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Guest Blog: The Curse of Catharsis

by Janan Siam 14 May 2012 11:30 AM

What does Godard’s Breathless have to do with Working Title, the show going on at ro2 Gallery Downtown? Guest blogger Jason Parry, a member of the Solvent art collective putting on the show, is glad you asked.


Members of the artist collective called Solvent have been guest blogging during the creation of their 3-week, 30 artist experiment in collaboration called Working Title, on view and under development at ro2 Gallery Downtown.  Saturday was the second of three openings. The final group of 10 artists will work in the gallery this week. The final opening will be next Saturday.

Here, Solvent member Jason Parry shares some thoughts on what the group is up to.  You can follow the artists’ work a s it happens at ro2 here in this live stream. And here are some previous posts on Art&Seek from participating artists.

During the interview scene of Godard’s Breathless, the articulate romancier Parvulesco claims that his greatest ambition in life is “to become immortal…and then die.” Coming from a serious man of letters, none ought doubt the sincerity of this remark. For this truly is the oath of the spiritual tightrope walker: the one who, desirous of both the heights and the trenches, attunes his senses to time’s rippled surface. After all, any artist of some stature has—at some quixotic point—risked eternal fame in the face of certain death.

This point, this elusive tragicomic moment, comes at the culmination of a lifelong sharpening of the intellect. Just as a telescope requires focus to discern celestial spheres, a process of attunement prepares the seeker for a first glimpse of promethean flames.

But could such a process be formalized? Could such a sacred bridge be built?

The credulity of such a question betrays ignorance of the ancient Orphic rites, the workshops of Titian and Tintoretto and the ashrams of India. But such is the damage done by the prevailing attitude towards the creative life. Chance, mystery, and a stubborn flabbiness have flourished in the study of the arts as if pursued there from the clear-sighted realm of science. One does not court inspiration, as the contemporary mood would suggest,by catching the zeitgeist by the hem of its garment. Rather, by study and searching, one discovers how to tame it.

Such an undertaking requires solidarity. Not, however, as the good Marxists might suggest, a one as might be found in the hollow claims of class identity. This task requires solidarity of place.

Take, for example, the recent work of the Dallas-based art group Solvent Collective (the exhibit Working Title, at Ro2 downtown, is entering its third week): on the day of its last opening on May 19th,  30 artists from the Dallas area (arranged in three ‘generations’) will have contributed to the evolutionary installation. It would be more accurate, given this peculiar configuration, to consider the exhibit as a single event unfolding across space and time.

Stretching the visual arts into the traditional domain of music and literature is not without precedent. Set designers have been experimenting for centuries with the narrative capacity of space-making, and it would not be too far amiss to suggest that Working Title has something distinctly theatrical about it.

Artists have always made for great characters, and their lives have inspired innumerable chronicles; but it is the story arc generated by the very conditions of Working Title which transforms it into drama. Site specificity, perhaps more important to the stage than any other aesthetic experience, reaches similar levels in this project. The very moment in which a visitor crosses the threshold initiates one more participant intothe rising action. Likewise, every addition from each artist adds new subplots to the emerging metanarrative.

The benefits of such a practice are the same as those of any live performance. The performer quickly develops tools of improvisation, and also, establishes in his or her work an aura of preciousness. This is because each artwork created in the space is fated to be different, in one way or another, form any before or since. Time itself, and the uniqueness of place conspire to make it so.

The fact that the artists’ every move is broadcast via a live stream makes the performative aspect all the more blatant. By privileging the act over the product, these artists re-situate the creative mindset, bringing the focus back to presence and the singular act of ‘being there’.

Tintoretto would be so proud.

  • Dan

    This is a very well written article. Solvent seems like an interesting group!

  • Dan

    This is a very well written article. Solvent seems like an interesting group!

  • Abothwell

    We here at Art&Seek agree Dan, and hope its members will continue to guest blog here.

  • Meg_gallagher

    Awesome piece of writing !

  • Meg_gallagher

    Awesome piece of writing !