The Absolute Artwork

A ceaseless question I have, which I then pose to everyone else, is what is the ultimate form of expression? Many of us know that answers are typically not important in matters of intellectual musing, so it's not an answer that I seek here. Rather, the question froths up others about the extent of human expression through art or otherwise.

Recently, I was discussing the gesamptkunstwerk—A German word roughly meaning the "total artwork." James Turell has another phrase for this in calling Rodin Crater his "life project." Is it merely ego which leads an artist to strive for such great heights, to create something larger than their mere life? With my own such interests in creating gesamptkunstwerk, it is not ego which drives me but disillusion; artwork, how it exists in most of its current forms, leaves me wanting.

Similarly I find this dilemma in congregations of thought—ideologies, theologies, intellectual schools, and so on. I was just reading Hitchens third entry in his "letters to a young contrarian" where he's writing on the uselessness of Nirvana, or an absolute perfection within existence or humanity. He concludes that if we "imagine a state of bliss and perpetual happiness and harmony [Nirvana]" then we "have summoned a vision of tedium and pointlessness and predictability, such a Huxley with all his gifts was only able to sketch." 

In my years of exploration through, let's just call it "eastern philosophy," the idea of Nirvana comes up often. And it was my so-called enlightenment to realize that Nirvana is merely the present moment; there is nothing after death, there is no place beyond this conscious experience. This is it. And with that, I have come to a certain intellectual absolute: I have no other desire to "find" answers of meaning or purpose—those things are given in my expressions of artwork. Rather, the only thing left to do with my brain is continue filling it with, hopefully, useful information. My job then, as this artist, is to conjure something from that information.

In the conjuring, there are endless routes of composition. This is where the idea of absolute artwork comes to mind, and yet at this time I lack any possible idea of what that might be. My time these days is spent in photography, garment building, writing, and considering my newfound domestic collaboration in the engagement to marry (aside to the general endlessness of thinking on the economy of my work—as Pedro Costa put it—during waking hours). This idea of the absolute brings to mind the dreadful character of Caden in Charlie Kaufmann's Synecdoche, New York, who spends 17 years on a production that never comes to be. The irony is that the production was happening all the time, and that the production is his life. And perhaps that was Kaufmanns message, but again, the answer here is unimportant. I think also to the artist Ilya Khrzhanovsky who directs the world of Dau—of which I've only seen 4 hours of a six hour film with a dozen other potential films to see.

The gesamptkunstwert I seek will be at least half of my lifetime in the making and may even see me to my grave. Yet, I will stop at nothing to see it come to be. It is the mere fact of art as value which determines the worth of my work. Paired with my undying forward trajectory, I know something marvelous will eventually form. Today I am known as a photographer, tomorrow I could be anything but, and in that position I have the only absolute that anyone really needs: freedom.



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