There is fake art on the Chinese market. Art that is not authentic, art that has no author, whose author is not the name on the price tag but a group of art students who were merely practicing their craft more than thirty years earlier, many obscure angles on the same nude. In another case, a fake jade burial suit passed for ancient and was auctioned off as ancient in order to procure investment, to build up capital for the attraction of more capital for the purpose of funding a “development.”
What is “development,” anyway, and what does it have to do with Art?
There are fake protests in the streets and public squares of America. We need FAQs to explain them to people. They have no clear message. They are poets without a clue (or are they?) Their faces are not the right shade of green. Their complaints assemble themselves into no coherent strategy. They are only meeting, only occupying a space, only eating and rolling cigarettes.
They do not understand the structural problems in the system that have to be altered for any true change to happen. They need more theory than they’ve got, more planning behind their actions, more … oh wait, they’re gaining numbers. The media is watching. Call out the unions, bring in speakers, find figure heads, win elections, quick (Mainstream “Left”).
They’re just hippies smoking dope and ruining our (previously unused) public spaces. They’re a joke, a butt-face target for Wall Street hecklers hanging out of fourth-storey balconies drinking champaigne. No wait, they’re gaining numbers. Now they are commies, they’re in league with George Soros and his secret plan to destroy America he’s been talking about for twenty years. They are the long foretold beginning of the end, another sign of Armageddon. The world WILL end in 2012. The fall of America is imminent.
Go buy gold and silver because who knows what anything will be worth when the economy collapses and, if you do and it doesn’t (though we all know it probably will), I’ll keep my advertisers. Buy up canned foods because you can’t eat gold and silver (even though they catch the shine of the eye so pretty) and because buying up stuff will help the economy. Make sure you have a safe to put your gold and silver in and your shotgun handy because the looting masses will be coming to your door. No, they will, because most people are like that: greedy, envious thieves in mobs coming to rape and pillage what is not theirs. We are the good people, and we have to hang on (Mainstream “Right”).
[Note the lack of a picture depicting nonviolent protesters. This was semi-intentional after the fact.]
In fact, they didn’t just make paint, it seems they had paint-making “kits” and seem to have manufactured it in quantity so they could plaster it everywhere on their bodies and dwellings. The planning and cooperation involved indicates an intelligence level previously thought unlikely in our ancestors.
(Anyone else find that assumption less than flattering? Apparently, we haven’t developed as much as we thought we had. Actually, on second thought, I like that a lot.)
But what does “development” have to do with Art? For that matter, what does Art have to do with “protest”? Isn’t protest supposed to DO something?
(OK, so I’m a theorizer and I just lured you here with pictures. Here goes…)
Maybe Art has nothing to do with either development or protest, or maybe Art is the filthy red ocher no one knows how to make until they start mixing things together. Maybe Art is what a person does with that ocher once it’s mixed and just lying around waiting for someone to play with it. Maybe Art is the drive to gather in the streets and fill a space with all the boiling stuff inside us by writing it down on any spare material available — clothing, cardboard, a city sidewalk? Maybe this trial and error results in development?
(Development, but not progress — progress is too often called on to justify wars and exploitation. Art by its nature stands in opposition to that kind of thing. It is not justifiable. It is extra. Using it for any practical means, such as justifying warfare, kills the Art in art. Still, Art tags along and subverts its own subversion.
Protest is also born of excess. Obama is touring the country and threatening executive excess to prevent this excess of protest from boiling over and/or to channel this excess his way — excess in the service of con-serving the system from the excess negative sentiment it has generated. Excess that some call a “farce.” (As if politics was anything but.) Excess to save an excessive system from crumbling under the weight of its own excesses. I could go on…)
So maybe Art is homologous to Protest. Art protests impermanence and invisibility by fashioning extraneous objects (or extraneously ornamenting otherwise useful objects) out of whatever impermanent materials are lying around. Art is only semi-permanent in its impulse, not in the objects it assembles or configures.
Art is only visible in its objects. Art is not Eternal. It does not Immortalize. It only makes divine in the sense that human beings set up statues to represent their gods because they have an impulse to do so. These, too, crumble and are replaced by statues in the mind.
The impulse of Art, as a human impulse, goes on as long as human beings (apes?) persist and retain that impulse, though the objects Art inspires may and do fade.
So we must realize that a world without Shakespeare is imaginable and radically possible (likely?), though to some it might seem a horror world. Homer was likely a compiler and a reviser, a refiner and recorder of materials he (she?) inherited. Old films are “remastered” and often changed or “improved” (ruined?) in the process.
Art is not enacted on stable media. Even stone weathers. Disasters happen. Wars …
What might we have lost in the burning down of the library of Alexandria? Why do we so covet the long lost work of any well-known painter or writer? Why else restore the full cut (as far as possible) of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis? Why do I care that I can watch all the shows I remember from my childhood on Netflix and Hulu? These actions are not due to Art’s permanence, but its impermanence, its inability to preserve itself unchanged even in my memory, its inability to be more than a relic at the whim of the forces of nature and human desire (the effects of which we call History), to be anything but part of the rubble of history that is forgotten unless someone remembers or unearths it.
So we see that anything that must be preserved in order to persist is fragile by nature. In the case of Art, what is preserved is an expression chiseled in stone.
Thus, the irony of those who belittle “expressive” poetry — what is poetry, what is Art, if not expressive? The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, by pushing the bounds of in-expressivity to what is sometimes perceived as a breaking limit, so that some readers stress and strain over the question of meaning and signifier, nonetheless affirm that Art is an expressive continuum. We stand before the mute goddess and expect her to speak to us.
Art is elastic. It rebounds and ricochets. It means things its authors do not intend to viewers never intended to experience it.
How long can one speak in gibberish before a pattern of meaning emerges? The expression of the deepest grief may be the same low murmur repeated on end; inexpressible joy may inhabit the most colorful but repetitive chatter — how the apes and my children learn(ed) speech.
Occupy that. Wait around for it. Deny it if you can. Or protest me. I could use the publicity.