I got out of the shower yesterday to find a beautiful 1953 typewriter wrapped up in a gorgeous vintage case on the kitchen table as my birthday gift from Andrew. Finally, a typewriter! And we spent the rest of the afternoon in High Park at the mini-zoo and basking in the sun by the pond. Then popsicles red wine and horror movies. Toronto surprises me, often.
The point of this post, however, is this quote from Heidegger, which made me smile this morning on the subway:
"Truth, as the clearing and concealing of what is, happens in being composed, as a poet composes a poem. All art, as the letting happen of the advent of the truth of what is, is, as such, essentially poetry. The nature of art, on which both the art work and the artist depend, is the setting-itself-into-work of truth. It is due to art's poetic nature that, in the midst of what is, art breaks open an open place, in whose openness everything is other than usual" -from "The Origin of the Work of Art"
One of my problems with conceptual art (conceptual in the purest, po-mo sense) is that there is no opening up, no "revealing" in confrontation because the "thing-ness" is entirely immanent, like a case for ideas only accessible via the cognitive. I am conflicted because in a sense conceptual art performs what Heidegger talks about when he differentiates between the object-side and subject-side (the "thing-ness" of the work vs. its "work quality") but in his words, those two sides are collapsed together in our experience of the work. But in conceptual art those lines seem strict. The "thingness" of the work is maintained as thing, as purely representational. That seems to be how conceptual art works, but that kind of separation is counter-intuitive to how humans experience things, or how we would if we weren't all only semi-aware of our bodies. Maybe this paradox of contemporary art is itself an expression of our historical time, and thus a revealing of "truth" in a sense. But it seems more and more the phenomenological component is downplayed purely for the sake of the purely cognitive. A lot of conceptual art is just "thing-ness" without the beauty, until you sit and think about it for a while, and then it opens itself up. Sometimes. And maybe that is also the fault of the whole "exhibition value" theory from Benjamin. But I find less and less inspiration from contemporary art and more and more inspiration from being-in-the-world. Sitting on the side of a grassy hill and watching people touch each other, watching old men shift their weight on park benches, watching the way light moves across water. Sometimes, contemporary art feels dead to me. At most, an interesting diversion, but never something truly beautiful. I am definitely old-fashioned and nostalgic, and maybe all those modernist-theorists and their ideas aren't applicable to art "now." If that is true, I am disappointed, because I think art and poetry should still be about revealing something new, and feeling, and beauty. Authenticity, sure, but sometimes what passes as "authentic" now is just dead-ness, it doesn't add anything to our experience of life. Art should be accessible and we should be accessible to art.
There are, of course, great and interesting things going on. But very rarely do I sense that "rift" Heidegger goes on about. And I am nostalgic for that, even if being 23 in 2010 in North America means that I've only ever experienced echoes and reproductions of it.