THE Meaning of the art Truth
 
 

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Many deal with art in the world. And many of these paint, sculpt, draw and make installations, using all sorts of media. Few, in truth, aim for or obtain appreciable results. Intellectual ability, conceptual lucidity, expressive command, expository clarity, acceptable basic knowledge of the history of art and originality are prerogatives very few have – they may be convinced, or believe, or hope they do, after having outlined marks on a canvas, or made objects or video graphic images, in short after having composed a work of art. Cultural “massification” (now called globalization), which has indeed brought benefits, has also led to an impoverishing of culture itself. However, the dissemination of culture, which invests ever greater numbers of mediatic channels, has not succeeded in teaching large numbers of people how to evaluate and discern. The mystifying effect has had a negative impact on the ability of individuals to evaluate the worth of a work of art qua intrinsic value, or even to evaluate a different relationship to art, whether it be ancient, modern or contemporary. How many of us are really convinced and fully understand that the use of a work of art may not only give pleasure and be pleasurable, but above all promote a broadening of cognitive horizons and personal spiritual growth? Very few, I think. Mass culture has effected what could only be termed an example of social blackmail on man: it has coercively imposed on the majority what is deemed most useful for the system, at the same time limiting the individual’s various choices – and therefore his or her possibility of action.

Those who love art because they feel the need to produce it very often limit themselves to this and do not hone their ability through study, reading, debate and, this must be said clearly, they are almost always the root cause of the poor quality of publications on contemporary art that they would like us to consider art simply because it has been reviewed or written about by a famous critic, author or publisher. Do they think the general public are stupid, and that they will devour whatever they’re given as long as they’ve been provided with the right prestigious references? In part, that’s what it would seem like: yes, the meagre, elitist art public seems incapable of imposing their own taste through declared approval, or buying works or art books. This, in fact, is almost always toned down by models that are not always freely chosen but imposed from above, and then assumed by those “below” who want points of reference that offer guarantees in terms of validity, even though this is often a mere fiction. In other words, the referential mechanisms of unmerited legitimacy works extremely well with the art public who, having supinely accepted the present as the pre-existing, seem disposed to continue their consumption of everything that is labeled “good” only because it comes from, or is gilded, by this “higher realm”. The mistaken models towards which the art public’s “taste” has been channeled really seem to make us believe that art is dead, as some of its assassins maintain through their inability to produce art of any value.

Some critics even maintain that everything has already been done, that nothing of any interest could ever exist again. They are suspicious of and revile art that is able to induce pleasure or convey messages, that has meaning; in truth, only because they have nothing to say and do not want others to eradicate this nothing. Why, though, if this is what they want, do they continue to publish? Isn’t it contradictory for them to want to extenuate death, to perpetuate mourning? Why did they start dealing with art? Why on earth do they continue to deal with art, considering their premises? Perhaps they only want to enhance their own prestige, their academic careers, and this is how they are able to do it... Have these poets ever posed themselves the problem of the consumption of art, or wondered if what they write might ever reach a public made up not just of people who make art, or want to make art, or study it?

Officially, or “semi-officially”, and carefully evaluating the latest poetic production and the generalized attitude of these seigneurs de l’art (who are, with due exceptions, generals without troops), you are overwhelmed by their inability, or even worse their unwillingness, to examine or even face the problem of the dissemination-popularization of the artistic product among a vast public. It seems that this doesn’t interest them much at all, for they are by no means committed to formulating hypotheses about this work or coming up with strategies or solutions. What’s more, if they are quizzed on the argument they reply evasively or by deploying commonplaces: art is apparently necessarily difficult, and therefore unable to galvanize larger numbers of consumers. Nor do they even dream of considering their own enormous responsibilities vis-à-vis the entire situation, or of attempting to invert this negative trend, which is death-inducing and counterproductive, most evidently for themselves as well as art in and of itself and contemporary and future artists. Obviously, the situation is certainly not a positive one, but it shouldn’t lead artists, critics and art lovers to assume that everything is destined to remain as it is now or that it will get worse. Only if each one of us, individually and through an act of personal will, decides to set as their main aim that of bucking the trend and begin to feel hopeful and think of a new collocation of art within the social, able to invade places within our daily life in the same way that news programmes, soap operas and goods in general have, even by using the same type of invasiveness they have used, then art may well begin to regain some of the ground it has lost.

A call to a sort of positive violence means nothing other than simply claiming our right to and for our own Reason. Egotistical and career-fuelled individualism should be banished, just as feeling sorry for ourselves should. What we should always bear in mind is that artists are always harbingers of values, and artists are always their tireless defenders in the face of indifference, generalized hostility and incomprehension, enemies that should always be fought off with stubbornness and determination, refusing to be bowed under by them and attacking them unexpectedly and suddenly on all fronts; because truth, which is beauty in a work of art, not only can but ought to reign supreme on this earth. Not fighting for this presupposes passively accepting the widespread dissemination of the new forms of barbarity that are typifying our times. Art has to attack conformist society like a powerful acid, not by backing what or who profess, either thanks to the resonance or fame they bring to bear, or those whom we might be led to believe detain art and have the ability to evaluate it and, in fact, impose it, but by backing art itself. Art itself must claim this victory in its relationship with the public, a public that is able to grow and that is therefore neither elitist nor factious. A spontaneous art that is not channeled in specific directions and not subjected to the yoke of all-encompassing mediocrity, not procrastinated by the current plethora of artistic pseudo-production, in its turn legitimated by a system that has been degraded to the point of convulsive delirium: an uncertain, weak system, incapable of holding itself aloft from the by-now repetitive motifs of compromise, corruption, nepotism and militancy.



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Many talented artists who have the right to deserve attention and publication are, on the contrary, forced to endure ostracism and a priori exclusion from the haughty, self-referential world of art publishing (which has become a sort of kasbah!). The same people are indifferent to their fate, intent as they are on looking after their own personal career interests, and the publishers themselves are almost totally uninterested for reasons, they maintain, that are purely economic or because they are unwilling to promote a product that would otherwise be publicized and launched before another product that, albeit mediocre, has already proven its worth and is easier to market. What’s more, there are artists who have been accorded privileges even though they don’t deserve them, and who hope to maintain them while trusting that no other artist will be discovered, published or made famous. It’s a hard life, therefore, for neo-artists in this cynical context.

Each individual is free to express his or her own ideas, according the constitutions of democratic countries, but these constitutions do not specify how this right can be guaranteed to the weaker categories who have no direct links with the powerful or who are not economically independent. Who knows, perhaps people think that only people who are able to say something have the right to say it, or that fate will set everything right in the end. In truth, this is the truth: we are told that we have rights and we take this for granted, but these rights are not guaranteed in any way. Often democracy is also applied as a perverse form of government: the supremacy of a dominant majority over an oppressed minority or minorities. What’s more, political subjects now seem to come to life or consolidate their position exclusively in order to see to petty economic interests. Cultural positions seem to end up being included only as side-dishes to be brandished as a secondary or fragile apparatus of faded references that are reduced to clichés during the spectacular and by no means essential political skirmishes between factions representing purely economic interests that reduce the dignity of individuals to their mere social cost, their more or less marked autonomous ability to meet their own existential needs. Art, seen as an elevation of conscience by researchers and the creative act of the individual, to the collective of organized society is a craft that must be, for its acceptance, highly civilized, that is a permanence within individuals of an intricate network of values and of values that are attributed to the things in the world. And unfortunately it does not seem that today’s society is moving towards those conditions that enable the dissemination of these values or that society has assumed the tenets of humanizing its subjects.

Who, nowadays, is dedicating hours of television programming to the mutation, through contemporary art, of the spirit of men who belong to a specific social context or, what’s more, to the same population? Who is really protecting artists who deserve to be publicized and sustained in the name of social usefulness and intrinsic value, independently of whether or not their works can be translated into economic worth? Who is protecting the profoundly ethical reasons informing the existence and production within history of new works of art, not by referring to a discriminatory and unfounded criterion which is assumed by a mercenary logic, the only universally and imperiously overarching logic in today’s Western systems? I’m afraid that the only answer to these questions is “nobody”. But who should answer these questions? Who should and could really guarantee, for art and for artists, better conditions and prospects for their very existence and life? Perhaps the institutions themselves, at this point. The fact is that such enormous issues investing the conscience of our collective society must be dealt with on a large scale. The attempt to develop cultural projects of serious renewal end up conflicting with an infinite series of problems, not the least of which is general apathy. Apart from a subjection to and an ensuing cooptation with the dominant cultural elites, there seem to be very few options available.

Some might ask, at this point, and after this devastating analysis of contemporary art, whether it really is worth continuing with cultural operations, whether producing art and bringing together, as is the case in this volume, 100 survivors of artistic creation has any meaning. The answer is yes, because apart from the see-sawing sense of frustration and defeat that often results from accepting such an onerous task or a mission for which we feel destined, legitimating a role that someone has chosen as a sincere calling will always be an onerous task – and most certainly an essential, noble and necessary one. And this is so because the germs of cultural renewal will always have a reason to exist only within and through the communal and constant efforts of those we call enlightened spirits. (A. Pagnes)