blog post coming? It's been months! Ha ha!

The Introverted Art said...

I was going to comment about the post, which I really liked, but then I read the *disclaimer* for commenting and after I read it, I can't stop laughing.

Ann said...

thanks for sharing, it was deep.

Fine Art said...

I appreciate the passion and honesty of your post. Artists need to be inspired/provoked/angered/coming from somewhere to produce art. It can be good, bad, ugly, but the product is always sourced from the artist's inspiration. You can choose to hide it if its ugly, or show it if its good, but art will always strike a chord with someone...

- Fine Art

Ayisha said...

Its really outstanding and amazing post what a nice painting. I am so surprised after visit your post. Thanks a lot for sharing these awesome post with us !!

Remove Background Photoshop said...

last few days I'm reading this blog site only for this kind of nice concept! really incredible work.

Stefan said...

I'm highly anticipating your next post, however long it may take.
Anyway on topic: It always seems that however strong the artists intentions are, somewhere down the line something takes over. Perhaps even a simple causality that changes the image all together.
It is, however, in my opinion that the artist (if he is any good) in the end decides what stays and what goes. This is of course implicit in the process of creating, but also explicit in the process of publication. The artist will always be responsible for what he sends out in the world, he will however never be responsible for the interpretation of other human beings regarding his work.

Photograph Afficionado said...

Really interesting post, it's kind of a scary thought that an artist might not always have total control, but whether he really needs it or not is another question.

Creative Holiday Girl said...

I kind of like this idea of a separation between an artist and his work, in a way I suppose it gives more freedom for interpretation!

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