A vision for conceptual art

These two trials of the embossed copper lettering got me thinking… about the beauty of truth and meaning and all that I explored in those years studying philosophy. (The roses are from our garden here at Appletree Haven; the vase is an English Doulton Willow pattern I got for 10c because it was cracked. Like me – cracked but still useful for something, and going for a song! The table is on the Art Deck, which I recently closed in with a big old window -free- from an old school.)
I think i can – and should – do works that express the rationality of belief in the mystical, or a transcendental order, or God, or the Absolute, or the IS – and a meaning to life beyond the physical aspect of it. On my side is Godel – or I’m on his side! Godel is the generally acknowledged greatest logician of the twentieth or perhaps any century, who believed implicitly and explicitly in the reality of this order. An art portraying something of the vision of this order is perhaps the most immediate thing i can do for the cause of a renaissance of the True West. Our culture is founded on a belief in a rational order beyond the physical, on which the physical universe is contingent. Mathematics is the language in which it is all written…
So, these works would be ‘conceptual’ art as they call it, but with the exact opposite message from the usual ironic, nihilistic and anti-meaning, anti-beauty stuff which has dominated the galleries and museums of contemporary art for far too long, poisoning the wells of imagination as modern philosophy has poisoned the wells of the intellect.
The particular idea that came to me in a quiet moment (I must make more of these in my life!) is for a gateway, or porch, like a cathedral porch, with a double? door the viewer can go through. It will be a ‘threshold’ sculpture with solid wooden posts and lintel and lavers for handwashing, candleholders and copper or silver lettering around the doors. It could stand near a wall but with clearance so you can walk through; or in front of an actual door. The lettering would include the title: ‘There is the Mystical’ – a quote from Wittgenstein’s iconic Tractatus Logico-philosophicus. And also from the Tractatus: ‘Logic is transcendental’ and ‘ethics is transcendental’. The famous expression of the mystic’s belief that words can get in the way is also there, in his final Proposition, no.7: ‘That of which we cannot speak we must pass over in silence.’ But the whole of the Tractatus was a kind of logical attempt at a ‘negative theology’, which sought to outline the exact boundaries of that of which we CAN speak, so that what remains (the Mystical reality) may stand out in majestic, eloquently silent contrast.
i think the mystical beauty of an art depicting these logical meditations would shine through any obscurity as to the philosophical reasonings enshrined therein. ie, the viewer/reader won’t have to be a philosopher to appreciate it.
Of course to market such a positive conceptual art vision will take a small miracle, as it is diametrically opposed in its message to the prevailing nihilism of the ‘high’ art world. But the art could be an experiential affirmation for good folk who do still believe in a meaning to life and in Truth, Beauty and all the Platonic Forms. It can provide altars to affirm meaning and beauty in homes or places of noble enterprise.
There can also be much smaller versions, little iconic altars of art, and maybe jewellery, eg pendants of sacred labyrinths and silver doors…
Part of what has galvanised me is the reminders I’ve had of what mordern/contemporary art has been doing against all the most sacred values of Western culture. First I read the book ‘The $12 Million Stuffed Shark – the curious economics of Contemporary Art’ by Don Thompson. This really sickened me, and was a shock of cold water in the face for any illusions I might have had of being accepted by the high art establishment as it is.  Then our son Daniel got us to watch this  video by a british philosopher Roger Scruton on Beauty and modern art: https://vimeo.com/112655231 I noted the ugly twistedness of the face of the woman who did the conceptual ‘artwork’ titled ‘my bed’ which consisted of just her bed, unmade with empty bottles and personal mess around it. A study in moral ugliness and squalor pretending to like itself. She told Roger that of course she thought it was beautiful or she wouldn’t have exhibited it. Her face, however, betrayed it – Liar was written all over it.
Overall though it was an inspiring documentary, arguing well for his positive vision of the place of Beauty in civilised life. I would add, the place of Truth can also be argued for. The degenerates do not have the best arguments – in fact, they have no arguments at all, just acts of barbarity and ugliness. But we who believe in beauty and truth have never denied the existence of their opposites. It’s just that we have not bowed down to them as the ultimate ‘truth’ of the universe – or even the ultimate reality of life as we experience it.
‘Two men looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other, stars’
I hope I can do some art which inspires people to look up again and see that the stars have not disappeared while we were looking at the mud.

3 thoughts on “A vision for conceptual art

  1. I watched the documentary Peter… and liked what the philosopher said about Music and Art shining a light in ordinary lives.
    That they amplify our joy, and through them we are able to be confront the things that troubles us, and find consolation for our sorrows.

    To me, this is the mysterious nature of beauty…. that it can reach you wherever you’re at. We might hear the same sound of violins but one will smile and the other struggle to breathe.

    Beauty is right up there with Truth indeed 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for these thoughts. Beauty (or ‘elegance’) and truth are strangely alligned in mathematics and physics. The closer to the truth a theory is, the more elegant it is. I dont know of any exceptions to this… are there? Even when describing chaos which can be ugly, the mathematics is beautifiul. So, which do we believe in – the underlying order or the surface chaos?


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