Tabula Rasa

Alright, so the last post was a blank, proceeded by the notion that Art is dead, no more to be Art, as art has become consumed within the greater framework of global mass production for the greater good of a Capitalist consumer society; although the plastic crucifix in a jar of urine seemed to beg the question.  

The word Tabula is Roman and it defines a wax tablet with stylus used to take notes. I gather the notes were not intended to be permanent as the Tabula would be heated and the indentations would melt, then smoothed out, creating a clean, re-useable tablet once again. This strikes me as much an argument for reincarnation as it does for being a “blank slate.”

Aristotle, in his treatise On the Soul, uses the term “unscribed tablet,” which makes more sense to me as it indicates something that has not been used, and in fact, he writes:

“Have not we already disposed of the difficulty about interaction involving a common element, when we said that mind is in a sense potentially whatever is thinkable, though actually it is nothing until it has thought? What it thinks must be in it just as characters may be said to be on a writing-tablet on which as yet nothing stands written: this is exactly what happens with mind.” (Aristotle, De Anima, 429b29-430a1.)

So, if Art, bringing all this back to the discussion at hand, becomes merely a series of variations on a common, or central theme, where does the Art occur? I am asking this question as at one point in time the Art we conceive of as being Art today, was not in the least considered to be Art, as what was then Art was completely and entirely regulated and pre-determined, right up until the novel introduction of Impressionism in the 19th century.

In the middle of the 19th century the Académie des Beaux-Arts was the dominant determinant of what was or was not to be considered Art in France.  

“The Académie was the preserver of traditional French painting standards of content and style. Historical subjects, religious themes, and portraits were valued; landscape and still life were not. The Académie preferred carefully finished images that looked realistic when examined closely. Paintings in this style were made up of precise brush strokes carefully blended to hide the artist’s hand in the work. Colour was restrained and often toned down further by the application of a golden varnish.”

Once a year the Académie held a juried art show called the Salon de Paris. Artwork displayed in the show won the artists prizes, garnered commissions, and enhanced their prestige because they had the good sense to maintain the standards represented by the Académie.

Then, in the 1860’s, a hundred years before the Fab Four of Liverpool, four young lads from France, Claude, Pierre-Auguste, Alfred and Frederic happened upon the Art scene taking place out in the countryside and changed the way Art was to be viewed.  Hostile at first, the public came to see that Impressionism was a “fresh and original vision.”

So the point I am making here is that Art is Art until such time as it becomes static and then something happens, there is a revision of Art and the devastation of “eh,” is avoided.  No, no that is not exactly what I am saying, because it still does not explain what Art is, but I am tired so for what it is worth I will take another stab at it later.  Thank you for reading this, if in fact you have.  b

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