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1-Thinking outside the academy
Miklos Legrady ArtBlog 2019


1-How was art last year?

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That spaghetti meme is funny, as sad as it is true, yet few people seem concerned about the sad state of contemporary art. One curator wrote, " no one knows what art is anymore" and I went facepalm! You're a curator, it’s your job to know what art is! Every other profession knows what they are doing! The only logical conclusion is that our art world is corrupt. On the surface everything looks fine, but there's a smell in the air.

Equally fascinating is that Duchamp, in the Cabane interviews at the end of his life, said that found objects are not art. He chose them as a plaything, a diversion, since they could not have anything to do with art. Art historian and critic Barbara Rose writes that what was done in Duchamp’s name was responsible for some of the most inane, most vulgar non-art still being produced by ignorant and lazy artists whose thinking stops with the idea of putting a found object in a museum.

Post modernism is the counter aesthetic, deconstruction, negation and denial of art. Psychology says that's unhealthy and sociology worries it predicts a cultural collapse.

Expect contemporary art to get worse before it gets better.

January 10, 2019

2-Kapwani Kiwanga

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Kapwani’s work is praiseworthy, but it does not overtly appear to address hidden authoritarian structures, institutional devices, and power imbalances that help us see the world differently". While a bright mind can see the world in a grain of sand, it’s not obvious on what ground the jury came to those conclusions instead of others.

John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume gave us empiricism, the theory that all knowledge comes primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism.

Excuse my rational skepticism. There’s a chance the jury’s words are hyperbole, meant to satisfy our expectations of academic jargon, meant to signal this is postmodern political art. Which it’s not. If you're desperate to fit within superficial trends, you could stretch analogies and overlay a forced political interpretation. Even had the artist started from a conscious political idea, the end result went far beyond, to arrive at more sophisticated content. Kiwanga’s work is aesthetic, and certainly supernatural... no natural hallway looked like that.

Kapwani Kiwanga succeeded in making extra-natural art and it’s time the jury felt comfortable with that. This work is non-verbal, and the primary content is aesthetic. In the arts, aesthetics are a system of value judgments, of comparisons and evaluations that provide statistical data by which we organize empirical knowledge.

Art and aesthetics are not just cheesecake for the mind nor are they simply decorative. They are an evolutionary adaptation of the highest order, creating and processing subtleties of knowledge and complexities of thought.

January 11, 2019

In November 2923 I put tjhis note on Facebvook, and Canadian artist Matt Harley added a comment. From her Goodman Gallery bio:In 2020, Kiwanga received the Prix Marcel Duchamp (FR)." Meanwhile, language games are *so* much fun! Having read the blurbs at the Goodman Gallery's site—five years later and exactly the same language—the Sobey jury's statement about her work has to be 1) a direct quote from her artist statement [the most likely option according to Occam's razor], or 2) the jury's own "original" re-statement, a.k.a. an arrangement of "found" text, constructed using phrases from the artist statement which would have been right there on the wall at the NGC/GNC during the awards exhibition, possibly in large self-adhesive vinyl letters applied directly to the wall (slightly tilted like they always are at the National Gallery in my experience), one of them so-called "didactic panels", there to teach the public what to think.


3-Lawrence Weiner's non-art

Miklos legrady
Lisson Gallery

Art historians consider Lawrence Weiner a forerunner of Conceptual art. Weiner is best known for text directly on walls. As viewers read the piece, they complete Weiner's projects - conjuring mental images of what he describes. Weiner attained fame when art was anything you could get away with. At the age of 19, young Weiner astounded art critics by blowing up a stick of dynamite in the desert. His work today is done by assistants so it’s not his work, only his concept; Weiner calls himself a non-artist, calls his work non-art, so it’s not art.

Weiner's work isn't art, it's interior decoration. "Faking depends on a measure of complicity between the perpetrator and the victim, who together conspire to believe what they don't believe and to feel what they are incapable of feeling" Roger Scrutton. Science says real art is specific; it's no longer anything you can get away with. Weiner's art, what he got away with, is networking and marketing and selling the emperor's new clothes; academia accepts that as a legitimate art strategy.That's not my problem, it's the art world's.

January 12, 2019

published June 13, 2019 -

4-When art is mostly an idea

Miklos legrady

There's a musical piece with this installation; an orchestra plays classical music with out-of-tune instrument and completely out of tempo. The performance lasts 4' 33". Our irritated audience is likely to walk out early, we're so disturbed by flawed pitch. We have instincts that judge aural information and those instincts are specific. You can't unhear that sound when the singer goes off key.

Mistuned music disturbs in other ways. Art is therapeutic, music is especially so, it can calm and heal. In the Timaeus, Plato writes that mathematics are related to the divine, which explains why an out of tune song is hellish. When art is therapeutic anyone purposefully making bad art, anyone following a counter-aesthetic practice, can become mentally unwell, ill, and infect others. Sol LeWitt recommends you purposefully make bad art if suffering from an artist's block, and ven then it's dangerous. When purposefully making counter-aesthetic art, you wreck havoc with the fine tuning machinery of creativity, and you do damage, including a loss of standards, an inability to judge, you no longer know what art is.

Duchamp made art intellectual, discarding non-verbal visual elements. He also aimed for an art that went against his personal taste; he said good taste is the enemy of art. Then he lost interest and stopped making art. This is a cautionary tale, it argues that an intellectual approach to art destroys both motivation and ability. That is when art becomes an illustration, when it forsakes the primacy of non-verbal languages such as body language, aural language or visual language, and is used to illustrate ideas. That ’s not art, that's illustration, illustrating what people think art should be about, and this is the most common strategy in our time; most art today is actually an illustration of academic concepts. But that's not art, it's illustration.

January 14, 2019

published June 13, 2019 -

5-The Great Unlearning

Miklos legrady
Miklos Legrady, 30" x 47" - 76.2cm x 119.38cm, acrylic on cardboard, January 14, 2016.

In Critique as Unlearning (e-flux.conversations, 2017) Sreshta Rit Premnath, artist and Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Parsons New School, personifies a language hosting superficial trends over the realities of complex history. " It would be prudent to take the contingency of one’s position as a given ...I would like to consider what it might mean if we took Gayatri Spivak’s call to unlearn one’s learning and unlearn one’s privilege as the aim of studio critique." 

In what seems a rebuttal, Chomsky asserts that knowledge of language, and probably other kinds of knowledge are not accounted for externally, through experience, but internally, in terms of principles which are not contingent, but certain; not learned, but innate; not a posteriori, but a priori.  

Premnath tosses psychology out the window and calls for a sacrificium intellectus, in what looks a strategic attempt to destroy his student’s self-esteem,  promoting uncertainty and inferiority, teaching his students to hobble themselves, perhaps to eliminate any competition from potential bright minds. His advice to give up our privilege comes from someone privileged above others; a tenured New York academic earning many times a average wage, who is not about to unlearn his own education, the base of his power. Unlearning our way to a politically correct utopia is a childish fantasy that will not bring about the golden age of the simple minded. Superficial trends ignore complex reality, this world is awash in historical illiteracy.

Teodrose Fikre wrote that there are tens of millions of uneducated white people who suffer generational poverty in the Appalachians and beyond, that matches the poverty faced by minorities in the cities. But these rural poor are told they’re privileged by a college educated middle class living in cities these uneducated poor could never afford to visit. Because inequality and injustice occur among all levels of society, it's education that brings privilege, and everyone studies to acquire it.

"unlearning one's learning and unlearning one's privileges"... Aren't there times when accusations of privilege are a power strategy? People have been known to claim victim status as a moral currency to dominate the narrative. Few of us are rich. In time we realize the privileged are those who are educated, while those lacking an education are unemployed. One cannot unlearn one’s education nor should one wish to. Without talent, no entitlement.

January 15, 2019

6-Deconstructing Walter Benjamin

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Benjamin writes " The art of the proletariat, the art of the working class...brush aside a number of outmoded concepts, such as creativity and genius, eternal value and mystery". He asserts the purpose of art is to reproduce reality, and photography does a better job of it. Among other misconceptions, Benjamin wrote that "from a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the'authentic' print makes no sense." 80 years later an autheticl Ansel Adams or Edward Weston sells for over $80,000. Walter Benjamin failed his reality check; as a Marxist he had to follow the Party line. We should now update our history.

At the core of Benjamin's argument is " that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art." That's obviously incorrect. Books are made by mechanical reproduction, yet stories and authors retain their aura as do printed pictures. Munch's The Scream is known from reproduction yet remains haunting, as haunting as any Raven perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door.

Some find Benjamin complex and difficult; the reason for that is not what we'd expect. When something contradicts our expectations we generally skip that sentence. The difficulty in reading Benjamin isn't intellectual comprehension, it's matching what we read to what he's supposed to have said; we must censor the text to meet our expectations. Many stop reading when unable to reconcile such contradictions between fact and fiction, and so we leave Benjamin behind as "difficult". It is near impossible to interpret Benjamin according to the mythology woven in his name.

Walter Benjamin has been praised as an early Marshal McLuhan. Yet on reading the text we find a political message that strays from the truth and then ignores it. Where we thought "The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction" was pure research similar to today's academic scholarship, it is in fact Marxist propaganda. We cannot read Benjamin innocently when the work has political priorities.

A communist writer who later left the party disillusioned was Arthur Koestler. In The God That Failed and The Invisible Writing he describes the sacrificium intellectus that Communist writers suffered. The resulting emotional damage explains Benjamin's catastrophic failure of morale and his consequential suicide in a moment of crisis.

Koestler writes of meeting Benjamin in 1940, France. "Just before we left, I ran into an old friend, the German writer Walter Benjamin. He was making preparations for his own escape to England. He has thirty tablets of a morphia-compound, which he intended to swallow if caught: he said they were enough to kill a horse, and gave me half the tablets, just in case. I learned that Walter Benjamin had been arrested on the Spanish side, and threatened with being sent back to France the next morning. The next morning the Spanish gendarmes had changed their mind, but by that time Benjamin had swallowed his remaining half of the pills and was dead."

January 16, 2019

published June 13, 2019 -


Miklos legrady

Joseph Beuys said everyone’s an artist... which is hard to deny. I believe everyone’s a brain surgeon, which is equally obvious. The question is how good a brain surgeon, how good an artist? Anthropology shows that art is an instinct, a symbolic language of early humans since the dawn of time. It’s an achievement; there’s the art of carpentry.

Unpacking Rachel and the cat cartoon yields assumptions. Postmodernism broke rules and trashed tradition; tossing a plate of cat food becomes art. How more radical can it get? How better reject classical standards of art, than by tossing a plate of food at the wall? I think everyone would accept that as art. Hum... Duchamp didn’t. In the Cabane interviews and elsewhere he consistently said that readymades were not art and could not have anything to do with art..

Cat trolls Rachel asking why self-expression scares her... and non-verbal Rachel just shrugs in disgust. It looks like it’s up to us to answer. You can’t accidentally make art. Art is an intention. You can see potential in an accident, but then you need master the process to understand what in that accident was art; what is art? As in the art of cuisine, the art of conversation. Quality is the magic word, quality is degraded when food is splattered on the wall. That’s not art, it’s pretence.

Postmodern theory temporarily erased the line between art and pretence. But it did this by denying reality checks and as a result academia faces a cognitive bias; psychologists say that in cases of delusion, the first banana peel will do. We should start thinking once again about the difference between art and pretence.

January 17, 2019

8-It seems I shake that tree

Miklos legrady

My language was intelligent, my research impeccable, points logically made, conclusions evident, and yet in the Canadian art world my name was mud, even as my reputation grew abroad. The reason being that our local world is like a tree, watered with money from the Canadian government at the base, trickling up through the various layers of accredited curators and artists. It seems I shook that tree.

Just from instinct I doubted the ideas shaping postmodern practice, so took another look at the theories and artists we ate in school. I was surprised; their theories often mistaken, untested, unquestioned yet accepted as fact. Often made no sense but that was glossed because our department head just wrote a book full of thjose errors but we can't mention that.

Postmodernism consists of the intelligent language of its practitioners, products of an academic art education, where intellect and writing were preferred to brush and messiness. A new generation of artists and curators came out well versed in theory, but lacking any realitythey checks fell in love with revolutionary ideas. The exception was made the rule, everything was deconstructed, traditions were tossed, aesthetics ditched for an intellectual mode, non-art became a thing. But with non-art we have no art. Those who expected the quantum of art got it's absence.

Counter-aesthetic means we can’t have nice things. Counter-aesthetic means the unwanted and undesirable, which is rather unhealthy. Yet as the work degenerates, it's veiled with academic papers which serve as marketing. So when I open my mouth I shake that tree; dead twigs and leaves fall out, dead branches creak ominously. Change, it's unavoidable, the art world badly needs a shake-up, a reformation.

January 21, 2019

9-The Urinal

Miklos legrady

We can deconstruct any work of art with one weird trick, one simple question. What's the statement embedded in the work? What overt, obvious statements, what covert, unconscious ones? Duchamp’s Fountain, actually by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, is the most queried work of art online. The overt statement speaks of shocking the bourgeoisie, rebelling against middle class values. The covert statement goes deeper, is obvious yet barely conscious, and just for that reason has a greater influence in shaping the cultural canon.

Art is to piss on. The covert statement is that art is to piss on. That art merits our disrespect not for the urinal being a work of art, but for art being a urinal.

WW1 shocked a younger generation, who rebelled in horror against the status quo. As often happens at such times, religion and God were overthrown. A revolution killed Russia’s Tsar. The avant-garde denied the meaning of art. What followed was an age of rebellion, the1920s were a time to shock.

Roger Scrutton, in a BBC article 90 years later, wrote " How modern art became trapped by its urge to shock... it is now an effective requirement of finalists for the Turner Prize in Britain to produce something that nobody would think was art unless they were told it was".

Until the urinal, art was excellence, it was our highest expression. Has the urge to shock become our highest expression? It is time to reassess what we think of art and of the urinal. Those who still think that art is to piss on should now leave the field to others with higher values.

(for more on Duchamp, see my synopsis in RISD's Contemporary Aesthetics)
Duchamp and the science of art

January 26, 2019

10-Zombie Formalism
Zombie formalism is a term coined by Martin Mugar.

Miklos legrady

The difference between fake medicine and fake art is that medical consequences are readily apparent, whereas the effects of fake art can take 30 years to manifest. We saw that in the transition from postmodernism to Trump's post-truth era, where delusions became acceptable as reality. This process is described as mob madness.

There are plenty of historical precedents such as the Dutch Tulip Craze, or the economic bubbles described in any dictionary. In the 1980s bankers crashed the global economy with sub-prime loans, so no one should be surprised if the art world fell for a global delusion and went lemming.

The sure sign of mob madness is their members operate beyond logic in a state of ignorance. In the art world, curators regret that no one knows what art is anymore, and MFA students reply in discomfort that it’s unfair to ask them to define art, since Marshall McLuhan observed at the beginnings of postmodernism that art was anything you could get away with.

Science tells us art is specific and vital for mental health, while nihilism and counter-aesthetics create neurosis. We see the art world functioning in a professional manner, everything looks good on the surface, the catalogue statements are impressive, but the art work itself often fails to live up to the marketing. Martin Mugar coined the term Zombie Formalism to describe the current state of art, when everyone goes through the motions while the work stumbles. This corruption suggests that change is inevitable.

January 27, 2019


11-Michael Asher @ CalArts

Miklos legrady
Miklos Legrady, detail, 32" x 50" - 81.28cm x 127cm, acrylic on cardboard, January 18, 2017.

At the 1976 Venice Biennale, Michael Asher filled a corner of the Italian Pavilion with twenty-two folding chairs. He wanted the space to be a "functional" lounge where "visitors communicate with each other on a social level". Asher's "situational interventions" (as he calls them) or "institutional critiques" (as others label them) are often invisible. One of Asher's signature works consisted of removing the gallery wall dividing the office from the exhibition space, revealing the business behind the art. That exhibition took place at Claire Copley Gallery in Los Angeles in 1974, but people still talk about it (sic).

Denis Dutton says that art criticism needs to be premised on an understanding of evolution and not on abstract'theory’. That art is an evolutionary adaptation of the highest order in creating and processing subtleties of knowledge and complexities of thought. As such, art carries a statement of the artist’s mindset within the culture’s ideology. Duchamp’s urinal said that art is to piss on, but what statement can we read in Asher’s work? His Venice Biennale project wants visitor to experience the absence of an artist. Asher eliminates the artist, says the art work’s not important. Asher promotes the effacement of authorship, which makes us wonder what he has to offer, since authorship is your personal contribution. It is your experience, your mastery of the medium, your vision, uniqueness, your contribution.

Is Dutton right, is art an evolutionary adaptation of the highest order?
Or is Asher right in saying art and artists are not worth a glance?
It cannot be both, it's either or.

February 1, 2019

12-Art and consciousness

Miklos legrady
Miklos Legrady, 29" x 36" - 72.66cm x 91.44cm, acrylic on cardboard, January 31, 2016.

We define the nature of art, we know what it is, only by observation. Throughout it’s history since the Palaeolithic dawn, art consisted of sensory language refined by aesthetics. In early stone tools we already see evidence of hours of effort to create a beautiful object, which beauty was quite unnecessary to the function, and yet an instinct drove our ancestors.

Language consists of expression, where content is expelled from the mind, it is " ex-pressed". When a thought is placed outside the mind yet is still visible to the eye, drawn on a piece of paper or carved in wood or rock, that thought remains available to consciousness yet no longer occupies  neural pathways. The mind is then free to think another set of thoughts, while retaining the first set in consciousness through vision. That would allow combining those two sets into a third, and so on to stages of complexity.

The mind’s narrative consist of both intellectual and non-verbal languages, which find their expression in dance, sound, or visualization among others. What’s fascinating is that these three modes are capable of expressions not readily available to intellectual thought, and so create that complexity which goes beyond understanding, an art that is inspiring.

Through the creative process the development of civilization may have been drawn out as if on a blueprint, in the art work we’ve drawn since the dawn of time. Art is defined by aesthetics, it has a language of it’s own.

February 5, 2019

13-Baudrillard's Icons

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Miklos Legrady, 24" x 36" - 60.96cm x 91.44cm, acrylic on canvas, July 26, 2016

In "Jean Baudrillard and Art", Douglas Kellner writes " Pop Art constitutes a turning point in the history of art for Baudrillard whereby art becomes quite simply the reproduction of signs of the world and in particular the signs of the consumer society which itself is primarily a system of signs".

It's easy to disagree with Baudrillard’s pragmatic and of course Marxist view of art. Baudrillard was an intellectual, not an artist; he lacked a sense of the spiritual, emotional, and numinous aspects of art. In Simulacra and Simulation he eventually understands the numinous as delusional; the divine as a superstition, but today we acknowledge the existence of the unconscious psyche and the instincts.  Art is an instinctive judgemental function, evolved for non-verbal languages, whose themes do not export well intellectually. The sense of mystery and human concepts of the divine may well refer to mental states for which there are no words.

Psychologist Carl Jung writes of four kinds of people, intellectuals, emotive, feeling, and intuitive types. Artists are highly driven by intuitive and feeling values, including spiritual elements which are important, but mostly hard to describe. Historically the numinous has been a powerful transcendent force, releasing endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.

Creativity in art fascinates because of the medium the artist needs to master through intuition, which is unconscious. A Jazz musician would speak of channelling a vibe. When Baudrillard writes of art as simply the reproduction of signs, he misses the inner power and mysterious forces that set it in motion. As if literature consisted of putting words on a page.

February 9, 2019

14-Myself, artist

Miklos legrady
Miklos Legrady, 40" x 64" - 101.6cm x 162.56cm, acrylic on canvas, 2012

Were I to ask an artist to explain art I’d want to ask someone fairly close to the action, and someone familiar enough so I can understand what they’re saying, in case I need to explain it to our reader. That ideal person is most likely myself.

My experience of making art calls on both consciousness and the unconscious mind, this latter ignored in almost every study of art I’ve come across. And yet in my own experience the unconscious has a huge role in creative activity. Amusing enough, clinical psychology says most people are highly unconscious and it is only after the fact that they look back to exclaim that an idea just popped into their head.  

In that case as an artist I’ve become conscious of mentation that for most people occurs in their blind spot. Only as an artist am I aware of this, and only because I have to pay attention to the process of my craft. Under normal circumstances I'm likely as unconscious as the next guy, otherwise I'd be a highly superficial person. Most of our impetus and intelligence is driven by invisible instincts, and only through self-reflection can we discover who we are.

Many say they can only work when inspired, while a professional learns to start working first; inspiration comes soon enough. Creativity is a handshake between conscious effort and magic, an awareness of the creative unconscious flow into consciousness. A channeling.

February 10, 2019

15-On Painting

Miklos legrady
Miklos Legrady, 24" x 36" - 60.96cm x 91.44cm, acrylic on canvas, 2011

On painting I would write about the mysterious little moments. For example representational painting is tedious work, can be seen as an effort of will, self-control, making oneself paint, staying focused long enough to complete the work. And what about desire and the motivation, the creative unconscious and the depths of the visual cortex?

Psychologist Carl Jung wrote that it's as if the unconscious possessed " a mind of it’s own", an inner consciousness unseen by us. There have been pathological cases of multiple personalities so we know the potential is there, and Jung suspected the possibility that every inner mind had a mind of its own. He concluded we’re too subjective to allow any objectivity about ourselves, so we'll never know. But we do know our consciousness has a blind spot; we cannot know what happens behind it, but we can see unconscious effects when feeling an emotion, or when an idea drops into our head. In any case Jung recommended a friendly relationship with our inner self rather than conflict.

I visualize the silhouette of a jazz saxophonist against a neon sign. If you ask about their music they’ll say they’re channeling a vibe. A steady stream or flow from the unconscious. In painting when the vibe’s missing then nothing works, when it’s present the image looks like magic. That’s when you see a painting and you’re blown away.

February 12, 2019

16-Picabia's Dada

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

I’m in a mood to question Dada, a movement highly respected today, but I doubt 1916 solutions are the correct answer to cultural problems one hundred years later. In fact, Dada's rebellion now looks juvenile, immature, long past it's shelf date.

The urinal attributed to Duchamp but actually by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is obvious Dada. Dada rebelled against the solemn authority of the art academy, it was the negation of art, the denial of standards. " Art is a pharmaceutical product for idiots" wrote Francis Picabia in his Dada Manifesto. Alistair Horne writes that in 1916 Paris, " the strange, nihilist new vogue called Dadaism would have its debut, perhaps marking the beginning of the end of one of the most fertile eras for the arts in the entire history of Paris".

The 1960s were also a time of rebellion against the war in Vietnam, and John Cage gave Dada a renewed life through his promotion of Marcel Duchamp. Today Dadaist nihilism still wields influence; Lawrence Weiner says that skills are not required in art, Benjamin Buchloh advises that we unlearn our skills, Jerry Saltz says that artists are " deskilling like crazy".

Being shocking in 1916 was the thing to do but a culture of destruction cannot last; those who create belong to a higher order than those who deconstruct. Do we still need the art Picabia calls "a pharmaceutical product for idiots"?

February 12, 2019



Bill Nye fell victim to the nomothetic fallacy that words are the solutions to life's problems. That we could end racism by deleting race from the dictionary. Then we could solve every problem by deleting words from the dictionary. Still, we’d then need another word to abstract the genetic differences between people on this planet. Race does not deny we're a species, it is a sub-category.

Scientific America published an editorial: "Bill Nye is not a scientist and does not speak for science". Bill is/was a mechanical engineer with Boeing, who wanted to do a tv show about engineering, but was advised a science show would get more interest.

Nomothetic fallacy is the belief that by changing words you also change the reality they describe, the belief that naming a problem effectively solves it.In the real world, it is changing our behavior which does that. Removing Confederate statues in the South does lessen racism, because that is the speech of those statues. Removing the word race from the dictionary will not change a thing. Nye is also guilty of false equivalency. Science having proven we are more alike than different, that does not say differences don’t exist, or that ignoring differences will solve the problem, and Nye is both disingenuous and illogical in implying that. Being similar or distinct are not moral issues, they are descriptive states.

Academia is especial prone to nomothetic fallacy, to believing that Logos est Deos, whereas logos is simply a finite description of an infinite state; our thinking capacity cannot approach universal understanding. Yet if speech and intellectual activity are one’s primary occupation, one might well become convinced that words are both symbol and function, cause and effect.  One can think too much, and lose one's grasp of reality.

February 19, 2019

18-Bruno Billio, Tron 209

Bruno Billio
Photography: Miklos Legrady

Art, you know it when you see it; if the work is numinous it moves the viewer beyond this moment. It would be easy to say that Bruno Billio’s brilliant, as one would say nomen est omen. On entering Tron 209, an installation at his suite in the Gladstone Hotel, one encounters work by a mind above the ordinary.

The visual environment of Tron 209 also reminds us of that futuristic set in Stanley Kubric’s 2001 Space Odyssey. For a moment that transition becomes a paradigm shift, as if an actual movie set, blurring boundaries tween fiction and reality. Earthquakes will do that. When the ground moves under your feet, that momentary loss of stability awakens monsters of the imagination, for a second one lives a myth, not reality. Entering Bruno’s installation makes that shift, an impression also experienced in the work of Ydessa Hendeles. You become the change, you feel it in you.

Tron 209

There’s a minimalism core to Billio’s, shows up in the books. A pile of books stacked up almost to the ceiling, the entire pile silver or gold. Another pile of book-like blocks stacked on each other painted in alternately shaded stripes. They look as if Eric Cameron had stopped at two coats of paint. Cameron of course kept painting objects till they were unrecognizable. Billio’s paint unites these books into a pillar, with a nod to Greek temples. In his work, Bruno Billio seems to restrict himself to one move, one transformation; the transformation works, the move is genuine.

Bruno Billio is an interdisciplinary Italian-Canadian sculptor, installation artist, and designer, the artist-in-residence in his suite at the Gladstone Hotel, where he’s lived for the last 16 years. Each year he’s done an installation titled " Come Up To My Room", transforming his space with one weird trick, one simple idea. Billio spoke of the studio in his mind, the place he visualizes his ideas. His mental studio is large and expands as needed, the work done there doesn’t fuss over budgets.

Tron 209

It’s this freedom that provides him the clarity of mind that appears in his work. When we’re weighed down by trivial affairs our imagination cannot soar, but when we’re inspired we need the freedom to let our thoughts expand.

There’s something noble about Bruno, though his father was a working man, a barber from Venice, who owned his own shop and was popular enough to make a good living at it, a man who raised a family where culture had a place. His son the artist seems to have inherited the brilliance, good manners and refined thinking of a cultured man.

Tron 209

February 24, 2019

19-The Nomothetic Fallacy

Miklos Legrady painting
Miklos Legrady, 18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm, acrylic on canvas, July 13, 2018

Morals are standards, beliefs, about what is and isn’t acceptable. Ethics are moral principles, the rules that emerge from those standards; ethics govern behavior. Morals and ethics, these beliefs and rules, are cultural developments; they rise from ideas already highly evolved by the invention of writing some 7000 years ago. How they came to be is an easy question to answer, if we look at how milk gets from the cow to your table. The answer is... it’s complicated.

So complicated that the behavior of those involved has to stay honest or the system would collapse. That knowledge that honesty is efficiency took humanity a long time to acquire. You’d think we should apply morals and ethics to our paradigm of art. Establish some common sense as crowds of lemmings run by.

In the last forty years a great experiment has been going on, the idea that art is anything you can get away with. Today that looks like a nomothetic fallacy, a misconceived belief that words are the solution to any problems. In reality it takes action. "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." Goethe.

According to sociologists and psychotherapists, art is therapeutic and likely vital to cultural reality. Art, through the creative principle expressed in a language of aesthetics, avoids a spartan rigidity or a stagnant longevity. Art entails the creative principle of new answers to life’s questions. Art is a calculating machine of tremendous subtlety, and other than literature art consists of non-verbal languages.

February 26, 2019

20-No one knows what art is anymore

Miklos Legrady painting
Miklos Legrady, 27" x 38" - 68.58cm x 96.52cm, acrylic on cardboard. Sept. 09, 2015.

When no one knows what art is anymore, as our curator said, then it’s charlatans who rise to the top of the food chain under the umbrella of postmodernity. On reading this numerous voices will rise in protest.

In 1947 statistician R.A. Fischer was invited to give a series of talks on BBC radio about the nature of science and scientific investigation. His words are as relevant to the arts today. " A scientific career is peculiar in some ways. Its reason d’être is the increase in natural knowledge and on occasion an increase in natural knowledge does occur. But this is tactless and feelings are hurt.

For in some small degree it is inevitable that views previously expounded are shown to be either obsolete or false. Most people, I think, can recognize this and take it in good part if what they have been teaching for ten years or so needs a little revision but some will undoubtedly take it hard, as a blow to their amour propre, or even an invasion of the territory they have come to think of as exclusively their own, and they must react with the same ferocity as animals (whose territory is invaded). I do not think anything can be done about it... but we should be warned and even advised that when one has a jewel to offer for the enrichment of mankind, some people will certainly wish to discredit that person and shred them to bits."

Other considerations for the preservation of the status quo include the fact that postmodernism not only requires much less work, it being strongly conceptual, but that this modality adapts perfectly to an academic system where hundreds of thousands of art students have paid their tuition fee and now academia has to certify them as artists.

Until the 1960s art consisted a few select media that required decades to master. Most prodigies were raised in households where they  trained from an early age. That training is imperative as it creates the neural network, the mastery of your medium. The effort also supposes an interest, a motivation to go through all that hard work, a desire that few really possess. The rapid growth of university students in need of certification as artists meant that standards fell. Then most artists found teaching jobs, which gave them little time to make art. It was most convenient that a conceptual postmodernity gained acceptance, that making art turned into a circus.

Very little effort became the mark of the successful art entertainer. Shock value from denying art or politicizing art or following an anti-aesthetic discourse became the latest trend. The artists doing the opposite of art were, of course, the most shocking and the most successful. What everyone forgot was that when you’re denying art and making non-art, you have, in effect, no art anymore. Our culture suffers and the marks of disquiet are evident.

Among the most successful artists today are many charlatans, pretenders, fakes, marketing experts, all of them friendly and charismatic personalities.

February 27, 2019

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