ART AS THE BIG OTHER: EXITING THE MATRIX.
Art is a semblant.
Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan posited that a semblant
Is something that is meant to take the place of an apparent lack but
is itself not the object intended to replace the lack. Lacan adds that
desire is something we all have but in the idealistic sense will
never obtain. In the aftermath of this reality, art is meant to respond.
But art itself is filled with a void, and the goal of an artist is to
tarry the circumference of this void and attempt to make sense
of the ontological struggle of humanity. Art is not meant to
attempt to fill such a void but rather respond to it. It is meant
to give us the language with which we respond to the horror
of discovering such a void.
What we must realize though is that in the fabric of the lack itself there is within its own structure a lack that exists. A void exists within the void. This leads us to the reality that such practices as art will never fill a void and to do so is to attempt to mask its own inability to do so. Art is meant to point to such a void
and provide an unspoken map with which we can react to
such angst without attempting to immediately overcompensate
One can only do such a thing if art is redefined and also arrives
to us in a new state of ontological expression. Art is no longer
at the centre of society. As I have shared before, it used to be
embedded within the social psyche of the ancient world. Art
was the way in which we shared our understanding of the cosmos,
exchanged in commerce, and attempted to emulate the world
around us. Art has since been confined to nothing more than
museums and billboards. The way to remedy such an atrocity
is to change the way we define art. If we take art and decentralize
the notion that there is some idealistic framework from which all
must work to, then we can include all forms of art, spoken
and unspoken. If art is decentralized then we can divorce ourselves
from the habitual intent of attempting to over define such an indefinable
procreative act. But further on from the act of decentralization is
embracing art as something completely other, but rather than the small other,
art as the Lacanian, L’Autre. The Big Other.
Simplified, the Big Other is the framework that we all participate in. For some the big other resides in the law, for others it might be society, or others it might be God or even peers. It is the reality that frames how we interpret reality. Now, the initial
reaction to such a concept is that it is colonial to posit such an ideological
existence such as art embodying the role of the Big Other because then
it controls the reality without their ever being a choice for other realities.
But this is why I pre-empted such an offering with the notion of art as a
decentralized practice. In this new paradigm, then art becomes something
inherently post-colonial and purely contextual to the artist who inhabits
their work and their current reality that they choose to interact with. If art
becomes the Big Other which then intrinsically adopts a post-colonial,
post-hegemonic expression then what this means is that art as a practice
is not only decentralized but also naturally values the contributions of
anyone who proclaims such a nomenclature as ‘artist’.
If art then partakes in the role of Big Other this also means rather than
being a marginalized entity within society it then participates in a society
where art is not simply taken seriously but also where frames how we
all interact with each other as humanity and helps direct our ethics in
the place of the commons. Art as the decentralized Big Other means we then
look to our contexts to assist us in determining the space we inhabit and the methods
with which we use to respond to the subjects or field within which we currently
Art then becomes truly an art in every sense of the word because it inherently expresses itself through variegated avenues and calls all into a new kind of existence, one where art is an embodied participator in society. It then makes humanity responsible to react to such creations and to then discover ways in which art can then respond holistically to global needs and localized situations.
This is where art as the Big Other shifts the purpose of art, from one
of aestheticism to utilitarianism.
Music stops simply being something that our ears respond to, paintings become something more than critics dissect, the written word then becomes something with which we take seriously.
In this new post-colonial reality, art becomes something that maintains it’s original
intention which tends to be a way to express the hand of its creator. It becomes
the idea of a discarnate reality that demonstrates the mystery of knowing this
creation arrived from somewhere, but we know not where. Art as a reminder
that our reality is never simply our reality, art is meant awaken us that
what we see before us is not necessarily true about us or those we interact
with. Much like in the trilogy of The Matrix, art is meant to invoke the
truth ‘that the wool has been pulled over our eyes’.
Art can do this solely as an aesthetic apparatus, but can only fulfill its role by becoming the post-colonial Big Other. If art is going to awake us, we must also be willing to wake up. Our alertness must be one of single-minded intention and self-detournment. Art is the pill we must take to exit the matrix and enter reality as it is. But art can only do such a thing, if we let take its rightful place as the post-colonial, decentralized Big Other.