Sunday, July 16, 2006

on compulsion, 2

This post is a response to Steven LaRose's perfectly valid questions in the comments section:

How is "compulsion" related to by (studio) life? Should I change or focus some behavior? Even with my blog? Was I comfortable with my heaps and rows? I eventually looked up an antonym for "compulsion" because I couldn't think of one myself. I was startled for some reason to find these words: "free will, freedom, independence, liberty, license"
I found one definition somewhere of "compulsion" that described it as the lawful use of violence, as by the state or whatever. But I started my previous post as a lament that my blog is just not as compelling as some the blogs I read everyday. Though I am undoubtedly motivated by what I consider "the politics of what other people think" in reading Hullaballoo(at least Digby's posts), Glenn Greenwald and Firedoglake, it is now much less to see what they are finding in the mainstream media, than it is to see what they, the bloggers are actually saying. I first got really obsessed with blogs back when I think the whole country was being staggered everyday by stolen elections and a mainstream media that would not, no matter what, call a crime a crime. But over time, I've grown more interested in seeing the blogosphere grow into a substantial part of the arena where left politics happen. And while I admit that that compulsion to see change happen is a part of it, I am also deeply interested in seeing the truth written in words on a screen sometimes and knowing that other people read them also and share my idea of truth.

That said, I go from those blogs through a whole slew of art blogs trying to find similar intelligence and motivation to get to the real crux of what doing art is about. I would like to see it but I am not sure the two things, art and blogging, painting and blogging, sculpture and blogging necessarily lend themselves so readily to one anothers' forms.

By compulsion as it relates to art I am quite sure that one can understand compulsion when one stands in front of any half-way decent Van Gogh painting. One isn't exactly being forced, but I think one is compelled to follow with one's eyes the lines and textures and bumps and grooves of color. I am pretty sure that even non-painters understand what that is all about, if not in substance then certainly in affect.

But rather than sound like some advocate of Van Gogh, urging everyone to understand and sympathize with the idiosyncracies of his life (how pointless is that ?) I am questioning whether there can be similarity between the compulsion of staring at one of those paintings, reading certain blogs everyday, and working in a studio everyday.

The rather witless drawing I posted up there to illustrate this post can perhaps
be used also to illustrate the kinds of truth I in fact find compelling and which I have by no measure fulley turned over, nor understood nor made into a comprehensive and marketable art product. I suppose the clients of the dealers I talk to aren't compelled by the posture of a given angle, nor to how many things it can easily refer to, again, my heaps and piles and series.

As I am merely speculating, I think I can suggest that some simple form like this may reverberate both inward toward some personal meaning that's been forgotten, but also outward toward some external meaning or multitude of meanings that are perhaps compelling to someone else. I would even be willing to go onto a bit of a limb and say that I believe that better painting or drawing has some kernel of this inward looking and compellingly felt experience. Even if the expression of that experience is not understood as the point or purpose of the thing having been made, then at least, and again in better paintings or drawings, it remains as an element fundamental to those objects' execution and is understood, even if unspoken, unspeakable and perhaps merely felt by those who later witness it.

Describing what are obviously un-felt objects, paintings, drawings is of course some good measure of what I think we react against when we get annoyed by the cloud of normal public relations style language that is tossed around in the blog-o-sphere and the art world. The pretensia and the "ooh-ooh, notice me!" are attempts to get the same, rather ordinary compulsive feeling that we might get from some clothes and debris that have happened onto a storm drain. And this is done in embarrasment or with shame towards the things that actually have always compelled us. Some odd feeling of fear and elation during childhood, some mystery being revealed over something banal. Usually these things happen to us before we are 7, or before we learn to read. And we spend our lives wondering what they meant. Even a fraction of the memory of such an early event gives your work a charge. Many cultures believe this is because children under 6 are still swimming in memory of other lives or a spiritual completion they've just departed.

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