Worldwide Art Burn
In May 2012 I took part in an art-burn following the action taken by Antonio Manfredi at the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum in Naples who is responding to the arts cuts in Italy by demonstrating the literal danger in which these cuts place art by burning artworks. He began by burning his own work, has burned others with the consent of the artists and has said he will burn three works a week until he is listened to.
Many people around the world have now joined in what Manfredi has called the CAM Art War.
“Our 1,000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the government’s indifference,” says Manfredi.
Burning art, like burning books, is an emotional statement. It causes people to pay attention to works which they might have been indifferent. The vanishing works becomes a symbol of the freedom, proliferation, expression, communication and continued existence and growth of creative culture. Each individual loss suggests the impoverishment of our cultural experience.
There is a need for destruction in creation. There is an imperfect, transient and incomplete nature to lived life. All art celebrates and struggles with this in the path of constant creation, and if this transience is forgotten it robs art of so much power and meaning. Ephemeral art acknowledges this transience by the cycle of doing and undoing whether the process be violent as burning, or gentle as a sand mandala tipped into a river. Rather than becoming a distant, and dangerously dead thing, looked at through the filters of history, sanctified white gallery walls, gilded frames, academic accolades or bullet proof glass meaning is rejuvenated and re-created, it is tied into process, into the momentary meaning of life with which we necessarily live, by the urgency of its existence and loss.
Why I Burn
For my own part, I believe that we need some destruction or disintegration in our artistic culture – out of an awareness of the role of art and creation in helping us to understand, and to come to terms with the temporary of life. Contemporary western culture is given to over-preservation, of products, of artefacts, of memories, of youth, this is partly a healthy striving but can pass into a communal blind spot or denial, rather than acceptance of the passing of all things. I join the burn for this as much as to be a hot spur in the side of indifference and funding cuts that de-prioritise the arts. The goal of preservation for all art can be stultifying, the deification of the ‘made’ having exaggerated importance over the continuous human and communal need for ‘making’. Lazy and indifferent preservation can be as destructive to artistic culture as negligence or obstruction.
For me, the art burn is saying, as for Manfredi “look what is being lost”, and to remind people that, as Gerhart Richter has said, art is needed for survival, “like bread, like love”.
But it is also saying that each destruction calls for a creation. Do not only care for the stores and archives of art, the outermost layers of the creative body, as each skin falls away, beneath it is another and another and another. They are irrepressibly growing out of the un-graspable core, the healthier that core, the faster and the thicker they fall, constantly replenished. The skins are beautiful, care for them as you will, make a museum of art, but not of creation – don’t forget the living core. All living things need sustenance, and the creative body needs creative culture, not only cultural artefacts.
I sang this at the burn:
Keep this not for art. Keep this not for me.
Let it fall apart, falling down like leaves,
In sacred scattered pieces,
As our lives must be.
Recycle it’s meaning,
Don’t let it stagnate and
For we can never be completed,
And if we try too hard to be,
We shall forever feel defeated,
And our eyes shall cease to see.
Tear it all apart, it’s only art
Let it fall all apart, it’s only art.
The created, the creation,
The created but not the creating,
The form and not the freedom of
Not canonised and collected,
But metamorphosed and resurrected
Keep this not for art. Keep this not for me,
Let it fall apart, falling down like leaves.
Other projects, artwork & texts:
Burn art. Why?
Drawing is a dance. I search for the flow movement and of gesture and the structures from which they overflow.
Etchings of musicians and other strange familiars.
After a long while of looking I felt very attached to this painting, not it’s miniature reproduction on screen, but the vibrating body of the canvas itself.
Interview about my art and music with the lovely Nastasia at the LondonY
A portrait of the artist, through allegory of the Duck Headed Man.
Two floors of enormous canvases, head after head emerging from disrupted space or poised, static and clean, cut from a violence of abstracted shapes. It is wonderful to see such a great expanse of uncomfortable artwork.
A mythological story world of strange people and creatures in which the drawings came first and the words follow…
Falling light and rising colour. A continual exploration of not only of an end result but of process, a mediation between intention and material…