Quod erat demonstrandum.
All art is process.
All art is processing and always rising to its end and beyond, always rising into ruin.
The obvious analogy is with architecture. In reality and in art, buildings always rise into ruin. Art, along with most things, including all language, fails in the end, ending in ruin. In architecture, art and language, there is always a magical or optimal moment, or at least the promise of one, but it never lasts.
For art to be rising into ruin means it is always falling away from its beginning and becoming something other than itself, unwanted even. Art is always rising in this way and perpetually rising into what it will become, which is ruin. No one wants to know this about art, which does not at all alter it or anything about its heading for ruin. We shore ourselves against too much reality, so the here and now of art, its numinous self, its presence, we hold dear. We fail to see the creep away, the fade of the numinous, the shift from now to then, the sea change into something strange.
We cannot say these artists are united or share a purpose. They are distinct, one apart from the other. But they come together in countertext09. What do they share? Some love language, their own or other’s, yet never expect it to come up trumps, tell the whole story, fill in the picture. Some seem indifferent to language, to say the least. They seem suspicious of it, whatever its form, however it is printed, on whatever material for whatever purpose. They are rightly suspicious, for it too rises, promising much, jabbing and hammering here and there, before trailing off, heading towards its own ruination, a route close to its heart, inherent in itself, the inevitable reduction to shards or shreds. Joe Stevens, in Outtakes from a Conversation, is succinct ‘How long before we get to the point, you know, um, but no’.
Language will fail us. The beauty of language, even if half-grasped, will enthrall us, but in the end it fails us.
It tends to shred itself, start something then stop.
So many of the artists here re-stage in images the way language slides away from meaning full-on and clear, moving instead into the opposing camp: language is already in tatters, already broken apart, already fully risen into ruin.
Instead, the artists put in place discomfort, ambiguity, enigma. All their works show beauty, yes, but beauty clouded or compromised. Beauty trembles at its own instability, before the slow murmuring or fast screaming realisation of its utter ruin.
Can anything be saved? Yes of course: the process leads to finished works that, in most cases, save the lack of a solution, savour irresolution, uncertainty. The finished works are what they purport to be. The surreality of the everyday and the enigma of arrival. They are themselves proof of what they perform: the beauty of art rising into ruin.
Quod erat demonstrandum.
John Taylor 2009