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The disturbing factor

Art serves other intentions than design. Art has its roots in an inherent directness of experience. Strangely enough, this experience comes closer to the public by creating a distance. Art itself is, like design, too complex to describe its practice by one definition. Art has as many definitions as practitioners. Its value is not in the definition, but in its intentions

Basically art is about fascination, ritual, initiation and the tools of beauty, esthetics, provocation and shock. Art reaches its goals by disturbing our current experience of reality. It should be disturbing in order to connect the spectator to a reality that is loaded with values that are obscured by the dominating consciousness. These obscured values foreshadow a higher consiousness that uses more than a restricted area of its content.

All art that has importance to us resembles a critical moment in the personal development of the artist. This point of crisis in the life of the artist is marked as a break with personal and contemporary tradition. In order to become original and authentic the artist has to develop a personal view about his role in society. The outcome of this research is brought to the surface in the artwork. The time, the moment and the place that are chosen for this manifestation define its impact.

Searching for a Shangrila

The meaning of art is related to the selfimage every society has inflicted upon itself. This selfimage is the result of myth and mythologies that behave as the products of history. This historic proces constitutes the memory and the consciousness of society and create its cultural and national identities. Such identity is private and public, conscious and unconscious, at the same time. This identity involves institutionalised truths, beliefs and ideas that serve as the collective agreements which are part of a culture and society.

The artist who has developed a personal view that goes beyond myth and mythology, unveils meanings and truths that are hidden or surpressed in the collective conscience. The result of this exploration is usually marked by a break with convention. By presenting another vision that is radically different from what has been seen or said before, the artist undermines the status quo. This underlying strategy might be explicit or discreet, the act of revolt questions the values and taboos that seemed beyond discussion. 

The artist re-educates the public by making the public remember things that it wants to forget or ignore. The public, which is always in search for a new Shangrila or a lost paradise, is provoked by such new vision on art and society. What is really new and confronting is always hard to consume. A new vision must be hard to consume or it will lack the power to have enough meaning to involve the spectator. The new should therefore include a secret.

In order to avoid being one dimensional and too easy to digest, the artwork cannot permit itself to communicate its meaning at first sight. The spectator has to be in front of an enigma. In order to survive the artwork has to be enchanting. The artwork conquers time for reflection by dragging its recipient into its point of view by fascination. Consciously used, the tools of fascination, beauty, esthetics, provocation or shock, improve the effect the artwork has on the audience.

The reality of perception

Not every artist has the force and the power to become original. Artistic activity itself is always in a proces of inflation. To gain instant succes and develop mental lazyness is the greatest enemy of the professional artist. Next to this the widespread leisure practice of artistic production by non-professionals delivers the politically correct idea that we do not need genius or authenticity in order to produce something that is called art. An art that has significance or is worth a second look.

This is not a matter of questioning the value of high and low art. What matters is the ability of the artwork to change our perception. If the artwork lacks this power it belongs to the domain of illustration and decoration, which is legitimate for its own purposes, but not art. Art might be bought and sold, it can be collected and exhibited or become an object for speculation. In essence it does not belong to the domain of commerce, it belongs to the domain of healing.

The artist is a human being like others, but he stands out by representing a more sensitive receptiveness. In order to reach the hearts and minds of people he has to be the antidote for the complexity of modern society. The artist acts as a medium, a shaman or as a magician. Artists do not have the power to change the world, but they can change our perception of ourselves and the world we live in. Perception is one thing, change is another. The latter does not belong to the role of the artist. It belongs to the personal responsibility of the individual spectator.

Vision and choice

Design is the jealous mistress of art. A lot of designers would prefer to be artists instead of being designers. A deep felt wish for a greater freedom of expression lies at the roots of this matter. The practice of the designer is centered around his responsibility towards his clients. This part of their practice is often experienced as a limitation, but should not be mistaken or overvalued by the belief that expression is all.

For the artist expression belongs to a set of tools from which he can choose. Expression, in this way, does not belong to the domain of freedom. Expression belongs to the domain of consciousness, vision and the capacity to translate vision into form. If vision lacks, every form of expression might be personal, obscure and empty at the same time. It will thus lack the power to communicate.

The practice of the artist and the designer have many things in common. Their practices also involve differences. What equals these professions usually belongs to the domain of craft. What divides them is the difference in role, purpose and vision. In order to make a choice one has to be true to oneself. 

To make a choice between the two of them we have to be aware of our personal characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. We might be better off by becoming enlightened designers then by becoming failed artists. The closer we come to ourselves, the deeper we might get into an understanding that in the end there is no reason to be on either side. A true answer can only be a correct answer. Which means that we can only be the ones we really are, by developing all aspects of our humanity, not only one.

Bas Jan Ader | Balthus + + | John Baldessari + | Joseph Beuys | Peter Brook | Luis Bunuel | De Chirico | Arthur Danto | Marcel Duchamp + | Max Ernst | Lucien Freud | Alberto Giacometti | Liesbeth van Ginneken | Daan van Golden + | Anselm Kiefer | Martin Kippenberger + | Jeff Koons | Roman Signer + | Sol LeWitt | Marko Maetam | Mimmo Paladino | Edward Rusha + | Susan Sontag | ToBloom | Dolores Zorregueita <

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navigate through an ocean of data
navigate through an ocean of data
huub koch | creating good vibrations

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