Sometimes, the mind needs a holiday - especially from all it is conditioned to think and expect. Such a holiday was the effect of happening on an artist's website this evening, purely "by accident". (I was googling the phrase "poetry does not lead to" - interesting exercise, but perhaps best saved for another post.) The installment on the artist's website I was led to on my search seeks "a sculptural excuse where poetry does not lead to evident facts".
What caught my attention were two things: the title of the installment: "The New Sincerity", and the phrase describing the work: "intersection between utopia and an accident or improvised event".
And here is where my mind went: the title makes sense because while sincerity is timeless, it must be forged anew given the ever-changing customs and now technologies mediating it. My second idea was about how the tension in the juxtaposition between utopia and accident/improvisation is almost like a riddle.
It reminded me of my favourite passage by H. Randall about Plato's utopia (in "Plato's Treatment of the Good Life and His Criticism of the Spartican Ideal"), where he explains how utopia is to be understood: as a general direction, not a final destination:
There is the constant temptation to live in the vision, rather than by the vision: to want to go to Heaven, like the Christians, or to bring Heaven here to America like the moderns, instead of living well a human life with vision. There is the temptation to demand perfection, and to condemn all existence because it falls short of what it might be, as it naturally must, instead of using the vision of perfection to discriminate between what is better and what is worse in our relatively and inevitably imperfect world... This, it may be, is the truth that lies behind Plato's ironical warning that the effect of poets is often bad: because men are apt to be too stupid to realise that they are poets, and to take them literally, instead of seriously.
The artist, Belén Rodriguez Gonzales, from the video summing up her work, seems to demonstrate, through things, this problem between projected grids and a geographical, cosmological freeplay of motion: winds, the effects of the sea, the shining of the sun... Despite the grids (or, the "literal"), there is a lot of apparent "potential for vision" for one who is looking. The challenge of life is to learn how to make something of the "natural musts" without losing poetic vision.
Speaking of the poetic, I had been uncertain about what Belén meant by the phrase "a sculptural excuse where poetry does not lead to evident facts", and have since had the great pleasure of corresponding with her in order to clarify. I admit that I had initially understood it to be deliberately opaque in the language of much post-formalist art, but could not have been farther from the truth. Her art is, in part, a response to the overload of art that fades once the joke is over.
Belén's art is like the poeisis that Huizinga describes in Homo Ludens: it is not bound by the ties of the everyday and is inaccessible to the drill of the rational mind. In other words, it is ethereal and elusive, to be grasped at and pondered over, and, in that process, to become transformed (which is the result of all good dialectics).
Poeisis, in fact, is a play-function. It proceeds within the play-ground of the mind, in a world of its own which the mind creates for it. There things have a very different physiognomy from the one they wear in ‘ordinary life’, and are bound by ties other than those of logic and causality. If a serious statement be defined as one that may be made in terms of waking life, poetry will never rise to the level of seriousness. It lies beyond seriousness, on that more primitive and original level where the child, the animal, the savage and the seer belong, in the region of dream, enchantment, ecstasy, laughter. To understand poetry we must be capable of donning the child’s soul like a magic cloak and of forsaking man’s wisdom for the child’s.I like the playfulness, general selection of ideas, and broader implication of Belén's art: it's one holiday for the mind. And if there's a moral to the story of this post, it's that chance can afford a scrap that can be turned into magical good fortune by one who is looking.
Brush: Misprinted Type.