The Gospel of Modern Art According to St. James the Photographer of Experiments
"THE DEATH OF FILM” REDUX – The Prophecy of a Littoral Art Project Artist
The opening reception on 9-11-04 for "The Death of Film" at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia, is a distant memory for me now.
Within the many emails I have recieved regarding my work, there have been sincere questions posed by some passionate young people challenging me in one way or another to define a clearer association of “Rough Edge Photography” with my three major art concerns as an artist, as well as to explain how my photographs convey these concerns or address them, if in fact, they do at all.
For those who do not know my Gospel, know ye this:
1.) DIGITAL MEDIA IS EVIL
2.) THE MODERN ART WORLD IS CORRUPT
3.) THE FUNCTION OF LITTORAL ART PRACTICES TO FIND AND RECOVER STOLEN ART – I believe that Art in the (dis)United State(ments) of (an) (un)America(n) needs to be reclaimed from illegitimate CON-art-IST entities who kidnapped it and are holding it hostage in corrupt “art” institutions so that Art can be liberated from its ARTofficial prison and reunited with the every day lived experiences of every citizen of this country for the artful purpose of making art-starved human beings more ArtFull. Littoral Art Projects are concerned with liberating the human he(art).
I have decided to present the following in the hopeful spirit that it will offer answers to some questions.
Q - What is “Rough Edge Photography”?
A – It is a personal Littoral Art Project of my design. Its immediate primary purpose is to bring attention to my three major concerns. My hopeful long-term goal is that liberated people of conscience will, whether motivated by my project or not, involve themselves in a grassroots effort to demand change in the State of the Modern Art.
Q – What is Littoral Art?
A – My philosophy and definition of Littoral Art is based upon the writings of artist, Bruce Barber:
On the night of 9-11, in a motel room in Biloxi, Mississippi, all of the philosophical, social, political, artistic and cultural issues and questions in my mind, formed, if you will, into a Vision.
As I have previously written, I believe that supreme elitist powers in the hierarchy of the art world have conspired to separate art from the meaning of life for the purpose, within a corpo-capitalistic market, of creating market share value for art suitable for a consumerist society.
“Rough Edge Photography” - A COMPONENT OF THE LITTORAL ART PROJECT
“Rough Edge Photography” is a component of the Littoral Art Project to address my three concerns. This Littoral Art Project itself is concerned with spreading the Gospel of what I believe I received in my Vision. The physical images that I have created are functional, tangible and tactile elements of that message.
The repetitive question that seems to have been asked is this: how do the physical images communicate the message or messages that I intend?
First, I would refer anyone interested to the description of my previous Littoral Art Projects that are listed on my web site.
My previous Littoral Art Projects were conceived to be private moments of communications between myself and other people. This present project is concerned with a larger potential audience because the stakes are higher than in my previous projects.
A SOUTHERN HISTORY OF “ROUGH EDGE PHOTOGRAPHY” AND “The Death of Film”
The inspiration for the style, content, theme and substance of my physical images derives from the overwhelmingly spiritual inspiration that I have had from viewing historic photographic images captured curing the American Civil War.
As I have mentioned before, my background is who I am. I am Southern. I am a native son of Mississippi. My family settled in Mississippi in 1830. They have lived and died in the same county since they arrived generation after generation. I am the first member of my family to ever leave the state.
I am an obsessive genealogist. I have thousands of pages of historic documentation of my family’s history tracing them all the back to Ireland, including a massive family photograph collection.
The Civil War is not an abstraction for me. It is deeply imbedded in my family’s history and my home state’s culture and has always tugged at my intellect and spirit of creativity.
The Civil War destroyed the South in a way that modern warfare had never affected a civilian population. In my home state, ¼ of the adult male population that went to war did not return home. The devastation of lives, families, communities and cities was unparalleled in history up to that moment of 1861-1865. The world had never seen a war carried to the extremes of this war.
This legacy of this destruction pervades every corner of the South. One can not walk through a cemetery in Mississippi without seeing many headstones of Confederate, as well as Union dead. By some estimates more than 400,000 people, both Confederate and Union, were killed in four years of brutal conflict.
In my home state the ghosts of the Civil War pervade the culture in a deep and troubling way. Our poetry, literature, music and history seems forever linked to the horrible realities of what happened.
In my opinion, war is about death. War is killing.
As a Southerner, and as an artist, this historical legacy and it impact on my home state and my family’s history has always influenced me deeply.
This is my history and my inspiration. I don’t say all of this to re-fight the Civil War.
THE “ROUGH EDGE PHOTOGRAPHY’ COMPONENT OF THE LITTORAL ART PROJECT
As is probably evident, I am a student of the American Civil War. I study it because I believe it was the defining moment in history for everything this country ultimately became.
Because of the technology of the times, Civil War era photographers were not able to shoot real time photographs of actual battle scenes as they unfolded. There are some very rare images of a cannon being fired, for example, but these are far and few between.
The result of this process is that almost all of the images of the Civil War, the first war to be photographed in such an intensive documentary fashion, are that the images are post-battle conflict photographs: Images of dead soldiers after the battle, burned farm houses, destroyed cities, etc.
As I spent more time researching and studying the images of the American Civil War, what began to interest me as an artist was how disconnected from the actual horrors of the reality of death and blood and guts these images were. What I saw was that these extant images almost convey a separate identity from the context of what they originally were and were intended to be.
Inspired by this observation, I reached to the accidental aesthetic value of these photographs when I conceived the style of the physical photographic component - “Rough Edge Photography” – of my Littoral Art Project. I wanted to create a photographic style that seemed peaceful, quiet, underwhelming and contemplative.
I did struggle with the question of how my physical photographic component of the project should link to the concerns I have about digital media as part of this Littoral Art Project.
I rejected that. That’s not me. I couldn’t honestly do that.
I kept coming back to the quiet contemplative and disconnected value of Civil War photographs.
The fact that they suggest what ever the reader reads into them and the fact that they are very much visually disconnected from the terrible reality of what the horrible imagery of a real time battle would look like if it could have been captured by cameras then as scenes of war can be captured digitally now.
The physical images of “Rough Edge Photography” that I have created for this project are meant to stand on their on as small scale pieces of anti-modern art. This means that they are not works of art, but are the art of work. The work being that they function as a component of the Littoral Art Project.
CONFLICTS OF INTERESTS – Sinners and Saints and the world before the WORD
With “The Death of Film” I am trying to communicate through the physical component of my “Rough Edge Photography” that imagery can be disconnected from reality and the words of reality and the WORD of non-reality.
The communication of the WORD through web sites and art blogs, for example, has been the most amazing and unexpected pleasure of this Littoral Art Project.
There is a deep irony with my “Rough Edge Photography” in the sense that the communication of my Gospel does involve the use of digital media. That fact has not escaped me and it is, again, purposeful and part of my project.
Let me explain: I was searching for a rationalization for the issue of whether or not I could morally justify using digital media to spread an anti-digital media message. I felt that I needed a cultural context and entertainment precedent to justify any such potential scheme. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it is the thing to do that is right given the response of our society to digital media.
From my Southern roots I found inspiration and justification in a bizarre cultural phenomenon that inspired me: Within the conservative Christian movement there has been for some time a very slickly organized so-called Alternative Christian Music industry. This industry was born in the South.
From Amy Grant to D.C. Talk and a million Alternative Christian Rock bands in between, the manipulative goal is this: Locate the newest hip pop thing, develop an artist to sing in that style with that imagery, promote it as the Christian alternative to the corrupt real thing and lure the kids in and get them hooked on Jesus while fleecing their pockets and tapping out their parent’s credit card limit.
Of course, the point of this con game is not ultimately lost. White Christians don’t give a damn about rap music or the culture that generates it or any other cutting-edge cultural phenomena. What white Christian Alternative Christian Music businessmen do care about is co-opting the attributes of successfully appealing pop culture for the purpose of making tons of money.
This corporate pseudo-Christian bullshit, believe it or not, inspired my rationalization for the co-opted use of digital media as part of my anti-digital media Littoral Art Project. I began to see that perhaps there might be a way to use digital media to spread the anti-digital message, and still insulate myself morally, to a very questionable extent admittedly.
DIGITAL IMAGES OF NON-DIGITAL IMAGES OF THE DIGITAL IMAGINATION OF A NON-DIGITAL IMAGING OF A DIGITAL WORLD IN A NON-DIGITAL MIND
The digital images of my work on my site, as well as the digital images of my work that have been shipped around the world via the Internet and through digital reproduction in newspapers, play into this concept of “The Death of Film”.
St. Paul says in the New Testament, “I have become all things to all men so that by many means I can win the few”.
The ultimate purpose of the physical component of “Rough Edge Photography” is to function as a platform for the communication of the totality of the Littoral Art Project.
The WORD component of the Littoral Art Project is, and has been, communicated digitally and non-digitally.
The prophetic utterances of the WORD component that I make and have made are inspired by the Old Testament Prophets: The WORD is given…head the WORD…listen to the WORD….THE SKY IS FALLING…THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END…DIGITAL MEDIA IS EVIL….THE ART WORLD IS CORRUPT…LITTORAL ART IS THE SAVIOR OF MODERN ART…THE WAR IN IRAQ IS GOING WELL…THIS COUNTRY CAN DO BETTER…YOU KNOW WHERE I STAND…I’M JOHN KERRY AND I’M REPORTING FOR DUTY…GIVE ME FOUR MORE YEARS…FOUR MORE YEARS OF BUSH MEANS FOUR MORE YEARS OF HELL…
In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was made flesh…
“Rough Edge Photography” is conceived to be a project that had a birth, will live a life and will die.
I do believe that digital media is evil because I believe that is was designed to alter the human brain for the purposes of mind control.
I also believe that the state of the modern art world in America is corrupt in a way that makes our politics look innocent and clean.
I do believe that art can and should serve a higher purpose than being an object of desire, admiration or even inspiration.
“Rough Edge Photography” through “The Death of Film” is a mythology of the missing image.
There are a million issues and wrongs in this world that are infinitely more important than my concerns. I don’t have solutions to any of these problems anymore than I have solutions to my concerns.
Stan Brahkage believed in what he called the 400 Year Plan. He believed in the power of art to slowly effect major changes in society over a long and extended period of time, as opposed to the American obsession with immediate solutions to immediate problems that must be solved today at any cost.
“Rough Edge Photography” is my volunteer contribution of 1 hour of my time out of 1 day of my 1 life in support of the 400 Year Plan.
"Art in Passion of Action – Protecting the Future by Watching the Past Very Very Closely" - James W. Bailey