Musings on Photography

Faux Artist Statements

Posted in the art world by Paul Butzi on December 28, 2006


Way back when, some friends and I held a friendly informal competition to see who would come up with the ‘best’ bafflegab example of an artist statment. Here’s my entry. Each paragraph is followed by a translation into English (in italics).

I am primarily engaged in the production of images that might be classified as portraying non-sentient, semi-static objective reality. In particular, the works displayed here today represent my attempt to extend and generalize on the framework laid by Willman’s Gestaltic Transfer theory, with particular emphasis on the normative and subjective states that comprise the majority of the persistent and transient gestaltic experience.

I make landscape photographs rather than take photos of people. I try to make people viewing the photo feel something like what I felt when I made the photo.

When I am engaged in the earliest portion of the imagemaking process, I find that certain arrangements of physical reality can be translated by an intentional neurocortical process (aided by appropriate augmentative technologies) into a virtualized simulacrum of the final artistic construct. This neurocortical process is simultaneously taxing and rewarding, resulting in heightened awareness of both objective and subjective realities. Almost without exception this process is experienced as positive and rewarding in the spiritual and emotional domains. In general, in the early part of the process I am seeking arrangements of reality which, when subjected to dimensional reduction, isomorphic geometric distortion, spectral reduction, and techniques like global and local non-symmetric transformation, nevertheless afford an opportunity produce a objective substrate which, by acting as a codified mapping to the original subjective experience of objective reality, can act as a trigger for a similar neurologic response in the viewer. Because the syntax and semantics of this mapping are in general poorly understood, this trigger effect, while generalizable, is not universal; in addition, apparently some individuals suffer from physical impairments which reduce or preclude their participation in this transfer process; fortunately the cardinality of this set is small relative to the that of the general population.

When I am making photographs on a good day, I can visualize what the final print will look like. Sometimes I use things like light meters to help. Although this is hard, it feels good. When I am doing this, I look for things which will seem like they will make pretty pictures even though the world is 3-d and in color, and photos are flat and in black and white, and generally speaking I’m not always clear on what will look nice. Not everyone likes my photographs, and people who are blind cannot see them and thus have a hard time appreciating them. Fortunately there are more sighted people than blind people.

In the best of cases, this neural response on the part of the passive/receptive participant in this bi-phasic process will be similar to that I encountered throughout the active/contributory phase, producing an effect that could be characterized as an apparent Willman style inter-individual gestaltic transfer of subjective experience. By careful use of judicious selection, and goal driven exercise of experientially learned behaviors combined with serendipitous exploration of the multi-dimensional space of possible artifact outcomes, I am able to produce
non-virtual artistic constructs which trigger neurologic responses in the viewer which are generally self-interpreted as positive. In general I have found that although this gestaltic transfer can transcend individual, social, economic and cultural boundaries, as well as those of time and space, it is not completely successful when confronted by barriers of genus or species. Despite this apparent shortcoming, I find that the process represents fertile ground for expansion along the lines pursued by the current work, and intend to continue in the future.

If a photograph ‘works’, the viewer will feel something similar to what I felt at the scene. I try to pick the good photos I take and not the bad ones, and I have learned how to make decent prints, although sometimes I depend on luck and flounder around to figure it out. Generally I find that in the end, people seem to find looking at them pleasant. Different people from different places can appreciate my photos, and people in the future or on another continent could do so, too. But my dog is indifferent to them and so are other non-humans. I don’t care about the dog, I’m gonna make more photos.

In their seminal work, Brikoff, Hammond, et al theorize that the space of artists engaged in similar pursuits can be partitioned into those who engage in the activity in order to experience self labeled reward, and those for whom the motivation is primarily the receipt of virtual proxies which represent deferred future positive experience; naturally the two categories are not mutually exclusive and in fact represent the two endpoints of a bi-modal continuous distribution. While I fall into that category motivated primarily by the direct reward, I nevertheless am also motivated by receipt or promise of proxies for future gratification. Should you desire to prolong your passive role participation into a permanent state, it is possible for you to engage in a transaction of proxy and artifact exchange, mediated by representatives of the gallery. The rates of exchange between conventional proxies and artifacts have been set with the intent of maximizing the probability of transactions which will be viewed as having positive expected value by all participants.

Some people make art for fun, and some for money. A few do it for both reasons. I generally do it for fun but am not averse to selling photos. If you want to buy one, you can do so through the gallery. The price has been set at a level that we will all feel good about the sale.

5 Responses

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  1. kjell said, on December 29, 2006 at 2:00 am

    Crazy.
    The only flaw with your statement that I can think of, is that you obviously know what all the words mean. I’m not so sure if that applies to all the good people who writes this sort of statement seriously.

  2. Paul said, on December 29, 2006 at 6:11 am

    That’s funny. It’s just as bad as all of the business speak that goes on around the office: “We need to make sure that we socialize the ideas with the business and make sure that they are cognizant of our intentions and that we get proper sign-off from the affected parties.” –

    Translation: We need to tell them what we intend to do and get their permission.

    I hate word FLUFF almost as much as you hate Flash! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Kjellhttp://www.lentic.net/blog said, on December 29, 2006 at 11:13 am

    I know all about the office variant, and I must really say I rate it at the top of my hate list, above Flash.

  4. Steve Williams said, on December 31, 2006 at 6:20 am

    I finished an MFA last spring and can relate to the language used here however it was always confined to critical analysis. Development of artist statements was a process of simple communication and the sort of academic language you outlined was viewed as useless.

    As kjell points out you do know the language and I suspect even the ones who use the academic language do as well. I came to school late, almost 50 when I graduated, and I had developed a strong and active disdain for the language of the academy. It took me a long time to accept the need to learn to decode this type of writing or to engage Foucault, Derrida, or other theorists. In the end the work needed to do this helped my personal work. It opened lines of thinking that I would have otherwise not taken.

    The same sort of privledged writing exists in my workplace. Each enterprise has a language and to be successful in that arena one has to learn it. Many of my staff reject the need dismissing it as political or a waste of time or just stupid. But their lack of understanding limits their ability to excel or move up the ladder. And I work in an agricultural enterprise. Who would have thought there would be such a close parallel with the visual arts!

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  5. Dave New said, on January 11, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Heh, what I said. ๐Ÿ˜Ž


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