I fear the canvas, I fear a blank sheet; does this not denote the diminution of a true devotion against art? The day to discover this decline lies in an intermittent event of falling apart – of breaks, presupposing the collapse of genius, the loss of wonder, or the destruction of all pursuits, which shall signal the symptoms of personal decay. To fear as it were the positivity of starting points, thinking instead its recurrent defeat, would be to: accept firstly that a predetermined path was already staging the circumstances of its blankness, and secondly to oppose the fortitude of giving what the void is inviting the hero to do – or die for. Not the hero per se, but the played pretended part that shall wage war onward to the violation of such phobia of demise. At this point, determination shall determine the conditions that shall accommodate the actions or modifications of fate. A blank sheet is a direct slap against the past, the immediate cessation of hubris and the negation of the dictum ‘your reputation precedes you’; as if one is forever examined to prove oneself in enumerable beginnings.
Let us take Ms. O as the radical independent feminine figure ready to challenge the world in all its alien vastness. A top student in a local university in her own nation, she then goes to another country for further studies, but soon finds out that the global level of competency is not only a myth; it is illusory of the things first unknown to her, so that retroactively, there was no competency at all – the setting was just as local as what she does in her own country. She manages to confront this relative stance and trudges what she is best at: to start again and dig deeper into this new environment she trusts she would acquaint herself quickly. For even if she recognizes that there was nothing so surprisingly challenging, she also knows that the situation is something different and that reality is telling her to abandon a part of her yester-self. She has to start again until another challenge is met with flying colors. There is no top student preceding the scenario: she will have to obliterate this fact and establish again another reputation.
And it is not even a continuing examination. Here, one must also leave behind Foucault’s concept of ‘examination’ in Discipline and Punish where a new level is set for a higher degree of difficulty. On the contrary, the moment of the beginning is sporadically distributed – the web interlocking experiences are way too complex to be determined by a singular path, regardless if it is less travelled or not. In between, there are intrusions known or unknown. Now, Ms. O’s conditions shall further be determined by her actions, proving henceforward that the proverbial tabula rasa is not a one-time stage – as in pediatric psycho-epistemological development or in a manner examined by the figures of Aristotle, Locke, and so on. No, tabula rasa is a blank state of endless recurrences, which when further delved at in the same figures is a practice of constant activity, the virtues for Aristotle and the active intellect for Locke. To trudge this heroic endeavor, one must begin all the time in a new set of circumstances that are not fixed but are randomly relativized upon one’s actions.
Note however that this instance does not suppose the total negation of the idea of the self wherein one despairs of a true identity, everything is just a play of appearances, there is no real me, and so on. Even biologically, it is proposed that in every ten years, all the cells of one’s body are already replaced so that one can even claim that a baby is no longer the same compared to its ten or twenty year old future. This ultimately might imply that the self is just another illusion created to represent the idea of continuity.
Instead, this extreme does not oblige – mainly because within the intervals of another canvas, there is precisely fear: afraid of another self that will sooner or later be known or revealed in an unlikely way. There are many ‘others’ in oneself that can be unlocked, some Mr. Hyde hiding somewhere in the depths of another set of vicissitudes, waiting to be provoked in the height of one’s emotions. Because of this fear, there is a notion of the self, existing and lingering throughout one’s staged vitality, varied, and way too multifaceted to compose a singular physiognomy letting itself reveal an authentic form. So, the hero is not afraid, but the concept of hero heroine is only in a staged act of fear, an owned-fear which is acted in real life, delimiting the threat and making sure that the act must go on. In this sense, diminution fits the definition of false devotion in the confrontation between the artist and the blank sheet.
What does this decline of the true devotion mean? Precisely, there is no original, only the lost art of authenticity. People do not really know, metaphysically, what they do – presupposing the ignorance of the ontology of their fate – so that they had to forcibly rely on modern-day techne in order to survive, a life-sustaining skill not even taught to them to get past a successful life. The true canvas is the process undergone within the conditions of transitions – varieties, references, threats, unnegotiable instances – people had to endure and make of themselves a quasi-real illusion of themselves. People under the influence of this false art stained by ideology only reinvent and sensationalize ordinary clichés, reinterpreting them in manners one hopes another does not spot critically; transformations of this kind morphs plagiaristic and inauthentic practices into the same nature as jokes without an author. Shift a simple detail in a plot and make another film. Produce a different twist, like fan fictions, and write another book. Change a single note or harmony and compose another song. Grab a skill set and define the course of one’s survival.
This is for me the defining moment that shall determine the contours of the threat and fear of unoriginality: one has to look into the abysmal blankness and start to create and fear the illusion of a possible past eureka of a personal ‘self’ one has to confront and own, a transition that humans in one way or another do again and again. It’s not even surprising anymore how the grain of truth in somehow related concepts such as reincarnations still convince with its feasible rationale. This further goes interesting some years back when I came across an instruction that if you type and search for your birthday in the internet, the first person shown who died at that exact date is your past life, and the outcome might even amaze you. The result I got was a Scottish philosopher and mathematician, to which I do not exactly owe my fondness to philosophy and math but only amazes me how some points can be forcefully related.
So, again the canvas is this fearful process of self-modification, wherein one’s actions, born out of strong mixtures of fear and threats, shall determine the course of one’s fate: truly, an art that comprehensively includes negations, setbacks, cross-references of idols who are only ordinary sensationalized persons, but also the different kinds of fortitude in passing through the hellish alá Dante’s “abandon all hope all ye who enter” gates that demolish themselves at the point of passage. Not saying that life is an inferno, but a transitory inferno where there is life – not a tragedy but a comedy that leads to a certain paradiso. This is no utopia to one’s fear; the inscription only goes to say that such hope must be abandoned firstly in the beginning because other lights can be found along the way. In order to succeed in finding these other hopes, one must accept the paradox of abandoning one’s initially planned predestined past hope and proceed with one’s fear, so that the blank sheet is allowed to surprise and bewilder every staged hero one needs to project in the twisted, deeply-nuanced, and exaggerated artistry of life.