Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Web it was we were" - Nathaniel Mackey

They say art cannot be taught, but technique can be taught, and that is what they teach. So what is art, besides technique? What goes into a drawing besides the mechanics of my pen and the chemistry of the paper and ink, besides the angle and pressure of my hand and the series of strokes?

The reduction of art to technique is like the reduction of education to training, or justice to compensation or revenge. It removes something of admiration, something worth admiring. The technique of the building of a concept.

Or the placement of a ritual, art as a ritual. Reducing art to technique removes the question of the source of the inspiration, or maybe it removes the inspiration itself. What is the difference in inspiration between the first blues musicians and the graduating class at a prestigious music school? One would hope there are some similarities, but one also thinks of Nina Simone, who never forgot that they rejected her from music school because of who she was, or even Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who originally wanted to be an opera singer like Robeson, but ended up having his #1 hit, which he recorded while blacked out drunk, remembered now for its sampling in a Notorious B.I.G. song...

The inspiration of finding oneself in a world that finds your existence to be criminal, that tells you to be otherwise or disappear, and you find you cannot disappear. This is a bridge to the conversation I've had so many times, that always re-presents its truth in my own experiences, of the poor who are generous, the poor whose eyes are full of a kind of vital experiential striving which is either drowned or drowning in the wealthy. Privation and exclusion make it no longer optional to imagine and practice what Nahum Chandler calls "the general possibility of the otherwise."

The otherwise to selfishness, to greed, even to the elevation of greed into a supposedly affirmative principle of life, is no newer than the gospels--in fact, it is this elevation that the teachings of Jesus rail against, and Ayn Rand is only the most recent in a long series of demagogues to try to reverse the ideals of Christian love which, of course, were not invented by Christ and which find an expression in Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and any "paganism." And one finds that those who are most marginalized are those in whom the striving for an otherwise is most inherited, for whom the expression of a curve, a swing, the curve which is another name for love, Lucretius' swerve of atoms, finds its deepest source.