The Intimate (and the Sacred) for the Audience

To see through this thick fog…The weight of the world is immense. To continue to make work feels superfluous and necessary; it is our culture.  In my mind resonates Trungpa Rinpoche’s words…,  “ …the horrors of a war that could destroy the world and its inhabitants…”

I have been a studio practitioner for over 40 years and a dharma practitioner for 20.  Today, I know nothing more than I did 40 years ago. Ultimately, none of this matters. This is not nihilistic. I am writing, here, about not knowing, emptiness, vulnerability and balance.

We know the pendulum swings – anyone who has studied history sees it. This is beyond American history, it is the history of the world and more specifically, time.

“Formally” trained as an artist – some refer to it as “professionally” trained.  Either way – generally speaking – one who is “trained” has a particular rhythm(s) of working.  There is a discipline that is not born of anxiety because there is “nothing else to fill time” or “nothing else to do”. It is the same as dance. One practices daily to remain limber, flexible, growing, improving, working toward a communication of truth.  The only “upstream” that exists for this type of rhythm is those around you who cannot keep up.  I think of the discipline and refinement of Bill T. Jones; possibly because as a visual artist I was trained like a dancer.  The practice was constant, being critical about what you made was paramount and the criticism was objective. That art is subjective is bullshit. Art is only subjective when you don’t know anything about art….objectivity and transcendence…..intimate and sacred.  

Intimacy in the art viewing experience will eventually return – if not in my life time – in someone else’s. I do not believe in art as entertainment. I believe in it as enrichment.  I am interested in the intimate experience for the audience. Something that is transformative that is between the viewer and the work. Not new age Brene Brown – but instead, in line with the Vishnudharmottara which talks about the purpose of art and its structure being created in a form that leads to inner illumination for the viewer. This is a further step beyond Joseph Campbell’s succinct description of aesthetic arrest, but certainly related to it.

It may or may not be time to move away from the agony of the “private is public”; allowing the private to be private, contained, felt, responded to, communicated one to one, not en mass. Silence and scale has something to do with this intimacy. Silence holds intimacy. It is able to keep something secret or sacred or both. Small work draws the individual in; the eye of the work and the eye of the viewer –equal.  Silent and small can be activated. This is important, now, because the artworlds have never been louder or bigger. We are hell bent on our own recognition, not the recognition of the work.

I will not do the “homework” of understanding for the viewer, that is the viewers job. If it is true that once the work leaves the studio – the artist no longer has control of it – then why the hell should I have to discuss its meaning to me? The meaning now belongs to the viewer. Art is visual – it is a misnomer that arrived with both modernism and post modernism that artists need to explain their work. The artist is artificially blown to immense “importance” with this approach. It is irrelevance. The artist is irrelevant. The work is significant (or not).

The work stands the test of time not the artist. If the work itself does not demonstrate some relationship to a lineage of making then perhaps it should not be considered. That is for critics and historians to decide. An audience of artists or non artists will get from the work what they will.

The field of visual art was rarely about words. It was to communicate without words about both the seen and unseen. The audience has become lazy – the market “concept” has fostered explanation to the point of painful description that is not critical or helpful. The funky overdrive of the 21st Century media saturation has led us to believe that we must put words to a visual object (to sell it?) Ultimately, this makes the artist the authority which is a big fucking mistake. The art world and many of its artists are out of control. We all see it, the longer one looks and studies art the clearer this reality becomes. True makers are few. We will not know the artists that are significant in our time.

The work, not the artist, is the catalyst – the love affair with the artist has made far more artwork viable. All of this points to a whirlwind of contemporary issues around an audiences experience of intimate and/or sacred and what the artist’s relationship is to providing that opportunity for transcendence

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