From the Aquamarine Notebook: Part Two
A few more things from the notebook. It’s small and aquamarine. And tentative. Sometimes indefensible, as well.
For an art object to have unity, a unity must be willed by the perceiver. The reading of the art unifies disparate elements. This is why I always distrust readings (explications) of poems. They become a translation. This is not a new thought, but it’s the thought I’m having today, stuck on repeat.
Unknowable things clutter the landscape, causing us to trip.
Unity is a trick (or by-product) of form and temporality. It is written over the work at hand by the reader’s desire for a coherence, or it is abandoned if the reader feels there is going to be no coherence at the macro level. Coherence, as well as unity, is a trick (or by-product) of the frame, the form, the temporality, of the art object.
Coherence, unity, and meaning are not indivisible.
In this way, the part does not require the whole. Just as the part of the world that is the art object does not require the entirety of reality to exist, so too, one can find meaning in the art object without a need to create a unified totality of it. The parts do not need the whole.
This is obviously true, and avoided by many people.
Metaphors of unity, when relating to art, impose a false economy on what is in actuality gestural and provisional. Readings reify. I’m not thinking of deconstruction here, as I’m not interested in breakages, but in constructedness, in the fissures that bring things into a contextual relationship.
Art begins as the mystery of otherness, and ends with the mystery of the self. Parts to a whole.
The whole and unity are not indivisible.
In the way one can say “at room temperature” and mean any one of several precise measurements.
If an artwork can be called “more than the sum of its parts” we can know for certain that art is, at its finality, irrational.
If art is at its finality irrational, why should it, finally, be expected to yield to rational readings?
Is there a possibility for art beyond representation? What is beyond representation? Time itself? The future? The alterior?
For art to be successful it must be more than what it is. Exceptional art will express more than it can.
This is why Imagism / Objectivism / and Language Poetry (etc) are best in their failures. The examples ruin the poetics. In art, this is what examples must do. The goal of art is not the accomplishment of the theory or the application of the theory. That’s between you and your box of robots.
But can one regard art without presuppositions?
Art is a radical presence—metaphor is key, an irrational whole, whereas simile is attendant, rational. These are tendencies only.
Ethics in art is a presupposition. Ethics is not in the art but in the perceiver of the art (this is less true, of course, in art that is directly meant to persuade, but it is still present). The art object is static though its ethics is dynamic. Ethics requires the social. Art, even communal art, is not in and of itself social. It must be carried over by a perceiver.
Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign used "Born in the USA" as an inspirational, pro-USA, way to get the crowd pumped-up. I found that odd.
An ethics of art will always be contingent on the alterity of the artwork.