“Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah”
The End-The Doors
“if art can’t tell us, about the world we live in, then I don’t believe there’s much point in having it.”
Robert Hughes-The Mona Lisa Curse
When I refer to my next series as “the Denouement”, I don’t just merely mean as an end to a trinity that began over five years ago. I mean it integrally. Entering this series, has felt like a final act, as if I am just some artistic documentarian on the end times.
And it’s been no stretch, I can tell you-I mean, everything feels like it is entering some sort of HBO grand finale now-even more underwhelming than Game of Thrones, because as apocalypses go, it all seems like business as usual.
An end of social norms, of known truths. Of civility. Of morality. Of intellectualism. Of culture. Of America. Of a future. Meanwhile, the worlds lungs are an inferno, Ice shelves the size of cities cleave into the ocean, wakes are held for glaciers, and Russian reactors erupt, spewing isotopes into the ether, while the bloviator in chief, postulates the possibility of nuking hurricanes. All this as the surface is scratched on a remote islands insidious underbelly, where an almost Schnitzler like cabalistic rite of passage, caters to the most vile of tastes and predilections for the rich and the affluent, as another head count for the NRA’s coffers and coffins, beleaguers the morning dreadlines.
It’s all too much to comprehend, particularly at 3am in the small clutch of fevered hours,when it can seem like the doors and windows are off their hinges and the tempests of chaos seem to rage through every vestibule of your mind.
How does an artist navigate these times then, is what we are doing enough or is it ultimately futile? Is the vantage point of being an observer, as desultory as being a passive abstainer? Are we to be like tinkers, commodifying the detritus of a socio political landfill, or alchemists forging the degrado into Instagram gold? Is art’s objective, to be just anthropological, a remnant from our own teetering Roman empire, for some future generation to point fingers and disseminate as some cautionary tale?
And round and around we go.
I read an article by Chris Hedges, The Artist as Prophet-in which he says “The artist makes the invisible visible. He or she shatters the clichés and narratives used to mask reality.” That’s some lofty burden of ambition right there, and he cites quotes from novelists like Russell Banks, and the painter Enrique Martinez Celaya, but perhaps more of what he has in mind carries with it the weight of art like Goya’s third of May, or Picasso’s Guernica.
Except, how can art change the paradigm if it is purely post script? Is art only simulacrum and how can it affect us and impart change?
I read with interest some years ago that the color pink, was being used in certain Swiss prisons following a study by psychologist Daniela Späth, as a sort of sedative. “A certain shade of pink calms the nerves” she had posited, and in fact the statistical results bore out that the inmates were less aggressive, once their cells were tinted flaming flamingo.
For myself, I think I’d last five minutes before screaming blue murder, but my point is that if art, with it’s collision of color and of hue, form and concept is similarly a subjectively unconscious, sublime experience, then any of its revelations must be transcendentally existential -like codified transcripts that effect us on a psychological level beyond our surface understanding. A kind of passive aggression-or transgression if you will.
And so I believe that these times that we live in-as imprisoned and terrorized as we feel, and so focused as the wardens seem on imminent destruction-cry out for the retaliation of creation and the creative impulse, more than ever.
For artists, it can be our greatest act of defiance and our most integral role.