Translating the Invisible Wind – Part Thirteen

by Geoff Hall on October 29, 2010

Copyright Control. Bridget Riley ‘Movement in Squares’ 1961.

The spiritual informs the material!
Many phenomenologists make the mistake of using their research to tell us about the human condition – from a neutral scientific standpoint – and from thence pronounce the norms of life. The flaw in the ointment is that they appear to have no grasp of the ontological!  But enough of philosophical witticism!  This flawed practice has even found its way into theology, undertaking theology ‘through’ the arts.  Looking to art to determine a relevant theology for our age is simply akin to a sighted person only reading Braille publications and hoping to get a handle on current affairs.

Whilst the spiritual informs the material, that spiritual ‘thing’ is not ethereal, woolly or impersonal.  ‘It’ speaks of our creation in the image of God, reflecting God’s characteristics; love, joy, peace, mercy, creativity etc and also of God’s essence and the as yet invisible parts of Creation.  It speaks of many things we cannot fathom, but it comes to a head in human revelation, with the Word becoming Flesh; God putting on our clothing and living in the neighbourhood.

For the spiritual artist who lives as a slave to none, on the margins of society where the angst and passion of life is lived out to the full, their art frames this point of perception, of revelation.  To be that, it must not be limited to recording the phenomena, the everyday objects of life; an entanglement with so-called realism, perhaps with the intent of politicising or sensationalising the issues of life.  It must transcend and bring a spiritual vision to bear on reality.  It does not leave this reality in the same state, shuffling around objects in the name of a concept, as if it’s a mere utility to realising the artistic (conceptual) vision.

The art of perception, must not be confused with the art of Bridget Riley and the Op Art Movement, (see ‘Squares’ above), where perception is a trick of the eye; a physical, visual phenomenon.  Or again perhaps as part of a perceptual experiment with hallucinogenic drugs!  If you have no idea of who or where you are, your concepts will be a mystery to most and simply increase the frustration and lack of fulfilment in the lives of those who view your work. Incoherence abounds!

The art of perception speaks to the spirit within all of us, whether recognised or not.  It points ‘to’, but also ‘beyond’, the current reality.  Think back to the quote of Hayden White, “We only can know the ‘actual’ by contrasting it or likening it to the ‘imaginable’.”

Perception works back as well as forward, it looks back to contrast the actual with the imaginable and then forward to an altered perception engaging us in new ways of seeing and describing the world; as well as new ways of living so we tease out the ‘new’.

The definition of percept is ‘a concept that depends on recognition by the senses, such as sight, of some external object or phenomenon.’  I would extend this to cover, sound, smell, taste and touch.  This falls amazingly into the domain of installation art, inspiring all sorts of allusions, but also far-reaching beyond this medium.  It also gives latitude to the imagination making a connection with a phenomenon in reality. It doesn’t however, as is the case of conceptual art, reduce the phenomenon to the artist’s intellectual and conceptual powers; an unfathomable domain unless you know the artist personally and can unravel their thoughts.  Nowadays there is a great dichotomy between the artist writing about what they do and the practice of art, i.e. what they actually do.

The reasons for this are many, but let’s focus on the dichotomy between their professional education as conceptual artists and what they actually do.  We have said previously that the artist who works to communicate institutional spirituality is a slave to propaganda, we must also elicit the same conclusion for artists who pass through the sausage machine of secularised art colleges, with their focus on nihilistic philosophy.  Much of an artist’s writing has nothing to do with artistic practice or aesthetic nuance, but with educational language, meant to celebrate the nothingness of reality (philosophically) and the monitoring of educational pedagogy (outcomes).  Life, reality has become minimalised; the atomisation of artistic practice divorces any sense of a bigger picture, of a world of connections.  All that is ‘connected’ is an object to the bright idea of the artist’s own machination (hyper-subjectivity). Here’s an example.

“[The artist] recreates the glowing ember of a match in aluminium and modelling clay.  It is that precise moment, after the flare of ignition and just before it disintegrates that fascinates [the artist].  His work is also concerned with an equivalent cultural moment, the point at which a subculture, trend or genre becomes outmoded and is consigned to the dustbin of history.”

To such an artist, Bourriaud claims the public is an ‘unreal reality…’.  (Nicolas Bourriaud, ‘Relational Aesthetics’. Les Presses du reel, 2002. p81)  Lost is the communal essence of art, focussing on the material and unable to cope with any notion of the spiritual.  Disrelational Aesthetics is the norm today, hyper-subjectivity leading to the hyperreality of Postmodernism’s world of illusions.  Smoke and mirrors in the name of art education.

In the grand design of Marxist ideology – because that is the pill you are forced to take – the undermining of bourgeois taste, values and representations of reality, is subverted to the point of the disintegration of everything.  It is cheap worldview, as nothing is offered in its place, as most have lost their faith in the Communist State as an arbiter of (economic) justice.  The genocides of the last century, have cultivated a Post-Humanist world today, where nothing coheres! This includes conceptual art, which only has the weak glue of an artist’s own say-so, to try and make things stick.  Due to Humanism giving birth to a little shop of horrors, art and the artist have retreated from reality to escape the horror without.  Alas, they find themselves confronted by the origin of that horror, the human heart; out of which come all the issues of life!



Geoff, A very enlightened post. I was impressed with your point that artists bring spiritual vision to bear on reality rather than leave reality in the same state as it currently exists. I like that challenge.

by Heather on November 8, 2010 at 3:53 am. Reply #

Thanks Heather,

I think we have a poor notion of art and the arts in general. Some unfortunately follow the Kantian view of 'art for arts sake', whereby we contemplate art on a 'disinterested' level, which for me leaves the world unchanged. This contemplation is in a disengaged manner, like many undertake with other art forms such as film, whereby the visit to the cinema is a means of escape!

After our visit, we go back to our life as it is. Nothing has changed. We embody the same old routines, with the same old outlook on life!

Tarkovsky is my filmmaker mentor, who talks about a spiritual vision being made to bear on reality. Art should not only transcend, it should transform us and then the world. It is a challenge for us all to have this in mind when we create. It removes self-indulgence from the frame!



by geoffh on November 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm. Reply #

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