“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.” Albert Einstein
I believe that “perfection of means” has become one of the most important goals in art today, at great expense.
If you ask most artists and art gallery owners, they would say that “originality” is one of the most important goals in contemporary art. I would like to talk about originality because I believe this has to do with our confusion of goals in art. Is there not more than one kind of originality?
One kind of originality is the originality of method, material and production techniques. Contemporary art is full of examples of this kind of originality. Just look at all the different uses of materials, the reinvention of techniques and appropriation, the very clever hybrid combinations of material and method. Rarely does one find a painting painted with paint and a paintbrush anymore. In this way, contemporary art is uniquely original. Very interesting manipulation of materials: glass, wax, burlap, vinyl, lines made from bullets, massive and surprising installations, and much much more. Reinvention everywhere. Take a look at Contemporary Art Daily.
The second kind of originality is the originality of idea, concept, story. Just look at most contemporary art and you see irony, sarcasm, environmentalism, social and political statements, stories of all kinds, contemporary culture and social awareness, mind teasing ideas. Very interesting concepts. Take a look at Contemporary Art Daily.
The third kind of originality is not so common. It is the originality of spirit, deep feeling, involvement and need. It is a very personal originality. It is the originality that comes from knowing oneself well and honoring one's gifts. This kind of originality depends on vulnerability, risk and emotional commitment, an originality that comes from gradual effort, doubt, struggle, and inner yearning. Contemporary art mostly overlooks this originality that comes from an artist’s deep self. It takes too much time, work and uncertainty.
Ideally, an artwork might include all three of these originalities. Too often art today lacks the most important originality and suffers from too much mind, material and “perfection of means”. For art to be authentic and honest, an artist has to reach deep into one's original self. Only then will the "means" of material and method truly have the force of a deeper purpose.
Why does contemporary art tend away from the personal, heartfelt, deeply honest and authentic originality?