Art, Expression, and Personality


Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.

T. S. ELIOT, The Sacred Wood

Writing on Trees


Last Friday, I came across an installation that is part of the exhibition Walking in My Mind, currently on show at the Hayward Gallery of the Southbank Centre in London. It is a pop art piece called “Ascension of the Polkadots on the Trees” by Yayoi Kusama, a female Japanese artist. It consists of a group of trees dressed with a red plastic fabric with white spots of different sizes.

Every dressed tree has a warning on the ground: “Do not draw or write on the trees. This is an art work — respect it.” People have been ignoring this cautionary advice and have been writing on the fabric — a lot.

Does this make the work less valuable? Have these signatures, drawings, and writings tainted the work of art? “Ascension of the Polkadots on the Trees” has transformed the trees, giving them a new face. I am sure it made these woody enduring plants more noticeable to those who were used to their repetitive appearance to the point of becoming indifferent to their presence. Writing on these transformed trees is a response. In this context, it may even be construed as a reply to an invitation: here we are, changed, covered as if in plaster, and waiting for the acknowledgement of our intensified presence. Writing is therefore a means of marking that someone noticed them, seizing the opportunity to assert their own presence — “I was here”, that is what these written traces say. For a work like this, placed in a public space, this interaction has to be taken as a reverent reaction. Ignoring the warning signs is a way of not ignoring the art work.

Philosophising and Living


There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.


New Contemporary Aesthetics


The 2009 issue of Contemporary Aesthetics is up. It is a meaty volume that includes essays on performance, film and the unconscious, music and politics, limited editions and additions, intention and interpretation, and motifs and motivation.