“A cube is never perceived as all of its faces at once; it always retains something non-given at the heart its giveness.” – Quentin Meillassoux
The verdict is out: much of American music today is inspired by John Lennon. Take the band The Black Keys for example, every single one of their albums. A quick listen of John Lennon’s album Plastic Ono Band album will point you to what may be the case: their aesthetics are fundamentally similar. The road an artist takes after being inspired by a work of art begins at the sensation that this work of art, i.e. song, produced in the artist. Artists often produce the same music, covers, without producing the same sensation that the song had once produced. It is because the object, John Lennon’s song, cannot be reproduced. I’m sure that it is after many etudes or exercises of John Lennon’s music that The Black Keys produced their own songs, or it may because of pure coincidence. Regardless, our inquiry is into an artist’s pursuit of song by “mimicry,” or the pursuit of the reproduction of a pelican, as opposed to the production of a new bird.
All artists are idealists, creating works of art rooted in ideas, whether minimalistically urbane or extravagantly rural. Yes, cultural materialism plays a factor, but certainly in what leads to the production of ideas. We laypeople often read in the press that the idea is that the artist wants a painting to be something. So, he or she works hard going about producing a being. However, the artist cannot produce a being. It’s a flawed game, the artist will only be producing a valued existence, and not a being. Existence, as per the olden Greeks, is quite simply anything that is more than nothing. Yikes. This painting is a painting, reality known by itself and solely itself, so thus unknown given that art is inanimate, nothing more, nothing less. The same goes for a song. Wtf?
Philosophers Alain Badiou, in his terribly complex classic Being and Event, and Quentin Meillassoux, in his phenomenal After Finitude, prefaced by Badiou, fantastically explore the difference between being and presentation in a way that tells us that we, as human beings, cannot access an object outside of ourselves, for our sensation is quite simply our relationship to qualities of the object, and not it in itself. It is what it is and that it is knowledge that only it can truly have an access. Point me an artist who is accomplishing anything more than producing a sensation in his or audience, if you can. No, what we are presented with is a presentation of art, or a manifestation of art, as a secondary quality of art, its first quality being what it is, may it be paint on canvas, etc. What we feel when we listen, read, etc., a piece of art is a sensation that was not intended by the artist. The artist only intended the object. The object has a reality outside of the artist’s imagination, unfathomable really, with the potential for being the very best firewood.
So, we tend to like manifestations of art, as opposed to art itself, unless if this art is of our own doing. Yes, manifestations. There’s nothing wrong with that. Well, there’s one thing. If we appreciate manifestations of art for the most part, it’s impossible for us to know art other than the art that we are ourselves. No biggie, I love the manifestations that fill up my room, computer, cell phone, etc.
For the artist, art was a future contingency that came with first wanting to produce art, at first severely undefined. That person was inspired by sensations, manifestations of art that led he or she to pursue art, unknown until it is known. Then came the art, somehow. The artist chanced upon the ideas, then making art. What, then, is this business of producing and viewing art. If the artist chances upon making art, with a separate unknown reality than the artist has imagined, does he or she know or feel exactly how art will survive rain for example, then he or she has experienced an epiphany, a profound experience to lead to action and conviction. That epiphany is not art, it is epiphany. Art comes after, after action, conviction, and finitude.
Art is thus what comes after action, conviction, and finitude as an object, sound, performance, etc. It took a whole bunch of everything we just named to come into being. Then something happens. It quite simply exists. Its presentation / manifestation is valued and the art potentially sold. But the art itself cannot be valued with exactitude by anyone or anything else other than the art itself. For the artist, the finished art is also producing a sensation, and manifesting itself. Art is incapable of valuing itself, given its nature. Art, existence, destined to be inanimate, begins to whither.
What a marvelous existence! Blues and reds, and purples too! However it is itself now, not alive, not doing a thing, nothing else but itself, an existence even unknown to the artist. Fans, the artist included, marvel at its existence.
In music, a certain rhythm may have been because of how a musician’s muscle flexed at the exact time of the recording. How does one reproduce that? One is not attempting to reproduce an object based on a complete understanding of it, that would be impossible given that a complete understanding is impossible. What one does is one learns for his or her attempts, producing a new object: the Black Keys producing their own music that sounds pretty similar to John Lennon’s, though no doubt much different. Prometheus, according to French philosopher Mehdi Belhaj Kacem, has never existing. The human is a homo mimesis, a mimicking animal, first and foremost.
The song is not our pelican, the human being is, his or her particles allowing for an impossible attempt at the reproduction of an object that was not fully understood in the first place, producing a new object in the way. For the human is human.