It is a give-and-take between an idea, what one might call “text”, and what is recorded using the medium as “subtext”. I have to ask myself what I expect from painting: should it be subservient to my ideas or a queen that I have to serve? The text, which I regard as a private matter, must be able to stand being dragged diagonally across the canvas. If it loses something along the way, so much the better, since it then gains something that it may have urgently needed: sensuality and a truth that is rooted in non-verbal space.
Since the model he so faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture … it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model. Whether it will convince or not, depends entirely on what it is in itself, what is there to be seen. The model should only serve the very private function for the painter of providing the starting point for his excitement. The picture is all he feels about it, all he thinks worth preserving of it, all he invests it with. If all the qualities which a painter took from the model for his picture were really taken, no person could be painted twice.
That pigment on canvas has a way of initiating conventional reactions for most people needs no reminder. Behind these reactions is a body of history matured into dogma, authority, tradition. The totalitarian hegemony of this tradtion I despise, its presumptions I reject. Its security is an illusion, banal, and without courage. Its substance is but dust and filing cabinets. The homage paid to it is a celebration of death. We all bear the burden of this tradition on our backs but I cannot hold it a privilege to be a pallbearer of my spirit in its name.
From the most ancient times the artist has been expected to perpetuate the values of his contemporaries. The record is mainly one of frustration, sadism, superstition, and the will to power. What greatness of life crept into the story came from sources not yet fully understood, and the temples of art which burden the landscape of nearly every city are a tribute to the attempt to seize this elusive quality and stamp it out.
The anxious men find comfort in the confusion of those artists who would walk beside them. The values involved, however, permit no peace, and mutual resentment is deep when it is discovered that salvation cannot be bought.
We are now committed to an unqualified act, not illustrating outworn myths or contemporary alibis. One must accept total responsibility for what he executes. And the measure of his greatness will be in the depth of his insight and his courage in realizing his own vision.
Demands for communication are both presumptuous and irrelevant. The observer usually will see what his fears and hopes and learning teach him to see. But if he can escape these demands that hold up a mirror to himself, then perhaps some of the implications of the work may be felt. But whatever is seen or felt it should be remembered that for me these paintings had to be something else. It is the price one has to pay for clarity when one’s means are honoured only as an instrument of seduction or assault.
(15 Americans, New York, 1952, pp. 21-2)
My whole life as an artist is the attempt to come into contact with other people, to leave this aloneness (alleinigkeit).
Just as we have no concern for other people, we have no concern for ourselves. We have a common concern for infinity which we can only think of as indefinite, real, and in, absolute. To believe, as we do, that heaven exists for the chosen is a denial of everything and anything rational in the–small letter–universe. Therefore, I would say, that our denial of any principle less than equal to denial of reality is in itself greater than equal to that denial. Absolute positivism suffers from Utopian ideals, and there is not and never has been a reality greater than the excruciation of its absolute realization. If this be the case, we are left with nothing other than this impulse to impede ourselves. In other words, to go on. That is justification enough and motivation enough to causally/casually inflict our will upon others for brief periods, which I gather is the express purpose of my invitation to participate in documenta.
I hardly understand anything, much less anything important, but my inclination must, or seems to, have some significance in the world in which I am living. There is seldom any excuse as good as the excuse to be, and the fact that anyone (anyone else) can be motivated in that same direction comes as somewhat of a surprise. That this surprise quality is not only valuable to me but is also an exercise in the “art of living” causes me to wonder whether the mind’s viewpoint has anything to do with what is, after all, the exact viewpoint of its observation, or whether, in fact, that what we judge worth looking at is, in fact, even in our mind’s eye (there). It is however an estimatable fact that an artwork exists in its own reality and in that exists a certain cause and effect pattern which has baffled the ancients as well as myself. To make something which looks like itself is, therefore, the problem, the solution. To make something which is its own uraveling, its own justification, is something like the dream. There is no paradox, for that is only a separation from reality. We have no mind, only its dream of being, a dream of substance, when there is none.
Work is justification for the excuse.
from Documenta 5 (Kassel: Documenta, 1972)
Dans ma peinture il n’y a ni sol, ni lointain, ni ciel : il y a des couleurs dont les rapports entre eux créent l’espace, et c’est tout.
(In my paintings there is neither ground, nor distance, nor sky: there are colours, and the relations between them create space, and that’s it.)
A delirious silence — the sound of negative space. Inverting presence along with its reflections. Also, and more importantly, inverting absence. And its reflections too. The limits of a reasonable thinking are those that break down when confronted with reflected absence. A confounding assertion in that it refers no longer to the impossibility of presence, but also the impossibility of absence itself. An unavoidable and inexhaustiblepresence of nothingness.
The delirious image — no longer the image of reflected worlds, but the impossible image of inverted reflection. Between selfless self-portraits and portraits of selflessness, not a void but the paradoxical variations of reflected play. Figures of inversion, absurd and delirious. A silent cacophony of tongue-less twisters.
At the limits of a reason of this sort lies, not only silence but also the irrational and its various formulations. And to rise to this challenge, three theses. The thesis of the absurd, Camus’ silent universe and Regine Robin’s Vampire Narcissus. The thesis of paradox, Virilio’s world of sightless vision and the myth of the nymph Echo. And the thesis of delirium, Baudrillard’s world of holographic thinking and Echo turned vampire. Consequently, a theorizing of the signs of inversion and impossibility — reformulating a world that is no longer reasonable; a world that is transformed, from silence to delirium. (read full text)
I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.
I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero.
I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.
I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.
I am for all art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.
I am for an artist who vanishes, turning up in a white cap painting signs or hallways.
I am for art that comes out of a chimney like black hair and scatters in the sky.
I am for art that spills out of an old mans purse when he is bounced off a passing fender.
I am for the art out of a doggys mouth, falling five stories from the roof.
I am for the art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapper.
“I try to avoid the pitfalls of reality while maintaining a link with it. Photos are not inventions but encounters. I’m not looking for any aesthetic. That everything is haunted will not be completely intentional. But for me, photography is inseparable from the loss. Hence the need to cling to the impossible. Pictures are the only evidence of what has been experienced. But no facts at all. Whether something took place, whether one has had an experience does not mean one has actually known what it is and what it means for himself. This is often the limit of Photography – it does not penetrate. I want to express how I felt. This is the link with reality and experiences. While this is not the case because I guess I’ve not gone far enough in what I have experienced. As for cowardice. Some photos come out of nowhere, I don’t remember having taken them, they are linked to the reality of what I felt. ”
Affection for the land runs deep in us, and its manifestations—from the garden plot to the national parks—encompass a vast range of human actions and choices. At what point in the history of our species, I wonder, did the watchful, anxious regard for our surroundings, on which survival depended, begin to modulate toward love of a particular place? There must be an Other before there can be love; Eden becomes the object of our desire only after we are cast out. The best landscape images, whatever their medium and whatever other emotions they may evoke, are predicated on that loss. They propose the possibility of an intimate connection with a world to which we have access only through our eyes, a promise containing its own denial. In the case of landscape photographs, the paradox is sharpened because the world represented must have existed for the picture to be made, and yet the existence of the photograph attests undeniably to that world’s disappearance.
Culture creates a gulf between people and the world they inhabit. Some human groups experience this rupture as a problem and expend enormous amounts of energy in their attempts to heal it. Americans have been noticeably divided on the necessity, even the desirability, of a harmonious relationship with the natural world; but when we do attempt to establish a connection with larger realities, photographs of unspoiled Nature frequently play a central, almost devotional role. It is an odd choice of tools: the making of a photograph presupposes distance, which accounts, I think, for the elegiac tone, the note of longing that suffuses so many of the finest landscape photographs. I admire those pictures most that acknowledge our predicament without causing us to lose heart, just as I am most touched by those places where damage and grace are inextricably entangled. Photographs bear witness to the facts, be they visible or existential, and it is a fact that our relationship with the natural world is a troubled one that can never be otherwise under the present cultural dispensation.
Approached attentively, any place may persuade us to linger in an attempt to locate the source of its attraction. What we discover often comes to us in the form of a story. Landscapes are collections of stories, only fragments of which are visible at any one time. In linking the fragments, unearthing the connections among them, we create the landscape anew. A landscape whose story is known is harder to dismiss, harder to treat like a neutral matrix of interchangeable parts. For all the obvious, vast differences between ourselves and the aboriginal walker, singing the world into existence at every moment, there is still some sense of kinship. At its best, telling the landscape’s story can still feel like a sacred task.
“The allotted function of Art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thoughts, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good.”
If the goal of art is Beauty and if we assume that the goal is sometimes reached, even if always imperfectly, how do we judge art? Basically, I think, by whether it reveals to us important Form that we ourselves have experienced but to which we have not paid adequate attention. Successful art rediscovers Beauty for us.
One standard, then, for the evaluation of art is the degree to which it gives us a fresh intimation of Form. For a picture to be beautiful it does not have to be shocking, but it must in some significant respect be unlike what has preceded it (this is why an artist cannot afford to be ignorant of the tradition within his medium). If the dead end of the romantic vision is incoherence, the failure of classicism, which is the outlook I am defending, is the cliché, the ten thousandth camera-club imitation of a picture by Ansel Adams.
The beauty of a work of art can also be judged by its scope. The greatest beauty tends to encompass most; the artworks of largest importance frequently have within them the widest diversity. A.R. Ammons phrased this well in the poem Sphere, in which he observed that “the shapes nearest shapelessness awe us most, suggest the god.” This is so, I think, Because most of life seems shapeless most of the time, and the art that squares with this powerful impression seems most convincingly to confront disagreeable fact.
Beauty in Photograph, pg. 27
Bill Viola (b.1951) is internationally recognized as one of today’s leading artists. He has been instrumental in the establishment of video as a vital form of contemporary art, and in so doing has helped to greatly expand its scope in terms of technology, content, and historical reach. For over 35 years he has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast. Viola’s video installations—total environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound—employ state-of-the-art technologies and are distinguished by their precision and direct simplicity. They are shown in museums and galleries worldwide and are found in many distinguished collections. His single channel videotapes have been widely broadcast and presented cinematically, while his writings have been extensively published, and translated for international readers. Viola uses video to explore the phenomena of sense perception as an avenue to self-knowledge. His works focus on universal human experiences—birth, death, the unfolding of consciousness—and have roots in both Eastern and Western art as well as spiritual traditions, including Zen Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, and Christian mysticism. Using the inner language of subjective thoughts and collective memories, his videos communicate to a wide audience, allowing viewers to experience the work directly, and in their own personal way.
Curiosity for transformation is the driving force in my work. My concern is with art as ever-changing communication – a dynamic language varying with its message.I have been interested in non-verbal communication in society and art since the start of my practice in 1996. I believe that good art should not provide answers, but instigate questions and change lives through continuing conversations with society. My work is concerned with the continuous questioning of social constraints and conventions. I try to generate knowledge through the visual representation of these questions, and the deconstruction of society’s clichés ”
My work focuses on the way the mind and body are affected and transformed by external elements and impulses, and the inter-relation between intimate consciousness and public perception.
“I never liked the term “multimedia artist”, because I found it too simplistic and almost reductive. You can of course imply that multi-media means multiple media, where a medium is anything from a pencil to a processor. But that term ended up defining people who make cd-rom art, or digital art, or net art, as the main aspect of their practice. My work often engages with electronic media, in the form of interactive technology, film, audio and net-based art, but I also use low-tech media like performance, visual arts, design, and more. I use different media according to the most suitable ones needed to create particular projects. I decided to use the term “cross-over artist” because I work across artforms. I could say I am like a swiss knife artist, an artist who crosses over different means of expression to find the most appropriate one according to need and inclination.” Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t try to drain all expression out, I just want a very neutral expression. If you have an extreme expression—either laughing or crying or whatever—then that’s the only content that you will get out of it. Whereas if it’s presented neutrally and flat-footedly, you can read whatever evidence is embedded in their visage, like laugh-lines and furrows or whatever, in the same way that you can make assumptions about people when you meet them at a cocktail party. I am a humanist and I hope that a bit of humanity is in there somewhere; I just don’t like to editorialize it.
I have never made trials or experiments. Whenever I had something to say, I have said it in the manner in which it needed to be said…I can hardly understand the importance given to the word “research” in connection with modern painting. In my opinion to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing.
A line has direction—a point of origin and a point of termination. A line is also a discrete entity which exists altogether at the same time.
There isn’t any program in my work. No going from worse to better or simpler to more complicated. On the other hand it’s always different. So instead of saying I’ve made something new, I’ll say I’ve made something more.
Over the years I have preferred the title “sculptor.” I like the groundedness of it, referring back to my early love for the sculpture of Michelangelo, Rodin, and Henry Moore, for example.
Early on, though, I left the model of such discrete sculptural volumes for a sculpture which became less of a thing-in-itself, more of a diffuse interface between myself, my environment, and others peopling that environment, built of thin lines that left enough room to move through and around. Still sculpture, though less dense, with an ambivalence between exterior and interior. A drawing that is habitable.
The above remarks indicate only the “stage,” of course, the general shape of the medium I have chosen, not to be confused with that which is expressed therewith or therein. This content, because of its nature resists verbal explication.
Whatever philosophical, historical, or literary artillery I bring to the workplace, it is of no assistance in the art of trying to stretch a line between two points. In that I am alone and voiceless.