Author Archive for Michael Matthews


The second album: CHILDHOOD – INSIGHT INTO THE CAOTEE: 06 Heal Boy Heal


// hacking the very substance of art [part II]: scratching at the surface


If we look at the material culture of pre 20th century art we find the basis of high art lies in the thin effluent layer of paint that sits on a diaphanous canvas like some flotsam. The thing is that this flotsam, as with any wreckage, carries a lot of highly charged information [The where, what, why, when]. It carries the story of the history of the medium that was a practical solution to the problem of permanence, practicality and technique. In this century the oil paint myth* is one of nostalgia. The concept is as outdated as [non WYSIWYG]. The oil paint myth is a myth that goes beyond the medium of painting; it is part of the myth of the fine art disciplines – sculpture, printmaking, etc.


// Answer the question of what the oil paint myth is here
// make it brief!


An oil paint artIST stands in front of his canvas, pondering on the blue stripe in front of him. His main issue is whether it should be changed. He debates the issue silently for a moment, then comes to a ‘conclusion’: “There always is a reason for making a change, but often with that change will come a host of other unforeseen changes. Maybe if I change that blue stripe, then the painting will be just right and maybe not.”
// Gordon J Hazlit in ARTnewsONLINE Jan2002 The conclusion is that when the first stroke of oil paint is applied to the innate surface, what ever be it, the meaning of seven centuries of flatulent content is reconfigured and conveyed as !the! meaning. The artwork becomes the sum total meaning of its material make-up [Too much meaning for any image to carry]. The meaning is the meaning behind the meaning that is not even an indication of the meaning.

// Can materials carry meaning


The print of the substance is embedded in its use or application. If oil paint has been used by colonising countries to depict a way of seeing the world, then yes. Most 20th century art after Duchamp has recognised this truism. The breakdown of matter into non identifiable items has enhanced the effect. Modern art has been a war against matter. Newton started the decomposition of unifyable meaning by separating components in nature. Now we know that these components, while made up of the same things, are in a tangent of possibilities.


// Are we junkies to the past and its material culture


Most of the time the meanings are hidden in the code of the material itself. The average user is looking for a point of reference that is understood in isolation of material contexts. The single context scenario is a product of pre-20th century affliction.


// What’s with materials


As John Brochman has said: “new materials = new perceptions”. He contextualises this in an a priori premise that begins with reality as man-made. He says: “our images of our world and of ourselves are, in part, the models resulting from our perceptions of the technologies we generate as products”.


// What are the “perceptions of our technologies”


The dark


// somewhere around here a programming error slips in unseen and unheard
// look into it next time


idea of what is new is better, is still lurking in the alpha type view, hence the ^above truism. This truism has supplanted the ‘oil paint theory’ and has resulted in a birth of abortive attempts to come to terms with the explosion of ‘digiti’ in this new epoch. I’m talking about film and the effects of the computer age. At first film was seen as a means to understand the world and for numerous reasons [the oil paint fallacy] obtained a low art status in the beginning of the 20th century. Yet, in this century, through digitalised processes, it has obtained the gold accolade of mediums. The digitised art methodologies are the new perceptions of this century…


After fixing my puter, it came to a conclusion the next morning /I woke up with a stiff neck\ that pleasure and pain is the name of the game. Next time more on the perceptions of our technologies.





My brother here — there  … The SAARTJIE guide to Data basement: part II

Last year we recommended that you invested in an art video for Christmas, particularly one made by the Dog Unit. The events of this year have proved that we were right. Keeping with the theme, we suggest that for Christmas you go out and get yourself an art video by some young artist of a plane crashing into a building. If you can’t get that one, then how about some bearded cretin expounding his fantasies; of cause there is always the rehash of scenes from a John Wane type movie that we’re sure are still available. Well, once you’ve got it the issue is still whether to ‘copy or not to copy’ it. We suppose you are still deliberating over last year’s video. Have you filed it with your infamous home movie collection or do you frame the box? Either way, put the data into some protective form or it is bound to perish. BUT then is it still art BUT?
These are some of the things SAARTJIE felt in 2001, as we dream-walk into 2002:


In February the problem was the viewing of artworks in a gallery. The problem we considered was that after the advent of installation type works, the individual artwork can only be seen in relation to the rest of the artworks. This leads to a change in meaning and a displacement of the context. The gallery becomes the artwork of the collective message of the curators. The viewer is thus left viewing the negative spaces between the artworks, the negative spaces that make up the installation-curator artwork, thus the artwork becomes an un-reading of the artist’s intention and a re-reading of context.

In March we offered some advice on how to approach a singular artwork. The problem we encountered here was that most of the works spoke of tales of drunkenness and cruelty without a context. We also found that we did not have the time to learn the language offered by so many desperate ‘cries’, and we realised that the gallery is the place for ‘painted’ atrocities best left to the initiate while we pack our bags and fly/flee.

In April we went to the gallery for peace and quiet and found that it’s the only place where we can be really promiscuous, and looking around it appeared as if many artists felt the same way. The reason is that it tends to be empty and a place where cultural reshaping is creatively liberal. We found that the conceptual approach of the South African art gallery needs to be re-visited and that a move away from the patriarchal scientific approach, the colonial space, is urgently needed. The gallery system in South Africa needs to decide if it is a place that offers the public knowledge or if it is a place of debate.
In May we took the investigation into the gallery scene further and we found that the gallery is a place that upholds trends of popular thinking. So it appears as if the gallery systems are not to blame for the colonial approach but rather the market related environment. The gallery becomes a place that represents the over-represented and hence the catch-22. The art objects represented in the gallery become material objects of the familiar, creating an anaesthetised meaning.
In June we looked at neglected histories, and taking the bull by the tail, we looked at the male artist. The rationale is that the male artist has been the slave of the women’s image of herself – Male-artist-slave to Female-artist-creator. Thus the history of art becomes the mirror that women evaluate themselves by; it’s the reflective surface of narcissistic vision. With the loss of figuration the male artist has been forced to loose his identity or maleness as a consequence of his price for freedom. The result has been that the Fine Arts in this century have become an inadequate form of expression of the female self-image; hence, these art forms have become as marginalised as primitive art forms in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In July we gave way to those insecurities occurring in the middle of any event. Looking at the gallery system in despair, as “a system that has, for the last century at least, offered the public images in a pristine vacuum of Neo-Colonialism”, we felt that there was no hope. Then looking at what has inspired artists through the boycott years, we found a ray of hope, an art based on misconceptions of meaning. In other words, we found an art freed from the market and commercialisation of its meaning: “What is unique to this country is that the images South African artists and historians have been exposed to over the last 30 years or more are pedantic reinterpretations of badly printed photographic magazines, such as ‘Art in America’ and ‘ArtForum’…”. The effect has been devastating in many ways. In others, it has led to a genesis in creativity – albeit a genesis based on misconceptions” but maybe it is this path that will lead to the African Renaissance.
In August we continued to look at our neglected histories and we investigated the plight of the white artist in South Africa. With the lifting of the boycotts there was more potential for the 2000’s artists on the international scene than for those 1970’s veterans who possibly needed some kind of pension from the local government due to the neglect they suffered due to government legislation. We also found that the easy option of dusting off the old pass board was not always satisfactory but worse still. At home we found the same old problems of cut budgets and the reduced Rand. Yes, unfortunately we are still in the dark ages.

In September in our continuing neglected histories series we looked at the result of the blind siding of sponsorship. One of our neglected readers initiated a debate on those post-1970 artists, the suppressed neo-apartheid artists. We quote the issue in full again: “Older artists seem to be getting their arses into gear – I sense a revival coming on here. The crucial crossover point and crisis have passed in Gauteng and although the days of mega art shows are probably not going to be around for some time to come, the smaller exhibitions and events are starting to flourish again.” But, we still find the neo-apartheid artists queuing for tit bits outside the old parliament buildings.
In October we looked at the issue of behaviour in a gallery; the debate opened up the many levels of meaning involved in these issues. We found that it was always good to prepare oneself by visiting the galleries’ website (if they got one), to attempt to understand the ambiguities of the virtual vs actual gallery spaces, the public space vs the public place and the private space vs the viewers place. We then identified a few stereotypical visitors such as those that rely on routines as opposed to those who just want information pushed at them and those who try to find a use in everything.


In November we continued with the debate but approached the issue from a behavioural approach. We found that the nature of the collection was a major determining factor coupled with the organising principles of the viewer. This led us to a few more subcategories of visitors.
In December we decided to hack the very substance of art. We approached the issue of meaning found in art on a quantum level and applied some chaotic principles to the art object and the viewer’s relationship. We concluded that “the nature of art and its meanings can be seen as possible only through a state of complimentarily:/between art\observer\artist intent”.



Pans Horn Gunship by Michael Matthews


The second album: CHILDHOOD – INSIGHT INTO THE CAOTEE: 04 Come and get it


// hacking the very substance of art: programming chaotic magic

The question written on this quantum plane is whether we can understand the reality of art at the subatomic level and if it brings new philosophical understandings to art.
// In the quantum domain the energy matching value will reflect the energy values of all the elements down to the smallest subatomic fractals.

//Fractal is a way of seeing infinity by exposing the abstract geometrical nature of chaos, thereby providing us with an immediate link with nature. // Weinberg, Ian. ‘Quantum Leap’. p.36. And focussing on the spaces between is possibly the way to realise art.

We hope we can safely say that the subatomic position can serve as a useful metaphor to understanding art and help us draw our reflections into a sharper focus. In the 20th century we have been alienated from the world and culture through a mechanical and egocentric philosophy.

Newton’s mechanics assume as fact that shapes, masses and periods are changed only by physical interactions, presuming a state rather than a change. The quantum theory constitutes facts in accordance with uncertainty relations
//Feuerabend, Paul. ‘Against Method’. p.271 and entities sharing similar energy values vibrate in synchronicity.

Relatedly, on the Cartesian plane the self-evident laws of nature are mechanical. We can go so far as to attribute the first vision of a clockwork universe to Descartes more so than to Newton. //Mechanical ideas provide an understanding of all physiological ‘machines’ //as if a flash of lightning just is a discharge of electricity.
//The body is seen as subjected to mechanical laws, which makes the soul ‘the ghost in the machine’, connected by a tiny gland in the middle of the brain!
//Flew, Antony. ‘Western Philosophy’. p.300.

The subatomic view, when applied to art, may thus help to unanaesthetise the alienation caused by mechanical and egocentric acts which have, in the 20th century, resulted in a modernist approach to culture. This can be clearly demonstrated by observing the ‘progress’ of 20th century art. Mies van der Rohe’s ‘glass boxes’, for example, stand in cold defiance of nature and what it represents, and act as clear symbols of man’s alienation from nature. When these or similar type structures are destroyed in a simple, or relatively low scientific way, we are emotionally placed in irrational fear and confusion. The Newtonian mirror is broken and we are forced to face our, what Russell has called, ‘unyielding despair’, giving us a feeling of temporality and a loss of potency:
// “…the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins . . .” // Russell, B. ‘A Free Man’s Worship’, in Mysticism and logic, p.45. //Counter agent: Turbulent or stormy flow is defined by strange attractors.
//I don’t want to be a hero or a soldier. I just want to die (an artist).

Some recent artists use digital technology, graphic design, video production, fractal geometry and special wizardry effects to create, shall we say, works that vibrate with physicality. No wonder some of these images reveal logical paradoxes that could not possibly exist in a mechanical world! In contrast, Realists like Thomas Eakins, it has been proved, traced their images from photographs projected onto canvas’s.
//The New York Times – Section: Arts.//Pliny the Elder, historian of 1st century ancient Rome, said // “All agree that [the origin of the art of painting] began with tracing an outline around a man’s shadow.” //Microsoft Art Collection – ‘Shadow Play’.
Since the 11th of ‘November’ 2001 we can say that finally we are finished with the modernists’ existential hero-type view of the world. It is now bizarre for any culture to concern itself with the ‘corporate-I’; what is needed is a philosophy and culture that are rooted in substances of physicality.

The object in art had, in the later part of the 20th century, posed a problem because of its positioning in an art context. Duchamp and others have brought this dilemma to the fore. The existential object of modernism needed to be rooted in the matrix of art in order for meaning to occur. The concept of ordinary and meaningful meaning was the central focus of art. The jumps in meaning and context were tenuously established but not seen as simultaneous occurrences. For Duchamp and others this non-locality of meaning has been marginalised, whereas Einstein even saw ‘instantaneous non-locality’ as “ghostly and absurd”. // There exists a connectedness of matter in the quantum domain, a kind of order without periodicity. // “I shall speak of ghost, of flame, and of ashes”- Derrida, Jacques. Of Spirit. Only through understanding that the meaning of art is inherent in its arrangement and that this arrangement is continuously changing or relative to its structure, which is in itself in a virtual flux of states, can we recreate our culture and our selves. This approach is obviously a theory that is moulded out of the stuff of quantum physics – as Zohar points out: “Quantum theory is our most successful physical theory ever”. // Zohar, D. The Quantum Self, p.5.

The problem with this theory, possibly because of its instability, is that it can lead to a romantic view – an ‘anti-realist’ view to meaning. What it has is the potential to lead to a reconciling of the object\s and their meaning/s.

When this approach is applied to the art object, it can be seen in a state of ‘complementarity’ in relation to its meaning/s. Wollheim had already realised this issue in 1968. He questioned the problem of where art exists and asked: “What is art?” As with the quantum theorists, Wollheim found that the art object could only be seen when looked at in the context of art. When the same object is observed outside of the context of art, it becomes another object, like, or unlike, every other. //the particle/wave\argument of the quantum theorists.

Wollheim’s argument looks at what he called the ‘physical object hypothesis’, where the object and the meaning become divorced, thus meaning is always in a state of flux, pending on the position of the observer, artist and object. As Wollheim develops his argument it becomes evident that he realises that the very nature of art is a possibility that can and cannot exist at the same time. Quantum theory, when applied to art, questions the enduring contexts of art: //the idea of the object as enduring; //as surviving as appreciated;
//that it is seen or heard; //that its structure is ordered or able to be ordered;
//that it must be valuable, etc. The result is an art that is of the world and in the world:
//the installation is an artwork that is in an environment that functions within the matrix of art
// but is also an autonomous environment which offers keys to meaning.

The nature of art and its meanings can be seen as possible only through a state of complementarity:/between art\observer\artist intent.

never never repeating repeating