The Supreme Mother Nature and the fucking state of the art

Nature often makes us question whether we deserve her generosity. She’s so marvelous, so compassionate, so warming… Yes, she can also be deceiving and violent, but that’s what makes her so sublime. The fact that in this country, always socially and politically adrift, we manage to stay calm and collected, must be somehow related to the kindness of mother nature. We’re in December and I’m still napping on the beach under a clear blue sky and a warm sunny breeze; we’re in December and the house still smells like wet sand, the dogs are still enjoying the freshness of the ocean waves and I keep seeing things I’m sure my eyes are unworthy of: the lines of cormorants after the sunrise is the sort of vision I feel like a gift, each morning. What’s the downside of living in a country with such a privileged geographic position? Well… for instances the state of the art, but I’ll get there in a bit.

Living alone, by the sea, changed my relationship with nature. I first moved to a coastal village in 2012, after spending two years living abroad, in a cold and grey place named Glasgow. I then moved back to the city and, currently, it’s been roughly 1 year and a half since I moved to an even smaller village, by the sea. Through my daily walks in nature, with the dogs, there’s usually some sort of aesthetic experience that makes me reflect on conventional forms of art. Lately, I have the feeling I’m getting closer to understanding why so many philosophers, when referring to art, draw from nature. Also, I realize now, more than ever before, how important this proximity to nature is to creative processes, whether we’re talking about conventional forms of art or not.

One of the downsides of living in such an environment is how it clashes with the rule of the capital. The openness and freedom implied in a creative process clash with the expectations of the market economy. Institutions want cv’s, references, transdisciplinarity and headlines; institutions want physicality, dimension, a plan of conservation and a prospect of speculation. Art wants none of this. She wants to be untamed, forever chaotic and never objectified. 

Mother nature is like art. Both have no beginning or end, they’re not points of reference; both have rhythms but no frequency, no temperature but an heart beat. Both want to be collective experiences, without rules. But nature is one step ahead, because she needs no framing, no context, no rhetoric, no legitimacy, no grid. Art, on the other hand, although similar in nature, needs a platform and visibility, so she ends up framed, (de)contextualized, trapped in artistic or pseudo-scientific rhetoric, suffering under the height of authenticity. This happens in institutions, overall, but one place seems to be particularly demolishing to the nature of art: that place is the academy.

@ David Shannon-Lier, Three Body Problem.
@ David Shannon-Lier, The Big Dipper (Phad and Merak Replaced by Flashlights), Saratoga, Wyoming; from the project ‘Of Heaven and Earth’.
@ David Shannon-Lier, Reflection #3 (Setting Moon), Mesa, Arizona; from the project ‘Of Heaven and Earth’.
@ David Shannon-Lier, Untitled; from the project ‘Of Heaven and Earth’.
@ David Shannon-Lier, Untitled; from the project ‘Pictures of Earth’.
@ David Shannon-Lier, Untitled; from the project ‘Pictures of Earth’.

Academy was supposed to be THE place for experimentation and free thinking, but, most importantly (I think), academy was supposed to be a place untouched by the rule of capital. Once the market economy enters the academy, the production value is transfigured and what is expected of us ceases to be the production of something with original and innovative value to give way to the production of something with market value. What does this mean? For instances, that this value is contextualizable, understandable, coded, legitimating, etc. Basically, things need to have a purpose and that not only ruins the very own idea of experimentation, but it also makes art impossible.

Yesterday I witnessed an event, in the context of the academy, that would leave anyone bamboozled. Here’s the situation: an institution opens a PhD program in Arts that is promoted as progressive in the sense that it is trying to frame different ways of making PhD projects in the arts field (proper praxis oriented programs); students apply and are encouraged to choose the methodology that suits them better (T, T-P or P-T). Finally, after a long journey, a student is called to defend the project before a jury. This is the context of the public event I attended yesterday. As my friend was defending his project and the members of the jury were laying out their arguments, I remembered Meursault (from Camus L’Étranger), because that which I was witnessing was just as absurd.

Meursault resists the judgment of society not for the sake of any moral argument, but because he resists the absurd confrontation between its subjectivity and “an objectivity” that is foreigner to him. The sincerity that weights on Meursault highlights the hypocrisy of a society that condemns its transparency. As my friend was trying to convey the pertinence of a subjective and artistic PhD proposal, the jury kept fundamentally denying that such a thing could exist, although they were denying the very same thing they were judging. So how can one frame the intellectual honesty of a member of that jury who a priori is not open to such a debate.

My friend’s project was far from perfect, but he did an artistic proposal which fit the parameters the institution gave him, even if further along nothing was done to support the progressive aspect of what the institution was selling. In the end, the exhibition, which was supposed to form the core of the PhD and be publicly displayed, was not given any respect.

Just another sad day in the Academy…

 

 

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