How am I to describe a first sensation to you? A way of experiencing an object that is generated in my mind before I impose the images, or words, that we use to give an identity to what confronts us? How can I show you that any object could reveal this sensation to you, but you will call into mind 'learned' ideas that will impose powers of recognition over what you see. These ideas will suppress this first sensation, and, for this reason I cannot paint you a picture of it, I cannot sculpture it, or compose it into music or dance. All these work practices emerged to give us powers of recognition that helped us transform and suppress this original experience. My task seems impossible, and yet I awaken every day to this 'feeling' that my mind works all the time to stop me encountering a way of sensing the world that I have inherited from my animal origins.
I think my problem is that my intelligence is structured to suppress my old powers of intuitive perception that were once generated for my distant animal ancestors by instinct. I have inherited a vestige of this ancient way of sensing objects and events, and the sensation is still present, somewhere deep in my psyche, but my conscious mind has only learned to suppress the spectre of this inherent sensation behind my modern power of observation. I simply have no knowledge of how to look through my old primal sense of instinct that has been passed down to me from my distant beginnings.
I look at everyday objects and events through my powers of intelligent recognition, and I wonder how these things would look without all the learned ideas I impose over what I see. I pick up my paintbrushes and confront a blank white canvas, but I know everything I paint will be recognisable, because this is the way my intelligence comprehends what confronts me. I could pour or throw the paint onto the floor, and this will certainly stop me recognising an image, but my intelligence knows how to recognise runs and dribbles of paint, and so the primal sensation will still remain suppress in what I see.
What am I to do?
What would happen if I could create something that even I, as the artist, do not know how to recognise? Not a work of art, and certainly not a day-to-day object, because neither you, nor I, will have any problem recognising such a presentation. A urinal placed on exhibition in an art gallery is no more likely to rekindle this primal sensation than a big dead shark, an old shed or an unmade bed. We possess well established intelligent ideas to give recognition to these things, just as we hold ideas about abstract painting and tins of soup. We know what a sculpture is, and music or dance. We have learned to experience these things through well entrenched intelligent ideas that work to suppress the experience we would encounter if we failed to identify an object in the world around us.
I need to get rid of the established idea of art, but the idea keeps being adjusted to encompass more and more objects that were once never though to be art. It is as if, subconsciously, the art establishment is working to suppress the underlying sensation the artist is forever trying to expose. Perhaps this adjusting of the idea of art is no more than a reflection of the way we have evolved to suppress our primal view of all we see and do. We must have learnt, a very long ago, to overcome our animal sense of instinct with our emerging intelligent powers of recognition, and, therefore, today we are born to impose intelligent ideas over what we experience because this has become habitual behaviour. We no longer sense the primal experience because, from day one, our mind begins to overpower this inherent view in our perception of the world. We look to impose intelligent ideas over everything without thinking, because it has become an inborn trait in our very powers of observation. The art establishment, therefore, once artists began to explore this old inherent intuitive way of making art objects, looked to widen the context of what could be classed as art because this works to stop us sensing in an old primal way. It gives us an idea called art - even if we don't fully understand it - to suppress having to look at an object with no idea to impose over what confronts us. If you call everything art you have, at least, this vague concept to stop the underlying view, generated by instinct, from disturbing you. This shift in the classification of what is, and is not, an art object, therefore, seems to reflect how our mind now works all the time to stop our old inherent powers of perception infringing upon the intelligent control we impose upon our every conscious thought.
The history of art was a history of repressive work practices until modern times. Artists arose to make things for the Tribe, the Church and the State with the shaman, the priest, kings, queens and connoisseurs dictating the subjects. Then knowledge of our animal origins emerged through the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, and artist suddenly realised they were making art objects to impose our intelligent powers of recognition over a primal state of mind.
Some artists began to explore other ways of sensing what confronted them. Some painters began to make the paint more noticeable and the image less realistic, sculptors gave the stone more chisel marks, or the clay more fingerprints. Musicians disrupted our expectation for perfection in music, and dancing became less academic and more freely modified. Artists began to sense our old underlying intuitive way of comprehending the world that we once knew through animal instinct, and free styles began to emerge. This exposed the art world to the primal view, and so, after much consternation and despair, the concept of art adjusted to encompass the new, and suppress the disturbance of being confronted by an object that avoids the values you always impose over it.
Eventually, anything could be called a work of art because it was realised art is not an object you can create, but a way of sensing any object that your mind has evolved to keep suppressed in your experience of the world. The freedom from the repressive work practices enforced by the traditional idea of art gave us this realisation, but with it came the discovery that our mind no longer knows how to sense an object without an intelligent idea to impose over what we see. We have to look for something we have learned to recognise because, without this controlled state of awareness, we sense the view generated by our old animal powers of instinct as a vision of chaos and disorder. This is how our old intuitive way of sensing appears to intelligence and, for an artist, this implies you have to find a way to create a work without intelligent imposing its influence over what you do. You want to end up with an object that you possess no way to recognise, because then, your old inherent way of sensing by instinct will return into your powers of perception. This would reveal chaos and disorder as a sensation that contains an inherent intuitive way of comprehending what confronts us, but this experience seems out of reach to our intelligent powers of observation. Removing our ability to recognise art sounded like a straightforward thing to achieve, but this has proven almost impossible to attain, because our minds have forgotten how to look at an object without an intelligent idea. When an artist finds a way to place an object outside of the established ideas, art adjusts its values so that the new work can be bought under this continuously modified concept that works to suppress the purpose of a work created to avoid all those values.
The problem is that the way we have evolved from animal origins to suppress our sense of instinct actually works against what a modern artist needs to do to get a glimpse of this inherent primal state of mind. Your intelligence is continuously trying to influence what you do to stop the underlying view entering your powers of observation. This is what our mind has evolved to do, because it gave our early ancestors a better chance of survival in a world dominated by animal instinct. Developing the ability to recognise the world through our powers of intelligent ideas has given us unrivalled ability to control and manipulate the objects and events around us. It allows us to modify objects rather than just sense them, but, for an artist, this buries and suppresses the original experience. And, because an artist is, or should be, an individual with a vestige of this sensation in their powers of observation, the way we now control our powers of perception works to suppress the primal view the artist suspects is alive and working away in the depth of their mind.
If you are a traditional artist this underlying sensation of a primal state of mind will remain unrealised in your experience of art. This is because your working practice has arisen to enforce as much intelligent control and organisation over the creation of a work, and this is a reflection of how your intelligence has evolved to suppress your old animal sense of instinct. The old inherent sensation this way of perception still generates in the depth of your mind is therefore unprovoked by traditional art work. For a modern artist, aware that we have evolved from animal origins, the task is to find a way to stop intelligence imposing its vast powers of recognition over what confronts us, so that we can, as we once did in our primal past, sense objects and events through our inherent instinctive powers of perception.
Christopher John Hollins
P.S. Sorry it has taken so long to write to you, but I had not realised it has been ten years since I began to clarify the words I needed to convey this idea.