“Dare!”: the word has become a polysemous injunction of present-day militancy – the explicit motto of every elite institution, but also of radical activists and inspired esoteric-seekers… all exceling in the omission of the object complement: what is there to dare, exactly? A commonplace answer, with every appearance of a sleight-of-hand, would be to “dare to change,” the complementation opening onto a new layer of ambiguity: changing lives and daring to live – or the opposite; daring to know others and changing oneself – or the opposite; changing now and daring all the time – or the opposite… Whichever way! Down with quibblers! Since modern history, with its eighteenth-century second wind, has turned intensity into a rallying cry, social salvation must be sought one way or another by surpassing oneself – what has become the corner stone of such a daunting construction as the pursuit of collective achievement. Subverting the figure of the classical gentleman, the modern, intrepid individual recycles the parable of the talents, owing his respectability stripes to what degree of audacity he can display.
The art world, by raising the sensible realm against the realm of measurability and by breaking with religion, created for its part a place whose legitimacy grew at the pace of progress’s failings. The emotions it could offer where thus, in an often marginal though at times outspoken fashion, presented as alternative self-evident truths, as opposed to science’s misguided ways or a global political-economical consensus nowhere to be found. For these approaches to conveniently forget what they owed to modernity underway, especially to the electricity fairy or liberal democracy – to name only two of its most emblematic aspects – was the sole concern of quibblers, once again… But now, enough with the snide remarks! Romanticism has won over the minds, and its ambition to serve the common interest has been laid bare in our contemporary digital world. Impression legitimizes expression, and intuition is a match for analysis when faced with issues of science, economy, politics, history, management… right down to the day’s sacrosanct temperature, which needs to be felt, in addition to being measured.
Hence a new world is born, as we all now, and the issue of what we are to think of it has never been so dire. 2.0 enthusiasts see it as an unprecedented space of existence, finally giving free rein to the transmission of information, stimulating social cohesion as well as creativity and humor, and inevitably contributing to the propagation of democratic values. Worriers lament over what they consider to be a new global playground for teen-populism, enabling myriads of human subgroups to achieve self-satisfaction by excommunicating and reproving any attempt at adult constructions for being old-school and alienating – unencumbered by the extraordinary social fragmentation of our day and age or the new oligopolies they give rise to.
Indeed, efforts still need to be made in order to idealize a 3.0 beyond tragedy. It is nevertheless tempting to rejoice over the creativity of innovative, solidarity-driven, socially-aware contents, championed here and there by old institutions which channel fresh ideas and new fortunes; over the resurgence self-mockery following the newfound realization of our limits; over the rise of a new kind of capitalism which backgrounds capitalistic ends. Likewise, we would like to hope that the march of knowledge could draw closer and closer to that of the mind, bestowing matter upon human wisdom in the face of mimetic folly. Though, truth be told, we are still a far cry from it…
The art world, at its own level (or in its own bubble), is faced – for quite some time already, yet to its great amazement – with a similar issue. After growing for several centuries on the basis of a paradigm which also praised audacity, it discovered in the 20th century the waning of its avant-gardes and, consequently, the emergence of a new type of vanity whose endogenous character was unfamiliar. It is since then torn between two radicalisms carefully keeping alive their antagonism: on the side of the headlong rush, a diehard will dissimulates the diminishing sense of evidence behind a conceptual environment that often ends up prevailing in the work itself; on the side of dissolution, a skillful work of standardization has been carried out, fully embracing management ideals, in order to serve a society of the spectacle conceived as a market waiting to be conquered, just like any other.
Quibblers, once again – and I must at last admit to being one of them at times, depending on my questionable moods – will complain about the brand-new dilettantism of these two types of enhanced-artists in the light of History, which they nevertheless claim to be more or less a part of. But let us be done with these snide remarks once and for all! Grumbling over dilettantism would be forgetting it has become more or less consubstantial to the very ideas of emotion and innovation. Artists suggest rather than they resolve, which may be the grace and the privilege of their mission, merrily granting them a pass out of the coherence principle.
Nevertheless, for those unmoved by these daunting sirens, the eternal third approach unravels itself as a plea for a slowly integrative continuity, first and foremost concerned with the voluptuousness of the stories that need to be told. No one is immune from paradox, and one may well be reproached with a poise of false-modesty, barely hiding the ambition to enjoy the limelight from a better angle. Obviously. But in our world, where the nature of so many phenomena changes once they have grown beyond a certain threshold, one might grant some kind of credit to the notion that the threshold itself deserves our attention.
For, matching paradox with paradox, in the face of the fortresses of certitudes built on the enthusiastic liberation of the ego, moderation shows itself to be a possible antidote to lemming-like attitudes which, by definition, remain unaware of their own nature. And matching surprise with surprise, in the face of the repeated experience of the unusual summoned to the rescue of art, we may also mention that of putting craft at the service of one’s work, realizing against all odds that the feeling of freedom we experience by holding back the reins of freedom is by no means insignificant. Matching scandal with scandal, in the face of the obsessive idealization of greener pastures, adjusting to the uncertainty of a sphere whose complexity we accept is by no means consistently alienating.
These seemingly strange observations find an echo in the attempt to strike a balance between more or less excited and more or less exciting exo-factors, which would readily give nuance a chance as a telltale to alterity; they lead us to believe that accepting some common sense does not bar one from finding one’s own. Matching suggestion for suggestion, the incorrigible quibblers may also be tempted to find some affinities between the exploration of the infinitely small and of the infinitely sensible.
At any rate, persisting in finding some interest in swing, sound, harmony and melody, accepting that we only create music, whose capacity to stir people we still believe in, and hence continuing to create elaborate forms for exceptional soloists to toy around with and transcend… All of this may sound like a tall order. Invoking Dionysus by subjecting him to Apollo’s yoke will also raise some smiles. But we may very well acknowledge that this is the very thing we have to dare – to change, of course!
/ July 2016 / traduction Armelle Chrétien