Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Death of the Artist

Pop artist Anton Skorybsky Kandynsky's heart stopped beating on January 10, 2014.

Kandynsky argued that if art could be equated with life why wouldn't we also assume that art was equated with death. Because life and death are two sides of the same coin.

So he came up with the idea of the ultimate performance; he would blow himself up with a bomb - not as a part of spontaneous suicide but as a carefully planned and prepared procedure, with witnesses, an audience who would observe the ultimate performance at a safe distance with all the correct paperwork and permits.

There were lawyers working on the case to assist Anton with permission to conduct his ultimate performance. Was this some kind of symbolic demonstration of what "ultimate" art can be, a way to give a finger to the bureaucratic systems that regulates everything in our lives. Why not regulate suicide and call it art?

When asked, if he would ever consider acting on his manifesto, he said "why not leave this stage with a last huge splash, the whole art world would talk about you".

He died of a heart failure at his studio in Manhattan. At the age of 53, with the paperwork for the "ultimate" performance never processed.

Death is continually present; mortality and legacy are driving forces. Suicidal plans do not equate to the fantasy of death for arts sake. The narcissism of the concept diminishes the complexity of the feelings that lead to the ultimate act against self. Suicide (in my experience) is most often the final act of desperation and only (seemingly) possible escape from the unbearable hell of being in the world. Whilst it has been proven to be a posthumous aid to an artist's career, the instinct to live is so strong it is not possible to escape the gravitational pull of life without an incredible force to drive us to that end. It would be like trying to drown yourself in a bucket, impossible. Suicide glamorously misrepresented as performance undermines the true terrible relationship to the world experienced by many.

I am considering art as misplaced paternalism, a subconscious primal thread that demands we leave behind a genetic marker. But what if the mark goes unnoticed, like chewing gum at a bus stop? 

But that mark does not have to be so tangible and legacy should not be the sole driving force behind its creation. Hubris is the treasure buried with us like the Egyptian Pharaohs. An endowment of more value is the state in which we leave the living world through engagement. A much more valuable death bed audit. Anton Skorybsky Kandynsky could not kill himself for art. Art, (vital as it is) will always be a facsimile, an impression; life is more precious.

This is a wonderful and joy filled time of year for many but there is an inevitable Newtonian equal and opposite emotional state. What is happiness for one, is despair for another. 

Dead Magpie with Pearl, Polaroid, from series One for Sorrow © Richard Ansett

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