The evidentiary function is something I think often about. Something observed is evidence of something that happened. That gets talked about in Surrealism. The evidentiary function also plays a role in talking about photography: for something to be there, somebody had to be there doing the recording. (It’s always in the background of photograph-looking, though not always of importance. For me, it matters.) What’s not always discussed is that there were a set of decisions made in making that photograph. Even if the decision is to abdicate or further oneself from decision-making as a means of taking one’s ego out of the picture, as in John Cage’s chance-based works. His works, like some of mine, become matters of curiosity: setting a system in motion to see what happens if. Here, “all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair.”(1)
Sometimes my system of decision-making employs impulse, or maybe intuition: what if I go to a place, what if I sit and look, what if I let myself collect the stones that appeal to me, what if I arrange them, what if I take a photograph.
Intuition, summarizing Malcolm Gladwell, is the quicker-than-thought condensation of volumes and volumes of experience, so I guess I could argue that’s all my practice and experience coming forth, a little more purely for my trying not to overthink it.
So something comes to exist. It is. Is it good? What is good? To answer that, I must ask, and answer, what am I trying to accomplish here, besides satisfying my curiosity? (Let’s not assume our standards of measurement.) It’s interesting to look at a thing in different ways. What is truth? It’s interesting to look at a thing in different ways, to observe the various effects that may be had from those views. Which view shall I forward? Art is often the juiciest tidbits. But lately, so is culture. So how to differentiate art? (This is not what Fluxus had in mind.)(2)
What if art shows all the sides? I’ve thought of exhibiting multiple views, knowing that I and viewer alike can distinguish the best, and doing so to keep that truth in front of us: that there are multiple views, and we have our preferences, and we might be wise to examine and question our reasons why, and to keep an awareness of the whole business.
(1) From Sol Lewitt’s Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, first published in Art Forum in 1967.
(2) I have a difficult relationship with beauty: when the beautiful becomes too ordinary to my eye, the ordinary gains a beauty of its own, and my photographic choices reflect this. My natural contrarianism may be related: so, too, might my long practice at looking.