The Bradley Show. Episode 5. An Interview with Nick Hudson and Chris Howgate from The Academy Of SunJanuary 27, 2018
Daniel & Clara: An Interview in 12 parts. Part 2: A Revolution in Progress: From First Artistic Steps to One+OneFebruary 24, 2018
A year is a long time, and yet each month easily fades into the next. Art is made and interviews happen, just like the sun appears to rise and fall. Life grinds on.
As life grinds, and we grind away, we collect a protective shell of repetitions: a set of formulas and reliable rituals to protect us from the elements. Yet before long that which is supposed to protect us from the grinding, becomes the grinder. Our rituals become stagnant, and our minds dulled.
What if we could recover a vital and experimental energy that could invigorate the stagnant and dull? Not in one swoop, but simply by grinding in a slightly different direction, or slightly off-kilter.
In attempting this year long interview, a collaboration between Exploding Appendix and Daniel & Clara, we, of course, endeavour to do many of those things you’d expect an interview to do. And yet, as a long durational exercise, and test of endurance, we expect it to grind slightly off-kilter. ‘Interview’ may become ‘discussion’, ‘prose’ may become ‘poetry’ and rogue elements may be littered throughout. As such, we hope, at least, that this interview goes some way towards capturing the restless experimental energy that animates Daniel & Clara’s emerging oeuvre.
Artists Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais have been collaborating since 2011 on moving image work, performance and photography. Since meeting they have worked exclusively together seeing themselves as two halves of a single artist. Alongside their work as artists they also publish their own magazine Film Panic. Throughout 2018 they will be collaborating extensively with Exploding Appendix as resident artists and, alongside this interview, will be collaborating on events, screenings and film projects.
Part one of this interview sets the scene with an extended discussion on the theme of avant-gardism and the nature and purpose of art.
Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais – The Underground Film Studio
Bradley Tuck: In October 2017 Exploding Appendix had its official launch party (the website had been up since January, but we officially launched in October). We decided to entitle the event ‘The Future of the Avant-Garde’ and we arranged a panel discussion on that topic. It seemed a fitting way to introduce Exploding Appendix to the world. In many ways the heritage and continuing development of avant-gardist currents is a pre-occupation of mine, and many of those I collaborate with. You can often, at bare minimum, find at least a whiff of the avant-garde in all my work. I would say that the same is true of you too.
The term, of course, evokes the military front-line, those who, in every great cultural war, stand out in front, face their enemy directly and, as a result, often confront the greater risks and bare the greater casualties. In art this tends to bring to mind the artistic innovators of the early twentieth century (Constructivists, Futurists, Dadaists, Surrealists, Situationists, and so on), who approached their art and the world with an innovative and ambitious courage. I would suggest that these experimental ambitions have been a fundamental inspiration, in some way or other (sometimes in very different ways), to all of us. Would you agree?
The Quest For The Cine-Rebis (2016 _ Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais)
Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais: Absolutely! Yes. The entire history of art and human creativity is our central passion, and the experimenters, explorers and subversives are the ones who have been our guiding lights!
We like the term Avant-Garde, we think that the defining characteristic of avant-garde art is that it challenges the dominant forms and questions the dominant ideologies of the time in which it is created. The association with the military is also interesting, maybe implying a certain level of discipline, a focused intention and an assertive action, moving towards unexplored territories or areas of potential danger. The danger is for the current state of things, the threat is to the status quo. The Avant-Garde artists certainly wouldn’t be symbolized by a state military though, it is more appropriate to think of them as a band of rebels or guerrilla fighters.
There should be a clear distinction between historical avant-garde and contemporary avant-garde though, the historical avant-garde is now, of course, history and in the past. On the whole it has been absorbed into the hierarchical system of how culture is organized and communicated by the history writers. The contemporary avant-garde, on the other hand, is a living organism – it does not have the support of the galleries, funders, museums, historians and critics etc. and most likely won’t do until the artists are dead – while alive the true avant-garde artists are a threat, when dead their subversiveness can be tied up neatly within one of the acceptable narrative forms used to contain an artists life.
There are many artists now creating work that at one time would have been considered avant-garde, but because they are making it now and not 50 years ago or whenever then it’s not truly avant-garde, it is simply an uncreative regurgitation of the past that can be easily packaged, sold and consumed.
We think that our films are avant-garde because they can not be easily incorporated into the system of categorisation used by critics, historians and galleries etc. – we don’t make work that sits easily in the either/or, left/right duality system of 20th century critical thought. Even though our work is rooted firmly in various artistic traditions we do not adhere to the frameworks and processes of these traditions, we hope to build on some of them but to move beyond them. The art of the past should be used as a tool for us to go deeper in our own exploration, we shouldn’t reject the past but we should also be wary of holding it up on a pedestal.
Our work explores the position of both/and, we are interested in neither conforming nor hitting against the system – in a way we are attempting to create a third position, so maybe in this sense the lone warrior would be a better symbol than the guerrilla fighters. Rather than a band of rebels against the state, we are mystic warriors on a personal quest. We are making work that reaches for a place of fluidity and transformation – that does not try to impose on the viewer our ideologies but to create a space where their own can materialize from within themselves.
The dominating value system on contemporary art and art cinema is to see how much it comments on current socio-political situations, ideally in a digestible form – on the whole most so called political art is preaching to the converted. Most contemporary art attempts to do the job that journalism should be doing but reports very little and reveals even less, treating everyone in a patronising way. For us this is the worst place art has been in its entire history.
Our work is deeply political but we make no statements within the work, no commentary on society, we do not put ourselves in a position of opposing anyone or anything. What we do is give value to the uniqueness of each individual, to our personal thoughts and feelings and create art that tries to bring living images into consciousness for both us as creators and for those viewing our work.
The Kingdom Of Shadows (2016 _ Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais)
Bradley Tuck: I think I am less of a ‘mystical warrior’ than you are. I like some artists that work like that. Alejandro Jodorowsky never fails to amaze me. Yet, I would say that my work is more overtly political than yours. Nonetheless, I certainly get what you mean about some political art being patronising. I especially cringe when people create work where they assume they are right, assume the way they view the world can be taken for granted and simply state their beliefs as if they are common sense without arguing for them.
I like to create work that explores political ideas, although I do try and avoid simply preaching to the converted. I like to create work that frustrates easy ideological schisms. I like to take ideas from all over the place, but use them for emancipatory ends. When you open yourself up to taking ideas from all over the place you stop simply preaching to the converted. Not that preaching to the converted is an inherently bad thing. Jeremy Corbyn, for example, is very good at mobilising his base. He may persuade some people too, but I think his main power is mobilising his base, which, in a way, is preaching to the converted. I can appreciate this, preaching to the converted is sometimes a good thing. However, that is not my particular focus.
My interest is more about frustrating these ideas than simply advocating them. That doesn’t mean I want to give up on my underlying political commitments. In fact, I think engaging in a broad plethora of ideas can help strengthen your argument, sharpen your tactics and enable you to get a better grasp on the world. At best it helps you know your enemies, but I think it can do more than that. There is a leftist meme page that I really quite enjoy called “Quotes from Capitalists that inadvertently provide support for communism”. I think it demonstrates something very interesting, that is, that political statements don’t have one single interpretation. We can take ideas from all over the place, even from people we vehemently disagree with. Besides, Marx was deeply influenced by Adam Smith, Ricardo and Hegel. The twentieth century New Left was influenced by Martin Heidegger, Freud and Nietzsche. I find myself fascinated by the work of Ayn Rand, not because I agree with her, but because I can see strains in her work that can be used to argue for things she would have been deeply opposed to.
This is why, today, I almost see debate itself as an avant-garde method. The avant-garde often prized provocation as a tactic, but provocation alone doesn’t persuade people and if you are not careful you can easily become a bogeyman for the establishment. Your provocation gets used to scare people into accepting the status quo. So the provocation has to go beyond provocation, it has to become part of a discourse. The centrist establishment often likes to peddle easy narratives that polarise people or turn people into bogeymen which are meant to make us run scared into its arms. That is not to say that there aren’t genuine dangers outside of the political centre, but I reject the horseshoe theory of political ideologies. The idea that centrists can’t be extreme strikes me as absurd, some of the more flagrant warmongers and anti-democratic authoritarians have been centrists. In many ways I welcome debate outside of the purview of your average BBC Question Time debate, whilst also acknowledging the dangers that come with it.
Debate does often feel dangerous, frightening and unpredictable. That is because it is, you never know what is going to happen in a debate and you may encounter views you find abhorrent, or, at worse, you end up inadvertently promoting views that you find abhorrent (so there are genuine risks). But I also think that, especially at a time where support for the establishment centre is collapsing and there is a crisis of legitimacy, we do need an ‘avant-garde’ of ideas, those who can look on the world with courage and explore the possibilities that our current situation brings.
This is why the avant-garde (or front-line) metaphor is useful. The front-line is only one part of the ‘full army’, but it has an important role of being the first to enter the fray. After that there will be other factions of ‘the army’ that will be needed that will push what was avant-garde into the mainstream. Of course, in the process of doing this there is the risk of recouperation, where once subversive acts are drained of their power. However, I don’t think all mainstream art is like that, or has to be like that. For example, Twin Peaks: The Return is mainstream, it had a big budget, was on a major TV network, and was appreciated and lauded by people all over the world. There was no need to wait until after the artists were dead for their work to be appreciated. Yet it was hugely experimental and really pushing the boundaries of TV. A world where Twin Peaks: The Return can be mainstream is an exciting world to live in.
This is why, whilst I like the idea of the avant-garde, we should avoid fetishising its marginality. I don’t like avant-garde art because it is marginal. I like avant-garde art because it is good, or does something I admire. I like avant-garde art because I want to change the mainstream. There are also many things that are marginal that deserve to be. Being fringe is not good in and of itself. This raises an interesting contradiction on the issue of avant-gardism today, in many respects the romantic idea of the genius who remains undiscovered until after their death is mainstream. Avant-gardism, as an idea, is mainstream, but at the same time, to my mind, there is still a need for something called the ‘avant-garde’.
Savage Witches (2012 _ Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais)
Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais: We’re not entirely sure that your work is more overtly political than ours, we’d suggest that our work is equally political, the difference is maybe more that you are interested in the subject of politics and in particular the clash of ideologies, it seems to be the main subject of your work, whereas our subjects are something else, the political dimension of our work is in its form and in the very fact that the work exists.
One of the things we love about your work, and we have been lucky enough to read some of your unpublished scripts, is that you deal with multiple ideological viewpoints and you place them alongside each other, sometimes flipping them over to reveal something in them that may not be the accepted understanding. From the works we’ve read, there isn’t a sense that you are trying to make a definitive statement or offer a fixed answer but more to unearth new ideas and reveal new possibilities in existing ideas. This creates a sense of a journey that is in progress, a breeding ground for new ideas to emerge and the possibility for readings beyond your own intentions. Your approach has always been very inspiring to us.
We are doing something similar in our films but maybe operating on a different frequency. If, generally speaking, you are about ideas, then we are about images, the images that emerge from within us and also the images of our culture that exist around us. Our quest is for meaningful images, images that are alive. Our intention in our films is to create a space where the viewer can engage with these images, and also a space for their own to emerge. We want our films to be living mutating organisms that become something different for each viewer and even each time they are viewed.
In regards to the problem of people fetishising and romanticising the artist as a marginal figure, we fully agree with your comments. It’s an outmoded narrative that actually once had a positive function but has now become a tool for sublimating artists. There was a time, maybe 100 years ago or more, when romanticising the struggle would have been a survival tactic for the artist, a way of preserving themselves against hardship and taking charge of the situation – a way of maybe subverting the images of both poverty as well as wealth and power at that time. But to project this idea of the struggling outsider artist onto someone living today becomes a form of control and censorship.
We have had first-hand experience of people projecting this fantasy onto us when we have been in need of help, taking our difficult situation of not having money for food and somewhere to live and responding with comments about how romantic it is and ideas about how struggle is needed in order to be able to be creative. We of course entirely reject this notion and anyone who has been homeless or lived with poverty knows that it does not create fertile ground for creativity.
So for us the marginality of the artist and the struggle to create work is not just an idea but a difficult reality that we know all too well. It is not always easy to talk about because on one side you have these projections and on the other the aggression of those who think that it is your own fault for not conforming.
Why our work in particular is marginal rather than breaking through to more audiences is a complex and multifaceted problem. But we do feel that our work is accessible to anyone if it is given the chance. We did not choose to be outsiders in any way, it just seems that what we create when we follow our own instincts is out of step with the dominant current tastes. So that’s just how it is, the task we have then is to explore what we can do about it, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this position and how can we move from here?
Someone like David Lynch is an exception in many ways, to be an experimental filmmaker making mainstream TV is a triumph and it can give us some hope, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that he is a straight white American male making work about masculine conditions – that doesn’t devalue his films at all for us, but it is a fact of our society that those things will always make it easier to be accepted and given a platform.
But anyway, on the whole, more than avant-garde we simply think of ourselves as artists, that is the role we identify with and we take it very seriously. It is not something other, not something we head towards or aspire to, it is our daily work. We think a lot about the role and the purpose of art both historically and in the present, our reflections and investigations of these questions are in all of our films to a lesser or greater extent. We’d be really interested to hear what your thoughts are about the purpose of art and what you think the role of the artist is? And also how it is different to other roles in society such as politicians, theorists and thinkers?
Behind the scenes of Savage Witches (2012 _ Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais)
Bradley Tuck: I find it hard to provide a clear definition of the purpose of art and the role of the artist. There are so many different types of art and very different artists. I am tempted to simply say that it takes all sorts. Art comes in many forms with very different agendas and that is fine.
On the other hand, I do think it is worth attempting some sort of answer. There is, of course, art and artists that I really don’t like or find pretty redundant, so I think it is worth going beyond a mere ‘anything goes’ standpoint, even if this winds up being more revealing of myself than artists as a whole.
There is an impulse that runs through a whole range of cultural activities and is often an essential ingredient of many ‘cultural revolutions’. Take, for example, the Renaissance. In attempting to overcome the dogmatism of scholasticism, Renaissance thinkers persistently lauded the layman. To quote Ernst Cassirer
‘Petrarch had felt it necessary to attack vigorously the pretensions of a philosophical and academic training, proudly professing and asserting his ignorance of such matters. And Leonardo da Vinci, too, fought constantly against authority and tradition. As a result of this battle, a new idea of knowledge begins to dawn upon him, an idea towards which he has been groping and for which he must lay the methodological foundations. Leonardo divided thinkers into two opposed groups: the original discoverers, and the imitators and ‘commentators’. The first great minds – the ‘primitives’, to use Leonardo’s term – recognized only one pattern and the one model for their work: experience. […] From the Brothers of the Common Life, Cusanus had learned and adopted the principles of lay piety, the devotio moderna. To this he now adds the new ideal of lay knowledge. Cusanus dedicated one of his most important works to the presentation and justification of this ideal. Its very title suggests the basic thought: to the three dialogues ‘De sapientia’, ‘De mente’, and ‘De staticis experimentis’, Cusanus gave the title Idiota. In all three, the layman, the untutored one, emerges as the teacher of both the orator and the philosopher.’ (Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. pp. 48-49).
The fact that Petrarch, Da Vinci and Cusanus lauded the laymen, primitives and idiots is fascinating, yet the idea of the wisdom of idiots is not particular to the Renaissance. It can be found in Socrates, the cynics, Jesus, the Anabaptists, the Ranters, the twentieth century Avant-garde, hippies and punks and many more. This perspective of the ‘noble idiot’ has been the lifeblood of cultural innovations of all sorts. Artists from Leonardo Da Vinci to Paul Cézanne (in very different ways) sort through art, to view the world afresh. Much of the historical avant-garde sort to disrupt our easy taken-for-granted perspectives. Art ruptures our everyday assumptions and learned prejudices. In this respect, it’s very subversive.
This is something that I would say runs throughout my own work at some level. I am very interested in creating experiences which challenge us to see the world afresh and rethink our assumptions and prejudices. I don’t think I am alone in this, I think the same could be said of you and much of the history of art.
This installs within the history of art an antagonistic dimension that can be summed up with the punk moto ‘Rip it up and start again’. The perspective of ‘the idiot’ often requires us to abandon learned assumptions and start again.
This, we could say, sets ‘the idiot’ apart from ‘the fool’. If the idiot is the untrained mind that can abandon the prevailing orthodoxies of cultured knowledge to see the world afresh, the fool is the dupe, the ‘fooled’, the one who is all-too-cultured, all-too invested in a particular set of uncritical assumptions. Fools like to think of themselves as wise and knowledgeable, but they are merely parroting accepted wisdom. In this respect, idiots and fools are not the same, but opposites.
Nonetheless, we shouldn’t fetishize this perspective of the idiot. Whilst there is something valuable about the perspective of the idiot, it can easily become relativistic, nihilistic and pretty dull. There is something important about transcending our ‘idiocy’ in order to ‘say something’, to build on old ideas and make some claim, or some political demand (and so on). In this respect we need to risk becoming fools.
Furthermore, there is also a kind of idiot that approaches fool-ishness because they have assumed a kind of neutrality that is no neutrality at all. They profess to see things with fresh eyes, but have assumed a whole range of assumptions. In this respect it is not sufficient to simply pitch one against the other. We can never fully escape our ‘fool-ishness’, we are born into a context and persistently carry a set of presumptions with us. One of the things I like to do is frustrate these assumptions rather than claim to be completely neutral.
In this respect, much great culture is born of an important dialectic between the idiot and the fool. Idiots, because there is often a need to unlearn our assumptions. Fools, because our assumptions can’t be simply forgotten.
This is not specific to art, it runs throughout theory, politics and all those aspects that mediate our social life. Maybe what distinguishes art, in this context, is the role of form.
I would reject the formalist assumption that you could turn a painting upside down and it wouldn’t matter, this strikes me as far too reductionistic. Yet I would also reject ignoring the form and focusing merely on the content of the work. My emphasis would be some symbiosis of form and content.
Your work seems driven by a very exciting experimental energy. This energy tends to manifest as an experiment in form, sometimes this is, or at least feels, very abstract, at other points it is clear that it is exploring and playing with folklore and mythology. These films may be political, they may even be deeply political, but I don’t think they are overtly political. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I wouldn’t want all the art I ever encountered to be overtly political.
Overtly political art directly addresses political issues and explores political themes. Some of this may be ambiguous and elusive, but that itself doesn’t diminish the fact that it is overt. Not all overtly political art is propaganda, not all propaganda is overtly political.
Other art may be deeply political but you wouldn’t notice it at first. The politics of the art can be covert, implicit, or suggestively implied. For example, I would suggest that Disney films were actually political, but I wouldn’t call them overtly political, in the same way an Eisenstein film, or Chris Marker film, or a Michael Moore documentary would be.
At other points art becomes political because art is itself political. Figures such as William Morris and Oscar Wilde were certainly overtly political at points, but I also believe that they viewed art as something intrinsically political. For them, something like universal luxury was an important political ambition. In this respect, you could understand William Morris’ wallpapers as political, even though they are not overtly political.
Herbert Marcuse also emphasised the political character of the ‘art for art sake’ rally-cry. For him,
“art is ‘art for art sake’ inasmuch as it reveals tabooed and repressed dimensions of reality; aspects of liberation.” (Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension, P.19)
This Marcusian account of art would seem to link the arts and crafts movement and aesthetism of the 19th century to the avant-gardism and counter-culture of the 20th. The Dadaists, Surrealists, and counter-culture of the 60s and 70s were sometimes overtly political, but it was also political in the antagonistic way it set out to offend the tastes of petite bourgeois moralists. Films such as Un Chien Andalou or Pink Flamingos seem political without easily being described as political with a capital P.
So I think it is worth distinguishing art that is political with a capital P and art that is political with a small P, art that is overtly political and art that is political in less overt ways. Some of my work is more overtly political, at other points its more about getting a feel of something, or trying to excite a particular reaction in its audience. Affect matters to me. Art that sacrifices affect for conceptualism tends not to excite me, or it excites me in the same way an intellectual thesis might excite me.
Art that tends to focus too much on entertainment tends to bore me. There seems to be something about frustrating your audiences desires and not simply fulfilling them that tends to make for a far more interesting viewing experience. It takes all sorts to make a world, but for me, and my approach to art, affect is entangled in the symbiosis of form and content.
So this brings me back to the panel discussion on the avant-garde we organised in October. Part way through I realised how political the discussion had gotten and how little questions of art and formal experimentation were being raised. This leads me to wonder whether there are any frontiers still to be won at a formal and aesthetic level. I can certainly see how art can be challenging when it explores ideas, but what about form? What about aesthetic techniques? Many of the aesthetic techniques and formal experiments of the historical avant-garde have become pretty mainstream and are commercially viable in ways they would not have been then. Techniques and formal experiments seem very easy to ‘recouperate’. Form, style and technique can easily be used by very different people for very different ends, which makes me wonder whether you think these things can be subversive today.
I would suggest that what constitutes subversion today has shifted from half a century ago. It has sometimes been said that the right won the economic war and the left won the cultural war. I have ambivalences about that phrase, but I think it captures something. The music and film industry will embrace many transgressions and taboos, yet its main threat isn’t from style or content, but from file sharing.
The establishment centre (and here I have in mind the Blairs and the Clintons of the world) seems a heady mix of fiscal conservatism and ‘diversity’ progressivism. The Blairite agenda combined equalities regulations, diversity policies and multicultural festivals, whilst promoting fiscal conservatism, aggressive foreign policies and the indefinite detention of migrants.
We live in a world where unions have largely been decimated, but where ‘equal opportunities’ in the workplace has become the norm. It may be that Lynch enjoys certain privileges on account of being straight, white and male, but many people across the political spectrum would oppose this. Corporations and big businesses have largely adopted diversity policies, however limited they may be.
Yet this establishment centre is falling apart and is unable to yield the power it once had during a booming economy. Here again there is a blurring of ideologies. Many of the new emerging right, including the far-right, readily flirt with counter-cultural rebellion, transgression and politically incorrect irreverence. They seem to be, in a strange way, a by-product of the successes of sixties counter-culture.
Likewise a particular ‘call-out-culture’ often associated with ‘the left’ strikes me as strangely Blairite, in the respect that Blair tended to favour cultural and managerial means (rather then socio-economical changes) for combating racism, sexism and so on. It is like this particular kind of call-out-culture imagines that they can abolish gender or end white supremacy simply by handing out ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders). This seems strikingly different from the materialist left of the 20th century.
It is in this context that I find myself fascinated by playing with and juxtaposing ideologies. I think we require a bit of playfulness to actually grasp what is going on and maybe in the process we might actually discover something subversive too.
Do you agree with this picture I have just painted? If so, how do you approach the issue of subversion in this context? Or is subversion even one of your aims? In what respect would you see your work as political? Where does form fit into your artistic vision?
Witches Walk (2012 _ Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais)
Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais: This is very interesting, you cover a wide range of subjects and areas and put forth some ideas in ways that are surprising and challenging to us. It’s hard to pick through and give a clear response, to even know if we agree or not – but it’s refreshing and stimulating to open these questions up in conversation, to take them seriously and never take them for granted.
Maybe it is best here for us to talk about our creative process. As this is a written conversation we are communicating in the sphere of ideas and intellect but making art for us always starts with images and never with an intellectual intention or position. The source for our images is intuition and visions. We regularly have visions – spontaneous moving images that present themselves before us while awake, over which we have no control, and it is these that we are fascinated by. Analysis and the exploration of ideas is always present, but it comes later in the process of working through the images. So thinking about the work in terms of subversion, or political or moral themes comes later, it is discovered through the process and after the work is finished.
We are not interested in being subversive for the sake of it, it’s not a conscious goal for us. But when one is dealing with pure imagination subversiveness is inevitable to a certain degree because the imagination operates by a very different set of rules to the society of which we are a part. So when our work is subversive it is simply because it is, because we surrender to the imagination and to creativity. This is our guiding force and it comes from a place that is beyond morals, politics and theory – it is a dimension of pure image, pure sensations and intuitions which arrive spontaneously. That is not to say that it all comes effortlessly – the images place a demand on us, they are always agents of personal transformation, daring us to move beyond our comfort zone and our own ideas of ourselves, like internal acts of subversion and overhauling. The work of the artists is to create within ourselves a receptivity of mind and develop a craft through which we can express and serve this creative spirit.
We believe that we should be thinking again as a society about the purpose of art and the role of the artists, the function seems to have got muddled and discredited. Sometimes when faced with a lot of contemporary art it feels that even artists have forgotten that the main arena of their activity is the imagination and creativity, and working with this material through forms, whether it be painting, dance, poetry, cinema etc.
Form is what effectively gives shape to the world, it is the container and carrier of our experiences. The greater the diversity of forms there is, the wider range of experiences are available to us. That is not to say that we cannot have experiences beyond the forms that are available to us in our culture, we regularly do in our selves and in our dreams for example, but we often fail to recognise these experiences and tend to devalue them, sometimes even repress and condemn them.
Taking the case of cinema, for example, its most widespread narrative form is the restorative three act structure. Why is this so popular? We think it is because it affirms a rational framework for the world where there is space for some irregularity and turmoil but ultimately things never get too out of hand because all is either restored at the end or dutifully lost if the transgression has been too grand. It is obvious how this form is restrictive but also why it might be so comforting. In cinema, the prevalence of this narrative form is such that sometimes other narrative forms are said to be non-narrative, or not even cinema! It’s a good example of how the lack of diversity in form dulls the understanding and creates a narrowing of experience, and of the world.
It is the work of the artist to search for the unique appropriate forms for the unique unfathomable experiences which arise for them in the course of their work. This is not something that can be known in advance, it can only be discovered by going into the unknown. So the artist has to put themselves at risk – risk of total confusion, failure, absurdity, ridicule, alienation, contempt, and irrelevance, in order to create any truthful work of art. There is no fixed way, no definitive approach. The work is never done, there are no limits that we can ever reach and the directions to pursue are multiple. We have to accept the possibility of total darkness, no purpose, no direction, no intention, no goal in order to be open, to listen, to see, to live. And it’s glorious! We exist, we create and it’s a miracle. Art’s function is about this.
The Quest For The Cine-Rebis (2016 _ Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais)