Ecclesiastes 1:9


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Memory, the past, reality - how to capture that fleeting moment, why the need to define previous, to trap it, cage it and display it. Should the artist concern himself with this hunt? Is it not the ultimate concern of the artist? Do we involve ourselves in 'the framing and drawing' to prove that we hunt a prey that does not exist? To assume that because memory cannot be reproduced in its exact contextual nature and that there is therefore no value in forgery, is to undermine the nature of the artistic process and the effect it has upon those who, aware or ignorant, are in daily contact with its many forms. Surely there must be answers in the quest for memory, answers in the pale forgeries? When I was still studying photography, I had a theory that truth (that of the past and the present) as a matter of traces was the banner under which I had to operate. Place a camera in the hands of everyman, and the base human urge to record the obvious will prevail. The true nature of an image is often that part that is most overlooked, or in some cases, the most well disguised. How often does the aspiring critic glean meaning where it is not to be found, not because he is preoccupied with his image more than that of the artist (well, partially), but because it is an almost monolithic force that places what he wants to see in the image, superimposing non-existent meaning. How much of that which we believe we have grasped remains, in fact, further from our grasp than ever before? If the viewer can never fully grasp an image, as that image fails to grasp its subject, then upon recollection the image alters, setting in motion a possibly infinite process in which the more an image is committed to memory and then recalled, the more it is unlike the original. But an after-image, a trace always remains. If a created image is not whole, lacking in reality but abundant in imperfect collection. then what does one create images of? If the representation of a memory is flawed or unreal, then surely that representation should be the same? If a human body is the subject, is it not truer to mask identity, distort, disguise, concentrate on absence rather than inclusion? If what before was an image of a simple room, a box, an ornament, an unglamourous face, then what will the representation of such things achieve? Nothing? The reaffirmation that such things are in fact banal? According to Derrida we, not only the image, cannot be Whole. According to Baudrillard we, not only the image, cannot be Real. According to Virilio we, not only the image, cannot be There. This loss or absence, this failure, rather than being merely a metaphysical failure of presence opens up the possibility, infinite in scope, to set in motion a play with the plurality of the other, the difference between the self and the other, that allows for experience to be open. But surely art is not exclusively about the final image, rather, the process: the journey is the destination. If the image is failed and imperfect, does this not apply to the process? Whether it be cathartic or not, much pleasure can be derived from the creation of an image. But at the same time, the knowledge that this creative process is at best only able to produce pale shadows must weigh heavily. The initial pride at manipulating the viewer, rapping the knuckles of society, can only ever be short-lived. And what of the notion of the 'authentic copy'? If the painted image is flawed, in essence and not in technique, then what of those qualities we so love to see? Can an image be truly beautiful? If the image is perverted, this beauty must too be perverted. Wholeness gives way to the partial, identity to anonymity, warmth to horror. We see the human face every day, and though it affects us in many ways, fear and horror would not normally be among those emotions. Then why does a photographed or painted face have the potential to instill the viewer with paranoia, even repulsion. What does the face lose in it's conversion to canvas or film that can transform our reactions? Or for that matter, is it something it gains? Is it a confrontation with the obsolete? What could be mistaken for warmth is in fact sickness. The image that appears peaceful is nothing of the kind. There is a constant violence. Not that violence which has been redefined in an age of the flickering screen, but a violence of a different sort. A violence in which we believe reality to be of a certain nature, but through the image, perhaps a deception, we are shaken by the realisation that it is not so. Can the truth be grasped by the piecing together of the traces in every indexical image? It is certainly closer to being captured when we accept that truth is not what we hope it to be. What of this chain-reaction? The infinite means by which an image is created, viewed, recollected, altered, created ad infinitum? This process allows us to operate upon a reality that has become more stable (yet which threatens to crumble at any moment). There is nothing new under the sun? How can we answer that statement with any certainty if our memories are as fickle as the attempts to capture them in paint, pencil and film? To paraphrase Georges Bataille, the realisation that this mourning of loss, this impossibility of violence in which the image making process is complicit, is also ironically and paradoxically, the very beginning of worlds of possibility. Goddamn Art College, couldn't just allow me to think like a sane and rational person, could they.


6 Responses to “Ecclesiastes 1:9”

  1. Blogger Luke 

    IT'S mONDAY i'VE gOT THE bEGINNINGS of CheST fLU and my head hurts ...
    i don't analyse art or the creative process behind it. In my book, you either get it or you don't (which applies to both the creation and appreciation of "art"). More often than not, one man's art is another man's toilet paper - so for me, it's as simple and cut and dried as that. It either "feels right" or it's rubbish dump fodder and as I'm my worse critic, it usually ends up the latter.
    I wish I could be loftier about it but I can't. Maybe tomorrow ... if I can remember what it was I was going to say.

  2. Blogger Carl V. 

    I echo lucretia's sentiment...I've just got my first Monday headache! :)

  3. Blogger jenn see 

    indeed, that was too much for a monday headspace. but i'll think about it tomorrow. tuesdays are much better for that sort of thing.

    incidentally, because i'm lazy, what's the title refer to?

    yes i could look it up. but i won't. no bibles on mondays neither.

  4. Blogger Gone Away 

    It's a very art college post, but I came to the conclusion some years ago that what you see is art if art is what you see. (despite the fact that art college educates you to imbue your work with meaning that you didn't put into it).

    I don't like Tracy Emmins work (for example, sorry to single her out), but if you see it as art, then for you it is art.

    And it's 'status' as art doesn't depend upon the artist, or the creative process, or the completeness or the work. If it's perceived as art by the viewer then it is art.

    Yes, the viewer imbues emotions, thoughts, sentiment, meaning.... like Schroedingers Cat, viewing it changes the outcome.

  5. Blogger Gone Away 

    And I Googled up the Bible reference:

    "That which has been is that which shall be; and that which has been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. "

    Appropriate....

  6. Anonymous fence 

    I'm glad I read the other comments, now I know I'm not the only confuddled bunny out here :)

    Art is all about opinion and perspective, imo.

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