Unreal Nature

February 13, 2018

Breath of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… They are the organic, and often monstrous, progeny of social life and value systems.

This is from Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory by Lucy R. Lippard (1983):

… Discussing or even exploring the prehistoric sites today is like visiting a museum or peering around a church as a tourist. For all the formal beauties that are accessible, the essence of life is elusive. Contemporary artists are looking to ancient forms both to restore that breath and also to take it for themselves. The animating element is often ritual — private or public, newly created or recreated through research and imagination (in itself a breath of life). Artmaking is a ritual, perhaps the most valid — if elitist — one left to this society. It is, however, in danger of becoming as disengaged as institutionalized religion.

… the alienation of art and work from life has led some contemporary artists to a conscious restoration of severed connections. … The result has been an increased dialogue between them and their specialized art audiences. Too often, however, a broader audience remains out of reach, even to those artists most resistant to the erosion of art’s communicative functions, because available forms are not easily understood.

Immateriality and impermanence, for instance, though sometimes valid strategies against commodification, have often backfired, leading to the same kind of isolation and inaccessibility the artists hoped to overcome.

… When a ritual doesn’t work, it becomes an empty, self-conscious act, an exclusive object involving only the performer, and it is often embarrassing for anyone else to witness. When a ritual does work, it is inclusive, and leaves the viewer with a need to participate again.

[ … ]

… If the human race continues to be part of nature, then neither parks nor cities are “finished landscapes.” They are the organic, and often monstrous, progeny of social life and value systems. Only when the art that forms their spiritual core can respond to and change with social life can it be restored to its original communal meanings.

My most recent previous post from Lippard’s book is here.




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