“If you could, you would just pump life into yourself at the nearest filling station and be off.” – John Kelsey
Is it a wasteland, or spaceship? Is it deserted, barren, hostile towards life? Does it transport to some wet, alien otherness? Does it allow you to see Earth from space? Is it a light held in the hand? Or does it plummet you to the Earth’s core? Is that a bad thing? This is my matrix of evaluation about what art does to the body. Torch is presented at 14 Chairs with participants Yani Aviles, Maya Ben David, Parker Bright, Elizabeth Englander, Miri Phelps, and Alivia Zivich. Torch is a torch, and one who holds a torch long enough will themselves be consumed by fire. This is why:
Bad art is made by no one for no one. Good art must be made by someone for someone. That is precisely the work at Torch. It’s a secret whispered between friends in a dark room above a bookstore on 21st Street. It doesn’t beg to be discovered precisely in the same way that my body doesn’t beg to be discovered. It has its agency in the same way a body does. All art is beyond accessibility from any critical field of inquiry. You can read a thousand and one critical essays about an artwork, and it doesn’t change what art does to the body, or how it mobilizes and multiplies bodies.
With the sconces lining the perimeter of the room and the video centralized against the back wall, I am reminded of my parent’s living room. The way that the television acts as a focal point; it makes every space into an arrow shape. What’s more is that Maya’s video is like a commercial but a commercial for nothing? A commercial selling you how cool it is to be a baseball-bat-wielding cosplay forest fantasy creature. My body moves around the room the way it would if I were at an open house; lingering about, talking to friends, eyeing strangers. I look for a show statement. There is no show statement.
Why does there always have to be a show statement? An open house doesn’t need a statement. Not having a show statement is bad manners! Says the market. Alternative spaces are not bound by standard value generating mechanisms used to push sales, to push personalities, to push agendas. Even though it’s not a new idea, it still acts a point of contention. To question if there is a show statement or not is compulsory. The absence of the statement, in this case, allows for an opening up of mental space. An absence, in this case, allows for a different kind of art experience. Paul Virilio: “There are eyes everywhere. No blind spot left. What shall we dream of when everything becomes visible? We’ll dream of being blind.”
So you’re left in the dark of this room; the only light is coming from the artworks. A sconce is a functional decorative object; ideas themselves can be decorative. Positioning myself as “the viewer” of this work seems exhausted and intellectually understimulating; is the centrality of viewing not exhausting? Light is a particle and a wave before it is observed. You don’t need sight to let the light warm your skin. The sun does not discriminate. This is how I would like to position, for the moment, the experience of art, like a basking rather than viewing. Viewing is too explicit; it aims too fully to find meaning, to autopsy the creative act, to value, and thus to market. The only light is coming from the artworks. I don’t feel obliged to analyze the work using institutionally sanctioned language. I bask in it like therapy or a seasonal affective disorder UV lamp. I actually bask; but not as a hippie might do in their aura. Auras don’t exist, but this Pilsen gallery does. Art is a particle and a wave before it is observed.
My body is moving and talking with other moving and talking bodies. Finally! I have been so alone! It was so nice to see everyone. I was confused by the work because I went to art school. I drank a new wine. It was nice to be around people who feel the way I do; nine hundred and one Saint Sebastians. The only light is coming from the artworks. Light moves in all directions at once. Art can mobilize and multiply a fire. An idea, like light, passes through the aperture of thought, and the body, where it becomes a torch.
“We have never been Modern, we have never even been Human, and we have never made Art.” – anon.