Monday, June 04, 2007

Riot on the East Side

Whether something is or is not art has become an inquisitive fixture in my thoughts. I’m sure we can agree that quality plays an important role in this judgment, but the answer is not a definitive one. Art to me, art to you and art to everyone else is different, and what constitutes 'good' or 'bad' art or art in general is very personal and individual.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I have never claimed to be an expert on the technicality of art, and I have no desire to start today. Hell, I can't even recognize when art is 'technically' and ‘skillfully’ executed by any measure of artistic style or judgment, but that's not why I look at it. The lines, mediums and technique could reach out from the work, introduce themselves to me and explain their function within the piece, and I still would not evaluate the art from that standpoint. But I’m not a trained artist. I’m a writer, and a thinker and a curious third party, and I’m relatively sure the lines don't notice me either.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

If you were to ask me … come on, ask me … I believe art is about an internal dialogue that develops personally and internally with what I see. I prefer thought provoking art that awakens wonderment about the state of life, the simplicity of nature, the relevance of chaos or various other unspoken messages, usually serving some function of personal or social awareness. That's what I think 'art' is, and that's what I love it for. I love it for the effect that has on my heart and my mind in that moment and forever.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

As every good writer should, I will support my claims by referencing an essay by Leo Tolstoy. In What Is Art?, Tolstoy compares art and non-art (or ‘counterfeit-art’) based on their ‘infectious’ communicative abilities with their audience. For a piece to be considered art it should create an emotional link between artist and audience – one that "infects" the viewer. Albeit, the essay was written in 1897, and I couldn’t comment on the ‘infectiousness’ of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but for this argument to hold validity, let’s assume that all great thoughts transcend time.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I have maddened many of my artistically inclined friends with my probing research, and the general consensus among this enigmatic guild claims that those who make art evaluate art by its process. They use words like patterns, rhythm and movement in reference to the art itself, rather than a presumed message. They describe the process of art, created without intention to convey a message or concern for how it may be perceived. It is a showcase of skill rather than a commentary.

Okay, I get it. But even rituals in mysticism have some message or meaning, whether premeditated or bestowed by a higher being.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I have some reservations in critiquing art by its technicality for one reason: When we begin to discuss art in terms of style - color, line, shape, space – we can conveniently ignore or dampen whatever social, political or progressive statements the artist makes in their work, regardless of whether they had hoped or planned to.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some Greenpeace, tree-hugging, philosophical, voice-or-die hippie picketer, and I’m certainly not suggesting that artists are unilateral, free thought killing party police communists. (So if that’s what you were thinking, you’re way off and I suggest you go release some endorphins).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This weekend, my thoughts and notions regarding art and its interpretation were exposed as never before to the playground of minds that create art as a process. At Saturday night’s Vision Riot all attention was turned towards "making" and the manipulation of materials. The East side’s Pump Project Art Complex on Shady Lane invited several local contemporary artists, filmmakers and musicians to participate in a massive collaborative art and media experiment.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Because the method of making was the prima ballerina of the evening’s recital, what was being created took the backseat. Often the creation was temporary, interacting with or disappearing below layers of collaborative efforts. This was process as an art in some sort of unrehearsed performance installation.

On six towering planes of white space, artists displayed the diversity of their processes and styles. From intricate abstracts to master stenciling to lowbrow street art, this art intervention produced a sort of guerrilla communication among the spectators, musicians and the artists themselves. There were no existing themes or rules and no expectations of a particular audience.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
My Empty Phantom

While ‘pigment manipulators’ challenged, commented on, related to and interacted with previous work of others, they were driven by inspiration from sound and sight. Large video footage of dreamy psychedelic images and cleverly, rhythmically edited public access television projected on various white walls of the shady lane space. The enchanting live sets performed by local artists My Empty Phantom and It Was Divine Justice provided the artist-performers with a rhythm for their interpretation, and provided the spectators for some jamming dance beats.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
It Was Divine Justice

According to William Rubin, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, "there is no single definition of art." … I guess that’s a good way to sum it up. As long as people are making art, there will always be controversy, contemplation and conversation. Individuals will always harbor unique, possibly conflicting views about so many things in life that are more important than favorable or unfavorable art. It is this diversity in ideas, cultures, thoughts and observation that makes our world so intriguing.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger artdiva said...

Thanks for the delicious food for thought here! I enjoyed reading your piece. Do you mind if I link it up to the Pump Project website?

9:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home