Ruth Barker

Caesar: Art and Myth

2006

 Art and Myth, though different in appearance, share many similarities; so many that theories of Myth can be used to examine Art.

 

Art and Myth are both social phenomena that, while understood as universal manifestations (in that all cultures are believed to produce both Art and Myth), they are also understood as multifarious in form and content due to their specificity to context (in that examples of both Art and Myth differ vastly over time and between different places and cultures).  

 

Art and Myth are simultaneously both ancient and new.  Each time a Myth is communicated it exists in a continual state of Now - both during the dual act of telling and absorption, and afterwards as a presence of memory, imagination, or guidance.  Likewise, when an artist constructs a piece of work they are performing a new and current action by bringing into existence an artefact that had not previously been present in the world.  When the work is viewed it is again current at the moment of its perception and reaction (even if this perception is repeated ad infinitum, as with Mona Lisa or The Nightwatch).  Simultaneously however, any individual painting or sculpture also exists within a general definition of Art, which renders the object to some degree prehistoric and the same proposition may also be made of Myth (i.e. if Art and Myth are two of the earliest known indicators of civilisation and if all Art or Myth has a relationship to the past manifestations of that activity, then even a painting as yet uncompleted is simultaneously ancient).

 

Art and Myth are both capable of absorbing definition into their structure. To ask what Art is quickly becomes a question of Art as the currency of Art is changed by the act of asking.  When Kosuth asks ‘What is it that is not Art that might be Art?’ he may equally ask ‘What is it that is not Myth that might be Myth?’ The question is the same because the answer immediately becomes the subject, demanding that the question be asked again. This is not to say that everything is Myth, just as one cannot claim that everything is Art; it merely confirms that anything could be Myth (or Art), and so has the potential for Art (or Myth) within it. The identification of both conditions – Art and Myth – is in the structure that surrounds them and the meaning attributed to them, rather than in any quality of the condition itself.