Lucio Pozzi - The Competent Yawn <|>
There seems to be so much diversity around. Everybody does their thing so brilliantly. There is a niche for each of us. Occasionally a few of us get taken in a stream that’s called a movement or a group and the attendant publicity might carve light around our art like an aura of celebrity. Sometimes this aura may last more than eighteen months if we cultivate the right friendships and affect the correct attitude of reluctant courtship towards a chosen audience target.
We are the professionals, the ones who know what they are doing and explain it clearly beforehand. Packaged well, our thoughts may be received with favor by investors. We must be very careful to consider every move, though, like a courtier at the court of Louis XIV. If impulse calls us beyond the hidden boundaries of the acceptable, many will tell us we ought to repress it. The boundaries include even an academy of transgression as canonized as other academies, say, of restraint or of excess or of one kind or other of normality. Transgression has its own rules and they cannot be transgressed. Its practitioners’ heresy must contain the potential for becoming an institution or else it won’t be offered the ritual of being burned at the stake, a good publicity to start a career: it will just simply be ignored.
Defamiliarization was exciting in 1917, but now we could write an instruction manual about how to operate it. So, I am one of those who feel cornered by the culture I live in. Not knowing where to turn, I find myself desperately seeking other ways. One could be longing for the margins of my galaxy. It’s boundless (see Important Footnote below) out there, where there is permanent danger and passion can explode unhampered. Then, I could also instead stop caring about art, whatever that might be. I have chosen a third way: to avoid formulas and dive inexplicably into the languages of visuality with no exclusion of approach; to avoid packaging the viewers’ gaze and to let them see what they want to see – I seek a ‘creative misunderstanding’ from the spectators. To seek a kind of open-ended ecology of thought. When I’ll disappear, I wish only a million undefinable luminous dust specks should be left in my trail, not a defined ghost. Indeed, as I journey now in the artworld I see thousands of living ghosts bouncing gently from gallery wall to gallery wall, curtsying to one another in an endless minuet of urbane competitive skirmishes under the guise of tolerant emulation. Their only purpose is to achieve at least one moment of certified existence. Their eyes get older. No freshness remains. Is it worth it?
Yawning comes from feeling sleepy or getting bored or being hungry. A cruise on a millionaire’s yacht could produce a strong yawn. The tension between its passengers and the terrifying dread of poverty outside could open your respiratory conduits and let them emanate the air bubble. Or else, we could feel sleepy and yawn after a loving encounter. Or we may feel the disenchanted hunger of the well fed in our dining room and yawn because of it – very different from the yawn of the bloated starving child.
The art yawn is gauged by that which precedes it and surrounds it. It comes from the current conditions within which art is practiced, conditions that under a veneer of apparent renewal are instead foreseen and unchangeable. Predictability is embedded in our soul. The manner of exchange in our art corridors is measured by expertise and competence, not by intuition or emotion. A young artist is not even admitted to the consideration of a person in power unless s/he can exhibit a diploma from an accepted school of art. S/he must also have a statement of purpose, short, to the point, sellable. If I, however, had to explain the purpose of my art I would feel that it is no longer worth making it.
Focusing is considered by many cognitive scientists to be an obstacle to creativity. It is good tactics only for competition because it forces the adversary to fight in a field of either/or choices defined by the aggressor. This is limiting indeed for exploration. Focus is considered to render dull and closed the person who engages in it. Focus can reduce our critical outlook by blinding us to alternatives. In art it’s called consistency. In supermarkets it’s called brand recognition. In many fields it’s called specialization. With very few exceptions I call it a bore. Basically, it’s the corruption of the once efficient practice of the division of labor.
Art has become a major industry and as such it is submitting to bureaucratic manners of exchange. Faithful groupies tread the canyons of art malls, discussing what they look at, often without seeing it. There is excitement about this postil or that. They feel the thrill of art that revives whatever had been sidelined and now looks new. Then there is food and sex and shopping around it. We are living a golden age of opportunity for our art to be seen and collected. But that comes at a price. The terms of discourse, the manner of presentation, the advertorial criticism that surrounds it are predictable and defeat the very reasons each of us started making art or looking at art in the first place.
Ours is the time of the Competent Yawn. Perfect arrangement of things, perfect presentation, perfect manufacture even of dirt. Before you enter a place of display you already know how by entering you have agreed to an unwritten contract of viewership that limits your gaze. A heavy inventory of connotations has corralled the making of the art as much as it is corralling your looking eye. While the people of the world outside butcher one another, we are safe enough to split hair about expensive details inside our shiny white coffins.
[Important Footnote: No event happens without a context, so, to say a mental art location is boundless is a paradox. The question is whether context is considered as a regulating bond by the artist or whether it is acknowledged as a starting point for unpredicted processes to follow.]

5 September 2007