There is this cute story about how somebody really clever, it could have been Pierre Klossowski but it is also possible that it was Henri Michaux and that matters a lot but not right now, is asked when the paintings at the Louvre is at their best. Maybe on Saturdays because then there’s really a lot of people, or on Tuesdays with all the school classes or during September because then it’s a lot Japanese tourists and they are really attentive. The really clever person comes up with a very different and for me surprising response. “Well of course when the museum is closed, because the paintings can be themselves.
A wonderful response and a beautiful thought.
The answer can certainly be interpreted in many ways. Then, after closing, the animals, humans and things in the paintings don’t need to perform any more but can relax and just be paint on a canvas. Nor does the paintings themselves have to perform their historical position or value on markets. Another version is that only when the museum is closed, when the institutional framing is dislocated can the paintings be looked at properly, away from all the filters and conditions superimposed on the image. Fair enough but I think the sentence becomes something even more, perhaps sublime when read as then – when the museum is closed – then the paintings are released from human agency, they are no longer anthropomorphised, no longer objectified, but simply paintings and being that is to give the paintings their own agency, to render the paintings autonomy, the right to be paintings without looking back with a human face or confirming anthropomorphism.
There seems to exist a small misunderstanding in regard to what knowledge is in respect to truth and art. First, we know that since 1971 knowledge and truth has more or less nothing to do with each other. Knowledge in fact is the very opposite of truth. Something that one can have and gain knowledge about, something that can be taught, something that can be discussed and used can simply not also be true. To have knowledge about truth has nothing to do with truth. And what is true for you might not just be true to me. The moment when something can be known it simply can’t be true any more. Something that is true is one and undeniable, it is non negotiable and, most of all, it is itself.
Art is not knowledge. One can know things about art and the surroundings or art. Art historians, gallerists, curators and art lovers are all full of knowledge, but the knowledge is not the art but about everything surrounding it. Art’s job is not to inform or be useful on the contrary its job is to be useless and true. Yes, its job is to be true.
There however is a difference between the truth as in undeniable evidence that something fuckin small in universe is both and particle and a wave and something being true. Art or the encounter with art is not true as in undeniable evidence but there is truth in art.
The beauty of it all however is that the truth in art withdraws the moment one tries to grab or harvest it. The aesthetic encounter is an encounter with truth, or even better it is the experience of truth.
Knowledge is not truth, art is not knowledge and since it is not knowledge it can not not have Being and Being can not not be true. It goes without saying that Being withdraws the moment one tries to catch it, drag it into knowledge and make it human.
Drawing on Ian Bogost arguments in “Alien Phenomenology” we can conclude that art in order to not transform into knowledge or even reason must withdraw from anthropocentrism. Only when it is governed its own intelligence, contingent to humanity, can art fulfil its mission. Only when it is granted to be non-human can art be itself and true. It is just important to remember that art’s truth is not this or that truth, as we said before, it is an encounter with truth as truth, with truth itself and yet that experience carries the intensity to change the world.
Our problem however is that in comparison, all other art is piece of cake to make. An art true to itself is way more complicated to make, if make in any respect is adequate. It cannot be made as we humans only can make what humans can fathom and imagine. Instead we must develop conceptual tools or rather tools or machines that are concepts. But concept is not the same as conceptual on the contrary a concept is a machine that generates indetermination or contingent experiences.
Let’s face it, we can’t do art any more to free ourselves (if we ever could) no, but perhaps we can reverse the sentence. Today our job as artists is to free art from us, to allow it to not be human but itself.
I’m certainly not advocating for closing museums but I am for an art that is fully indifferent to the museums opening hours. I am for an art that is granted its own intelligence and an intelligence to which I have absolutely no access, and still there I am mesmerised, blown away, speechless, overwhelmed, touched by truth itself.