Ars Gratia Artis
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Art alone makes life possible – this is how radically I should like to formulate it. I would say that without art man is inconceivable in physiological terms […] Man is only truly alive when he realizes he is a creative, artistic being.

- Joseph Beuys (1921-1986)

The young artist tried not to blink, as the soft rustling of maps and clinking wineglasses grew behind him.

Straggling patrons entered his spacious room in the gallery; he purposefully ignored them, trying to keep his body rigid and erect on a tall stool. Next to him, an artist's table was laid out chock full of supplies - brushes, chisels, cans of spray paint, tubs of oil paint. The well-dressed patrons shuffled in, as the stern museum guards politely reminded them to be respectful as they ushered the visitors in.

Tensing his body as if he was a sculpture as well, the artist kept his back rigid and neck straight, as he stared intently at the sculpture ahead of him. He stole a glance at the floor, marred by the streaks of paint that signaled previous performances. Even as he tried to avoid acknowledgement, stray eye contact was still made despite his best efforts.

He faced straight ahead, hoping that he looked as emotionless as possible, stealing a glance at the audience and hoping no one saw his sliver of doubt.

He sensed the last of the group come in and the doors quietly close. It's time to begin.

The artist closed his eyes.

The young artist today need no longer say "I am a painter" or "a dancer". He is simply "an artist". All of life will open to him. He will discover out of ordinary things the meaning of ordinariness. He will not try to make them extraordinary. Only their real meaning will be stated. […] People will be delighted or horrified, critics will be amused or confused…

- Allan Kaprow (1927-2006)

The artist thought of the strange sculpture ahead of him, as he ignored the tittering sound of the audience shifting in an attempt to get a better view. The sculpture, with its misshapen head and roughly carved legs, was designed to communicate a duality in rawness - artificial yet natural, refined yet unpolished, carefully designed yet carelessly executed. A humanoid figure that feels exactly halfway between painting and sculpture.

Two large, unpainted orbs stared blankly at him and the audience behind.

It was the thirty-seventh time he performed this routine already; since the opening of the gallery, the colorless concrete mass has steadily grown more grotesque with each application, almost a mockery of the human form. He's nearing the end of his planned series, and today was an important milestone.

He silently turned his back to the statue and picked up his supplies, eyes still squeezed shut. The audience muttered to themselves, trying to focus on both the artist and the sculpture.

Pretending that he doesn't care about the pairs of eyes that are trained on him and the sculpture, the artist started to hum a little tune - today is a Brubeck kind of day. Blindly, he felt around the table, and picked up a brush. He held it up to the light, tilted his head as if he was unsure, as if this wasn't part of a planned routine. He brushed it gently against his left eyelid, the ticklish bristles teasing him to look around him. He put it down on the carefully arranged table, and felt around until he found another similarly dry brush. He brushed this one against his right eyelid, still shut tight. The room was silent except for the rustling of the brush.

Another brush. Hold up to the light. Brush the right palm.

Another brush. Hold up to the light. Brush the left palm.

Right cheek. Left cheek. Right ear. Left ear.

He held up his last brush, a rather large one that is soaked in black, and tossed it into the pile of discarded brushes, clattering to the floor.

A few gallery goers gasped, only to be shushed again by the ones not in the know. This wasn't part of the routine - not usually, at least.

The artist felt around his station rather clumsily (intentionally clumsy? or mockingly clumsy?) until he felt a tub of paint. He can't see what color it is. He doesn't care what color it is.

His back is still turned to the half-painted sculpture the whole time - dozens of eyes still trained on the duo, wanting to look at the artist but also not daring to look away from the sculpture.

He gingerly lifted the lid off the tub of paint, the toxic fumes indicating its fresh untainted status. He turned back to face the statue, and slowly advanced towards it.

Theatre is fake … The knife is not real, the blood is not real, and the emotions are not real. Performance is just the opposite: the knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real.

- Marina Abramović (1946-)

Walking up to face the tall statue, he dipped his left hand into the tub of paint. He smeared it all over the orb-like eyes on the face of the structure. His blindness was his guide - his finger guided him through the zeniths and nadirs, as he attempted to apply the paint in a generous and fair manner.

The artist took another deep breath, knowing the next step of the routine is the easiest but also the most dangerous.

Without warning, he flung the tub of paint carelessly outwards, towards the audience, his eyes still squeezed firmly shut. A few shrieks are heard, with a loud complaint of stained boots. The artist doesn't care which rich donor's fur coat got ruined, the museum can pay for the damages later anyways.

The paint bucket broke the intense concentration that has been in the air. Many audience members looked away to themselves and their clothing, assessing the damage, momentarily forgetting of the performer and the statue.

The audience is unaware of how grateful they should be to the small handful that remained mesmerized by the performance. Perhaps they believed in the rumor about this statue - an incredulous and outlandish rumor, yet they do not wish to be the ones to debunk it.

The artist knelt down facing the statue, on the polished wooden gallery floor, and took a deep breath. The most dangerous parts of all of his performances was over - another success for the museum's pamphlets next month, and he can already hear the curator's congratulatory speech.

The statue towered over him, the stubby arms outstretched. He embraced the statue from below, just as the statue looks as if he embraced him from above.

The artist opens his eyes.

They do not move.

In art, the only one who really knows whether what you've done is honest is the artist.

- Bruce Nauman (1941-)

The green eyes looked nice. Still staring at the statue, the artist got up, and walked backwards slowly, as he returned to his stool, once again, sitting tall and straight as the statue in front of him.

The museum patrons clapped politely, as they always do. It was always the same soft applause.

As they dispersed, some concerned patrons kept their eyes trained on the statue, watching the still-seated artist straining his eyes to look ahead. Their fervent discussion grew fainter and fainter, likely to forget this experience as they returned to their comfortable lives.

The artist heard murmurs, some suggesting that no artist would truly put themselves at true risk. The rumors about this statue was definitely just fabricated to be part of this experience. Art is a facade, after all - who would risk their life to be just another footnote in the long annals of art history?

The young artist stared ahead, uncaring. The statue prohibits him from reacting, after all, according to the rumors. Counting the seconds in his mind as a new group of visitors shuffled in, the young artist contemplated his next move. Silently and solemnly.

My works are in constant movement and flux. I don’t make art in order to offer an explanation of some particular thing. Ultimately, what I want is to be able to make art that will hold the interest of the viewer.

- Izumi Kato (1969-)

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