THE CONCEPT OF THE MISSING ART OBJECT

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This idea of creating an empty box that displays the place where an art object was kept is an attempt to understand a sensation called ORBS. ORBS is an acronym for Object Recognition Breakdown Syndrome, and this condition of the human mind is 'felt' when we are faced with an experience towards which we are unable to project any ideas that we use to identify what confronts us.

In art the syndrome known as ORBS is generated by the exhibiting of a found object or the performance of bizarre or ludicrous acts that remove our ideas of art from the work. However, the principle of ORBS extends beyond art and applies to any object that we find difficult to recognise. Object Recognition Breakdown Syndrome forces our mind to sense the external world without the imposition of established ideas, and the sensation this creates within our powers of observation generates a feeling of uncertainty. The human mind actively seeks to avoid this condition in all we see and do. It has become habitual behaviour for us to seek to find something we know how to recognise in what we experience to stop ORBS being sensed in our view of the world. This behaviour reveals that any object or event that we fail, or find difficult to recognise, exposes us to an underlying way of sensing that our powers of perception have evolved to suppress in our minds. The underlying way of sensing will be inherent from our primal origins and will still be generated in the depth of our minds in the form of any genetic expressions that remain of our old animal instincts, but our thought processes now block-out these sensations by forcing us to look through our intelligent powers of recognition.

In order to create a primal sensation of an object I believe an artist needs to find a way to remove all the intelligent ideas we project over what we see. If I just painted a picture of an object you would recognise the image that I portray, and you will also project an idea that allows you to categorise my work as a painting. Painting a recognisable image is not, therefore, going to create a primal sensation from the depth of your mind.

Creating sculpture, music and dance will fail for the same reason. You possess well-established ideas that will suppress the primal experience of these objects in your mind. You will look to recognise an arrangement of control and organisation that the artist has given to the work. If I present a ready-made object as art (a urinal, a dead shark, or whatever) this will remove your idea of artistic workmanship (anyone could place a ready-made in an art gallery) but doing this will not disturb the intelligent ideas you possess that you use everyday to recognise ready-made objects. To get an object to generate a primal sensation from your mind I need to find a way to stop you projecting all these established ideas that you have learned to impose over your view of what confronts you.

My solution to this problem is to remove the object and only allow you to see the empty place the object occupied. Because no two people will think up the same idea of what the missing object should look like, this type of work should, in theory, provoke an intuitive instinctive response from your mind.

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WHY ART CANNOT BE SUBDUED

 

A portrait of a dictator could never be a work of art because the painter, to create a likeness of the tyrant, has to shackle the desire for free thinking that an artist so yearns to call to mind. If the portrait painter stood true to the pursuit of artistic freedom, then they would have to throw paint at the canvas. They would have to make the painting reflect the disdain they feel for a subject that they have been forced to portray that stops them coming to know a freedom of thought and actions that art should uphold. This they would be foolish to do, and throughout the history of art mirror images of dictators stare back at us from canvases with perfectly pictured medals, glittering in golden ochre. The dictator, stern and totally authoritarian, stands resolute and assured immortality, whilst the painter is left to skulk away in disillusion; having betrayed the true calling of art. Of course, I am assuming the artist understands the true calling.

Before the modern age this calling could never have been determined because, to grasp it, requires the artist to work free of all social requirements. Many modern artists are no longer willing to remain shackled by the demands for commercial content in their creations. Some artists - not all artists - have thrown off the mantle of repressive working practices, and, for the first time in the history of art there are those who are willing to search for a true understanding of what the art experience is about. This requires moving away from controlled intellectual content. It requires abandoning the age old belief that the art experience can be created through a recognisable picture, a carved image, a choreographed dance, a composed symphony, an opera, or the story told in a book. The pursuit of a true understanding of the art experience can produce no useful commodity because, to do so, would contaminate your mind with subjective content rather than direct experience. It is here, confronted by unguided paint, unformed clay, jumbled sound and tangled movements sensed without intellectual restraint that your mind is open to the recall of an original way of sensing the world. Here the artist searches for a state of mind, not a picture to hang upon a wall, but how is the artist to eat when the art object no longer reflects the need for a product that can be sold at the marketplace? Alone and penniless, the artist works away to create a state of mind that only total freedom to act without restraint can give.

But what is this total freedom that lies hidden behind art? For many it could only be the unquestionable evidence that a greater presence of mind is a work calling us to restrain our natural instincts and rise to greater achievements through the control of our thoughts. Many become convinced a God gives us our desire for free-will, but, with modern understanding, the answer may not be quite so uplifting as most people would like to believe. The human spirit feels like it reaches for ethereal possibilities, but the reality is that the artists may be getting a sense of freedom that is more likely the outcome of biological recollection of an older 'animal' state of mind. A distant memory, we all inherit in our genes, that gives some of the 'feeling' our intellect and our need to control the paint, model the clay, compose the sounds and movements in art are the result of our mind working to suppress the remains of an older natural way of sensing the world.

From this point of view the traditional high ideals of art have to be brought down to earth, and so the modern artist reacted against the established principles that placed our idea of art on a lofty pedestal. To begin with the disruption was very subtle; like the trickle water that reveals the crack in a dam wall. Painters, for example, began to disturb the realistic image. In place of the recognisable landscape, or portrait, the brushwork began to take over, and the scenes dissolved into oceans of form and colour that no longer held any resemblance to a given subject. In sculpture, the quest for perfect shape was replaced with gouged deep finger marks that deformed the reality of all proportions. In music, the harmony and melody began to be destroyed by accidental noise, and in dance, the perfect choreography was lost to a distorted tumbling of irregular movements. Writers found they possessed no words to describe an emerging sense of uncertainty because who could describe a vision that, deep in our thoughts, came from the echo of the mournful cry of the animal we had once been. An animal that was now entombed beneath all the intellectual and intelligent ideas that people looked for in the artists work, and so the artist stares into an abyss. She sees a lost arena of the human mind that is still crying for freedom that only the wild animal can know, and, seeking this freedom, becomes a search for what remains of our old powers of animal intuition.

This is why throwing paint at a canvas is more revealing than picturing a perfect likeness. The act removes your reasoned thoughts and only the unguided gesture remains that, even though you may not like what this artists has done, is the only way to gain this insight. You may feel this is the work of a charlatan, but only here, in this gesture, a deeper desire of the human mind is exposed that reveals we have evolved to suppress a natural way of sensing we once lived with in our animal past. The need of the artist who throws paint may seem inartistic, but it directs us to sense the world through instinct rather than intellectual intelligent understanding.

This we will find difficult to comprehend because we are now born to sense objects and events to suppress the feeling of uncertainty that looking without learning brings back into our minds. This feeling has become alien to our powers of perception, and yet this feeling is our heritage. It is all that remains of the animal sensations we once lived with, and that is now keep suppressed behind all the learned ideas we project over all we see and do. The painter throws paint to disobey the rules, because this painter realises it is only when we look without rules that we will see in a truly inherent way.

Like the untamed stallion that must be broken and brought to heel, this desire to suppress the wild mind is a reflection of our own retreat from our primal origins. The stallion running free upholds a vision we have evolved to overpower in our perception of the world. We find, like the portrait painter, that our very powers of recognition now generate a sensation of loss of freedom that was our old animal urge to escape anything that tries to trap us like a bird in a glass house. We sense the recall of an ancient state of mind that our ancestors once lived with through intuition and instinct. A sensation that is still at work in every cell and sinew of our brains because it has been passed down to us in the deepest, oldest, parts of our mind. A call from the wild mind that our very way of thinking works to hide, and our fate is to enslave our original animal sense of freedom. We retain our primal origins in our psyche, but it has become a feeling we fear to recall because we are forever driven away from animal intuition towards intelligent understanding. For any artist, getting a little recall of what remains of this inherent view, the challenge is to find a way to avid clever intellectual content and to look to unlearned ways of acting. Only here, in art that abandons the rules, can the artist seek to rediscover the animal freedom our ancestors implanted in our genes.

© C J Hollins - 22 April 2013