On the left, a proposed layout for a gallery show. On the right, the conceptual design of the show.
The challenge of creativity is the discipline of harnessing, utilizing, and focusing the primal energy of our minds and bodies. The tangible results of the practice of this discipline are artifacts. At a first approximation, we can distinguish our artifacts into two broad categories; Juju and art. Juju refers to pieces that have lost the power of informing present decisions. Art refers to pieces that carry meaning as decision points in a present context. First we achieve conscious competency, which then becomes unconscious competency. The distinction is purely one of cognition, artifacts that are once classified as art become juju once the lessons learned in its creation are subliminal and put out of conscious mind.
These artifacts, whether considered juju or art, are a subset of the known objects of the universe. An object carries contextual meaning beyond its platonic essence by virtue of its creator. Much of the focus and work of modern art has been the search to shortcut this process. A found object is one which carries contextual meaning by virtue of having been found and placed deliberately in a different context. It is not just the creator, but the organizer or viewer, who imparts relevant meaning to an object according to the modern artist.
Mr. Buchanan-Smith has always been interested in the small stuff. For his thesis project at the School of Visual Arts, which he later turned into a book, “Speck: A Curious Collection of Uncommon Things,” published by Princeton Architectural Press, he invited artists and other obsessives to explore everyday ephemera — things like dust, the inside of a pocketbook, the bottoms of sneakers — in words and pictures.
Kim Hastreiter, an editor of Paper magazine and his former boss, said: “Peter is like a regular guy with an eccentric way of thinking, and he’s interested in things that function. You know he loves a Shaker table. He probably loves a yellow pencil or a bar of Ivory soap or a paper clip or a well-designed tube of toothpaste. It’s all about stuff that’s what it is. That’s an idea that’s really popular right now.”
New York Times, 2010
The point is valid, but trivial. To demonstrate that we can find things and place them elsewhere is the act of being alive, but I am unconvinced that a demonstrator in this sense should be classified as a creative artist. To redefine art and artist this broadly renders it meaningless as a distinctive descriptor. Yes, it is a valid choice to blanch any construct of meaning in a logical sense, but the point of creating descriptors is to render meaningful distinctions in order to make sense of our world.
Words, categories and ontologies are only what we make of them. True mastery of any discipline, including language, is the ability to direct one's unconscious according to will. Modern art's logical progression is using conscious energy to unfocus conscious decision making. Everything becomes valid as an artistic choice, which is the same as saying that nothing is valid. The fissure is evident in the wider culture. There is the insular, epistemological closure of the art world and its obsessive concern with context coupled with the wider public's disdain and distrust for art. If anything can carry any meaning, then meaning is voided. The point has been demonstrated, yes, we can render our world meaningless, but why would we choose to do this once we realize we can make that choice?
Besides, creative nihilism is such a drag.