JR, the French street artist who was the topic of my last column, represents one extreme of the street art spectrum. He works with communities, orchestrates planned, large-scale, universally celebrated works, and wins huge cash prizes. On the other side of the spectrum, there are street artists, like Kidult, who work on the fringes of communities or against communities, provoke general revulsion, and get arrested.
This point brought to mind the role of the cosmos—that is, the universe—in art. On the one hand, it seems absurd to ignore the fact that the earth is a tiny thing occupying a negligent part of something mind-bogglingly vast. On the other hand, trying to include some sense of the universe in artwork seems like a fool’s errand, even willfully blind to art’s essential task, which is to grapple with human experience.
Like every groundbreaking artist, Picasso does not stop at the merely good. He goes for the crazy. He blows things up. This compulsion strikes me as deeply courageous. He’s not afraid to lose what he has in favor of some unknown. He seems to be constantly striving for something no one has seen before—stranger, busier, less safe. He is a savage editor and an even more inventive creator.
Lushly visual art and art that works with physical experience is out—imagine trying to take a Google Maps tour through a Richard Serra piece. The best internet art is collective and interactive in a way peculiar to its medium and works with the quiet, personal, and slightly guilty state of its consumers. There is no self-satisfaction to the internet the way there is to a book or a museum.
Apparently, you can will yourself into waking up when you need to, along with the proven facts that you can will yourself into a better mood by smiling, and that you can will yourself into believing a placebo will help you even when you know it’s a placebo. I also think that you can will yourself into finding the exact piece of art that you’ve been looking for, knowingly or not.