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a creative life

  the Work of art
gary e. davis
September 5 , 2019

The artist—scientific or not—works toward the thing to show. Such working toward the work-thing is what I call the Work of art.

One normally regards the work(thing) as autonomous, expressing the artist’s Work (in my idiom). Then, presumably the artwork is instrumental to the career. Marketing is involved. But that’s not the motivating point of presenting artwork.

Derived from the Work, the artwork intends to specifically communicate to a particular audience, not simply be a representation of a Work process. Often, multiple works result from the same era of artistic Work. Even artwork that is about process (e.g., Abstract Expressionism, meta-narrativity) derives communi-cation about process for an anticipated audience. The artwork is derivative of the actual, long time of the Work. (In a different register: The artwork is hermeneutical of the Work.)

Like the flat surface of a photograph troping a depth of space represented,
the “flat” present of a canvas (or a text—any work) tropes the depth of given
merely represented (as if the elements of a surface assemblage condense a long continuum of time in which each discrete episode became part of a future present, hour by hour). The thing is a trace of the Work, a monumental derivative. A freestanding combine tropes a freedom of time secreted.

Commonly said of the artwork is that it intends to enlighten, in some way. But that intending may be an engagement in teaching. I’m interested in the artist having something to “say” by way of the artwork’s intent to teach. The artist derives the artwork that “stands on its own” to teach (like an interpersonal relationship gains a life of its own apart from the selfidentity of each person). What the artist envisions that the artwork teaches is ventured in the artwork, but the work itself gains a life of its own.

Normally, one regards the work-thing as something for others to teach about,
not realizing that one’s then teaching what’s there teaching. The artist stands by her work in silence, facing others with “What does this mean?” It speaks for itself. Her silence looks to ask, “What does it say for you?” What does it teach? There, the artist learns from preserving silence of the Work in the presence of the work.

The “autonomy” of the artwork involves its release by the artist into gaining a life of its own. The intent of the artwork itself belongs to its life, apart from the intention of the artist deriving the artwork (and merely prospecting its life).
The life of the artwork is the locus of its autonomy. Its relationship to the artist remains mysterious, just as authorship imputable of a narrative may be ambig-uously related to the authoriality that created the imputable authorship (e.g., in style that is designed, not simply confessed or expressed, but especially in meta-medial artifice that plays into an implicature of intent by the life of the work that belongs wholly to the work itself).

For creativity, a gift of patronage or wealth enough allows doing what one loves “all” the time, and it is heaven, giving free play and interplay tendencies toward (centripetal) and away (centrifugal) from kindredness (consonance), complemen-tarity, congruence, difference, contrast, and dissonance of things and themes— even (for me) plays of conceptions, gaining meta-discursive basis (in the Work) for specifically discursive presents.

An unspoken aspect of the Work is one’s way of organizing stuff that gives resources reserved standing for fruitful employment. You think Rauschenberg’s studio was a mess? No, it had a private rigor, like my “mess” of digital files. Workpace and Worktime evince derivative works.

Yet, creative time might well find fulfillment without showing itself. (Legend has it that J. D. Sallinger continued over decades to write without publishing.) Serenity in results leads to eagerness to begin the next venture. Here, the cycle of Work is enough, like an odyssey that returns without need of recounting before sailing away again.

So, then: Why show up at all? Because the Work wants to speak to its time, and does so through things, playing with and against guild, class, and cultural standards for the sake of enhancing understanding that may advance fruitfulness of others’ freedom?

Everything becomes a question. Even ‘is’ may be surrendered for ‘as’: The day as lovely. The work as finished. To be old as to be potentially overwhelmed by wealth in time.

Semantic compression may be generative by way of audacious grammar, but
not for its own sake. Self-referential auratic pretense (common in creative writing) is pointless for reader/viewer/listener desire to enhance their understanding for advancing fruitfulness of their freedom (not as follower), their lives’ potential. There’s no good reason to show up for the sake of self-referential satisfaction. Authentic artworks that seem self-referential are enstancing self-referentiality as mode of communication, not confessing self. In other words, even nakedness isn’t about self exposure. It’s about a modality or idiom of being.

Lasting work of one’s Work is oriented toward others’ Work to come, not hall-marking its own facility. Sojourning authentically from Work to things requires receptiveness to “Our” Time that’s not about deliverables on deadline. Lastingness and legacy is always about potential for teaching.


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  Be fair. © 2019, gary e. davis