The question still gets asked ‘what is art?’ But the subtext of that question seems to be, ‘is it real?’ Is art capable of being a medium of truth? Well, if art cannot be a medium of truth then art would only be a matter of taste, and if art was only a matter of taste, then the art spectator becomes more important than the art producer.1 Imagine the implications of this. Imagine an individual that cannot experience the possibilities of her own actions, the pleasure, or the limitations of them. The aesthetic relies entirely on the assumption that the individual is capable of responsibility, for producing this work, by undertaking that artistic action. Otherwise, if art is not a medium of truth, we are only made real by a Panopticon with no one sitting at the well. Art is a medium of truth when it is personal responsibility.
‘What is art?’ Art is Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. Or in the words of my favourite poet, “art is a fistfight in the orchestra pit.”2 ‘What is art?’ Art is writing before you learn how to read.3 Because before thought, it must have been poetry.4 If “contemporary art is an art to survive our contemporaneity”5 then the aesthetic is our integrity of thought outside language.6 Recall George W. Bush, as the primacy of language, at a podium proclaiming “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.”7 And if you still maintain that language is the measure of validity, do recall that a picture is worth a thousand words. Art is a stray dog, following you through a field of lilac trees on the outskirts of Vilnius. An eternal reoccurrence8 poised like a crossroads, as if our generosity and willingness to engage with that which offers us no utility, instead offers us a mirror to our humanity.
VERONIKA IVANOVA, “REALLY REALLY REAL” (2019)
1 Boris Groys, “The Truth of Art” e-flux Journal #71, 2016.
2 Because, presumably, there are stakes to this shit. Kirill Medvedev, It’s No Good (2016) Translated from Russian. Originally published in “Incursion,” (2002) Argo-Risk.
3 Luis Camnitzer, “Art and Literacy” e-flux journal #3, February 2009.
4 From the German “Bevor gedacht wird, muss schon gedichtet worden sein.” Rüdiger Hermann Grimm, “Creative Thinking and Will to Power,” Nietzsche's Theory of Knowledge, 1977, 141.
5 Anton Vidokle, “Art without Market, Art without Education: Political Economy of Art” e-flux journal #43, March 2013.
6 Identifying artistic practices as modes of thought that do not make use of language in a way that can easily be translated into quantitative discourse, Mersch advocates for an aesthetic mode of thought beyond the “linguistic turn,” a way of thinking that cannot be substituted by any other disciplinary system. Dieter Mersch, “For an aesthetic mode of thought beyond the linguistic turn”, Epistemologies of Aesthetics, 2015, 61–114.
7 George W. Bush, In a speech given in Townsend, Tennessee, February 2001.
8 Central to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, “eternal recurrence” is the idea that with infinite time and a finite number of events, events will recur again and again infinitely. Sinan Kılıç, “The Eternal Recurrence as Difference in Nietzsche’s Metaphysics” Temaşa Felsefe Dergisi, 9, 2018, 19-38.