Meditations on Art: Costas Tsoclis

...Art does not express feelings. It produces feelings, if it is art.

...Now I beg innocence to receive me once again in her embrace, with simulated promises that I will fashion from scraps of knowledge and debauchery, from remnants of regret and abstinence, an idol that will resemble her. I envision the embrace of a bear who, coming to me in my sleep, will warm me, or devour me.

...I would prefer an honourable war to this perfidious, disgraceful violence,
hoping that we might arrive at some other possible peace that will in its turn doubtless disappoint us later on, but which might give us the chance to live for some years yet, deceiving perhaps only ourselves.

... But when the hour finally arrives and we are obliged to use our tools to execute a work that concerns, or ought to concern, everyone, not only artists, then let us stop parading our creations as self-contained pieces of art, let us for a while stop flaunting our skills and acumen as the chief element of our work, and let us admit with full awareness the danger that 'pure' artists and critics might speak ill of us.

On the other hand...

... I am afraid we must sacrifice precisely that which defines us.
Regretfully, we are obliged to part with our old identity so that we may acquire a new, more valid, one, even though our new face may show itself somewhat altered. It isn't easy.
Because, until now, we received our identity in the form of a card issued by a particular official of the Ministry of the Interior, now it must issue from centres faceless and unforeseeable, where they don't often understand your language, where there is no concern or pity for you.

... As the only necessity, I will allow that the creator, obeying his nature rather than advertising it, must secure a position where he can stand and observe the world. And he must observe with liquid eyes that, wherever he fixes his gaze, will leave their mark. He must indelibly stain the world with his secretions.

...Being confirmed dowsers and rhabdomancers, we shall continue to search out hidden springs of inspiration, before necessity forces us to slake our thirst on bottled water. Let's not be misunderstood here, for we are also modern people. We hold no contempt for the bottled kind; we know that it too has its source in nature.

... thus we in our turn slowly abandon broad, dynamic public places and limit our activities to whatever we can still control, to that which is still valid, or so we believe. Until we stand in the familiar minimum space, within which at some point this harrowing but wondrous game of our life will come an end.

... Like pederasts, or vampires, having once tried to suck even more juice, even more sensual pleasure, from a continually self-renewed present that always escapes us, being quicker than our desire for life and for art, we seek refuge now in the immutable elements of our being.

...Whom do we address? Whose benefit do we desire, and by what right?
Which catalyst will we stir into our ephemeral materials to make them harden into stone? To cause time itself to petrify, and make this lump take on our own form!

...We live, you see, at a moment when the artist, no longer having a place and time to stop and gather his thoughts, and give shape to his desire, is like a fish quivering and writhing on the boat canvas, where it looks to be caught up by the strands of some rope yet free, if such a rope exists, so as not to founder in the sea of indifference, of selfish interest, and past masterpieces.

...My God, how much easier it is to speak of a past that you have actually suffered through, understood, and probably loved, than to participate in a continually mutating present, and even to try to predict a possible tomorrow, which you both fear and envy. A tomorrow that will at worst ignore you, and at best will walk over you in order to reach its own road, its own ephemeral truth.

...Art, whether you wish it or not, my friends, is inspired by your own behaviour, and that's what it portrays. It's useless to hope for the opposite. Art is a medium of social self-awareness, often painful, sadistic, unnatural. But no harm can come from conversing with yourself from time to time, even if people think you mad, just as there is no harm in watching yourself with other people's eyes.

...So, what is it finally that you expect from art? What more can poor dear old Art offer beyond certain moments of exultation, beyond a temporary remission of sins, a disorienting deliverance, a historical testimony?
We often flatter ourselves saying, and perhaps also believing, that our work awakens. But art does civilise people, and its aesthetics may forgive, even when it deals with war, death or injustice. Even when it puts on grotesque expressions, when it screeches and attacks, weakening society's reactions. Should I, or should I not feel guilty?

...For quite some time now I have been interested more in failure than in success. And I am certain that many things that passed as failures contained seeds of life and prospects of future usefulness that are absent from today's 'successful' works. This is because what is considered, and actually is, successful is that which has won acceptance, that which has already emptied its contents into the mind of the viewer.

...Timeless international or universal Art is a public bank from which anyone may borrow to cover the needs of the moment. But there comes a time when the loan must be repaid with its interest. The interest paid on such loans is our contribution to the cause of Art.

...Truly, how far must we go in fulfilment of our obligations? How much protective fat does our soul interpose for us to cut through before we can reach and flay its bodily core, injuring it irreparably until we force it to speak? Each of us believes in his own stamina and reserves. But then we meet so many dead people in the street every day...

... As much as my soul needs certain moments of indifference to what happens in the world around it, I feel that I haven't got the right, haven't got the time perhaps, to give it such moments. And it is my heart, like a pitiable bloodied dust-rag, that is dragged through the streets to be fought over by stray dogs.

...Now I am certain that no work of art can change even a tiny part of our existence if we can't get past the conditions of our meeting with it, and if it isn't established within us, consciously or unconsciously, in such a way that we then carry it with us. We ourselves must ultimately become the ideal museum where the work will be continuously on exhibit.

...Was it necessary to reach this advanced age to be able to understand that I shall never manage to vitally depict the image of our moment, and must be content with a supplementary contribution to the fluid scheme of our era?
How much easier my life would have been, and how much more easily my work and my presence would have been accepted, if only I had understood
this earlier.

...I find myself floating suspended over the chasm between a past that no longer concerns me and a future that I don't always understand, and which, quite possibly, may not want me. Neither future nor past. With responsibility only for the fleeting present.

...You cannot call back and reconsider what you have lost, in hopes perhaps of saving something. What you can do is to change you mind, thus humbling your former self. How unjust for you, a mature person, to humiliate the youth you once were. How much more honourable to suffer without complaint the consequences of your acts for all the rest of your life.

...When I try to make art I want to forget human suffering because misery is stronger than art. If we don't create, if we don't build an internal peace of our own, if we fail even briefly to close our eyes to wretchedness, we are lost. And since we cannot . . .

...To hell with knowledge and information. Damn the journeys that make us understand the rest of the world and admire or envy it. Damn progress and its benefits, damn the riches that sapped our desires, damn the 'no' and the 'don't' that strangled our madness at its birth. Cursed be the love that castrated us.

...Thousands of times, themes sacred and historic, momentous human problems, honest and virtuous intentions, theories and movements of enormous social importance, have all produced art that is thin, shallow, silly and anachronistic.

On the contrary, mere nothings, chance coincidences, certain erroneous combinations have often provided the motive for the creation of masterpieces. And better, provided for moments of relief and joy.

...It's just that there comes a time when the endless sifting of events becomes so dispiriting, is reduced to such abject tiresomeness, that you are deceived and distorted by it, you feel that you are wasting your time. Then you take refuge in dream or myth, in the history of lasting things, but dressing them in today's uniform, because it is today that will save you, if you are to be saved at all.

...Wherever man goes, he kills, to leave his mark. He kills in order to live a bit longer. He kills in order to embellish, to preserve, to lay claims, to forget, to save. Wherever he goes, along with his wisdom, he leaves behind his excrement and the scars of his errors.

...We jump from goal to goal, from event to event, small jumps sometimes and sometimes large ones, leaving gaps between them, sacrifices to time spent in expectation and hope.
But we always land in the wrong place or at the wrong time.
During the leap our time has already passed and the places have changed.
Our life is a broken chain that we must mend with old wire so as not to miss what comes next.
And the others continue ceaselessly to flow and tumble.
Rivers of locusts that pass and leave behind a dead landscape.

...I see modern art as a torn and shuddering being that is desperately in search of an identity for this faceless or many-faced society we live in today. And I consider that the attempt to find such an identity is more appealing than the discovery of a form that could actually represent our moment. That is to say that I am much more interested in the struggle than the achievement, unless, in the end, the attempt itself is the form.

... Events are only a pretext. The reasons for which a work of art is realised are aesthetic. When current events are past, the work hangs by a thread.
If its aesthetics are worthy, it will survive, regardless of whatever impression it may have made in the transitory moment of events. It ceases to matter.

Yes, but of which aesthetics are we speaking?

... Certainly intentions do not justify results, though I do believe that intentions are sacred. And if we fail, let nature shoulder the blame, since it failed to give us the power to automatically transform our intentions into proven actualities, into precise objects.

...Truth has no need of testimony, in any circumstances. It has a strange strength that imposes itself like a feeling, like an aura that pervades you and your actions and, through you actions, reaches and permeates other people.

...I am still trying to save things, to save myself. I try to deny that the moment I fashioned my first piece of work was also the moment of my death. The instant they signed their first masterpiece, a great many of the most important artists, signed their death warrant as well. Their own glorious death.

...Then again, the aim of art is not to obey some command, but to somehow manage to move the viewers and to ask the same questions they ask themselves every day. And to leave it to them to judge whether the artist has ultimately managed to provide answers. That is, whether his own way the artist has succeeded in giving them redemption.

...We know what is happening in America, in India, in England, on the moon, yet we don't know what the dog in our garden is doing. We don't know why the flower on our balcony has wilted. We are obliged to take an interest in the things over which we hold no sway, things that in any case are foreign to us, and to forget those things that need us and hope for the tenderness we hold within ourselves.

Who obliges us to this misplaced attention? Why?

...The artist is obliged to continually stimulate, to annoy; he must not be content merely to satisfy needs. Passion is entirely different from need, and surpasses it by far. Passion is inspiration and often perversion as well. Art is both. It is neither happiness nor misfortune, neither hunger nor satiety, but a sort of balance. A doubtful and transient balance, always different from what we expect.

...I propose continuous wandering among the ruins of the city, endless search for food in the abandoned countryside, companionship with wolves.
I propose life lived through ideas, through the works of others, the art of others.
I propose complete stupefaction, utter indifference, limitless pain, blind devotion...

...But let's not forget that old images still steer our steps, our feelings,
our decisions. We shall never produce pioneering work as long as our childhood precedes our maturity.

...I would prefer that this limit on my powers did not exist. Like an invisible knife, it amputates my efforts and restricts them to the same measure, to the same degree of interest. I wish I had a huge eraser to rub out the mistakes of my life, the smudges on my past. Then, in the blank spaces I would inscribe other events, enter other acts. . .

...When we used to beg for bread they wouldn't give us any. Now that we've given up bread because it is fattening, bakeries have cropped up in every street.

I'm afraid that we shall never again feel the joy of hunger.
Fortunately we retain one last valuable possession: the fatigue that brings welcome sleep.
Let there be no further misunderstanding. My friends must realise that when I speak it is the artist in me who is speaking, an artist who thirsts for inspiration, not a priest or a sociologist or a politician or a philanthropist...

... Just as certain forgotten roads lead to abandoned industrial installations, and abruptly, inexplicably, go no farther, so certain movements in art open pathways through time that lead to forsaken cemeteries of dead ideas.
Artists, too, abandon these cemeteries without explanation and turn to follow other paths opened by others, paths that promise to become broad avenues.
As for me, I am moved by those truncated roads and empty rusting factories. Often I find nourishment in such places, where other people see only the world's end...

... I am not sure that art should be flung in the faces of those who are indifferent to it. Better let it remain secret, hidden. Better to approach it with difficulty, searching, inquiring, following little-used and ill-defined paths. Paying the obligatory tolls if need be.
Believe me, you must approach art with profound respect.
Of course, you may, after all, come upon it suddenly, unprepared. Then, if the miracle happens, so much the better.

... To associate rouge anglais with insomnia, or with suddenly staring eyes. To discover the proper proportions of fatigue, and to pick up scattered pages of newspaper in a different way, to a different rhythm. To wear away some of the engines' components, and mark that erosion in relation to three dimensions, or even two. To enable the apprentice to embrace the pin-up girls.

No walk should be undertaken without some compensation, some reward.

...You see, in our excessive zeal in defence of our ideas we often forget the circumstances that originally inspired them, and circumstances are continually changing. So many disappointments, so much unjustified anger, so many counterfeit calendars, falsified journals...

...In any case, I take more nourishment from your doubts than from your praise. That's why I strive to keep doubt alive.
You can rely on me to constantly seek an image that will coincide with ever-present reality.
How can I be expected to remain constant if life itself changes constantly?
Though change is essentially a matter of appearance... How can I be expected
to change?

...Art should enchant, transforming tragedy into exultation, violence into aesthetic delight, indifference into essence. It should mediate between reality and desire – or the opposite. It could be the creation of aesthetic hiding places where conspirators would guard the closed doors and give false directions to the uninitiated. It could be the production of novel sensual pleasures derived from unsuspected situations and relations. From changed quantities, from alterations of materials, and commonplace and sterile things.

... Art is ungrateful. We often become its slaves, and then, despite our aspirations, it scorns us.
But if you dare to injure or insult it, it will hound you day and night.

The only way to maintain your intimacy with art is to spurn its demands.

In other words, if you want to make art, you must have nothing to do with art.

...A work of art is made to represent feelings, observations, events, mutual relations. When these associations change, the work is transformed into a historical testimony, or worse, it is thrown out with the rubbish . . .

...because miracles always surpass what evokes them.

...Art has neither name nor categories. It is a spirit that percolates through our acts and leaves behind traces sometimes visible and detectable, sometimes unseen and evanescent. The former are essential to record and read history, the latter to create it.

... I would like finally to be remembered as man who bleeds when faced with events over which he has no influence, who weeps for skills and abilities that grow useless, who, rightly or wrongly, is seized with anger at a world he does not comprehend, at a God he does not recognise, because he never happened to meet him. A man who . . .

And yet...