As The Hole gallery in New York opens the third solo exhibition by London artist Matthew Stone, we look back on his manifesto, printed in i-D last year, about the importance of optimism.
My friends and I stayed up all night. Sat in the corner of a nightclub, under its coloured lights, lights that in their movements resembled the strength and indescribable beauty of our souls; we talked about perfection. If everybody is an artist and everything is art, then an artist is not special and art is no more important than any other mundane activity. To a dreamer, this appeared a depressing and confusing reality. If everything was special then maybe nothing could be. Could it be that all of existence was rotten? Was humanity a grand and decrepit mistake, limping towards its constant and ultimate destination of death? However, as the warm light of our friendship, washed over us, we began to understand that this could also mean that every possible action was pregnant with possibility and creative potential. “A great artist understands this personal freedom and spends her life communicating it to others.” I said. “The mindful choices she makes, not only define her own life, but shine like luminous, truth-loving stars, born to vitalise and inspire those that are touched by them.” If this was true and art only existed to remind us of the creativity inside everyday actions, then art was a loving act. We had found a way of understanding how to live as artists in the world today. Whilst the sharp shocks of art had long given way, a myth had persisted that kindness was naive and weak and that ideals must always become oppressive ideology.
At points we had all been struck by the storm-like grandeur of violent artistic gestures. At times it had even seemed that passion only lived inside acts of cruelty. The urge to destroy, reject and transgress had persisted as if more relevant and powerful than any desire to create or nurture. The twentieth century was characterised by philosophies that rejected the notion of simple or singular truths. God was declared dead, and generations of passionate individuals sought freedom from the post-Victorian, bourgeois and puritanical hypocrisies of their parents. This concerted effort to seek out and destroy the rotten - to explore emergent-realities and to propose new ways of being - was borne of a desire to find authenticity in a seemingly inauthentic age. But too often the yawning abyss, left behind by the seeming death of truth, created only love-lost cynicism. The nihilist cry of “No future!” echoed across black vinyl dance floors. For a sublime moment an eye had blinked open in the perfect storm. We were provided with a moment of respite, clarity and peace. We understood that we need not reject rebellion or the questioning of truth to embrace, optimism, love and kindness. I declared kindness to be “the only radical act in a world largely defined by cruelty and destruction”. Going on to say; “But there is danger in blind optimism, as there is danger in sheer apathy and nihilism. We should try to do what is right, but more importantly we must always consider what the right thing to do really is. Optimism is the vital force that entangles itself with and then shapes the future, so we should embrace it. For if all artists reject optimism, then nobody will be here to create the future with sensitivity. The stories will be told, and with conviction, but only by those who seek power over beauty.” My doubting friend stood to leave, her body jerked upright, his head tilting back. I feel her vessels dilate. I hear a voice; “Networked-minds, oxygenated and alive because different thoughts pass through our muscular hearts.” It was then that I spoke without fear, “Everything is possible and love changes everything.”
Looking back now it had become clear to me that we are still able to credibly speak about love. A love that finds its feet in a kindness that is more powerful than violence. A love that’s mystery lies in a type of beauty that is beyond the body and that dwarfs the things that you can buy.
Love focused like a laser.