The System: A Logic
1.0 Objects are never random.
1.1 They appear, for their own reasons, from a mass of surrounding detail.
1.2 As relates to art, randomness is planned.
1.3 To borrow from Marcel Duchamp, art is the process of “canning chance.”
1.4 John Cage prepares the piano.
1.5. Accidents are necessary to those with a method.
1.6 When conditions are too prepared, the artifice is unbearable.
1.7 For instance, frogs raining from the sky at the end of the movie Magnolia.
1.8 It must appear that nature has violated art of its own accord.
1.9 “Random waves can approach but not achieve full chaos” (MIT Museum)
Conclusion: Chance is more objective than nature itself.
2.0 The world is essential.
2.1 But it’s cluttered with existence.
2.2 Art makes existence seem to be essential.
2.3 The excitements of a peach are assigned by a point of view.
2.4 But life is not meaningless.
2.5 On the contrary, it is often too meaningful (cf. the paranoid-critical method).
2.6 Beauty appears at the conjunction of meaninglessness and the essential.
2.7 Within that nexus, absence is more powerful than presence.
2.8 Which explains the beauty of shadows.
2.9 And the strange philosophical logic of Plato’s cave.
Conclusion: Absence is the source of presence.
3.0 Art is now indistinguishable from life.
3.1 It’s the conception, not the making (Duchamp).
3.2 The death of the artisan gives birth to the critic.
3.3 The original loses all force.
3.4 The copy becomes essential.
3.5 And the everyday is sacred.
3.6 For the heroic and operatic, there is film and installation art.
3.7 Both require large amounts of capital.
3.8 But the only true Gesamtkunstwerk (Kandinsky) is life itself.
3.9 Modern consciousness was created by Henry Ford, the postmodern by Andy Warhol.
Conclusion: Capitalism, democracy, and art are now in agreement.
4.0 The self is a shifting balance of consciousness and the world.
4.1 In portraying the world, we enshrine some aspect of ourselves.
4.2 In portraying ourselves, we first go to the world.
4.3 To create for others is necessary but crass.
4.4 To create for oneself is inevitable and sentimental.
4.5 “What I like least in others is myself” (Picabia)
4.6 “I is another” (Rimbaud)
4.7 The mirror is never empty.
4.8 Technique is a test of the world’s sincerity.
4.9 Before the first word, the formalities of composition.
Conclusion: The world requires syntax.
5.0 Beauty is never beautiful.
5.1 Each generation ushers in a new sense of the beautiful.
5.2 The formerly beautiful is led to the door.
5.3 Old beauties smolder resentfully in the dark: the half-said, lyrical, and imagist.
5.4 The beautiful is at first ridiculous, later sublime, then ridiculous once more.
5.5 But beneath the beautiful, one can sense beauty’s stark structure.
5.6 Beauty has a “central, incendiary, negative idea” (Henri-Pierre Roche).
5.7 “Death is the mother of beauty” (Wallace Stevens).
5.8 Like the hero, beauty possesses a flaw.
5.9 This contradiction is the source of its power.
Conclusion: Beauty is a form of irony; both lead to candor.
6.0 Art is intimacy at a distance.
6.1 Distance is a source of desire.
6.2 It leads to objectivity, precision, penetration, and insight.
6.3 Irony cares too much.
6.4 The sentimental cares too little.
6.5 In vacating both extremes, art locates metaphysical depth.
6.6 We begin to sense the “tragedy of serenity” (di Chirico).
6.7 The object stands against a vacant landscape.
6.8 Nothing happens then it happens again.
6.9 Silence and slow time are the source of pleasure.
Conclusion: Distance leads to “inhabited depths.”
7.0 Art is abstract.
7.1 Poetry, for instance, resists experience.
7.2 What happens is meaningless.
7.3 It’s that which means that counts.
7.4 Not the scene but the painting.
7.5 Not the battle but death.
7.6 The figure is quite familiar.
7.7 But the line is strange.
7.8. The simpler a thing, the more complex (Pollock spills paint).
7.9 “Least satisfying is the picture most thoroughly painted” (James Schuyler)
Conclusion: The abstract is the essential.
8.0 Reality is not the real.
8.1 Life is actual; the real is poetic.
8.2 The best art seeks universal gestures.
8.3 For example, Louis Armstrong’s scat singing of “Up a Lazy River.”
8.4 Not the melody but “smudged” essential sounds.
8.5 Not words alone, but their direction and force.
8.6 Cries and gestures display a formal wisdom.
8.7 The real is abstract.
8.8 The actual acts.
8.9 Either way, absence must be present.
Conclusion: Eloquence is precision.
9.0 An apple makes no comment.
9.1 It says only itself.
9.2 The painting of an apple has much to declare.
9.3 Abstract art has even more to say.
9.4 But its declaration amounts to a poetics.
9.5 Poetry yearns for language; that is, for “nothing.”
9.6 But it strongly relies on the formalities of nature.
9.7 The more abstraction, the greater the yearning.
9.8 The narrative poet knows only experience.
9.9 The lyric poet knows only the real.
Conclusion: Sense is inherent; a soul must be acquired.
December 12, 2004
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