Does art take place independently of the artist?

English: French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-19...
English: French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) Ελληνικά: Ο Γάλλος καλλιτέχνης Μαρσέλ Ντυσάν (1887-1968) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An interesting quote from Brainpickings taken from Duchamp‘s own reading

“Let us consider two important factors, the two poles of the creation of art: the artist on the one hand, and on the other the spectator who later becomes the posterity.

To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.

If we give the attributes of a medium to the artist, we must then deny him the state of consciousness on the esthetic plane about what he is doing or why he is doing it. All his decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis, spoken or written, or even thought out.

T.S. Eliot, in his essay on ‘Tradition and Individual Talent,’ writes: ‘The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material.’

Millions of artists create; only a few thousands are discussed or accepted by the spectator and many less again are consecrated by posterity.

In the last analysis, the artist may shout from all the rooftops that he is a genius: he will have to wait for the verdict of the spectator in order that his declarations take a social value and that, finally, posterity includes him in the primers of Artist History”

You mean to say the artist has no say in his art? And he is a mere medium for a big transformation that is taking place somewhere and he has absolutely no idea why his art takes place and why now? Here we are not talking about aesthetic distancing that involves removal of a subjective perception by the artist.Here we are saying that art takes place independently of the artist , who is a mere medium for the art execution. There is a point in saying that what the artist independently says to himself has no significance without its acceptance by a posterity and only when its  consecration by a future happen does art really take place. The timing of the act of art can therefore be said to be much later , even sometimes posthumous to the artist.

But this does not explain why and how art originates. At what point of cultural evolution does a transformation take place? How is the medium chosen by nature , if indeed it is chosen by some mysterious force at work in human nature.

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Living in the present


“Why aren’t our thoughts independent of each other? Why don’t we just live in the moment? For a healthy person, it’s impossible to live in the moment. It’s a nice thing to say in terms of seizing the day and enjoying life, but our inner lives and experiences are much richer than that.”

If only we could de-link the present moment with the past experience! They are saying such a thing is not possible due to our complex inner life that connects our present moment with the past experience.

I wonder how the past experience comes into being in our present sensory experiences , say , while we are feeling a gentle wind blowing on our skin. I have a feeling that our perception in the present experience is entirely dependent upon a comparison of the present sensory experience with the past experience. Thus we can enjoy a nice breeze blowing on the body only by knowing in the body what it is like not to have such a breeze blowing on the body. No sensory experience is possible without going back to the archived sensations or lack of them within the body. All pleasure or pain experienced in the present is relative to the intensity of similar sensations experienced earlier. Thus it may not be possible always to live in the present, savoring only the pleasant sensations contained therein by delinking the present from the past.

The surprise element in music and poetry

“… As a song unfolds, the brain is on the lookout for patterns, anticipating when the next beat will come. It takes pleasure in matching a mental beat with a real world one. But a good musician, like Hitchcock, keeps you on your toes, challenging your expectations and violating patterns in surprising yet stimulating ways.

Storytellers and musicians – artists in general – are in the same business: expectation-management. Good stories and songs tease expectations and build suspense, getting the audience to come back for more even though the ending is spoiled. “
An interesting point is made here how an artist first raises an expectation and then surprises the audience by a break in the patterns that naturally emerge from the artist’s performance.It is the surprise element that keeps the audience captivated.It is almost as if the artist is deliberately manipulating the audience’s conscious towards a break violating its sense of “natural” rhythm. A similar thing happens to me when I listen to the Western classical music that some times goes against my “natural” rhythm and takes unexpected turns, sometimes dealing nasty blows to my musical awareness brought up on a .musical appreciation of a different cultural ethos.Similar thing may be happening to a Western listener when he hears one of our raga-based compositions.

In a poem a similar thing happens when everyone expects the poem should say something that is consistent and will lead up to something beautifully said at the end. The reader is used to fitting it to a pattern .If the poem ends up according to the pattern the reader’s consciousness turns smug as nothing of him is violated. A contemporary poem is not used to patterns and the more patterns are violated the greater is the euphoric pleasure it creates as the poem proceeds and then the end-lines simply leave the reader in a state of surprise.

But a trained reader can always work out a pattern in the apparent patternlessness of the poem. There is a method in every madness and no matter how much you wish to surprise, the reader can always spot a pattern -a kind of euphoric movement of the poet’s brain as it unwinds in the lines.The pattern may not correspond to the reader’s own rhythm that comes to him naturally but with training he can get into the poet’s mind to share the euphoria of his. moment.

Skimming is not lack of attention but rather an attempt to cope with abundance

…not only is skimming a kind of reading we can (and should) choose to use, it is the ideal method for dealing with an abundance of reading. When there is much to read, and you want to get to as much of it as you can, skimming is essential. So perhaps our increased agility with skimming is not so much a product of a distracted lifestyle, but of increased abundance—a practice brought on by the wealth of text, not the poverty of attention….

A reading Note on how to read in an age of abundance
That assuages my guilt about skimming that I so religiously practice on my wanderings in the internet. The long text always leaves you wanting for less in this age of abundance. So why not read a little rather than nothing? Dreaming of in-depth reading can perhaps be left to the younger more patient minds but for us oldies who can always predict in advance what the writer is going to say in the coming pages it should suffice to skim and keep ourselves aware of the topic. This is yet another style of reading , my friend here says and it suits me to agree with him wholeheartedly. No lack of attention, only rationing of attention in this age of plenitude.