My comments, from 2013-09-15 to 2013-12-17, on the threat "Art Free for All" created by Fry Karins in the Group ART Professionals Worldwide on LinkedIn.
About the use and abuse of the word "art".
- the word "art" is a creation of Early-Modernity. That notion was absent in earlier times and it was also absent out of Western Europe!
- in early modernity visual signs were considered bestowing on new rich merchants the prestige of the sacred that history had consecrated over centuries of adherence to a religious worldview.
- visual signs were considered illustrating the new values of Modernity (emerging worldview)
- visual signs were considered luxurious interior decoration products (Early-Modern economics related to the commerce of luxury goods)
How did the word "art" emerge historically?
1. For tens of thousands, some say hundreds of thousands of years under animism, Shaman were executing visual signs of their exploration of reality to share with their fellow tribesmen (cohesion building)
2. For a couple of thousands years image crafters executed visual signs of the church's worldview for all to share.
Those signs were considered:
- communicational instruments in the relationship between the clergy and its flock (cohesion building)
- sacred objects of the cult
- executed by craftsmen who belonged to the lowest social strata of the time
It was considered a sacrilege to steal or desecrate a religious visual sign and the religious punishment of a sacrilege was given in the form of "being burned at the stake". So one understand how "sacred" and "sacrilege" were so deeply ingrained.
3. For a couple hundreds of years under Early-Modernity artists depicted "the 3 obliged visual signs" of the values of the new rich merchants: landscapes around the mansions, portraits of those living in the mansions and stills of what lay on the tables in the mansions.
3.1. The real motivation for the demand of visual signs by the new rich merchants related to the reverence such visual signs had acquired over the centuries through fear of Christian totalitarianism. Visual signs of the creed had indeed acquired the character of the sacred or the divine. Let us for a moment imagine what a prestige the proud owners were sensing or thinking they were gaining through the decoration of their walls with works of the sort that had for centuries been the exclusive privilege of that absolute and feared religious power: sacred works whose sacrality they intimately believed would transfer their new values in their newly commissioned visual signs.
3.2. Craftsmen of low social standing were recruited to execute those visual renderings.
3.3. At the time image crafters were like bound to the church so going over to the enemy was considered an act of treason that could have serious repercussions for the crafter and his family. The only way to counter that risk, or so it was thought, was through a sufficiently high remuneration that immediately enhanced the social status of the image crafter. Thus was born the age of art and its artists...
The German art historian Hans Belting published a very interesting book "Likeness and Presence" tracing the history of religious images in the Christian West from late Roman times until about A.D. 1400. The subtitle of his book “A history of the Image before the Era of Art” says it all.
By the time High-Modernity was at its zenith the word art was applied to all visual productions depicting a worldview (primitive art/animism, religious art/religion, the art of reason/Modernity and later whatever is art/postmodernity).
Reason during the first 4-5 centuries of Early-Modernity was not rationalism. It was "the reason of capital" that was adhered to by the long distance traders. Those merchants projected indeed in the eyes of their contemporaries the idea that riches and material possessions were a direct result of their adherence to "the reason of capital".
Over the centuries envy built-up to a paroxysm and the reason of "the reason of capital" has, like in a natural process, been built in the reason of all things and more particularly in the reason of the philosophers... thus rationalism's emergence to be followed by the scientific method.
Having forgotten what the word "art" covered historically we have by now made a monster of "exceptionalism" about it. That, in the last instance, is what handicaps our possible understanding of "what is art all about".
My personal take is that we have to let go the word "art". The word stinks. It stinks an ideology that today in Late-Modernity appears to be responsible for all the interacting side-effects of Modernity that will cause its demise as a historical area. For some my words will be difficult to swallow. But for those who "see" the enormity of what is going on around the world nowadays my words will eventually make sense. "What comes after Modernity" is an age of deep trauma and suffering that societies will struggle to overcome as well as they can and visual signs shall unmistakably be an instrument of choice in that struggle.
The short period of Modernism represented at best 0.01% of the timespan of visual creation along the whole history of the human species.
Do you really think that what happened during that short 0.01% of our history has any chance to become the norm going forward or was it only an aberration?
Whatever you think about the future: the optimists' view of a singularity or the pessimists' view of collapse both conclude in, at best the demise of Modernity, at worst the extinction of the human species. Where does that leave the vision of art as practiced during the last 0.01% of the whole span of our history?
Answer to Titus:
"An artwork is alive when it develops organically in directions unknown beforehand, during its execution.
An artwork is dead when all the parameters of the work have been established before starting execution, and when the artist doesn't deviate from those parameters".
I wholeheartedly agree with your words.
On the surface we appeared to disagree in an earlier exchange. But after thinking for some time about what you wrote (this question of having the subject figured out before the execution starts) I concluded that maybe our disagreement is not a disagreement after all. Let me explain.
I did not come to the unconscious in creation through surrealism. I went reading surrealist theory after I was on that path already. In my case what brought me to the unconscious was Chinese "Xieyi painting".
- the craft was part of the Confucian education curriculum for the last 2000 years
- the craft was considered an extension of Chinese traditional philosophy as was music, medicine, social behavior, societal organization and so on
- the craft was executed by scholars (the mandarins)
- the craft is best described by the aphorism "writing down the meaning" and the meaning is given through the philosophical understanding of the working of reality (polarism and change).
- the craft is practiced in stages: long period of observation/meditation followed by very short bursts of creation by following one's unconscious totally freed of will or want or anything of the sort.
My approach differs from Xieyi in that I don't observe something that the eyes can see as was traditionally practiced. I observe something the mind can eventually "see" following its exploration of both philosophic wisdom and scientific "knowings". As such what I represent are not mountains or trees or flowers or people but abstract mindscapes that are like unconscious extensions of my meditation/observation. My subject is thus known in my mind before I start a work. My execution differs from Xieyi in that Xieyi in my work is only the first burst of the unconscious that I follow up in later stages with Gongbi style technical execution. At each of those stages the work's execution "...develops organically in directions unknown beforehand".
Answer to Reneta
"All innovative, creative images are art, as well as composed music, dance, achitecture designs and modern photography. Art is an old word or it would not be in an old language - latin - ARS".
The Online Ethimology Dictionary (OED) gives the following definition:
early 13c., "skill as a result of learning or practice," from Old French art (10c.), from Latin artem (nominative ars) "work of art; practical skill; a business, craft," from PIE *ar-ti- (cf. Sanskrit rtih "manner, mode;" Greek arti "just," artios "complete, suitable," artizein "to prepare;" Latin artus "joint;" Armenian arnam "make;" German art "manner, mode"), from root *ar- "fit together, join" .
In summary: art as the skill in the execution of a craft. ...and painters, for example, were considered image crafters and not artists. </story>. (Paul this is a good visual sign from the mind)
Dictionary.com shows an interesting evolution of the meaning in "artless":
1580s, "unskillful," from art (n.). Later also "uncultured" (1590s); then "unartificial, natural" (1670s) and "guileless, ingenuous" (1714).
After integrating the definition of the opposite of "artless" we get something like this:
- from "art as the skill in the execution of a craft" which can also be understood as the "techne" or the mastery
- to "art as the culture expressed in the execution of a craft"
- to "an artificial, unnatural representation"
- to "trick, artifice, manipulation in the execution of a craft"
- by 1890 "art" evolves into "the execution of a craft 'produced with conscious artistry as opposed to popular or folk' " according to the OED.
Joining this to the content of my last comment on the emergence of the Modern notion of "art" we can visualize how "art" evolved into "exceptionalism"...
Answer to Paul:
"Political “art” is not art because it has a function, a purpose that it’s serving – therefore it’s a craft. "
Let's fall the word political for now. You mean to say that the difference between a craft and art is that a craft has a function while art has no function.
About crafts, yes, they have always had a utilitarian function. But what about your statement about art?
- looked at through the prism of history art has had a utilitarian function till as late as Modernism: the visual representation of the worldview of the men of knowledge for all to share. Its utilitarian function was to enhance societal cohesion.
- modernism consecrates the individual subjectivity of the craftsman who thus transforms into the artist whose product over the following decades loses any trace of functionality. In the process the artist transforms into the magician of High Culture.
- having lost the trace of anything to say about what reality is all about, following the 2nd WW, art becomes the pray of "financialization" and propaganda.
- following the 2nd WW art is viewed as the top production of High-Culture
* the productions of the "NY school" focus on "the expression of feelings" while rejecting the idea of content. Those productions were largely rejected at the time by the public as being outrageous but they nevertheless attracted large inputs of cash by the CIA and the State Department. Some bright PR guys thought indeed that the void of content of such outrageous formalism was the ideal material to enhance the image of the US as the bearer of the flag of freedom.
*The US won that PR game. New York transformed into the headquarters of the world's art market. A decade later the test of financialization in the art market would become the model for the whole economy.
Now back to the political in art.
- socialist realism was the conscious expression of political slogans. No place left there for the unconscious and the works appeared stale, rigid and whatever you want even if their technical execution was often flawless. It was as if political slogans were directly forced down your throat.
- in contrast the productions of the NY school had no message at all and their content would thus not be controversial. At best they would touch the feelings of the spectators (positively or negatively). In marketing terms they were an ideal material to spread widely around and the outrageousness of their form became the best argument to convince the world about America's freedom exceptionalism.
So the NY school's productions have had a function after all. The lesson here, if there is one, is that art does not exist in a void.
- Modern art was cia weapon <br>
- Cultural Cold War World Letters <br>
- How the CIA spent secret millions turning modern art into a cold war arsenal <br>
- Exclusive the paris review the cold war and the cia
Answer to Titus:
"Personally, I don't think it is possible to go back to a mentality that would make art have a function again, for the simple reason that humans are pragmatic and will try to use the most effective means to achieve their social, political and economic goals. "
Your vision of the future is like a straight line projection of the present. If you are right then yes the individuals will enhance their knowledge, consciousness, and sense of responsibility and this will ensure the reproduction of societies. This is the idealist vision of Modernity that was the myth shared in sixties. Things have changed since then...
The observed side-effects of Modernity are such that it is already a certainty that the future shall not be a straight line projection of the present. It's with that knowledge in mind that I believe the traditional function of art will make a comeback; by necessity for the survival of the species.
In my view the Modern, contemporary, view about art is a historical aberration.
Concerning your comment about propaganda I have an article about that titled "Worldviews versus propaganda or art versus advertisement"
Answer to Paul:
"I’ve also seen what I feel are unsuccessful artworks – where I feel the problem is that they were idea-driven. I just find it usually doesn’t work. A work becomes heavy with a meaning it was built to convey – and it loses that lightness and playfulness I feel every work of art should have".
I think what you call "idea-driven" is more akin to ideas pushed through a "conscious process". What I referred to earlier as the rigidity, the stiffness that reflects the conscious process. Ideas are never absent. There is no switch to stop the mind or to start it. That we want it or not, the fact is that the mind just works non stop, at different levels, in our conscious and unconscious states and even during our sleep.
The unconscious creative process I, and Titus, wrote about is what reflects the "lightness and playfulness" you mention. This unconscious "production process" does not mean extraction of the "thought process". It's just that one let's the thoughts grow like organically throughout the production.
Answer to Paul:
"This esthetic sense is only "unidentifiable" verbally. It's as clear to me as any feelings I might have. That is, I can identify to myself, when it's working, what it comes up with. It's as real to me as my sense of taste. It *is* my sense of taste. How can that be explained? "
I agree with you here. We all seem to prefer "cuisine food" to "fast food" and if asked to explain why we all can come up with a convincing explanation. But when it comes to what we call art it seems we all are turning around in circles without being able to put our finger on what really matters.
You personally seem to be carried away by the aesthetic side of the work. But this is no more than a reflection of the work's form. If form is important to attract eyeballs what is really the substance of the work of art is its content. Or to go back to your quote of Maritain: "Since art is a virtue of the intellect, it demands to communicate with the entire universe of the intellect. Hence it is that the normal climate of art is intelligence and knowledge: its normal soil, the civilized heritage of a consistent and integrated system of beliefs and values;". Yes the knowledge that gives human societies their system of belief and values is the substance of artworks (worldview).
For now let's observe that this sense of "taste" you speak about is shared by others, not only in our cultural, or civilizational environment, but everywhere on earth and at any time. But where does it come from? You write: "It's as if the aesthetic sense were a sixth or seventh sense - that detects something being right about a work, without us consciously aware of exactly what it is that is right. As if we can sense something - that's out of conscious view".
Yes. But this observation is nevertheless unsatisfying. There must be a reason why this sense of "taste" is universally shared. I agree with you that until now not one explanation is really satisfying. But that does not preclude the possibility of a satisfying explanation. Biologists, more particularly those guys who specialize in biological evolution, think that beauty relates to pleasure as sex and food do. We know that pleasure in sex relates to the species' necessity to reproduce and food to the necessity of the individual's reproduction.
But what about the necessity answered to by beauty? As I already explained earlier my personal take is that life's evolutionary path is littered with successful evolutionary "forms" that trace patterns that are encoded in the memory of our DNA-RNA and those patterns are then guiding our strategic choices throughout our lives. We also seem to have the ability to train our sensitivity to those patterns. Kids seem to have an innate feel of that sensitivity unfortunately the process of socialization often destroys it later. But this innate feel has the potential to grow as shown by some artists and art lovers' sensitivity to the esthetic which grows along with their practice.
Answer to Krista:
"Art is always within and about the human condition -- it does not exist unless humans make it and perpetuate mental constructs for it. "
Yes this is how we have been thinking all along.
But we humans are animals is it not?
I just wanted to mention that the following questions are now being raised by those guys studying other animals than humans: "do they speak to each other implying do they have their own languages?", "are they able to reason?", "do they feel pain and pleasure?", "are they being attracted to beauty?", "do they practice arts?".
Surprisingly or not their answers are not any longer the categorical no of yesteryear. Some yesses are even been uttered... which remembers me of this video of elephant paintings shown in a London gallery recently without the viewers being in the know. The most amazing was their reactions after being told these were contemporary paintings realized in Thailand by elephants. (unfortunately I did not bookmark the link)
Quote from the presentation of a debate about "The Survival of the Beautiful" by THE NEW YORK INSTITUTE FOR THE HUMANITIES:
"... the parallels in what gets preferred at different levels of life suggest that nature may in fact favor certain kinds of patterns over others. Visually, the symmetrical; colorwise, the contrasting and gaudy; displaywise, the gallant and extreme. Soundwise, the strong contrast between low note and high, between fast rhythm and the long clear tone. For that matter, plenty of beauty in nature would seem to arise for reasons other than mere sexual selection: for example, the mysterious inscriptions on the backs of seashells; the compounding geometric symmetries of microscopic diatoms; or the live patterns pulsating across the bodies of octopus and squid.
Humans see such things and find them astonishingly beautiful: are we wrong to experience Nature in such terms?
Far greater than our grandest edifices and epic tales, Nature itself nevertheless seems entirely without purposeful self-consciousness or self-awareness. Meanwhile, though we ourselves are as nothing compared to it, we still seem possessed of a parallel need to create. So: can we in fact create our way into better understanding of the role of beauty in the vast natural world? "
I'm not sure about that one: "...,Nature itself nevertheless seems entirely without purposeful self-consciousness or self-awareness"
* Survival of the Beautiful. Scientists and Artists Ponder the Aesthetics of Evolution.
* Survival of the Beautiful. a recent book by David Rothenberg
- videos of the presentations at the debate about "The Survival of the Beautiful"
Answer to Michael:
"How does DNA-RNA factually guide our strategic choices throughout out lives? "
This is a question that has not received a satisfactory scientific answer until now. In other words this is still a hypothesis awaiting confirmation and verifiability. But this does not imply that the hypothesis does not make sense. In other words the scientific process is not only about verifiability. It is first and foremost about the creation of a valid hypothesis; valid in the sense that it is sensical and as long as it makes better sense of a phenomenon than another hypothesis it remains the preferred one for the scientific community.
The DNA-RNA path of explanation of how beauty operates is no more than a contemporary knowledge lens on what in other times had been conceived of in philosophic terms.
I'm referring here to Buddhist teachings but more particularly (because I'm more familiar with them) Taoist teachings that equate beauty with "the way". "The way" is how Chinese traditional philosophy refers to the way things operate or the way of nature or how "the way" of water for example is to flow downwards... So beauty in one's life, in the philosophic sense, relates to one "following the way" and not "being the way" as I read here some time earlier but simply following the way or being in sync with "the way". By extension in painting or calligraphy beauty is also "the following of the way" in "rendering the meaning down".
Both the scientific and the philosophic approaches are valid in that they contribute to the advancement of human knowledge about "what reality is all about".
But the context in which these approaches are enunciated will eventually leave them defenceless. For example if enunciated in a modern environment the philosophic approach will most generally generate opprobrium because modern societies consider themselves rational even if they are only rational in terms of the returns on the invested capital and not in terms of the impact on the principle of life. Seen that Modernity has swarmed the whole world the scientific approach is generally well received anywhere nowadays at the exception of some places of cult.
Answer to GianCarlo:
"Inside this strict prescriptive cage, contemplation of an artwork means only intellectual pleasure(?), desire and agreeability are condemned as moral sins, Aesthetics becomes " the kingdom of pure philosophical reflection on ethereal beauty" and art something separated from the real world as 'spiritual' activity(?). "
Contrarily to popular belief beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but is something real, something objective that when present overwhelms the senses of the viewer. That's why I feel attracted by a biological explanation. And, to my knowledge, science is now reaching the point where a biological theory of beauty is in order.
Having read and re-read Kandinsky's "CONCERNING THE SPIRITUAL IN ART" I'm convinced that in the absence of a valid biological explanation the historical recourse to spiritualism was an adequate formulation and I'm certain that if Kandinsky could participate in this discussion he would readily agree with such a statement. To quote GianCarlo "Aesthetics remains still, to quote Hegel, one expression of Objective Spirit..." only the objective spirit, now we know, is in our biology.
This notion of beauty through the senses was also the focus of Xieyi painting. The painter starts with observation/meditation and when the Tao of the subject of his painting, or "the way" of the subject, is well internalized the painter lets his unconscious play on the paper in very short bursts of a few seconds or minutes at most. This process was repeated till that one essay... the one that reaches perfection. This essay was the only piece retained, in our Modern Western way of looking at art, this was the artwork and all the other essays were burned.
"what we need today is to come back to pristine aesthetic intention" these words could as well be reading: "we must rediscover the pure innocence of little children". Children have this innate feel for play and beauty that adults are racing to erase as fast as they can through socialization and fear. So yes I agree, a pristine aesthetic intention, is a necessity for a visual sign to click in the mind of the observer.
In other words I feel that the form of an artwork has necessarily to be beautiful to attract the senses of the viewer. It's kind of a tactical necessity for the content of a work to reach eyeballs or as Baumgarten was putting it: "The aim of aesthetics is the perfection of sensible cognition".
Now Baumgarten went further than this idea of a beautiful form. He had also this idea of 3 domains where beauty is at play in a work of art:
- “the harmony of thoughts" or the content of a work that brings pleasure to the mind
- “the harmony of composition” or a form that pleasures the senses
- “the harmony of signage” or an execution in sync with the times that thus pleasures the mind and the senses
Answer to Krista:
" I think beauty is overrated as essential even if we are programmed to respond to it."
I understand what you mean. Beauty for the sake of beauty is a dead end indeed. I prefer to think about the "tactical necessity" to envelop the content of a work in beautiful clothes in order to gain access to what is the strategic goal of an art work which is to attract eyeballs. In other words does the work click in the mind of the observer.
That being said the content or the narrative is central to art, being it, in its visual form or in music or in literature. But to avoid any confusion I have to add that narrative does not equate with "realism" or a straightforward idea or story. I personally see no difference between abstraction and realism it's only a question of "from where you look at things" (from inside or from outside).
I'm not speaking about abstraction in the sense of Mondrian's tree series (or is it Klee; I forgot). But more in the sense of zooming on something with a microscope and discovering that same thing at another level or another dimension. The representation of that thing from the outside being the realist, or at least a first dimension representation (what modernism rejected), while the zooming would appear as an abstraction or a representation, at a deeper level, of another dimension of the same observed. The only interesting thing here, from the perspective of the artist, is what form of representation has the highest impact.
Now combine all this with this idea, that Titus, Paul and I spoke about earlier, of letting loose the unconscious in an organically growing production and the big picture emerges of a work graced with a touch of lightness and the dance of life.
Answer to Krista:
"Thomas, I find the repetition, tedium, and lack of insight more annoying than anything the right might say about it".
I understand what you mean here Krista but... Thomas was atempting to attract our attention to something rather different: "Little do they know that all the tiny freedoms of self-expression they find so important will end up creating the very wolves that will devour them. Fools. I will not pity them when that time comes. And it is ALREADY visible over the horizon. Let those who have eyes see".
Nazism and the 2nd WW were preceded by German Expressionism. Those guys had their eyes wide open on the realities of their time and, at the risk of much trouble, they took a stand through their visual works against the changes that were coming.
To put it lightly; following this thread painfully exposes the divorce between contemporary artistic thought (superficiality) and the societal reality that is coming our way (complete manipulation and brute force).
Where is the expression of the contemporary consciousness about the societal horror story that comes our way? Has artistic sensitivity to the working of reality been so completely anesthesized already by the beast?
A personal comment:
Late-Modernity is a period of confusion and it seems to me that the only valid approach to clarify things is through the historical lens. But we first have to agree on the premise that what we call art today is a creation of Early-Modernity (before the Renaissance). The best introduction to that premise I know about is: Hans Belting. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art.
We all can agree on the fact that what we call art today has nevertheless accompanied humanity as far back as our eyes can see, albeit called other names. This is not a question of dating it's more like a question of sizing quantities of time marking stages of societal evolution and what happened during those ages. However you look at it the fact is that before 1900 what we call art was always related to knowledge: the image crafter illustrating the worldview of the men of knowledge of their time (animism, religion, modernity) and yes, Christine, the men of knowledge got their imprimatur from the men of power. Rejecting that fact because it is not comforting our Late-Modern senses is an intellectual dead-end.
High-Modernity coincides with mass-production for mass-consumption and the process is being facilitated by science and technology (they are not neutral indeed they function because of financing by the capital holders). This stage of economic development needs the availability, on the part of the consumer, of the freedom to chose. For reasons that are particular to the nearly 1000 years of redistribution of power between the 3 estates in Europe this notion of economic freedom has been expanded to the political realm and in the process power lost its power of imprimatur. That means that knowledge henceforth would be left to the appreciation of the market and that the men of knowledge would thus be left to fend for eyeballs on the level playing field of the market for ideas where they have now to compete with all kinds of charlatans.
This loss of certainty in "who" are the men of knowledge that accompanies High-Modernity will directly impact the emergence of Modernism. The Zeitgeist of High-Modernity implants in each individual's mind the notions of freedom, me me me, and so on. No surprise then that the avant-garde thus wanted to reject all past certainties and wanted to find a deeper understanding of reality than the first dimension of what the eyes can see. But what is most often forgotten is that artists have never been trained to use their brains. They are being trained till this very day to use an instrument (a pen, a brush and now a computer). So how could artists possibly discover that deeper meaning about reality they were after? It was simply impossible.
What the avant-grade was after was to replace the men of knowledge who had disappeared on the level playing field of the market for ideas and create by themselves the knowledge that they would then illustrate for all to see. The adventure, we now all know, ended in utter confusion. This is the very confusion we are trying to extract ourselves from today in Late-Modernity. But there is no way that we possibly could extract ourselves from our given societal reality. What I mean to say here is that our thinking will not per miracle change the reality it is the reality that will change our thinking.
Seen the interacting side-effects of Modernity that scientists in the different fields of specialty assure us will unleash what Thomas calls "the imminent natural catastrophe that looms over us all"; it is a lot more probable that a new societal reality will impose itself to all of us and in the process will drive us back to the traditional ways of what we call art: content given by the men of knowledge represented by image crafters in an attractive form (beauty) so as to attract a maximum of eyeballs in order to strengthen the cohesion of societies on the brink.
In light of this presentation the real question that interests me is how can artists meaningfully surf on the waves of "the way" forward to After-Modernity. This is something that the ego has no handle on. It is more like it is a necessity to throw the ego, "want", "will" and all its other characters to the dustbin in order to free oneself from the ideological blinders of Modernity and open oneself to "the way" towards what comes in "After-Modernity".
Answer to Fiona:
You sing a tune that is very much in harmony with "The End of History" by Francis Fukuyama.
That notion that "There's no succession" left to modernity, or the western version of it, has been debunked quite convincingly since the Great Economic Depression that started in the states in 2008 and then engulfed the whole Western world.
Art and culture are not breathing thin air. They are expressions of a broader reality that is founded on the economic output of society. In other words art and culture are breathing the comfort or the power procured by wealth (the accumulation of means of exchange) and also the worldview of the time (what Leotard calls "master narratives").
Concerning the Western worldview, yes, it dissolved on the level playing field of the market for ideas... and as a result Western societies atomized and we are left with "me me me" who thinks he knows the truth about everything.
Concerning Western wealth accumulation; the least we can say is that it is rapidly collapsing as a share of the world's total wealth.
This should give us some clues as to why the beating heart of the art market is now being heard on Chinese shores.
The last decades' expansion of Modernity to the whole world has brought about a re-balancing of economic power that foreshadows the transfer of US centrality in the economy-world to China or North-East Asia. Modernity has seen a succession of such transfers: from the Italian city States, to Bruges, then Antwerp, then Amsterdam, then London, then NYC and coming soon to Beijing. The history of art along Modernity is nothing more than a succession of moments when artists operated in the economic center of their time; Paris being the exception when London was at the heart of the economy-world.
As I was writing in my last post "our thinking will not per miracle change the reality it is the reality that will change our thinking". In this regard the transfer of centrality of the economy-world from the US to North-East Asia, as earth shattering as it is, constitutes no more than a fluctuation within Modernity. If the changes awaiting us were no more than that they would be earth-shattering for sure but they would be digestible for our societies.
Notwithstanding what I just said such a displacement of the centrality of the economy-world, in the medium term, is going to directly impact daily culture and the arts. But what is slowly brewing and bound to hit us in the face, just after that, is a whole other ballgame.
Modernity has afflicted us with a series of side-effects whose interactions are threatening not only the floundering of our societies but the collapse of our civilizations; some scientists go so far as projecting the possible extinction of our species! Who are we, "me me me", to pretend knowing better than what respected scientists are telling us?
So what are those side-effects:
- peak resources: all resources on earth are finite. Over the last 2 centuries the West who represents barely 10% of the world population has consumed the low hanging fruits of all resources and the expansion of Modernity to the whole world is now rapidly attaining the peak of all those resources. As an example: cheap fossil energy has powered the industrialization of the West and now that the rest of the world starts to industrialize demand increases but production peaks and can't any longer satisfy the global demand. As a result prices shoot to the stratosphere...
- climate change is a direct result of burning fossil fuels that discharge CO2 in the atmosphere. The expansion of Modernity to the rest of the world is drastically increasing those emissions and climate scientists now forecast increases of global temperatures that will provoke sea levels to rise to the point where most of the power islands of Modernity could be submerged sometime during the present century: NYC, LA, SF, Amsterdam, London, Shanghai, Tsingdao, Tianjin, HongKong, Tokyo, and so on and on and on.
- the 6th great extinction of flora and fauna is fragilizing the principle of life. Forests are being eliminated to expand grazing and the supply of meat but they are the longs of our earth absorbing CO2 and generating oxygen! The oceans are our garbage dumps and due to C02 absorption are fast acidifying thus gradually eliminating the possibility of marine life!
Those side-effects and their interactions are being paralleled by what results from the combination of capital and science; multiple potential singularities are in the making that will leave us the witnesses of processes totally out of human control: artificial intelligence, god's genetic dice, terraforming and so on and on...
What I mean to show here is that the societal reality we are accustomed to is going down (economy, culture, art, and all other systems,...). The near future is going to generate radically different societal realities.
Artists, who we are told are the most sensitive among all, should be the first to try to grasp what this maelstrom entails for our societies and for the human species. All the rest is futility!
Answer to Paul:
"... you write as if you feel we're in control of any of the forces shaping us (and by "us" I mean us species, not only us humans.) "
I stated no more than the obvious reality that is taking shape in front of our eyes and I tried to give a detached presentation without any trace of my own subjectivity.
1. the center of gravity of Modernity is shifting away from the US towards North-East Asia and more particularly China. About this I concluded that as "earth shattering as it is, it constitutes no more than a fluctuation within Modernity". I also added that the changes awaiting us would be digestible for our societies but "such a displacement of the centrality of the economy-world, in the medium term, is going to directly impact daily culture and the arts".
Seriously; is this contested by anyone with a brain?
2. the side effects of Modernity and the singularities in the making are bound to end Modernity and under necessity other societal forms with their adapted worldviews will emerge. You state that "Your doomsday view seems to be a choice to me, and I wonder why you choose to see that, to see it that way." I know that the US, as a society, has difficulties to recognize realities: from evolution, to climate change to peak resources and... Fortunately Europe, China, India, and many other countries around this world have no second thoughts about the near unanimous consensus of the scientific community and are thus moving forward often to the astonishment and incomprehension of US pundits.
What I was saying in my last post was that "...the societal reality we are accustomed to is going down (economy, culture, art, and all other systems,...). The near future is going to generate radically different societal realities.
Artists, who we are told are the most sensitive among all, should be the first to try to grasp what this maelstrom entails for our societies and for the human species. All the rest is futility! "
This is not a doomsday scenario. This is a fact in the making that is coming to be recognized by a growing proportion of scientists, intellectuals, and artists around the world. Even the eternally optimistic Kurzweil whose "law of accelerating returns" promises a solution to everything was recently backtracking.
Nowhere do I imply here that "we're in control of any of the forces shaping" the societal reality around us. I just state the obvious and that is that "the societal reality we are accustomed to is going down... The near future is going to generate radically different societal realities".
Not being in control of a process does not mean that we can't try to understand it. It also does not imply that we are limited to "...watch, with our mouths open with awe and wonder, at what's going on here".
What I posit is just that we should try to grasp (understand) what is going on and where this all leads our societies and us their atoms. I really feel that the Modernist quest for a deeper meaning ends up taking its real significance today a century after its pronouncement.
Answer to Michael:
What Prygogine says there is the evidence.
"What is" is nothing more than what we make emerge in the present. It is the simple recognition that if we have ideals or visions about the future we will automatically act according to them (consciously and/or unconsciously) and thus shape our present in their image. This also implies that if we don't have any ideals or visions we'll automatically accept as our present whatever is being imposed on us.
We have a choice indeed.
When Lao Tze speaks to us about "Wou Wei" (non-action) that does not mean sit still and accept whatever comes. It means not act against but follow "the way". "The way" offers many possibilities for our picking. But we can't see them if our mind is empty of visions and ideals about the future.
This question relates very much to the creative act. If our minds are filled with knowledge, with ideals and visions, the creative act will flow without hesitation and restraint as water pouring down the slopes.
Answer to Paul:
It was a pleasure following your thoughts as laid out in your last few posts.
What is implied in those thoughts is that:
- reality is unattainable so we'll never be without unknowns to study
- different possible approaches to unlock the mysteries of reality: logic and reproducibility of hypotheses in science and esthetics in the arts
- scientists and artists use their creativity and imagination to unlock newly discovered unknowns with the hope to broaden the sphere of the human understanding about reality
You summarize all this in the following sentences: "So the arts are similar to the sciences. In each case, you start with some notion or some element, and then you follow that to wherever it takes you. In the arts, the decision-maker (the driving force) behind which way you go is esthetics, and in the sciences, it’s logic (Beauty vs Truth.)"
Yes reality is unattainable to humanity and this is why since the dawn of time humans have searched to understand what it is all about.
Science comes in the picture as a method to decipher reality since the 18th century and art, in its modernist frame appears by the end of the nineteenth century. Both originate in the path traced during the preceding centuries by the "reason of capital" that long distance trade unleashed after the crusades and the following "discoveries".
Now let us be real. Science and the arts do not finance themselves.
It is capital that, in the last instance, is financing the time artists and scientists spend producing (capital + its captive institutions). As such science and the arts are not neutral activities. They are merely executing the visions that are acceptable to capital holders; those ones that promise them future returns. In that line of thought I wander what place is left to imagination... Are scientists really using their imagination or are they merely using their creativity to answer the need of their backers?
I do not deny the fact that most artists and a few scientists are not relying on the financing of capital holders (to capital holders art is marginal while science is determinant). But we should have the honesty to recognize that artists and scientists' endeavors are not gaining them traction with the public and as a consequence life is a real struggle for most of them which explains why so few persevere as Fry was mentioning earlier.
Answer to Michael:
Yes reality simply is and humans exist in that reality.
Yes a self deluded consciousness prevents a true comprehension of "what reality is all about".
But having said that we also have to recognize the fact that consciousness is always conditioned by our biological fate and our immersion in our "cultural" mold (civilization, worldview and culture). There is no way to abstract ourselves from our biological and societal realities.
We sometimes (seldom) have flashes of very deep understanding but they are just that: flashes. Such extraordinary powerful experiences re-fashion our consciousness, for sure, but fashion as we all know is very superficial.
Now I concede that it is possible to accede such flashes of consciousness through the practice of immemorial techniques developed by some rare lineage of men of knowledge. But the repetition of access to such flashes of consciousness while deepening the consciousness of the practitioner is also marginalizing him from the mainstream of society.
The recognition of that tension between a deepening consciousness and the attached societal marginalization is the root of one of the most mind-boggling paradoxes. That tension is indeed not manageable:
- or you go deeper inside yourself at the cost of a higher societal marginalization. In the end the practitioner eventually reaches "contentment" as the sitting Buddha or the sage on top of his mountain. But such a contentment goes hand in hand with societal extraction and the ones who reach that level have no incentives any longer to talk to others.
- or you try to manage reaching a deeper consciousness with societal acceptance and you soon discover that it is a struggle with no end in sight.
What I meant to say here is... well I suppose you'll get the grist of what I mean.
Answer to GianCarlo:
Before addressing you my comment I'll refresh our memory with a distillation of your views:
- I think is a good thing to 'reduce' ontology ... to a simple "Science of what there is" ( without other 'metaphysical' implicances related to the sense or destiny of Being, as Heidegger wanted).
Inside this perspective, the question of what is art, or better " what is an artwork?" today, becomes more simple.
- It would be fine, instead of speaking of beauty, ecstasy, artist's intention, emotion or empathy in doing art and so on, to start all together ... to analyse what are the ontological priorities ... which allow an handmade (or object) to be accepted socially and symbolically as an 'artwork'.
1. for our inquiry on artwork, we can think to ontology as "the science of what 'there is' physically".
2. Some possible ontological priorities of an artwork ( but this is matter of discussion):
a) to be an 'object' ( from handmade to natural entity);
b) this object has to be socially and historically shared as " staying inside the class of objects recognized as 'artworks';
c) It has to emboby a 'representation' or better " has to be intentioned to represent something";
d) Its 'intentional' representation has to be inscribed as a trace inside a medium;
e) This medium can be already 'bearer' of other meanings before its final artistic 'destination'.
... an artwork is a 'physical' entity (an Ontology related to it examines 'physical objects'), and cannot be, as Conceptualism wanted, a 'mental proceeding'
my 'ontological properties' are deducted from the actual examples of artworks which are going on inside the 'real' artworld of international exhibitions, galleries and museums
I agree with your views on ontology as "the science of what 'there is' as laid out in your 1,2 and abcde but I reject the notion of art being confered its status through the market.
1. In your ontology, or systematic account, art exists exclusively, or should I not better say only, within the confines of the art market ("inside the 'real' artworld of international exhibitions, galleries and museums"). The least I can say is that such a presentation is limited to being a Late-Modern view that does not fit with what history gives us to observe. Neither does such a presentation fit in what a growing number of observers perceive as being the first emerging signs about "what comes after Modernity": the rejection of the market and the favoring of localism, tribalism, organicism,...
2. Your vision I sense is an "applied ontology"; an ontology applied to existence in the art market. It comes thus as no surprise that your description of ontology results in such a narrow materialist interpretation of "what is art" or "what is an artwork"; in essence you reduce art to a merchandise (object in the art-market)!
3. For myself:
- I run as fast and as far as I can from that idea of an artistic ontology as being a systematic account of "the existence of art through the market"
- I prefer the idea of an artistic epistemology or a "fundamental ontology" as being all visual signs created at any given time that illustrate the knowledge about "what is reality" at that particular time. Those visual signs being valued on the art market or not has absolutely no bearing on them being artworks.
- the art market is but a very narrow societal path that values merchandises in terms of money. Some art creators favor that market path but most creators never take that path. For most, of course, the market does not react to their creations but a minority remains voluntarily on the margins of the market. I posit that, in Late-Modernity, it's amongst that minority that the most significant works of art are being created.
The difference between those 2 positions is far reaching indeed. Yours' defines art as a merchandise on the market. Mine defines art as all productions of our time that materialize as visual signs about the present state of knowledge about what is reality. I don't deny that some of such signs are merchandises offered on the art market but I posit that most of all visual signs created nowadays are not merchandises and are thus unknown to the market (graffiti is but one category of such signs; the larger category is all signs made for one's own "pleasure" which the internet gives us to see a small part of).
Most of the people on this earth have still not been reduced to being Modern slaves GianCarlo and, fortunately, the side-effects of Modernity are fast bringing its own demise which, while promizing to be very traumatic, will definitely cut the chains of Modern slavery.
Answer to Paul:
Reality is unattainable to humanity. What I refer to is the obvious. We are such tiny particles in the universe that our field of observation (including technological de-multiplication) is limited to what the astrophysicist Villenkin calls our "island universe". Out of the boundaries of our island universe lays much much more that will remain unknown to our species 'ad vitam eternam'. From this knowledge we all should accept (science or no science) that the reality of our universe (its truth) is out of our reach which means that the best we can do is share VIEWS of the WORLD or worldviews about what reality is all about. At least such a sharing with others has the particularity to make us feel good which happens to strengthen societal cohesion (I only relate to facts here).
Having pinpointed the impossibility to reach the truth about "what reality is all about" the next best we are left with are belief systems.
Each epoch has such belief systems that are being shared by the human population at large. Animism, religion, philosophy and yes also science is such a belief system.
Concerning science more particularly it is an indisputable fact that science emerged out of the centuries old practice of commercial capitalism that fostered in the minds of long distance merchants the certainty that invested money (capital) develops its own reason or logic that better be respected if one does not want to lose his stake in the game. The practice of that "reason of capital", in Western Europe over nearly 5 centuries, gave way to "philosophic rationalism" and the scientific method. What I write here is a sketch, for sure, but it illustrates a view that is generally accepted by historians, philosophers and others. In other words science is a construct derived out of an economic and cultural historical process. Science is not the holder of the truth. Science is a method to inquire about reality that emerged out of centuries of practice of the "reason of capital".
We can always find circumstantial evidence disproving a general definition but this does in no way invalidate that definition. What I mean to say here is that science is not a "golden calf". At best it is an instrument among possibly many other to attain higher levels of understanding about reality. But in my mind it bodes ill seeing science being used now as an assembling instrument to fill the new cathedrals of rationality. How long for religious and rationalist fundamentalists to shoot at each other with real ammo?
Answer to Fry:
"...a lot of Art's information is not related to emotion only (visceral), but also to a visual formalism. It does carry a human visual history as in a morphology of imagery that has nothing to do with the subject but the interpretation of "reality."
That visual formalism you speak about was very much shaping the artwork before modernism emerged. My own hypothesis of the artist illustrating the worldview of the men of knowledge of the day is kind of a mirror view of your "...a human visual history as in a morphology of imagery that has nothing to do with the subject but the interpretation of 'reality'."
Modernism erased a big chunk of past interpretations of reality and put the intellect of the individual artist in charge of the imagery's content. But this was realized in an environment where:
- the men of knowledge had lost their societal recognition and had been thrown on the level playing field of the market for ideas where they struggled competing with all kinds of charlatans for people's eyeballs. The outcome was societal fragmentation along the lines of "group think" that in our Late-Modern times morphes into atomization (when each individual thinks he knows best about everything).
- artists' education has never been much concerned with what the French call the "bagage intellectuel" of the individual. It was always more a matter of technical training in the use of an instrument (technical mastery).
The productions from those trained in the art academies should thus not be surprising anyone. But what really amazes me, amidst this environment, is the gigantic mass of "images" being created by outsiders (from outside of the influence of the art academies). This happens outside of the institutions of art education and also outside of the art market. It's as if we are assisting at a democratization of the creative and artistic act for its own sake and more often than not the results are outside of the interpretative bounds of visual history. The best of those plays are acts of pure individual hallucination.
Answer to GianFranco:
"...my proposition on artistic object materiality is not devoted to its position on market"
I knew this GianFranco but your words could unfortunately being interpreted as if only what appears on the market could be conferred an art certificate. Hey... this is as good a point to deviate the discussion as any other.
Let me first state that I agree with your ontology: "The pre-condition for an artwork, in my ontology, is to be something inscribed on a material support ( market or not), that means an artwork is always something bearing imaginary to a condition of being visible on something material and not simply 'imagined' mentally".
Now let's come back to this idea of mine that what appears on the market nowadays is merely a trickle of the total contemporary art productions. I think this is a totally new phenomenon in human history where so many people dabble in image creation for its own sake or for the only sake of their personal satisfaction. Those are real material productions on paper, canvas or digital (that means they can be printed out) and thus satisfy the criteria of your ontology.
Having said that what astonishes me is the persistent gluing of all art talk to the noise of the art market. As if this was all there was. I would rather prefer reading, listening, or watching conversations about what happens outside of the art market. It's not only the gargantuan quantities of the productions there; it is also sometimes their quality, the amazing quality, of some works being produced there that is simply stunning. So it baffles me how most of the art talk remains prisoner of market noise and ignores the needles of quality in this gigantic haystack outside of the market.
Answer to Michael:
You write "Reality is relationship to the whole". No. Reality is the whole.
Our relationship to the whole is a question of perception.
Reality does not disappear because the self is absorbed by its own importance. The self only distracts us from "seeing" and "connecting".
But you are right that when the self ends something magical happens. Then we automatically "see" and "connect" to the whole.
Answer to Paul:
Thanks for your comment. We seem to be coming to a better understanding of each other's point of view.
About reality: "No, we humans wouldn't - couldn't - have access to that - because we'd have to step out of our existence to see it. That reality, I reckon, is unattainable to any one or thing inside it".
This is exactly what I have in mind. To know what reality is all about we would need to step outside of it in order to have a chance to observe it as a whole. Only then would we know what it is. Now we all know that this is never going to happen and as such we have, in all humility, to accept the implications:
- if the whole of reality is unattainable then there is no absolute certainty possible concerning the working of any of its parts. In other words truth is out of reach. What is available to us are approximations that are operational within our "Island Universe".
- once humility sets in and we accept this fact of life we come to recognize that what is important for humanity is pragmatism.
All this indicates without a shred of a doubt that human views about the whole of reality are no more than belief systems that, in return, shape our views and understanding about the parts of this whole down to ourselves.
Now the notion of belief systems had to endure a bad rap these last 2 centuries under the assault of philosophic rationalism and its functional extension science that presented themselves as the bearers of the truth. In fact they are no bearers of the truth at all they are merely an adaptation of human thinking to the imperatives imposed over the centuries by the "reason of capital". Now we have to admit that the attitudes derived from that thinking have been utterly successful at providing 10% of humanity with a deluge of material possessions that, all in all, made our lives more comfortable.
But there has been a steep price for making this possible: population explosion + devastation of natural environments + peaking of all resources + extinctions of species + climate change and so on and on. Added together those externalities or side-effects are now starting to undo Modernity. Thus my thesis that we are at the beginning of a decades, centuries, long process of collapsing Modernity as a historical age and the emergence of "what comes after Modernity" as the new age that follows.
Some will contend that this thread is about art and that this kind of historical, philosophical discourse has no bearing on art. I personally think that the only way for us to understand what is going on in the art-scene presently is by trying to understand how art fits in the larger context of the process of change at the heart of our societies. This is precisely where history, philosophy, and more generally knowledge in the humanities appear unavoidable.
Answer to GianCarlo:
Thanks for the link to your article. I appreciated very much the wide range of ideas expressed in such a short presentation. What particularly interested me, in the context of the present discussion, were the following:
- Massimiliano Gioni's recognition of "...the infinite worlds of contemporary art"
- your conclusion that "But is the dream to transpose their undying ideation in an image not common to every artist, outsider or not? "
When, in my last comment, I wrote "...what appears on the market nowadays is merely a trickle of the total contemporary art productions" I was not referring to the category "outsider art" or "art brut" in Dubuffet's understanding. In fact I was not thinking about Dubuffet's "art brut" category at all. I was just making an observation about what seems to me is the radically changing sociological nature of who are the image creators. But since your call about "art brut" I had to clarify in my own head what it was I was trying to say exactly.
The words of Gioni in your article "...the infinite worlds of contemporary art" summarize quite well my observation that "this is a totally new phenomenon in human history where so many people dabble in image creation for its own sake or for the only sake of their personal satisfaction". A quantitative leap occurred indeed since the "art brut" scene Dubuffet was observing. This is not any longer a minority of, in your words, "..outsiders that explore the imaginative without fear to embrace the contours of the ambiguous and blurred psychic experiences, spiritualistic or occult". What is going on today is a phenomenon that is a lot larger than "art brut" or anything else in the past.
It seems to me that we are assisting, these last decades, at the convergence of:
- a radical democratization of education that arose as a necessity to run the massification of the market
- the radically changing nature of "what is work" under the pressure of de-localization in a globalized environment and also the technological push by capital holders to replace human labor with automation and artificial intelligence
- massification of data and science's ever increased zooming further from what the eye can see have resulted in massive recourse to visualization
- at the point where societal fragmentation reaches its extreme in atomization most individuals experience a general loss of sense about "what reality is all about"
- a radical free of charge access to websites to disseminate one's work to the whole world explodes the reach of each individual
I think the convergence of those variables (note: in the Western world but not anywhere else) is shaping a new societal reality where work is going down while individual creativity is going up (at least momentarily).
Less economic certainty + more free time + better education + visualization techniques + loss of sense + access to the whole world are resulting in an explosion of creativity that sometimes gives great art.
I know of no parallel in the entirety of our human history. I can't be the only one to be struck by this?
The substance of what I was writing in my last comment was summarized in one of my last sentences.
"I think the convergence of those variables (note: in the Western world but not anywhere else) is shaping a new societal reality where work is going down while individual creativity is going up (at least momentarily)".
This is an observation of the facts as they unfold in Western countries:
- work decreases
- creativity increases
Let me remember you that I did not cloak this observation under a judgment.
The judgment comes from Fry: "The laws of mob rule take over. It reduces the quality to a bar so low that all can contribute and not consider what aesthetics, beauty or history have to say. It eliminates all contemporary philosophy and theory. There is no possible way to view the production and so chaos reigns."
To Fry I would like to answer this:
- the systemic application of the law of the mob was inaugurated well before this explosion of creativity, with High-Modernity when the men of knowledge had been relegated on the level playing field of the market for ideas where they had to compete with all kinds of charlatans in order to attract the eyeballs of the public... This is when artists lost their intellectual bearings. Artists had indeed never before been in charge of producing the ideas or the content of their work. Their ideas and content had always been supplied to them by the men of knowledge. But now that the men of knowledge had vanished on the level playing field of the market artists were forced to come forward with their own content. Over more than a century of such practice there were many trials... but, it seems to me, not much content that is worth remembering. But what is sure is that the rule of the mob effectively resulted in general chaos.
- now amidst the contemporary proliferation of images there are effectively pearls and diamonds hidden in the stack. They just rarely make it to galleries and museums. The mob is not without its geniuses and the probability of the mob engendering more geniuses than the closed system of the art-world is a statistical certainty... Big numbers always beat small numbers!
But these kinds of judgments are insignificant.
What counts is understanding what is going on in Western societies. My next comment tries to uncover some of it.
Answer to GianCarlo:
"Ok, there is 'creativity', but...
What is lacking now to this global' -'free' -'antisystem' creativity is a new 'aesthetics', able to enlarge the idea of creativity not only to 'spiritual' sectors (art, music, literature) but to the 'material' ones ( cooking, fashion, design for private and public space), avoiding so the labour division of capitalistic society which organizes the individual experience in separated spheres of competence related always to his functional social role and not to his whole expressive possibility. "
Yes GianCarlo. Agreed.
But I'm a materialist and as such I think what you say there can only emerge as a result of more fundamental changes transforming the way societies operate. This was the real subject of my comment yesterday.
1. work systemically vanishes from Western societies:
De-localization in a globalized world was only a first approach by capital holders but, while societally destabilizing, it was not really threatening the survival of Western ways of life.
The story promises to be radically different with automation, robotization and artificial intelligence (AI). First let us observe that this is not something that is falling from the sky. This is a direct result of the strategic investments being made by big capital holders who want to beat down the cost of work. The consequences of these investments on job creation are going to be devastating. All studies on the subject project large job losses from 20 to over 60% of total present job numbers in all Western countries. Try to put your mind around such figures!
This, it seems to me, looks very much like the path to societies "without work".
If people's incomes are being taken away from them how and to whom are big capital holders and their servants going to sell their automated productions? There are not many answers possible to that question. The only one that, in my mind, makes sense is that money creation, instead of being channeled to private banksters as is done today shall be channeled directly to the people in the form of a guaranteed income.
2. creativity increases.
The loss of work could be the freeing from the chains of salary (modern slavery) but it could also take vastly different forms.
It seems to me that the outcome of this loss of work will necessarily be shaped along the lines of the outcome of the increasing creativity that we already observe exploding today. The real determinant factor here is where is this explosion of creativity going to land us.
If Fry is right then "The laws of mob rule take over... There is no possible way to view the production and so chaos reigns".
I think this view is too statist. There are ways to organize the viewing of productions outside the institutions of the art-world. We are just very early in that new game. But what is exciting already is to see that the doors are opening at last on a possible rejoining of what you call "the artistic world (the kingdom of Spirit) and the everyday experience of life (the tyranny of Matter)".
All depends now on the outcome of the increasing creativity that we observe. We all have a stake in this outcome.
There was a certain 19th century thinker who forecast that the freeing of people from the chains of work would offer them according to their needs while liberating their creativity. From what we observe it seems he could be right after all.
Answer to GianFranco:
About the distinction between "men of knowledge" and "intellectuals".
It had long been observed that the individuals' anxiety, faced with the unknown, was greatly reduced or eliminated once they shared a common belief about how reality operates. It had also been observed that the group's cohesion was at its zenith while this sharing was at its strongest. As far as the eye can see down the trail of history the men of knowledge were always in charge of the group's belief or "worldview" and their authority was unquestioned.
The term "men of knowledge" is a legacy of anthropological studies about pre-agricultural societies. Tribes reserved the creation of knowledge to a "specialist" who was being offered the satisfaction of his physical needs while being absolved of daily chores in exchange for searching the meaning of reality, healing the sick and divining the future. Anthropologists called those specialists the "men of knowledge". The term had the merit to be right in that the shaman (his Siberian appellation) was really in charge of the creation of the story about reality that all his fellow tribesmen were believing in.
After the emergence of agriculture and early-kingdoms religions (Middle-East) and philosophies (Far-East) were put in charge of gluing the minds of citizens around a shared worldview. The men of knowledge were the priests in the Middle-East and the sages, wise men, in the Far-East.
The men of knowledge in Early-Modernity (commercial capitalism) were those new rich merchants who imposed their new values of individualism, private property and the glorification of the self that have been illustrated in painting for nearly 500 years in the 3 "obliged subjects" of Early Modernity:
- landscapes around the mansion
- portraits of those in the mansions
- stills of what lays on the tables within the mansions
The monks who rediscovered the Greek classics did nothing more than solidify the values of those new rich merchants under a glaze of knowledge (perspective in painting was derived from that knowledge).
The passage from commercial capitalism to industrial capitalism (Early-Modernity to High-Modernity) corresponds to the rise of philosophic rationalism, science, the mass-market (industrially woven cotton socks affordable by most, not a joke) and political democracy (one vote per man who has money, then all men and later still all men and women).
Sometime and somehow during this transition the role of the men of knowledge was abolished. The merchants lost out to the manufacturers who happened also to be among the first scientists. That's when knowledge became a commodity in itself. Intellectuals were not reserved a treatment of favour; their knowledge was not being regarded as unquestionable any longer as had been the case with the men of knowledge. Intellectuals were simply thrown on the level playing field of the market for ideas where they had to compete with all kinds of charlatans for people's eyeballs. That explains how it is possible today for over 50% of Americans to reject evolution or climate change... the level playing field duh!
This differentiation between men of knowledge and intellectuals is central to our comprehension of how knowledge fell from its pedestal to the floor of the market. Knowledge did not break at the contact with the floor but it surely lost its luster. There is unfortunately not much literature available on this particular subject which is a shame because it was the catalyst of the chaos to come; the chaos Fry writes about.
Answer to Fry:
"... if you lose the most stupid, you lose the group".
Yes that's how fragmentation sets in and then the whole thing moves its own way until society collapses. But inertia prolongs the process of collapse that has been set in motion. That's why I think your statement is right: "We are all looking to the change in an Art Capital that will forever change the nature of what we as artists think we do, when in our hearts we know that will it be just a rearrangement of players".
"Once total chaos has its day, things will get better...".
At least after a collapse the weight of the past is gone and a reborn society may find its bearings anew. Perhaps. There is no certainty. But at least there is this possibility. Now perhaps I'm still under the spell of this term "hopium" that was coined recently...
To be honest I feel torn between the vision of collapse and the scientism of this kind of Christian vision of redemption through science and technology that is pursued by guys like Ray Kurzweil. But from his recent talk about the dangers fraught along the path to the singularity it seems that even Kurzweil starts to have doubts about the viability of his vision. Collapse has the merit to be so utterly devastating that it becomes one powerful bone for artists to chew on. History has legated us some great works about the collapse following the black death in Europe by the end of the 15th century (the Flemish Hieronymus Bosch and Breughel the Elder). But some contemporary works start to jump at us that bear the same kind of artistic strength and certainty than the works of their ancestors (for example a work that I discovered just this morning. Is the collapse already upon us? Perhaps Michael is onto something when he writes: "As for art...it will eventually revert to a stick in the dirt!"
Answer to Titus:
I don't have a scenario about the future. It can't thus be that my scenario should be a straight projection of the past and present into the future.
I simply state the evidence or the facts. And the facts are that the absolute success of modernity is blinding humanity to its excesses. But a finite earth has a given carrying capacity. So the straight projection of the past and present of Modernity into the future is simply unreasonable. Here is why.
Population explosion is the most visible result of the success of Modernity but that success is directly responsible for those excesses that are documented by the scientists who study the particular fields that are being impacted by the side-effects and consequences of Modernity:
* peak energy (this graph shows how population and energy are related ) The global demand for energy is on the verge to surpass the global offer... Do you know what happens then? Check.
* peak resources. Check the graph on page 4
* the 6th great extinction is in operation already. As long ago as 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that the Earth is currently losing something on the order of 30,000 species per year — which breaks down to some three species per hour!
* climate change: 99% of the climate scientists agree that immense disruptions from past emissions of CO2 will destabilize the complex systems of all countries on earth but we continue to pump more CO2 into the atmosphere as if no one cared about tomorrow. Meanwhile big energy companies are paying, some among the 1% of scientists who are still doubting the link between CO2 and a warming climate, to write about "the hoax of climate change". That's called trying to drawn the facts in the noise.
* I could go on like that... but you get the picture. What is most startling is that all those disrupting phenomena are converging and demultiplying the impact of each one of them.
The fact is that Modernity can't survive the assault of such disruptive forces but such a fact is difficult to swallow by those who are not attentive.
Western institutions of "force" are in the know and are documenting those side-effects and consequences of Modernity in numerous reports and are worried about "extraordinary emergencies" to occur as a result of those disruptions. They are acting accordingly! Did you ever question why we seem to have entered an Orwellian world?
The conclusion here is that Modernity has already entered its down-path... and the changing realities of people's daily lives are necessarily going to impose on them to change their ways...
As you see I don't project anything in the future. I simply observe the break-down of a worldview (individualism, reason of capital, rationalism,...), the modern worldview, and by extension I induce that a new worldview is necessarily emerging... what I call After-Modernity.
Answer to GianCarlo:
There is no "strict art perspective" out there. I would have been glad to meet her and to love her but I never heard of her. What, without a shred of a doubt, is out there is a daily life reality that is inescapable. What I mean to say is that we can't abstract ourselves from the economic, social and cultural reality of the societies in which we happen to live. Krista alluded to that fact when she wrote: "Opportunity is not always synonymous with any random thing at any random moment".
In light of this one of the last sentences of my last post takes its full meaning: "...the changing realities of people's daily lives are necessarily going to impose on them to change their ways...". Along the down-path of Modernity lays a lot of social and personal suffering, pain, and eventually agony. There is no way to escape that sad fact but I would like to believe that as a thinker and a painter I'm able to alleviate this suffering by sharing beautiful forms and the meaning they convey. This is how beauty shapes my own mood. I have lived since the seventies observing the downfall of Modernity (I had studied too much for my own good but I did not believe it at the time). Confronted with the ambient stupidity of societies driven by spectacle and frivolity I had to endure sadness. Beauty saved me from desperation and depression.
Now what do I mean by beauty?
Let me first state that I don't subscribe to the empty rhetoric that is common place among middle class rat racers.
What I refer to when I'm talking about beauty relates to life. Life is an advanced stage of biological evolution and along the evolutionary path towards life a near infinite quantity of biological mutations took place which imprinted patterns of beauty and patterns of ugliness in our DNA/RNA. Those patterns of beauty reflect the accumulation of lines, colors, smells, sounds and other that characterize the forms taken by those mutations that were retained (selected). Those that were not retained carried forward patterns of "non-workability" in the realm of the evolution towards life.
So beauty is encoded in us, not only in us humans, in all living species and I tend to think in all matter. In other words beauty is a reflection of the lines, forms, colors, smells, sounds and other that is being carried by all particles in the whole of our universe.
From all this you'll understand that I subscribe to what you wrote earlier about the necessity of an "aesthetic of life" (cuisine, love, relationships, nest building, decoration, the arts, etc...). But I think that this is infeasible amidst the frivolity of our societies of spectacle. Will it be feasible while "the changing realities of people's daily lives are necessarily going to impose on them to change their ways"?
I'll be watching as Titus just wrote.
Answer to Titus:
The process of change or the transition I'm referring to will spread over decades if not centuries and as such its unfolding is unfortunately not easy to decrypt and to make sense of. Not only the emergence of the new also the descent is slow which means that we will be stuck with computers for as long as the electricity to power them is available or at least available at a price we can pay. No need to start panicking!
Having always thought that artists are among the most sensitive I have no doubt that some of them will successfully render the deep working of this descent. But I'm a sucker for positivity and if I myself can't exercise my fingers to shape the beauty of the emergent I'll wait for the pleasure procured by the works of others who are more successful.
Answer to Fry:
"It's interesting that the Age of Reason/Enlightenment (modernity) has led us to the path of planetary destruction. The flaw was in separating science, art and philosophy and in so doing allowed all three to go unchecked and balanced that led to ends justifying the means."
I follow you.
That separation is what I think killed knowledge in its traditional sense of wisdom and without wisdom we lose sapience. Scientists called our species Homo-sapiens but the fact is that humanity is the only species that succeeded so overwhelmingly that it engaged in a process of destruction of its planetary habitat... proving that we are not so sapient after all!
I thank you for sharing this idea of separation. It answers the unresolved question I talked about in a past post answering GianFranco about the distinction between "men of knowledge" and "intellectuals".
I wrote the following:
"The passage from commercial capitalism to industrial capitalism (Early-Modernity to High-Modernity) corresponds to the rise of philosophic rationalism, science, the mass-market (industrially woven cotton socks affordable by most, not a joke) and political democracy.
Sometime and somehow during this transition the role of the men of knowledge was abolished. The merchants lost out to the manufacturers who happened also to be among the first scientists. That's when knowledge became a commodity in itself. Intellectuals were not reserved a treatment of favor; their knowledge was not being regarded as unquestionable any longer as had been the case with the men of knowledge. Intellectuals were simply thrown on the level playing field of the market for ideas where they had to compete with all kinds of charlatans for people's eyeballs. That explains how it is possible today for over 50% of Americans to reject evolution or climate change... the level playing field duh!
This differentiation between men of knowledge and intellectuals is central to our comprehension of how knowledge fell from its pedestal to the floor of the market. Knowledge did not break at the contact with the floor but it surely lost its luster. There is unfortunately not much literature available on this particular subject which is a shame because it was the catalyst of the chaos to come; the chaos Fry writes about".
While ending up in mass extinction this separation of science, art, and philosophy is also the reason why Modernity has been so successful in the first place. Science at the service of the reason of capital exploded the production of material goods... thus allowing for a population explosion and thus the illusion or the absolute irrationality of economic models preaching permanent growth in a finite environment.
The separation of science, art and philosophy has also been the root cause of the demise of the traditional societal function of art that leaves us now on a trail of "whatever is art" absurdity.
That separation killed knowledge in its traditional sense as a societal interpretation of reality meant to be shared by all, as the worldview of the time, in order to maximize societal cohesion which is the ultimate "must have" in order for societies to possibly reproduce.
The substitution of knowledge by the pair science and the reason of capital + rationalism as its applied philosophy left us all knowledge orphans. But artists were those who bore the brunt of that separation. They had lost their story tellers and so they lost the automatic supply of the content of their works. Artists were now in charge of the creation of their own content. They were free. But been given an education limited to the use of an instrument their minds remained largely empty of the absolutely necessary material to possibly devise the substance of the content of their work. A short 2-3 decades of trial and error effervescence at the hands of the avant-garde soon over the following decades resulted in emptiness, flatness, grotesque and then "whatever".
Here we are now. Free for sure to do "whatever". Only problem "whatever" seems to be the only thing most can do nowadays. What kind of freedom is that? I think real freedom has nothing to do with "whatever". The freedom of "whatever" is propaganda for an empty ideology. Real freedom resides in consciousness. You can't buy that!
On a positive note now I have to add that if the "art world" does not seem to be able to distinguish between "whatever" and genuine artworks the fact is nevertheless that genuine real artworks appear more frequently, it seems to me, out there on the web. Is this a sign of the slow emergence of the new worldview of After-Modernity that I theorize about? I don't know.
Coming to your point about beauty in "the ugliness of what is happening now"; I think, "nécessité oblige", more and more people around the world are starting to reassess their priorities. Once you know, for sure, how ugly it is out there you tend to detach yourself from it and you try as best as you can to re-create a haven of peace and tranquility for yourself, your family, and hopefully some friends...
This is where I see signs of the emergence of let's say something else. Is this part of the evolutionary process to After-Modernity. I think it is a spark at the very beginning of that tortuous process of emergence.
Answer to Thomas:
"There is a great deal of evidence that all peoples during the pre-technology phase of history did plenty to screw up their own environments. Native Americans did also, in parts. The Romans, massively".
Yes. The Chinese also screwed up massively. But nobody, from what I read here, implied that before Modernity humanity was in paradise and now it is in hell. The argument here is limited to the observation that Modernity concludes in mass extinction and the destruction of our planetary habitat. But since you introduce the notion of comparing now with before let's simply observe that this is the first time that a species, by its own actions, is unleashing a planetary collapse. This, on itself, radically distinguishes Modern negativity from past local environmental screw-ups...
My personal argument (I don't know how far it is shared by others) is that Modernity has entered its descent phase that will conclude in it vanishing completely. But the descent of Modernity is paralleled by the emergence of the first sprouting signs of what comes after Modernity. That emergence is the start of a process that will span over multiple generations and eventually stabilize around a new worldview being shared, by societal necessity, among all.
Realistically things could turn out quite differently. Collapse, as more and more scientists now come to think, could eventually conclude with not only the collapse of societies but also with the extinction of humanity. Rats, mosquitoes, cockroaches and a few other species would then be left to pursue the evolution of life towards more complexity. Now I know that on the scale of the universe, or on the scale of the principle of life, the extinction of Homo Genius is no more than a trifle. But I'm human and it feels not right seeing my species collectively plunging head forward in the abyss.
This is where I feel we are left with a choice:
- or reflecting "the ugliness of what is happening now" on the canvas or whatever is our support
- or pursue beauty in the form of a narrative about what we eventually observe are the first signs of a different emerging vision of reality
That choice leaves no doubt in my mind. The ugliness of now is bound to vanish so why should I waste my time on it? Far better, I feel, to observe the first imperceptible signs of the new. At least they fill us with hope and naturally, without our being conscientious of it, they drive us to the beauty that is encapsulated in the memory of the evolutionary path of life that is contained in our DNA/RNA.
Beauty is an attribute of the form of an artwork so if I strive to catch beauty in what I paint there is hope its form will catch the attention of observers who then necessarily will be confronted with its narrative or its content... This, I feel, is my contribution to a better tomorrow for humanity. Yes I care.