By Inti Yanes-Fernández
In the beginning it is not Art, but Existence as pure intentionality of externalization. To open oneself, to ek-stasiarse, presupposes the unfolding of a form that makes evident an interiority at first veiled, not before the eyes. This interiority contains a fundamental richness that is not actualized-it remains in the absent state of possibility-if it does not become for itself in the very act of projecting itself towards “its” outside. It can only ek-stasize that which is self-absorbed, that ante in whose onticity the opening of itself in self-consciousness has already been presupposed. Only is radically originary – originary in each moment, each instant is its origin because it is there that time originates – this drive towards self-giving unfolding the pre-contained form in an already insufficient inside for itself. This movement that takes place in consciousness, or rather, that is consciousness itself, giving itself in intersubjectivity and emerging in a “chronotope” that is the “cincunstantiating chronotope”, is existence.
To go out into the world as existent is to be cured of the world in its own space, in pure “worldliness”. To be cured of something is to appropriate its ipseity, to give it the form of our assimilation, to re-signify the event. To be cured of the world is not simply to interact with it “in” it. It implies the awareness of this interaction that directly engages- alecciona- our own being in the world, existence. In the manifestation of one’s own mode of being, the essential devices that make up the fabric of existence/world are revealed. The world lets us glimpse its having already been there before our existential engagement in it. That prior mode of being the world is even less consistent than Kant’s “Ding an sich,” or Berkeley’s “Nothingness.” If it is already really a world it is so for the existing “being there,” man. The fundamental form of the world is the way in which the “being there” cures itself of its circumstantial presence, appropriates it in order to preserve itself from it as “being there”. The discovery of “being there” in the world as richness for itself implies the discovery of its own richness externalized in the world. This awareness of one’s own wealth deployed in the world is nothing other than its ek-stasis.
This state of ek-stasis reveals the fundamental structure of engagement of world and existence: vital movement. Movement as a pugnacious unity of time and space, time that allows the Now to transcend itself, and there is presentiality. In the appropriation of the world one can produce: conceptualization (the rational modeling of the world), moralization (the impact on the world according to criteria aimed at the determination of a Supreme Good), or the re-formation of the world. In this last sense, of an “aesthetic” character It is not a matter of reproducing the way of appearing, the way of appearing of the entities at hand in terms of their form in the so-called artistic space; nor of re-presenting the entity in a pretended originality that would even precede its symbolic rank for the “being there”. Re-formation of the world means to dimiurgically create a new universe, which brings to light the movement of consciousness in pursuit of itself, without this movement taking place through conceptualization or moralization, it finds its privileged strategic tool in “artistic” activity.
The exhibition of the artist Ernesto Benítez fully exposes this existential-apertural significance of artistic activity taken to its foundations. The optical-anthological root of this search is not hidden to the creator: “Motivated by the infinite question about the why of our existence and starting from the conceptual principle that the true mystery is existence itself, I have assumed for some time a broadening of the frontiers of art towards the fields of philosophy and gnoseology in general in my artistic practice…”. What is perhaps essential in this production is not the attachment to certain very Western forms of the mystical tradition, both Eastern and Western, as is the case of the Theosophical society, but its concentration on the phenomenon of existence as the original form of being. Existence is not the pure Platonic entelechy that dwells in the Uranian topos, nor the pure corporeality understood as the ontological foundation of the spiritual; existence is the dialectical unity of the world and consciousness, where the old Body/Soul duality begins to fade away because the “place” of perception changes “for the substance of man is not the spirit as a synthesis of soul and body, but existence” (Heidegger). The general title of the exhibition is “The light of the body”. Although it seems to underlie here the dual vision of the spiritual and the corporeal, there is a movement towards the unity of both factors, in total harmony with the analogical intuition of the mystical projection of all times. “The light of the body” is a mystical vision of the vital energy that the soul, assumed as a spiritual perspective, brings to the body itself.
Art thus recovers its pristine reference to the phenomenology of consciousness, and emerges, “as from a bath of light”, comforted like any entity that manages to glimpse, after so much wandering, its own origins. Here art ceases to be mere formalistic self-reflection, empty structure of its own apparent destruction -that does not lead to any essential place-, to become an instrument of the self-knowledge of the spirit, by virtue of its nature or at least its symbolic-allegorical possibilities. Thus Heidegger goes so far as to say that “Art is the formal expression -where “formal” refers to a specific topography and not to a “configuration”- of Truth”, because truth is no longer a concept or a “must be” a priori to the experience of “being there”, but this very experience made conscious in living itself. This is why the artist says: “In this sense, the process of creation is closely linked to my concept of freedom, emanating from spiritual self-realization, in which the starting point is the free exercise of my inner experience”.
Artistic praxis becomes a path of self-recovery, of self-discovery, of reconquest, tearing the veils that hide the altar to our own gaze; the sacred altar where to execute the necessary self-sacrifice that presupposes our “being in the world”; because in reality, given our ek-static way of being, we receive existence as a gift or as a curse, but in no case as a result of our freedom of choice, the origin of freedom in terms of elective capacity is existence as ek-stasis, one is already there in each case; and therefore the temporal leads us to death, not as an accidental phenomenon that can ever be abolished through magic, faith or science, but as the original way in which we “go out” of ourselves and “enter” the world; that is, insofar as our “being in the world” is shaped. Hence the unity that emerges between art, anguish and death, as the destiny of being in the world (death that can undoubtedly carry in its own form rebirth). “Man finds – says Victor Emil Frankl – in the sense of his anguish not only an ethical dignity but also an anthropological dignity, which is what fulfills him personally. The suffering man discovers in anguish the possibility of voluntary sacrifice, where the essence of the person is revealed to him”. The essence of the person is that state of self-actuality of which art has become a privileged means of expression. It is not in vain that the artist quotes the words of the master: “The first work of man is to reconquer himself… to distinguish in our existence… what comes with man, from what those who have come before him add with their lessons, legacies and ordinances”.
Thus art is “energueia”, not “ergon”; it is never a process that “concludes” in the corporealization of the artistic work, it is not simply the formal movement from the “work-idea” to the “work-there”. Because of its ontic-ontological origin, because it represents a movement originating in the essence of “being-there”, because it “occurs” in intimate unity with existence as the original activity of the subject, consisting in an opening for itself in the now of its being-being, recovering at every instant the already having been (becoming history) in favor -inelectively- of the total realization of the most peculiar ontological possibility of “being-there”: death; since art is based on a pre-cultural intentionality, prior to the taking of concrete forms susceptible of dying and transforming, it becomes a clearing (Lichtung), a luminous space in which the original mode of being of “being there” is revealed as “truth”: self-protective, self-inquisitive, engaged in an infinite attempt to understand its “being-in-the-world” as a possibility. Hegel rightly supposed that the predominance of Reason as the superior way of human self-knowledge would imply, more precisely, would organically bring with it the “death” of art; it is however this Hegelian Reason that will die first if it has not already died altogether. It has been more the “talkiness” and the “pseudo-formalism” of recent times -disguised in a questioning and not very credible critical attitude- what has contributed the most to hide this original sense of artistic activity. Beyond this paranoia of the “problem of expression”, Ernesto Benitez has managed to revitalize a praxis, to reopen a path that, although never completely disappeared, has been almost forgotten by many of the younger creators.
And it is precisely after having been a clear apertural space in which the “being there” gives with itself as existing, retreating from the mundane everyday to that pre-given moment in which the identity of living and dying is revealed, that art can find its destiny: to disappear illuminated. “The universe is the great vessel that gives life to all that exists, the seasonal change of flowers and leaves, snow and moon, mountains and sea, plants and trees… If we take these elements as the affective matter of our art, then the supreme goal will be to make the mind a vessel of the universe, to establish that vessel which is our mind in the vast and formless nothingness and thus obtain the miraculous flower of art.” (Zeami).
Havana, July 1998.