If the things themselves are holy, it is in the gaps between them, the form of their unstable, shifting relationships from which we uncover the sacred. The details grow to something greater. The mystery of representation is that it can never quite get at the thing itself. The mystery deepens insomuch that, nonetheless, in its own fragile manner representation is able to hold, or at least touch upon, the gaps between things.
We find that ineffable point at which so much art fails. Realist or abstraction, unless a work maintains this precarity, honors the essential nature of the gaps, it promotes a lie. Asks us to be complicit in a fraud.
When this happens in the service of an ideology or institution the result is propaganda. When a work fails to move beyond where the artist feels they are comfortable, controlling the outcome, getting what they expected; it only promotes the lie that our wishes trump what-is.
What is art for?
Why is it important?
These are simple questions we can either wave away or engage.
Art has been a vital human activity for at least tens of thousands of years. Its current marginal status, as an entertainment for those with time to kill and money to burn, cannot trivialize that deep history.
Let’s cut through, let’s jump over all the various superficial rationalizations put forward to explain art’s value. Lifetimes have been lost chasing after the fine points of aesthetic criticism, following fads and schools….
Art is where we interact with questions of meaning.
The art we make exists as a residue, artifacts of that interaction. They serve a multitude of purposes. Fundamentally they are a record of where individuals have passed as they grappled with universal questions of meaning, providing lessons and examples, as well as serving to encourage those of us who follow.