Monday, August 12, 2013

art and the invisible; art and the interior life

"Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar."

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible. - Paul Klee

It is one of the great ironies and paradoxes in life that art is the gateway and window into our interior world. Irony because art is considered superficial and non-essential. Paradox because it is visible and external, and speaks to that which is invisible and internal. It is part shell and part sign. It both holds and points the way.

Art is the ultimate expression of the very common expression that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. More irony and paradox perhaps. And like a Moses, for a variety of reasons, the artist can lead to water but may also not drink. Like a sin-eater, the artist performs a function in a society that ultimately will rarely be within their own grasp. But it doesn't have to be that way, and sometimes it isn't.

 Art is visible. That is part of its baggage. Can't get it through the eye of the needle. For this simple reason music has held a higher place for us and promises our salvation whether we appreciate it or not. Philosophers and even artists can agree on this. Music redeems us. 

But art comes second, albeit distant. And what of architecture? Well, it is useful and impossible to ignore.

Art can do things that music can't however, and that is the double edged sword. Art can be the visible sign of the invisible. It can be the window, the door, the gateway, and it can take us to so many places. 

It can transport us to the emotional, the spiritual, the psychological, the intellectual, even that which is philosophical, that which is moral, that which is ethical, but ultimately, and most importantly, that which is purely aesthetic, that which deals in the realm of form as an ideal, not just on a visible plane. 

It can speak to us of that invisible world all at once!

It can evoke it all, even sound! And abstract art can do it all in a way that is invisible in its own way by being non-representational. By being non-objective. By being unfettered by iconography and symbology and representation which holds it back, which is why abstract art has been considered the closest to music. 

Again, the double edge sword however, because that which gives abstract art a voice, a means, also mutes it. It can only point, suggest, even mime. It can't spell it out, say it outright. That which is not of concrete cannot be concrete. There is the rub.

So little in our life speaks of the interior life. We are superficial by design. We do things which represent us superficially. We invest our lives in these things. In our cars and houses and clothes and where we live, in our work, our education, our associations like communities, schools, churches, clubs and restaurants. We identify ourselves this way. And then to point more to our interior, by the books we read, the music we listen to, the people we connect with.

We turn to movies and television and religion for dialogue with our interior world, and if we are having trouble, trouble friends and family cannot help us with, we turn to therapy. If we are lucky we can make our exterior world connect to our interior selves, we can match it to our interior selves, so that what is on the outside is identical to what is on the inside.

And here again is what art can do. And modernism tried to clear this up. Modernism tried to clear the table. With a big arm it swept the table clean. For what? For starters to make sure that art wasn't something it wasn't, like politics or religion. Art for art's sake was about that clearing of the table. Freeing art from servitude. It made it self identical. 

So then the question is now the the table is clear, what do we put back on the table? The answer is all of it and none of it. And there you have post modernism. And the rub. You can't blink. The clear table invites corruption, to be commandeered by politics, religion, industry, even art itself. People get frustrated. They want art to serve. They can't let art be free. Right now politics seems to be muscling its righteous way into art the way religion did for centuries. This just might be even more frightening. Politics can wield a heavy sword.

Freedom is more precious. If we don't blink, art is there for us on the path of freedom. Ultimately art is uncanny in its wile; it slips any hold we try to make on it. Marble cannot hold it, frames cannot hold it, museums cannot hold it, governments and religion cannot hold it. Like the invisible, like love and truth and hope and faith and justice it goes its own way.

And because of that, artists are just as likely to avail themselves of it and all its richness as anyone. If they are free. If they haven't bought into the other stuff. If they aren't competing for the other stuff. Rivals for the other stuff. The fame and fortune. The symbols of fame and fortune. The poison of fame and fortune.

Which isn't to say they can't make it. They can. They just can't enjoy it. And that is a damned shame.

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

Thank you Paul Klee :)

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