Authority Again

Thinking more about authority—I’ll bet that many, including artists, maybe especially artists, think it means ordering people about. It may well be that in daily life, but in art it’s more to do with a kind of truth, a truth that we have to acknowledge but which irritates us because it doesn’t take full account of us, or of the world as we know it. Honesty demands that we submit, but some other quality makes us search for another, stronger truth.

Robert Linsley, Untitled Watercolor 2012

Robert Linsley, Untitled Watercolor 2012

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One Response to Authority Again

  1. Dean says:

    It is excellent that you have come back to this topic. I wrote a response to the prior posting but decided against submitting it feeling it to be clumsy and awkward and half-baked. But, I am including it now as written as I think this subject can be taken much further. Anyway, some of my thoughts…

    I have enjoyed reading these blog postings over the course of several months now. I like that they are brief and to a specific point. And this topic has given me much food for thought these last few days. Initially that led me to the ideas of self-empowerment and self-authorization. The latter I had never really come across before. Self-empowerment I feel is concerned with gaining power over one’s ego and its obsession with doubts and fears. You cannot fight the ego using authority as it will always be able to come back at you with more doubts and fears. But the goal is to gain power over the ego so that you can exercise authority in your own practice. I feel that more than anything real authority is guided by truth. Being self-authorized concerning one’s own work means you can be truthful about it. It is good or great work or it is crap and needs improvement. Then nobody can tell you otherwise.

    But I thought about the topic further and ran across some notes I had made a year ago while reading some advice about writing. That, as a writer you do have to write from a place of expertise but not as a sole authority. That the reader is perhaps the most important authority. So, write in a way that empowers the reader. That got my attention back then and seems very applicable as I consider this topic with respect to art. If one produces art as a sole authority, then that art would not allow the viewer to make anything out of it beyond what you have shown. I am not sure how to discuss this but it seems that this speaks to what abstraction should or should not be. The idea that the work should not resemble anything in the real world and the viewer should not be able to see anything in the work seems to oppose the idea of an empowered viewer. Let them see cake!

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