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November 18, 2019 / Congau

Distracted Art

It was once thought liberating when poets threw off the shackles of the meter, stopped rhyming and threw words into chaotic heaps and stirred them around until only the keenest interpreter could recognized the fraction of a meaning.

Painters and sculptors went even wilder, splashing colors without semblance of structure and producing images without any pretense of likeness. Freedom was in abstraction and in the abstraction of abstraction to the nth power. Meaning was a prison.

I’m exaggerating, of course. The advent of abstract art was not altogether a deviation from the proper course, it was also a valuable addition to the world of art. But the belief that it was a higher form of art because it had emancipated itself from the fetters of tradition and the restraining conformity of the past, was not only wrong, but a restricted understanding of the power of art.

Art certainly has the power to liberate, but not because it has to break loose from artistic conventions. Indeed, these formalities are of minor importance to the freedom it can attain.

Constrained by a conventional meter the poets of antiquity liberated themselves from the conventions of thought, creating novel ideas to the music of beautiful poetry. Breaking up the meter would have achieved nothing other than confusing the message and compromising the beauty.

 Artistic conventions are the grammar of art. They are usually irrelevant to the message and a great artist could probably have spoken any artistic language he had been trained to use.

An artist is always a rebel against conventions, but if he rebels against the formalities of his own trade, he risks weakening his own power to fight the structures he really cares to challenge.

Abstracting to the point where no one, including yourself, knows what you are talking about, is hardly the best way to get across a message of liberation.

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