What is art for you? What do artist do? What is the purpose of art?
“Art is a way of knowing.”
Art is the production of subjective knowledge, that is, knowledge grounded in subjectivity and essentially involving subjective experience. Art is not objective knowledge, the kind deployed in scientific discourse, concerned with abstracting away from subjective experience to maintain a universal system of verification. Art takes seriously the perspectival nature of subjectivity in the creation of meaning.
“Appearance is essential to existence.”
“Truth has the structure of a fiction.”
“It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the discovery we have made that we exist. That discovery is called the Fall of Man. Ever afterwards we suspect our instruments. We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and distorting lenses which we are, or of computing the amount of their errors.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Artistic knowledge is knowledge of appearance – the appearance which is not merely opposed to reality (as if appearance can be bracketed from the thing as it is in-itself) but appearance which is our very lens, albeit a distorted lens, through which we see reality. Art gives us an awareness of how the world appears to us, and in so doing, gives us knowledge of what constitutes itself as “real” within our system of representations. Art is a fictional creation, structuring our fundamental beliefs about what is most real. The ontological truth of being is not immediately, or unproblematically, given, and even if it were to be condensed into an objective content of information, (like some form of fortune cookie), it would be utterly meaningless without the proper subjective experience which offers the key to unlocking its secret. Art is the key and the secret, or, in Saltz’s words, “Art is a bridge to a vision and art is the vision.”
The message of this essay was both poignant and cryptic, opening up a space of reflection within myself yet not revealing its secret. I found truth in the author’s words, although not as either in the form of a scientific discourse or a religious sermon. Instead, the truth therein was so entirely obvious that it wouldn’t need any expounders or proselytizers. It resembled the kind of truth latent in a child’s question, which, precisely because of its refusal to be fully articulated in the categories and cadence of the “adult” world, manages to cut through layers of self-deception, wounding and yet liberating the soul.
The author concedes that “there are no photographs of miracles”. But perhaps the idea of capturing what must remain impossible within a documented image is what is the most nonsensical. But the “impossible” does indeed have a place in the Real, although one often unnoticed. It is not the impossible of the horizon, perhaps as an abstraction of deity, perpetually beyond our grasp. But the “impossible” in the Real is you and I. Every attempt to locate ourselves in our perceptual field is thwarted, because the eye which sees cannot see itself. And so we assume we can then fully and successfully identify with some description of ourselves in language, but inevitably we find this too misleading and dissatisfying, for we can never quite capture who exactly we are in language. This comes as a surprise for all of us. For before we learned to speak, someone, somewhere, was naming us, as if to make definite what otherwise is necessarily amorphous and limitless. We all experienced the trauma of initiation into the symbolic universe of language. Or as Fyodor Dostoevsky put it, “Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.” In this seemingly infinite, self-referential, and self-enclosed network of meaning, we experience ourselves as a mere node of communication. But we are exceedingly more than this, and yet what this “more” is only appears for us as a lack within symbolic communication – a felt sense of loss and emptiness.
The “impossible” is in the Real for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. There is something incredible, miraculous, and awe-inspiring about each one of us in our natural state. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson: Love enters the world with each and every child, beckoning it to return to its innocence.
The specific inscription would be a Hebrew literary bible interpretation by David Rosenberg of Isaiah 53:
Hello! My name is Daniel Beers. I am from Pennsylvania, (USA), where I earned my Bachelor of Arts Philosophy degree from Messiah College. My academic work hitherto has focused on paradoxes involving mind-and-world. I am highly interested in German Idealism, Psychoanalysis, and Aesthetics, and desire to fashion a shared space for them in art work, while studying at the Siena Art Institute. More specifically, I am interested in the emergence and position of symbolic thought represented in speech within Nature, and the direct impact this has for the formation of the human condition. I am committed to utilizing this inter-subjective, symbolic space of discourse for understanding socio-political systems, and engaging in critical pedagogy. My current project has been designing and teaching a course, entitled African American Thought, at the Lemoyne Community Center.