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All our thoughts and concepts are called up by sense-experiences and have a meaning only in reference to these sense-experiences. On the other hand, however, they are products of the spontaneous activity of our minds; they are thus in no wise logical consequences of the contents of these sense-experiences. If, therefore, we wish to grasp the essence of a complex of abstract notions we must for the one part investigate the mutual relationships between the concepts and the assertions made about them; for the other, we must investigate how they are related to the experiences.
The bourgeoisie, which far surpasses the proletariat in the completeness and irreconcilibility of its class consciousness, is vitally interested in imposing its moral philosophy upon the exploited masses. It is exactly for this purpose that the concrete norms of the bourgeois catechism are concealed under moral abstractions…The appeal to abstract norms is not a disinterested philosophic mistake but a necessary element in the mechanics of class deception.
I must confess that I and a few others are burdened with heavy responsibilities regarding the future of criticism. I am certainly, if not the inventor, then at least one of the first systematizers of an absurd critical practice that, as soon as it had peeked its beak out of the nest, flapping its new wet wings, took flight in the minds of the young, becoming a wild ox and sowing avant-garde literature with the mighty tomes of what might as well be called the abstract bear.
Thus even supposedly unadulterated facts of observation already are interfused with all sorts of conceptual pictures, model concepts, theories or whatever expression you choose. The choice is not whether to remain in the field of data or to theorize; the choice is only between models that are more or less abstract, generalized, near or more remote from direct observation, more or less suitable to represent observed phenomena.
When art seems to be empty of meaning, as no doubt some of the abstract painting of our own day actually does seem, what the painting says, indeed what the artist is shrieking at the top of his voice, is that life has become empty of all rational content and coherence, and that, in times like these, is far from a meaningless statement.
I went to the Mary Lee Burbank School in Belmont. And it was a place where you, like, learned to go to the store? And I was saying, Oh God, I want to learn something else. I wanted to learn to read and write better and do mathematics better. They were very much into Abstract Expressionism and that artsy stuff. And where most kids did what I call meaningless blobs, I could render perfectly.
I was literally told for ‘The Show Goes On’ that I shouldn’t rap too deep. I shouldn’t be too lyrical. It just needs to be something easy on the eyes. Like a record company telling Picasso that we don’t need these abstract interpretations of life, where people have to sit down and look at it and break it down.
There is something myopic and stunted in focussing only on the meaning of words and sentences. And this myopia is especially unfortunate when combined with a rather abstract view of a language as a set of elements and rules for combining these. For the result is to divorce enquiry into meaning from attention to the way words – and gestures, facial expressions, rituals and so on – are embedded in practices, in what Wittgenstein called ‘the stream of life’.
Centralize property in the hands of a few and the millions are under bondage to property – a bondage as absolute and deplorable as if their limbs were covered with manacles. Abstract all property from the hands of labor and you thereby reduce labor to dependence; and that dependence becomes as complete a servitude as the master could fix upon his slave.
Electric and magnetic forces. May they live for ever, and never be forgot, if only to remind us that the science of electromagnetics, in spite of the abstract nature of its theory, involving quantities whose nature is entirely unknown at the present, is really and truly founded on the observations of real Newtonian forces, electric and magnetic respectively.
We all have our own takes on things. To being yourself. The abstract, the whole thing that I play with, seems to result in seeing through your lenses, and once you express how you see things to others, you start to see there are similarities between all people. It’s kind of like, no matter how far you go, you’re still where you started, in a way.
The one object of fifty years of abstract art is to present art-as-art and as nothing else, to make it into the one thing it is only, separating and defining it more and more, making it purer and emptier, more absolute and more exclusive – non-objective, non-representational, non-figurative, non-imagist, non-expressionist, non-subjective. the only and one way to say what abstract art or art-as-art is, is to say what it is not.
I think that one of the ways that Americans will come to want to look at history is by looking at their own families’ histories, and how those stories relate to the larger picture of American history. Then it is no longer abstract. Then it becomes a story that really means something to us as individuals.