To be frank, all comments on either the meaning or purpose of anything are irrelevant in the grander scheme of things, because all are but a form of ideology, a kind of software that runs in our minds if you will, and contrary to common belief that humans are nothing more than complex Turing machines, no programs are actually alike.
What I believe my purpose is, could not be further from what you or your friends might think your goals in life should be; while we might all resemble each other in the ways we operate — we may wish to expand, to satiate our insatiable curiosity about life, to play and consume and of course gain as much power as we can (or believe is appropriate to have) — each and everyone of us has a distinct means of operating in the world.
What I’d like to focus on today is the distinction between form and function or between self-actualisation and power appropriation.
But I think a bit of foreword is necessary to explain this possibly convoluted choice of a dichotomy that, like many philosophical ventures into the banalities of over-theorisation — this hopefully not being one — can produce, when “knowledgable and well informed” minds tend to propose the proverbial 2 + 2 = whatever-the-heck-I-want-it-to-be equation in their thinking and at first glance making it work by twisting and oversimplifying semantics.
I hope I won’t succumb to this, but as with all my blunders, all you lovely souls are the judge and you can all decide not to leave any tip for today’s blunder if you so decide.
(The tip jar by the way is located on the website called Patreon, so if you wish to find it — so as to be able to ignore it — just type in Surviving Art into the search box. Or if you’re feeling generous and like my blunders, well, you can choose to drop a coin and support this channel — it is called Surviving Art, and as Austin Dobson so eloquently puts it: “The bust outlasts the throne, the coin Tiberius.”)
But back to pondering the meaning of life and what not.
Form and function rule the world of the living; the former making up the world and the latter giving purpose to it. And I do not mean this in any mystical or magical or even religious way, because form is merely the substance that we call reality — but function, function is something different entirely.
For someone that has dabbled in philosophy, function can quickly come to mean functionalism or the view that form is irrelevant, what actually matters is what things do, how they behave and how such behaviour can be experienced.
On a side note, functionalism is extremely entertaining as the core of such a view on life and reality as a whole dictates one to believe that a 1 to 1 copy of me — let’s call it a zombie me — that would look like me, behave like me and pretty much do things exactly like me, but would not have any free will or any means of actually expressing himself (or itself, I’m not sure if zombies have genders, because the movies tell us that they reproduce asexually by gnawing), well, that zombie copy of me would by all functionalist terms and conditions be considered the same as me.
Free will and attention thrown out the window, such a creature obviously isn’t even close to what makes a person or even a human, but such is the belief of functionalist philosophers.
So, this is not a functionalist text, what I wish to talk about is function as projection. When I make anything that I decide to call art — be it a painting, a sculpture or just a random movement, backed up by a bunch of gibberish theoretical text from the golden 60s, the renaissance of performance — whatever I create that I decide to call art, becomes art only if I actually believe it is art.
This is the never-ending question of what art is, that we talked about in the last blunder. The experience of any object or subject as art, makes it so. And now, I think it would be interesting to venture further into the details of how and explore the incredibly interesting question of “Why?”!
But, let’s start with form.
Form is nothing but potentiality — not to confuse speculative realists, material potentiality, that is potentiality to be used or become anything it is capable of becoming via the act of projecting function.
The true nature of form is absolutely inert, it does what it can; water flows downhill, fire burns, hot air goes up, cold water sinks to the bottom of a glass… Form is reality, moved and transformed by the physical rules that govern our universe.
And again, contrary to common belief, there is nothing even remotely interesting about form — at least not for any reasonable human mind — but to be honest, human minds weren’t created to see form. We mostly see function.
When looking at a stick in a forest, it might not even register — it’s a damn stick and nobody cares, there are thousands of them and when one is taking a hike, there’s really no use in looking at sticks if you have hills and “the sublime nature” to look at.
But when our walking stick breaks or we sprain our ankle and need something to help us walk back home, suddenly a myriad of interesting and appealing sticks start to appear before us.
When we indeed need anything, we become attune to finding it. That’s the crap that The Secret tried (and sadly succeeded) to sell and while doing so, sparked the entire self-help market for years to come.
(If you’ve never heard of The Secret, it’s a book about how positive thinking will make you happy, rich and content and how negative thinking by the Jewish community was partially the reason for the holocaust — dear lord the author’s words, not mine, the book is complete rubbish is all I can say.)
But it’s not wishing for something that makes it magically appear — I can dream of sticks night and day, I can make pretty drawings of them and pray to the stick god that he may be so kind as to grant me one someday, but if I live in the centre of a desert and more or less eternity stands between me and the next thing that even vaguely resembles a tree or bush, there will be no stick for me.
This phenomena of suddenly constantly seeing or encountering a particular object — like when you buy a new car and out of the blue there are hundreds of cars of the same model on the road — is just a natural process of how our attention works.
Imagine the first people that roamed the earth with no clue as to what was edible and what was not; if they had no ability to memorise familiar objects and get adept at finding them again and again, we’d all be extinct due to berry poisoning hundreds of thousands of years ago.
But we didn’t, and all because our minds are incredibly attuned to finding patterns and familiarities in our surroundings. That’s why abstract art, that isn’t that well done is so horrible to look at; the second that blotchy painting kinda resembles a penis or a weird smiling octopus, the magic and intrigue is out the window. All you’re left with is a hidden dick pic or marine life snapshot of questionable quality on your wall and the hope that no-one else ever sees either of them.
Form for us is mostly an amorphous void, an amalgamation of a myriad of unimportant bits and pieces and the only thing that makes it appear on our “radar” and gets it noticed by our mind is if we find it interesting. It could be beautiful, or ugly or just plain sad. Could be a horrendous or grotesque experience — the main point is, that it must be something, because if it’s nothing of interest, it might as well not even exist.
Here learning comes into play; the more we know, the more we understand our surroundings and the environment that we live in, the more we are capable of noticing things. And if the first step is understanding, we need to focus on it primarily, because understanding can only be found in form.
Form therefore is the act of curious exploration and the creation of understanding.
Sociologists call this the act of transference. Not to be confused with Freud’s idea of transference — the act of projecting feelings about someone else, particularly someone encountered in childhood, onto ones therapist — something Sigmund liked to call “playing daddy”. This is the pure idea of transference, the act of spreading ones boundaries, ones body and being into the world.
To put it simply, when I buy a new watch, it becomes my watch by me paying for it, wearing it, scratching it when having fun with my friends and eventually loosing it, because it sometimes happens and life isn’t about material things anyway so you learn to live with the loss and just become content with using your phone like most other people.
Somewhere in the beginning of my encounter with that watch is when the act of transference happens; when I decide that the watch is suitable to become part of my body — not my physical body, at least not until Phillips or Samsung begin selling implant timepieces — but my perceptual body.
The same body that grows exponentially when I sit in my car, the same one that gets even bigger when I come home to my apartment and that gets tiny when I am stranded on a busy street during rush hour and thousands of strangers are rubbing against me, while I keep constantly checking if I still have my wallet and keys.
Our bodies really don’t end at the skin — one could argue that even the parts that keep us alive don’t just reside inside of us (we have air, water, food and other sources, that we constantly need to replenish in order to stay alive, none of them really only coming from within us, but all incredibly vital for our survival).
The human body — and the body of every evolved creature, because it’s not just humans that have this ability — has a physical and a perceptual volume; the physical being our meaty vehicle, and the perceptual being whatever we have transferred ourselves upon.
And what is function if not the ability to control, to have power over something, to make it yield beneath our bodies and make it a submissive part of ourselves, to be used for whatever we please and discarded whenever we tire of it or it has served its purpose?
A bit dark, I admit, but true. Function is our attention, our perception and ability to remember certain objects in such vivid detail, that we are instantly able to recognise them as our own — even though there are millions of the same kind or type of them on the market all around the world.
Functions give us purpose — they are what Nietzsche called: “The necessary illusion.”, a fake and completely unreal value of reality, not in any way pertaining to it, but vital to our survival as a species.
Had we not evolved this ability, we could not even dare to dream about understanding what other people want or need — in other words, compassion towards others. Because compassion, like all other social skills, is based on one core aspect: Humans have the ability to understand not only their own functions, their own illusions (even though no sane person calls them illusions; we like to use the word beliefs or politics or religion or philosophy…), but the illusions of others — at least to an extent.
This is the true power that we have, the true head start that we have gotten from evolution or god or some high-school alien researchers that did a terrible job tending to their science experiment and dumped it on some rock, far away from their teachers perceptive organs (I have no idea what aliens use to interact with reality, but I am rooting for ocular tentacles).
It is our ability to be able to feel compassion and empathy and to anticipate other peoples moves, to manipulate and destabilise and lie and cheat and fake that makes us superior to any other life form on our planet.
And it is the same capability that makes us believe in god(s).
But more on this next time.
I hope this one wasn’t too philosophical or sociological, but to be frank, without understanding what we are and how our most basic means of expression operate, we might become great craftsmen and craftswomen, but I do not believe we can become great artists.
Because to be able to mould reality into whatever we wish it to be, to infuse objective reality with illusions and dreams and to create ideological structures inside even the most common objects, like chairs or butter, we first need to understand reality.
In the past, there were alchemists (the predecessors of modern scientists) and you might think of the contemporary artist as one too — but unlike the alchemists of old, the artist’s words and creations, our intricate ability of expression can actually turn anything into gold.
Just look at any contemporary art auction today.