Sunday, May 27, 2007
the (anti)material imagination
One has to admit that modernism in art is, for the most part, a pain in the arse. It's too often not the dissolution of the imaginary border between art and life, but rather a series of put on weirdo gestures: a contrived wounded bird act that only serves to stress by contrast the elevated actressy qualities of its producers.
This apparent division: between primary qualities and secondary qualities; the ideal and the real, that art sometimes promises to abolish but really cannot, for political reasons: this apparent division follows so closely the style and rhetoric of advertising as hardly justifying enquiry into its other possible sources.
The rules of advertising are of necessity simple. The pure colours of advertising surely indicate the divinity of the commodity, (necessarily material but) somehow free from the depredations of time that afflict all thing material.
(the influence of these ideas could be tracked alongside technological advances in printing)
But this same metaphysical system is (naturally) applicable universally, and one can imagine the consequences: a wonderfully pure sphere of interpersonal communication (inevitably) undercut by an ugly insistant materiality.
(something Lyotard gets very well: the interplay of the concept ordering matter and the materiality, so to speak, of matter: the grain of the voice etc, like all problems a political problem)
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, exiled in Switzerland, writes of the first Cubist painters:
"In the words of Locke, these painters distinguish between primary and secondary qualities. They endeavor to represent the primary, or most important qualities, as exactly as possible. In painting these are: the object's form, and its position in space. They merely suggest the secondary characteristics such as color and tactile quality leaving their incorporation into the object to the mind of the spectator"
In my opinion Kahnwelier has the right terminology but applies it inexactly. The point, surely, is as much to stress the real richness of materiality against its induced reflexive evasion.
1908: Picasso is going to attempt to undermine this upstart Primary. Marie Laurencin is looking at things from a different angle.