I suppose like all artists looking to make a name for themselves I should begin by briefly introducing the concepts I’m going to talk about over the course of this project. Mostly so I don’t bore you to tears with long winded speeches about academic minutiae that no one particularly cares about and also to prepare anyone who happens to read this that some of the things I’ll be talking about are likely to result in making people’s heads explode. Seriously, one of the reasons I try to avoid public discourse is because not only do I have a habit of using words that no one but me seems to understand, which in my case happens to be a byproduct of my psycholinguistic development but also because its just so damned impractical to walk around carrying a dropsheet with you wherever you go. But I’ve digressed, which as you will no doubt come to discover I have a tendency to do. Practical Theory is the result of many years of research into the emergent systems inherent in the transdisciplinary nature of art. From philosophy, to psychology, and more importantly phenomenology. So if that last couple of sentences didn’t scare you off then congratulations on making it past the first paragraph, here comes the part where I begin to establish my methodology and approach to understanding the creative process.
Art as a learned pattern of behavior can be seen encompassing three major spheres of thought, and while it expresses itself through them in a variety of ways, the behaviors that can be directly experienced fall into distinct categories.
First, phenomenology. Since all art is by definition an optical illusion, which is to say that any representation of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional plane must fulfill specific criteria in order to function, our ability to alter the illusion is dependent on our ability to observe various phenomena in action. We don’t necessarily have to be able to quantify those phenomena in order to recreate it, but trust me, it helps. A lot.
The second is psychology. The effect that art has on the mind can be observed through the use of the extension of self, as well as careful analysis of how it evokes emotions and serves to contextualize human behavior. And while there are also a lot of neurological reactions we can use as benchmarks in order to help us navigate the complex realities of being an artist, the one I’ve found to be most effective in dealing with societies views of artists is cognitive behavioral therapy. Not only because while being an artist requires us to bend our minds around some very sharp corners, psychotherapy as a whole contains a lot of effective strategies that allows us to recover from the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stressors that being an artist incurs.
Last but certainly not least, is philosophy. Every artist develops their own philosophy, either through simple osmosis or by exposure to the thoughts, attitudes, and expectations of others. To say that artists are impressionable in this way would be the understatement of the century, but a lot of what goes on behind the scenes during the creation of a work is informed by the fundamental nature of human belief, most of which is dependent on the social and cultural environments we find ourselves in. Now personally, I prefer to rely on natural philosophy whenever I approach resolving an artistic paradox but a lot of times when it comes to writing about obscure social phenomena only existentialism or, and I shudder as I write this, solipsism will do.
Now in order to even begin talking about art in an objective rather then subjective way, any and all arguments I make must first be prefaced by a singular caveat:
Each artist’s journey is inherently autobiographical.
You see whenever an artist seeks to talk about their work and the creative forces which sustain it, they inevitably come to rely on those experiences which have served to shape it because for one, those experiences are easily the most relatable and for another, there’s a minimum level of conceptual awareness involved in any discussion that doesn’t require invoking the illusion of credibility. Which is a fancy way of saying that if I still haven’t managed to convince you that I know what I’m talking about by now, then no amount of rhetoric or accreditation will do the job, I have to prove it to you through action in a way that satisfies even the most cynical and skeptical part of you. Humans can be a bit odd in that respect but if you’ve seen reality lurch enough times to the left as I have then even a little bit of light reading into social dominance theory will do you a world of good. Back to what I was originally saying, because art consists of resolving a variety of paradoxes the least of which require a degree of shared experience in order to even comprehend let alone illustrate to others, our ability to discuss and yes, convey, the concepts inherent in an artistic work tends to go one of two ways. New age hand waving hippie woo-woo, yes I did just write that, try saying it out loud while doing jazz hands to experience the full effect. And Pidgin. Which for those unfamiliar with the term is a smattering of various languages mixed into a patois and filled with regional variations. To give an example of this, I’ve spent an enormous amount of time trying to get a straight answer out of artists as to why certain things work they way they do instead of just the typical here’s how to draw dragon, cross, tattoo tutorials that seem to proliferate throughout the internet. And the conclusion that I’ve come to? Most artists learn only the most superficial of terms in order to describe how they do what it is that they do, the rest have come to rely on new age hand waving hippie woo-woo like talking about how their dreams inspired them, or how you just have to learn to feel the art beneath your fingertips and let it flow through you like shit through a goose. Sublimation point. Conceptual threshold. Tacit, implicit, and explicit awareness. Words, we have words for a reason. Wonderful words that allow us to take hold of reality and bend it to our will. Words that allow us to express a whole host of human experiences, that allow us to create worlds that exist only when the words are read aloud but when silence falls, linger on in the mind and the memory, and yet still live and breathe with every passing beat of the heart . . . aw crap, I just waxed poetic for a moment there didn’t I? Yeah, that tends to happen whenever I start to get annoyed just thinking about the inordinate amount of time I’ve spent sifting through and curating the massive influx of junk data that tries to pass itself off as meaningful content whenever I do another round of research. Remember, if you ever want to be a detective, its not what people know that’s important, its what they don’t know that they know that matters. All it takes is the right perspective and suddenly the pieces start falling into place. Also since being an artist involves so many different disciplines learning some of the nomenclature is hellishly difficult at times and has stretched even my vocabulary to the point where I had to start inventing words just to describe what was going on. Which I suppose is my way of saying that while the processes we rely on to create our work vary from person to person, there are those things in art which exist as immutable truths. A neologism which I’m particularly fond of. And it is these immutable truths that form the foundation of the universal language of art, because not only do they express themselves the whole world over, they occur throughout every artistic discipline you can imagine. At every stage of the journey, and at every level of development. And if every artist travels the same road, maybe we’re never quite as alone as we think we are . . .
Well, I suppose that’s as good a start as any. And since I don’t have any plans to write about things in any particular order I’ll probably just go through my research notes and see what grabs my attention. Until the next post folks. Be excellent to each other.