Friday, October 26, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: San Juan Market Artisania

People can live without art. Those who do often live like dogs, as one sees in a visit to the average trailer court where the resident might have a twisted beer can sculpture of an aeroplane or something of the like. And one can see the same lack of interest in the world and life and fineness in the home of a multimillionaire who spends all his time making money and has no time for or interest in anything else, he perhaps spending a few million dollars on something abstract that he doesn't like that decorates a back wall in his office. Trailer trash or nouveau riche, it hardly matters, they are often philistines without the slightest concern for their lack of fineness. Taste, whether it comes to a random selection of cheap shit from flea markets and yard sales, or whether it comes from pissing away the residue of the trust fund, is still a matter of limits imposed by aesthetic realities even the goofiest philistine in a corporate trailer house can intuitively grasp. It's a spiritual matter. The philistine has no religion. He has no spirit. He has no art. He is despicable. He is an atheist, and he is a rebel against the communion of souls.

Ones own home can be a bare place of rocks and weeds and dirt, but one can be filled with art otherwise, and thus the average starving peasant who is truly filled with love and soul will invest his lifetime in creating a special piece of something to add to a church, for example. Or maybe, like me, he is so bereft of talent that all he can do is appreciate the work of others. It's not about ones talent or special soul that makes one artistic. It's not even about the level of sophisticated taste one brings to art and aesthetics. It's about real, as opposed to sentimental, experience of art. One doesn't have to own any of it. Art can be the king's palace, for all it matters, that one will never be allowed to set foot in. Or it can be an Amazon River lacquered fish on stick. It can be simply decorative, or it can be spirit itself. It depends to some degree on the communion of souls of which the art is part. The crudest petroglyph can be art, and the most sophisticated acrylic painting can be plain and philistine trash costing multi-millions. If I had the cash I might well donate El Grecos to a public museum, and for myself I might continue mailing to my very patient friend weird stuff to store in his closet for me in the hopes that I return to his place some day to cart it all off to a place of my own. I don't have low taste: I have private taste. I can indulge myself for a hundred bucks very nicely at the San Juan Artisan's Market in Iquitos, Peru, and I can come away feeling quite pleased with three oil painting of dubious painterly talent that fit within my backpacker's budget.

The beauty of art is not that one piece itself is art. David's "Tennis Court Oath" is not art if it hangs at the pro shop in the lobby of the local athletic centre. Same painting. Not art. Art is context and communion. The piece below is art in that it comes as a piece of experience of it's maker and its viewers and eventual owner as someone buys it after talking to the man who made it along with numerous other complementary objects. In a bare room, it's not art. In a room of Romantic oil paintings it's not art. In a bank lobby it's not art. Art is art when it's in a room full of like objects, in my place, for example, filled with inexpensive art stuff. a roomful of baseball cards pasted on the walls, or Jackson Pollock drips, or Muslim doodles do not attain to art, even if such crap fills a room or a museum or is a whole building. Art has to be a whole experience, meaning it has to be with other art, like a person has to be with people to be human. And like people, there are qualities to be admired or despised in the individuals. There can be flaws and the art still be art. Perfection can be ugliness and philistine horror. There can be failure, likable even, sort of. But art is art. It is a communion of the high aesthetic. It's not just what ya likes.

I think all people should have their homes filled with art. I can't begin to dictate what that art would be. I might in grumpier moods say this or that is definitely not art, and withing the bounds of aesthetic sense I will more or less be right. My neighbour who was arrested for collecting ladies shoes in his apartment might claim he had an art collection, but not so much, really, as a collection of a thief with a foot fetish, though I'm sure his shoes looked good from a distance.

Art needs be real, a genuine accomplishment of manual skill and emotional expression manifest in the world, and a collection of stolen shoes can't cut it. It's not communal in the spiritual sense, even if one has a lot of weirdo friends over. It can't be a mere matter of feeling. Art has to work just as much as a football player has to score or a businessman has to make a profit. It can't be a simple matter of false emotion in stuff.

Giant chess pieces, or whatever, might be cool for a day, but art has a longer life, static on its surface though it is.

Art isn't just cute: it has eternal value that increases eternally.

The wood cutter above gave visitors from Idaho each a picture of a local "Indian type." Damned nice of him.

The girl got one in colour. Very damned nice of him.

But none of it will ever be art any more than a collection of stolen shoes will be.

Primitive masks come close sometimes to being folk art, and rarely, but potentially are genuine high art. It's about soul and spirit. It's about manual skill and intelligence combined with the objects in a communion of souls in context. 

Hand made? I couldn't care less. The man above takes single seeds and one by one drills holes in them to fill his bowl; and then he makes necklaces and bracelets. The art? It's the drill he's using. It's the market he works at. It's the collection of stuff all around him and them and us as people collect material and make a communion of some beauty from the elements combined. The art is the walking around and chatting as people work and make stuff that fits together to make a market of junk that sort of looks cool in toto. The art is in the Amazonness of it's being. Some is better quality than some other. In communion, it is, some parts together, art itself. Personally, I love that lacquered art fish. gonna get me one of them.

After our lives are given, what compels us to to more than survive? It might be that as intelligent creatures we want to successfully reproduce, and success is more likely if we have more power than our natural bodies can provide, e.g. we might create weapons and tools otherwise to help assist our survival. But why? Clearly monkeys survive without more than nature gives, and man could live a monkey life without the power added by tools. Why push? What is the point of power in the world beyond the power the average naked human has in the wild? Man survives well enough like a monkey, so why does he struggle for more? If it's a matter of protein, then man could remain a cannibal and raise people as cattle. No need for weapons or tools. But man does strive to create, and thus he creates power supplements, i.e. tools and weapons. There's no need. Man can live like a slug or a cockroach and it would make no difference to life in nature. But man does create, and therefore man must create, it being an obvious part of the being of man, an appetite he must satisfy. It's not optional. Creation is necessary. Creation is an end, and tools are a means to it. If man had the means to think a thing into existence he would not use tools. The end is the created. That is the goal of living, not living longer or living better, but living in a world of creation. The reason man lives is not merely to live but to live in a world of beauty. For that, man creates art. Sometimes it's small art. Sometimes, life is good with just a few cool things around the place to make it all worth while.

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