In 1984, IRWIN wrote a program setting out the principles governing their work: the affirmation of national visual arts based on eclecticism of approaches and on the simultaneous use of diverse, often contradictory styles.
They summed up their artistic philosophy in the term ”retro principle.” In contrast to then- predominant postmodernism, they drew on the tradition of conceptual art.
The Principle of Manipulation With the Memory of the Visible Emphasized Eclecticism — the Platform for National Authenticity
In the early twenties, Joseph Schillinger, an American cubist, wrote a book, The Mathematical Basis of Art, in which he classified the evolution of art into five dierent levels (which develop with accelerating speed):
1. the pre-aesthetic level; biological states of mimicry,
2. the traditional-aesthetic level; magic, rational-religious art,
3. the emotionally-aesthetic level; an artistic expression of emotions, self-expression, art for art’s sake,
4. the rationally aesthetic level; empiricism, experimental art, new art,
5. the scientific, post-aesthetic level; the fusion of artistic forms and material, the disintegration and end of art.
Added to these is the sixth level, which is partly incorporated in the last level and is unconscious, unformulated.
6. the emphatically-eclectic level; all-aesthetic, an evocation of historical works, integration of individual homogeneous creations, nowadays called the retro principle, incorporating the five above-mentioned levels.
The retro principle is a sphere of historically present art and means thinking about the past models of art in view of building a complete awareness of the dialectical evolution of Western art. The artistic interest abandons the sphere of the formal on account of the content, following the dictation of the motif. Nature ceases to be the model for creative design and is supplanted by culture as the second nature (being a mimesis of mimesis). The pivotal interest encompasses the rising awareness of the historical evolution of culture (dialectics), proceeding from the lower forms towards the higher ones (structure).
The sixth level is not a style or an art trend but a principle of thought, a way of behaving and acting. It builds on reinterpretation, re-creation of past models, keeping other trends at a distance. It is manifest throughout the history of art and is historically conditioned. It does not appear, however, in a mathematically linear fashion nor in terms of artistic supervision; on the contrary, it occurs in recurring intervals. Its subconscious basis is inherent in time. Operation within a field of thought—retro—requires that the retro principle be declaratively freed from the field of marginality.
The retro principle supports a constant alteration of language and a shifting from one pictorial expression to another. It eclectically refers to the history of art, choosing it, together with the entire cultural sphere, as the field of its operation. It makes use of various pre-existing language models, modifies itself through the past on the formal level, but remains intact on the conceptual one. Without giving up achievements of modernism and without seeking new formal patterns, it remains a principle of thought maintaining a process of assimilation. Its language reflects the concepts of l’art de l’art (art from art) and an elitist attitude towards art and society in which the applied typical equations do not determine the spiritual circle of a picture. Its own expressivity is eliminated, and a tendency towards the impersonal appears, exploiting the already existing personal expressions or typical (stylistic) equations.
The retro principle makes use of tradition in a direct and indirect way (quoted in its original purity). Due to the current interest in it, even a complete identification (a quotation) acquires a historically specific productive character. The unveiling of identity is carried out through a certain mode of reinterpretation which establishes space for a personal account, and the motive becomes the element which determines the method of execution (style). Historical facts are losing their special immanent character and their role in the context of time, being transformed into everyday conscious experience.
The artistic process is transformed into a demonstrative exploration of the previous language models by way of collective consciousness of individual visual forms.