In art’s ideal state, the artist would be at the same time the maker and recipient of his or her work, the sender and receiver of its message. Moreover, the work as such would become redundant as reflection would become the sole object of art — as a creative ‘possibility1 on the one hand and the object of contemplation on the other. This ideal state would free artists from the tiring necessity to check how their artistic message is received by the public. However, man is a social being and outside of society hę would be but a werewolf, a mute beast deprived of any knowledge that comes from tradition and shared collective experience. Thus, if man cannot exist without society (like any other species removed from its habitat), l am forced to reject the soothing vision of the ideal state of art.
Consequently, any reasonable and logically sound reflection on the function of art must include the consideration that artists and their public form an indivisible whole in which various complications and feedback exchanges unfold. l am convinced that it is the collective consciousness that shapes the artist’s individual consciousness and provides the basis for artistic actions.
Had the rendering by the artist of the conception of collective consciousness been the sole objective of the artistic endeavour, art would have been nothing more than practical knowledge as it would only describe reality or build its model of the fragments of this consciousness. However, the artist’s work does not consist only in the processing and construing the generally accepted or acknowledged truths.
The history of art provides many examples of artists who lived in society but whose work undermined the generally accepted norms or provided models that would not gain social approval. This fact reveals some unique aspects of creative activity that operates within the collective consciousness and at the same time opens new perspectives that transgress rt. Thus, certain artistic Solutions rejected by society may at the time be perceived as absolutely obvious and justified by the next generations. Moreover, they can provide a departure point for new explorations. They become a material to be reflected upon and analysed and may even determine decisions influencing the development of the collective consciousness. Thus, l regard art as a generator of transformations of the collective consciousness that determine its multifarious evolution.
l conclude that the individual artist’s work, albeit determined by the collective consciousness, may in fact stimulate qualitative changes. Reflecting on the meaning of collective creation, we may say that it is affected by all interconnections between the individual and collective consciousness. There is, however, one important difference: as the distinction between the artist and the public becomes blurred, artistic activity becomes at the same time anonymous and collective. The collective nature of the creation and perception of art becomes the broadly understood theoretical practice of art. Happenings, already a ‘classic’ form of contemporary art, elevate the viewer’s status from the happening’s object to its subject because without his presence the action itself would become pointless. This factors appears to underlie the phenomenon of such theatrical or pop music performances in which the ‘artists’ make statements that their ‘public’ would supposedly have uttered if not for such natural hindrances as (the lack of) talent or progressing specialisation.
Consequently, art conveys not only automatic thoughts but also all that which derives from the social context of the artist-public relation. In my view, what constitutes the victory of art is art itself as a specific and contextual value of the collective consciousness.
Translated by Małgorzata Możdżyńska-Nawotka