Days pass and we question ourselves, our opinions are tested. They are strengthened and weakened repeatedly, each time seeming more intense than the last. What to make of it all? That first moment. No history. You couldn't even imagine yourself as incomparable. The success towards which you strive seems to be the mirror image of what you've come from. Primitive and sensuous. Expressing life.

Functions of Art

By Andrew Fowler

We are in the process of identifying our self. Our dialogue with experience informs this process. From birth, we have been engaging with our environment. Testing boundaries. The ideas we have adopted have been adapted and continue to be so. The essence of it is, we want to have conviction in our status, and consistency in our self. We want to know what we are.

To 'know', here's a beginning. My dictionary says the word is a verb. A word indicating

  1. action e.g. bring
  2. occurrence e.g. came
  3. being e.g. exist

To know as an action:

An action, a transfer of energy. To know what something is relies on a category existing for which that thing applies. This category must have existed prior to the experience. Knowledge of what the thing experienced is, relies upon the relationship between its true identity and pre-assumed units (on the basis of 'same' and 'similar'). This is called recognition, namely to 'know again'. This is an energetic approach to knowing, as it relies on the storage of units to catalogue 'real' stimuli.

To know as an occurrence:

To occur, another process involving energy. 'It occurred that he knew what he was looking at'. For something to occur, we must be able to also describe it in terms of our relationship with it. To have a relationship with 'knowing' means that the actual occurrence of knowing can be identified as another unit beyond ourselves by its comparison with pre-assumed units. Therefore the interpretation of that occurrence can then be used as another unit comparison to assist mentally related work (for example prediction, idea validity as compared to pre-assumed units, either then to be reinforced or reassessed after relevant 'evidence' has occurred).

To know through being:

To 'be' means to maintain a quality. It requires no conscious energy manipulation. The environment exists along side its perceiver. Being is a word used to describe anything that we can identify. Stimuli are available to our senses, and we inevitably feel the occurrence. A category does not need to exist for the stimuli to be experienced. Can this experience be called knowing? Dave Robinson wrote:

"'To Know' means something like 'to impose categories upon chaotic processes that make the world useful to us and give us a sense of power and control'" note 1

Being does not require any psychological input, it allows for the experience of existence. Knowing, however, allows for the experience of relationship (and through this, ideas of identity). The combination of these two aspects of our self allow for self-realisation through identification. This is the nature of our existence.

The function of comparing is to reinforce our point of view or its assumed validity. The point of view is our momentary status amongst variables. For some reason, lasting conviction in it is agreeable, but appears to be unattainable.

Comparison omits minor details and makes generalisations, a very faulty practice to identify yourself with. Krome Barratt wrote:

"The significance of any event is not constant; it varies with location, with circumstances. It is relative. Therefore when apparent duplication occurs, there cannot be sameness but similarity."note 2

Think of a simple situation where an observer holds a preference within an environment. We must remember that this preference was formed. An almost pre-programmed reference will be made, and the observer will in turn feel attracted or repulsed (and variations within the range) to various and generalised identities of its parts. According to his temporarily assumed relationship with experience, his involvement is informed by educated decisions. This education is reasoned with justifications made about the observers' history by him. These justifications which rely on conscious evidence, can only be applied in terms of recognition. With haste this comparison binds the moment to memory. Only an idea remains. The moment may have been subject to predictability and reinforce some idea. It may also have identified a fault in our reasoning and thus induce some 'necessary' alterations. The question arises as to whether this is a valid tool.

We are sentient. That is, we have potential to perceive. Our potential stimuli are energetic. The point I am making is that we are sensitive to our environment whether we recognise anything or not.

I must remind you that a point of view can be either physically or mentally induced. For example:

  1. I am cold'. A declaration of the fact that your environment appears to cause you displeasure.
  2. 'I am unhappy'. (happiness being an abstract concept) A declaration that something is required (from beyond here) that you think will assist you in becoming or being 'happy'.

Take note that these are both declarations made by us about our limitations.

Intent, ability, and afterwards comparison inform the identity given to the 'act'. This meaning is brought to the moment by the person, not vice-versa. Acknowledgement of this meaning or idea promotes its investigation through experience. The meaning will be applied to new moments to produce new, more agreeable versions. Appearing as more recent, they also appear to be more advanced. Generally, we see ourselves as better than we were. Better at the things we do. This idea reinforces our current assumptions.

The problems that lie here are related to our personal development. Firstly, we must notice that all we ever can and will do is manipulate energy according to our accepted formalities (personal, sociological, species specific). This is how we exhibit our point of view, or preference.

Infants' ability to make comparisons and exhibit preferences develop proportionally to the amount of 'facts' they have composed. These 'facts' are mentally adapted categories constructed to identify stimuli. Stimuli identify its boundaries, and in turn a personal idea of self. Recognition allows us to apply knowledge that has been adopted and adapted from previous environmental inquiry. This knowledge informs us how to deliberately manipulate energy. A good example of this could be moving out of an uncomfortable position.

In his book

, John Berger wrote

"The past is not for living in, it is a well of conclusions from which to draw upon to act"note 3

This implies that we are in a constant state of developmental inquiry, and must dispose of yesterday's ideas with focus on achieving our personal idea of success now. Krishnamurti often spoke of 'dying to every yesterday.' This was prescribed as a tool for arriving at complete consciousness. Awareness of now. I must stress that this 'dying' is acceptance, and not denial of experience. It is immersion in awareness.

Everyone is involved in the process of constructing an indisputable point of view. We are mapping our location and through that describing our selves. Some moments may point us out as being vulnerable to temperature change or resistant to a virus. These examples appear to be beyond our control. Other moments allow us the opportunity to describe ourselves. Thus manifesting our opinions through action.

Any action which is planned is also inevitably faulty (when it comes to determining success). No one has an indisputable point of view. Stimuli fluctuate, merge and adopt new identities as do our interpretations of them. We cannot mentally predict the full effect of each of our actions because we do not have a complete understanding of all the variables. There is the possibility of having a clearer understanding though. This could be arrived at through more relevant experience to make comparisons with.

Ultimately, clear understanding could be called conviction. This conviction we seek must be arrived at through tests. Tests of ability and boundary. Mental, physical, cultural, and species specific. Karl Popper suggests about theories (ideas about things) that:

"Some ... expose themselves to possible refutations more boldly than others. ... A theory which is more precise and more easily refutable than another will also be the more interesting one. ... it will be the one which is less probable. But is better testable, ... And if it stands up to severe tests it will be better confirmed, or better attested, by these tests. Thus confirmability (or attestability or corroborability) must increase with testability."note 4

This implies that for any progress to occur in our lives, we must apply focus. Of importance is the fact that we always apply focus. The more we apply, the more intense our development in that aspect of our experience.

Expression and Language/Formal Gestures

However we communicate or gesture, we are using some language. This, when intentional, may belong to, or acknowledge a specific formality (for a limited target audience). Our expression becomes limited by incomplete knowledge, and lacks sound intent. Dave Robinson wrote of language (a formality) that it:

"Nietzsche ... saw language as the key player in a continual process of human self-deception"note 6

This practice of categorising 'things' is something we all do with great intensity. Obviously it assists communication, but why communicate?

An important point here is that we can only experience sharing when we experience a boundary to the self. A boundary that allows us to project something outside of it from within it. Also, we can only share that which we believe we have. This becomes a very important realisation in relation to the expression of joy. Krome Barratt again:

"Our judgement of similarity thus varies with the urgency of the situation. At the raw beginning of life, recognition of likenesses is basic to survival. New experiences are compared with memory. Is it friend or foe? Food or predator? If it cannot be identified, beware!"note 7

When we feel something enjoyable, we tend to immerse ourselves in the experience consciously. At times, this is something we avoid. Is it to our advantage to share what appears enjoyable? And help others avoid what appears to be unpleasant? Each of us chooses and gets better at choosing here. What feels good for you feels good for you. What appears to you to feel good for another, appears to you to feel good for another. Ideas of 'I' and 'they' combine with ideas about 'value' to create a priority here. The two boundaries eventually overlap as our experience in life increases. And the peak of it, as I have attempted to reinforce, is a state of no separation between subject and predicate. The "ultimate artist observer partnership"note 8 which Krome Barratt mentions later. Active and passive. External and internal observation and creation.

Memetics

Recent investigation suggests a category of 'things' called 'memes'.

"Memes are instructions for carrying out behaviour, stored in brains (or other objects) and passed on by imitation. Their competition drives the evolution of the mind."note 9

Susan Blackmore suggests that one of our contexts is the meme pool (rather like the gene pool from which potential DNA is available for procreation, but this is a selection of potential gestures available for imitation). An analogy she gives is saying the memes are like viruses and we are potential hosts varying in vulnerability. Memes, like genes and viruses, are replicators. That is they exist only for their own replication. For something to exist as a replicator, it must:

"sustain the evolutionary algorithm based on variation, selection and retention (or heredity)."note 10

These are unmistakable qualities of ideas. They evolve in a process which allows them to exhibit variance, be subject to selection and potentially be retained or inherited. Susan Blackmore fails to mention that we are in the process of creating new memes, adding to the meme pool and assisting evolution through action, just as we are in the process of creating new ideas and through our experience adding somewhat unconsciously to a potential 'idea pool'. Primitive (simple) ideas however appear to be more widespread than recent models.

Our aim is to experience our 'self'. We consciously deny ourselves this ability by accepting our thoughts as fact. Our soul's expression is filtered when the mind interferes with the transmission (process and interpretation). Our mind is developing ideas; it is involved in an evolving. Success invites competition. There are infinite observations and references we can make. Right and wrong are just other ideas which we can apply to them in order to cause alterations.

Our dialogue with ourselves (idea affirmation) allows us to place plans into action that will take place in the future (ideas). Our energy now is being used for other times and places (wasted on ideas). We assume that we must put plans into action to assist our security. This is our mind's scheme, to one day realise itself as an individual being with a separate identity. Separation causes conflict and, we will continue to be proved wrong until we are proved right. That means experiencing 'now', without separation. That is when we will experience our whole self.

In Relation to Artworks, Art Practice and Art Interpretation

The analysis (breaking down) of words always assists their definition. Our formal catalogue of words (the dictionary) applies two meanings to the word 'art'.

Firstly, it is used to describe a sympathetic skill in producing anything beautiful.

Art is a
Sympathetic (expressing a likeness of understanding)
Skill (the ability to do well)
In
Producing (bringing into existence)
Anything (something objectively observed)
Beautiful (giving sensory pleasure)

My analysis suggests that 'art' is any action, which demonstrates understanding successfully and pleasurably. I feel a transaction being implied where both parties enjoy pleasurable sensation and share their understanding of that experience through it. This reminds me of all my most intense and pleasurable experiences.

The second meaning is an old use of the present tense of 'be' used with thou. This is of importance here as it refers to our present sense of being.

It is my understanding that 'experience' or 'knowing through being' draws from the self an interaction with stimuli (media). This interaction can be used to express the self within specific limitations. 'Intent' and 'will' can be applied to the experience, and will in turn assist identification of our capabilities. Also our progress (development in capability) is exposed as time passes. As new ideas of 'self' are created, we have a more focused idea of it. We have a more focused experience.

Categories have been applied to 'art'. This has been done as a means for developing ideas about practice and interpretation. In the catalogue for the 'Functions of Drawing' exhibition of 1975 at the Rijksmuseum Kroller-Mullller in Otterlo, Dr R.H.Fuchs talks of a new art,

"the shift away from art as the production of objects and towards art as a mental activity,-and the artwork as a document (presented in esthetic terms) of that activity. If this analysis is even roughly, correct,"

He suggests:

"then the material state of that document is of no relevance. It can be a drawing, or a group of photographs, or even images from the artists personal life or his behaviour"note 11

The exhibition categorised four functions of drawing. In finishing, it posed:

"In retrospect the categories seem to be interchangeable. They have no relevance to the meaning of art. They have been established to structure the experience of those who may find art difficult"

I can not speak for any other viewer, but those who find art difficult may be more likely to read the text. This, they would have agreed or disagreed with and thus reinforced their ideas of self in relation to it. The categories do have use for us. Each of them posed a question, by which our answers inform us of our reasoning. This reasoning affects our expression. Applying focus to it will precede advancement in it. The questions posed by the catalogue were:

These questions point out aspects which artists may find relevant to their practice and apply focus to. Topics of process, media, imagination, separation, individuality, context, planning, mechanism, identity, artist and audience participation arise through my inquiry. The list goes on, categories can help our understanding, but we must retain our ability to feel and choose for ourselves. Adopting arguments should always be done with caution. My father once said to me "assumptions are the most dangerous things in the world." They will affect our point of view, and in turn our experience. David Robinson wrote of 'words' (ideas):

"They are what we think with, and we often automatically assume that there are entities 'out there' to which they refer. Words are useful to us because we can use them to simplify and 'freeze' the chaos and complexities of our surroundings, but that is all they can do. Not only will our grammar control the ways in which our thoughts are organised, but more drastically, it will determine what thoughts we are possible to have"note 12

With that in mind, the questions provoked this response.

The tools used by the artist during his experience of 'creating' the 'artwork' affect the experience. How they do that varies, and this variance, being an idea, can be better identified (through practice). Stimuli as noted informs us of our assumed boundaries (limitations). In turn the experience fits the 'exploration of self' category.

Levels of internal and external alteration occur. Focus on what the artist is doing will in turn bring them to new levels of experiencing it. This is the process by which artists and all people evolve. Masterful artists however have a tendency to express conviction through exposition. This process invites competition (they are aware of this). The competition of ideas activates a process of selection by the artist and in turn, his understanding reaches new levels of conviction. More focused ideas (which in turn are open to more intense refutation). The artist is conscious of this process and invites it. This he allows to prescribe newer and better ideas of success. This conscious prescription denies external validation of his acts. He seeks validation only within himself because it was he who prescribed the idea, and only he who knows if it is fulfilled

I would like to offer a quote which draws from me intense agreement and relevance.

"Art is an expression of impersonal beauty through a personal medium, and it will be found that the greatest art, of whatever country and whatever time, is the most impersonal. Beauty is the outward appearance of cosmic harmony, and art is an attempt by human beings to interpret beauty in another form. ...whether the medium used be poetry or pottery, music or the movements of the human form. In such portrayal of eternal qualities the intrusion of the personal is only permitted to the extent that the personal element is common to all mankind, ...the artist must be super sensitive, but the senses should be outposts of the mind, while the greatest art arouses in the beholder a faculty far higher ..., that by which, the mind attains direct perception"note 13

There are, according to my understanding, potentially infinite types of experience and infinite types of understanding (not specific to humans). Infinite categories can be composed and refuted, developed, altered, but never reaching indisputability.

I pose two temporary categories for the moment, both again may be applied to practice and interpretation. We must still remember that the meaning is not something brought to us by the moment: we apply it. In turn it develops and we assume that progress is being made. These categories are 'representational gesture' and 'conceptual gesture'. Both require a plan and idea about success. I am aware that overlap occurs in my description of these two. This is intentional as in essence they are both the same thing. Response to experience which in turn identifies new potential within experience.

Representational Art

The process of manufacturing representational work involves identifying the elements necessary for replication and selecting a process for the translation. Success in this type of work relies upon the standard of product intended and the correct selection of process. The ability of each aspect of this process coincides with the artist's ability to choose and perform tasks (especially of translation and communication).

Conceptual Art

Conceptual work involves the identification of a language. One which usually appears to be separate from, or a metaphor for another. The work is a statement and its understanding relies upon the adoption of specific formalities by the viewer. If these formalities are unknown or disputed, the references necessary for 'correct' (as prescribed by the artists intention) interpretation will not exist. A message will be conveyed, but not necessarily one that is understood by the artist. For the individuals whose concepts are similar, a message may now exist that could not be illustrated any other way. This is a way of sharing understanding. About this sharing (also mentioned earlier), and of other interest, Krome Barratt wrote:

"The observers' contribution to a fine art dialogue tends to increase as the work becomes non-objective, non-figurative or abstracted in form. Functioning as a trigger, it invites him to indulge in his own imaginings and perhaps to find some attributes of his own identity. The ultimate artist-observer partnership would ideally be an equal one 50/50"note 14

Ultimately, real success in this field is to be known as much by the artist, as the observer.

Interestingly, each of our experiences is fulfilled by these categories. It is our nature to express our relationship with our experience. It is also our nature to interpret our relationship with our experience. We do this by applying our ideas, and each moment sheds light on their qualities. An understanding of 'what you want' and 'how to do it' enhances the skill in this process. Translation and communication are major features in this experience too.

Abstract art can sometimes appear to be in a separate category. This is when the artist attempts to be impulsive and empty of preference whilst performing some task. The limitations of the task are investigated through the performance. The residue of this process is called the artwork. Planning the task, or its beginning, the artist pre-assumes some limitation of it, and this suggests some pre-formed idea about the experience.

If the language used is not understood by the artist, an audience still exists in reason, however unlikely the occurrence may appear. The language is always related to the artist's experience. If only by being used within that experience by that artist. Similarities are always recognised, and in turn this assists the viewer's development in understanding experience. We've grown accustomed to a particular dialogue with our environment. Because of our particular understanding and interpretation, we enjoy our own particular 'reality'. This, we often forget, is something we have selected. As soon as it fails to serve us, we must realise just that and choose again. This is our homing device: GOOD FEELING. As soon as we ignore our feeling, we deny ourselves. We compromise our experience for 'our' ideas. We must remember those ideas don't belong to us, we have adopted and adapted them with the hope of enjoying a better experience.

We may feel terrible, but it is still (and always will be) within our potential to express ourselves joyously. Content with success, we don't re-seek the stimuli. We can accept it as part of our self, and continue its expression.

This nature is something we all share. Realising this, it is clear that we should continue to express this feeling between one another. To share joy. Joy shared is joy intensified. That 'Ultimate artist-observer partnership'. Presentation and acceptance.

Our experience is our involvement with context. As we become more experienced, our language becomes more complex and appears to have more design. Our ability to communicate evolves through this. Our 'truths' become more focused, and testable. Whatever focus we apply, we can't avoid this situation.

This is my declaration, a statement of my existence, my residue. I have stated my conviction. The responses derived from, and associated with this will cast me onto new more focused levels of existence, achieving more advanced ideas of my self. This process has my attention. It is my 'art' practice. My present sense of being. The intent to act in a way that presents understanding and pleasure to the senses is real.

The more we test our limits, the more we overcome.

The more we accept them as real, the more we are bound by them (ideas).

Apply this with focus.

Notes:

1. Nietzsche and Postmodernism (pg16) Dave Robinson.

2. Logic and Design (pg 14) Krome Barratt

3. Ways of Seeing (pg 6) John Berger

4. Conjectures and Refutations (pg 256) Karl Popper

5. Nietzsche and Postmodernism (pg 16) Dave Robinson

6. Nietzsche and Postmodernism (pg 16) Dave Robinson

7. Logic and Design (pg 12) Krome Barratt

8. Logic and Design (pg 11) Krome Barratt

9. The Meme Machine (pg 17) Susan Blackmore

10. The Meme Machine (pg 14) Susan Blackmore

11. Introduction to 'Functions of Drawing' exhibition catalogue (pg 2) Dr.R.H.Fuchs

12. Nietzsche and Postmodernism (pg 17) Dave Robinson

13. Concentration and Meditation (pg 130) Christmas Humphreys

14. Logic and Design (pg 11) Krome Barratt

Bibliography

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