Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Art School and a forgotten territory

Jon Thompson comes out with some really wonderful turns of phrase and insights in 'Collected Writings' ( p. 407 ed Akerman and Daly ). He's generally writing about the differences between images and texts, practice, art and research. All the stuff that's occupying my own thoughts at the moment, along with the usual existential tensions, lesions, and what Peter Sloterdijk described at the Tate on Saturday as the 'cult of unhappiness' ( i.e. that which binds people who have little into communities ).
Anyway, Thompson's writing says this about when a painter stands in front of a canvas
"...when the artist is preparing to invade the mysterious ontological territory where all works of art must find themselves."
This particular peice was written/presented in 2001. Thompson gives three books he believes any 'serious artist' should read ( he acknowledges he did this 'provocatively' ). The three books were, Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Simone Weil's Gravity and Grace, and Blanchot's, The Writing of the Disaster.
Well, lets just say that The Writing of the Disaster has been in and out of my head, off and on my bedside table and on top of or at the bottom of a pile of books since I first came across Blanchot over  25 years ago. Seeing it mentioned here by Jon Thompson threw me a little as I realise I've been edging closer to it again recently without really knowing it.
Where this book once had huge significance to me, I had forgotten that it still does, becuase of the constant return to seeing, imaging ( as cadever ), writing, living and dying, and 'the ontological territory where all works of art must find themselves".
Neverytheless I couldn't help but think that such thoughts about an essential( ist) aspect of art seem almost anachronous in the context of today's enterprise, research, career driven art school culture. It seemed like a very vague memory ( yes, actually dream like ) until I picked the book up again. And I guess that's the  point I'm trying to make ( if only to myself ). That it seemed like a memory until I picked it up again
As Thomspon goes onto say  "the chief subject of art's address- is to report on the conditon of the human soul and to do so in a manner  which is intelligible to its own time" ( my italics ).
So, I guess, the trick is to pick it ip again because the 'territory' is still there, its just that the Art School has forgotten how to get to it.

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