Venture out to the vanishing point where art recedes into reality: no “words or things” exist on that horizon, only the visceral stuffs. Reality collapses back onto itself in a mirror image reflecting its own receding into the realm of “art.” Confronting this divide is like tumbling into a vacuum—no language, no images, and the only ‘feeling’ is vertigo. The threat of being pitched to one side or the other is real. At the horizon where art and life blur into a hellish sort of mist, the artist is forced to make some decision about which comes first, the art or the life. There is no correct handling of this dilemma, of course; and the realization of that just confuses matters further. It is a question of primacy, then: do our conceptual and aesthetic decisions prescribe the actions we perform as living humans, or does the life we lead predict the decisions made in the workshop or studio? Of course it’s never as absolute as this; then, it’s a battle of intensities. It’s a question of the degree to which we encourage or allow for the slippage of art into life (or vice versa). And then, maybe it’s just a matter of semantics here, but “allow for” and “encourage” suggest a whole other layer of complexity with which to address this relationship.
I have argued (in previous essays) that in order to truly analyze an artistic practice, the focus must remain on the generative dialogue surrounding and the codependent relationship developed between the artist, the object and the viewership. There, it was a matter of assessing the tension between cultivating desire for discourse and cultivating desire for additional objects. (this was discussed in terms of Foucault’s visibilities and articulabilities, and that finding the limits of each gave way to something like “truth.”) One process begets the next—not through the objects or discourse themselves directly, but the anxiety produced by the interrelationship. Here, I will propose that it is as crucial to examine the interrelationship between the artist’s life and their formal work. If one is to develop a decent analysis of any artist, one must first understand the balance they’ve formed between their system of ethics (as a social entity) and the work that they create for society. And maybe it was just a matter of semantics, but it really calls for an analysis of their particular attitude towards maintaining a balance between aesthetic and ethical values—or more specifically, whether the slippage between art and life is allowed for or if it is encouraged, and to what degree, and also which direction the flow goes for whatever their intentions (and then also, we must examine their intentions for allowing that slippage). It’s quite a daunting task and is rarely successfully undertaken.