from the river . . . 7/30/92 5:16PM My discussion earlier of the alchemical nature of art

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from the river . . . 7/30/92 5:16PM My discussion earlier of the alchemical nature of art is by itself tautological. That is, it might appear from that presentation as if I meant that world and art are precisely the same things, that their content is the same. Obviously this cannot be the case, there is something to differentiate them or there would be no point in art at all. The perception/cognition of art apparently provides something, some form of sustenance, that cannot be found in the "natural" world (that is the world "untouched" by human hands. The meaning of the quotation marks will become clear directly). Clearly, It is during the transformation of world into art and art into world that this sustenance forms. Referring to this so-called alchemical process, furthermore, is really nothing other than pointing it out. It does little to explain the essential truth that is within and without art; how that truth comes about, what it might mean. It is also monstrously general. It leaves open, or perhaps simply opens, the questions of perception/cognition, the relationship of the artist to his work, the relationship of the work to other works, the relationship of the artist to society . . . all the important questions, in other words, that normally are thought of as the purview of aesthetics. 7/31/92 5:04 PM If aesthetics is not to degenerate into the realm of what I call mere concept it must always point to something outside itself: this is what it at least pretends to do, of course, in its fundamental concern with "art." Aesthetics must do more than this, however, it must provide for the artist a method of understanding himself in relation to his art, and then the understanding of that unified duality_himself and his work_in relation to the society in which it is embedded. This is not to say that it is the task of aesthetics to reconcile an artist to society: an artist might very well be of necessity alienated completely and incontrovertibly from his society, yet he still must survive if he is to make art. 8/1/92 12:41AM It may be said also, and with as much truth, the he must make art if he is to survive. I would at this point recognize aesthetics as itself a process of coming to understand "art" and recognize furthermore that there are a multitude of "aesthetics," to very few of which have I had a systematic introduction, not to mention training. My own aesthetics, then, undoubtedly attempts to reinvent the wheel, but at the least it is offered from the viewpoint of one immersed in the act of art, rather than in the act of the thought of art. Of course some might say that this disqualifies me from an "objective" view of art. I disdain objectivity in that sense. "Survival" is more than merely existing: it is a spiritual state of growing-toward-fulfillment. Merely existing is a prerequisite, and difficult enough, but it is only a prerequisite. True artistic survival demands constant attention to the work in progress. Ultimately, the work in progress is the artist himself. from the river by Jim Smitherman, Baker LA.


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