Monday, February 09, 2009

Creative Urge

Elizabeth Grosz from an interview titled "The Creative Urge":
That’s right, there’s something about art that is an abundance of excess. Art is the revelry in the excess of nature, but also a revelry in the excess of the energy in our bodies. So we’re not the first artists and we’re perhaps not even the greatest artists, we humans; we take our cue from the animal world. So what is it that appeals to us? It’s the striking beauty of flowers, it’s the amazing colour of birds, it’s the songs of birds. In a way, it’s that excess which, I think, is linked to sexuality rather than to creation or production directly.
Which then gets me thinking about the fields of aesthetic fitness that we are unconsciously circulating through.

On the web, building a new word nest as yet another blog entry, I find this and add it to the mix:
Art as a product of sexual selection?

If art is an adaptation, what possible function could it have served? From the viewpoint of current animal communication research, art is a signalling system. There is a signaller (the maker of the art), and a set of receivers (who perceive the work of art). The prototypical functions for animal signals include long-range sexual attraction, short-range sexual courtship, sexual rivalry, territorial conflict, begging by offspring to solicit parental investment, warning signals to deter predators, and alarm signals to alert relatives of danger.
And then:
What sort of evidence could support this sexual selection theory of art? One clue would be an example of convergent evolution: the independent evolution of art-like abilities in another species through sexual selection. Bower-birds offer strong evidence along this line.
Bower-birds are natural collage artists caught in their perpetual blue period who create readymade nestworks to attract attention to themselves in hopes of finding their soul-mate (or maybe just an on again off-again affair with their love bird).

They are naturally inclined remixologists and don't need paint or canvas or verbal constructions to make the point. They don't need a white cube to exhibit their animal instincts.

But humans treat their remix / selective / readymade art differently, no?

First of all, there is always the art market and, if you are ready to launch yourself into it, a conceptual plan steeped in innovation and the promise of stylistic breakthroughs that reek of What Is Happening Now.

Interestingly enough, what is happening now may have happened "then" too except that role-playing a postproduction artist playfully risks disrupting the progressive nature of all markets that welcome acts of creative destruction.

One can observe how over the course of art history the media that artists work with may change but the assortment of potential trajectories artists follow tend to stay the same. These days, from the perspective of graduate students tethered to Google, the art historical record reads more like a nuanced version of "monkey see / monkey do" tracking the movements of a select group of makers who may or may not be of relevance to a post-studio art practice. One online work refers to this historically modified artist-in-the-making as Self-Portrait(s) as Other(s) where Claude David, Henri Gaugin, and Vincent Monet are just but three possible iterations of impersonating a realtime durational achievement.

Does the Internet and its online social networking apparatus open up new potential trajectories for artists to "make history"? It already has ... but not to the degree it still needs to in order to usher in a dramatic shift in the way we position both the artist and artwork in contemporary network culture.

But what exactly is the relationship between making and art and history especially given the fact that, as Rimbaud once wrote, "to each being several other lives were due ..."?

This reminds me of one of the most frequently cited quotes attributed to Robert Rauschenberg: "Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)"

Is he suggesting that both are readymade and always precede us?

And yet he kept making (and making and making).

My remix of Rauschenberg is simple and to the point (and somewhat tinged with Duchamps's 1957 lecture in Houston): "The creative act relates to both art and life. Neither can be made without the other. (I try to make myself up in the blur between the two.)"

Blurring the two (art and life), the artist / medium selectively com-bines and/or re-mixes the source material everywhere as part of an ongoing lifestyle practice.

(The ghost of Allan Kaprow is hovering above the screen ...)

There's something almost primitive about the art/life blur as remix.

I wanted to think in the most elementary way possible, in the most basic, simple way possible, what are the raw materials or conditions of art universally? Not the history of western art particularly, not the history of any particular kind of art, but the impulse to art in human beings, and I wanted to know where that came from historically but, of course, we don’t have historical records that go back that far. So really, for me as a philosopher, the question was; what conceptual necessities does one have to have in order to think and produce art?
My own answer would be: a body language.

Or, to elaborate: a body language whose inner choreography can dance with the network.

Acker refers to this body language as the language of intensity.

But for that we need discipline. Sometimes it's hard not to wonder: "Where do we find the discipline?"

Is it in the deep interior movements of the postproduction artist-medium? Where exactly is this discipline located? Is it circulating inside the body that is continuously triggering unconscious creative activity as part of some historically modified durational achievement?

This ongoing activity of disciplined making is nothing if not an aesthetically fit durational achievement. The artist essentially has no choice but to become a kind of disciplined making. The process is viral. It's contagious media that takes over the body and renders it creative.

But then once the work is made what happens?

For the bower-bird everything is straightforward. It does its dance, its cool and gloating "artist presentation" in front of its newly reconfigured plastic-blue collage work and, if all goes well, the viewer, the one who the work was made to seduce, succumbs.

But humans have the weight of history, lineage, precedent, innovation, creative destruction, taste, politics, and finally the market.

For example, what is it that modifies the trajectory of the Rauschenberg "combine" as it enters the world?

It has to be more than just another instance of the ongoing activity of a disciplined maker creating its place in history.

"It's so easy to be undisciplined," Rauschenberg was once quoted as saying. "And to be disciplined is so against my character, my general nature anyway, that I have to strain a little bit to keep on the right track."

Staying on the right track might mean altering behavior, even regulating ones sexual activity:

Darwin talks about two fundamental processes that regulate all of life; one is natural selection and the other is sexual selection. Natural selection is about survival, and sexual selection, for him, is largely about reproduction or about sexual seduction. And what I think is the origin of art, basically, is that impulse to seduction. So I take it that all forms of art are a kind of excessive affection of the body, or an intensification of the body of the kind which is also generated in sexuality. So it’s something really fundamentally sexual about art, about all of the arts, even though they’re very sublimated. What art is about is about the constriction of the materials, so the materials then become aestheticised or pleasurable. The pleasure of those materials has to do with the intensification of the body. So this impulse to art is to not make oneself seductive but to make oneself intense, and in the process to circulate some of that eros that would otherwise go into sexuality.

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