Do you believe in art?
There are two important aspects western art has developed: it means (signifies) and has content.
Art has developed out of religion (or religious rite). It has later turned into religious practice and I believe at some point it was, in fact, the very same practice (which divided later on) and this is why we speak of art practice.
There lays a certain contradiction as we so desperately try to understand art and clearly believing and understanding cannot go together. However, something one does not understand not necessarily is deprived of meaning.
We ask ourselves or are asked if we understand a work of art, but the ‘mystery’ of art (or rite) is not ‘mysterious’, it rather refers to a liturgical actio and so action or performative quality of the work of art; it is a performance whose actors are the work of art itself and its audience (like the liturgy which incidentally from Greek translates as „work of the people”). Understanding lacks performative character, but certainly not believing.
To participate in the liturgy (in the church) one needs to confess one’s belief – not one’s understanding.
Art is not “a celebration of an external rite, which has its truth elsewhere (in faith and dogma). It is only in committing this absolutely performative action hic et nunc, which each time realises that which it signifies, that [art] can find its life in reality” (G. Agamben)
I pose questions rather than statements because the quality of the question is not finite (on the contrary to that of a statement). Art will not cease as long as man remains man. Joseph Beuys’ hare has to live and be reborn (after all the rabbit is a symbol of life and rebirth). After the readymade, what determines the status of a work of art, after all, is the belief, and so the question: Do you believe in art? should be answered with each generation.