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 a religious rite. It has later turned into religious practice and at some point, it was, in fact, the very same practice (which divided later on) and this is why we speak of art practice. We struggle thus with 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 sort of 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 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)
One of the neon works from the daily questions series plays an important role here because the quality of questions is not finite like that of statements. Respectively, the quality of belief is not finite like that of understanding. After development of the readymade, what determines the status of a thing as a work of art, after all, is the belief, and so the question: ‘Do you believe in art?’.
The metal lever has all qualities of a classical work of art: it has a form, can be easily preserved, it has a context and implies certain systemic methodology. But then, as an element of a mechanical device, it can only function through mechanical principles which cannot compare in their complexity to those of life, and so the most complex of systems. It reminds one of a mechanical lover in Fellini’s Casanova – an untainted beauty insusceptible to the passage of time, but also incapable of something real (something alive). With a use of another mechanical device, an image of a text reading ‘Once it’s gone’ is being permanently projected from a photographic slide, an art medium, which in that specific setting is destined to become obliterated (by fading away) before the exhibition concludes and so before the work could have a chance of becoming historicised.
The artist brings back Beuys’s rabbit and lets it live (after all the rabbit is a symbol of life and rebirth). The living rabbit becomes a work of art, impossible to install within the existing system of the museum, art or forms of ‘virtual reality’. As as a work of art it escapes reason. The installation, then, as a whole is a source. The status of the rabbits as works of art, a possibility. Josephine is one rabbit the artist chose and developed a project with. The other rabbits remain, hic et nunc, only as a possibility unless they are further selected (collected). Collected rabbit acquires a name (title) and is certified by the artist. For instance: Kasimir, 2016. Medium: Leporidae. Edition: unlimited. Signed. Of course, only the collected rabbits have a chance of becoming remembered by history.
Michal Martychowiec, 2016