Chapter 5. About the arts
5.4. the arts in what comes after Modernity
As I have laid out extensively already Modernity is in its late phase that I call Late-Modernity. This new context is made of multiple existential crisis that prepare the conditions for the seeds of what comes after Modernity to sprout. What is at stake here is the birth of a whole new societal paradigm that emerges as an answer to a falling model.
One of the most interesting aspects of the new paradigm relates to knowledge formation and acquisition.
5.4.1. Knowledge under After-Modernity
Having been the purveyors of the knowledge that Modernity relied upon rationality and science are without any doubt going to suffer a backlash. Questions are already fusing about the responsibility of the scientists in the debacle of Late-Modernity.
This opens the door to other knowledge approaches and as I have laid out earlier animism is going to have another shot at sharing its holistic vision made of sets and systems. But the comeback of animism is going to be resisted vehemently by those who have a stake in Modernity. I mean by the 1% who reaps all the benefits while the 99% suffer.
126.96.36.199. The world is stuck in a European trap
Modernity emerged in the context of Western Europe and its late form is the outcome of the colonial expansion of Europe to other parts of the world and most notably to the USA. The worldview, that formalized over centuries of practicing the cult of the reason at work within capital, is decidedly European and with the imposition of its model to the whole world it entraps the minds of all in a series of automatisms that are very sticky to say the least.
A. The sanctification of the arts
In “5.1. Clarification on what we call the arts” I wrote the following: “The emergence of the word art in its modern artistic meaning refers to the specialization of a job and a skill that applies uniquely to the narrow field of creating ‘High-Culture’ which means the culture of the establishment that was considered more noble, more dignified more important, than the culture of the people or street culture.
So in sum the artists’ production were sanctified by the interaction between these two factors:
The combination, on one side, of the new “exceptional” way of life of the new rich and, on the other side, the newly gained social standing of the artist that was spreading the myth of the exceptionality of their productions; the combination of these 2 factors imposed, in the minds of all, the idea of the exceptionality of the productions emerging from the skills of the artists. The traditional meaning of the arts, as production skills at the attention of the street, got instantly dignified and sanctified once these “Arts” were produced at the special attention of the rising social class that soon would be the dominant force within the European establishment”.
Early Modernity in Europe sanctified the arts gaining them exceptionalism and this state of affairs reproduced till the 19th century when that sanctity was profaned by the Paris Avant-garde that opened the door to Modernism. See “1.6. The sanctification of art” for a more elaborate expose.
B. The context that makes Modernism
Modernism was the integration in the minds of artists of the cultural impact of philosophic rationalism and its functional arm science. In “Book 1. Post 10 to 18“ I dwell at length on the evolution of Modernity with a particular attention to the transformation of ‘the reason at work within capital’ into ‘philosophic rationalism’ which became the intellectual foundation of the future development of Modernity.
Philosophic rationalism is not a worldview in the sense that it does not provide a fully formed closed narrative about what reality is all about and so the citizens can not share a common view of the world from it. Instead it is an open narrative that relies on general principles and a methodology: the scientific method with its central tenet of verifiability or better the repeatability of an hypothesis. As such science and rationalism are an open system that is in construction for perpetuity. This can eventually satisfy the minds of some intellectuals but it can surely not appease the anxiety in the minds of the great majority of citizens. And this is the contradiction between science and societal worldviews that the minds of the new atheists still have not internalized. The fact of the matter is that worldviews are an absolute necessity for societies while science is not such an absolute necessity. Science is a necessity for capital holders and as such science is a relative necessity. So society has to clarify how science will free itself from the shackles of capital in order to reconcile its acting with its stated mission which is to act as a method of communication between people interested to access the true nature of reality. Such a societal clarification would free science from its dependence on the financing of its activities by special interests. Were this to be attained the open narrative of science could possibly be absorbed as the foundation of the vaster narrative of closed worldviews.
This is fundamental because, not being able to appease the anxiety in the minds of the great majority of citizens, rationalism and science left societies at risk. Their openness created uncertainties in the minds that acted like germs that, over a short 2 centuries, did undo:
This picture illustrates how societal evolution has been pushing biological evolution on a path of ever deeper dumbing down of the citizen.
The emergence of the web over the last 20 years has further deepened that fragmentation which in Late-Modernity has reached the level of societal atomization. Henceforth everyone is alone and as Linh Ding was writing: “We’re living in the Golden Age of Porn! This is the munificence of late trauma capitalism. No one will ever see so many cocks and cunts again. On top of peak oil, soil and water, this is also the age of peak self-love and peak masturbation. Snapping selfies, we climax alone” (3).
But where does this all lead?
C. From Modernism to the confusion of Late-Modernity
Knowledge and the arts were, as I write here above, “...nature’s tactical principle to satisfy a strategy to build societal cohesion that is so essential to ensure the reproduction of societies. Modern societies have forgotten such a life sustaining principle”.
In “4.5. Five polarity-plays between individuals & society” I wrote that “The graph of the cycle of life allows us to determine the parameters that are activating species. Species have two poles of energy: the strong or positive charge = the individual atoms and the weak or the negative charge = societies. The societal-individual polarity-play constitutes the essence of the dynamic of species. In other words the species internal life and its striving to survive and reproduce over the long haul is in reality what, the play or dance of the polarities society-individuals, is all about. ”
All these principles of life sustenance were forgotten and this gave the context in which Modernism emerged which imposed to the avant-garde artists the idea that the past had to be erased so that a deeper meaning about reality could be represented. It’s no mystery that this initiative, as commendable as it was, ended in total confusion. The supply of the worldview to illustrate had vanished so to be successful the initiative of Modernism implied that:
We live now in a world where the narrative has overtaken reality. Building the narrative has established itself as the context of Late-Modernity. Reality has dissipated from our consciousness but reality never is absent for long. It always comes back and this time it will be with a vengeance to clean up the mess left by Modernity.
In “The fall of Modernity” I wrote that “Science and rationality tell us that there is no limit to their domain and that with time they will be able to unfold a reasoned tapestry of the whole of reality as well as being able to solve any problem confronted by humanity. But it appears to me that this is merely hubris in scientists' minds.
Science and rationality are one way to look at things for sure and their method is a valid one but the hubris of their actors is programmed in the axioms of their civilization and their worldviews. Science and rationality are not the absolute human way of observation. ... The long list of side-effects that impose themselves to our attention today in Late-Modernity, as a direct consequence of our rational thinking and our scientific practice, threaten indeed not only to kill most of life on earth but also to possibly extinguish the human race from the face of the earth. Even a five year old kid would recognize that such an outcome does not look nor sound like it is coming from a very smart form of knowledge”.
In Late-Modernity the hiding “have all” societal elites push their narratives in the minds of the citizens of the world. When these narratives are the only talk in town, as is now the Case in the US and the EU, people come think of them as being the reality. Citizens of nations where these narratives are in competition with other narratives or simply with the facts come to appreciate the enormity of the lies these narratives are built on. But the whole exercise nevertheless ends up confusing people who wonder where all this leads to?
D. Escaping the confusion and a vision about the future
In “The subconscious at the service of pragmatism” I wrote that “Having lost the societal narrative supplied traditionally by the men of knowledge we are left to surf over a myriad of societal trends to pick the ones we think have real staying power. Reason and conscious thinking offer very little opportunities to point us to trends that are societally valid, meaning they resist time, and if they could teach us something our visual representation of it would end up being scholastic and rigid at best.
Surfing the waves of the ocean of disorder to order is a task for the subconscious or the spirit. A task that is best let to the automatism of the mind. But the automatic pilot of the mind can not navigate what the brain has not been informed about beforehand. By this I mean that, in the absence of a readily supplied societal worldview, the artist has to fill his mind with the richest possible knowledge base from which the autopilot of the mind can freely pick any element that it finds useful to surf the waves of the unknown between disorder and order. Letting the subconscious autopilot navigate the irregularities on the canvas and the paint material is then the richest avenue to meaningful content and also to a rendering form that sits right in the air of our time as Leonardo Da Vinci informed us in his book ‘On painting’ “ (6).
Leonardo Da Vinci was able to peek into the future and he got quite prescient at that. The task in Late-Modernity is to do the equivalent of what Da Vinci did in his time of rupture from the religious worldview. Ours is a time of rupture from Modernity. What lays on the horizon is what comes after Modernity. That horizon is the subject of the real artist.
188.8.131.52. Humanity is confronted with a choice
Writing about the future is fraught to be a highly risky exercise that does not fit well in a scientific framework. In trying to foreshadow the reality of tomorrow I do not strive to attain the truth about that future reality. Such a truth will be given by the advent of reality as it unfolds. What I'm attempting is more limited. I believe indeed that it is possible to define the heavy trends that will shape the future with a fairly high degree of certainty that can be agreed upon by most inquiring open minds. Once those trends are defined nothing refrains us to elaborate a vision about how the individual and societal interplay, within the context of those heavy trends, will play out.
What I mean to say here is that we can define with some certainty the heavy trends of the context of After-Modernity for the good reason that their roots lay in Late-Modernity. But, from the viewpoint of humanity, there is something more essential at play here. Since the future is probabilistic nothing excludes us from participating in shaping its outlook. But make no mistake I’m not suggesting that humanity has the power to determine the future.
I’m suggesting that humanity is one among the many factors whose interactions will determine what the future looks like. In other words in the balancing act, between all the possibilities present at the bifurcation point between the present chaos and the emerging order that will give its true shape to the future, human ideals and visions have the potential to add some weight to the possibility most near to our dreams, ideals, and visions. Our infinitesimally small weight could then possibly make all the difference in the natural selection of a human paradise or a human hell.
But you might be asking what a probabilistic future means?
It simply means that, at the bifurcation point between the present chaos and the future order, a set of possibilities are competing at the game of natural selection.
Each possibility is given by a set of factors that interact among themselves. The actions of humanity are one such a factor and so humanity has some choices to make:
In the mind of the universe (the program of the whole) this would prove without a shred of a doubt that the human species, in its immaturity, is a threat to the principle of life on earth. Wiping out 90% of all living species is one thing that life can eventually deal with but frying the physical context of the earth and by the same token wiping out all living species eventually extinguishes for ever the possibility of life on earth. This is perhaps something that the universe is not ready to accept and that’s why humanity has to be stopped before such an outcome materializes. There is a less anthropomorphizing way to look at this. Simply put the polarities of the universe and of all its sub-sets are permanently balancing themselves. But humanity can not adapt to the balancing nature of this polarity-play and as a result it does not find its niche in the grand ballet of life. In the process it causes not only its own demise but the demise of a rather large segment of all living species. Both visions conclude with the same observation:
It is highly unlikely that we will succeed to materialize such a feat but it is not at all impossible. Most individuals are still blind to what is going on and so our societies continue to be driven by the special interests of the hiding “have all” societal elites. But who is to say that, when the pain inflicted by nature starts to be felt more acutely, populations will not take their destiny into their own hands? Populations imposing a change of course to their corrupted societal institutions that is our only hope. Will this materialize? Only the future will tell. China could be an exception. Benefiting from the historical knowledge acquisition of their nation about the management of large bureaucracies the present enlightened leadership could indeed intensify its present actions to adapt the path of their society to counter the impact of the wrath of nature. The damages will be real but the Chinese nation could eventually survive in an After-Modern form.
We are free to speculate about what should be the interplay between individuals and societies amidst the heavy trends that already are locked in today. My personal approach about the future is at once rigorous (defining the heavy trends shaping the future) and idealist (defining my ideal of the future individual and societal interplay amidst the future that is shaped by those heavy trends). It goes without saying that to be operational this idealist vision has to glue as closely as possible to the future outcome of reality.
The arts must address the choices that humanity is confronted with. Not being able to address these choices would mean that the arts will definitely be marginalized and that other societal forms will need to emerge to fill the traditional functions of the arts.
184.108.40.206. Knowledge in After-Modernity
Whatever “knowings” brain washed ideologues might project about a technological singularity the fact of the matter is that humanity has already locked in many causes that, at the level they have reached presently, will already have innumerable consequences. In other worlds the following impact of the great convergence is already locked in:
If history has taught me something it is that after biological evolution reached a certain threshold knowledge formation has taken over the path forward. Tribal societies were indeed the creations of the animistic men of knowledge. This does not mean that they consciously built up tribes. They had been delegated the function to generate knowledge by the clans and to make this possible they offered their minds to be possessed by spirits. Out of this particular context they observed the rhythms of nature and devised some prime principles that were shared all over the world.
With Modernity the reason at work within capital gave us rationalism and science. These principles were so powerful that life has been shaken to the core globally. But humanity did not have the prescience to manage the sheer madness of the rhythm of change. In other words the displacement of “knowledge” by “knowings” ended up imposing on us the consequences of what we caused in the first place as mentioned here above.
As I indicated in “Book 2. Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge” knowledge is resulting from the specific context of the day and in that sense knowledge is not absolute. Our rapidly changing context in Late-Modernity will continue to transform and will eventually stabilize later on unleashing the new historical era of After-Modernity. As I indicated here above life in the context of After-Modernity shall be radically different than what we know today. From this radically changed context of life human survivors, unconsciously, will be delegating to some among them the task to develop a new and adapted knowledge base. This is how After-Modernity will finally re-connect to knowledge, not in the form of progressive scientific knowings but, in a holistic form that can be shared by all.
The Knowledge of After-Modernity is not going to exclude the technical knowings we might have preserved from Late-Modernity. It will integrate them in a holistic vision of what reality is all about. To render life bearable for the individuals and to generate the necessary cohesion to reproduce the new societal structures such a holistic vision shall necessarily be shared by all. I believe that animism, in its thinking about sets and systems, is going to make a come-back but having said that I don’t know how this holistic vision will be articulated by our descendants.
Such a holistic vision will give the artists good reasons to rediscover what the arts are all about.
5.4.2. The arts in After-Modernity
Whatever the physical and material conditions our descendants will be confronted with the fact of the matter is that our present biological predisposition for beauty, and our cultural need for comfortable interrelations with our fellow humans, will remain intact. The graph of life will furthermore still be in application pointing to a series of polarity-plays that are defining the outcome of life for the individuals, their societies, and the human species as a whole.
We can thus say with certainty that After-Modernity will be built on these foundations and this opens up the perspective for us today to possibly imagine the big lines along which it will emerge and later develop. I venture in what follows here under to sketch such a picture of the future
220.127.116.11. the biological predisposition
As long as life is striving it is not going to lose its memory. The memory of life is like a compass that gives it the parameters of its path to the future. If our species awakens finally to what has to be done to survive the chaos wrought about by Power Societies and by Modernity it will definitely continue to be pushed forward by the memory of life. This push is manifesting itself in our personal subjectivity in the form of intuitions or a sixth sense. We can’t explain where our intuitions come from but we sense that things ought to be as our intuitions order us to do.
Beauty is one such intuition that humanity shares universally. Post-Modern cultural critics may have declared that beauty is out of fashion but life did not follow them. And it seems evident that After-Modernity will lose the memory of these Post-Modern cultural critics in a blink. Under the duress of natural selection and a downsizing of the human place in nature beauty is going to be back to show the road of the future evolutionary path.
18.104.22.168. a societal thirst
Whatever the hardships of the transition from Late-Modernity to After-Modernity may prove to be the fact of the matter is that as long as human babies continue to be born they will need care-takers with whom they’ll entertain baby-talk and dabble in the practice of playing with the raw ingredients of aesthetics all the while learning the joy of comfortable and warm social interrelations.
The memory of that joy is thus guaranteed to remain in the minds of citizens for ever and they will thus shout out for After-Modernity to satisfy their thirst for the that joy. The men of knowledge of After-Modernity are thus bound to find ways to satisfy their fellow citizens as a means to increase societal cohesion to levels deemed sufficient to guarantee the reproduction of the new societal forms over the next generations.
The men of knowledge will thus have to rediscover that the only possible ways to satisfy their fellow citizens is by building up the levels of trust between them all. And to build up such a general trust they will have to build up their own knowledge in order to find the material to narrate holistic stories about what reality is all about and how humans fit in that picture.
22.214.171.124. The principle of life
Modernity has created a mechanistic vision of the working of reality that does not fit well with the factual reality. That vision has worked for a short time but its end is near. Here follow 2 graphs that I gave in “Chapter 2. About the formation of consciousness” as illustration of humanity’s place in the universal reality.
Life in its context
I wrote the following about the context of life, in “2. About the formation of consciousness”: “This graph illustrates the idea that the context defines what is possible and what is not possible in terms of life. Life is possible on earth not because we individuals want it to be so. Life on earth is possible first and foremost because the earth's carbon chemistry and abundance of water allowed for the principle of life to emerge in the first place. Then the earth atmosphere and its climate offer a given bandwidth of life sustainability. To its chagrin my species is starting to discover that its bandwidth of life sustainability is quite narrow indeed.
The fact is that the context is what defines the limits of the possible and the impossible for life. Life did not emerge out of nothing. It emerged out of a given context and it pursues its path in a given bandwidth of sustainability within that same context. But power societies, and more particularly Modernity, have distracted humanity from what really matters to the principle of life”.
The principle of life
In “2. About the formation of consciousness” I mentioned the following about this graph: “The dynamic interactions between ‘the polarities of the principle of life’ and ‘the polarities of the body-mind principle’ are animating the cycle of life. These interactions are the substance of life and they invalidate the individualistic and egotistic values and ideas that power societies have gradually imposed on humanity and Modernity has consecrated so thoroughly to the level of religious principles
When the body-mind principle is balanced we have what we call a state of 'health' and when the body-mind principle is out of balance we have what is called a state of 'sickness'. In the case of the body-mind principle health and sickness relate to the body as well as the mind of the individuals. The same mechanism is at work with the principle of life. When the first principles of life (reproduction / increased complexity) are in balance we have what we call a state of 'health' and when the first principles of life are out of balance we have what we call a state of 'sickness'. In the case of the principle of life health and sickness relate to the body as well as the mind of societies or the species itself”.
We observe a set of crisis plaguing Late-Modernity. Among these the following 6 stand out in decisively:
Each of these crisis taken on itself has the capacity to destabilize societies on a worldwide scale. But there is infinitely worse. These crisis are converging and a dynamical situation ensues by which they interact upon each other and multiply their individual impact. Scientists barely understand the mechanisms of each isolated crisis but the impact of their convergence is simply out of our knowing.
What we know is that things are not evolving on a straight line forward as they have been over the last few hundred years. We are on the verge of a rupture of the complex systems that sustain life on earth and also of the systems that sustain our societies.
What this means is that nature takes back the control and to survive species, societies and individuals will have to adapt to the new context by rediscovering the principles of life that humanity so easily forgot.
126.96.36.199. the new worldview of After-Modernity
As I have argued, in the Introduction of Book 2 and in 1.1. the context , the reality of the game in which we are such insignificant particles is inaccessible to humanity. The best we can do is to try to give approximations of what the universe is all about and then try to give an approximation of our place in that initial approximation.
To some the situation may seem hopeless. But as I have indicated in my conclusions about “the formation of human knowledge” the only form of knowledge that counts at the societal level is pragmatism. By this I mean that knowledge has to be able to help people organize a better daily life for themselves and their families. And I concluded that if knowledge does not pass that test it is societally worthless.
This will be particularly true during the chaotic transition from Late-Modernity to After-Modernity and then later while After-Modernity stabilizes an impression of normality. Amidst the coming hardships words and big theories will not have any attractive power. What will count are facts and the most important facts will relate to survival.
What I mean to say here is that the worldview shared in After-Modernity shall by necessity be steeped in hard facts like:
So the great paradigm shift between now and then shall relate to the necessity to survive and in the process all ideologies shall end up in the garbage box. The shock between now and then is guaranteed to take gigantic proportions and only well balanced minds will come out intact. What all this means is what I tried to lay out in the different chapters of this book 2: about the formation of knowledge, about the formation of consciousness, about the evolution of worldviews, about societal governance and about the arts. I have tried to stay clear of ideologies and tried to surf exclusively on facts and the facts indicate that some basic principles are at work that should be observed.
In summary the narrative of the worldview of After-Modernity shall necessarily talk about an approximation of reality that:
188.8.131.52. the arts in After-Modernity
Amidst the chaos and the resulting growing hardships in peoples daily lives the arts during After-Modernity will be forced to reconnect with their traditional function:
In depicting the worldview of After-Modernity the arts will thus have to paint a tableau representing:
Such a tableau could be as vast as the universe itself and it could be constantly changing. It could also be as small as one atom composing the dress of one individual particle of a given society. The range of images possible is thus infinite. But what will count above all else, during After-Modernity, is that the detail depicted in a work represents or suggests the organic nature of the whole universe… Life will re-impose such an expected meaning to the men of knowledge in After-Modernity and works of art will be in charge to share such a meaning with all.
The style of execution will always remain relative to the context a work is produced in. This means that Tolstoy’s principle remains valid. The style of a work of art is the tactical principle that primarily has to attract as many eyeballs as possible and more important, strategically, it has to encourage the transmission of the projected meaning into the minds of the viewers. So the quantity of attracted viewers is important but the most important is the quantity of minds that have been inseminated with the meaning of the work.
The quality of After-Modernity shall hang in the hands of its men of knowledge and its image makers and the success of its image makers will depend on their comprehension of:
1. see “2.2. The vanishing of the men of knowledge”
2. see “2.3. High modernity and the questioning by artists of the modern paradigm of reality”
3. Linh Dinh in "Postcards from the End of America". July 19, 2015
4. From an interview of Marcel Duchamp with James Johnson Sweeney: “Painting at the service of the mind” in “11 Europeans in America”. Bulletin of Modern art; XIII, n# 4-5. 1946. Cited in Herschel B. Chipp’s “Theories of Modern Art”. University of California Press.
5. see “Book 1. 2.6. Power in Late-Modernity and financialization of the arts”
6. Leonardo Da Vinci informed us in his book ‘On painting’ (Nota Bene Books. Yale University Press Publications) that there are ways to “enhance and arouse the mind to various inventions” and that “… science is most useful whose fruits are more communicable , and thus conversely that which is less communicable is less useful. The end results of painting are communicable to all the generations in the universe, because its results are a matter of the visual faculty”.