Ephemeral Art

(Written in 2005, recently found when looking for something else.)

How long do you gaze at a tangible art piece?
How long do you look at art?

Dance is not ephemeral if looked at in relation to a larger scale than it is usually viewed. When people watch a dance they spend more time watching it than they usually spend looking at a painting or sculpture in a museum. But the dance can be considered ephemeral if what is important are the details of it. Those fleeting movements/moments, but the structure of the piece will hopefully throughout the piece and that will be at least 5 minutes, much longer than most people spend looking at the Mona Lisa or a Picasso.

Those paintings are just as ephemeral unless you own it or live in the same city as the painting. But then do you measure ephemerality(?) in in terms of a work’s self or in relation to the viewer. Yes, the dance comes and goes, but so do the viewers. And a painting does not go, only the viewer. But what is a sculpture if not viewed? Nothing. it is merely the possibility of something to be viewed. But any dance piece, once conceptualized and rehearsed(known) becomes the possibility of something to be viewed.

Dance is considered to be ephemeral because the reason for most dances existences, the minute details of the choreography, are ephemeral, they do not last past the duration of the viewing. But what could last for the duration of the viewing and beyond is the conceptual construct of the piece, of the performance elements. The more definite they are, the more definite the zusammenhang, the more tangible the performance.

To summarize – All arts are equally ephemeral. It depends upon how long the viewer is looking at them.


4 thoughts on “Ephemeral Art

  1. a thought- you can return to view a sculpture at any time the museum is open. the viewer can choose how long to look at each detail. you can not return to view a dance. you can try. you can see the same show again if you are lucky and the show has more than a one-night run, but it won't be the same. it's live/life. dance is not an object.~Margaret

  2. Yes, you can return to the museum any time. The viewer can also "return" to the theater where the dance company is doing the same piece again. Granted it might have different performers and will be executed differently as it is impossible to do the same movements exactly.But the viewer of a painting will also be changed the second, third etc time s/he goes to look at the painting/sculpture/object. Therefore the relationship between the two will be altered.Dance is not an object in the sense that you can put a beer on it, but it is still an object that a person can view/experience in the spacetime continuum.Also what comes into play here is the idea of Logic. The execution of a dance piece might be slightly different, but if it has a logic that is separate from the execution(the tools and aesthetics) then the dance object is the same each time it is executed.Also painting fade, sculptures rust, they do change just more slowly than most dances do.

  3. I think you are pointing at a yardstick with yardstick. There are differences in ephemerality in various forms and there is congruence in their meme-ness. On one part, life is ephemeral and, for most, lasts a good long stretch. But what is the yardstick used to measure us? By the measure of trees, we are brief. By the measure of mountains, we flicker. By the measure of the earth, we are nanobots. By the measure of subatomic particles, we are the universe. By the measure of an idea (or it's intrinsic logic) we are eternal or have never existed. So dance has its yardstick and has both expansive duration and ephemerality, as does any THING. Congruence. Which is all fun and nice but there is also the issue in the tissues. Our work does not hang on a wall. THEY can't go the theater at any old time to see us. Yes, the arc of a work's logic, its construction of consequence hangs somewhere in eternal non-existence, but its manifestation is quite specifically impermanent in a specific scale that is, in turn, inherently different than that of a painting or stone throwing marble man. As you say, THEY change, we change, it changes. But the velocity of change has a wildly variable flux across forms. Difference. But what a fabulous and fucked up difference! I'll check back someday to see if those ceiling-bound fingers have touched yet. For now, thanks for throwing the stone. : john

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