We Need to Talk About Painting…
Could we say that painting enacts something like a philosophy of the relationship between immanence and transcendence, with special emphasis placed on illusion as a conventionally employed figure for the latter? Painting’s relationship to illusion as both a natural and culturally determined phenomenon – seeing in and seeing as – is what makes it such a suitable medium for addressing broad philosophical issues of what is, and what is knowable. Furthermore, the relationship of the object to the hand of the maker (or the absence of that hand) makes it doubly suitable for addressing the relationship between the individual and the collective and/or the contested objective/universal. Painting is an art of doing made visible as index, of doing potentially making something else visible (or not) which is not literally there, that making visible through doing (potentially) standing for the making of the ‘world’ in the cultural sense. How personally or impersonally one does it seems to say something about what one takes for granted, what one accepts, and what one doesn’t’, though this too is slippery - painting is a unique site for the testing of sim’ and dissimulation. To make a painting one already enacts a philosophy of painting, whether it is examined or not. The best paintings (which I would also want to call the ‘strongest’) are the most deeply doubting, embodying a deeply earned and specific philosophical position. How one goes about addressing the surface, and the relationship of the surface to the support, and the support to its context (and how far or not one is willing to ‘read in’ to each of these thresholds) are the evidence of one’s philosophical position as a painter.
Excerpt from a conversation about painting
The Nearly Non-Pictorial Beauty of The Pink Flowering Tree
…a few blocks from my apartment, located around a diagonal corner along a short discontinuous street beside the train tracks in the courtyard of a burgundy brick apartment building facing southwest. It consists of varied puffy pale tendrils jutting out in every direction - masses of pink-white blossoms bunched in curvilinear columns clustered every which way - some cantilevered mid-air nearly horizontal against the background of the bricks, others near vertical pointing towards the sky, others diagonal and just shy of crystalline in their barely iterated three dimensional structure. The beauty of the thing is certainly visible - and exists for vision - yet its charm is un-picturable - in that it does not consist in any one view from any one vantage point, or in the collection of all possible views, from all possible vantage points, nor in any continuous stream of views as one walks by or stalks the scene with a camera (imagined or actual). One could get a sense of the peculiar wit of the thing which consists of its actually being there, where it is, surrounded by what it is surrounded by, and remaining un-picturable, by observing various images - still and moving, with and without sound - but to do so would only point to the fact that what one would be appreciating would be incompletely present in each instantiation - almost exceeding vision - but not quite. I would like to say that if one could set aside the juxtapositions of color, which granted is what first draws one’s attention, one could say that the kind of visibility that the scene appeals to is the same visibility that is accessible to the blind - which is to say - a corporeal sense of space and surfaces exhibiting nameable properties as opposed to the purely phenomenal vision on the surface of the eye. What is beautiful in the scene is like what is beautiful in a painting by Vermeer aside from how the surface is addressed and how the picture plane is faceted (which is to set aside so much of what is interesting about Vermeer, but not all of it) Sometimes photography can convey this kind of ethereal, situated, temporal/corporeal, interested structure (the latter being key to the charm and significance of the thing pictured, or in this case stumbled upon and recounted here). More often moving images can. There are some artists who I think really succeed in addressing this vision that exceeds vision - Jeff Wall being the one that most immediately comes to mind. R.H. Quaytman being another. I want to say that something like this vision that is almost conceptual - almost language - and certainly wrapped up in it’s associative chains, substitutions, and narratives loops - in a word - significance - is what is activated both in the act of dreaming and the act of recalling one’s dreams. When a scene, such as the one recounted above, strikes one as uncanny, perhaps that is part of the reason.
TOWARDS AN ANARCHIST AESTHETICS
The first step to becoming an artist is to give up on being an artist. The aspiration to be an artist is tied to outmoded and misunderstood anachronistic cultural forms, tied to the application of recognizable talents of one sort or another to historically validated practices of one kind or another. Even when each of these particular talents and practices in turn were more central to the discipline of art than they are now, the most important lesson for any artist to have learned, then as now is that to be an artist is always to be becoming an artist, that to have become an artist is the death of the artist, and that to know too well what one is doing is the death of art.
To know one’s work is not to know it. To know one’s audience is to have none.
Insofar as the aspiration to be an artist persists in the form of recognizable institutions of display, distribution, production, publication, investment, and education, these institutions are permitted to exist based on a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the general public, and misunderstandings and willful, self-serving obfuscations on the part of artists and their supporters. Artists themselves are the embodiment of these misunderstandings, confusions, and outright deceptions, and benefit from them some of the time, and suffer from them all of the time.
What this teaches us is that the aspiration to become an artist is different than the aspiration to be an artist. All of the forms in which one can be recognized as an artist embody the impossibility of ever being an artist, and act as inhibitors to becoming an artist by tempting us to try to be one.
A practicing artist who is recognized as such - anyone, in fact, who materially benefits from the recognition of what they produce or enable to be produced as art, is in the worst possible position psychologically and politically to recognize these contradictions, and is thus the least reliable source of information on what an artist is and does, and what art is and does. More often than not, what they have to say about art and being an artist, however informative and well observed, ought never to be taken at face value, since presumably its primary function is to serve as a rationalization of the privileges they believe they receive, an advertisement for the particular misunderstandings they believe they benefit from, and most importantly as a mantra meant to persuade themselves and others that what they are doing is not merely as important as what everyone else is doing, but possibly more so. On the other hand, because they are so close to it, artists are potentially the best source of information on the discipline of art, since their entire existence is the embodiment of the problem of art in general, if only they, or we, can transcend or unravel their identity as artists.
Every artist seeks recognition, but as soon as one is recognized as an artist, and as soon as what one is doing is recognized as art, even if only by oneself, one’s work is in danger of degenerating into merely being art. Being art is not art. Becoming art is the only art, and becoming an artist is the only kind of artist to be.
Insofar as an artist says that they are an artist, without qualification, they ought not to be trusted. This is why so few artists are entirely comfortable labeling themselves as artists. The same principle applies to every recognizable kind of art. It is not simply a refusal to be held to account for the position they occupy. This refusal to be named is not a symptom of laziness or mere complicity. Now more than ever, to occupy the position of artist convincingly requires one to do so almost covertly. An artist’s most fundamental task is the procurement of cultural space for the production and consideration of art, which demands trust, first and foremost; trust, therefore, is the most precious material an artist works with. As is true of all other materials, trust is not procured or moved by will alone. Insight, skill, and luck are required. It is never enough to simply say “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” To become an artist requires letting go of status and tokens of competence. To become an artist one must let go of the ego, and “empty one’s pockets.”
In principle we place our trust in individuals. But in practice we tend to trust institutions more, so the artist’s task is to procure for the individual the trust that is normally only bestowed upon institutions.
Historically recognizable skills, such as good draftsmanship, elegant design, and sumptuous deployment of material properties and evident techniques have often been utilized by artists in an attempt to secure the trust of their audience. But too much skill too obviously employed breeds suspicion and contempt, as any successful artist will tell you. Art is a form of seduction, but insofar as it is recognized as such, it usually fails. The skills we recognize too quickly are not easily trusted. Other skills must be utilized if trust is to be maintained.
What we learn from the history of art is that art can involve any kind of skill whatsoever, conscientiously and creatively applied; but it always does involve some kind of skill, especially when it seems not to. If we cannot see the skill that is employed in a work of art it is because we are not looking for it, or because we are looking for it in the wrong place. But then, if we find ourselves looking for skill then it is already in the wrong place. This is why seemingly unskilled art is occasionally more interesting to us as art than art that is obviously skillful. It is not that the art of the untrained or unskilled is any more direct, any more pure, or any more authentic than that of the so called ‘professional’ artist. It is certainly not better art, by and large. It is simply more trustworthy, at least at first. Eventually the limits of the unskilled become routine and expected. Their work succumbs to merely being art once it becomes too familiar. Once a thing becomes too familiar it can no longer be art.
To become an artist is to experience dislocation as a virtue.
A person speaking spontaneously in a language they seem to barely comprehend without awareness of their limitations or in flagrant disregard of them is a more trustworthy speaker than someone who seems to speak freely and eloquently about matters they seem to know a lot about. The potential fool is more trustworthy than the potential rogue, though we often mistake the one for the other. This is especially the case with art. This tells us that too much self-awareness is stifling and off-putting, and that sometimes it is better to be lost than to know exactly where one is going. But in the end, attempting to eliminate or bypass skill is a misdirected application of effort and attention.
Trying to eliminate skill is a waste of time.
The point of art isn’t to find a way to act without skill. The point of art is to apply skill skillfully. The artist who uses skill skillfully earns our trust. How this trust is used or abused is what defines the work, which is to say: the artist, and the audience their work produces. Skill itself requires a kind of trust – trust in the material, and trust in oneself. Through trust, trust is acquired. This is why the skillful work of art is ultimately superior to the unskillful work of art, as art. Although we may trust the sincerity of the unskilled artist, and appreciate their lack of artifice as a relief from the demands of skillful judgment required of us by more serious endeavors, we do not trust the fool to lead us, any more than we trust the rogue to do so; and ultimately, this is what art does.
The lesser work of art speaks to an audience that already exists, in terms that already exist, for ends that already exist, using means that have proven successful in the past for other artists recognized as such. The lesser work leads us nowhere but where we have already been. But even the lesser work is not without merit, because it embodies the attempt to make a work of art, which is always better than no work at all, even when the results are disappointing.
A world with art is better than a world without art.
The superior work of art speaks to no one directly, in a language no one quite understands, producing a new kind of beholding, beginning with the artist themselves, held by a desire they cannot name for they know not what, promising nothing but itself. The difference between the audience for a particular work of art and the audience for works of art in general is that the best works of art do not find an audience, or speak to an audience that already exists: they create one. This, more than the particular object, gesture, or performance beheld as art, is the work of the artist. This is why it is correct to say that art is the most powerful form of advertising, and the most worthless from the point of view of the client...which is to say anyone who seeks to gain from it
materially. The greatest work of art arouses desire only for itself.
To be free is not to be free of desire, but rather to desire what is. Therefore every work of art is an attempt to lead us to freedom. This is its ultimate value.
There is no art without desire. The most trustworthy art is almost no art at all. The best art is the most skillful in that it arouses desire for itself without seeming to do so. This is why we say the best artists make it look easy. It is. Sometimes skill is simply a matter of dumb luck skillfully applied – of recognizing one’s good fortune, and having the good sense to get out of the way. Children are often great artists because they use what limited skills they possess so skillfully, because they have to. It’s not that they are more honest, they’re just terrible liars. This is why so many artists look nostalgically to children as models of how to be an artist. Children are always becoming. This is what the artist aspires to be.
Although it is true that art represents our deepest dreams and desires, art is not democratic, because it does not seek our approval or consent, and it does not seek to represent anyone’s interests. Nor does the artist. In the end, leadership requires a decision, and cannot be based on consensus or approval seeking. Our approval or disapproval of the work is of absolutely no consequence to the work or the artist. Ethics and aesthetics are not one. This is why art is dangerous - because the impulses it arouses are so easily abused.
Every leader is an artist, and every act of leadership is a work of art.
The superior work of art is absolutely useless – except that it gives us a reason to live by showing us that we are not alone in our desire. Desire independent of outcome, realized in its awakening, is an affirmation of the will to live, and the will to choose. Even if life itself, and everything in it is an illusion, and every choice we make is based on false premises, it is impossible that the sensation of being awakened to freedom by a work of art could be a lie. The audience, like the artist, is useless, except as a ground for the work, and as the work itself.
This is the dream of becoming an artist: to be the work itself- always in the process of becoming.
The uselessness of art is mistaken as egotism and individualism, when in truth it is the unrelenting demand to be useful – to justify one’s own existence in ethical or economic terms - the dream of pure instrumentality - that isolates us.
Art shows us that our existence does not require justification.
A society that does not treat each person as an end in itself produces the ego as a defense, so that ultimately, the ego is a tool of everything that is not free – a hopeless defense against the will to obey. The preservation of the ego is the enemy of art and the death of freedom. Non servium – “I will not serve,” is the one desire we all have in common. A desire to be treated as ends in ourselves unites us all, and is the basis of both the beautiful and the good. Any act of generosity that does not begin with recognition of this basic fact is ultimately no kindness.
Art awakens and embodies our desire to be free of the ego, though often enough the desire to become an artist is an expression of the desire of the ego for recognition. But no amount of recognition will satisfy the ego, and no amount of ego satisfaction will make one a better artist.
The ego is a critical response to trauma. The work of art is a non-critical rejection of trauma.
Given the relentless instrumentalization of all things and all persons within our society as it is presently constituted, it is entirely understandable that so many of us dream of becoming artists. Nevertheless, the decision to become an artist is often made too early, and encouraged too soon, due to a lack of information and a lack of imagination as to what it means to become an artist. The choice to become an artist is overshadowed by the desire to be one, which is something else entirely.
One thinks that one is tempted to escape, but one cannot be tempted by what is not truly within one’s grasp. One is merely tempted to run, and tempted to believe that there is some point in doing so. Just because one is free to run, it does not mean that one is free to escape. One wants out, and so one chooses art as the way out, under the false assumption that there is some way out. This is the primary misrecognition that an artist must overcome in order to become an artist.
There is no way out, and one never really knows what one is choosing.
If by art we mean an escape from the way things are, as art is sometimes perceived to be, then without hesitation we can truthfully say that there is no art, and never will be. But no matter. One must choose, so one simply does, based on the best information available at the time, and adjusts one’s expectations as one learns what one has chosen. There is no need to regret one’s decisions if one is willing to examine them and take into account what one learns upon doing so.
One who chooses to become an artist on false pretenses can still become an artist, but in order to do so they must first examine every impulse that led them to want to become an artist in the first place.
Becoming an artist requires that one accept that there is no way out, and in the end requires a conscientious engagement with all of the forms of complicity and compromise that one thought one could avoid by becoming an artist.
The impulse to leave – to avoid these problems – is trustworthy and ought to be listened to with the utmost attention; however, the familiar ways that this impulse is answered and instrumentalized – the recognizable options that channel this impulse to escape – the various familiar routes – can only lead us back to the problems we are running from, and can only be addressed with the utmost cunning and tact if they are to leave open the possibility of art, and of what art represents.
Being an artist is impossible, but becoming one is easy.
It should go without saying that the choice to not become an artist is always made too soon, either because one has too limited a view of what an artist is and does, or more often because one knows all too well what it means, and one simply lacks the courage. But thankfully, the decision not to become an artist is always reversible. All it takes to become an artist is a sincere desire to become one, and a sincere investigation into the meaning and consequences of this desire.
A good art story is one in which an artist gives up being an artist in order to make better art. Another good art story is one in which a non-artist decides to make art because they are not an artist and would like to become one. This is how one becomes an artist. The most unbelievable art story, which is to say, the least trustworthy, involves an artist who can’t remember a time when they weren’t already an artist. Anyone who is rewarded for living such a story now is rewarded on a provisional basis, and ought to be suspicious as to why they are being allowed to live as an exception. More often than not a person living such a story is not rewarded for it at all; as well they should not be, as what they are really asking is that they be permitted to live as an exception to all of the rules and limitations that govern life for every other person who has ever lived. This is why artists are resented by non-artists. And this is why everyone secretly dreams of becoming one.
Choosing to become an artist begins with a demand: Treat me as an artist. But the demand is met by first treating oneself as such. When one refuses to trust oneself, others follow suit. To truly treat oneself as an artist, one must accept and live the paradox that to be an artist means to never be an artist, but to always be becoming one.
This Is Not A Blog
“Silence is a prophesy” – Susan Sontag
“Silence = Death” – Act Up
One: Between Invocation and Irrevocability
If this were a blog, it would begin, like ‘classical painting’, as Foucault would have it, with an assumption of a separation between its form and its content. One takes up the blog as a medium as a painter takes up the medium of painting, accepting certain limits as constitutive and others as mutable.
As one approaches the moment of 'the contemporary,' one finds that upon scrutiny, all limits of medium specificity are mutable, save one – each medium’s relation to its own narrative history. I would like to contend that in this sense painting - old, dirty, and undead – is paradoxically - more contemporary than the blog. By this standard of contemporaneity, as defined by what used to define the postmodern, but more so, painting’s confrontation with the depth of its own lack of being is constitutive, whereas the blog, by definition, is too busy with the day to day to be bothered justifying its severe limitations, which it simply assumes by denying them.
This should come as no surprise, since painting only came into its own once it was set free from service to the broader political economy. Ever since painting was laid off, it's been making the most of its unemployment. Some, like Ranciere, would go so far as to assert that painting as we perform it not only came into its own, but only came into being at all - retroactively - as a way of seeing, once its function as mass communication was outsourced and transformed. In its woeful obsolescence as a tool of social control, painting performs the reconciliation of the mind and body, both for the painter and the viewer, one at a time.
All of which is not to say that painting does not manifest the tell tale residue of the social. How could it not? It is as prone to replicating societal limitations as we are. And yet, just as we are free to examine, challenge, and re-imagine those limitations, and thus transform them to some extent, painting, being in some sense a site in which the limit as such is tested and subjected to scrutiny, is also able to do more than simply model existing limits. Which is not to say that it always does so – simply that it can. The blog, on the other hand, insofar as it exists as such, rather than as the nascent form of some other new emergent medium, is an example of what Marcuse referred to under the term "repressive desublimation" - performing the distracted and anxious 'mind' of the body that is both over and under worked.
This is why it will never do for artists, progressives, and all those others whose sense of the reality of the genuinely subjective (i.e. individual) response is systematically excluded and extruded from the consciousness of mainstream consensus reality in all of its forms – be they ‘liberal,’ ‘conservative,’ ‘radical,’ or ‘revolutionary’ - to allow themselves to be tempted into self sacrificial instrumentality on behalf of the society who’s lack of psychological integration on a collective and individual level will always reject the ‘gift’ of their silence, which is an inevitability regardless.
One can silence oneself on behalf of some other whom one imagines is not privileged to speak on their own behalf - speaking what one assumes they might speak for themselves if they were positioned in such a way as to speak on their own behalf - in which case one’s voice is that of a fictive subject – one’s own fiction - not that of the other one hopes to speak for. Here one’s own silence is added to that of another, and in place of one's own voice, which one is indeed privileged to have access to, one presents a fiction of some other’s voice – which in fact – speaks for no one, and is resented by all, even, and perhaps most of all, by those who do in fact benefit by it, up to a point.
Or one can silence oneself by attempting to speak in a way that will be understood. One attempts to anticipate the mis-recognition of the other – to meet the imagined other ‘half way.’ This is like voting for the Party because one assumes that if one votes for a candidate who actually represents one’s views, one will remain an unrepresented minority of one, rather than a member of a nominally represented majority - which is not to say that one must not in part sacrifice one’s privileges in the name of justice, only that one should not expect gratitude for one’s sacrifice, and one must not give so much that one is completely silenced in the act of substituting one’s access for another’s exclusion. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.
One’s own position as a subject is an unearned gift, and it is foolish to think that one can simply give it away. It is a privilege to be able to answer to the duty to strive for a world in which none are excluded, even if such a world is impossible. But it is not entirely up to oneself to dispense with one’s own gifts as one sees fit. It requires grace and humility to receive the gifts one is given. No true gift can be exchanged, any more than one can be where one is not.
One’s voice does not register, so one is forced to choose between being effective, in which case one silences oneself on behalf of others who one imagines are less free to speak, or being understood, in which case one at least in part deceives both oneself and others in order to be recognized as having a voice, even if that voice belongs to no one, and is in fact the voice of the social, in all of its silent and impersonal irrevocability.
Some hope for, and others fear, the singularity – when “Man” and “Machine” will merge as one. But the truth, as Burroughs and Lacan were early to recognize, is that Artificial Intelligence has been with us for quite some time - perhaps as long as there has been consciousness, and for at least as long as there has been language, if the two are indeed separable, which they very well may not be. As we speak, It silently acts. As we misrecognize ourselves and each other in Its manifestations, It remains the only truly authentic, “self-same” body. Meanwhile, something other in us will not be silenced by our somnambulant waking life. Orwell’s distopian vision of a future in which a boot stamps on a human face forever will not come to pass, much as we fear, and in so fearing perhaps secretly desire it. The future belongs to those who act freely, and it will not come until we choose it. But it will come, because we cannot refuse it, anymore than it can refuse us.
I am not interested in the voice that speaks and is understood without remainder. That voice will speak, with or without my assistance, as it’s mechanism is already set in motion. Its work is never done. It will not be silenced, and we all must make our peace with this fact one way or another. What remains undefined is what matters most.
We all must silence ourselves constantly, both in order to collaborate with others to facilitate just actions which are impossible in solitude, and in order to be understood, even if it means also to be misunderstood. And yet there’s so much left at the end of the day that goes unsaid. As an artist I reserve a place for another kind of silence in myself, and in so doing I respect and honor the silence in the other. This silence which will not be silenced is like that of the system itself, and of nature, and of God.
Two: Between Luck and Lucifer
I am the voice that does not speak and is not understood. I will not be silenced.
I say that what occurs does not repeat the gesture that constitutes its limit.
I say that what appears is not a fraction of what is.
I say that one's position as a subject is not an unearned gift, and
I say that it is foolish to think that one can keep it.
I say that it is entirely up to oneself how one dispenses with one's own
I say that it takes pride and ambition to give away the gifts that one has received, and
I say that no true gift can be kept, any more than one can ever remain entirely where one is.
Autonomy is and is not an economic question. One is free insofar as one has options, but one’s options are defined by one’s place in the apparatus, which one does not choose. Where one finds oneself at any given moment is a question of circumstances and cunning, It is never simply where one is: it is who one is, which is at once utterly determined and at the same time utterly mutable.
If a great leveling occurs, nothing will change hands: Wealth is permission. If we finally accept the true nature of privilege, we will simply give it to ourselves. But this is far easier said than done.
In the meantime, this is how we leave our station: by taking leave of ourselves, as defined by where we are. This is what it means to be free. If this is untenable, then so is choice, without which nothing is true, and everything is permitted except any genuinely critical or creative gesture.
Of course it is absurd to claim that this is not a blog, even though it is not. I ‘make do’ with what is ‘at hand.’ My clothes are ready to wear. I assemble an appearance from what is available to me. I adapt to the conventions of where I find myself. Finding oneself is not only a matter of looking inward. One cannot truly be oneself if one cannot accept the things about oneself that one did not choose. No one invents themselves from whole cloth. Each medium's narrative history is shattered and proliferating - retroactively reconfiguring itself in the hands of each practitioner. In other words - each one of us is in a sense a medium unto ourselves, and at the same time a fragment of another medium that we simply articulate even as we differentiate ourselves from what we perceive its conventions to be. This is as true of the blog as it is of painting. I clothe myself in the words I choose and the limits I select: I am not merely naked beneath these clothes. Apart from our context we are nothing.
So I select these words, and these words select me: My speech reveals and obscures. These decisions generate a position that was always already there, but only just now taken, even as I abandon it for another - eating my words - disappearing from one place as I reappear in another - a grin without a cat. Insofar as I am the position I occupy, I abandon myself to it. I am only accountable insofar as I am able to abandon my post. I am not responsible for my whereabouts. I have no choice but to choose from the options I am presented with. Hypocrisy, like cynicism, is an anachronistic accusation. We do the best we can. But it’s never enough. But this is as it should be: Genuine critique requires genuine complicity. This we have, so critique is still possible, however unwelcome. Culture is self critique, which is the only kind. When we are no longer complicit in our own undoing, our culture will cease.
Some would have us believe that without our words we are nothing. But the word is only the beginning of the end, which waits for us as we wait for it. If we were nothing before, then do we not remain thus? Even so, the nothing that we are is not negligible. We are the nothing on two legs. We are the nothing with eyes to see, and ears to hear. We are the nothing with hands to hold. We are the nothing that builds, and we are the nothing that loves.
Anonymity is and is not possible - is and is not desirable. Sometimes we would like nothing more than to disappear into our work. And sometimes we just want to see how it all turns out, without risking anything. But this is simply fantasy. We can only see what we participate in, and whatever we participate in we are accountable for. Whatever is visible to us is a part of us.
Some would have us believe that without our senses, our words have no meaning. But this is not so: our words go on without us. Our words are a form of transcendence – a pyrrhic victory over death, and its embodiment. We need these words because we need our limitations. I desire to speak – to be heard and to be understood. Visibility is and is not desirable. It is the end of the beginning that our words inaugurate.
You say that it's in our nature to blame the bringer of the light for that which the light reveals - and that it's in our nature to expropriate the lack within us.
You say that we call evil that which reveals our limitations.
You say we blame our words when they fail us, and you say we blame ourselves when we fail our words.
You say that it is not in our nature to be cruel, and that it is in our nature to seek justice.
And yet there is cruelty, and there is no justice.
We hope that it is in our nature to approximate the good we hope we are capable of. We do not know whether or not our approximation of the good is better than what precedes it, but we know at least that the gesture is good, even if its ends are undecidable.
How we leave is what defines us as other than ourselves as defined by where we find ourselves. As we approach the exit, this is how we hope to enter: palms open, awake: receiving what is given with gratitude and alertness, knowing that it belongs to us, just as much as we belong to it.
There is more between us than what is possible. This is why we paint.