art as seizure

(In search of better words, cont.)

Here’s a claim: The way we speak about art mirrors the kind of art we speak about. Presently the art and language held in favour by the establishment cultivates and celebrates the intellectual. Art is hereby reduced to a branch of philosophy.

There is nothing wrong with philosophy. But reducing art to a cerebral activity is to overlook many of art’s most important – the most important -qualities. Treating art as philosophy is furthermore a way of making art inaccessible for the general public.

Bill Viola, still from: The Sleep of Reason (1988) © Bill Viola Studio

Fortunately Chris Townsend has found a way of expressing this dilemma, in a text on the artist Bill Viola he writes:

Bill Viola’s emphases on affect, on pleasure in looking and the pursuit of profound spiritual meanings is largely at odds with the dominant tenets of the institutional forces – such as museums, universities and art colleges, and governmental organizations – that have increasingly shaped the public reception of art in the West for half a century.

Bill Viola is concerned with the meaning of art, or more strictly with the role of art in life’s continuing, and never satisfied search for meaning.

Some say (actually this is the common saying in todays art-world) it’s no longer fashionable to look for meaning in art, apperantly (A situation that solicits – begs for – the question of what much contemporary art might be providing instead, since it’s clearly not concentrated with either visual pleasure or the elevation of technic for its own sake, not even with an effective critique of history).

For Bill Viola sight and sound are privileged experiences.


Bill Viola, Amrican (b.1951)


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