Art without History

Art without History was the title of a website I once thought I would manage. It was too much for me, but it doesn’t go away.  The site would have speculated about how any one of us might make or view works of art if we abandoned the idea of a linear history, but still felt we needed to contend with the past.  

Suppose instead of a linear temporal parade, anyway, the model was roughly spherical.  Suppose communications media – all fair game for artistic media – accumulate over time, like sedimentary layers in geology or growth rings on tree trunks, or different sorts of tissue in a developing brain (both on an evolutionary scale, and in terms of a developing embryo).  Both artists and viewers move back and forth among these layers, “finding” or recognizing themselves in relation to others by way of these media.  They definitely are NOT always up to date!  Rather any work of art presents some configuration among the layers – as determined by the artist — and is viewed in another – the viewer’s — configuration or positioning with respect to the layers.  

It’s probably as complicated as memory, where most of us can, with effort, put events in something like conventional temporal order, but usually don’t, because it’s not very useful, it doesn’t make “sense,” it doesn’t help anything (You have to put things in chronological order when you write your c.v., and it is NOT fun.   It can be really embarrassing, misleading, you might even say wrong.)   At least the new model doesn’t suggest a simple or stable exchange between then and now.  

Author: Nancy Roth