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Tentative claims of artistic wholism

While alive and creative, every piece the artist commits to may be seen as a work in progress. Even when finished, each painting, sculpture, or sketch is part of an ongoing labour, a single body of work. When output ceases entirely and finally--and it is worth noting, artists may take sabbaticals from their endeavors, but they cannot simply stop, not so long as they are capable of going on--only then is the opus complete.

Process is as much art as method. Thus, finished worked may be seen as punctuation marks amidst paragraphs...without too much effort of imagination. Whether the artist's life is part of this process or merely its cause may be a matter of perspective. I do not see the two possibilities as mutually exclusive.

On a tangent less poetic, I believe a wholistic (though not necessarily Wholist) approach is compatible with an individualist take, so long as both are realisitc or pragmatic, rather than idealistic or dogmatic. If my fingers were not separate from one another, typing this would be much harder, and my hands would be entirely different--but if my fingers were taken off by themselves, they would be entirely useless. People rely upon societies, countries, corporations, and other individual humans; and vice versa. Their existences do not problematize one another. In many ways, they cohere with and validate one another's existence.

To tangent further, that we are, as individuals, in the world and a part of it does away with mind-body problems and matters of solipsism the moment we admit we are both wholly in the world and wholly a part of it.

I tell you, philosophy is a secret art, its practitioners unsuspecting artists.


  1. An artist is an artist whether or not she is doing art, as every act of an artist is informed by the identity or role of "being" an artist. "Doing art" is a part of it, but the (self?-)identity of an artist impacts more than just the art-act itself. Just how much of it is societal, peer-based, or self-referential is up for grabs, but it undoubtedly does.

    Good to have you back by the way.

  2. Can we say something similar about a scientist? Are all of the daily things a scientist does informed by her identity or role in a similar sense?

    How about, say, a fascist? Is it possible for there to be an inverse: someone who's a fascist 9 to 5, and open other times?

  3. People can definitely work in different modes. I suspect there are those who achieve something along the lines of a clean break between their output and certain parts of the rest of their lives--or at least find some other piece dominate at times. An adult deeply in love (as with a lover, a child, or a friend) may find that relationship takes precedence over parts of life, if only at times.

    If were to somehow view the paintings, screwball home movies, and writings of Hitler without knowing they were made by the same man, only the words would seem obviously related to a fascist or racist agenda. But, tying them all together gives a fuller understanding of the man--and there is no reason that gain cannot then be carefully reapplied to our view of his artistic output (or, say, to the Holocaust, as having been orchestrated by a man, and not some mythic, two-dimensional villain). "Fascists are people, too!"

    I'm not sure my claims how broadly my wholistic claims should be applied. I am uncomfortable with universal ideas of human nature, outside of the idea of generalized tendencies. And I realize I'm speaking as much to and of myself as anyone else.


    I guess the question becomes, just how pervasive is a certain characteristic of a person? How domineering? How central? To what degree of any of those must it be in order to be considered a significant or defining trait? There are definitely those who draw infrequently out of idle boredom. Are they artists?

    I suggest 'the inability to just walk away or make a clean break' as a possible 'necessary' condition. Sufficient? Shoooot. I dunno.

  4. But! It's worth noting that apparently conflicting traits or practices do not constitute contradictions and are nothing more than human complexity at work. Most people would assume a fascist, by nature of his evil title, to be a bad person. We are meant to be taken by surprise when told that certain members of Hitler's innermost circle were good husbands, caring fathers, or given to pangs of conscience. But should this astound us?

  5. With the idea of a scientist, I would say of course, roles themselves inform our way of interacting with our environment, social, physical, or otherwise. That isn't to say that a scientist only interacts as a "scientist", as we all inhabit and live other roles as well. She's also a daughter, possibly a spouse, a mother, maybe even an artist. The degree to which any one role is dominant is highly dependent on the choice of the individual, and the circumstances the individual is in, but all provide a(n often) different vantage and impact our actions. In fact, all of those roles have an impact on all her actions.

    Roles in the terminology as I know it are usually societally sanctioned, or at least recognized categories, and I'm not sure you could say that "fascist" is a role, but more an application of certain behaviors that only potentially arise from aspects of roles. Fascism as a label is applied, (almost?) always retroactively, to behaviors that we find abhorent and the label is applied in an attempt to get the individual to cease those behaviors. It reminds me of Navajo ideas of a witch. The person being accused of witchcraft is behaving outside the bounds of society, labeling them as such actually gives them the opportunity to rejoin society as long as they openly admit to being a witch and renounce those acts. I see fascism in much the same light; the only fascist role is that of an ex-fascist, with fascism being an applied label to historical behaviors. I can see certain
    behaviors of our previously mentioned scientist being fascist arising from personal interpretations of just what the role of science permits or perhaps even demands. I think if "fascist" is a personally informing role, sanctioned even by a small segment of society, it loses much of it's shock; much of fascism's abhorence arises out of the seeming contradiction/compartmentalism in reference to social norms.

    Perhaps the best way to look at the example you gave is that compartmentlization occurs as role's expectations conflict; an individual attempts to separate seemingly conflicting expectations of a roles by avoiding use of certain roles in certain times/situations. If so, maybe we are seeing the failure of societies use of roles and, in this case negative, capacity of the individual to override or escape the influence of a role.

  6. As to your remarks on fascists, that is true in our society at large, and supposedly in the great majority since the end of World War II, but was it so between the first world war and the end of the second? In 1930s Germany?

  7. Fascism as a label is retroactively applied to Germany. If you were to point to them in the 30's and say that they were fascists, you might get some people to agree with you in a general sense, but in the 30's all fascists were Italian. Even as late as the 1970's I remember seeing respected individuals arguing that fascism as a label could only be applied to Italy even through 1945.

  8. Huh. I can't say I was aware of that. It sounds strangely familiar, though.17870


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