The work of art as power and destruction

by | 5 Mar 2022

Excerpt1Translated by the author from Spanish. from the novel ” Gabriel’s Horn” (Sanín-Restrepo, Ricardo. 2020, Uniediciones, Colombia)

Well then, I also want to address the subject of the immortality of art as a religious, mercantilist and mediocre idea. My premise, which I will explain to you below, is that the work of art is only art when it is not in itself, when it is simply the potentiality of being something that is yet to be and opening up to infinite possibilities the fact that other things are not in themselves either. The work of art has no historical or moral value, the work of art only has symbolic value, moreover, it is only a symbol and as a symbol it is fleeting and ephemeral.

First, I want to show the impossibility of someone proclaiming that something, a portion of materiality or the idea of it, is art, throwing the petrifying blanket of qualifications over the potentiality of creating; second, that, like everything else, the only certainty about things and ideas is their destructibility. Thus, everything that destroys the proclamation of its own immortality is in the way of its transience and opens the possibility of showing us something new, of opening its matrix to an infinity of possibilities that it itself cannot contain; that and only that, is the way of an art that liberates forms and things. But I especially want to deal with the deformed idea that art is something there, separated from us, to which we go from time to time, like an ATM, to tonify another lie called culture. If art is not like the air we breathe, it better not be. If art does not make us live many lives in an instant without thereby invoking or challenging death, it had better lose its radiant name. Art is in everything and escapes from nothing. Art is in our captive or active gaze, it is in our interpretation that is never exhausted in itself but is interwoven and multiplies in strength and beauty with those of others, it is in each flavor and sound. Art is immanence and the precious agony of life. Art is in the fingertips and under the eyelids, intermingled in the saliva, pulsing in the blood and opening the skin at each encounter with the world.

When someone says that interpretations and performances are exhausted, it is art that it wants to assassinate. Music is not organized noise; an obnoxious police siren is also organized noise. Literature is not a definite sense assembled in language; an eviction notice is too. What differentiates one from the other is its multiplicity, the infinity of lives that it opens and provokes, but also its destructibility, its ephemerality. What sets the siren and the notice apart from music and literature is that the former only seem to inhabit their own world of relationality, they are exhausted in themselves, while the latter establish their own verification space that is immanent and autonomous and yet they coexist with everything else without destroying anything, without appropriating anything, they just live and reproduce to infinity. Nevertheless, even the detestable siren and the eviction note are permanently passing through the eye of the needle of art and so they can be portentous rhythms and sharp knives in the hands of an astute and daring artist, they can always enter into a composition that intensifies them and catapults them to other meanings and other domains. In other words, there cannot be a predefinition of what art and its tools are since everything has the potential to enter into an endless transforming relationship.

Unlike science, law or philosophy that need to appropriate language to rule from it, to petrify it, the artist appropriates language only to free it by losing herself in it. The poet does not want to possess anything, she does not want to name anything, she only frees senses without placing a dominant hand on them. Poetry belongs to no one.

Everything, absolutely everything contains the infinite possibility of something else, of a whole and especially of what we cannot foresee because it only exists potentially. And there, in the potentiality of being something else, is where the true power of art lies. Thus, what we call a work of art can only be ephemeral because it is only there to open the possibility of something else that only potentially inhabits it, which even the moment and the work itself are not yet able to glimpse or foresee in any way. Art is only that which opens the possibility of being something other than what it is. And, paradoxically, but consequently, art is only that which we can never definitively say “is” something given and forever. Only that which lives outside of itself, potentially, is a work of art. When we immortalize the work of art it can no longer mean anything and it is there, at that hideous moment, when we have killed art and made it a commodity, the embalming of sense and creative freedom. Only the ephemeral and fleeting open the doors of infinity.

It is silly to think that art can save the world, but it is the only way to understand it and therefore create alternatives of the world that clams down on us with all its horrors called normality.

The prologue, epilogue and epitaph of our book can thus be: This novel seeks to destroy contemptuously the idea of ​​immortality. Immortality of ideas, things, words, memory, and works of art. Only the ephemeral, what is always in the moment of escape from itself, can open the doors to the infinity of potentialities that are required for the world to be.

“Gabriel’s horn”, pp. 241-244. 2020

  • 1
    Translated by the author from Spanish.

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