When I was asked to blog for this week’s cast of Too Much Light, this fragmented and unfinished essay began to form from my scattered thoughts.
The Italian Futurists began an attack on all forms of art: Theater, Literature, Painting, Sculpture, Music and Sound.
In the beginning of the 20th century The Futurists were the first art movement to declare and distribute their manifesto. The first Futurist manifesto was written by the founder Marinetti and published in 1909. (The Futurists may have been the first art movement to actually name themselves in advance.) The structure of the manifesto was criticized by its own artists. They stated that the manifesto did not contain a “positive artistic program.”
The group that gathered around Marinetti and the “new” ideas of the time, who also began calling themselves Futurists, created another manifesto a year later called the “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting.” The second manifesto included this wonderful passage:
“The sixteen people around you in a rolling motor bus are in turn and at the same time one, ten four three; they are motionless and they change places… The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it.”
Now here is where I state things that I learned a long time ago and that may be slightly incorrect:
Photography shook the art world. (Film eventually caused the same rift) How were skilled artists to stay relevant when their work could be done cheaper and easier by another media? (A younger media) Impressionists of course began to work in the idea of the first person artist and how their perspective affects how an object is perceived from their own senses and from the senses of the audience. This also was taken up by the German Expressionists who “sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.” Artists are always faced with the question of how to stay relevant. That is why art should constantly be looking over its shoulder towards the Sciences and the current philosophical thoughts of the day. Often an eye too focused on the majority of societal consumptions and what it is currently indulging in leads an artist to dwell too long on what will be popular instead of what is actually going on in the world around them. This too is an “art.” To know what is and will be popular. But that is a way of thinking that has always eluded me, even at times when I could benefit by taking advantage of this way of creating, I fail.
I created a phrase, Zeitgeist’s Echo, which to me means that most society is actually living in the echo of the spirit of the times. So when someone says about a particular person “that artist was ahead of their time.” To me really means that they were OF their time, in touch with the actual spirit of the moment, but that most people are unaware of their actual surroundings. Therefore they create and desire things from their assumed perspective based on what is popular, which is always at least slightly behind what is actually happening in the world from moment to moment. In some ways I feel there is no escape from this, and just because I can come up with a cool phrase describing the phenomena doesn’t mean that I can actually exist outside of it.
Categories help us to formulate our personalities, we need to choose THIS or THAT, or else we would be incapable of keeping in motion. And we would die, or be so dispersed amongst options that we would lose any sense of self. This creates an anxiety we all have to deal with even though we may not feel it. Making wrong choices is scary. And making unpopular ones puts oneself in close proximity to metaphorical and even literal death.
But often we need to buck the system of even our own mechanism for categorizing. (But because of the Zeitgeist echo this is very difficult to achieve, and even when you think you have broke free, 17,000 other people independently write about it on their Facebook timeline.) That is why I am attracted to the work of Duchamp, even though I think I would not like him at all if I had met him while he was alive. I can hope I am wrong, but I feel it is the case. Duchamp refused to join any one movement, and even though thoroughly invested, involved, influenced and influential with the impressionists, futurists, dadaists, and surrealists, etc etc through later movements in the 60’s including Fluxus, he never claimed any of them as his artistic home. He technically never made money off his art. At the time, before artist grants, he would live off of the kindness and naiveté of the rich and famous.
While the futurists were trying to figure out how to put movement into their still lifes, Duchamp started creating and theorizing about his works of art that would take years and sometimes decades to conceptualize and skillfully construct. He kept much of his art private until finished or abandoned. Much of his shown art was baffling and seemed part of some larger concept. Some he never released until after his death. All his surfacing art was mostly unfinished and only a glimpse into a process that for him was never complete. Many accused him of buffoonery, of being a fool, or a trickster god in the flesh, or a conman, or a lazy bastard. I think most of all of that is true.
But back to the point, when the Futurists were trying to put motion into a still piece of art Duchamp was figuring out how to make tangible skillful art into vibrant and elusive thoughts, the ability for humans to think is the motion needed to make an inanimate “thing” animate. Art made to last and to cause change at its core must on some level be conceptual. To think is what makes art vital. Without a you looking and thinking, there is no art.
Also Trevor, Tif, Kurt, Nick, Kirsten and I have six new plays for you this week:
Verbal Rube Goldberg – Trevor
The Majesty of an Eclipse in Wrigleyville – Nick
Conversation Around a Wing Chair – Kurt
Dream With Backstory – John
The Songs of the Futilely Written Instructions – John
Uncut Uncensored Live Lesbian Fight Scene – Kirsten