Precis

Andreas van D├╝hren

There had been a good reason for regarding painting as a key discipline, as it was not a matter of prestige but deriving from a profound insight, that only through painting one could elaborate a general idea of art. It is not such a long time since we should agree on what would be at least a vague notion, that whoever believed he could go without understanding cinema had to be aware of missing the point, that is the future of art itself.
If there is anything daring about this statement, then because one might not be so sure about that future, and the suggestion that cinema – as we are used to understand that term – had a crucial significance for the shape of art to come, might not be comfortable. But it is also the way we understood cinema for quite a long time, which has to change; not only has it achieved a general acknowledgement as one of the arts (instead of just another department of the entertainment industry, and despite the apparently overruling force of avengers), it has become, more and more obviously, part of what finally has to be regarded as the new key discipline.
Advanced technology has brought upon the multifunctional camera which allows to switch from single shot to stream; it is mere hardware that merges those two forms, distinguished long enough and not always for good reasons, and it is only logical that we consider their mutual approach to what appears to be real and what is supposed to be recorded, as photography.
One may feel even more uneasy with the idea of such an ubiquitous practice – if not just the most vulgar way of wasting time – offering anything like a profound insight into what seemed to be reserved for the happy few. But it was exactly when digitalization started its triumph that some of us realized we were stepping into some new Middle Ages; if this might have been an idiosyncratic reaction to the dark side of postmodernism – it did, quite authentically, refer to an understanding of art far away from the most individual as well as the most exquisite reflection of truth.
The blurring definition of »art« may stimulate an even more demanding inquiry; as it is not visual perception itself but its combination with language, which has the greatest – and possibly most dangerous – impact on our minds, it has become so important to figure out anew the meaning of a term which all too long had been covered by common sense: image.
It is the same common sense that suggests there is a professional, clearly in charge of figuring out whatever makes an image an art work, each time he is confronted with a particular piece. And it might be also the term »professional« which requires a new definition. Any art critic, regardless of his reputation, could rely on the practice of writing as the crucial mode of expressing himself, relating to something that is not expressed through words. Like the philosopher he had to be aware of the simple fact that his work participates in the tradition of literature; and it was not least this detachment from the visual arts, which provided a certain, if only formal, sovereignty.
As the art of writing has deteriorated to an extent of the illiterate, the professional art critic has become a more or less well-paid groupie; what has emerged as the powerful curator is, in this context, a misleading figure in the waste land. Obviously, taking distance is the principal condition for any critical approach, pride and modesty being both sides of this profession – the author, corresponding with the artist, as both are interpreters of that general idea.
Hardly anything has become as rare as an author; but it is no one else who also decides which part of reality is supposed to turn into an image. As hardly anything seems to have increased more than the number of images surrounding us, making a choice has become more than making art: a statement of the individual as a responsible part of what has been known as society and which itself urges a new definition.