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Leonid Zusman Father 1960s

This world is very strange. It is completely material. Perhaps too material. And at the same time this material reality is a result or a reflection of human involvement, attitude, and interest. This corporeality is the result of the artist’s abs

olute objectivity and of his responsibility – perhaps even supernormal responsibility – for how all of this becomes visible, how it displays itself. The world would not appear without the efforts of the artist, for the world as it was yesterday existed yesterday; the art that allowed that world of yesterday to be preserved remained there, in the past. It is close by, and yet it is already gone. Now the artist must create his world anew and anew; he cannot leave this reality, or his world will simply disappear.

The artist says only what he must say today and now. What was said yesterday and what will be said tomorrow is not considered. He is not a creator. He is not even an author. He is a character. “To live only in the present, to know neither the past nor the future, is the only possibility and natural way of life. Only in the present! Such is the way of life of all living creatures, except for poor man.” This entry was written by Zusman on November 17, 1959. The artist exists insofar as he finds within himself the ability to speak the language of art. But he is aware that this language begins to sound and toil because of his efforts and work. There is no art on the other side of everyday experience. There is what is happening now: something that fills the artist’s work with meaning, intonation, feeling, and an understanding of the present. And thus life and art are blended in the artist’s consciousness. Because of art, life manifests itself in his experience not as a feeling but as an exhaustion, an exhaustion of that very clarity or clarification that could describe the artist’s attitude toward his work. Art gives man an opportunity to question his humanity. What is it that makes him question himself? It is but a faculty to utter a question, to ask. Whom is he able to question about himself? Only himself alone. But this questioning the self about the self is a quest and a discovery of the other in us, the other that speaks an unknown tongue from another dimension. Where does the other come from? Where does the meeting between the questioner and the questioned one take place?

Art gives man the ability to operate in a zone, a dimension, where the very possibility to question has exceptional value. To question means to assume the existence of the other. Art becomes a means of interrupting the continuity of the space of presence. And so an artist learns to discern, to define the limits of the indistinguishable and the indifferent. He is connected with the meanings of the world he was born into. Or rather, he follows the links, discerns the crumpled and effaced meanings, and thus he finds himself face to face with his freedom, for he has left the zone of meaningless experience.

The result, if it is to be evaluated, will not happen here, not in this practice and not in this place. Therefore, if art suddenly arouses in man a desire to prove his worth, he will not be able to do so. And then other concepts and new questions about art emerge. Everything continues or starts from the beginning. And thus an artist is born.

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