“Culture has its way of being expressed through every artwork created. But a strictly cultural interpretation of art practice dismisses the innate drive that inspires the human being to create, and maximizes the hubris of sociopolitical life and the historicism that follows. The most compelling, unnerving examples of the primal forces that motivate humankind are experienced through Art. The ambition here is to present a philosophical stand, that positions the innate urge of the individual to create as primary, and as independent of the policies of (what may be mistaken for) ofﬁcial culture. It is my position that art practice must remain independent of cultural mandate.” Page 6.
“Culture is self-perpetuating theater that varies from region to region. The rules that a society adopts for appropriate and inappropriate behaviors constitute the values that establish the customs for that culture. The general image of culture is a local ﬁctive picture, a little picture in a big (global) picture. Its content is the representation of the culture’s subjective vision. The rules or scripts people are expected to observe and follow vary from culture to culture, and evolve and vary not only across time, but also between ethnic and religious groups, and social classes. What is deemed to be accepted dress, speech, philosophy, or aesthetics in one group may be unacceptable in another. These acts and designs are the grand theater, whereby the main human activity is to play the characters. The society passively accepting the script assumes a living scenario, which becomes its meta-narrative. Social norms as statements of prescribed behavior also act as informal social controls. Although they are usually based in some degree of consensus, social norms may also be maintained through social sanctions. Page 21.
“We tend to understand history in a conventional sense, as simply the occurrence of events. This understanding is implicit in our use of words like ›primitive‹ or ›advanced,‹ ›traditional‹ or ›modern,‹ when referring to different types of human societies. Since (art) history is the story found in the artifact record, the historian must piece together the past from fragments of human endeavor. The study of history is an interpretative activity, whereas the individual historian may assert his or her own interpretation. These interpretations may run counter to the interests of the subjects under scrutiny. The responsibility of the historian to make sense of the past may be impinged by the degree to which his or her insight is owed to a critical or cultural pedigree. To decipher the epochal phase of a dissimilar culture requires a quality of objectivity that one’s own culture (philosophy) may not provide. To plot the evolving phase of another culture is rather difﬁcult, because the actual dynamics of which remain partially unknowable. As we evolve towards the unknown our own and current image (representation) cannot be a very clear or ﬁxed one, and our image of the ›Other‹ is necessarily a ﬁgment of conjecture. Historical knowledge is the ideas of the historian in association and procession ; the certainties of the judgments are probabilities that are subject to contradiction, and refutation. ›There is History because there is philosophy and in order that there may be Philosophy,…‹ (Alexandre Kojève).” Page 24.
Autobiography as Critique
By Howard McCalebb
ADDRESS TO ALYTUS BIENNIAL: EXCERPTS FROM MY BOOK
- Written by Howard McCalebb