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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Danger of Self Conscious Art and the Artistic Value of Repetition

         The danger is that it sucks. For the artist, there is no other greater concern.  On the one hand, increasing your technical skill level is vital.  An artist wants to refine the artistic product so that it generates the desired response in the audience.  If you create a work of art, and people look at it and shrug, then the art has failed.  If you want to create art that does not obtain an audience response, then I would suggest you are not a true artist.  The oft claimed artistic response of withdrawing into oneself is belied by the publication of art to the world.  If you didn't want people to pay attention, you wouldn't be sharing it and asking people to involve themselves with it.
      At the same time, a level of self consciousness about the artistic process lends itself to art that is more commerce then inspiration.  Artistic inspiration is often thought to come from the unconscious part of the brain, and self awareness directly impedes the relationship between artistic inspiration and unconsciousness.  This was a conflict that German author Fredrich Schiller made in his essays on Aesthetic Education of Man  but Hegel picked up on the same conflict and incorporated it into his philosophy.
      The exit point for this dilemma lays in a taste choice of taking repetition over novelty.  Those who crave novelty are expressing their own failure as human beings.  The desire for newness, for new things, is a flaw in people who do not adequately value repetition in art and in life.  If you think about what people are, they see the sun rise and set every day, they sleep every day, they eat every day.  Without that routine humanity would not exist.  It defines us as a species, and it is at the very center of the earliest religion.  A person who denies the rightness of periodicity is a person at war with himself.
   Embracing repetition and rejecting novelty is not a simple choice to make, but it does solve the dilemma of artistic self consciousness.  If the purpose is to create meaning through the slow accretion of slight variations in the same theme, then there is no issue with spending ALOT of time thinking about one specific subject and teasing out the variabilities.

  Here is a pictorial example of what I am talking about:

Meenakshiamman Temple, South Gopuram,Madurai

   This is a temple in the southern part of Tamil Nadu, which is itself a southern province of the modern day country of India.  You can see the obsessive accretion of detail and geometrical expansion of the architectural forms clearly hear, but this is a style of temple throughtout India.  It represents one religious/artistic complex that values repetition over novelty.

alhambra interior: detail

  Here's another example of a different religious/artistic approach that values repetition over novelty.  This photograph shows the interior of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.  This building was decorated by Jews working at the behest of Arabs.

  These example demonstrate an essential point, that a culture which craves novelty over repetition is something that was created by capitalism, consumerism and is a choice which has overwhelmed residents of countries most affected by consumerism and capitalism.  Novelty also triumphs over repetition in places where material well being allows ample choice.

   I would suggest that most of the ennui being discussed relative to the explosion of choice in all arenas of life is directly related to a failure to acknowledge the centrality of repetition to human identity.

1 comment:

Anthony Clifford said...

I get what you're saying...BUT, as an artist I feel there's no point in exploring the well-trodden path. Unfortunately there's not many of them left these days...yeah you can be happy and be pleased with your work can be an artist.

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