To see how the concept of the demonic might be helpful to artists, one might contemplate certain categories that are current in art writing, such as “abstract expressionism” or “minimalism.” Close examination of the work involved is always enough to bring these categories into question, never mind the testimony of the artists themselves, who always reject any such groupings. But though we know that, it doesn’t stop us from talking and thinking as if they are real existing things, or from teaching this fallacy to younger artists. Call it a weak form of possession, to attribute historical reality and even agency to arbitrary and abstract distinctions, to talk about “minimalism” as if it was born,
lived, had a career and then went into permanent retirement in the museums. But then one might observe that ideas are real in that real people hold them and act accordingly, and I would say sure, in that they are also forms of demonic possession as mass delusion and therefore part of the general confusion that makes it harder for any work to be seen. But then one could also say that abstract categories must have a truth, otherwise they wouldn’t exist and have currency. My answer to that is don’t underestimate how strongly entrenched nonsense can become, but more importantly it is not required that art possess the whole truth. Philosophers have a grip on something—maybe—but artists only have to be concerned with the concrete particular. Art is partial, and its concern is what in our hyper-mediated world doesn’t get attention enough, “the thing itself,” as produced by human labor. The concept of demonic possession may be a bit strong to apply to the chatter of arts journalism, but alas, enslavement by abstract ideas is real enough in many studios, as proven by the work that comes out of them.

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