Written as a reflection on the ephemeral and the transient nature of street art for LSD Magazine. Couldn’t resist having a post on transience christening a very ‘self’ website 😉
Is there any such thing in this world as eternal truth? Well religion would certainly have us believe that there are a set of unchanging pillars – moral, physical and metaphysical – that cannot and should not be altered. But we live in a world of relativity. Existence is defined in relation to context and morality is set in fluid terms that individuals and societies shape in their own image. Permanence itself is a dying ideal. As heaven, hell and the eternal diminish in ideological power and the perpetual motion of matter ignites questions in our minds, we are left to reflect on a shifting set of truths on the tides of perpetual flux. To what degree should art reflect that and to what degree should it seek to defy it?
Despite the millions paid by daft collectors to cling onto immortality both for themselves and the art that nourishes their ego, it is questionable whether art’s very originators sought permanence or ephemeral expression. The artists behind cave paintings may be astonished to know that their reflections of Stone Age life have survived into the present day and are not only appreciated for their beauty, but for their insights into a world long buried by the relentless march of history. Yet the original force behind the art was the capture of a moment in time, a hunting scene, a depiction of spirit deities invested with contemporary meaning but fundamentally alien to the generations that succeeded it. Some of the greatest works of Renaissance art attempt to illuminate the eternal truths of God’s glory, but even they are bound into a moment by the architecture, dress and humanist style that defined their age. Styles change, subject matters lose relevance and the erosive toll of time will eventually reduce even the Mona Lisa to dust.
Graffiti and street art are by their very nature, a transient truth. Baptised by concrete, they harness the power of the street – the rush of caning it, burning it, running it, stunning it, and channel them into a fierce crucible of creativity. It’s a sorry truth that its lifeblood is now being lovingly corrupted by the trendy clink of Martinis and the bullshit of the Zeitgeist. The irony is of course that as fashion, money and parasites enter the equation, their entire emphasis is on memorialising transience into a commodity. Money within art is tied inexorably to longevity – the appreciation of value over time. One might argue that the absurd paradox of attaching price and permanence to an intrinsically transient medium is indeed a piece of art in itself. But you know – fuck em.. Underground and the street are states of mind – a headspace crackling with visual electricity and rolling on a subconscious beat that nothing external can touch or seek to recapture. Some art may indeed strive for eternity and the pieces that achieve it are truly magical. But what of that flash of fleeting feeling.
Today’s overwhelming flood of creativity mirrors an exponential burst of interconnection, technology, and access to inspiration. And somehow it’s nakedness, its implicit impermanence is key. The most beautiful work imaginable could be tagged over by some swaggering muppet the very next day, or washed into oblivion by a council. And isn’t that the greatest art of all, sacrificing the intrinsic drive for immortality for a piercing metaphor that highlights the transience both of human creation and the truths they seek to unleash. The music that we hear and surrender to on a dancefloor is, at its purest, the the dissolution of the ego and a flood of emotion that no amount of hearing the recording the next day can ever hope to attain. Art is about experience, whether reflecting it or generating it and those transcendental moments of living that constitute our lives, the few glimpses of inspired consciousness sprinkled across our all too mortal lives. Isn’t that the real eternal truth?
First Published – LSD Magazine Issue 3 – Weapons of Mass Creation
Hand sculpture by Jonty Hurwitz
Bottom image by Jakob Wagner