Just think

Laura Gascoigne wonders if the artists who purport to be thinkers are any

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good at thinking.

“I think,

therefore I am.”

“I think differently, therefore I am an artist.”

To traditionalists it may already seem that the entire art world has arrived at destination Hell in a handcart and google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; there is nowhere

further to go, but actually the journey isn’t over yet. While the general public remains unconvinced of Josef




final solution that everyone is an artist, it still expects a reply to the following question: if it’s not the way artists draw, paint or sculpt that makes them artists, what qualifies them


for the title? Here’s

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the latest answer: it’s the way they think.

To qualify as a contemporary artist you have to walk the walk, talk the talk and think the thought, all at the same time. (Gum-chewing is an optional extra.) The theory goes, apparently, that by some creative providence artists’ brains are wired differently to everyone else’s, an accident

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of evolution that
lends their thoughts google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; aesthetic value in themselves. Any works that might result, if any do, are only of value as physical manifestations of this mental difference, byproducts of thought google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; processes that may be exchanged as commodities for financial profit but could just as easily be dumped without detriment to the maker’s status as an artist. The kernel, the essence, the nub of art is thought, and the purer its expression, in principle, the better – no gunk, no junk, /* xin2 */ just the juice of undiluted creative thinking. But in our messy world
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of gunky realities, this
ideal is difficult to achieve. How does the differently thinking artist break the ties that bind him to the world of objects? It’s a problem the Café Gallery, Southwark Park – always at the cutting-edge of creative cerebration and municipal lawn-mowing – has been trying to address.

Its summer exhibition, which if you hop straight on google_ad_height = 90; a number 188 bus you might just catch before it closes on June 29th, is called Thinking Things, and concerns itself with this

very problem of “exploring thinking’s ambivalent entanglement with sculptural

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and visual forms”. It takes its name from an essay by the literary theorist Steven Connor which, if you’ve missed the bus, you can read online. //--> Connor’s thinking on thinking starts from this premise: “Thinking, which is properly nothing and nowhere, can only lay hold
of itself in the form of a thing. But not just any thing will do, for it seems that it needs to be a special sort of thing, a thing apt to
embody thought –

with the thought

behind the art rather than the art itself is a phenomenon of the last 20

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years. Every religion needs a creation src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> myth, and I guess this is the creation myth of conceptual art. It
allows conceptualism to be presented to the public as a cult of creativity vested in the artist rather than the work, compensating for
the fact that the work leaves the public
cold. google_ad_width = 970; Meanwhile it swells the heads of the not-so-bright who went into art because

they fancied themselves as thinkers while lacking the intellectual cutting-edge to cut the mustard in the


Mensa department.

Artists aren’t stupid but neither, Leonardo excepted, google_ad_width = 970; are they intellectual giants. If they google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; had the brainpower of philosophers they’d be philosophers, ditto mathematicians, microbiologists, astrophysicists and all the other professions their ‘thinking

otherwise’ now licenses them to dabble in. But should they be wasting creative energy
on thinking at all? Not according to Ensor. “Reason is the enemy of art,” said the Oracle of Ostend. “Artists dominated by reason lose all feeling, powerful instinct is enfeebled, inspiration becomes impoverished and
the heart lacks its rapture.”

Fortunately, help may be at hand. The first stirrings google_ad_height = 90; of a counterrevolutionary backlash were felt in February when the South London Gallery hosted an evening of talks and screenings titled Stupidious, which proposed “stupidity as both google_ad_slot = "7160667483"; a subject and a strategy of artistic production.” Who would have thunk it? With a healthy injection //--> of stupidiosity, the heart may yet recover its rapture.

Laura Gascoigne

The Jackdaw, 2014