Towards A Better Existence
2007 - 2009, approximately 3,000 artist statements, 668 pages and sound. Initially an artist's statement or title of an artwork gives the
work a frame or base that provides directional clues for the viewer. In a discussion language based artist Lawrence Weiner said, “but
we can’t judge anybody’s intent. We have to take it for granted that each person making art has a benevolent approach towards it. That
each revolution is leading towards somebody’s aspiration towards a better existence. You’ve got to take that as a priori.”
Artists using the words I and my in their statements take responsibility and make declarations that are as close to the original
intention of their artwork as we can get. Once the artwork is made it is one step removed or filtered from the original concept.
Each sentence, extracted from the original statement, causes the sentence to become part of a collective experience and more
pronounced as it operates outside a connected flow of their ideas. The accompanying sound is scored based on the location of I and
my on each page.
The artist statement is a testament to the fact that art is firstly conceptual and as a personal statement about intention reveals an
attempt to take ownership and responsibility for what they are trying to communicate.
Language is a surrogate for objects and ideas. Language is susceptible to the same subjectivity as its visual counterpart. Artist
Robert Irwin says, “no artist worth they’re weight in salt sets out to make a work of art that is abstract.” The intent of a statement is to
help clarify and provide observers with a jumping off point, a guide to contextualize the work in order to enter a specific discourse. Art
historian and theorist Carter Radcliff writes, “from ‘literarization’ follows the idea that art not only can be but ought to be didactic. It must
teach and, in a more active mode, investigate. The most aggressive form of art-as-investigation is ‘institutional critique’, which
examines the intramural politics of the art world.”
Arts’ ‘literarization’ removes a level of subjective interpretation and aligns itself with the structures of academia. With a comparison
between a work of art and its literal equivalent (the statement) comparisons are the catalyst for theoretical evaluation. Early stages in
artistic development are based on formal evaluations through progress in visual literacy to deciphering objects as they appear in the
world. Literarization expands from formal to conceptual qualities that are measurable by comparing ideas with intent. The statement
becomes a tool of clarification for both the maker and the observer.
Even though an idea may originate as a vision it relies on language to rationalize how it will be translated and presented. The
statement is usually closer to the original concept and intent than the artwork. The physical artwork becomes a signifer of an idea,
operating on different levels with different subjective complexities.
Charles Livingston Studio