The Third Problem

What is newly original in an artist’s work is never noticed by the public. It frequently is not noticed by the artist himself. What is really new at the time of its first conception is too subjective to be recognized. It is recognized and takes on its full meaning only after it has been repeated a limited number of times. In this case a repetitive series is set up thereby becoming recognizable. I stress “limited number of times” because there is, especially in contemporary an, a tendency to repeat a series until it loses meaning. In its raw state the original either passes unnoticed or is considered to be a mistake. In the arts it is noticed and approved, precisely at that moment when it is on its way to becoming unoriginal. This is also precisely the moment when a work becomes art. Before this moment the work is too subjective, too introspective to have any universal interest. After this moment the work becomes a repetition of an original act. A work remains permanently original if the artist refrains from dragging it through the mud of too much repetition.” [David Hare on Originality]

While distinguishing between the potent and the meretricious, we should all engage with even the most unsettling experiences that originality in art provides. Nothing is more depressing than the attitude of viewers who approach innovative work with all their prejudices rigidly intact, refusing to accept that art has a fundamental right to defy even our most hallowed preconceptions. If the importance of originality is not recognised, academicism becomes rampant, repetitive dullness prevails and artists lose their crucial ability to renew our vision of the world with outstanding, revelatory verve.” [RIchard Cork on Originality]

Lucia Whittaker It’s Arguable Whether I Had Any in the First Place 2009

…so we have to begin with the assumption that within a given stylistic atmosphere, some things are good. We have to assume that, objectively and quantitatively, some things are better than others. How “good” you think that goodness is, is your own business, but the fact remains that some things give us more, give it to us faster, and give it to us longer, and in the cultural economy of this society, that signifies “better.” How we recognize that value is the interesting question, and the great music critic Leonard Meyer, in an essay he wrote in 1959, “Some Remarks on Value and Greatness in Music,” gave me my first inkling of how we might recognize value. Meyer begins with the assumption that all works of art and music presume a community of beholders or listeners who are in possession of certain internalized generic and stylistic expectations about what they are looking at or listening to. He then suggests that those works of art and music that perfectly fulfill these expectations hardly ever exist. They are virtually invisible or inaudible and useless to our purposes. [Dave Hickey “Goodbye to Love”]

My basic idea is that our fingerprints are different, our handwriting is different, that there’s something that makes each of us individual. I don’t mean to be Pollyannaish about this, but I think each of us has a real capacity for originality, but originality is very, very hard to get to. It takes real work. I think people don’t quite realize how much work it takes to be a good artist—the drive and determination and self-criticism. You have to be harder on your work than anybody. But you’re always going to find people like that in every generation. [Roberta Smith on Originality]

Henri values your comments!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.