Art

Since ages, accomplished artists and their works have been associated with intuitive knowledge, deep insight, unconventional wisdom, and sublime perfection. Art is amusement and amazement too, illusion and irony, a proxy for desire and trauma, ecstasy and despair. It is a collection of worlds that mirrors the experience of being human in inventive, evoking ways. On top of that, artists muse, and often joke, about their own proceedings and choices.  Thus, art furnishes life with an endless inventory of what the case might be, it shows how to guide perception and unify depiction.
In other words, artists act as natural promoters of a prosophical vision. Their productions are model A|D|R formations in that they are able to make anything arise in front of us, encourage role enactments, and experiment expression in all subtlety. A masterpiece is not just a thing of beauty and forever a joy. It’s an ideal plenum, packed of appealing likelihoods and options. But there’s a downside in most artworks, at least to this day, their need for completion. Artists aim to fulfill their intentions and accomplish their works, while the public delights in going through the extent of the masters’ consummate achievements against cultural constraints and small-mindedness. So, what downside is there in this aspiration to ripeness?

The perils of attainment

The problem is, concepts like completion and attainment can be easily idealized. In a sense, they are self-endorsing; they come with a kind of worship attached. The peculiar reasoning being, if perfection requires completion, then completion has to bring perfection. Whenever we find something to be perfect enough, we’re all too ready to renounce additional scouting and divergent conclusions. A Jeff Koons shining, plump, balloon-like puppy promotes a risky sort of beatitude. There’s often an affectation in perfection, the implication that nothing can be put in the picture or envisaged beyond such an accomplishment. Achievements content themselves with what completion is locally reached. But whatever the case, there’s always much more to it. A moment later – in the being-to-the-world of a person, a community, or a culture – what is left of any fulfillment is just a shadow, almost a numbness facing the incoming issues. Something different wants to be achieved. Past perfections get heaped in museums and fall into oblivion. The various streams of life are soon concerned with novel interests. There’s always an impelling call for new ones. When this discarding process slows down, a sense of cultural stagnation prevails. [top]

Art’s double face

The urge for completion in the artist brings about finite objects (a poem, a painting) whose purpose is to transcend their objectual confinement and touch plenitude. This commitment also affects the subjectual and medial facets of the output: for instance, artists are supposed to kind of embody the human being in themselves and to speak a universal language. However, the opposite is also predictable, for it’s all too easy to perceive plenteousness, if not altogether plenitude, this side of the horizon of whatever we wish to say, see, and feel. Intellectual consummation comes with an erotic charge. Perfection pleases itself. Of this manipulation is responsible the artist, particularly when he seeks to conform, with his manner, to ideotic pressures; but it’s the public that contributes for the most part to the internment of art within restricted views. [top]

Coming of age

In short, as any other human product, art is caught between the originarian A|D|R freedom and the need for control. Only, while in objects of use this need is prevalent, art comes out as a priceless laboratory where the outmost limits of freedom and control are together explored. Until not long ago, control had the upper hand over freedom. Art had to comply with beauty and please some natural order, or the harmony of the spheres. Its highest ambition was also its constraint. But ours are times of many contrasting, tottering cultures that have to live side by side and recognize their diversities more than mix up their similarities. Plain, cushy understanding is no solution; orderly, schematic, overly-focused results are short lived. Instead, what should be brought about is a motivating pot-pourri of suggestions, a frank conversation between new neighbors, a melting pot of contrasting, yet mixing-up, views. Not surprisingly, artists have caught up very quickly with this brave new world of worlds. Just think of what the concept of painting still was in Van Gogh’s times and what has happened to it since then. In less than a century visual artists have experimented with almost everything. Yet, most of their production has adhered to the old agenda: the urge for symbolic unity, material completion, and intellectual self-indulging is still dominant in the majority of cases. As to the so-called content, the common man’s bewilderment facing deep social change has been variously embodied in artwork. Loads of anxiety, desolation, disparagement, or unwarranted enthusiasm, have been articulated. Contemporary art, most of it, has obliged the gallery visitor, either delighted or horrified at seeing his worst fears and most intimate dreams exposed. [top]

What is of interest

This is to say that, even in our times, art is far from routinely prosophical. It enjoys being ironical, fanciful, childishly shocking but, with few exceptions, it doesn’t purposefully explore the amazing extent of the A|D|R potential springing from the most ordinary events. All the same, the roots-exposing, transducibility-revealing trend that is noticeable in most narrative contexts is rapidly imposing itself in sectors – like painting, sculpture, and architecture – that were previously thought of as rather static and contemplative. Needless to say, I’m not trying to convey that some art is less worthy or uninteresting from a prosophic viewpoint. Prosophy itself is built on the concept that human beings are able to convert any kind of experience in a wealth of A|D|R facets. An apt inducement gets plenty of responses from a keen observer. What I’m just saying is that a distinctly prosophical attitude seems to gradually prevail in contemporary visual arts, the way it does in fiction and elsewhere, and that this process is interesting for us to examine and encourage. We’ll wait and see if it’s going to turn out great artwork; but it will certainly enhance our being-to-the-world awareness. [top]

The artist is present

If art has been, since its distant beginnings, a thorough exploration of human worlds, what shall we deem prosophic art, properly? Let’s consider, first, that prosophy has to do with events and eveniences. There’s no thing, here, detached from the act it is lived in. No art objects, but artistic experiences should be singled out, as far as prosophic art (or proart) is of concern. No Tiziano’s Assunta, but a myriad of Assunta-related events, each of them embraced in one or more live eveniences. Also, no ideal Frari visitor set apart from who actually happens to visit and no visit discernible except through what is actually thought to be meant by the painting by the visitor. In short, the prosophic quality of an event – the wealth of its arising, deciding, and relating aspects – can only be guessed a posteriori by another event. This said, prosophic art properly is going to be less a production of beautiful things than it is an open-minded endeavor, a light-hearted commitment to enrich the triple horizon of what is observed, who appreciates it, and by what expressive means. It takes the form of an offer, an ample offering of A|D|R implications and enticements. If this is what most nears prosophic art, there’s no doubt in my opinion that contemporary artists offer a great assortment of suited and rather unsuited cases. Just to pick up a notorious example, I don’t see much prosophic inducement in Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God diamond-encrusted skull (2007). This kind of cheaply seductive fabrication and titling compares poorly with, say, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist Is Present performance (MoMA, New York, NY, March 14–May 31, 2010), when she humbly and regally sat for eighteen days waiting for anybody from the public to sit down in front of her and silently eye-contact her during long minutes. The difference between the two ‘works’ is apparent when you think that Hirst’s circle presents a didactic explanation of what he’s done, i.e. singling out and amplifying as much as he could the victory-over-decay contemporary daydream, while Abramovic invites people to exchange with her the most common and complex of human acts, and see what happens. She enacts one of human life’s crucial building blocks and in doing so urges us to see deeper into everyone’s evenience, with no ideotics attached. [top]

Picking out prosophic art

The Hirst/Abramovic contrast of modes is self-evident, I’d rather say, throughout their production and deserves further examination as a case study. Presently, let’s imagine the same visitor facing the two works on different occasions, i.e. the diamond-encrusted platinum skull impressively exposed to her view, and the artist in person, quietly sitting in front of an empty stool, her gaze on her lap but ready to be raised as soon as a stranger takes place in front of her. Moreover, think of artworks not as objects or performances, but as sets of eveniences in the lives of the artist, the visiting public, and the world-wide community . With these two emblematic scenes on mind, let’s wind up a few opening remarks on prosophy in art.

  1. As far as one such event is singled out, we’ll never know, beforehand, its actual vigor in enhancing a deeper and wider awareness of the arise|decide|relate correlation. The individual A|D|R impact of any artwork cannot be worked out, except by living it. Living an event is the same as to work out its impact. To tell about it is already a different event.
  2. Art offers a planned, structured experience. Experience of what? The what (and the what not, too) has changed a lot all over ages and cultures, but in general it’s either a catching idea, which is locally assumed to be of paramount value, or an open exploration on a field of concern. The former requires that one’s A|D|R facets match the ideal thing, albeit in its own way, while the latter looks more as an invitation to devise one’s own path of comprehension and to compare it with other models. Actually, most artwork stands somewhere between the two extremes, but it is evident, or so it seems to me, that the meeting/clashing of cultures in our times has brought about in a number of artists – a minority, at any rate – a willingness to prioritize art as an invitation to explore the magma of differences rather than as a mesmerizing, attention-grabbing device.
  3. Art objects tend to stand apart from each other, but art events benefit from a cumulative effect. Just think of the influx of arise|decide|re­late observations by the time your typical afternoon in the museum nears its end. It may so be argued that, as long as a culture hosts a great variety of artwork and people are free to enjoy their events without impediments, it won’t matter very much if the individual artist’s vision is confined, ideotically compressed. In this sense, the celebrated assertion – first by German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) – that the interpreter knows more than the author is accurate. But even free societies are free to a certain extent only. Sure, an unpermissive society can hamper the individual freedom of experience; but a permissive one is not going to be automatically beneficial to its members’ widening of horizons. An easy example comes from the Belle Epoque, an age so trapped in its aesthetic and para-ethic delusions that it came to a tragic end without even going as far as to suspect it as a joke. So, my reasoning is, it takes an amount of positive effort for any culture to develop and maintain a high level of A|D|R awareness in most of its members. A single ideotic artwork in a basically free-thinking society may well promote insight, because it helps appreciating what it appears to be wanting. But the cumulative effect of a production indifferent to prosophic values is not to be ignored.
  4. Art is figurative, symbolic. Its primary purpose is to stand for: to stand, in a captivating way, for what we care for. If our venues were left unadorned by law, like in ancient Sparta, we’d be deprived of a wealth of cultural stimuli; but what if, like in Pericles’ Athens, our urban space were beautified, for the most part, with solemn nude deities and heroes? Would not such a scenario probably induce an overall curbing effect on our A|D|R associations as well? In a world where proportions were idealized Socrates’ unattractive face couldn’t but be singled out, either as plainly vulgar or, in contrast, like Plato did, as an ironic clue to his character’s inner beauty. What I’m trying to convey, is that no culture is immune from its own idols. Cultures are inexorably self-centered even when they promote enlightenment. It is crucial that all efforts be made for everybody to keep their eyes open. Art can be instrumental to this end, standing as a metaphor of our souls’ relentless strife to avoid cultural serfhood. The extent of people’s understanding of the objectual, subjectual, and medial involvedness in their lives is what prosophic art should try to stand for and increase, much more than any particular idea of order or beauty. [top]
Opening points
The perils of attainment
Art’s double face
Coming of age
What is of interest
The artist is present
Picking out prosophic art

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