Historically, art has been categorized as either referential or non-referential. Visual arts have bounced around these two categories for centuries, sometimes blending the two, sometimes stretching them to include conceptual & performance arts, but never actually escaping the two altogether. Both of these labels infer an approach that is virtual. All ordinary art is based on the virtual. There is a third & inclusive kind of art that finds its essence in the actuality of its instrumentation. Virtual art involves a kind of tromp l'oeil approach. It is not really what it seems; the illusion of depth, balance pretended, juxtaposition, unexpected medium or sometimes it simply means more than you actually see. The educated viewer may no longer try to understand what a work of art represents, but still wonders what it means.
Sometimes ordinary art is thought of as a mirror of the cultural condition, a reflection of the "times we live in", providing the most obvious statement of the human condition. Cultural art may be historically important in a very narrow sense, or it may make us look at ourselves in contexts that grow weaker with each passing week, but this is excruciatingly limited in an age striving to understand the complex interrelationships of the entire universe. The traditional approach to creating art has been to force the materials to an idea originating with the artist. The artist's statement is conceived, a suitable medium is sought & the materials are manipulated to suit the statement. No more thought is given to the physical life of the art, it's ACTUALITY, than that it should last to fufill the desire of the artist. If time is actually part of the artist's palette, then the qualities of the materials being used in the art become part of the statement of the art in a concrete physical way. It is this use of time as a tool in the creation of the art that changes the vitality of the art.
If the statement of the art responds to the changes the materials experience in the real world, the art is taken out of a false stasis & is celabrated as a living, Actual object. When the art is given it's life in this fashion the changes it will experience as it exists in the world become positive. The art will be enriched by its involvement in the real world, creating an interface between the aesthetics of the art & reality, as a living thing experience reality. The essence of all materials is change. It is impossible to deny these changes. Nothing exists without change. The changes are essential, primal, Actual. Using time as a tool adds a new dimension to the art. The essence of time becomes part of the statement of the work.
It is an intrinsic contradiction to try to freeze an idea "forever" in any medium. Time is the enemy of art attempting to capture an impression or concept for future appreciation, without actually considering the future of the substance on which the art's statement is carried. The survival of a work of art that does not incorporate the actuality of time, is a losing battle against the "ravages of time". Sometimes stasis is prolonged by sealed isolation or re-creation by other hands. Future generations are relegated to peering through glass at shadows of once great art or viewing "masterpieces" recreated by the hands of nameless restorers. This art becomes nothing but legend. If traditional works of art are left in their actual state, untouched since they were created, they are overwhelmed by such loud "noise" from the changes occurring in their materials that we can no longer "hear" what the artist was saying.
Those natural changes must be included & considered by the artist so the art-work can be enriched with the passing of time. The future becomes a major part of the art when the material of which it is made is interfaced with the idea of art. Instead of fighting the elements of nature, in a doomed battle to remain static, the art is allowed to respond, creating a dialogue with time & becoming enriched by the effects of time. Immortality is pretentious & immoral. Change is life. Art that is allowed to actualize evolves with time. Time & the environment contribute to the work’s statement. “Environment” includes indoors as well as outdoors & can mean people, temperature, gravity or any aspect of the art's surroundings which affect the art.
Art is generally expected to "touch" people who are expected to “respond” to it. These terms are used metaphorically. People are rarely expected to touch art back. Certainly, they are often moved to touch art only to be admonished for doing so. It does seem strange that so many artists make art that is tactually seductive & yet cannot be touched. Actual Art adds a new dimension to the spiritual ability to interact with us & with the physical environment. Some works actually require touching to fulfill their being.
Materials are timely in themselves. They contain the technology of their own time. The metal, wood, stone or paint of today are distinguishable from materials of earlier times & will be from those of the future. A material is as much a recognizable product of the culture from which it derived as is art that reflects the time & culture from which it originated. Actual Art reflects its time in its materials, then it explores the human condition beyond the limits of time. The passage of time becomes a more important factor than its effects on materials. This gives the art a trancendental timelessness becomes the core of Actual Art.
Actual Art speaks to people as natural beings, to the fact that people are a natural occurrence in the world. Inherent in all people is the ability to transform materials. "Man-made" materials are natural materials. People are no more capable of escaping their nature, their place in the natural scheme of things than they are capable of escaping their own bodies. People expand & extend the limitations of their instrumentation & then fear those extensions & their dependency on them. They fear their creations, their effect on the world & fight to control them. All of this is natural. It may be difficult, but it is still natural. When fear is changed to understanding, & the artist works with nature, limitations virtually cease to exist.
Everything lasts forever if you accept the changes. This is the basis of Actual Art.
But why art? Why not just philosophy?
Understanding something & doing it are two different things. Language or tools or religion is not what sets humans apart from the other animals. ART is. Art does not need to be a knee-jerk reaction or superfluous luxury. Art is part of the most profound nature of human beings. Art is the only way to reach our basic aesthetic response. Only art communicates at the deepest level of human understanding, surpassing the intellect, language, culture, & time itself. For an understanding of how we fit in context with the universe, without being limited by the culture of our time, art is the universal way to achieve this understanding.