I was thinking random thoughts, perhaps not really thinking anything at all, when a rather concrete question randomly formulated itself, namely: am I more or less lonely than other artists? And then: are contemporary artists, as a type, particularly lonely? And then: is there any documentation on the relative loneliness, or lack of loneliness, of contemporary artists? These didn’t seem, to me at least, to be particularly engaging or timely questions to be posing but my mind hovered around them for a few brief moments and I recalled something I had read in the book Artistic Research – theories, methods and practices by Mika Hannula, Juha Suorant and Tere Vaden:
Following Rorty (1991), the question indeed is: what communities and traditions does the person undertaking artistic research belong to? The sad thing is that sometimes we are happy with the context where we find ourselves – and yet again sometimes not. The politics of the everyday – and how we can cope with it – is how we specifically handle this conflict. But Rorty continues. The other decisive question is: What is our approach to loneliness? We cannot underestimate or despise such a question. It is useless to claim that one would enjoy one’s existence maximally only if and when one is alone. Despite the journey and need to make decisions, the question is about being in the world, about the pressures and needs stemming from this and how this relationship is carried out.
I have often said that one of the things art can still do, and perhaps the thing it still does best, is help us formulate what we believe in and therefore concurrently allow us to form alliances, and perhaps even communities, with those who have similar compulsions and beliefs. If there is a work of art I like I naturally begin to think about why exactly it is that I like it. This leads me to think what questions and positions the work of art expresses that resonate with my more general world view, allowing me to further clarify what it is that I actually think and why. When I meet others who like the same work of art we have a point of departure for a discussion about values. It might turn out that we like the same work of art for completely different reasons. And these differences once again allow us to clarify what might be meaningful to us.
In an art culture of hyper-plurality, such alliances at times seem few and far between.