by George Kosmopoulos
Some questions cannot be answered, they can only receive elusive stories that let each individual in the audience decide what answers she/he prefers. Most of the times, these questions are Escher-like pictures where the whole is far less than the sum of the parts. Does nature define culture or is it the other way round? Did the infinitely small come before or after the infinitely big? How do I change society if society keeps on framing me? Is it only human to make art?
Hans Op de Beeck made an exhibition in Brussels that your writer had a chance to see twice. There were different black and white water color paintings. A difficult technique on its own and yet it was the arrangement of paintings, not entirely symmetrically placed, where some compositions would talk to each other, that made it a good exhibition. It starts with a minimal painting of a cat, next to it in the same Nipponese simplicity there is one fish. Yours truly contemplated these paintings for a long time, proofing some affective reaction beyond self-aware reasoning. On the second visit though, the question was in mind: Why is it here that I feel I could be human?
Is there an ideology we could sink into that would explain this emerged societal abomination? Gnosticism would tell us that artists give their time to the rest of us so we can understand the ephemeral reality of the flesh; ‹Are we talking about epiphanies?› This question dismantles any possible answers that rely on shared thoughts on arts: only a minority of artists would pretend to do art for a higher purpose, so any answer relying on an ideology would be reductive of the multiplicity of human frames of reasons. There are no epiphanies in art, we only make them.
So far, we don’t know if art is the place for humanness. What I know is that what stays in our memories are interesting questions and stories. You just had both. You’ll remember everything until now.
Until this explanation: art is a compulsion, born out of a trauma. In prehistoric times, through unintended consequences of the confrontation between our biology and our environment, we found that we had more of what was distributed efficiently amongst all agents in our eco-system: time. We had a surplus of time, through which we got to teach each other how to make more surplus of time by being more productive. It is the shock of absolute free time, something outside primate ethology: boredom. Beyond grooming, beyond war for resources, when everything animals do has been done, what is left to do for a species? We’ve been thrown out of animal paradise, and we don’t know how we feel about it. That’s an answer, among all the possible reductive answers: Art is maybe the place for Menschlichkeit, but moments of Menschlichkeit are found in Art.