Home » BI.MA 4 - 2012

BI.MA 4 - 2012

MARTIAL ARTS : COMBATIVE WORKS

 

Central to multiculturalism is the idea of identity, the responsibility that each artist has to use his or her language for producing "an art aimed at the world", as Picasso would say. If art is always concerned with catastrophes and the eruption of the individual imagination from the tectonic balance of social language, then this allows us to say that counter-art is inevitable. So all arts become martial arts and the creative process becomes the arrangement of an iconographic arsenal of combative works.

This characteristic allows the possibility of showing together artists from every continent who, in place of any kind of standardization, possess a consonance of similar languages and have different formal solutions for the theme of identity.

Today's cultural and social situation is dominated by totalitarian systems: political ideology, psychoanalysis, and sciences which, from their own point of view and within their own sphere, resolve the problems and spin-offs caused by their own activities. The social system is negatively protected by another, typically religious, system: we might call it the culture of predictions.

Such a system confines life to a concentration camp which restricts its room for expansion and tends to reduce desire and material production outside the tortuous and slippery areas in which they are produced. The religious area of ideologies, and of psychoanalytical and scientific hypotheses, tends to bend to the system everything that is different and uneconomic. On the other hand, it tends to recycle and convert into functional and productive terms everything that derives from reality's squinting practice.

Squinting is the cross-eyed practice of the totalitarian and totalizing system of the West's irredeemably logocentric thought which tends to recompose conflicts and re-establish social harmony by using the mystifying idea of dialectic, by resolving quarrels by the mechanical use of strife and confrontation. What cannot be reduced to confrontation, in the sense that it cannot be confused with life, is art which always pushes existence towards impossible conditions. In this case, the impossibility is the possibility of keeping artistic creativity tethered to its own production, not demagogically based on the ideal and idealistic clash with reality but, rather, based on the impulse to place oneself in a position that is necessarily lateral, through the practice of error and making mistakes.

Errors and mistakes lie at the heart of the creation of art, art in the sense of the use of an armed sensibility, one that needs to become effective (and only in this sense real), by way of images, and ineffective through the production of discordant thought.

Errors and mistakes derive from artists' clear awareness of operating on the threshold of a language that is indomitable with respect to reality; artists are propelled by a drive that never changes, in the sense that it only changes its appearance. Art's drive is necessarily intransitive because it never allows itself to be inflected unless in the image of its own language. Errors and mistakes are aims inside the language of art because they determine the production of thoughts about difference. Errors are the affirmation of the individual images that result from the assembly line of current production, from the project of an internal and obscure clientele that resides in the great reservoir of the subconscious. In this sense art is a biological production, the applied activity of a drive that allows only its own motivation to be standardized. Mistakes, the result of the initial error, are the breakdown of current, logocentric, and dialectical thought and favour an alternative mental system, one concretely anchored and functioning within language's expressive needs. Art's intransitivity is inflected inside this role, inside the artist's need to relativize the absolutes of current production and to create discontinuous movement in the place of the austere immobility of the productive project.

In this sense, art's armed sensibility produces an inevitable armistice because it operates on interstices, on a wavelength that is unforeseen unless in the abstract terms of producing a comment. Art is never a comment: it is the marginal note an artist inserts inside an area of language that never mirrors reality. If a mirror exists, it only exists as an indispensible support: the rear-view mirror that allows the artist to stay anchored to a linguistic strategy. Such a strategy, which makes use of errors and mistakes, is necessarily cross-eyed because it determines the divergence of production caused by desire from current production.

In this sense the production of art is eccentric and tautological; it travels paths that require another kind of discipline and concentration. Here concentration becomes de-concentration, the breakdown of social need, the injection into it of a negative level. The negative of art as an idea of mourning, as the possibility of repairing the initial loss, the breakdown of the subconscious system, and also of relationships with the social system. For this reason, the artistic experience is a secularly necessary experience, one that insists on the indispensability of a break, the irreconcilability of conflict, the mystification of the disharmonic relationship with things.

Art's intransitivity is born from the lucid and stoical awareness of the indomitability of fragments, of the impossibility of bringing back unity, of totalling up what can only be suspected but never reached. But fragments do not mean the poetics of fragments, they do not mean the loss of vision; rather they signify a knowledge of working only with the relative practice of errors and mistakes that go to making a work.

In this sense the work is indispensible because it concretely re-establishes breakages and imbalances in the religious systems of those political, psychoanalytical, and scientific specializations that, instead, optimistically tend to make the everyday symptomatic in order to reconvert fragments in terms of metaphysical totality. Metaphysics exist wherever there exists the menace of a project, of a teleological or theological system that re-establishes hierarchies; order, instead, is to be found where there exists an area susceptible to flux.

Art is sensibility armed with an intransitive experience that uses its weapons inside its own field of action and uses its tools in a paradoxically material production that removes the pyramid of logocentric thought; it starts from fragments and arrives at a nomadic situation, one that coincides with a tendency to wander, with the metonymic shift of desire that is constituted by the work of art. Capitalism, we know, developed by concentrating on the division of labour and by moralistically privileging the notion of work. Art too has, with its symmetry with the social system, concentrated on the idea of art work, in the sense of a specific production.

This specificity derives from a double consideration: on the one hand, the use of particular techniques and materials specific to art production, and, on the other, the fetishist consumption of a work that is quite particular with respect to usual production.

Traditional art, insofar as it privileges techniques, imposes an idea of artistic work that concentrates on separation and the use of artisanal skills that leads art back to the enclosure of medieval workshops. The public becomes a passive recipient, the stupefied spectators who contemplate the artist's ability - something that is separate from them - to use techniques and materials not in common use.

But, as we know, creativity does not belong exclusively to artists who always control it by way of the idea of an art work, an idea that is too enclosed and circumscribed by its corporative tradition. On the other hand, when the  avant-garde is receptive to all possible materials and uses the world itself as a material, it by-passes the diaphragm or, at least, reduces the distance, between art and life, between the work and the public.

From the historical avant-gardes to the neo-avant-gardes, artists have stopped being the producers of a project and suggest themselves as "crafters", in the sense of those who, by using everyday life, invert the functions of pre-existing real objects. Their work consists of the cynical use of an existing product and they shift it into another context, an artistic context, in which the object is the shadow of itself: a sign, in other words.

Paradoxically, avant-garde works, having once been a punch in the face of the public, have become an excuse for a possible social contagion. Nowadays everyone can manipulate reality by making use of systematic and a-systematic disobedience, in the sense of the overcoming of the avant-garde's specific and traditional techniques.

Popular culture does not exist, because neo-capitalism denies such an idea. There only exists an idea of experimental art that proposes, and proposes itself as, a metaphor of the overcoming of genres and of the hierarchical distance between artists and the public.

To sum up: in an epoch such as ours, which is riddled with racial, financial, and social conflicts, art becomes a tool for arming all of humanity; and this it does by leading humanity to a knowledge and understanding of its surrounding reality. In a Keynesian geopolitical context, this show acquires the need to be. Through these combative works it becomes an affirmation of a pacific use of martial arts which, when it comes down to it, aim to affirm and confirm the possibility of regaining an anthropological totality that today's daily life seems to want to deny.

 

Achille Bonito Oliva.