Speculation on Objects in Art

Between myself as an artist (subject) and the work of art (object) the bifurcation fuses each and in the other entangled together in a plane of being, as a collectivity.

I don’t think objects are an opposed pole to the human being. To explore Levi Bryant’s “onticology” – the term for the ontology of objects where objects are the one type of being that is. If humans are objects among other types of objects existing in the world each with its own capacities and specifications, then humans are not excluded from this world. We are not floating above the world; we are not disembodied gazes – even if so much of the history of painting has been about projecting such an aim. Initiated with Augustine, when the eye of the spirit exceeds over the eye of the flesh, the window-into-a-world of art continues by sustaining the exclusion of the disembodied gaze from the world. I think onticology puts an end to this imposition. We artists are in the world.

It seems our very feeling of exclusion has created the environmental problems we face.

If we artists were sensitive to this shift, then we can redraw the distinctions. I guess where the marked and unmarked spaces would fall in such distinction would be up to the artist, and perhaps emerging from intuition since so much of what is unmarked is invisible. We often place the subject into that marked position: treating the object as if it was other to me, as if it was opposed to the subject – this exactly what the arts have done through the Renaissance and into the Modernist veins, which is to also say, throughout the arch of dead power.

When objects debuted on the scene of the modern imago they did so as vehicles for our signs, content, projections of meaning, etc., and of course it seems to be the very practice of art to do so – to place the object into culture. As vehicles for human contents, all those objects appearing in the amazing images of the modern painters were full of an underlying subordination. When it became a work of art constructed what was subordinated was the sensitive object. In addition to its under-mining, reducing and atomizing it to its properties, the object’s own sensitivity was also over-mined by the vision of terror of the world of objects — the painters were terrified of that scene because it appeared as opposed to them as subjects, as transcendence of the object could only ever be achieved by its complete reduction, extracted from their own expression in the service of the deified personality of the artist.

It has been the tradition for we artists to see the world of meaning signs, representations, language – i.e. the world of the subject/arts/culture – as the world of freedom, and the world of objects as simple matter, mechanistic casual determinations. The  separation between the two that sustains the autocracy of the two is the premise of the modern arts irrespective of styles or isms. It is what needs to be traversed. Although intuitively, perhaps within the event of the making of the work, something else enters the artist and they sense an intermixture of those bifurcated poles – the fusion can be sensed in the event of the work in its process of becoming. There is no ontological split between the art (subject) and the work (object) but rather a place of being that is emanating all sorts of creative virtualities.

What if the world of objects is placed into the marked space? What happens? Certain the artist is still present but the artist is transformed into one more object among the others: they are no longer in a privileged position. This has a very simple outcome seeing as how it is no longer possible, at that juncture, to poke and prod and manipulate the plasticity of forms according to the privileged site. The foundations sink, since the points of reference begin to decay: the artist is no longer a maker of the world but an object among the others within the work enticing its emergence. It is enough to entice a chain of objects and allow them to unfold their own artistic possibilities, and not reduce them to the artist’s representation. An abstract work evoking the sedimentation and erosion of earth’s forces can go far in this direction, since the painter as prodder or pusher of form is not relevant and the results are just as beautiful, if not more so. The painter becomes the person conjuring up the parameters for a magical causation running on its own morphological force.


Published by fldwrk

I am a painter.

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