AUGUST 18-23 /// 2015 /// RUGPJŪČIO 18-23



Howard McCalebb

“Culture has its way of being expressed through every artwork created. But a strictly cultural interpretation of art practice dismisses the innate drive that inspires the human being to create, and maximizes the hubris of sociopolitical life and the historicism that follows. The most compelling, unnerving examples of the primal forces that motivate humankind are experienced through Art. The ambition here is to present a philosophical stand, that positions the innate urge of the individual to create as primary, and as independent of the policies of (what may be mistaken for) official culture. It is my position that art practice must remain independent of cultural mandate.” Page 6.

“Culture is self-perpetuating theater that varies from region to region. The rules that a society adopts for appropriate and inappropriate behaviors constitute the values that establish the customs for that culture. The general image of culture is a local fictive picture, a little picture in a big (global) picture. Its content is the representation of the culture’s subjective vision. The rules or scripts people are expected to observe and follow vary from culture to culture, and evolve and vary not only across time, but also between ethnic and religious groups, and social classes. What is deemed to be accepted dress, speech, philosophy, or aesthetics in one group may be unacceptable in another. These acts and designs are the grand theater, whereby the main human activity is to play the characters. The society passively accepting the script assumes a living scenario, which becomes its meta-narrative. Social norms as statements of prescribed behavior also act as informal social controls. Although they are usually based in some degree of consensus, social norms may also be maintained through social sanctions. Page 21.

“We tend to understand history in a conventional sense, as simply the occurrence of events. This understanding is implicit in our use of words like ›primitive‹ or ›advanced,‹ ›traditional‹ or ›modern,‹ when referring to different types of human societies. Since (art) history is the story found in the artifact record, the historian must piece together the past from fragments of human endeavor. The study of history is an interpretative activity, whereas the individual historian may assert his or her own interpretation. These interpretations may run counter to the interests of the subjects under scrutiny. The responsibility of the historian to make sense of the past may be impinged by the degree to which his or her insight is owed to a critical or cultural pedigree. To decipher the epochal phase of a dissimilar culture requires a quality of objectivity that one’s own culture (philosophy) may not provide. To plot the evolving phase of another culture is rather difficult, because the actual dynamics of which remain partially unknowable. As we evolve towards the unknown our own and current image (representation) cannot be a very clear or fixed one, and our image of the ›Other‹ is necessarily a figment of conjecture. Historical knowledge is the ideas of the historian in association and procession ; the certainties of the judgments are probabilities that are subject to contradiction, and refutation. ›There is History because there is philosophy and in order that there may be Philosophy,…‹ (Alexandre Kojève).” Page 24.



Autobiography as Critique

By Howard McCalebb


Art practice is appraised within the exigency of its time. The Modern Art movements were pedagogical in spirit. In other worlds, they had as their missions to question through art practice, what their convictions were, about what Art was and what Art wasn't.

“Poetry springs from something deeper; it’s beyond intelligence. It may not even be linked with wisdom. It’s a thing of its own; it has a nature of its own.”

— Jorge Luis Borges.

Artwork is not just something made out of the appropriate materials, and simply called Art. All artwork are representations. Art making is a practice of representation, as the artist works within changing systems and codes, which act upon (affect) how and why artwork is produced, and how it is experienced.

The history of Modern Art is basically a series of lessons. It had long been understood that enlightenment and sophistication were to be acquired through an evolved education and exposure to advanced artworks. So then, what is the pedagogical value of a kind of artwork, that many believe their child can make? Was Modern Art a hoax? Without the esoteric keys, Modern Art left many people bewildered and irritated. The Dada art movement, for sure, requires specific information to open up its meaning and purpose, which also includes knowledge of the historical events that incubated its germination.

Does Dada offer one of Modern Art’s many lessons?

The pedagogics of Modern Art posed as a science of teaching. Modern Art attempted to impart advanced knowledge or sense that resulted from the direct experience of looking, seeing, and comprehending. It attempted to act as an example, by teaching things not previously understood or accepted, including tastes and attitudes that were regarded as nontraditional. Dada initiated a strong rebuke to conventional ways of seeing and understanding, by confronting viewers on how to see and understand cultural production.

Modern Art was produced from the late 1860s through the 1970s. It was a genre of art practice that strayed from traditional techniques and styles that rejected accepted forms to emphasized individual experimentation and sensibility. It was based on what was understood to be the “current” sociopolitical and cultural developments – of the epoch. The “modern” of Modern Art connotes its belonging to the present period in history. The Modern Art movements consisted of the latest, most advanced approaches to thinking and art making, using the most advanced materials, equipment, and techniques available – at that time. Their resources were those that had been “newly” developed. Modern Art understood itself as the latest and most recent stage in the development of a (cultural) language.

Pre-modern art practices were revered cultural institutions that had evolved over many generations. They prized artwork that exemplified a human endeavor for highly skilled technique, in the production of visual representations. Pre-modern art understood the notion of “culture”, i.e. the visual arts, music, literature, and related intellectual activities, as respecting the beliefs, customs, practices, and social behavior of a civilization of shared beliefs, that identified with and signed Europe as a particular culture.

Read more The Pedagogics of Dada