Written Friday, December 21, 2018
A Message of Peace
By (artist) Jon Keppel
I am not here to get you to think in any certain way or feel things that you do not already feel. I am not a change agent in this presentation. I do not have any impact on your consciousness one way or another. I will not set you free so to speak. I am not the answer.
Consider for yourself that awareness may be an art practice, a way of doing art. Or perhaps more aptly stated, consider allowing art to emerge in your life as both deep and light epiphany.
If it can be the case that art is awareness and awareness, art, what does that mean? This is a question that I offer to you. It is in this sense something that is available through love that circulates throughout our entire being, both as a self and a universal flow.
How did this come to be? Or rather how did we become aware of it? See the difference there? It becomes real for us once we are aware of it. Without awareness that which we are of does not emerge. It is my contention that we are of art.
The development of the art object deals plainly with illusion. The arrival of the concept or idea over the object as with conceptualism in the 1960s was a continuation of the development that is in art. Consider now that art is in culture throughout. It spans the globe and rightly always has even though some instances may not have been represented in full on what could be called the world stage or collective consciousness.
To continue this development, or revealing and reconnecting, of art, I propose the notion of putting the person above the object and the concept or idea. The person is and becomes the art. And yet as we say this, the person is a macro and microcosm of the limitlessness of the cosmos, the furthest inner and farthest outer extents whereby a through-spirit having to do with personhood radiates meaningfully through objects, ideas, actions and times respectively.
This is a development that really has probably been going on since before humanity as we know it existed on earth. For centuries there were proverbial paintings and sculptures made in many lands. The Greeks, the Romans, the Renaissance and so much out beyond that in so many regions and varying cultures helped to bring this about. The very development of a tool or technology as with axes made of stone are found to be a reflection of a change in awareness, of consciousness and understanding within the human beings of that time. Tools and technologies used to make paintings and sculptures of the very most rudimentary nature were still vast openings in the nature of mind as it related to the phenomenal field. It was an understanding which was reflected in material and expounded upon in material. But the real development, the primary arising in the wielder was a profound illumination of the heart and head of the human beings at the time.
Nothing has changed in this regards for us. We continue to discover, uncover and reveal what is to a large extent already there within and around us. This past century, in a kind of joking way, genius in the life of a man named Marcel Duchamp switched our understanding of what constitutes an art object. Famously, Duchamp took a urinal, a commonplace pre-manufactured industrial product and entered it into an art exhibition to stand as art via his choice as an artist, making it into art through that choice and awareness and thus bringing it into view to us as art as well. This, I feel, is the contribution of Duchamp.
From it we can extrapolate that not only is such a common object art when it is in a gallery setting but that every common object in life is already art by its nature of being an object of our awareness, an awareness that is a kind of art-ing itself. From this time, starting from around 1913, it is my contention that a grand divestment of energies back into the everyday world has come about guided by the development of art that has brought our awareness of art away from being something primarily of a static or plastic nature, an art object or even a concept or idea connected to an object but rather a way of thinking and as such awareness itself that becomes the art of our time using the time of this writing and publication in 2018/2019 as a way of commemorating, affirming and reaffirming this realization. This I feel should lead and in fact does lead to placing the existent nature and development of people as art for the foreseeable present and future.
This I feel comes at a most necessary and pivotal time for us as a culture, a global culture of global citizens facing hardships and atrocities such as climate change, the refugee situation, human rights, hunger, poverty, education and total existential freedom around the world. Before I say more on how I feel it has come that an understanding that awareness is art and that it is in fact the art of our times in a very powerful way I want to give further testimony to the many practitioners and practices that emerged over the last century that make clear how art is crying out to be made one with life as the world through people as a radiating facet of a living ecosystem that circulates throughout the entire Youniverse.
In the 1950’s musician and thinker John Cage brought to our attention how every sound could be music, that even traffic in everyday life could be thought of as a kind of music or the sounds of the stirrings of an audience could also be music just as much as what was going on on stage. Music in this way circulated throughout all sound. But just as much it was up to the way in which you listened. That was the genius of John Cage, to help us to understand that if we opened our heart and head to what music could be, that it was all around us, already populated in our world as a living reality far out beyond our conventions of instrumentation and theatrical presentation.
In the 1960’s Allan Kaprow with what became known as Happenings began to coax the zeitgeist of art further out from conventions like not only brick and mortar galleries and museums but the mental models that were upheld by institutionalization of such sites. Folks began gathering at hotel pools for activities that were performative but without a narrative structure like what many times happened on a stage and in the sense that they were happening out in public spaces or quasi-private spaces such as hotels, they were all the more a part of everyday life. A movement of this bringing together of genius and the nature of lived reality as art was continuing to move together.
Also, in the 1960s Andy Warhol created his well known Brillo Boxes which looked exactly like their commercial counterpart thereby reducing the differentiation of art with everyday real objects to zero. There was no telling them visually apart. Arthur Danto made comment on this fact and also coined the term Artworld in a philosophical writing of that decade. Again the boundary, which was always a boundary of understanding or constitution, was merging with the real of that era. Movements in land art and conceptualism continued to bring art out of the gallery and into the world so to speak. The art went from art object immemorial, like a painting or sculpture to one of ideas and concepts.
Eventually in the 1990’s relational aesthetics emerged with perhaps most notably a work like Untitled (Free) by Rirkrit Tiravanija where simply Thai food was made and offered to folks to eat. Art had become the very eating of food as a meal. Social practice and social movements in art that started in the prior decades and continued to develop, emerged at the turn of the century and continue to this day to be high impact aspects of art as we know it.
Of course we know that art objects have persisted and that concepts in art are still widely held in high regard. But what of this development truly? What of this movement into life itself? What of the way that lives can be taken up as the work itself as with for example Ai Wei Wei working through a movie like Human Flow that gives us insight into the refugee crisis we are facing as a global community? Or what of a local artist that I know named Shani Richards who creates or co-creates art experiences and aspects of events that promote voting, an actually lived act, not a theatrical act but a real act with real-world meaning and positive consequences? Do we not see that art is becoming deeds, deeds in life? Countless instances in-between these signposts signify this development and support this claim. This is what initially brought me to proclaim that art is the craft of life. I saw so much potential and had found so much impartial and objective evidence for such an approach given the development of art in the Western cannon. And in fact this development had the Western cannon being reintroduced into the flow of all arts everywhere thereby doing away with the power structures and bureaucracy that are sometimes emergent in the world of art.
Art had become something literally of the people in body, mind, soul, and spirit. Artists like Marina Abramovic had helped this along with works like The Artist Is Present at MoMA where she sat opposite an empty chair that was occupied by countless visitors to simply look them in the eye and be there with them. What could be a more honest and open testimony and sure sign of art as life itself? Art had, in that instance as well, become simply the living presence within us all, brought to our awareness.
We see then in light of this understanding that has developed over the past century that art is with us all and is available to us everywhere and at all times, as our very lives themselves. Of course traditions like paintings and sculpting will persist as they should. We should never forget our ancestors and generations of skilled practitioners that helped to pave the way for our understanding. Even to do it today can, I am sure, be an enlightening enterprise and one of value and merit. However, let us begin to really get in touch with what the spirit so to speak of the art development is crying out for us to understand and take into practice: that we the people are art. That our lives are art. That our world (the earth for instance and all the human beings residing here) is art, all of it, the entire thing.
In this sense it is my proposition that awareness as art is the significant art of and in our times that can bring us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and help us to affect positive change in the world we live in and are a part of. Instead of the social, cultural or political being only addressed or primarily addressed in what we know as exhibitions, what if we learn to incorporate actions in our lives as they stand beyond the gallery and museum as a way of bringing in positive change and right conduct into the way we live our lives? I see this as being the logical next step in the developing artistic puzzle where art places the person now beyond the object or idea. In that sense then we have an entirely new expanse unfold, one that is already happening but it is now simply that our awareness of it is brought into play and thus makes these realizations more and more real for us and in that sense positively impactful and helpful. I see folks like yogini and psychotherapist Ashley Turner and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe as exemplary artists of our time for their pursuit of what might be called right action and personal appreciation and development in tandem with the reality we live in and are a part of. But just as much we are each artists in that we each connect with awareness every day of our lives. Art as wellness is also significant in this regard as well. Art in this way is also a kind of relationship, a relationship with ourselves, others and the world at large. There is no person alive today that does not get effected directly or indirectly by awareness.
It is my proposition that we can learn to craft and co-craft our lives through practices like meditation and mindfulness that help us to be more aware of ourselves, our lives and the world within and around us. I say this is not only good for us as individuals but that it also will help us answer world problems as well. In conjunction with awareness, meditation and mindfulness, I see practices like conversation, writing and reading to be profound instances of actually doing the work of awareness when it becomes a matter of doing rather than being though both are infinitely important. Awareness is the spark that makes understanding possible and understanding is the foundation for action to be taken in support of communing with a deeper sense of value and meaning in our own lives and life itself. And out beyond these aforementioned practices there are of course just simply deeds in life. We must learn to accept ourselves and to love ourselves truly. The work we do to inform, educate and inspire ourselves on an ongoing basis nourishes these deeds we help to enact, supplementing, supporting and illuminating these deeds with meaning and value that I feel are essential to fully realizing human life. Once we become more accustomed to being more aware at a fundamental level we can begin to become more and more aware of the world around us and begin to affect positive change as we change ourselves. The way we think is a way of understanding ourselves. Learning to listen is a key element as curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist has intimated.
It could be that awareness is a kind of creation. It reveals what is already there within us but also brings it to light so to speak and makes it more and more real and able to affect positive change. I hope very much to be able to continue to unpack these ideas and promote living actions that themselves promote this epiphany and just as important its lived experience. I find that loving kindness, compassion and non-judgment are very important factors for this. And I believe that we can all be artists if we choose to be. There is innate goodness in us, we have only to reveal it as such to let it shine. Sometimes that happens naturally and sometimes we have to help intentionally to bring it out. Either way, it shines and is made real in our conducting of it. That is important. We can be the masterpiece. In the end we the people are great art on par excellence with all creation, with all the cosmos, in our own special and humble way. We matter.
Note: This text and its sentiment has been the culmination of a lifelong endeavor to contribute meaningfully to the nature of art in the collective conscious. I hope it serves you well. Take care. Thank you to RCP for being there/here.
Copyright © Jon Keppel 2018 All Rights Reserved