What if art is not the answer?
Went to London two weeks ago – part business trip, part holiday. Did a small art thing there, and am now reverse-engineering: doing some thinking aloud as to the why I did what I did. Also posting some pictures.
I’ve always had an enquiring mind. Which led to my asking tons of questions. Often embarrassing ones. One of my favourites, when I was very young, was: ‘how do we know this’. Not popular with parents and other relatives – especially when dealing with questions of religion – but there you are.
So how do we know? Growing up in the protestant tradition I was taught that it is words that give us answers:”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In highschool I discovered mathematics. Then formal training as an engineer inculcated the idea that it is numbers that lead to knowledge, and to knowledge about knowledge – science being ‘what if’ questions made quantitative. Then I went to art school – relatively late in life – where knowledge is developed and communicated via images. Which is an idea I’m still processing.
Anyway, a lot of modes to come to answers with. Then, having found answers, how to deal with them?
I love Carsten Höller for his motto: spreading doubt. As Höller states, he is happy about perplexity: ” I used to suppress it for a long time because it is associated with uneasiness, which is a totally wrong approach—one should rather try to disengage one from the other and come to appreciate perplexity for what it is. Doubt and its semantic cousin, perplexity, which are both equally important to me, are unsightly states of mind we’d rather keep under lock and key because we associate them with uneasiness, with a failure of values. But wouldn’t it be more accurate to claim the opposite, that certainty in the sense of brazen, untenable affirmation is much more pathetic? It is simply its association with notions of well-being that gives affirmation its current status. What needs to be done is to sever the association between affirmation and well-being.”
And I love a story my mother once told me. It is a story about her staying with an old aunt of hers. This aunt lived alone, in a big old house, and apparently she had a very rich spiritual life. She also had a habit of documenting her moments of enlightenment by jotting down her insights on the walls of her house, wherever and whenever inspiraton struck. Why she did so I have no idea. I do know that my mum, as a teenager, found staying in this aunts house unsettling – like living in her aunts mind.
So I took my great-aunt for a model, and my crayons as tools, to do a small action that incorporates all three modes: words, what-if, image. Pictures in this post document me asking ”what if art is not the answer?’ as a text written on the pavement in front of the Tate Modern.