Originality as Original Sin

In my seventh grade social studies class we learned about Martin Luther’s 95 Theses what is now available on Wikipedia, that the nailing criticized the selling of indulgences as a financial transaction taking the place of original forgiveness of original sin of a Christianity that had been absorbed by the the economics of the times.

It’s easy to imagine a contemporary artist-monk nailing an anti-establishment manifesto to several pillars (thank God for photo copiers!) out crying with distaste the obscenities of art-as-high-value-commodities, art-spaces-as-business-centers practices along with the useless romanticism of auction house rituals and mega galleries. The original intentions and ethics of art have been lost with its life and use structured in the global marketplace.

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In The Monstrosity of Christ Zizek says, “insofar as we consider God and man as two substances…there can be no relation of identity between the two, only an external relation (of analogy, of cause and effect)”. Replace God with art and we could say that the misidentification of art and self is crucial to prompt its analogies, its location within cause and effect.

In my last post I wrote about the impossibility of painting for the first time as yourself without imagining yourself as de Kooning, or Pollock, or Richter, or some other famous image of a painter. Schurmann writes on the impossibility of conceiving God without a conception of God. “God is nothing as long as man lacks the breakthrough to the Godhead. If you do not consent to detachment, God will miss his Godhead, and man will miss himself”. In the same way that we use a human conception of God to fabricate the elusive presence of actual God, we use broad generalizations of how to style art so that we can always chase after that something-truer from our past, our original selves, our originality – the Zizek definition of ethics: “I have to strive to become what I’ve always been”.

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