Art Theory Questions – About Existentialism

[This short introductory text was delivered at an exhibition opening for the artist Sands Murray-Wassink in 2007.]

Finding and exploring new paths is an entertaining experiences. Whether this is done in the context of writing a novel, writing a research paper, preparing a presentation, solving a mathematical problem, developing a computer program, designing a work of art, composing a piece of music … It is the change, the inspiration, the intrinsic and internal need for stimulation that drives the creator. It is not about the final product but about the feeling of the creative process. It can be excruciating, it can be rewarding, it can be a torture, it can be a fortune. It is the birth of a child to protect, to pamper, to educate, to bring up according to the moral standards that one subscribes to. The artistic creation is a path.

In 1989 in Paris there was an exhibition entitled “Magiciens de la Terre” in which for the first time artists from the so-called “marginal” world parts were approached to represent their cultural heritage. This show was criticized on many levels in the framework of post-colonial studies and meta-colonialization. A problem established with that exhibition was the code – the lack of code to understand the background of the artistic creation. Artists from different cultures have a different set of values, different set of aesthetic norms, different set of the mind. This makes it impossible for a person unfamiliar with the specific context to immerse themselves in this world of artistic creation and to understand it without first understanding the set of values, the set of norms and the set of the mind. When an artist (any artist, from any culture, with their personal past and their personal worldview) sets to create a new piece of art, it is a venture that is bound to remain misunderstood. The set of norms, values and mind is bound to be different as an individual venture and a personal heritage.

Would this be a failure? How does one define art? How subjective or objective is the definition of art (let alone the label “art”)? But was the piece of art in the first place created for the sake of transferring a message? What happened with the concept of art for art’s sake? Here is how things are these days – the value of art is not determined by the artist, or by the critics, or by the art historians, or by the art philosophers, or by the public. It is the market and specifically the auction market which determines the value of an artistic creation [overgeneralizing; but just a bit]. Is it then that the people who buy art have understood its message? Or are they simply believing in a message that they have created because of their own values, norms and mind to go along with that piece of art? Is the art defined as art because of the message it carries or the message the observer impregnates in it?

One could argue then, very controversially, that the successful artist will be one who plays not with his uniqueness but with plainness – on the themes that everyone can relate to (and I think Freud will be exceptionally pleased with your works Sands because you do play with things that we all relate to). You may then ask what happened with the artistic creation as an internal need. But then what is the internal need? The need to give birth to a baby or the need to bring something in the world that has the potential of contributing to this external world? Is it a matter of self-sufficient, self-centered, self-focused, self-ful creation or a creation based on the idea of giving, of cloning, of spreading, of evolving and of evolutionarizing? Is art the message or rather the language of communication?