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 blinked as the soft distant rustling of maps and wineglasses behind him prodded his consciousness.

Straggling patrons entered his wide room in the gallery as 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 traditional paint. They silently shuffled in, conversations dying to a hush.

Still holding himself as if he was a sculpture as well, he kept his back rigid and neck straight, staring intently at the sculpture ahead of him. He steals a glance at the floor, marred by the streaks of paint that signaled previous performances. Purposefully avoiding 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 hears the last of the group come in. 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)

In his head, the artist visualized the sculpture ahead of him, as he ignored the tittering sound of the audience shifting in an attempt to get a better view. The misshapen head and roughly carved legs designed to communicate rawness - artificial yet natural, refined yet unpolished, carefully designed yet carelessly executed. A human figure 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, a mockery of the human form.

He silently turned his back to the statue and picked up his supplies. Focusing on on both the artist and the sculpture, the audience muttered to itself.

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 that was untainted by paint. 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, the innocent humming deafening loud.

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 went through all the brushes - and he felt a can of paint.

He can't see what color it is. He doesn't care what color it is.

His back was turned to the sculpture the whole time - a dozen pair of eyes trained on them, wanting to look at the artist but also not daring to look away from the sculpture.

Ignoring the row of brushes, he lifted the new tub of paint with both hands, 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. As usual, a few shrieks are heard, angry murmurs are thrown about, disappointed complaint of ruined boots were drowned out by rest of the crowd's overwhelming silence.

Silently thanking the audience, the artist ducked down under the outstretched arms of the sculpture, squeezing between the tiny space of its body and the wall.

The artist kneeled down facing the statue, on the polished wooden gallery floor, and took a deep breath. The most dangerous parts of the performance was over - another success.

The statue towered over him, the stubby arms blocking his view of the ceiling. Eyes still shut, the artist faced upwards, imagining how the face of the statue now looks. He embraced the statue, 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. Training his eyes on the statue, the artist got up, and walking backwards slowly, returned to his stool, once again, sitting tall and straight as the statue in front of him.

The museum patrons clap politely, as they silently dispersed into the next room. He could hear their murmurs, suggesting that no artist would truly put themselves at true risk. Some concerned patrons kept their eyes trained on the statue, noticing the unmoving artist still seated as if unconcerned about his safety. Their fervent discussion grew fainter and fainter, as the crowd walked into the next room to experience the performance next door.

The young artist stared ahead, uncaring. The statue prohibits him from reacting, after all. He sits, and waits for a short few minutes as the new group of gallery patrons shuffled in so he could begin painting anew.

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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