THE GALIMATIAS INTERVIEW (PART FIVE) – POLITICS, THE NOVEL AND SCI FI

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This interview with Paul David Adkin was carried out by the Spanish literary magazine “Galimatias” in March, 2015. We have translated it here into English and have published it in five parts. This is the final part. 

GALIMATIAS: In When Sirens Call, your hero Robert says: “This book is my Trojan horse, sent into the interior of capitalism to burn it down.” Was that meant to be a mirroring statement referring to When Sirens Call itself?

ADKIN: Oh no, not at all. When Sirens Call is a novel. It has no ambitions to bring the system down. Nevertheless, it was a mirroring statement. Robert is referring to his philosophical work which is a mirror of my own philosophical work.

GALIMATIAS: Which has not been published yet.

ADKIN: No, I haven’t found a publisher for it yet.

GALIMATIAS: But you think it will bring down capitalism?

ADKIN: Of course not. Yet it could be considered as one of its objectives.

GALIMATIAS: Getting back to When Sirens Call … it is a novel, but there is also a lot of politics in it. Can’t we see it as a political novel?

ADKIN: Not really … Politics is discussed by the characters, but the book itself takes no obvious political position.

GALIMATIAS: Is Art Wars political?

ADKIN: It’s critical of the system – from the artist’s point of view. It’s cynical. Was Diogenes political?

GALIMATIAS: The one who lived in a barrel?

ADKIN: Yes. Diogenes was a social critic and he would have loved to have been in a less hypocritical place, but he was not a man-of-action.

GALIMATIAS: Placenta in Art Wars does act.

ADKIN: Yes, and she also goes mad. No, I don’t think Art Wars is really a political work either. To be political, I write philosophy … and plays. I, Consul, 1808, and The Queen who could not Rule were political plays. Each one of them used history as a mirror to reflect the current political situation. I, Consul was anti-war and a satire on Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, while 1808 and The Queen were anti-neoliberal plays. But plays can be political in ways that novels can’t be – haven’t I already discussed that.

GALIMATIAS: Yes, but I’m trying to clarify it. Novels have to disguise their statement and so therefore they can’t be political.

ADKIN: Something like that. Although, having said this … at the moment I’m working on a piece of science fiction, which will be a political book – that’s because I think that science fiction is an exception … as would be satire. The best sci fi is deeply philosophical and, because it writes about society from a philosophical perspective it is also very political.

Nevertheless, let me reiterate my main argument here – the literary value of sci fi writing is best achieved when it sublimates the big question as well. Once you set your book in the future, it immediately has its political connotations – whether it’s a Utopian or Dystopian vision we see a social and technological development or regression. In this way every descriptive scene has an innate political weight. The writer can just forget about politics as such – the setting itself will bring it all out for you.

If we think of the film Blade Runner, for example. That has a deeply political narrative embedded in it through the Dystopia it creates via the setting. The story itself is deeply ontological, although the depth comes through quite naturally through the existential predicament of the androids. And the big question .. which runs through all of Ridley Scott’s films … is the Oedipus complex. And that is buried in the subconscious of the film, as it should be.

GALIMATIAS: So you like Sci Fi?

ADKIN: Yes, I do. But I don’t read much of it, because the writing too often disappoints me when I do.

GALIMATIAS: And so your next novel will be a work of science fiction?

ADKIN: Perhaps, but I’ve got four things fairly well developed at the moment, I’ve no idea which will be finished first

THE GALIMATIAS INTERVIEW (PART ONE)

This interview with Paul David Adkin was carried out by the Spanish literary magazine “Galimatias” in March, 2015. We have translated it here into English.

GALIMATIAS: We want to centre this discussion on essences. Your writing is quite diverse: apart from your three novels, you have a large number of plays and short stories and philosophical essays, a couple of books of aphorisms and you dabble in poetry and songs. So, my first question is: is there an essential theme running through all this work?

ADKIN: Nothing that I’m conscious of. But I’m sure you could find an unconscious link. Or, perhaps the essential theme is a search for that unconscious link.

GALIMATIAS: You’ve said that art is an invitation to the unravelling of ideas. But isn’t that the role of philosophy?

ADKIN: Yes, but art, of course, unravels those ideas in a different way that philosophy does.

GALIMATIAS: What are the questions that you as an “artist” are concerned with? Are there any central questions, or any singular central question, that you are wrestling with in your work?

ADKIN: In my philosophical writings I’m mainly concerned with why humanity has made such little progress in establishing itself as “humanity” – which implies a simpler question: why do we keep making the same mistakes? But whether that question is buried in all my work … I’m not sure.

GALIMATIAS: Let’s take your three published novels: Purgatory, Art Wars and When Sirens Call. Is the question embedded in them?

ADKIN: Purgatory and When Sirens Call are both about trying to find our way Home with a capital “h”, and both of them contain an idea that our real home is not where we are but where we are going to. Contained in this is the philosophical idea, albeit unstated, that our final destination, in order to be truly purposeful, has to lie beyond our own lives, and that its purposefulness is far greater than our own lives. An idea which, through a philosophical link between aesthetics and human purposefulness, also links Art Wars.

The Terra Australis Incognita Volume 1

Art Wars is about finding a purpose through art, or through taking an aesthetic stand point. Purgatory is about finding an aesthetic, and human position between art and the world through an alchemical search for eternity. And, When Sirens Call is likewise a debate around purposiveness and a search for life’s meaning which goes beyond our actual experience of life.

GALIMATIAS: And so we always make the same mistakes and fail to progress because we can’t see the real purpose of our existence?

ADKIN: Yes, in a nutshell, that’s it.

GALIMATIAS: Is your aim to point us in the right direction.

ADKIN: In my essays, yes. I tackle the problem of purposiveness head on. Philosophy has to be direct … like shooting an arrow, as Nietzsche said. But in the novels there is no deliberate exhibition of that idea. There can’t be. If there had been the novels would be unbearable. I think that would be a general rule in novel writing – if you’ve got something you really, passionately want to say, forget about it before you start writing. The question will remain if it’s truly important, but you need to let it sink into the subconscious and come out accidentally.

GALIMATIAS: And yet, art is about unravelling ideas?

ADKIN: Yes, but for a novel to work, the unravelling has to be part of the process of the creation itself. The big question being asked in the novel must always be the subconscious one, buried in the subtext. It’s the secret one. But a shaky secret because it’s the one that will always reveal itself whether you like it or not, and that is why it can, and should be, forgotten.

GALIMATIAS: What you mean is that all art has its subconscious question to ask?

ADKIN: Yes, and the essence of all works of art have to be found in the subject behind the image itself. They say that the essence of the Mona Lisa is her smile. But it’s not … it’s something deeper. A question between the lifeless representation and life itself. And a crying out for eternal life. The Mona Lisa, like all great art, is a bridge between the actual and the eternal.

The difference between art and philosophy is that philosophy attacks the ideas head on in a fully conscious way. A philosopher can never be shy about ideas, but a novelist must be.

GALIMATIAS: And what about the playwright?

ADKIN: The playwright is somewhere in between. Plays can be more direct than the novel. In my case they always are. I write plays when I want to scream directly at my audience, whereas I usually try to be more seductive with my novels.

GALIMATIAS: When Sirens Call is about seduction?

ADKIN: Yes. Sirens are seductive creatures. I wanted to write something that was, above all, atmospheric in When Sirens Call. But its ultimate purpose is to be useful, rather than to drive us against the rocks, as the Sirens do.

GALIMATIAS: It has very strong resonances.

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On the other hand, Art Wars is not seductive at all.

ADKIN: No, it’s not. I made conscious, aesthetic decisions in Art Wars to deliberately not seduce. In fact I consider Art Wars as a kind of anti-novel. I made very conscious decisions to make things not as they should be made. Not that this was such an original standpoint – Dostoevsky did the same with his characters. There’s always an element in Dostoevsky’s characters that makes them seem inconsistent, even wrong, but it is that inconsistency that makes them appear so human.

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GALIMATIAS: And Dostoevsky was exorcising his own demons through his characters, right?

ADKIN: Perhaps. We could analyse all art from the perspective of catharsis and it would be a very valid stand point, but a conservative one that undermines the purposive role of art. If catharsis exists it’s a cleansing and clearing process, pushing the pain of the past aside via direct confrontation, in order to clear the road for a positive future. But once we get immersed in the mess it’s not always easy to push through it. And for that reason catharsis is also a dangerous process. Kafka or Beckett probably never could get through, but the fact that they insisted and persisted with the creative act indicated the need for the positive results of the catharsis. Catharsis is an important element in art, but it is not the reason for art.

GALIMATIAS: Some of your own plays: The Clown or Hamlet Rex, for example, seem cathartic.

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ADKIN: Yes, but both of those plays are basically comedies.

GALIMATIAS: Tragi-comedies.

ADKIN: The tragic is part of the comedy. Nihilism is a tragedy in itself. In those works I was portraying, and laughing at, our nihilist society and the nihilistic direction of our civilisation.

GALIMATIAS: And yet your anti-nihilism is not obvious in those plays.

ADKIN: Not obvious for a nihilist. But really those plays were not at all subtle. Quite the contrary, I was trying to hit hard and they are full of the irony of the overstatement.

GALIMATIAS: An irony which is also crafted in Art Wars.

ADKIN: Yes, which is also overtly anti-nihilist.

GALIMATIAS: Can Art Wars be classified as a novel?

ADKIN: It is closer to a novella, and sprang out of my reaction to reading a short story by Thomas Mann, Gladius Dei.

GALIMATIAS: Which is very moralistic.

ADKIN: Correct. And Art Wars is moralistic as well. Which is why it couldn’t be developed as novel would be.

GALIMATIAS: You’re implying that there is a large aesthetic difference between the novella and novel?

Melancholia – Lars von Triers’ depression

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What could be sadder than the idea that the only life in the universe is about to be extinguished? Or perhaps not. But then, what kind of heart could not be saddened by this idea?

Lars von Triers spreads the idea out before us in his film Melancholia: should we feel sad? There is no chance for deliverance in Melancholia, the Earth’s destruction is a purely cosmological matter, a question of physics. It is beyond our control and because of that it does not matter. But still the dilemma stays with the spectators – should we be sad?

The fact is the film is certainly not a tear-jerker, despite the powerful feelings generated by Tristan and Isolde’s tragic love theme, pounding us incessantly with the gut wrenching chords of Wagner’s emotional masterpiece. But it is not a tear-jerker because the characters are hardly endearing and this removes most of us from any audience-character empathy at the moment of the final tragedy. Also the perspective is insular, the characters themselves are isolated individuals which cuts us off completely in any emotional sense from the rest of the world that perishes with them. And this is the brilliant thing in the film’s art – we are alienated from any deep involvement in the tragedy and left with the debate. Should we feel sad? Or, perhaps even – what is the difference between sadness and melancholy? Between sadness and depression?

Von Trier’s film is about depression, with a narrative and composition that is rich in symbolism. Depression itself could be seen as a rejection of the outward experiences with the world as something pointless and absurd. The depressive’s journey is an escape to the world within and von Trier’s is right in suggesting that it is not a fear of an antagonistic world – as is the idea of the naked man alone in nature – but of the absurd human creation we are immersed in that torments the depressive. It is the human specular existence that the depressive flees from not the cold laws of nature.

Von Trier’s film is the tragedy of all tragedies and we are told by the protagonist that it is this tragedy of tragedies which is going to be the great liberator from the evil of life on earth. But through alienation techniques the film is also testimony to the great absurdity of our specular human reality, a tremendous eschatological paradox that tells us that it is impossible to escape from the horror we have created except via our absolute annihilation.

Despite attempts to find religious significance in the film it is deeply nihilistic (but then again all religions are also deeply nihilistic). The depressive’s antagonism to the absurd and pointless must succumb to the absurdity of salvation. If all endeavour is rendered pointless by an Apocalypse, why go on? Why go forward? The only escape from the ridiculous is an autistic regression, an instinctive sinking back into the Uroboric, prenatal state of a pure self-satisfied existence, without will.

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Art as Anti-production

Edvard Munch's, The Scream, auctioned at Sotheby's New York

“Labour becomes productive only by producing its own opposite (that is, capital)” Marx

From this it can be said that the labour of Art is essentially unproductive. Art only becomes productive when the capitalist – the production company; publishing house; gallery or auction house – takes hold of the creation and “produces” it, i.e. turns it into a marketable commodity. In his/her essence the artist remains an anti-producer; an outsider to the economy; an economic aberration.

The fact that Art can survive at all in the economic-political society is an indication of its enormous strength, for in theory it should have been killed off long ago by the capitalist and socialist systems that are both so deeply immersed in the politics of production.

Not only is Art a tremendously powerful human drive and positive social force it may also be a marker showing us the way to a post-production society in which capital, perhaps even the monetary system itself, has been rendered obsolete.

Paul David Adkin is the author of Art Wars http://www.lulu.com/shop/paul-david-adkin/art-wars/paperback/product-21434340.html

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SING OR SWIM: HOW TO ESCAPE THE OCEAN OF FALSE NECESSITY

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Where is humanity now? Once we unveil the pessimism inherent in power we find ourselves immersed in an ocean of false necessity. We are dog-paddling in a lie-full sea of false-reality generated by the power ideologies of the Moloch system who have given us floaties for our arms and waist, allowing us to keep our heads above water.  The realization is disheartening: what can we do to escape an ocean? Even if we swim properly, dry land is so far away, we would just exhaust ourselves and sink. Yes, we need a raft or a boat, but even if we were to find one, what we still lack is a compass showing which way to go in this mundane landscape of the seemingly eternal sea.

Of course we have learned navigation from the System. We know the rules: how to estimate our position from the sun and guide ourselves at night by following certain stars. But the star-system navigating methodology seems to always bring us back to the same place. We are swimming in circles, we realise.

The first key to getting out of this ocean is to recognise where we are. Remember, this is the ocean of false-necessity. To get out of here we need to inspire our efforts with an enthusiasm for real necessity again, an enthusiasm that will bring us back to reality again. An enthusiasm which will stop our hopeless imagining that we are treading water and feel the solid ground that is actually beneath our feet again.

Of course to find such an enthusiasm is by no means an easy task. Many who search become lost in pessimistic religions driven by the cynicism of power.  Others immerse themselves in ideologies: a vain task, because all ideology hides the truth from itself. If one is in-ideology the truth is imperceptible – but how does one get out of ideology?

Or perhaps it is not imperceptible: after all we have millennia of artists who have dedicated their lives to the unveiling truth and dragging it out from the drains into which it gets dumped.

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The return to reality must be an artistic process:  the process of unveiling that which is obscured by the false reality. The first thing the artist does is take off his or her floaties in order to discover what it is like to really swim. The artist knows that the false-necessity ocean is full of floating jetsam that can easily be used to carry us forward. To where? The artist has an intuitive drive and an internal map: the artist’s love of the symbolic. Like aboriginal dreamtime paintings, the way forward can be found through poetry and song. Now it’s time for us listen to ourselves: not to our discourses but to our songs; look into ourselves and let the music out.

 

DOXA AND ALETHEIA – TRUTH AND THE ARTIST (PART FOUR)

Time_Saving_Truth_from_Falsehood_and_Envy                                                  (Time saving truth from falsehood – François Lemoyne (1688 – 1737) )

ART AS INTRUSION

“Art should be a disclosure of truth”: an artist’s ideal, perhaps; unnecessary romanticism, perhaps; or a necessary ideal to get art back on the tracks and pull it out of the marshlands of nihilism. In any case art is an intrusion – an invasion of the imaginary into the real. It is this feeling of intrusion which makes us aware that we are perceiving a work of art and not just a copy of reality. It is a ‘positive’ invasion; most of the time a welcome distraction, but, occasionally, when there is intersubjectivity at work between our own inner reality and that of the artist, then the intrusion is a profound, soul shattering experience. We may say it works on a spiritual level, which is one way of calling the profound intersubjective experience. Afterwards we may even ‘seek’ the intrusion again. For many, it is the best and most effective way to draw themselves out of the autistic tendency of the contemplative life experience. In that way we see how art is a welcome experience – it is thrown at us, or placed before us again, but now we accept it, we want it, we need it. Or at least some of us need it. Others reject it. Perhaps there are people who have never had an intersubjective experience through art, although that it is doubtful for now there is pop-art, pop-music, pop-vehicles designed to touch the inner experiences of everyone, no matter how narrow their cultural-memory field is.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POPULAR ART AND DEEP ART

But the difference between popular art and deep art lies in the kind of intrusion that is made. In popular art the intersubjective connection should be immediate, building on easily recognisable connections that have already been made: formulas or tactics that have been proven effective. And it is precisely this mimicry and copying of the provenly effective product that creates the shallowness of the pop intrusion. Of course more and more of the spectators will eventually start to say: ‘I’ve seen and heard this before,’ and will demand something new. The commercial art industry must then resort to novelty: a new way to present the same old intersubjective slogans that it reworks over and over again. Then each brief explosion of originality that the need for novelty brings is reworked, reinvented and remanufactured in the commercial art factories’ production lines of kitsch…

But isn’t this also a folding and unfolding? (SEE OUR EARLIER ENTRY “The Internet as a Deep Art experience of liberation: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/the-internet-as-a-deep-art-experience-of-liberation/)

Does the commercial factory work in the same way we propose in deep art? If this is the case, what is the difference between the shallow and the deep?

 

The difference lies in the kind of intrusion that is being made. Popular art is a forced intersubjectivity; deep art is an invitation. Deep art knows that it requires a certain kind of spectator, willing to trust the artist, who is leaving clues for them and putting up obstacles which may deliberately turn certain spectators away. It is for this reason that the deep-art artists are often accused of being elitists. Of course they are certainly demanding: they know that to go deep there has to be a strong will to do so, and those who lack such a will will be incapable of scratching more than the surface. Deep art, in a sense, is a training ground for intersubjectivity. Its goal is to create a space in which the inner reality can be successfully communicated with a conviction that this intersubjective connection is a necessity, an essential element in human development or evolution.

And so we come back to our original premise, (SEE OUR POST: DOXA AND ALETHEIA – TRUTH AND THE ARTIST https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/doxa-and-aletheia-truth-and-the-artist-part-one/ ) that true art must be a combination of doxa (opinion/perception) and aletheia (truth/disclosure). Commercial art is buried in doxa, while a dedicated artist may lose him or herself in the autistic struggle with aletheia. Real art must use doxa to seduce a favourable opinion which will be the veneer of the work whilst leaving clues to seduce the spectator into the intersubjective realm of aletheia.

THE INTERNET AS A DEEP ART EXPERIENCE OF LIBERATION

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In an art with depth, the object is not really there. In a sense what is given in this kind of art is a specular image reflected into a third mirror (see our earlier essays on Rodrigo Garcia, Luigi Nono and Zabriskie Point). What this does is add distance to any mimicry, and, at the same time, to any complexity. Deep art should be imagined as a kind of maze which first appears as a box or room, but with invisible doors or walls that can be pushed open if one knows how. These doors lead one into more spaces of different sizes, each one with its own exits unto more seemingly enclosed systems. The richness of the experience lies in the fact that each exit can only be discovered if one can know or can discover the symbolic reference to the next space.

Could the Internet be considered an autarchic experience of deep art? In order to do so, one would need to be willing and capable of losing oneself within it, and likewise be capable of stepping away from it in order to analyse the experience from the advantage of distance. What’s more, for a deep art experience to take place, one must be prepared to pause and linger at times, so hard in the Internet which obsessively pushes any audience on to new topics, inviting, tempting, forcing us at times to leave the room we first of all settled in. The Internet experience can get so foggy that we even forget where we started from. For a deep art experience to be meaningful one must have one’s imagination firmly rooted in where one came from in the first place. It is a labyrinth in which one never completely loses touch with the original point of departure. The original room is that which allows us to navigate: forgetting where we are coming from will make it impossible for us to find our way forward or back. It is only by learning how and when to move slowly through the maze that one can dominate it and allow it to become an enriching rather than a frustrating experience.

Or perhaps the Internet is too autistic to be truly satisfying. It has its webcams and its chats, but they don’t belong to the autarchic labyrinth we are interested in here. What we are interested in is its power as a vital museum, come encyclopaedic library, come art gallery, come theatre and cinema and concert hall. But its very immersing quality robs us of the real vital experience we have when we go to these traditional spaces to witness art. It lacks the public. And here we must ask ourselves: how much does the experience of great art depend on it being a public act? Or, should art be classified into the public and private experience? Theatre, for example, is impossible to conceive without an audience (the more the merrier), whilst a novel is a purely private experience (a public reading of a novel is hardly likely to be as enjoyable as the experience of reading to oneself). Could it be said that the richest art-culture experience has to include both possibilities? Does the Internet do this, if only potentially?

Does the Internet disclose any truth? Or even attempt to disclose truth? And, what kind of intersubjectivity is unleashed in its relationship between the artist and the spectator? Only when the Internet is used in its immense folding and unfolding capacity, in a meaningful disclosing way under an artist’s control, will we be able to consider it capable of offering a deeply artistic experience. This is possible. It is certainly a potentially powerful tool for accessing information, and culture is information. What Internet does, by presenting a potential access to universal information and culture universally, is pave the way to a universal culture, which, if it is honestly expressed, must be an authentically human culture. Whilst the Internet is free from manipulation and censorship there is hope for a universal, human cultural development. In fact a free Internet is humanity’s best chance for a free world.

RODRIGO GARCIA, LUIGI NONO AND ZABRISKIE POINT – PART TWO: HOW TO TRAP A BEAUTY WE NO LONGER FEEL

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Rodrigo Garcia’s performance collage (see part one of this series) is an example of artistic autarchy. It creates its depth in an interior way, with inbuilt references: self-references created by its use of the mirror and the fold. Garcia’s own texts mirrored against Luigi Nono’s opera ; the Vietnam War reflected into critical contemporary texts about our consumer society. But where is the connection between war and consumerism? Why is this a mirror? The mirror is not reflecting a specular image, or at least not until we see the images channeled together. The tenuous link that Garcia has found needs something to clarify it. So Garcia introduces a bridge – Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point.

In Garcia’s theatrical work, two scenes from Antonioni’s film are projected. The first, is a scene in which executives of a real estate company are watching a cheesy advert for the desert paradise they are planning to construct at Zabriskie Point. The colours and plasticity of this scene immediately build a bridge between the 60s film and our own 21st century consumer society reflected through Garcia’s own kitsch aesthetics. But what has this to do with Nono’s opera?

On the obvious level: the film is a 60s film, released in 1970, and therefore a near contemporary of Nono’s 1966 work. On the less obvious level, at least to an audience member who has never seen Zabriskie Point, Antonio’s film includes scenes of anti-Vietnam war protests and police brutality. Anti-Vietnam protest becomes an anti-consumerist symbol. Vietnam is a violent projection of the capitalist will for the ultimate power of globalisation and at the same time an area of equally violent resistance to that projected hegemony.

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The second scene that Garcia projects is the film’s almost final sequence of the exploding mansion on the cliff face: the violent fantasy of ultimate resistance through annihilation of the enemy. We have an enormous “what if…” or “if only…” raised by the artist to stand against the reality which was the real historical progression of the narrative. In reality capitalism’s advance was not curtailed, despite the Vietcong’s victory; despite the destruction of the mansion in the desert the real estate project at Zabriskie Point would still have gone ahead. And the result of this unstoppable narrative sequence is the kitsch culture of consumerism we have today. A culture in which Nono’s opera seems to have no place, is absolutely ‘out of place’. In the autarchy of Garcia’s creation we also have a tremendous self-criticism: Why represent Nono’s opera in a place and time that could not possibly appreciate it? His answer: it is precisely the demonstration of how disassociated art is from our reality that justifies the representation.

Now Garcia folds back to enfold himself in associations with his own earlier work: an echo of his Golgotha’s Picnic. That piece was about violence and art. In essence the same theme, in which, after hours of hurling violent images at the audience he stages a baroque piano concert, provoking an exodus from the audience who, after stomaching, perhaps even enjoying the excitement of the violence, seem to find the beauty of the music unbearable. Or are our audiences now incapable of appreciating the beauty of the piano piece?

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                Garcia’s statement is that it is the saturation of imagery flung at us by the consumer society that is making us impervious to the beautiful in art. We are the products of nihilism and a positive, purposeful concept like beauty is anathema to us now.

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RODRIGO GARCIA, LUIGI NONO AND ZABRISKIE POINT – PART ONE: IS THIS ALL WE CAN DO?

1. IS THIS ALL WE CAN DO?

Luigi Nono’s operetta “A Floreta é jovem y Cheja de Visa” (1966) concludes with the text in English: “Is this all we can do?”

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In April 2012, Rodrigo Garcia presented a version of Nono’s work in Madrid. Garcia stretched the piece out from the forty minutes of musical performance time by adding an hour of text. The text was read by actors, almost always sitting comfortably in low chairs with microphones. The text, which was a barrage of pop culture imagery, was accompanied by life-streaming video montages of small objects that were dipped into a large tub of chocolate.

Nono’s opera, which could be translated as “The forest is young, and full of life” is supposed to deal with the Vietnam war. It is slow, strident at times, tonally rich, but also messy and often uncomfortable. The text, which is mainly illegible and layered, is apparently a collage of revolutionary slogans.

The version by Garcia seems at first to be two separate works with little connection, but he inserts a conduit: Michaelangelo Antonioni’s film: Zabrinskie Point.

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In effect we have a double mirroring between Garcia and Nono and Antonioni, or a triple mirroring because Garcia’s work reflects back on the other two. The connections seem tenuous at first, but that very looseness makes it more powerful: the artistic power of ambiguity.

Through ambiguity in art we get a lack of cohesiveness, provoking the hungry mind to become actively involved in its own interpretation of the piece. The hunger, of course, has to be fed by an intersubjectivity betwen the artist and the audience – there has to be resonance of feeling in order to stimulate the intellectual side of the subject with a need to locate reasons for the resonance. The audience member not only has to ask “what is going on here?” he or she has to be motivated to search for a reason to want to answer the question themselves.

This reason has to come from the resonance. Once resonance has been felt, ambiguity will turn the audience into an interested detective. We are present, physically present, but epistemologically absent.

Of course, for many- perhaps most – observers this is an unsettling experience to say the least. For the artist, this kind of creation poses two negative possibilities: a) the piece will be totally misinterpreted by the audience, or b) the epistemological alienation will provoke a negative defence mechanism which will shut off the audience’s desire to investigate, rendering the whole piece unbearable and provoke exodus. Likewise, mainstream media has created a predominantly passive relationship between the work and the audience. Art is confused with entertainment. Artists are expected to be entertainers. The atmosphere provoked by such a situation is deadly for the arts as intersubjective communicators of the inward truth/lie. Fear of failure makes artistic pessimistic and in the arts today, pessimism reigns. The artist sinks into the black pool of an interior isolation. But the truth is that this pessimism is also illusory. The need for true art is always there, even if it is not recognised institutionally.

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Here we have a metaphor of life in the market-driven world of information: it’s no longer what we know that is important but what we don’t know. What is being lost by being immersed in that which is offered us by the mainstream or by other failure-fearful artists? By having our attention driven towards the juicy fruits of gossip, entertainment, and pornography, we are effectively being rendered unaware of the challenges. This is not just a commercial or political manipulation, with ideological or profit making ends, it is also a creation of spiritual absenteeism. The more deeply intersubjective we are the more difficult it is for us to be manipulated, so intersubjectivity is discouraged by avoiding alienation. The System,  prefers a shallow reality created by the passive immersion of the audience. Herein lies the inherent totalitarianism behind Hollywood. Art as entertainment requires no effort from the spectator. The illusory reality, Hollywood’s virtual-film reality, absorbs the spectator, dictates the reality in which we are immersed and then spits us out. The whole experience is an escape from life, a nihilistic substitution from the mundane reality of the real life experience.

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Art as an experience of “truth” however, is centred not in what is revealed, but on what is absent, inviting the audience to search for that absence themselves. An idea anathema to the System which must project a veneer of perfection despite its nihilistic substance. The consumer market-place must tolerate art for art represents the freedom it itself purports to extol, but as a systemic phenomenon the market-place can only tolerate artistic freedom as long as it is capable of invisibly castrating art’s potent intersubjective resonances and transforming art itself into a Disneyland factory of superficial escapism. The orthodoxy of Hollywood is anti-heterodoxical like all orthodoxies, and it is in this orthodoxy that we can discern the repulsion the system has for art, and with its repulsion for art, its repulsion for truth.

Go to Part Two

THE ARTIST AND HUMANITY

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The artist is often advised to ask him or herself who is his or her art aimed at? Likewise the writer is asked: “who are you writing for?” But in doing so the more important question of what (what is being addressed through the artistic creation?; what are we trying to bestow?; what are we trying to communicate?) is pushed into second place or worse. The who question, which seems so important for publishers and their publicists or for arts council grants, should always be an irrelevant interrogative because in its essence it is a tautological one: the subject addressed by the artist must in its essence be a human one, transmitted for humanity. The human is rooted in the essence of the term art and any exclusion (this work is not for them) is, by that exclusion, anti-human and anti-art. Not that art has to speak lowly so that all can understand it through its simplicity; in fact it should be allowed to speak from any register, but that choice of register has to come from asking oneself what is being addressed in the work rather than who is it being addressed to.

In order to see the true potential of what the artist is addressing it is necessary to not extricate the so-called fine arts and music and literature from their cousins in the Arts or Humanities, or human sciences such as psychology, philosophy, history, sociology, architecture, etc., nor from the pure sciences. All of these activities have a common-function which is expressed in the uncovering or peeling open of reality in order to find the essence and by so doing come to an understanding of what our place, as humans, is in this reality.

The role of both art and science, therefore, is to know, and through knowing to understand. But just as art is about knowing and understanding reality, an area usually associated with the sciences, so is science about representing, which is a function traditionally attributed to the arts. Therefore we can say that all the arts and sciences have their essence in knowing, understanding, and representing reality.

Whether through fiction or non-fiction the human perception of reality is formed through our arts and sciences: reality is both truth and imagination. And if reality is truth and imagination what is non-reality other than lies. Lies are an aberration or a perversion between truth and imagination. Lies are fictions created to be passed off as truths in order to benefit the liar in some way.

Another role of art and science is to unmask these lies and for this reason skepticism and cynicism are useful, if not difficult and dangerous tools, for artists and scientists alike. Part of the role of art and science becomes the act of revealing the lies for what they are, such as when they infiltrate our imaginations through seduction or by imposition through habits or norms.