Manifesto #6 (A Departure from Ideals)

I have a problem in my ideas which is causing me pain in the department of artistic realisation. It would seem that I am suffering from an excess of conception, a bloating of the theoretical faculty – hot air – followed by a reluctance to actually give birth to anything afterwards. This problem is diagnosed thus:

The Idea, (the Abstract Idea,) which I shall call ‘the conception’, is realised in its entirety, either in the head-thing or on paper. Everything is still just fine at this stage. However, at the point of ‘real-isation’, (which is the concretisation of the idea into a tangible object of apprehension – the representation of that idea,) the impetus has suddenly vanished; the desire has dried-up, the fantasy is killed by the flesh. “Oh well, the object would never have lived-up to the expectations of the idea anyway – another embarrassing abortion averted.” The idea has discharged itself in thought alone and has insufficient remaining force [potential force] to become real-ised. The real has suffered [a loss] from the delusion of the ideal.

Typically, this is referred to as ‘artistic failure’. The degree of success achieved in the realisation of the idea is taken as the gauge of the artist’s powers-of-action, (either potent or impotent – as related to ‘potential force’ or ‘bringing something into being’.) Any reproductive, sexual or even godlike metaphors encountered in this understanding of the artist however serve only to contribute to a certain idea of the artist – the artist as creator – the Classical project of art under which the artist labours to bring this idea of him/herself into being as the Ideal artist. This heavyweight conception leads us necessarily to the root of the creator idea which is again part of the godlike metaphor – for we are talking about fame; fame of the immortal kind, of the timeless kind. I am not saying however, that the artist bears this ambition in his/her upmost mind – only that, as the background or tradition of Western culture has fostered such an Ideal, it continues to linger in the air like a foul smell and often the artist unknowingly upholds it. We must of course remember that this is only a metaphor or literary device – one which ultimately derives from Homer’s Iliad – and it is one that has been maintained in its approximately 2800 year existence, (which is hardly an eternity,) by a collective desire to maintain it.

I have no desire to expostulate on any such myth of the artist, but there is hardly any denying that the artist is at some level concerned with the way the work of art, (and ultimately, him/herself,) is going to appear to others at some later date after its creation – for the best part of the artistic creation resides in its apprehension. But this isn’t getting me anywhere. I wanted to talk about how this Ideal, as I see it in my own brain-thing, forms part of a nihilistic complex of denial: the Ideal artwork on the one hand, the conception, balanced by the fantasy of a future apprehension by the public on the other hand, forms a hard objection to the expression itself.

I formulate my problem thus: the Idea, (the Abstract Idea,) has itself become an objection to its own realisation. Something perfect never likes to be made grotty through an encounter with the dirty world, least of all an Idea. An Idea is nice and clean, serenely perfect and – bland. And when an Idea has become exhausted by working it out and thinking it through and through and through to the point of perfection, its realisation – the prospect of its concretion – suddenly becomes a compromise. There arises a certain anxiety about allowing this perfect thing to encounter the imperfect world. Unconsciously, one asks; “How can I get out of this mess; how can I avoid this painful exposure to failure?” But no answer is forthcoming – instead, a million questions are born from this initial doubt, variations on the same theme; “Are my powers of action too frail to execute on the Idea?” At this stage, any question will suffice to delay the action, and what is revealed is the neurotic undertow of Idealism in which the vague, abstract perfection of a conception becomes an excuse not to perform it, becomes the thwarted realisation of an impetus. The mental conception discharges the impetus in thought alone. And I wonder if the conception metaphor is even useful at this point? I wonder if further analysis of the problem only serves to enhance the weakening effect over the powers-of-action?

Can you see what has happened already? Realisation has been side-stepped altogether in one, graceful, mental movement.

To cease this recursive loop in thought, the procedure goes thus: the Idea goes out the window. At least, for now. Or if it does not go completely out the window, it at least doesn’t get time to get all puffed-up by excessive reflection and high-filutin talk. It is a mental object, it spurs action and is valuable only insomuch as it spurs sufficiently to actuate potential. Acting on the impetus, (the powers-of-action,) is the only measure of success; if it doesn’t get done, it doesn’t exist. Value-judgements are likewise irrelevant. “I’ll conceive of what its worth later, at my leisure. Or maybe never. Or leave it to somebody else.” If the Ideal has been suspended, or chucked out the window, who needs judgement anyway? I must act on the instant, before thinking out the consequences, (as in Macbeth,) or suffer to get snared as an actor in thought alone, (as in Hamlet.)

Is that a monstrous conception? To abandon judgement, the fear of consequences and long-established Ideals? If it was a moral judgement, perhaps it would be monstrous. But it is not. It is a thought-experiment and it is amoral. I am not idealising this method, nor am I extending it to anybody as a prescription – it is not a model conception of Man as he/she ‘should be’. It is not an Ideal.

Having rejected the primacy or even the relevance of the Ideal, a different perspective is revealed – one in which the word ‘should’ loses its currency; after all, it is only a command, an attempt to move a latent power-of-action under the pretext of morality. And any such moral disguise…well, it is only a disguise, a mask – there is no concrete reality underneath. Appearance is all there is. The realisation of the lack of or untenability of any form of moral reality is the field of action in this concern. The impetus, the drive; that is what interests me here, and I shall go so far as to say that I will make it my project to follow whatever impetus arises and has the power to move me, regardless of where it might lead, right up to its very conclusion. It is an adventure, if you like. An odyssey.