Kyotomotors is back! Check in Wednesdays for commentary on the age of abundance, climate change
and the dawning of the post-carbon eventuality...

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Work Of Art In The Age Of The Combustion Engine

If I were a writer, I would write The Work Of Art In The Age Of The Combustion Engine. 
My bias of course is for all things stemming from the Road. By default we all have a relationship to the world, the landscape and to other people that has been shaped by the global industrial experience, which is by and large characterised by the use of fossil fuels as an overwhelmingly predominant energy source. The combustion engine is in my mind an appropriate symbol.
In ways that remain invisible to us – like the invisibility of water to a fish – the cultural fabric of experience has been stretched so greatly by everything the combustion engine represents directly or by association. Painting is no exception, and its transformations, reinterpretations and current incarnations are a testament to the freedom we have achieved as the world’s first global, industrial culture.
On the downside, it may also be symptomatic of an utter disconnect from Nature herself that painting has been able to wander so deeply into the wilderness of the inventive imagination.
The age of the combustion engine after all is at its heights, and its willing participants are now coming to terms (wilfully or not) with the limits that Nature imposes on all ecosystems, sooner or later. It is popular, in this age, to pretend that the marvels and achievements of our times will exempt us from such a fate, but my understanding of systems is that it will not – for detailed reasons I will not go into here.
Why is this important?
It is just as important now to consider Gauguin’s famous questions: What are we? Whence do we come? And, where are we going? Not because it encapsulates the angst and uncertainty of the world facing a nascent industrial system about to go global, and embark on the unprecedented rise of a mechanised industrial society (i.e. Gauguin’s time). Rather, the opposite is true: the path of that rise has arced across recent history to the present dawning of its own twilight, where angst and uncertainty creeps back in.
Pausing to consider the implications of this present, one comes to understand the shifts that are taking place. Whether this is an advantage or not, remains to be seen. It does not, unfortunately, appear to be the kernel of truth that might have “saved the planet”. Instead it is just a rare shining example of truth itself amid the flotsam and jetsam being thrust to and fro in the tsunami of culture.
For me it, as a matter of composing a requisite “artist’s statement” it is the best way I know how to suggest the angst and urgency that feeds my studio practice without writing the book for which I already have the title… yet.