Looking back at this blog over the last few weeks, it's apparent to me that I haven't actually written anything in awhile. But what I had intended to do (and didn't) was post a few more profiles of notable artists associated with Dada, then contrast their collectivist, random, and very expressive approach to that of Marcel Duchamp's "non-retinal" conceptualist approach, all as a means of differentiating "concept" and "expression" within a broader umbrella of aesthetic experience not limited to the visible qualities of an art work.
Unfortunately, I left town for nine days and kind of lost track of what I was thinking about on this topic. Or, for that matter, how I was going to relate it to poetry.
If you're one of those rare people who find this topic interesting, then you might see where I get hung up: "aesthetics" presumably precludes "concept" as an integral aspect of aesthetic experience - at least according to Kant and like-minded others. And, from a different angle, there are probably those who work in conceptualist modes that would scoff at any notion of aesthetics when considering the significance of conceptual art.
All of which I find absurd. Why? Because my own idea of aesthetics involves the perceivable structure of patterns - not confined to meaning, beauty, or any of the human senses - that can be appreciated as art. And I think there is a huge amount of overlap, so an opposition between aesthetics and conceptualism is, quite frankly, a false dichotomy.
Or, as Henry James asserted in "The Art of Fiction" (concerning the validity of experimentation by novelists): “The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting.” To which I say (concerning the validity of artistic experimentation in general), Amen.
Beyond all this, I'd also like to argue that the "anti-art" of Dada might actually be considered "anti" only in the sense that it purposefully violates all preexisting notions of what art was supposed to be in its own particular era, i.e. that "art" was bound to formal appearance and craft (as fashioned by the artistic genius of notable individuals) even when the formal structures of these art works were highly innovative (as in the case of Impressionism, for example).
In other words, while Dada eschewed the conventions of craft, they still produced art which could be appreciated from an aesthetic point of view, i.e. "what meets the eye" is still the object of art. In Duchamp's case, however, he confounded the eye and directly engaged a world of human concepts and social dynamics that is only referred to by the art object. Which is to say, the "structure" of his art exists in the non-material (and very complicated) realm of human social experience as it is metonymically referenced by the object of art.
All of this, of course, constitutes a large mouthful of assertions that I don't currently know how to support. I also don't know if anybody else finds the subject half as interesting as I do. Still, it's a significant topic that is worth exploring, especially when considering the hegemonic realities of contemporary art and poetry. Or the fact that "conceptual" and "aesthetic" approaches don't appear to get along very well, at least not as well as they should.
In the process of studying this issue, I came across an essay by Marjorie Perloff that is far more interesting and relevant than anything I could personally write concerning the difference between Duchamp and the Dadas. If the topic interests you, I highly encourage you to click on this link and give it a ponder.
On a related note, Michael Solender and Lynn Alexander recently invited me to become a regular contributer to Full of Crow's On the Wing. The reason this is a related matter is that for my first essay there I want to explore conceptual art - focusing on Duchamp - as a type of "aesthetic" that -- while being neither visual nor representational -- still creates "beautiful" structures through a reflexive form of metonymy in which "what meets the eye" is considerably less important than what meets the interrelational core of a radically expanded concept of human subjectivity and social experience.
The challenge of course, is how to create a reputable argument for the appreciation of conceptual art as an aesthetic experience without making an intellectual fool of myself in the process. I'll post a link if and when it gets published.
In the meantime, I want to "re-boot" this blog and begin examining contemporary poetry as it is presently being written and published on the internet. Having recently posted the press release from VIDA concerning gender bias in established lit journals, I'll probably turn my attention toward writers who not only happen to be women but who also happen to be terrific poets.
Specifically, I'm thinking of writers like Kim Addonizio, Arlene Ang, Venus Khoury-Ghata, or Denise Duhamel. But if anyone wants to offer any other suggestions, I'm all ears - post it in the comment section and I'll take a serious look at the work of any poet you put forward. And, while you're thinking about that, why don't you take a look at a few varied works of creative brilliance and humor from Kimberly Kaye: Banjoetry
[Sometimes I hate it when people are waaay more creative than me ...]