Thoughts on Contemporary Art

In contemporary art, political relevance (like traditional notions of beauty) could be thought of as eventual by-products of a creative process and not its objective. Otherwise, the resulting work is little more than predictable propaganda for often-outdated dogma whose power of seduction is almost always inversely related to its relevance and ultimate social utility.

For me, contemporary art generates questions and not answers or solutions. It questions who we are, how we see ourselves and our relationships with the world evolving around us. Its provocations are often profoundly troubling. It actively provokes dialogue with those it will never meet. It does not preach. It is not a recruitment tool for a recognizable cause. 

If we do not understand it, we should simply ask ourselves what baggage we are missing to be able to engage it in meaningful conversation.

THOUGHTS ON BEING AN ARTIST

There is perhaps nothing more important for an artist than freedom of thought. We are gypsies of the soul and require conceptual space in which to create the parallel universes in which we work. If walls are necessary from time to time to delimit and focus our actions, they are, by nature, temporary.

THOUGHTS ON THE GIVE AND TAKE OF LIFE

In this crazy world, we often forget that it is long-term dedicated commitment to our loved ones as well as to our chosen profession that dictates our capacity to eventual draw some semblance of genuine fulfillment from the experiences they provide. It seems to me that I increasingly meet people whose initial motivation is what they think they can obtain from relationships and/or their chosen activity. Most of the time this attitude is linked either to strictly monetary interests or has something to do with how they want people to perceive them. Is there the potential for genuine satisfaction in such an attitude? Perhaps, it could very well be that I am simply an old dreamer with a strong tendency for cynicism. I hope it is only the former, because the latter often seems to gain terrain as we age in spite of our best efforts. As Pete Townsend once wrote in a song…I hope I die before I get old.

Thoughts on Determination

For determined people, failure is simply an unavoidable and valuable bump on the learning curve of life. It is the inevitable result of risk-taking and is a true ally of progress, providing valuable hindsight, helping develop perspective and building the resilience required for a journey of discovery.

For those lacking determination, it is often a lonely, unfortunate endgame.

Thoughts on the Importance of Education

Ignorance is one of the principle causes of the incapacity to develop relevant perspective on any issue. Gaining informed (and therefore relevant) perspective generates the potential to understand that whatever point of view we choose to defend is only one of many possible alternatives. Simply put, we can admit the existence of other perspectives and their importance to others. Such a situation should give rise to informed debate and compromise.

The other principle cause of the incapacity to develop perspective is dogma (religious and/or political). I would argue that dogma in any form is a subset of ignorance, one in which the notion of perspective and the belief in the existence of a single truth are one in the same. Dogma, therefore, is a form of intellectual blindness that voids the notion of perspective of any relevance.

Prolonged encounters with very experienced individuals in our professional area, with persons of competence and excellence in other unrelated areas and with other cultures, particularly those very different from our own, are all necessary ingredients to developing perspective in which ignorance plays an ever-declining role. 

Enlightenment is a difficult, never-ending journey. It must be earned. It must be seen to be both a desirable and necessary voyage. The primary role of education is to stimulate this desire and to elucidate its inestimable value. 

Thoughts on Personal Progress

The inability to accept the fact that making enemies is the inevitable by-product of the process of developing strong individual perspective and defending this perspective in the face of opposition, is to reveal the superficial nature of the belief in the perspective in question. Every truly personal perspective has a price that must be paid if it is to be honourably defended. 

Thoughts on the State of Traditional Photography as a Form of Relevant Expression.

When any medium has too much to say, it has a natural tendency to repeat itself, its repetition eventually rendering it redundant. Such is the case of traditional landscape, portrait and documentary photography. Its power to communicate effectively has been diluted to the point of virtual irrelevancy. The photographic medium is slowly suffocating under the weight of evolving insignificance. New conceptual processes may provide the required assistance, then again it may be too late. Thankfully this is not bad news. At the point we have reached, it is a relief. 

Thoughts on Perspective and Relativity

Contrary to popular belief among artists, art is not the most important thing in the world. The availability and accessibility of high quality food, healthcare, education and transportation are key factors that arguably rank higher. 

Contrary to popular belief among non-artists, cultural development and the arts are the only ingredients capable of transporting these key factors into a higher plane by offering a quality of life dedicated to more than simply comfortable material existence.

Thoughts on the Power of Fiction

I think it is important that we present our views to the world unfettered by political correctness. Contemporary society frowns on such frankness. As a result of this, both traditional and fundamentalist versions of all religious faiths have been able to occupy more and more terrain attaining political importance that I feel threatens common sense approaches to literally every serious problem confronting us today. I believe that organized religion is without a doubt the most dangerous invention of man. It perverts, divides and passes judgement based on fictions rooted in ignorance, fear and an insidious need for control and power over others. Organized religions position themselves as indispensable foundations in confronting the challenges facing contemporary society, when in fact they are quite simply dangerously irrelevant. 

We do not need more faith in the multitude of powerless fictitious gods that occupy the pantheon of organized religions. We need more faith in our own abilities to develop solutions based on facts born of dedicated research and on the long-term commitment required to transform these facts into coherent workable solutions to the difficult tasks that confront us today. Our dreams must be grounded in reality if they are to have even the faintest hope of success. This doesn’t mean denying the power of our imaginations to look beyond the facts. This does not make our dreams less romantic, less potent, less powerful or less out of this world. It simply celebrates their humanity and relevance. There is genuine spirituality in facing our challenges in this way – spirituality of the human variety.

It is relevant for every facet of human endeavour, including creation in the arts. Genuine social relevance is born of this quiet respect for the human condition and our unique responsibility for its destiny.

There is nothing more beautiful.

Thoughts on Getting Somewhere Interesting

In life, there are right and wrong paths to take - not necessarily in the moral sense, but in the sense that some paths are more productive for our development than others in the context of defined goals and desires. This is true in the arts, as it is in all other fields of endeavor. The precise nature of the right paths (for there are almost invariable more than one) varies from person to person. 

Neither the right ones, nor the multitude of wrong ones are easily navigable. The difference between them is simply that the obstacles on the right paths are more relevant and intimately linked to our ever-evolving objectives, while those on the wrong paths tend to be counterproductive and irrelevant to our development, at least in the short-term. It is important to note however, that some wrong paths have the potential to be highly relevant in the long-term and almost all are instructive in the short-term. The key to productive navigation on any path would appear to consist of a healthy mix of lucidity, integrity, open-mindedness, risk-taking and hard work. 

Thoughts on Relevance

It is easy to occupy the moral high ground when you have absolutely no responsibility for undertaking any action relevant to the subject in question. It is immoral to choose not to assume any relevant responsibility that is yours, while fighting to maintain control of this noble terrain.

Thoughts on Local Heroes

In the affairs of art, it is wise to beware of local heroes that cannot, or do not want to, shine beyond their home turf. It is not a question of talent or blind ambition. Talent is a cheap commodity readily available everywhere; ambition, except of the very intimate variety, is always a dangerous collaborator. It is a question of managing and balancing our inevitable vulnerability and the necessity of exploring what we do not know or understand. Ignorance also plays a role in negating the importance of what is truly relevant. 
It is fundamental to go beyond our native environment. Failure to do so elevates local heroes to the status of false visionaries. This is not a problem for the false prophets; it is, however, a problem for their followers. Genuine local heroes do not seek any status; they are too busy trying to make sense of their chosen path, sharing everything they know with collaborators who share their doubts, fears and courage. It is fundamental not to try too hard to be relevant. Relevance is for others to ascertain.