Art is not restricted to its author, nor its institutionalization (in a museum, a concert hall), its materialization (into a lasting object) nor the money it provides for the ones wanting to profit of its recognition. Accidental art wants to emancipate itself from such restrictions by taking the disposition of the viewer seriously. Accidentals are not to be owned. They do not have to be intentional. But it has to be decided upon.
Accidental art can be found ‘in the eyes of the beholder’. Everything has the potential to become art, art is everywhere. This does not mean that everything is art. Its aim is a phenomenological diversity, a differentiation in attitude not yet aimed at. It can be found in the cracks, the fractions, the vaults of everyday life. For example: when functionality loses its function, other possibilities appear. Because it can no longer be calculated upon when this happens (as in, tomorrow I am going to read Hannah Arendt, today I am going to visit sol le witts wall paintings), we call this ‘accidental.’ Something may be ‘accidentally’ looked upon as art.
(Accidentals stand in opposition with the capitalist experience of going to a museum, if I go to a museum I expect to be confronted with art and an artistic sensibility towards the world, this then becomes a neat little experience that may not have anything to do with the way I lead the rest of my life, it may not have anything to do with my own mentality, or my own attitude. When this happens, art is consummated, instead of acted upon, the experience is purely voyeuristic and it loses its philosophical, conceptual or its revolutionary value. It becomes ornament, decadent, or worse, money (Bourdieu’s sociological nihilism, or the way he may or may not be rightly paraphrased, is not right, art is not simply an exchange of the position we occupy in the world. And it never will be.) Accidental art radically breaks away from this attitude. It cannot be repeated. It can only be found in the attitude itself, that you can only accidentally stumble upon.
Unlike our calculated time that is divided by us into intentional parts, or our cities, that are meant to function like this because of some political decision, we learn to call nature accidental as in contingent, it was just some chance encounter with chance. Our cities and places of nature we go to find some rest of the stresses of our city lives, become more and more decided upon, nothing is left to chance anymore, everything is planned, the world is becoming one big suburbia, there still is nature, but it is not as natural as it used to be. For all the riches that it may or may not brought, it makes a lot of these places dead, everything is finished, controlled, intentional, no chance encounters there. Accidental art resists this, it sees the beauty in the unfinished, things that escape our political decision making, paralleling nature, the non suburban version of nature.
Accidental art is influenced by Taoism. It is found in the dispositional experience with the world, not in taking something out of it, or adding something to it. ‘It is hardly anything. But maybe that is why it is something.’ It is aimed at our relation with the everyday world and our reactions towards it, aimed at broadening this scope that is neglected time and time again. It is not aimed at its own repetition, a repetition of this world, to be sold, repeated and consummated in a photograph or on a website. The experience cannot be sublimated. But maybe it is impossible to get around this sublimation and accidental art aims at the impossible? (but maybe that is not a bad thing.)
It is felt in the experience of a change of disposition itself. It is not derived from a change of context (the experience is not forced by a change of context) the change of context follows from the accidental. Labeling something as ‘art’ can be used to force us to look, to look better, to see more, to do more, to do otherwise, to do better. The change in discourse follows from this experience with the accidental (of the familiar becoming unfamiliar, interpretations that get stuck, do not longer work, ask for new ideas.) It is not solely a mental performance, or an intellectual interpretation (that is shifted from the artist to the viewer.) It is the experience of interpretation itself, it is the experience of the accidental itself, it is a single experience with ourselves, aimed at an emancipation of our attitudes towards our own and everyday lives.
But that is not good enough either, because we do want to communicate these attitudes and reflect upon it, and not all attitudes are equal, some are more important than others, still others are completely irrelevant, malicious even. And we do want to make these distinctions, these judgments, we need to, we don’t have anything else. How to communicate this experience then, without letting it be consummated? Is it a physical mythical experience with the angelic character of art itself, art as a shift, a crack becoming transformative? It is almost as meeting ‘art’ itself. But why call it art at all? Is it a postmodern antichristian version of the angelic, the angelic found in what is accidental? Should I end with ginsbergs holy then, holy holy holy, crisis is holy, cracks are holy, accidents are holy etcetc. No, I like to end these notes on the relevance of accidental art with a few examples.
© Mara Jonsson