BOOKWORMS

A simple challenge to socially invoked academic hypocrisy

Having just read a most illuminating article by artist/activist John Jordan[1] I have a question: why in the eyes of postmodernist academia, eco-artists, process relational philosophers[2] and art activists (and anyone else on the humpity-hoo-what-not socially-engaged bandwagon) is a book any different from an art object, or a library any different from a white cube gallery space, in terms of their political potential?

strange confetti, northam (pward 2011)

From a slightly removed perspective it appears that all are equally imaginatively and phenomenologically[3] participatory in the hands of the individual viewer or audience. Nothing, after all, is set in stone (except stone perhaps!). And all is open to a subjective mutating interpretation and has the potential to transform the contemporary behavioural paradigm through catalytic perceptual insight and inspiration![4]

While the artful intelligentsia dismiss the creative endeavours of the masses and uninformed, maybe it would be an idea to spare a thought or two for the means of our own perceptual exultation and inspiration! As much as we (contemporary socio-ecologically engaged artists) might in some small measure assimilate our wisdom through practical tactile engagement with the substance of our craft, the vast majority of our contextual knowledge and meaningful vocational foundation is still attained through the versatile communicative formulation of the book, often found within the institutionally curated medium of the library. Surely our obsessive imaginatively interactive engagement with this profoundly abstract and ideologically contradictory and sculpturally alphabetic means of our esteemed learnedness and self maintained respect (i.e., the book) does not quite tally with our flagrantly outspoken and much maligned disapproval of the residual vestiges of our socio-ecologically justified processes (i.e., the art object)?

 nature unreserved, northam (pward 2011)

So, isn’t it about time to own up to this hypocrisy and begin to celebrate and affirm all the ultimately wondrous and sometimes superfluous means of our survival!? The painters and sculptors, the TV programmes, the watercolour classes, the flower arrangers, the interior decorators, the wall builders, the craft stall holders, the jewellers… It is maybe our inability to ‘read’, or intellectually contextualize and fairly appreciate, such diversely sensuate languages that should be addressed rather than our profound abilities to create and manipulate them. Art is after all just as much about receiving as it is about giving.

The fact that we have made it this far, against all the ridiculous odds, is something to come together and celebrate, to absorb and enjoy, rather than just pick apart and dissimilate! Art in all forms is an intrinsic and valuable dimension to any cultural societal manifestation as a means (if nothing more) to explore and celebrate our manual and imaginative dexterity and creative response to the material substance of the world.

dead gull and bundle, northam (pward 2011)

Personally, I feel no guilt or remorse for our exceptional existence, (nor for my use of this literary means of our communication for that matter!) just gratitude for this consciously emergent participation.

And (somehow) I have faith that those innate instinctive, intuitive abilities which have sustained and guided us so far will continue to guide us, when needs be, in our responses to this ever-changing and immanent reality.

Today, I am happy to be alive. I am grateful for the air I breathe, the food I eat, the shelter I have, my family, friends and neighbours,the senses I feel and the games I play and the big, big wide world.

PW 2011


[1] In the Footnotes of Library Angels: A Bi(bli)ography of Insurrectionary Imagination (PDF) – John Jordan (2009)

[2] Process Relational Philosophy by Alfred North Whitehead (1861 – 1947)

[3] Spell of the Sensuous – David Abram (with reference to The Phenomenology of Perception – Maurice Merleau-Ponty)

[4] The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling – James Hillman 

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