Miklos Legrady ArtBlog 2019
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89-Make Big Money Writing Poems
Miklos Legrady, 32.5" x 33" - 82.55cm x 83.82cm,
acrylic on cardboard, November 28, 2015.
My girlfriend said when she was 15 year she had an epiphany that many boy band songs were whiny. Boys crying over the girl who left them, who’re not coming back, who don’t appreciate them. She was scornful; whining’s ineffective and unattractive. Her thesis was that we should own our life instead of making another’s world the place we aspire to. We should belong to ourselves. Yes, victimhood is a moral currency that leads to identity, and for artists victimhood can provide writer's and exhibition fees, so it’s a living, being a victim, but really?
Strong characters are attractive, people whose fulfillment and happiness comes through their own effort instead of pleading from others. The core of that weakness consists of a deep belief that others hold the key to our happiness, others are the center of reality, a reality to which we need to belong and from which feel excluded.
I am a white male from Eastern Europe, a war refugee as alienated from the established wealthy as any other immigrant and minority. As a toddler my sociopathic grandmother screamed at me in hatred for an entire summer my parents left me with her. I grew up in an institution carrying that trauma and always hiding in the back of the class. Generally, teachers avoid negative kids and are drawn to the lively ones. I emerged into the world as an alienated teenager with no education and the first few years were rough indeed as I was both traumatized and an absolute social moron, like Dostoyevsky’s Pierre.
So I experienced decades of hardship, poverty, failure, and misery while my peers went on to earn a living and have families. Now looking back I see how challenges awaken a person’s potential that would otherwise lie dormant. Now I'm ahead of the pack. Strength sucks when selfish, is admired when empathic. Major challenges transform the individual into someone who doesn’t need approval from others, doesn’t need to belong, their integrity comes from their instincts. And their instincts tell them what to do when, something we normally look for in the social clues around us. Life's challenges awakens a voice within.
The worst mistake of a woke generation is to swear by a seductive passion, one that feels wonderful and fills us with a sense of power, the passion of anger. Ill will and the desire to guilt others, to cause them emotional pain equal to or worse than the pain we endured. And that belief is is a mental illness, a corruption, for life gives us both good and evil and it’s up to us how much we see of each, what we make of our life from those two. Political and gender victimhood are now seen as moral currency that can be translated into a moral strength, a type of integrity; but it’s the wrong type.
To realize we have been wronged and denied (what should be ours if life was fair) is bad news because it’s a fantasy.It means wanting to be like others, instead of discovering who we are and being ourselves. To be a warrior whose strength frightens and guilts those around them is a high-school fantasy that is way inconsiderate.
One of my best life strategies was looking after a toddler a few days a week, something I’ve done since he was 1.5 years old. I’m his enabler when we’re together; I lift him up to reach heights beyond his reach, I shape snowballs so he can throw them in the river, I comfort him when he hurts himself and cries, I’ll play the same game with him over and over and over, that would normally drive an adult nuts, because I know repetition is important for learning at his age.
In the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes, I’m Hobbes, the tall tiger. As a result, the kid loves me fiercely. When he sees that I anticipate his next move he knows I’m paying attention to him and so validating his existence, he knows we’re on the same page and he trusts me completely. That love made me conscious of adults around me who appreciated my work and character, something I hadn’t seen until I had done the same for this kid. That behavior positive behavior, clarified my own perception of how others saw me; I could better differentiate who to work with and who to avoid. That’s improved life a great deal.
Not through misandry and misogyny, not by standing on a pedestal and pointing the finger while basking in moral glow… we do not make the world as better place by blaming and shaming and scourging our enemies, arousing the smoky clouds of resentment and anger. My own experience has convinced me that we create a better world by making others happier, literally making the world a better place, not an hurtful accusatory place. As for the people who would hurt me and oppress me, I walk away from them, I seek and find the appreciative ones.
Megan N. Liberty https://hyperallergic.com/515201/redefining-identity-through-artists-books/
September 1, 2019
90-Macaroni and Cheese
A photo of the abandoned macaroni and cheese-turned-art installation.
Abandoned Snack (2019) (Terry Kelly / CTV Kitchener)
I'm having fun writing about the concept of effort, the reason for Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in any field. In the Cabane interviews near the end of his life, Duchamp insisted found objects were never art and could not have anything to do with art. It's fascinating that our culture believes the contrary.
Postmodernism discards the tradition of art as excellence by doing the opposite. And yet psychology speaks of art therapy and warns us the anti-aesthetic is counter-therapeutic. It may have detrimental effects on one's mental health as well the culture's stability. Is today's postmodernism documenting the decline of contemporary society, or is it enabling it? Can we reverse that by making good art?
A well known curator wrote that "no one knows what art is anymore", yet every other profession knows what they are doing. If there's no difference between good and bad art then art is trivial, how do we deal with that?
September 1, 2019
91-Fake Justice Warrior
September 2, 2019
September 2, 2019
93-Say something nice about art.
Miklos Legrady, 14" x 48" - 35.36cm x 121.92cm, acrylic on canvas, 1994
On a coffee patio with friend Shirley Paprika when she sees people she knows and waves at them, gets up from her seat and yells their name. They cross the street, an elderly woman and a 30ish man, they’re politicos, canvassing for Adam and Eve, and everyone starts chatting. The woman seems familiar, I ask if we had met, and she shakes her silver hair and says "I unfriended and blocked you on Facebook once", but said without malice, as though recalling some memory we shared. Then of course her antennas shot up cause them be fighting words, but I was amused and thanked her for such a kind compliment.
After the chit chat they went their way. Paprika then sipped her coffee and mentioned a conversation about the art world with a friend of hers, Orchard Headgear, director of an artist run center outside Toronto. I recalled that Mr. Headgear had also unfriended and blocked me on Facebook, then I thought of all those who said they do not want to hear someone saying bad things about the artworld or artists; friends don't critique friends.
Critical writing on art includes critique, so feelings get hurt, people get angry. Then there are those for whom art is religion. One from which they expect solace and calm, a confirmation they’ve knocked on the right door and entered the holy of holies. Martin Luther upset many good Catholics by his resistance to the pope, the holy church now split in two. People do not want their holy places criticized.
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 a young scientist may be warned and even advised that when one has a jewel to offer for the enrichment of mankind some will certainly wish to turn and rend that person to shreds.”
Now imagine if in 1998, you told bank managers that subprime lending means loans to people who will default on payment? The interest was kept at a manageable rate for seven or ten years, then the payments rise to the stratosphere. A recession, losing one's job, any economic downturn would mean the real estate market would collapse. And to your surprise that bank manager replies that he makes huge bonuses on subprime loans. In 2008 there was a global financial crash.
Consider how pragmatic bankers are, surely the art world could also go off the rails? And that’s what happened... sometimes around the 1960s, when for example a young Lawrence Weiner shocked and fascinated critics, and turned the art world on it’s head, when his work of art consisted of blowing up a stick of dynamite in the desert. Soon enough it became necessary for any submission to a major museum to consist of work that no one would know was art unless they were told it was.
The whole point is that every other profession knows what they are doing. Bankers went off rail with sub prime loans, the art world went off rail with deconstruction. That word means taking apart, and that which was taken apart was our definition of art. When we have deconstructed our definition and no one knows what art is anymore, then art is anything you can get away with. When art is anything that you can get away with, the worse you can get away with is always the most shocking, therefore the best strategy. When the worst that you can get away with is our highest expectation, then a psychologist would say that's insane.
Art and aesthetics are therapeutic. Psychology also says the counter-aesthetic is anti-therapeutic, leading to mental illness and social disturbance. Did postmodernism nurture the post-truth era? In any case at this moment we have to deal with the art world’s equivalent to sub prime bank managers. Professors and curators who remembered their youth, how proud they were of their postmodern break with tradition. Now that all the rules were shredded you could do anything if presented in the academic protocol that moulded us into the artists we are today.
And yet on looking back, there was something wonderful about traditional art and the effort required by any artist to achieve mastery. Thankfully that barrier was eliminated when clever ideas gained prominence. To actually paint the canvas we now hire assistants who possess those skills we ourselves lack, so we say that skill is not important in art, when it was a prerequisite in the past.
In some three or four decades this deconstruction school achieved its goal, in effect hollowing out the philosophical core of art, which vacancy meantthat identity politics could walk right in and take over the narrative. It’s happened before, in the Depression years. Today our depression is self-caused yet we double down on it, all because of four or five generations of student raised, indoctrinated, educated to believe that art is a social construct rather than a cultural instinct and an evolutionary function. Students turned professors teaching new students about the exciting concept of non art.
We need to stop thinking that art is a social construct and that art is anything that you can get away with. We need to stop contributing to the cultural decline we created.
There is plenty of science on the archaeology of beauty and on aesthetic practic,e for us to draw the line and distinguish between good and bad work, some being worse and others better, meaningful or meaningless. It is time we stopped praising and promoting a strategy of making work meaningless, undermining, demoralizing, difficult, and contradictory. It is time for instincts in art making. We must accept the vitality of non-verbal languages, discarding which Duchamp lost interest in art and spent the rest of his life playing chess.
September 3, 2019
The ego is the center of the personality said Carl Jung. Jung also talks of an inflation of the ego, which term explains itself. But the ego is more than a sickness, it is one's character and personality, it is the unique person that nature created. To demean the ego and want to get rid of it is insulting to the universe that created it.
Often the advice to give up our ego comes from a guru who has kept their own ego but is in need of disciples. Has neuropsychology proven the ego an illusion? That jargon fails a reality check so the answer is no. The point of the self is to experience life, to have problems and discover solution, then see how those problems summon our potential. Without problems there's no awakening, no learning, no achievement, no mastery.
September 5, 2019
95-The Black God.
Harmonia Rosales https://www.harmoniarosales.com/collections
Harmonia Rosales https://www.harmoniarosales.com/collections
Artist Harmonia Rosales combines exceptional skills with deep insight. Unfortunately some journalists spent their 15 minutes of fame writing how racists were upset, when of course racists were upset; why waste time on superficial clickbait? The future will not consist of different races at war with each other over scare resources and eventually dying out, because we're not going to let that happen. The subtle discourse on intertwining cultures is the direction that evolution is taking, that's the real discussion.
In the distant future we'll all be light brown with a mix of African, Caucasian, Indian, Asian and other racial features. In the distant future our main challenge will be to avoid war and get along fairly, so we don't destroy ourselves or the planet. Instead we want to raise our kids in peace and prosperity, and evolve into smarter, wiser, and healthier beings. We become what we believe, so if we believe in the best, we're bound to get better.
Until then let’s appreciate Harmonia Rosales’ achievement. You don’t reach that level of mastery without effort and intelligence. Technical professionalism kudos, but even more important is the body language of the work, the soul. The non-verbal aspects of the colors, the shapes, the flow, this visual language is the true message in the work, what we’d describe as the cognitive aspects of Harmonia Rosales’s mind, talent, vision, the level she has reached. Beauty is political. Rosales could have painted a message of ugliness and hate; instead she paints a universal theme with masterful aesthetics, saying we are all one while remaining ourselves.
Consider her statement within the paintings. In the Sistine Chapel scene, we know that early humans emerged in Africa. Australopithecus bones were discovered in 1924 in a lime quarry by workers at Taung, South Africa. The genus Australopithecus consists of a collection of hominid species that span the time period from 4.18 to about 2 million years ago and from which humans descended. So in that scene by Michelangelo of God’s finger touching Adam, that story featured a brown skinned man as Adam. While Yahweh, the tribal Hebrew God, was Semite like Jesus, both of African/Arab descent. But the religious legend and its common images are mainly European and Caucasian, typically featuring white skinned Germans and this was traditionally accepted as the norm.
“Cultural appropriation” has become a common term on campuses and is receiving broader meaning with each passing year. In Utah, a high school student was denounced for wearing a Sarong to her prom. The Chinese man denouncing her was wearing jeans (from "de Nimes", France) rather than traditional Chinese clothes. White students wearing hoop earrings or dreadlocks have been denounced, while there have been protests over serving sushi at Oberlin College. Yoga classes at the University of Ottawa were cancelled over protests the teacher was not Hindu, and objections were raised at having a “Mexican food night” at Clemson University.
Claire Lehmann writes for Quilette that “Without cultural appropriation we would not be able to eat Italian food, listen to reggae, or go to Yoga. Without cultural appropriation we would not be able to drink tea or use chopsticks or speak English or apply algebra, or listen to jazz, or write novels. Almost every cultural practice we engage in is the by-product of centuries of cross-cultural pollination. The future of our civilization depends on it continuing”.
In Toronto Miklos Legradycoined the term #Cultural Appreciation. This bespoke term sees artists respecting other cultures in their work. Available to all copyright free, this poster is a trigger warning notice. #Cultural Appreciation protects cultural freedom and allows complex civilization, says that an artist is using symbols with respect and without insult, - when that meme is posted it's a sign that intentions make a difference.
Harmonia Rosales is doing it right, addressing racism on all levels. In correcting history by coloring the participants according to their actual tint, she speaks of the social corrections in human relations that have been going on for the last 300 years, since might ceased being right. Rosales blends African figures into Caucasian narratives, and she does it with skill equal to the best classic painters. In doing so she acknowledges traditional values of excellence and states that we all are heirs of a global cultural heritage. She has taken a politics of identity and turned it into a politics of universality
September 6, 2019
September 7, 2019. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece about my work. In just a few paragraphs you brought more love and light to my intent. I appreciate you and your time.
97-The Art Charlatans.
Miklos Legrady, The personal is political,
31" x 35" - 78.74cm x 88.9cm, acrylic on cardboard. October 6, 2014
This article on Geoffrey Farmer and another about Luis Jacob were not without consequence, as those two are influential top dollar Canadian artists, but I make a case they are counterfeit. Not on purpose but by inclination, plus there was a market for deception created by academic standards of contemporary art. Both Farmer and Jacob act out the rules of art, they perform the behavior of an artist, but their product is strictly imitative. Unfortunately their narratives are academic illustrations that have as little to do with art as homeopathy has to do with real medicine.
What these artists share with homeopathy is they're convincing to many, but the generic version of homeopathic medicine is still just a small bag of sugar. The damage that Farmer and Jacob do to Canadian art is severe, first in persuading us that boring is good, that the unexceptional and the banal should displace what's fascinating and wonderful. More damaging is that now for sure "nobody knows what art is anymore". That was a sentence by a top tier Canadian curator, one who also fumes at hearing my name. My comment was "you're a curator, you're supposed to know what art is!" Every other profession knows what they are doing!
My lack of popularity in the local art world comes as no surprise. I do get kudos outside Canada. I've found friends in the U.S and England, my articles are read in Beijing and Lucerne, Paris and Bucharest. I'm a Martin Luther who says that art is specific, it's functional as a cultural instinct. But when people say art is a social construct instead of a cultural instinct, then the post truth era denies archaeology, anthropology, and psychology; postmodern theory fails a reality test. Which is also why I foresee the end of postmodernism, an art movement based on denying instinct, logic, and aesthetics.
“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…” so Roger Scrutton writes in Aeon; “ Anyone can lie. Faking, by contrast, is an achievement. To fake things you have to take people in, yourself included. The liar can pretend to be shocked when his lies are exposed, but the fake really is shocked when he is exposed, since he had created around himself a community of trust, of which he himself was a member. Understanding this phenomenon is, it seems to me, integral to understanding how a high culture works, and how it can become corrupted.”
The Corruption of Canadian Art: Geoffrey Farmer in Venice, 2017.
September 9, 2019
98-Neither Fear Nor Favor.
Miklos Legrady, 16" x 20" - 40.64cm x 50.8cm, acrylic on canvas. 1995
Letter to my publisher:
We cannot ignore that I wrote blistering articles on Geoffrey Farmer, and Luis Jacob, both published in NAE. They are two of the highest paid artists in Canada.
My writing on them is witty and often amusing but it does expose them as charlatans. Farmer, for example, did a major exhibition where he sawed wood and burned it in a furnace. Luis Jacob had his assistants cut pictures out of art books and frame them on the wall.
Both Farmer and Jacob achieved their success through masterful social skills; they’re in a curator’s comfort zone and both are really nice guys, a pleasure to talk to. But they’re not artists according to Roger Scrutton. Scrutton writes that the Fake creates around himself a community of trust, of which he himself is a member. Together they conspire to believe what they don’t believe and to feel what they are incapable of feeling.
Geoffrey Farmer sold, as a work of art, a commercial truck trailer to the National Gallery of Canada, of the kind used to ship goods or produce, but with the floor taken out. The plaque beside the work said it was a fake trailer, and the National Gallery was proud of that. It may have been a fake trailer but surely it was real art, for the National Gallery would not have paid a fortune for fake art, would they? Yes, and they’re proud they did.
Fake art is Canada’s highest accomplishment, which they took to Venice. The marketing dept. reported that the Europeans were wowed. What else could they say? That nobody cared? That it was weak? They’re the National Gallery marketing department.
What kind of message are we sending out about ourselves, when we make a lie of art and our art is a lie? What does it say about our culture's depth, soul, sensitivity, when the superficial is cheered, when going through the motions satisfies the National Gallery and the curators who run the show, those top tier gatekeepers? What does it make of us that as a nation we settle for trash and praise it?
You can imagine that my articles pleased neither the artists, nor the curators at the National Gallery or the Art Gallery of Ontario. To them my name is mud. I think I’m Martin Luther.
Amusingly enough, my articles may be influencing the art world, even those who are furious with me. A logical critique could not be denied and this likely influenced someof the more alert types to leave fake art alone, whereas until now nobody had objected. I tarred Farmer and Jacob with the same brush, some now see them as tarnished and hold back. This is Canada, after all.
Critique counts, voices are heard, we can make a change. Of course such critiques also mean a freezing reception for my own art or writing. In this Canadian art world those guys are boss, along with the top-tier curators who promote them. Not that I care. Committed artists discovers that creating cool work and unearthing a new paradigm is its own reward, compared to which public accolade is but water off a ducks’ back.
Luckily I have a European patron, a stipend that allows me to live decently, though not luxuriously. I eat healthy food, I paint, I write, and I’m happy, in fact painting and writing bring their own euphoria. And two days a week I look after a three year old named Cedar, to whom I was explaining why Stravinsky said the more severe the limitations we surrounds ourself with, the greater the work that emerges.
Cedar agreed, which was not bad for a three year old. Then he suggested that neither are humans made for the infinite, for without limitations we dissolve in the boundless. He emphasized that human beings are not free, and it’s only once we recognize our limitations that we can act effectively.
Both three year old Cedar and I are telling the art world that we must limit art, we need to find its limitations, to define what is and what isn’t art. Otherwise, when art is anything that you can get away with, then we live corrupted by the fake and superficial, we live pretentious lives lacking depth, a life of appearances.
So neither fear nor favor, but there are consequences.
September 12, 2019
99-The Statement in the work.
Miklos Legrady, 16" x 20" - 40.64cm x 50.8cm, inkjet and acrylic on canvas. 2019
Subliminal content achieved notoriety when Albert Mehrabian, born in 1939 to an Armenian family in Iran and currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, published a paper on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messaging. His findings on inconsistent messages of feelings and attitudes have also become known as the 7%-38%-55% Rule , to capture the relative impact of words, tone of voice, and body language in speech.
William Edward Gompertz is currently the BBC's arts editor. Gompertz was previously director of Tate Media, and appeared in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009 called Double Art History. Gompertz has written extensively for The Guardian and The Times newspapers. He wrote about Duchamp’s discovery of the urinal, describing Duchamp’s mindset as if he had been witness to the event..
The hero worship displayed by Gompertz is inexcusable yet it is typical of the fables woven around the urinal, whose obvious statement is that art is to piss on. That’s a Dadaist statement; Picabia himself had written that art is a pharmaceutical product for idiots. Gompertz said that “Without Duchamp, there would be no pickled shark, no unmade bed and possibly no Tate Modern”. Is that so bad? Roger Scruton in his BBC article “How modern art became trapped by its urge to shock”, wrote that “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”..
For 20th and 21st century culture, saying that art is to piss on was the kind of toilet humor that a 3 year old is delighted by, a sure act of rebellion. It’s obviously problematic that an entire culture will revert to childish behavior that is fine for little children but unhealthy for adults. To reject our highest values can only lead to social discord with despots in positions of power, and it’s arguable that postmodernism nurtured the post truth era.
Martin Creed’s Work #277 The light going on and off won the Turner Prize. It’s a conceptual work consisting of a sheet of paper instructing a curator to turn the gallery lights off, then back on, and repeat. The Tate gallery writes about this work that
Walter de Maria’s Earth Room at the Dia Art Foundation in New York is a different kettle of fish, more in the nature of a Potlatch where the nobility of New York demonstrates their extreme wealth and indifference, Earth Room being a permanent exhibition occupying some the most expensive real estate in New York.
It is evident that when art is anything you can get away with, the worst you can get away with is always the most shocking, so it’s the best strategy. When art is the worst that you can get away with that’s a cultural malfunction. Bankers caused a global crash in 20008 so the art world can certainly go off the rails, and it sure looks that way.
September 15, 2019
Miklos Legrady, 56" x 86" - 142.24cm x 218.44cm, acrylic on canvas. 2005
I question my own sanity when I think how long it’s been; I’ve been disappointed with academic art since youth. I was expecting to meet brilliant minds to admire and emulate, I was expecting passion, mystery, genius. What I found were nice people who got along in a civilized way, with the occasional creative mind among them like raisins in a bun. Was I asking for too much or was it just bad luck, born in the wrong place at the wrong time? Perhaps it’s my fault, perhaps I don’t recognize the worth of those around me, or possibly I’m not civilized enough to be invited into the higher realms where godlike creatures like Chomsky and Banksy hang out.
I did meet Laurie Anderson who invited me to come to New York to work for her, but I had 8 months left for my graduate degree and so took a rain check, a missed opportunity. By the time I graduated I could no longer agree with the emerging academic trend and felt like an outlier. Performance artists like Laurie Anderson were the rarity. I had mostly seen performance consisting of someone taking off their boots and placing them on a table, surrounded by approving students and solemn teachers, eagerly interested in counter aesthetic postmodernism. Others found it confusing; they didn’t get it but live and let live.
Over time postmodernism won. Ancient painting professors were still on the curriculum passing on their arcane skills, but the hip and trendy went digital or minimal, conceptual, they destabilized. One take away was a feeling of amazing freedom; anything could be art even denying art, especially denying art, it was shocking, the counter of aesthetic.
If any problems arose it was because aesthetics are the expression of instincts that have evolved over millions of years in the emergence of Homo sapiens. Aesthetics as studied by science consists of the intuitive perception of innate grammatical rules (Chomsky), we then apply to the material world of objects and production.
Physicist Paul Dirac said that beauty in one’s equations, if the concept is valid, means a certainty of success. Neuroscientists in Great Britain discovered that the same part of the brain that is activated by art and music was activated in the brains of mathematicians when they looked at math they regarded as beautiful. Then in the 1970s Abraham Moles and Frieder Nake analyzed links between beauty, information processing, and information theory. We now know that beauty and its complex differentiations are crucial for mental health, while science and psychology show that aesthetics are vital to the evolution of consciousness.
Ugliness is part of aesthetics, and so are bad art and boring art, as the other end of the spectrum, the standard of that which to avoid. When the standard of what we should avoid becomes the standard we aspire to, then there’s something terribly wrong within the profession of art and the academic framework educating the culturati. Some spice is fine, makes food divine, so we can contrast the ugly and the beautiful, it gives our life a dynamic tension. In philosophy it’s symbol is the Yin/Yang image. But the art world didn’t use the negative as a spice, instead we turned the world on it’s head by deciding that logic and effort both belonged to traditions we have overthrown, and this rebellion is the trendiest thing that ever happened. It had marketing value. Of course eventually reality set in. It must be cognitive dissonance that led apologist Kathrin Brooks to write for HuffPost that “Yes, Art Is Boring Sometimes, But Maybe That's A Good Thing,(1)” with smaller type below saying “Most of the interesting art of our time is boring.” - Susan Sontag. Sontag was writing a eulogy, witnessing the death of art, nothing to be proud of.
The conceptual error that overtook the art world was in disposing of, discarding limitations. Stravinsky wrote that the more he surrounds himself with limitations, the better the work. The I CHING, one of the Five Books of Classical Confucian thought, writes that human beings are not suited to the infinite; without limitations we dissolve in the boundless. In the 1990s at CalArts in Michael Asher’s class, when someone asked the graduate students for a definition of art, the students indignantly pushed back, complaining that such a question was unfair. Today a well known curator writes that “no one knows what art is anymore”.
The fact that every other profession knows what they are doing is cause for concern about this one profession that doesn’t. Psychology says aesthetics function in art therapy and that counter-aesthetic is counter-therapeutic, unhealthy. Unhealthy behavior will make you sick. The academic corpus consists of numerous artists, editors, and curators competing with each other for promotions, salary and status, so the last thing anyone wants to hear is that they’re lemmings. Even if it’s true the corruption is not yet obvious though we hear people screaming who are closer to the cliff and getting pushed over the edge.
Someone has to speak up. I see myself as a Martin Luther, albeit a tiny Martin Luther. Now I tend to see us as much individuals as we are products of our time, made to fill a role; in that view my role is to speak up and it gives me satisfaction, I get my paragraph in art history, and if it’s the winners who write history then historians will be the winners.
Back when I left school I still had faith in the system and thought that I was the one failing. After decades of reality check it turns out, uh uh, it’s them. Eventually I elt so disgusted with the silly things the most intelligent people were saying that I started writing about it. And to do so I had to go back and read the history of art again, to verify the process by which postmodernism was born. I fell flat on my ass! Most of what we believe, that we’ve learned in school, is a fantasy, a collection of veils over what artists actually wrote and said. And when those statements were nonsense, then academia smudged that over.
I mentioned how I had questioned my sanity. Am I seeing through negative filters, am I missing out on something? Does the art world have but a small number of these ivory-towered lunacies and the majority are good artists? Yet I see less and less great art… is that tunnel vision? I would love to hear sensible replies, logical statements that add something to the conversation. But when I presented my studies and conclusions I was met with a silence, no one wanted to consider what it means that it’s ok for art to be boring.
The course of human history from afar looks a straight line, but a closer view is more like a wave, where we bounce from error to mistake and back again, constantly correcting our deviations so we do actually get ahead. From that adage it’s obvious a correction is coming, change is near, the times they are a changing.
September 16, 2019
101-Boo Hoo, nobody likes me.
Miklos Legrady, 29" x 38" - 73.66cm x 96.52cm, acrylic on cardboard, December 02, 2015.
Letter to my publisher,
So I think the reason people are mad at me is in Canadian Art, at the top of the pyramid, those curators promote artists who chew on their shoelaces, such performance is admired among them.
So when I write that according to the science, these people commit a great abuse of power and should fold up shop and die (in the metaphoric, not in the coffin sense), they feel their paycheck threatened, their positions destabilized, and they worry… but then remember they’re at the top of the food chain, and send out assassins to assassinate me. In front of my house pace three huge men dressed in black, steel baseball bats in their hand and “National Gallery of Canada" written in white letters on their back. They look angry.
Someone said all you gotta do is wait till the art world changes,
but that’s in maybe 10 years… so I’m writing to speed it up.
But it’s likely my name is wet clay and that could be why things panned out. Now I could be right, I may not be delusional, maybe they are all crazy, except you, and you’re a little nuts too.
So I would love these people to convince me I’m wrong,
show some argument to make me change my mind,
but it’s like their lipstick was crazy glue, their lips sealed.
Anyway I believe in miracles so I expect life to work out
and if it doesn’t, I’m sitting life down in a chair
and having a serious talk with that boy.
September 18, 2019
Miklos Legrady, 22" x 23" - 73.66cm x 96.52cm, acrylic on cardboard, Sept., 20, 2019.
The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is a great book by Wayne Johnson and of course it made me think of my own unrequited dreams, the accomplishments I deserve but a cruel world holds back, or perhaps these dreams are delusions of grandeur written on my face like the mark of Cain, else these dreams could be a call to glory, a challenge achieved in the near future… if I put my mind to it. For all of us unrequited dreams are a thing, haunting like that crow flying overhead (no, don’t look up).
As an artist I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Well… not quite, but close. Be it art or science, any work that takes you into complex aspects of culture and history deepens the mind, expands consciousness. You rise in stature in relationship to history and society. Requited dreams have a tinge of disappointment in that the dream has been attained, a post partum.
Unrequited dreams have the advantage of holding a potential future, and even more, seen from Chomsky’s theory of linguistics, unrequited dreams reveal a deeper layer of the culture and its expectations, ourselves and where we rub the wrong way as society and personality clash and try to grind each other down to fit.
More than anything, unrequited dreams are often a vanity that leads us to essential meaning. In pursuing our dreams we learn which parts make sense and which parts are but a childish fantasy, and so discover the meaning of our existence in the age of achieving our potential. My own work gives me such satisfaction, recently achieved after years of working non-stop and trying to reach above my grasp… else what’s a meta for?
September 20, 2019
103-Artist Of Genius.
Entering art school at age 21 I expected to meet teachers of genius to guide my path towards my full potential. I did find an inspiring man who took our graduate class to the Lake Placid Olympic site to view the artwork, and we stopped in front of a major U.S. sculpture, which at first I failed to see. There was the road, and the off ramps, nothing else, no sculpture.
It turned out that the sculpture, created by an artist of genius, consisted of the steel bends of the off-ramp that curves alongside the road. Not the ramps on the North side, which were done by highway crew as required by highway construction laws, but the ramps on the South side, which had been built by the same crew, but this time hired by our brilliant artist, their contract stating that they were to build exactly the same work as if they had been working for the highway commission and doing their regular job.
Obviously the artist’s statement was that an artist’s work is no different, nor better, nor more interesting than the metal guards on a highway off ramp. But why then was he called a man of genius, and this highway installation a work of genius? There seemed to be nothing unusual here, other than expectations of praise for the highway’s new clothes. This artist and his work were so highly praised because of untiring work by his own marketing people, who constantly sent out notices that he was extraordinary.
When such contradictions cannot be unseen, it brings to mind the term Cognitive Dissonance, where the most outlandish arguments help us pretend we never saw the reality check. But cognitive dissonance only happens when there's a reality check. That steel off-ramp was neither a work of art nor interesting in any way, especially not in the context this artist made of it in the marketing statement described above.
It took another 40 years before I learned that Duchamp never said that a found object was a work of art. In the Cabane interviews when asked how he came to choose the readymade, Duchamp replied, “Please note that I didn’t want to make a work of art out of it ... when I put a bicycle wheel on a stool ... it was just a distraction. I didn’t have any special reason ... or any intention of showing it, or describing anything. The word ‘readymade’ thrusts itself on me then. It seemed perfect for these things that weren’t works of art, that weren’t sketches, and to which no term of art applies.”If Duchamp said they weren’t works of art, they weren’t sketches, no term of art applies, then we would think he meant the readymades really were not art. After all, that's what he said.
Then why did the art world claim they were and that it was Duchamp who said so? Well, Duchamp was engaged in a process of deconstructing art. Duchamp was never a hard worker, as the son of a wealthy bourgeois who paid all his bills Duchamp didn’t have much of a work ethic and Matisse outperformed him, so he had to come up with a strategy to earn the spotlight. Duchamp was actually a genius as a brilliant visual artist, even is early works show a highly developed faculty for visual language.
In my bioptic I floated the idea that Duchamp was so gifted visually, yet in his own words he disliked painting and visual art, which could mean a cerebral disconnect between the aesthetic and the sensory, he was unable to appreciate the visual work he did so well. Duchamp then seized on the strategy of intellectual art, detached from the senses and from one’s taste, that denied aesthetics and grew from ideas instead.
Since then science has shown that the intellect is but one of numerous languages and functions within the brain, even if it is the most conscious of all faculties. We also have body language, acoustic language such as music, and visual language, all of which operate alongside and inform the intellect. When Duchamp diminished the non-verbal to promote the intellectual, he actually diminished the intellect too, having cut off its input and information. And eventually, as happens when you are not really interested, Duchamp quit making art. He discovered that without the non-verbal functions, an intellectual art is boring and has no future.
No wonder I disliked the 1970s academic-curatorial complex. While I was in grad school postmodernism had just become the dominant movement, discarding intuition and sensation to praise the opposite of traditional desire, the counter-aesthetic. That means things you don’t like. When art consists of things you don’t like obviously you will lose interest. But if you’re in school, you subscribe because next year you’ll be a teaching assistant, following graduation you’ll be a session instructor, and even if you never rise above a menial wage slave you still get a pay check and can apply for grants. No one is about to diss their professor, department head, and destroy their own career by claiming that 2+2=4, when everyone says the opposite.
Of course as a mere graduate student I had neither the experience nor the vocabulary to tell the art world that it had gone off the rails, that it had gone insane. It took me about four decades to establish that art is not anything you can get away with. There’s now ample science showing that art is a specific behavior by a specific instinct, that it is a biological adaptation that promoted passing on of one’s DNA, in psychology aesthetics is art therapy, the counter-aesthetic is counter-therapeutic, meaning it makes you sick.
How did academics fail to see this? To be accurate, how did academics fail to sense, to feel, to be conscious of the lack of reality in an art that is mainly intellectual, mainly the idea? The answer is that intellectuals generally are lacking in sensory perception, and academia is an intellectual environment. Instead of being aware of liminal or subliminal feelings, sensations, emotions, the intellectual blocks these off to allow for clear thinking, but art, according to science is not about the clarity of intellectual thought. That is handled by the intellect. Art is primarily about the non-verbal languages as complex and fascinating as any variation of Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield.
Imagine a concert without music, attendants handing out a sheet of paper explaining what the orchestra would have played, and how it would have sounded. There is the comparison of intellectual versus sensory language in fine art. Postmodernism is to art like homeopathy is to real medicine.
It took me four decades of research, practice, and experience before I could stand on firm ground, and with realms of evidence gathered beside me, look the art world in the eye and say “boy, are you guys on the wrong track”
September 22, 2019
How many here have toddlers, little children? When you take them for a checkup, you obviously notice that the nurse and doctors like little children. Now how many of those doctors and nurses are in the pay of Big Pharma, secretly scheming to kill your babies by injecting evil vaccines into them?
Doesn't it make sense the medical field spent millions in the last ten years to make sure that vaccines are safe, and that they, the medical staff, know what they are doing?
Only a fool would listen to Robert Kennedy Jr., a lawyer with no medical knowledge, but fiercely anti-vaxx and anti-science. It is sad there are many fools among us, but consistent education is the key to fix that.
I read of a teen who went and got himself vaccinated when he reached legal age. His mother in an interview cried out "how could he do this to me and my views"? It was all about her, not her son's health. All anti-vaxx I have met are people I would not associate with, don't want to be influence by foolish uneducated negativity.
September 22, 2019
Activist Tiara Torres at an anti-gentrification protest in the Bronx in March 2019
(photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
“A festival in the Bronx organized by the New Museum was cancelled today, September 21, less than an hour after it started. IdeasCity Bronx, which was supposed to feature a series of discussion panels, artist talks, performances, and workshops, was shut down after Bronx-based activists disrupted the event’s first session, held at Concrete Plant Park on the Bronx River. A number of local Bronx grassroots organizations that were slated to participate in the festival announced their withdrawal before the events commenced… New Museum has never invested anything into the Bronx… They are not contributing any long term financial backing or support into any of the ideas that come from today.”
Here is the New Museum investing into the local community, engaging local artists,, but Hydro Punk activists shut it down because of the New Museum not investing in the local community or engaging local artists. Doesn't Hydro Punk sound like Rudolph Giuliani? There's also accusations of the museums and art galleries driving gentrification, driving out the poor who can no longer afford the rent. But not all of this is as it seems.
We need to beware the fascist right, and we must also beware the fascist left. They exist, yes, they are professional justice warrior fuelled by anger with benefits. Having decided that the New Museum doesn't put anything back into the community, they shut down the New Museumputting back into the community. But why?
“We have encountered a new type of predatory censorship, a desire to take offense that patrols the world for opportunities. As with the puritans of the 17th century, there is the need to humiliate and to punish.” (Roger Scruton) I think there's other benefits; the power and spotlight that draws the Justice Warrior to their public acts of injustice.
Art galleries are blamed for gentrification, but it's the artists we should blame. They're the ones who are poor and move into poor neighbourhoods, gentrifying them. You can stop gentrification by stopping artists from moving into poor neighbourhoods, otherwise soon there'll be no slums left in New York.
Because artists gentrify neighbourhoods and raise commercial values, that means there are also people who can slumify neighbourhoods and lower their commercial value, creating slums. Junkies for example. If hoods are gentrified, where will the junkies go? For the sake of social justice, take a junkie home with you tonight. End the suffering.
September 23, 2019
Michelle Bellemare, Enough, is enough, is enough
Art Gallery of Peterborough.
September 23, 2019
DIAPHONER entre Iain Baxter&man et Anatoli Vlassov
click for vimeo performance.
The diaphone is a noisemaking device best known for its use as a foghorn: It can produce deep, powerful tones, able to carry a long distance. At first we have questions such as who's in the white box? Gay romance? No, yes, maybe it feels at the start like a Sam Sheppard play, and if you don't know what a Sam Sheppard play feels like, it feels like this.
It feels numinous. Wazzat? Something weird happens with the movement, the sound, sub sonic, maybe your head starts to buzz with a non-verbal hum of deep tone mixed with the hypnotic dance of body language.
I haven't seen this level of poetic sophistication in 10 years, I feared it was gone forever. Then this quiet humour, totally spontaneous yet equally formal and orderly. Paul Dirac said that when he finds beauty in his equations he knows he's on the right track.
Many claim the performance mantle and sadly it often turns out to be clever marketing, lol there's a lot of it these days, then a sigh of relief, there's still creative heights to experience. The science of art says that it is a shorthand for something we see hovering in the future, that we cannot understand yet, but that artists give it form and so encode this new knowledge into a language we understand. That is true art and it is here, and it is here.
September 24, 2019
Trump inherited $420 million from his father. All his life could get away with anything except murder, his lawyers would get him out of it. That's why he cannot imagine he committed a crime, because he doesn't know what a crime is. Whatever he did so far, his lawyers fixed so he didn't have to learn the law like the rest of us. But it looks like he is plunging towards his destiny, and the White House staff is tired of restraining him and covering up for his dementia. Not that they're throwing him to the wolves by letting him release the whistle blower's complaint. It's more like they no longer have the energy to save his ass, so they're letting him put his head on the chopping block.
MSNBC journalist Nicolle Wallace cut away from President Trump’s news conference yesterday and said: “We hate to do this, really, but the president isn’t telling the truth. These allegations against Joe Biden and Hunter Biden that he has been repeating have been investigated by the Ukrainians. None other than the Wall Street Journal included in their report, on Friday, that the Ukrainians view this issue as having been investigated and adjudicated, and what’s amazing is that what Trump appears to be trying to do is to turn his own impeachment into a big deflection.”
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on the job for only a month, started by lying for Trump and then he just couldn't hack it and yesterday turned against him, insisted on telling the truth to Congress. Watching him trying to weasel his way out under questioning by Congress, I can see why he took that position. As much as he tries to fudge it, he knows it's a lost cause and his own career is on the line.
Feel wonderful knowing that the sleaziest man in the world is about to get his comeuppance. I think now even Republicans might start turning against him. There is only so much swamp and so much dishonesty and corruption the universe will put up with, and Trump is first and foremost in destroying himself. Because dishonesty doesn't work as a consistent strategy, all of us have an instinctive dislike of it, and even the liar will turn against himself eventually.
September 26, 2019
One person commented; "Not that I like it but pointing a finger at a white person is self defense not racism."
To which I replied: "Self defense, not racism" is exactly the words Trump said about Mexicans... and he meant good just as we feel we mean good. Racist means judging a person by their skin colour. All racist use that self defense argument, that's what makes a racist; they have excuses they consider legitimate, so they blame all for the behavior of some.
I'm a Hungarian war refugee in Canada, so how exactly is anyone exercising self-defense by blaming me for Alabama? And how are they defending themself by holding me responsible for what the Chinese are doing to the Uyghur Muslims? Or how am I responsible for the genocide the African Tutsi did to the Rwandan Africans? Racists have tunnel vision and are generally historically illiterate.
So then a person would reply "ok. all white people are bad except you. And maybe Jane over there... and maybe that person", till the list of exceptions grows and eventually the person realizes that's what racism is; they were being racist. It is easier and faster to blame a group than to inform oneself. Among Woke people it's trendy to be racist... just not against POC; what they're really saying is it's ok to be racist.
Commenter: " Does reverse discrimination exist? When a marginalized person fights back, words or sword, is that discrimination? I see your point and I don't condone fighting fire with fire. I am trying to understand this myself".
Does reverse killing exist? No, reverse discriminations doesn't exist, discrimination does. My grandmother was toxic, therefore all old women are toxic?
I am a marginalized person. Victimhood is used as a moral currency to get speaker's fees and writer's fee; being marginalized is financially viable, so all I need to do is accuse others of marginalizing me, and what person who cares about social justice would deny me my victim's identity? There is both money and passion in being "on the right side of history", a concept that is purely subjective. I wrote an article on how the Art Gallery of Ontario made a total mess of it.
One way to a clearer understand is to question what "our side" is saying. Let's not assume we are morally right, let's inquire and make sure we are morally right. And when not, then we see that the left has as many "deplorables" as Trump's people. We have to be on guard not only against the fascist right, but againsts the fascists on our side, of which there are plenty. Small dedicated groups can work wonders; that's how the Bolchevicks took over Russia after the revolution. Compared to the other parties, they had no moral or ethical qualms; evey thing was justified by the fight for the golden dawn of socialist humanity. Politics hold a passion against which we must be on guard.
Justice is something we do ourselves in our local behavior with others. The more people act that way, the larger the effect. Accusing others is mostly an evasion, with Greta being the exception that proves the rule.
September 28, 2019
110-My Artist Statement
24" x 48" - 60.96cm x 121.92cm, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 2003
Once we take to heart Duchamp’s statement that found objects are not works of art, it will likely change the way artists make art and how museum collect it. If we consider the moral implications that ideas cannot be a work of art, and recognize the importance of non-verbal languages, then our expectations and standards of art undergo dramatic change.
Postmodern means both counter-aesthetic and intellectual. Duchamp claimed the conceptual mantle when he said that before his time painting was visual but he made it intellectual. Today we know he then stopped painting. Duchamp made no more paintings after he made painting intellectual.
I wanted to disrupt the postmodern; that meant reviewing the nature of vision. In the field of aesthetics I found non-verbal languages: body language including dance, acoustic language including music, visual language, the language of feelings, and the language of sensations.
My practice evolves from visual language, it's obvious images talk, a picture's worth a thousand words... and I'm concerned with what they say.
September 29, 2019
Dandelions are great, but that title on how they build bones better than calcium is medical fraud; calcium does not build bones, bone marrow builds bones, which are made of calcium. So a story that says dandelions build bones is obviously ignorant. It is fake health news. And there is no cure for Eczema according to the Mayo Clinic.
WebMD is a real medical site. It says dandelion is a diuretic, other claims unproven. Click on uses and side effects. https://www.webmd.com/vit.../ai/ingredientmono-706/dandelion
I did an online search for benefits of dandelions and found loads of click-bait health websites. Their ads pay by the click, so they constantly put up fake stories. Because we are health conscious, they trick us with catchy titles but it’s harmful. I know someone badly hurt because of these kinds of "cures", and we read of others harmed by fake health news.
October 1, 2019
112-Was Jesus a refugee?
October 2, 2019
113-Should artists run the world?
October 3, 2019
114-We can do no wrong
I guess I'm just a sourpuss.
Whenever someone jumps up and joyfully claims
that avocados heal cancer... I go noooooo.
Or when political statements point the finger
but claim that they can do no wrong... I'll clear my throat.
October 5, 2019
Note that I didn't say a painter is not an intellectual; I myself am both. It was Duchamp who said he made art intellectual, ditching the retinal along with his own personal taste. And stopped making art, as those are sine qua non. I see that experiment as another of Duchamp's contribution to the field of human knowledge about vision and visuality.The retinal forms the non-verbal language of visual art. Discard it and it's goodbye art, hello chess. He wasn't fully conscious of that consequence, we ourselves see it in retrospect; the trend in his time was to reject aesthetics in favor of intellect (a left-brain process).
Contradictions no problem, inconsistencies, fine, but the failed hypotheses leap off the page. They cannot be unseen when you read Duchamp in 2019. Even the original Duchamp was mishandled on the procrustean bed of vested interests, with horrible social consequences. I cannot avoid tracing a line from postmodernism to the post-truth era. If art does nurture culture, if art influences social behavior, the art world might have created the conditions for Donald Trump. When art is anything you can get away with, the worse you can get away with is always the best strategy, leading to a consistent degradation of the field. Which is where Grasso comes in.
The Greeks said anyone not involved in public affairs is not worth consideration. Visibility forces you to engage, to live. Grasso says it's a trap, a negative attitude that's trendy and yet ill. Does art create the future? It has in the past. When the urinal is seen as the most influential work of our time, that scatology speaks of a sick culture. We, the artists, writers, galerists, curators, made it so. You know the icons on our computer screens? Perhaps art similarly manipulates cultural symbols that transform social behavior, and we did nurture the post- era. Can we do better is the question?
October 7, 2019
116-Let's talk about age
Derek Guthrie, of New Art Examiner fame, is a bright light who empowers people around him at age 83, which proves the Latin description of genius as the spirit within a person or place. When I was young they said old age would be bad news. Not the case for all it seems.
I'm 68. But then, years ago I had a dream. It said art was the keel to my boat... we've all seen people crash, so that's serious. Psychology says art is therapeutic, bringting order and balance to a chaotic mind, likely more so for professional artists. That may explain also why some talented lunatics still got by.
So as an artist entering old age, I find the trajectory just gets better. Since you haven't gone nuts, you have a wider perspective from experience and the wisdom that comes with age, you can cut to the chase and lead the pack. Some are destroyed by aging, but others, like good wine, improve with age. You know who you are.
Bill replied that's fine as long as you don't get Alzheimer's, but there's an answer to that also. Hemingway took an honourable way out, but inconsiderate to his immediate family. Here in Canada there's medical assistance. My mom went fast and I take after her. But then death doesn't disturb me. I have a synchristic sense of destiny from what I've read and experienced; it says what's really important is doing your best within the moment. Everything else is detail.
October 8, 2019
117-Towards a definition of art
36" x 55" - 91.44cm x 139.74cm, acrylic on cardboard, January 11, 2016
It’s intolerable than no one knows what art is. When a top tier curator said that, I though it’s time to be responsible; every other field knows what they're doing. Definitions are specific; to define art we must look to the science. That's because when we get specific and pass peer review that’s science; what can be tested, repeated, seen and agreed on by anyone anywhere on the planet.
To define art we observe that it has content, which we understand through language. There are four kinds of language which concern us here, the first is the intellectual verbal language we’re familiar with, then follow body language, as in dance, aural or acoustic language, as in music, and visual language where seeing is worth a thousand words.
The final attribute of art is excellence. Art is better than the norm, as in the art of cuisine, the art of conversation, though art can have negative connotations, as with the medieval Borgia's who were masters at the art of poisoning your rival.
October 10, 2019
118-Towards a future of art
Miklos Legrady, detail, 24" x 30" - 60.96cm x 76.2cm, acrylic on cardboard, November 30, 2015.
Marshall McLuhan defined postmodernism in a quote often misattributed to Andy Warhol; "art is anything you can get away with". This is the pivot on which contemporary art must question itself. What do we want to get away with? And why be shady about it, what's unethical here? If something is unethical, should we not pay attention, is that not serious?
I was thinking about Chomsky's studies in child linguistics, where he says that by the time a child talks fluently, they haven't heard enough syntax to formulate the rules of language. Which led Chomsky to suggest innate knowledge genetically encoded over millennia. Plato pointed to something similar in Meno's slave, Carl Jung also found behavioural templates, as did Albert Mehrabian in his rule on subliminal meaning in non-verbal languages.
Chomsky further points to innate knowledge as responsible for our ability to recognize patterns from small details, and truth from obvious falsehood. That’s obviously relevant in the 21st century. In the arts we're facing confusion over the nature of art, it's definitions and standards, partly from cultural theories first proposed by Dadaists, theories that were never questioned but instead were adopted as the cultural canon without further consideration. That problems created now call for change.
Our knowledge of art reveals a far reaching social influence, which means our ideas and behavior shape culture. Should we not then be careful how we create the future? Greta Thunberg chastised world leaders for ruining the planet's ecology, the world they were leaving to future generations. Considering the social environments created by Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Trump, and the like, it's time to take responsibility for the cultural and social environment we as artists create.
The late Dennis Dutton proposed that the art instinct, aesthetic taste, is an evolutionary trait shaped by natural selection, It's not, as most contemporary art criticism and academic theory would have it, "socially constructed." The human appreciation for art is innate, and certain artistic values carry across cultures. It seems an aesthetic perception ensured the survival of the perceiver’s genes. What does that mean for the entire discipline of art history? Dutton argues, with forceful logic and hard evidence, that art criticism needs to be premised on an understanding of evolution, not on abstract ‘theory’.
This is where Chomsky’s innate knowledge comes in. Pontius Pilates washed his hands of it, asking “what is truth?” a question which science can answer on an anatomical scale. Truth is composed of chemical and electrical processes in the brain, just like lies, the difference being that truth is more efficient and takes less energy. We do have faculties that allow us to know truth, once our attention has been called to the issue.
In local conversations we feel uneasy when the other’s body language contradicts their words. In art exhibitions the Tate gallery recently published an article asking visitors to slow down and take time to look at the work, instead of casting a glance as they walk by. I replied that good work will stop anyone in their track, so perhaps the problem was in the curatorial choices, the art work itself may lack the power to interests us because it is bad art. At the Art Gallery of Ontario my friend and I walked through the galleries, attracted to this or that work while neglecting others. Some art was brilliant while others were unsuccessful yet still having the cachet of the artist’s name. As an artist I’m also like that with my own work; my collection includes paintings that I would call incomplete. Then sometimes years later I see the solution to that image, the changes needed to make it a good work of art instead of middling.
So our truth concerning the nature of art, what it is, can be encapsulated within a few sentences that make sense and with which everyone agrees. We can understand what art is the moment we start paying attention and accumulate knowledge on the subject.
However, the postmodern paradigm prohibits that. It’s in conflict with the freedom created by believing that art is an intellectual social construct, that art is anything we can get away with, while accumulating knowledge for a definition of art is said to hinder the discovery of new forms of future art we haven’t even considered yet. The postmodern statement embeds deconstruction and destabilizations into the center of the academic-curatorial complex, in effect creating a chaotic culture which makes it easier to get away with the art that consists of anything you can get away with.
The innate knowledge Chomsky wrote about is a mental process that can be nurtured, expanded, added to and sustained, while neglect will atrophy that function. How does the postmodern counter-aesthetic change things?
Psychology says that aesthetics is healing in the form of art therapy, organizing a complex structural balance within the mind, that strengthens the conscious mind against inner assaults of moods, emotions, and irrational impulses. It’s interesting to question the long term effects on professional artists, and to wonder if that self-therapy is what allowed some talented lunatics to survive and gain a reputation.
The counter-aesthetic is likely to be counter-therapeutic and to make people sick. Psychologist Carl Jung once wrote an apocryphal tale of a man who knew that it was insane to howl at the moon, but figured it was fine for him because he wasn’t insane, at which moment he crossed the line into schizophrenia; his conscious mind could not withstand the chaotic onslaught of impulses from within and ruptured like a veil.
On a personal level we have Duchamp who made art intellectual and then stopped making art. This documented event is not discussed, it chills academia because of the academy’s intellectual foundations. While Duchamp lost his motivation on making art intellectual, the academic-curatorial complex known as the art world did not stop making art when an intellectual premises became dominant in the last four decades. The difference was that the academic-curatorial complex provides jobs, financial rewards that replace the inner vision which drives the best artists. Instead of intellectual art swiftly sabotaging the culture as it did Duchamp, the quality of production and ideology suffered badly.
When art is anything you can get away with, charlatans are the ones who focus on getting away with things while artists are busy in the studio. The charlatan has more time to focus on their career and marketing, suggesting academia is training generations of charlatans. In Canada an art group called General Idea achieved fame and fortune by performing the role of being an artist. Their press release said they wanted to be young and famous artists, so they behaved like young and famous artists, and they became young and famous artists. Mind you, as a group they produced some amazing visual and performance art. General idea had some good artists who made good art, with an ironic strategy of posing as posers.
So imagine the toxic effect of bad ideas like a fog, spreading through the art world and slowly making things worse, Not credible? For 10 years bankers sold sub-prime loans which resulted in the 2008 global financial crash. If bankers can lose their perspective, artists are certainly vulnerable to group madness, for they do love to wear the emeperor’s new clothes.
October 11, 2019
Soli sur la relation danse-poésie - ici c’est aux mots que je donne le privilège de contaminer le geste dansant. Le public est invité à proposer les mots de son souhait au danseur. Des vocables sortent ainsi de la bouche des spect-acteurs pour atterrir dans la glotte de l’artiste, qui se met alors en parole et en mouvement.
Programmé au CUTLOG et Jeune Création, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin.
Anyone else trying this would fail but this man walks a tightrope between his heart and his soul. Anatoli Vlassov, using dance and vocalization, interprets various words suggested by the audience. What makes him brilliant is the link between the conscious empathic human being and the unconscious depths of his creative mind. Anatoli's closest equivalent in visual art would be Anish Kapoor.
What both have in common is in the subtlety and complexity of their work, a strong sense of what the late Denis Dutton called the Art Instinct. Dutton’s youtube video speaks of an evolutionary development with a spiritual core, some people are better at it than others, Kapoor and Vlassov are among the best. Sometimes a person is born lucky and sees with clarity the meaning of our time, sometimes one looks for and discovers strong concepts and techniques, but there is also a need for a strong drive to make the effort and do the herculean work involved in reaching the stratosphere.
Anatoli, like many explorers, on his own as an artist hit upon a strategy that the psychologist Carl Jung formulated as a method for increasing one’s consciousness. Jung posits there are personality types based on what function one is best at; sensory, intellectual, feelings, and intuition. A person who just uses their dominant trait is shallow, whereas someone who develops other functions is well rounded , say an intellectual who also uses feelings and intuition.
But technique and media are not where important similarities lie between those who touch the stars to become one themselves. Anatoli’s behavior in this video is similar to a young child’s and we have seen small children act in their innocent fashion using sound and movement to convey their mood. In fact I would not be surprised If Anatoli got the idea for CHAIRS MOTS from watching his young daughter when she was a toddler. What is fascinating is a child will perform this moment with the ways of a child, and Anatoli Vlassov performs with the maturity of an adult.
There’s another work of Anatoli’s, a sonoric piece with his young daughter where nonsense words carry meaning through sound. We see his daughter’s performance express the creative sweetness of a child, and Anatoli’s behavior express the same richness as a father. In CHAIR MOTS (Flesh Words) he goes further. When someone in the audience gives him a word, he answers them, but with sentence not of words but of sound and dance. And through sound and dance he expresses what it is to feel, to see, to be, in non-verbal languages, and by doing so he expands our knowledge of what we can say and how we can say it.
Perhaps his best move which takes him beyond postmodernism is his aesthetic direction. Where in postmodernism the counter-aesthetic held sway, the boring and austere,, Anatoli's perfomance emanates a strength of character and a confidence that there is something beautiful to enjoy in being alive, a reason for pride in being who you are, whoever you are.
We have been awaiting new people, Anatoli Vlassov is one of them.
October 12, 2019
120-Artists and God
21" x 34" - 53.34cm x 86.36cm, acrylic on cardboard, November 29, 2015.
In researching my book, I did not read Duchamp and others with the aim of finding scandals as a paparazzi. I read to instruct myself and learn from those who came before me. It was a lousy shock to find these heroes just plain wrong, with untested assumptions ending in terrible results. And as happens with cultural drift, their words were later distorted by vested interests in the academic-curatorial system.
It is true that only recently have we had scientific evidence of non-verbal languages functioning alongside the intellect. However we’ve always known that Duchamp stopped making art after making art intellectual. Some reply that Duchamp is too complex a man for us to understand. In grade school I was told God was too great for us to understand.
Neither case is true. The Hebrew and Christian God is undeniably a psychopath. With human beings, however, Plato and Chomsky both tell us we can understand the world around us and the people in it through innate knowledge; if you cut us, we too shall bleed, if we have brains, we too shall think. There is no divine art God too subtle for us to understand. My own writing on art is closer to Martin Luther’s, we can no longer defend the past, it’s better to face the reality check.
Robb Storr wrote that in the 1960s the art world moved from the Cedar Tavern to the seminar room. There intellect and reflection were the highest accredited pursuit, whereas ballet dancers tell dance students not to think… but to work from instinct, to act in the moment.
In 2008 the banking industry crashed global finances after ten years of sub-prime loans, and these are hard-nosed accountants. If bankers can make global mistakes, then is it not more so for creatives, who love to wear the emperor’s new clothes? The art world today is on the wrong side of history, and as happened in the past, a number of talented people are working from instinct to correct past delusions and create contemporary art, not yesterday’s misguided version.
October 14, 2019
21" x 27" - - 53.54cm x 68.58cm, acrylic on cardboard. October 5, 2015
Tracing postmodernism to when Duchamp made art intellectual, I return to this point repeatedly as the fulcrum to correct art theory. Resistance often comes from our reverence for hero figures, we allow no shading of our gods. I'm reading something interesting related to this concept of Duchamp's, intellectual art. A person whose right brain is damaged would find a simile impossible to conceive. Left brain is literal, verbal, intellectual, right brain is non-verbal, subtle, symbolic. When Duchamp made art intellectual, he discarded the non-verbal right brain functions which have always been the language of art, which differentiates art from illustration. Grammatical Man, Jeremy Campbell.
October 14, 2019
I'm a painter. This doesn't help that the auto-focus in my paintbrush is busted. I've also upgraded to auto-focus and colour correction built directly into my canvasses. Yes, it does make for a bulky battery package on the back of the stretcher, but that's the price of creativity. I'm now saving up for that paint which reads your mind for your favorite image and recreates it for you on the canvas, all you have to do is sign the finished product. That leaves the artist to concentrate on his or her vocation in art, which is marketing. Only proper marketing can make an artist.
October 21, 2019
123-Artists and God
21" x 34" - 40.64cm x 50.8cm, acrylic on canvas, October 22, 2019.
Perhaps it's so hard to have an idea of what art is, to define it, because art is not intellectual, it is primarily non-verbal. The more science we have on the nature of art across history, the more it looks like art consists of an effort to express the nonverbal languages our mind uses along with the intellectual one. We know of body language, dance; aural language, music; visual language, worth a thousand words. Art is the process the mind uses to develop and expand its non-verbal languages, just as writing is the form to expand verbal language, intellectual thought.
October 23, 2019
124-The Creative Unconscious
23" x 44" - 58.42cm x 111.76cm, acrylic on cardboard, November 13, 2015.
There are times when I literally don't know what I'm doing yet still accomplish something major in painting or text. I might feel a buzz, an energy, and see myself picking up a paintbrush, an idea takes visual form, or sitting at the keyboard sentences already start to enter consciousness.
This seems proof of the existence of functions within the mind that are not available to the intellect and not visible to consciousness. We also know the language functions are in the left brain, while the right brain is pretty much speechless, yet the right brain is responsible for understanding subtleties, shades of meaning, paradoxes and similes. The left intellectual brain is simple and dependable, the right non-verbal brain is complex and unpredictable.
There has to be a different language that the right brain uses, and we've already seen body language, aural language and visual language. Feelings also have the same causative effect as intellectual information therefore we should look at feelings as another set of organized and sequences meaning, a language.
Postmodernism has aroused major opposition for discarding the non-verbal languages and focusing on intellect, a left brain function. Some major critics have spoken of the deplorable state of contemporary art and it happened precisely because of this shift of art from the Cedar Tavern to the seminar room.
Art had a traditional function, and that it was traditional meant it filled a need in human affairs. Ti discard art's traditional place and call it "socially constructed" is possible, because all it requires is a statement to that effect. That statement is today supported by an academic-curatorial network with a hugemongous economy supporting professors, artists, writers, curators, and administrators.
In 2008 financiers caused the sub-prime global banking crisis, following a decade of delusional banking practice. If the bankers can be that mistaken, what of the art world, who love to wear the emperor's new clothes? We need to get used to the idea that the last three or four decades of contemporary art, the period we call postmodernism, was a big mistake, a wrong turn that was never corrected because of the impetus of the immense professional machine involved.
October 26, 2019
125-St. John by Da Vinci
detail, St. John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci.
One thing I've noticed in today's political movements is an extreme left-brain intellectual logic, unable to account for complexity, diversity, or subtlety, focusing instead on hard and fast rules. And so we come to the dilemma of St. John the Baptist pointing to heaven.
I've read about the ineffable smile on St. John's face, the sublime surrender to God, and the joy that Leonardo meant to convey. Da Vinci was likely asexual, with an attraction to beautiful young men, but "the ermine does not besmirch herself", and so the hand points upwards to a spiritual height. Perhaps his creative genius claimed his full libido so there was none left for physical pleasure, but now I suspect that smile on his face, that post-orgasm smile. I feel something dishonest about it because the statement is rather extreme, a Roman Catholic extreme rejecting the flesh for the spirit.
Since evolution started with rather fleshy monkeys with brains the size of an orange, we can see the entire process of human evolution as one of pushing away from sensuality, towards a development of mental processes like spirituality and the intellect. Roman Catholics and later Protestants took this to an extreme, which may have led to the technical and scientific superiority of European nations in the 18th to 20th century. Religion always evolves our conceptual abilities from speculation towards science, as we try to understand our place in the cosmos. Science can also coexist with spirituality, when the later is not contaminated by delusions.
There have been suggestions that the rapid advance of European science was a mistake, it did not allow our monkey brains to evolve beyond the aggressive fighting competitive mode. In other words the hypertrophy of the intellect and left brain thinking was not matched by an equal growth in right brain complexity and the evolution of a philosophy of the non-verbal.
That is why I suspect that post-coitus smile of St. John's, the sexy joy of religion or intellect or spirituality. St. John has lost his dignity and his uniqueness by surrendering his soul. We also note that Eastern gurus call on us to give up our egos and become their disciple, since they have managed to hang on to their own. The ego is the center of the individual, and evolution has provided it with innate knowledge, as Chomsky says in his studies in linguistics.
My caution against that smile, my instinctive step back, is a reaction to that message of satisfaction in the surrender of the self. Note his left hand pointing at himself, our eyes rise to his face then follow the arm to the hand pointing to heaven. The self is best achieved through surrender, is a message that does not ring well with me. The hypertrophy of intellectual thought has given us power which we're not fully equipped to handle, and so we might drive ourselves into extinction. It is likely the next major development in human thought will not be scientific but judgment and value based, not a brute force forward of science but a lateral expansion of our capacity for subtlety and refined judgment.
October 26, 2019
126-Belongs in a Museum?
Je dit non, c'est de l'illustration, ce n'est pas l'art. Après le premier regard, la gentillesse devient son contraire, un sens oppressant d'être manipulé avec un art conçu pour les enfants de 3 ans.
Il existe une loi en psychologie qui dit que lorsque les choses atteignent leur extrême, elles se transforment en leur opposé. Si je vivais à proximité, je finirais par haïr sa douce douceur trop sucré; il ya quelque chose de malhonnête à ce sujet, simpliste au point d’être insensiblement stupide. & Cela me fait penser à l'interprétation par Walt Disney d'une personne sans abri.
October 26, 2019
Adam and Eve really did not know that it was wrong to disobey God. They couldn’t know that, they only learned to distinguish right from wrong after eating the fruit. Notice that it was God who pointed them towards the tree and forbade them to eat its fruit, a tree they may not have noticed otherwise, a tree that God created and placed there.
When the Devil tempted him, saying Job would be disloyal, God could have consulted his omniscience; he already had the knowledge this was wrong, but instead of consulting his divine knowledge he tortured Job, killed his wife and children, his camels and sheep and asses.
Eventually God became so angry with humanity for sinning as he had programmed them to, that God gave us his only anointed son, whom we were to kill every week in a ritual sacrifice, then eat his body and drink his blood, this is the only thing that would appease God's wrath.
The youth are leaving the church in droves because of the dedication Evangelists have shown to a lying president who "grabs them by the xxx", cheats on his taxes, puts babies in cages, and who betrays the Constitution for personal gain. Kids are leaving the church at the hypocrisy of their elders, who signed a deal with the Prince of Lies, because he gave them a very good deal. When you believe the devil because he promised to do God's work, you have imperilled your immortal soul.
Referring to early Christian missionaries in Africa Desmond Tutu said : when they came, they had the bible and we had our land. When they left, we had the bible and they had our land.
Now the youth are leaving the church in droves because of the dedication Evangelists have shown to a lying president who "grabs them by the xxx", cheats on his taxes, puts babies in cages, and who betrays the Constitution for personal gain. Kids are leaving the church at the hypocrisy of their elders, who signed a deal with the Prince of Lies, because he gave them a very good deal. When you believe the devil because he promised to do God's work, you have imperilled your immortal soul.
October 26, 2019
128-Canada’s Vulnerable Art Scene
17.5" x 32" - 44.45cm x 81.28cm, acrylic on cardboard September 16, 2014
Kay Kritzwiser on being questioned about her eternally positive reviews in the Globe and Mail), said that our art scene is not yet strong enough for negativity. Which could also mean a writer not wanting to risk her paycheck by alienating future client. Yes, we do need to look at vested interests.
Some have remarked that there is no place for negative criticism in a Canadian conversation on art, be it among artists, curators, writers, teachers, or galerists. In fact the Canada Council warns in their grant applications that criticism of Canadian peers is not acceptable. It becomes obvious that where there are no checks and balances, abuse is almost inevitable. Insider trading means that decisions become political rather than merit-based, since we cannot define merit without discussing the good and the bad.
Which leads us to think that if the Canadian art scene is weak and vulnerable, it is precisely because it hears nothing but praise, even for the worst mistakes that make us roll our eyes in despair.
October 27, 2019
129-Body language, Acoustic language, Visual language.
36" x 48" - 91.44cm x 121.92cm acrylic on canvas, July 14, 2014
"A modern theory of language, by its very nature, is part of a more general theory of what the mind knows, and why it appears to know more than it is taught. The principles of transformational grammar, outlined in the previous chapter, are closely compatible with the ideas of modern psychology, which assumes that there are structures processing information at more than one level in the brain, some closer to conscious expression than others. ... Chomsky in the tradition of Kant asserts as a fundamental belief… that knowledge of language, and probably other kinds of knowledge as well, are not accounted for externally, in terms of behavior, but internally, in terms of principles which are not contingent, but certain; not learned, but innate; not a posteriori, but a priori."
In studies of linguistics such as Grammatical Man, Jeremy Campbell tells us "the question that exercises Chomsky so much, and that he asks so often, is whether there are other, uniquely human "grammars" in the brain, generating other very complex kinds of knowledge. Innate constraints would exclude many other possible grammars, restricting freedom of choice, as in the case of spoken language." Today we can easier answer that question as different branches of science are now readily available online, and the answer is yes.
This is where we invoke the non-verbal languages such as body language, aural language as in music, and visual language, worth a thousand words. While previous generations did not have this information, Albert Mehrabian's studies of body language, and other’s extensive work on acoustic information and visual language now allow us to see these modes of communication operating simultaneously with intellectual thought. An example occurs when listening to someone; we read as much meaning in their body language, and we're sensitive to the tone of their voice, which again shapes our interpretation of their spoken words.
Today we can answer Chomsky's question of other uniquely human grammars, capable of generating other very complex kind of knowledge as intellectual thought does. We now add acoustic language, body language, and visual language to the modes with which the brain thinks. Immediately this questions the belief that the idea is the most important aspect of art. If the non-verbal languages operate simultaneously with intellectual thought, then we are required to include them in the process of thinking, and remap conscious thought as 1/5 of the actual process; we also have to include feelings in our definition of non-verbal languages. Feelings differ from the various modality discussed so far, since they are the product of judgment functions, they express our sense of the value of something that we’re judging. Since feelings can dramatically alter our thoughts, the syntax of feelings must share enough points of reference to allow that influence on thought, and so we may also call feelings a language on it’s own.
October 28, 2019
130-A Corrupt Art World
18 " x 24 " - 45.72cm x 60.96cm, acrylic on canvas, July 7, 2014
There is no escaping the fact that contemporary art theory is fundamentally corrupt. Not corrupt in the sense of evil people purposefully doing evil things. Instead the problem was in the 1960s transition of art from the Cedar Tavern to the seminar room. Until then, artists specialized in non-verbal languages and now they were asked to switch to left-brain intellectual activity. In the chaos much was swept under the rug.
An adjunct professor at the University of Rome wrote something on Walter Benjamin that was published in the prestigious Arts and Letters Daily. He wrote that for Benjamin, there was a magic in art, a mystery, a sense of wonder. Benjamin actually said the opposite; “the art of the proletariat after its assumption of power… or the art of a classless society… brush aside a number of outmoded concepts, such as creativity and genius, eternal value and mystery”. How is it that no editor caught that gaffe?
This kind of misinformation permeates the art world. Our major art gods are fabrications who would be shocked at what we’ve attributed to them and would vehemently disagree. And yet this goes on because no one wants to rock the boat. There is no purposefully evil corrupting the art world, it is rather a complaisance at our personal failure to speak up when we come across conceptual malapropisms; at first we’re shocked, then we figure it’s safer to let sleeping dogs lie, surely someone who knows more than ourselves will correct the discrepancy. This is how art becomes anything you can get away with.
The art world is corrupt and badly needs a reformation.
October 28, 2019
When intellect becomes the dominant mode in art, then clever works lead the pack, and cleverness only goes so far before it wanes. Hatoum’s Remains to be seen consisting of metal frames for bunk beds points to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and the plight of Palestinians. Walking around this work at White Cube, we nod our heads to show we’ve drawn the lines and understood the serious political implications. One subliminal statement does refer to the aesthetic in a postmodern way; the suffering of the oppressed overrides the importance of any work of art, a statement we all agree to so as not to seem hedonistic and superficial. The same sensibility is at work in the 2002 Great Divide; a cheese grater raised to adult scale, it speaks of the suffering of flesh and meat.
Hatoum’s work is empowered by the political situation it refers to, and so it can be better seen as illustration and not art. If it’s art, then it’s rather facile so we might call it juvenilia, the beginning steps, simply because the work is so obvious.
Imagine if, as days of old, Hatoum were to burn the midnight candle experimenting with her material, imagine the work she would produce in a decade or two; now that would be art.Unfortunately, many top tier artists must spend their time marketing and so have little time for studio work, which is now done by assistants or a factory working from blueprints provided by the artist's designers.
October 30, 2019
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