Today Thierry made a new artwork with a tent. It was placed on the beach early in the morning. Around 7 am.
The text on the tent was saying “L’oeuvre c’est la capacite de synthèse” (The body of work is the capacity for synthesis)
I liked the slogan, but to be clearer about the message I asked Thierry if the sentence on the tent was stating that “l’oeuvre” (the artwork or an artist’s body of work) is:
- to have the capacity to do a synthesis
- the capacity to do a synthesis
- the synthesis
He could not choose any of the options just like that, but he said that it is mostly about being able to.
This being able to, made me link to the notion of potentiality and I remembered a text I did for my theses in 2008 that was dealing with potentiality and contingency seen from the linguistic, anthropological and philosophic point of view.
Potentiality is a very complex philosophical concept, which is often said to be introduced by Aristotle, particularly in his reflections on the dynamis which stands for the power of possibility or potentiality. Already in Aristotle’s time, there was a clear distinction between the potentiality, as we know it from a child’s unused potentiality and the developed form of existing potentiality. A child’s ability to do something is a general and absolute potentiality, but it is only when the child has learned, for example, writing that it has the ability to do it. The ordered potentiality is the ability to choose between realizing the potentiality or not realizing it. So there is a big difference in saying: “He can write” about a child that we believe possibly will be able to write once it learns it, and when we say the same thing about a man, who already knows the alphabet and, therefore, may choose to write or, more importantly, choose not to write.
It is the ability to choose not to, which separates these two types of potentialities. Aristotle concentrates most of the existing potentiality since it is the one that holds potentiality´s true complexity of co-existence of the possibility of realization and the possibility of non-realization. So it is only in the existing potentiality and the act of choosing between actualization or non-actualization that force of potentiality is realized.
Potentiality connects immediately with the verb can ( to be able to ) that both refers to a force (potent) and an opportunity (potentia). Potentiality is thus a condition that occurs between an opportunity and an actualization.
If we look at artistic praxis, we can find potentiality in the moment before the artist takes an action. When an artist decides to do the artwork, there is always a possibility of not doing it. An artist has to have some kind of driving energy in order to make a good artwork. Maybe there is not a logic argumentation for it, but there is most probably an instinctive feeling of importance. Why is it important to express?, In which form?, In which place? and Why now? are some of the questions that are being activated every time a new artwork is born. This artistic act is, of course, connected to the motivation and with necessity. The act can also be called artistic gesture. I think that Thierry, in his artwork “L’oeuvre c’est la capacite de synthèse” wants to communicate something about the potentiality and power in the artistic gesture; An artist’s capacity to act.