Paul Renner, Theatrum Anatomicum, KUB Plaza, 2007
Reprinted from C-Arts Magazine (November 2008)
Art as a Lifestyle—those four words have such fundamentally opposite possibilities of meaning that it’s like titling an article “Precision and the Soul” and then trying to decide where to start.
The idea of art as a lifestyle requires a definition of art. Artists have asked what is art? for a very long time now; some illustrate the question with every piece they make. And, perhaps, at one end of the spectrum of opposed meanings, art as a lifestyle is the process of artists living out the question of what is art? every day. It’s the vague magic that still dares to believe art is a real thing, interesting because of the impossibility of defining it, gathering people who still quest for it. This is the vaguely utopian, perhaps naïve view of an artful life. In “Precision and the Soul,” this interpretation of art as a lifestyle would be the soul bit. It’s the part not easily amenable to textual interpretation. Writing about it sounds unsophisticated, talking about it best left to freshmen in art school. But it is also the ineffable essence of art, the starting point where art is still art, before it becomes celebrity, marketing, politics, corporations, image or an assimilatory safety valve by which our markets absorb enemies of the state.
Perhaps this should be called art as a mindset, the mental plasticization of a lived reality, where walking through the streets of Delhi can be art, whether you’re from there or not, where every morning you walk out of your house to a new garden because the garden along with all physical reality is determined by subjective layers of shifting meaning.
Some artists have tried to extend and magnify this idea, turning life actions into art, like Hermann Nitsch Dionysian naked baths in the intestines of freshly slaughtered pigs and lambs—as Otto Mühl wrote in the Vienna Actionists manifesto, “Far more important than baking bread is the urge to take dough-beating to the extreme”—or one of Paul Renner’s Hardcore Dinners, in which I was lucky enough to participate once.
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