(continued) It’s a good title for a magazine, as ‘The Observer’ is for a newspaper. One is presented with some sort of a re-cap of current affairs and as it were invited to attend a free-ranging debate, which is conducted generally from a particular angle but gives one at least an idea of opposing views. There is space (if a small one) on the letters page for a reader’s contribution; and lighter pieces, including puzzles and competitions, while the time away. A good magazine is entertaining, informative, even necessary in its commentary – but non-urgent. A work of art, however light on the surface, is not non-urgent. It is vital, fresh, and stays so.
It is part of the living stream. The news media are a reflection of the stream in its larger scale. An individual life is more than that, in its small way it is no reflection but a part of the flow; and a work of art, imbued with its creator’s vitality, immortalises that part. That is how the artist lives on. That may happen if in its perception, what it “says”, the artwork is unique, as an individual is; and so as a unit of special awareness it too has an individual status. As such it is not cut off from its surround, existing merely in its own time-line and local appearance, but conveys a link at a deeper than everyday level to the current of life.
When a story ends there is the sense not of a sudden stop but a joining with … a deeper narrative? One may simply call it a current. This is so for a child or an adult, and with a story or a poem, a piece of music or a painting or a sculpture, if there has been a certain kind of journey in getting to know it. To return to poetry, the “I” of the reader or listener of old is taken on a journey and liberated; but the modern concept of a journey in art is apt to lead up to or into a state of arrest. Then where is the current?
The fact is, the underlying assumption of modern art is that there is none. There is merely a passing series of phenomena. And the reader (listener, onlooker) tends to be no more than a spectator, as each observation is landed within a focal area, so to speak, and let lie. It is a cold, detached sort of business.
One becomes a viewer of unrelated perceptions. They may appear each to be unique but are so not as part of the uniqueness of life itself, but only in an unjoined-up way. With apologies to the admirable magazine, this is what its poetry – as virtually every poem that is published now – comes down to. The reduction of the individual to a camera or a recorder. The thinning-out of the blood to a watery nod. A mental pandemic has reduced the population of the world of art to the lonely satisfaction of a closed position. Fortunately the modern approach by definition has little to do with real life, and not so much immediate practical harm is done. This is Art now and this is its Spectator.