Friday, October 26, 2007

This is just a Tribute...

In lieu of the recent "what constitutes art" discussion taking place around the Chicago theatrical blog-stituency, I feel that I should be putting something up here. After all, the discussion has pretty much defined itself as me and Bob pitted against Don and Tony, and I'm the only one yet to contribute on my blog proper.

But for once in my life, I don't have any manifesto to provide (Aside from perhaps that, no, elephants cannot create art, Don. Dolphins and higher primates are a little hazier and could provide for some interesting research. But I digress...) I've contributed plenty to the discussions elsewhere, and will continue to do so as long as those discussions continue, but it's all feeling blindly in the dark for the answer to an unanswerable question. I'm enjoying it, but I've got no interest in structuring the discussion myself.

So instead, I'm simply going to provide a tribute to the artists I take inspiration from, a list which sort of places my position in the argument into context. I'm sure that Don and Tony, as well as anyone else on their side of the fence, might very easily find artists they enjoy on this list. It isn't meant to be contrarian or to oppose their viewpoint. These are simply and truly the artists that place hope for the possibilities of their (respective) forms in me. Consider it Paul Rekk deconstructed.

  • Marcel Duchamp: Here's the big guy himself, the go-to guy for all of these discussions. Fountain is the final destination of all 'what is art?' conversations. And there's a good reason I have "R.Mutt 1982" tattooed on my back.

  • Rene Magritte: Continuing the tattoo thread -- "Ceci n'est pas un Bries." spans my side, to soon be joined by "Ceci n'est pas un Adam." and "Ceci n'est pas un Paul." The last time I was in the Art Institute, I was next to a elderly couple as they went, baffled, from Dali's Venus de Milo with Drawers to Magritte's On The Threshold Of Liberty. They saw me enjoying it and the lady asked why. Taken off guard, I muttered something about it being a picture of our world from the mindset that anything imagined can also exist. And, oddly enough, it apparently helped her approach the work tremendously. Dali, Miro, and Tanguy are great, but Magritte brings it out of our minds and into our homes.

    • Jean-Luc Godard: The greatest of all filmmakers, not because of what he does but because of what he wants to do. I'm one of the rare types who enjoy early, mid, and late period Godard equally as much (what I've been able to see, at least). From Breathless to Weekend, from Prenom Carmen to L'Origine du XXleme siecle, Godard knows there's new ground to be broken at every turn and, more importantly, that breaking it is a lifelong process.

    • Georges Perec: Continuing the 'greatest' thread: the greatest writer of the 20th century, in the short list for greatest ever. Yes, there's A Void, his most popular work, in which the constraint is by now unfortunately better known than the work itself. But the dealmaker is Life A User's Manual -- just reading the maze Perec placed in front of himself to write it is exhausting to me as a writer. The fact that he came through on top and dragged with him an epic of minutiae is nothing short of genius.

    • Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Christo and Jeanne-Claude have repeatedly done what few other abstract artists (hell, artists in general) can do -- get Joe Everyman to not only see their work, but to create an informed opinion of it. Seek out the Maysles Brothers' light-handed documentaries on Christo's work to see this in action. (The one on The Gates opens at the Music Box one week from today!) The masses may choose to watch reality TV and read US Weekly, but that doesn't mean they can't, won't, or don't want to consider other, more divisive, work. Remind me to blog someday about the time, less than a year ago, I discussed aesthetics with a class of small-town Iowa high school sophomores.

    • John Cage: I mean, his "Organ²/ASLSP" began performance in a church in Halberstadt, Germany in 2001 and is scheduled to last 639 years! One performance! For serious? That's fucking amazing. And Halberstadt, Germany is actually quite high on my list of places to visit, solely because of Cage. The next musical event in the piece (a new chord) will be on July 5, 2008. Who wants to take in a little Cage with me next summer?

    • Samuel Beckett: Yes, maybe it's an obvious one, but I'm not about to start name-dropping Godot and Endgame. Some of the best work Beckett ever did was some of his earliest. I'm not quite sure that he ever topped Murphy, Watt, or Molloy.

    • Jean Cocteau: Don't be surprised by the inclusion of a little lyricism on this list. I'm not just a steaming ball of transgression. Cocteau seemed to live in that line between reality and dreams, between life and death. Even better, he was able to show it to us. To everyone's surprise, it turned out to be extraordinarily simple, yet no one has been able to recreate it since.

    • Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal: The Panic Movement will explode your mind and then play with all of the dirty, naughty pieces that it finds among the wreckage. You should probably be a little afraid to trust yourself in these artists' hands.

    • Alfred Jarry: The theatrical version of Duchamp. I don't understand why I like Jarry. I can't even follow Caeser Antichrist without the help of two or three translations to cross-reference. But goddamn if there ain't something marvelous there -- the man was possessed by an unnatural spirit, a spirit that has infused itself into the page.
    This is is by no means complete, and I may feel fit to add a second list (possibly one not of artists but of one-off works that give me the same inspiration). However, this is a pretty good start. And this list does a better job of describing my feelings towards art than any long and verbose credo that I could have come up with.

    Thoughts? Lists of your own? Comment that shit!



    Anonymous said...

    Premise 1: All elephants sleep in the nude.
    Premise 2: Fritz is an elephant.
    Conclusion: Fritz sleeps in the nude.
    P1: Nudes are often art.
    P2 (C1): Fritz is nude when he is sleeping.
    C2: Fritz is art when he is sleeping.

    Ya, OK, I have no idea why I felt like doing that just now. But it felt kind of good, nevertheless.

    Tony said...

    Though I'd agree with a lot of your list (fountain excepted obviously), what is it about Iris Clert that fascinates you so? (I hadn't seen this till today but you can probably guess my thoughts. To me it seem more like he was just phoning it in instead of creating.)

    Paul Rekk said...

    That's the joy of it -- he was just phoning it in. The story, if I remember correctly, is simply that Rauschenberg had forgotten about the potrait of Clert that he had been commissioned until the last minute, so he sent this telegram instead. There's such a glee in the act that it's not even the affront it necessarily might be.

    I think that's the common thread in all of these artists. They're complexity comes from their simplicity. Their work on the one hand is the basis for huge theoretical arguments. On the other hand, it's just a urinal on a pedestal. It's just a bunch of pink cloth surrounding some islands. It's just four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. What's the big deal?

    The big deal is that they did it. They did it and they are entirely aware of how silly or simplistic it is. And they are entirely aware that that fact detracts nothing from the work.

    Rauschenberg didn't withdraw from the exhibit as most artists would have. Instead he mocked the importance of his submission. And I bet he was suprised they displayed it. (The curators deserve almost as much credit as the artist on this one.) And it's just two more examples of what art needs to remember. Shooting from the hip and keeping a sense of humor.

    I could probably make a book of everything I've said art needs to be. I could devote a few chapters to this blog alone. But to bring this around to the veeeery origin of this discussion (Stelarc, that is), that's because art needs to be everything and art needs to be nothing. I'll talk for hours on what art should and shouldn't do. But come the end of the day, I know that my view is just one voice in the crowd. I'm not going to lower it, but I'm not going to tune the rest out, either.

    Which didn't really focus on your question, Tony, but it was an excuse for me to do some more thinking out loud. Thanks!