“No Message”

“Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is nothing; light is everything.”
Leonard Misonne.

I couldn’t say it better than that. I had the topic before HERE, but it hits me every time.

Here is an upgraded version / article



Klaus Rossler © copyright

Most people, misguided, experience photography through subject matter … by associating with the objects depicted and their names and labels, especially when grandiose or important … with “what” it is. It defies the original, artistic mandate of photography … of any visual art for that matter … and leads to the dilemma of being oblivious to graphic / visual criteria … the actual artistic qualities … degraded to mere documentation or socio-political messages. It reveals the dreadful addiction to verbal communication and story-telling with its limitations and inferiority to artistic expression. As a result photography is degraded to a vehicle for other purposes. Instead of abstracting … recognizing and appreciating the elements of visual design, e.g. shape, space, colour or light, they limit themselves to objects and their names, to purposes and attached messages. We should not look for “what” it is. In order to understand and fully enjoy art we must not see faces, houses and trees … but ovals, squares and triangles. The object is meaningless. We should look for “how” it is.

We see the same attitude in music. People use the term “music”, but what they really mean … and the only thing they are capable of hearing … are words (if there are lyrics at all … after all, the vast majority of music has no lyrics to begin with, which renders most music as just noise to them). They never actually hear the music. Very similar to the qualities in visual art, music is about: harmony, vertical and horizontal / chords and melody, rhythm and time, composition and arrangement, melody or theme, personality in phrasing and improvisation, in virtuosity and expression, about dynamics, about emotions, about building tension and release … all performed in a unique and innovative way … but NOT about verbal messages. And, by the way, singing is not about words either. When singing, the human voice is transformed from verbal communication into a musical instrument, not different from any other instrument … to form and play organized musical sounds … notes. No words needed to sing.

Musical or visual art … all art … exists for its own sake and on its own criteria and qualities. That’s why it’s not called poetry, journalism or activism. It stands on its own legs and must be recognized as such. There is no need for socio-political messages or conceptual purposes and are in fact only distracting from experiencing the actual art. The light, the blob of paint, the cluster of notes and their arrangement in pitch and time, the brush stroke, the line, the texture, the composition … IS THE MESSAGE! … and it is a much more sophisticated, more intellectual and deeper one than words and verbal stories could ever be. Our minds, thoughts and our creativity are not based on language … it’s the other way around. Language is only noise, attempting, clumsily and insufficiently, to put into audio what’s alrerady in our minds and thoughts. (Pinker)

Art starts where language ends and surely is more than a carrier or transmitter for stories and purposes. Art is independent and free … it reigns beyond heritage and morbid traditions, nationality and ethnicity. Art has no place for mindless repetition of religious symbolism. Art has no room for politics and advertising. The role of Art is not to be pleasing or to lend its name to decorative household goods. Art is not a group endeavor, overseen by committee or a consequence of government grants. Art does NOT arise through “inspiration” from above (Lat.: ‘being inhabited by ghosts’). Art comes from hard work and imagination … from your personality … from YOUR brain. Art is experimentation and fear-free willingness to make mistakes. Art is breaking rules. Art thumbs its nose at authority. Art loves the anarchist. Art is the enemy of conservatism, which is the stagnation of the mind and fear of change. Art IS change! Art is NOT ruled by superstition and spiritualism (Lat.: ‘believe in ghosts’), is no tool for religion and dogmas … we call that the ‘Dark Ages’. Have we forgotten the Renaissance, Humanism and the Enlightenment, when we finally broke free from these evils and unconstrained, individual expression triumphed? Creativity and innovation goes hand in hand with the destruction of something old. Art is about moving forward, being ahead of your time.  Art is the work of …

   … The Iconoclast … an individual who does NOT conform …

   … who dances to NOBODY’s drum … who is NOT apologetic …

   … NOT politically correct … who is the destroyer, NOT the worshiper of icons.

Art is the unique, personal expression and play of an individual, free of restrictions and formulas. Visual art and music is the literature of the heart. It commences where speech ends, where languages divide, is international and border-less. It expresses what cannot be said … at levels the spoken, sung or written word cannot compete … miserably fails. The piece, musical or visual, has to be able, above all, to stand on its own, leaving the viewer/ listener stand in awe, jaws dropped … moved by the pure impact of its original qualities …                                                                                                                         

                         … without attached purposes … without words … no message


Klaus Rossler © copyright

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2 responses to ““No Message”

  • Klaus Rossler - Photography

    Yes – you are right, but it has niothing to do with African Americans or any other group. Its the basic concept of music, always has been, everywhere, predating language – in time, as well as in artistic level. To combine music with word is only recent and, if not a rediculous free ride of bad mediocracy on another artform, only a combination of two artforms. Its like discussing the text of the menu, while the real work of art, the fantastic dish, is not even noticed. Its like saying all classical and jazz, mistly without words, is NOT music. Actually, when combined with words, is usually the more silly, commercial stuff. If one cannot “hear” the music when there are no words, he has never heard any music at all.

  • Allyson

    Hi Klaus,
    When you compared photography to music, it reminded me of my experience in Washington, DC. When I first moved there and was exposed to various forms of music in the African American community, some of it puzzled me. Then I came to the belief that, often, their voices were actually being used as instruments … likewise, when people swayed, stomped, or clapped while singing.

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