Archives for the month of: February, 2013

ISTP logo

Charles Harrison said, “There are reasons for caution when some work seems caught too readily in the available critical discourse”*. This statement alone, suffices to make Harrison an honorary member of the Institute for the Separation of Theory from Practice. What follows is an explanation of the ISTP first published in Wegway Primary Culture, issue 2, 1999:

I do not want to be a conceptual painter and that is why I established the Institute for the Separation of Theory from Practice (ISTP) in 1999. There was some haste in the arrangements so that it could participate in the Twentieth Century. The Institute is dedicated to uncovering works of art festooned with extrinsic theoretical ideas. This process is really quite simple: When I look at a work of visual art, I examine my mental activity and note whether I am simply taking it in and thinking about it as it is (or more specifically, does it seem to concern a way to be visually interesting?) or whether on the other hand, I am reading the work of art into a context which I have brought to the experience (in other words, am I prompted to deduce an idea that is more easily articulated than visual interest?). It is usually the case that both elements are present to a certain degree, as many artists are well read, sophisticated thinkers, but it is important for me to note which aspect I notice first, and which the work of art seems to be steering me towards. If it is the latter (the contextualizing and easily written about), then I am confronted with a work that does not meet ISTP standards. I have to carefully examine my own work, as well as my colleagues’ here at the Institute, to ensure it meets the standards. I examine other people’s works for fun and advice.

*Charles Harrison, “On Pictures and Paintings” in Essays on Art & Language, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1991, p. 231.

ISTP Cyclops Octopus

The Cyclops Octopus – Symbol of Intensity

The Institute’s Creed

Art is carried in a net of tropes and appearances. This will not worry me. I will not try to fix it with irrelevant doodads.

ISTP pail

The Pail – Symbol of Erudition

The Institute’s Motto

The Institute is about make-believe: thinking like a child with the sophisticated ideas of an adult.

steam generator #6###

The Steam Generator – Symbol of Determination

The Institute’s Mission

Discourage pandering.

Unanimously approved by the ISTP Executive Council of Twelve:

Lenny Ankersfeldt,Stephen Eric Armstrong, Karen Eliot, Emily Frazang, Wm. F. Krendall, Harriet Lemonjello, Marjory Merz, Pete Nietzsche, Larch Punin, André Questcequecest, Nora Tenzi, and Celestine Vanestric


Hans Arp

In the secret life of an artist there are hopes for perfection and eternity, both tinged with the knowledge that this will never be so. Since it’s obvious that these qualities are not to be found in the flawed embodied person of the artist, the impossible hope is shifted to the work. Some works of art do make the world a better place, and some works of art do manage to hang out for a long time. But perfection and eternity are something else entirely – they come from the domain of religion.

The process of art replacing religion was first noted by Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century, and perhaps our secret lives provided some of the data for this observation. But art is unable to close the deal because eternity and perfection aren’t to be found in these parts. The art delusion is even more far fetched than the god delusion – it’s a matter of the impossible versus the unlikelihood that the good news that’s too good to be true actually were true. Art may step in to replace god, but it’s very fortunate that it’s not up to the task. This failure puts us in a better position to realistically assess our situation.

Hans Arp said, “No one detects now the track of his baby shoes. They left not even a threadlike trace of a tiny hiking-song in the air”*. Arp’s poignant words lead us to a healthier attitude. We should embrace the ephemeral, or at least tolerate it. Otherwise we will be divorced from the world.

*Hans Arp, “The Seraphim and Cherubim” in Three Painter Poets: Arp, Schwitters, Klee, Harriet Watts trans., Penguin Books, 1974, p. 32.

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