Friday, 10 August 2007

What's in the box?

The Guilt Mirrors
Fragile (in which The Guilt Mirrors attack a box without knowing the contents)
Performance with video, 2007

Related reading:

Embracing and Refuting the Golden Onslaught: Belligerence as Male Entity and The Art of Pure Antagonism (excerpt)


Many of today's contemporary artists and thinkers understand that destruction is nature's purest creative process, in a sense that destruction, being active negation, does not truly opposite creation because of that lack in passivity. However, the detail in this argument lies in what drives the destructive urge, why the potency of desire to destroy supersedes the creative desire and whether this makes it a more creative process than active creation itself. The greater question is whether such natural urges, instinctively, can themselves be considered active or passive in their occurrence. When a child pulls the wings off of an insect in an early act of aggressive dominance, is that destructive aggression learnt, is it manifested in a practical method of expression that is acquired? Or is the child, in feeding her curiosity over testing the livelihood and mortality of the insect, instead refusing to suppress a subconscious desire present from birth? If the latter case were true, especially when the child is accumulating a set of morals based upon the retention of undesirable (but not undesired) 'real' emotion, the suppressor would be considered the obedient 'good' child for resisting the urge to remove the insect's wings despite her supposed need to establish superiority over the insect in mutilating its body. However, when in the throes of a destructive act themselves, the artist, author or thinker is praised for her refusal to suppress this urge and, while an evaluation of the result as good or bad usually positions itself at a level of the reader's individual subjective moral views, it is generally accepted that the act of creativity is one to be encouraged, regardless of whether the act celebrates 'creation' or not.

However, it would not be unreasonable to claim that all creative processes, in all media, contain in them an equal level of diametrically opposed creation and destruction, with product of the process occurring where the two forces are bisected (fig. 1). At face value this may seem absurd, considering that much of today's artwork characterises itself by the undermining of previously revered and respected beliefs or the gesture of appropriation, methodically destroying either physically or methodically the creation of another. Yet effectively this is simply making the destructive side of the act more openly and unashamedly obvious, whereas in other artistic devices the destructive nature is simply obscured or masked by the artist herself, in some cases through active denial. Naturally any such statement would prove futile; any process that has any effect will demand some destruction to aid its occurrence, whether it be the physical destruction of naturally occurring raw materials, the appropriated destruction of intellectual property, the symbolic destruction of the blankness before the process begins &c. This hypothesis of equally distributed creation and destruction is called Finite Productive Diametric Theory, which differs from another widely accepted concept, Finite Productive Trimetric Theory, which states that the process is easier to trisect (fig. 2). This is due to the theorem's statement that destructive acts are the most creative, because using destruction as creation would mean that destruction and creation would be separately occurring, which would be cumulatively doubling the productive value of the process -- the Auto-Direplicative Effect. Yet the Finite Trimetric Theory assumes, like its Diametric counterpart, that the levels of creation and destruction in any process can be equally divided, but assumes that, because destruction and creation are both inherent in each other, the judgement of whether an action is creative or destructive would rely on whether, in a thirded system, there is two parts creation to one part destruction or vice versa.

Both these theorems however, in particular the Trimetric system, fail to acknowledge the popular view that creation and destruction are in a constant state of flux, and that both can be treated like energy, constantly transmogrifying and shifting into one another (or some interpreted hinterland in between). If destruction is viewed as creation at an equal level then, presuming the universe continues in linear equilibrium, then such systems, arguing the existence of pure creation and pure destruction to be extracted from any process, would intrinsically be flawed and could not apply appropriately to a social context. For instance, a considerable bulk of writing by twentieth century gender theorists concerns itself with the traditional notion that creation and creativity can be considered a 'female' act, not only due to biological connotations of childbearing but also due to the creative advantages of sympathy, patience and abundant emotional fibre. The male by contrast, regularly thought of as the destructive gender, would be less scrupulous regarding the consequences of destructive acts and, as hunter, would be drawn to the immediacy and violent primitivism the afford. More contemporary theorists however make evident that such a division of creation and destruction cannot be as objectively clear-cut as the gender divide. In particular masculinity's synonymy with destruction and nihilism is said to be the result of the acknowledgement that the male is the gender obsolete, and such forceful and aggressive tactics tend to be the result of a need to create not so much a purpose for the existence of the male but to achieve a feeling of dominance that he never had -- or in the majority of cases, deserved -- in the first place, by the most rapid and impacting means necessary.


Augustus Sterling

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