In order to sit down and establish any sort of ideology1 that guides my life, I really have only a single point to consider: art2 is, without a doubt, what is most important to me. Out of everything. I say this without a hint of irony, with a complete presence of sincerity: everything that has ever been important to me has been mediated by art, to some degree.
Perhaps this is easy for me to say because I equate art with pleasure. Or the idea that art is beauty (as a definition from dictionary.com would like to suggest). If this were true then I wouldn’t have anything to say here. But, the unfortunate thing is that there is a lot of bad art that makes me furrow my brow and launch into hyperbolic rhetoric or a complete insincerity (read: irony). The other negation to the aforementioned declarations heeds itself to my own ideas in an appreciation of affect over visual aesthetic: i.e., something ugly, terrifying, and evil can bring pleasure.
I am not an overly-depressed person. I am (fairly) high functioning in a pretty normal way. I have no desire to be constantly escaping from reality. Kneeling at the temple of Art is not about escapism for me, and I think that’s why I inherently hate the idea of mediating an experience of art (exclusively) through empathy (this is why I will always champion modes of art that lie outside of representation3).
I occasionally feel like when I make this declaration, I am widening a divide between myself & the general public. I say this without elitism. The problem is making a statement like this seems to establish binary opposition: if I don’t like representation, I must like crazy non-narrative abstract shit. Right? I mean, that binary presupposes the person who is contrasting her or his own approach to art with mine is able to conceive of an approach to art that is outside of representation (and this is part of why my mother has no idea in regards to what I am interested in and what I am doing when it comes to “art”).
But here’s the thing: I love narrative. I have no desire to escape narrative. Of course, throughout my experiences with art I have grown mostly tired of archetypal narrative arcs, neatly wrapped up stories, etc etc. But that’s not the point. What I look for in art, what I aim for in art, ultimately, as I’ve said many noted many times in comment threads, is affect.
A while ago, Lily pondered the flâneur in this post, and in the comments section Ken referenced Nassim Taleb, and it seems that interest in the flâneur, like the figure of the flâneur itself, meanders around the consciousness of many of us, possibly. There is something perennially appealing and perhaps romantic about the flâneur–the apartness, the deliberate purposelessness–and I remember that it took, for me, reading Benjamin’s The Arcades Project to understand Baudelaire (the man and the work) in a more complete and meaningful way. Some years ago I wrote an essay (whose title is the title of this post) that sought to explore the idea of text-as-city and reader as flâneur, and then, by extension, the work of writing as its own kind of flânerie. (Really wanted to publish it as Flânerie O’Connor, but then I would’ve had to punch myself in the face really hard. And also get it published.) Anyway, here are some excerpts/cut-ups from that essay:
“You might define the general trend in my work as a synthesis of aesthetics and psychology. Traditionally, in Japan, these are not two different things. Neither is aesthetics in conflict with realism. I believe this is unique to Japan.” – Yukio Mishima