Suspicions and other abundances, looking toward glory ◄ Back

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I have artist friends who run like the devil from any domestic intervention of the philosophical or literary kind related to their goings and comings to and from the celebrated world of art. They think, or think that they think, with their hands, with their eyes, or with their whole body, including the paws we already have and those that spring from our desire to have more than we have. One might say that this naïve animal nature is made possible, with an old Modernist candour and with a pronounced horror (oh, God!) of the philosophical, and also commercial, spectres which float around the works of art (and the rest of the world), assigning irritating labels. Theory is like the brain – it’s a grey mishmash. I understand that real aversion to “literary foreigners,” well-intentioned lovers of works of art or mercenaries who really look like mercenaries, sprawling meanings that are hard to follow upon what appears to be a message from the body and soul at a vulnerable blink of the eye of the occasional customer. It just so happens that I am one of those creators of this type of derangements. I write in order to sharpen my eye. Or to unfocus it. Or in order to intoxicate in the most intense way possible that which I deem to be taken for appearances. What is supposed to be essence belongs to another type of vision, and I am not a big fan of those out-of-the-way grazing grounds. It’s true that I’ve always written and, as all writers, I cut corners, especially in that underground kitchen of quotations where we make the ramblings of our limited knowledge pass for hard and fast knowledge. To obscure with a gush of references is easy and I have an almost innate tendency to do just this, which only goes to prove “this” artificiality and superficiality. But I like the mad manipulation of the Word. Upon saying this, I am a step closer to leading the reader to the bait, because I will seem sincere enough. And you there, who are reading me, use and abuse of your mental reservations! But, in spite of incontinent reservations, I end up sympathizing with the words of artists who write, since their writing is a militant resistance to foreign labels. Not because they’re better than the others, but because they made the effort or had a talent for presenting us with a conversation that in some cases might even be enlightening. On the other hand, I mistrust works of art that bet on only one meaning, be it weak or strong, like betting on a race horse. They’re a bit like cartoons about politics; once the context changes, the effect is gone. From a more distant perspective, I admit that thematic jungles make me rave. A theme is not a message. And themes are the passageways making unexpected glories accessible. There are two “publications” that condense the majority of the themes that Western artists have helped themselves to – the Bible and Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Even other works that have served as roguish pretext for chisels and paint brushes derive, for the most part, from these two summas. The Ovidian text, only slightly canonical and poorly polished literally, does not raise controversial basic questions right off. Now, the Bible, an agglomeration of books that embed themselves one in the other, possess an affirmation (beyond multiple theological subtleties that result from the diversity of authors and époques in which they wrote) that is unavoidable for any artist – that affirmation is part of the Mosaic law and is as simple as jumping rope – “Thou shalt not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold!”, which is the same as saying, hey you, don’t get involved in making images, or else a guy might show up who is liable to adore it instead of directing his thoughts to that which is of interest – the One God and his Ten Commandments!!! Mmmmm! … This is food for thought! I realize two things immediately. The first realization is that images have always been instruments or forms of power, not the kind of power that has as its only, grotesque mission to destroy governments or to place friends in high places in order to earn a few more bucks. No sir! This power deserves the mistrust of the very Demiurge. In fact, until a not too distant past, art created “rivals” of God, before which people would bow and sacrifice life in various forms. Christians themselves succumbed to the temptation of icons, representing not only the Demiurge and its Incarnation, Jesus, but also delegating lesser competencies to a series of saints and holy persons. The result is (was?) the adoration of icons, statues, etc. And what’s most unsettling is that these images are commonly associated with miracles. All we have to do is cross the street a talk to a passer-by and testimony of this nature will reach our ears. But, my friends, don’t start to blaspheme such idols, which can range from an obscure rock, to a fearsome totem or to Our Lady of Fátima. Many of these artefacts are meant to recruit believers and beliefs in the name of the good and, most of the time, possess certified healing powers! Equally paradoxical, the second realization is that the bible is the most illustrated “corpus” ever, even if such a fate has been somewhat contested by orthodox views, be they Jewish or Christian, thereby leading intermittently to the so-called iconoclastic crises. These crises never end definitively, and the reasons behind the art that is made today derive, many times without awareness, from the waves of these unfinished controversies. Even if I let my arm be twisted and accept the Ten Commandments’ mandates, which give access to a purer and less contaminated experience of the Sacred, I am a fan of the images that are around, whether in the magnificent codices kept at the British Library (to cite but one…extremely vast…example!), or in the way people move and “produce” themselves on the street. Despite my suspicions, be they of theoretical quibbles or of appearances, I am on the look out for something which is called Doxa in Greek and Kavad in Hebrew. The word Doxa arises, sort of ill-fated but completely justified, in Parmenides’ Poem, as an alternate route to the way of Is (from Be, from the Unchangeable, etc.). That poem is the most venerable ancestor of all philosophy, therefore…respect! Its “opinion,” what we have on hand to sow. It is the enunciation and the collection of things in the best form possible. To me the Doxa is that which is good, that which “is cool”!, that which is really worthwhile, be it a tradition or an innovation. It is the wonder of things accumulated by the sub-god called man (in a very select version). But it is also Kavod, divine splendour (which includes the “world”). When a group of wise men called the Seventy, poured the New Testament for the first time into another idiom, Greek, they translated this term into Doxa. The translation may have betrayed the vaster meaning of Kavod, but the word into which it was translated also gained a wider meaning. In such a way that, from the Vulgate until today, instead of the original “opinion,” translators use the word “glory,” as something that is powerful, luminous, unavoidable. This exhibit is a humble, perhaps unsuccessful, quest for the Doxa. But all of the preceding words, with all their mouths containing hidden teeth, are in great part the intellectual and emotional context which accompanied the production of these works. In synthesis: these images withhold neither the horrors, nor the uneasiness, nor the calamities, nor the injustices but, even if this should appear to be pretentious, they are, above all, a quest for the intensity of the Doxa, which all époques offer to us residually and, why not, on a platter. I merely attempt to be neither ungrateful nor uncouth.

Pedro Proença

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FONSECA MACEDO - ARTE CONTEMPORÂNEA | 2017