Condemned to Please, Please

The painter is condemned to please*. The practice of art is cruel. And therefore the artist is terribly romantic and inscrutable; obscure and deliciously mysterious. Art practice becomes even more obscure and informed by glorious muses and the void beyond reason (and so on). This is what they gave us with their history books and their slides. This is what they gave us with their documentaries and biographies. This is what they gave us at art school.

The institution of art school is a strange notion in itself. But I find myself more interested in what it has done to me – and perhaps what I’m doing for it now. I have never really stopped what they started. I am rolling along, absurdly, caught up in my own miseries and the romance of art-induced angst. Do I believe in the myth of the artist? Do I believe in the myth of art-making?

The romance of a torturous, tragic existence is very powerful. Some get so caught up in it, they never leave. Ofcourse, some disregard it completely, but it’s always lurking in the dark corners. While performing the painter, I find myself a little ridiculous. Then I get drawn into the old self and the other rhetoric. And so, I am a romantic soul again. It is a nice self-contained cycle of pleasure and pain.

I am condemned. To please. To give pleasure. Inadvertently, I am condemned to torture. If one is to believe this mythical position, then one must believe in one’s greatness in the larger scheme of things. This causes (in my opinion) a kind of psychological conflict. In this world, there seems to be no time for sentimental introspection. It defeats the purpose of practical techniques and form. In this world, there also seems to be all the time for sentimental introspection. Content must be loaded with profound meaning. In performing the painter (or the artist), one is fucked, really.

The tortured soul of this mythical artist must then be put on display. It must be curated to appear in all its glorious intensity. It must be seen, viewed and taken apart with words and more pictures. It must represent and reflect and “change” something. It must be loaded with meaning, content and comments. The intimidating walls of the gallery consume this tortured, pleasing entity. Or, it is displayed in public to be seen as some kind of effrontry or a tribute to humility. It must define space and time. It must be courageous or cowardly or merely introspective. It is given names like political, psychotic, personal, sentimental, gay, sexual, sexless, present, absent…In this crowd of words and meaning, the myth of the artist and the personal mythology of the artist become one and the same. Or maybe it’s just me. The myth of the artist wears you down something awful.

Inspiration: Arousal of the mind to special unusual activity or creativity.

My Personal Mythology: Desire

When you’ve got paper, you can draw faces. When you’ve got leeches, you can draw blood.

Disclaimer: I started writing this post with an intention to rant about art practice and then it twisted itself into wild introspection. I still don’t know what the practice of art demands from me. I have stopped hoping I will ever know for longer than those moments when I seem to know what it wants. Then we all fall down.

* from The Cruel Practice of Art by George Bataille

4 responses to “Condemned to Please, Please

  1. I have read that many artists see art as a way to express what normal human expression (i.e. quotidian speech) cannot articulate. Perhaps the tragedy and romance of the artist stems from this constant struggle to express that which is normally inexpressable.

    • Thank you for your comment.
      Visual artists cannot articulate expression the same way as writers or poets either. I wonder how the poets and writers feel. I wonder if everyone is out to be tragic or if they are just having fun. I wish I could express how “normal” artistic expression can be. I wish it wasn’t an elitist gibberish language that only a select few would claim as their own or claim to understand it. I am still struggling to articulate what my problem with this whole deal is, really.

  2. Alert me when you discover the truth about this matter, because I certainly don’t have the answer. However, the following is my best guess: I think the idea of the ‘artist’ is in itself a construction and is relative to the society that defines it. Where I live, graffiti ‘artists’ are seen by some as delinquents who sorely need a useful vocation while others see them as rebellious artists giving expression to the inequities and communalism of inner-city existence. So, since the definition of the artist varies according to those who define it, I think the only objective way to determine who or what constitutes an ‘artist’ is to question the source. If one sees him/herself as an artist and believes that either graffiti-making or a tragic life trajectory are the qualifying traits of their ‘artistic’ self, then that’s what the artist becomes. Likewise, some feel fluency in elitist gibberish is an essential trait of the ‘artist’. So, in summation, I think an artist is one who sees himself as such based on the traits or components he or she has deemed necessary for this type of existence. I sincerely hope I haven’t confused you further. 😉

  3. Pingback: Condemned to Please, Please | Tea Break

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