I read yesterday in the New York Times about a show called “NeoIntegrity” at the Derek Eller Gallery, curated by the painter Keith Mayerson. What caught my eye was the charming manifesto Mayerson created for the show (not included in the article). It touches on many points often discussed here on A&P (but apparently still not settled!). Here’s the manifesto:
1. Art should be reflective of the artist who made it, and the culture in which it is produced.
2. Art is aesthetic, and whether ugly, beautiful, or sublime, it should be interesting to look at and/or think about.
3. Art is not necessarily commodity, and commodity is not the reason to produce or appreciate art.
4. Art is about ideas, the progression of ideas, the agency of the artist to have ideas, the communication by the artist to the world of their ideas because agency and ideas are important and what art is.
5. Art communicates via its own internal language, and by the language the viewer brings to a work of art. But this language is not entirely textually based, and being an aesthetic object (or image[s], idea[s], comic, or happening[s]), the work communicates in such a way to be transcendent beyond language, and traditional constructs of textually based ideology. Therefore the work of art remains a deep communication between artist and viewer, and withholds the possibility of the sublime.
6. Art is rather than tells, it is about itself; it shows itself to be about what it is rather than being an illustration of what it isn’t.
7. Art is important because it reminds us that we are human, and ultimately, that is its function.
8. Art can be, and should be sublime, in that it is able to produce images directly from the mind and imagination of the artist, producing tangible realities from the fertile imaginings of the conscious and unconscious of the artist, triggering responses from the same in the viewer via form and light and color, that transcends language and received ways of looking at things, that, while ideological, comes closest to directly communicating from one animal to another in the most broad, base, but considered aesthetic language possible.
9. Art should be alive, have a life of its own, transgress intended meaning or hand or wit of the artist in that it arranges, via form, light, color, and space, other worlds that are optical and transmit cognitive reactions in the mind of the viewer that cause an ineffable schism between belief and reality that cause the work as to appear to be breathing life.
10. Art can indeed be windows onto other worlds, windows into the soul, able to capture dream space/time unlike any other medium because they are produced by the mind, gesture, hand and intellect of the artist, who consciously or unconsciously cannot hope to ultimately control the meaning, interpretation, or event described by the hand and mind of the unconscious.
11. Art should be experienced: a good work of art cannot be successfully reproduced or explained, indeed, that is ultimately the only reason art is important in the age of corporate commodity culture: it has an aura that cannot be contained-it is a result of a peculiar man-made alchemy that comes closest to recreating the soul.
I disagree with the reviewer, Holland Cotter, that “each definition comes with a modifying, even contradictory statement.” For example, there’s no contradiction in my mind for an art work to reflect both artist and culture. But Cotter’s right that “there’s something here for almost everyone to accept or reject.” And I also agree that this manifesto, whether it takes itself seriously or not, is more inclusive than exclusive.
What I found most interesting were the implicit definitions of aesthetic (#2) as “interesting to look at and/or think about,” and sublime (#8) as, essentially, communicating without using language. Perhaps my favorite is (#9) that an artwork should have a life of its own, potentially even undercutting the artist’s intentions.
Would you sign on to this statement? What do you like, dislike, or have a comment on?