In the present stage of our understanding tribal art roughly spans between 40,000 and 5,000 years ago while Xieyi, Chinese Buddhism and Christianity only start around 500 AD.
Chinese calligraphy originates sometimes before 200 BC. It was revered as a fine art in line with poetry and music while painting was merely viewed as a craft applied in the field of decoration, remembrance of ancestors, or illustration of daily life. Xieyi appeared later as an extension of calligraphy and this is when painting finally acceded to the status of a fine art in China.
What is striking, in the juxtaposition of images here under, is how visually similar Chinese Xieyi painting is to tribal art. Chinese Buddhism still has some common traits with tribal art but with Christianity we enter into a whole new world.
Why is Xieyi so similar to tribal art?
Why is Christian art depicting such a totally different world than tribal and Xieyi art?
First part of his article here
3. Humanity’s future and the role of the artist
I first need to clarify the meaning of the word artist. Millions of people today qualify themselves as artists. But what do they mean exactly? The great majority among them try to produce pleasing little squares or rectangles to be hung as decorations on white walls. But such products qualify at best as interior decoration commodities that have no commonalities with artworks. They may eventually reflect the technical mastery of their authors but this does in no way transform such works into works of art. Having understood how the art market values works others have adapted their productions to its monetary game of speculation. But I would venture to say that interior decoration and financial speculation have nothing to do with what art is all about.
This series of posts about “the disconnection between the West and China” centers around societal evolution, and more particularly, the present shifting of the center of gravity of the economy-world from the US to the territorial expanse of the Chinese civilization in North-East Asia. In the preceding posts we have seen how this shift is due to the interactions between the following factors:
How to understand art?
Through reason and words?
Or through images of the thing itself?
In the Peoples Republic of China the communist party literally owns the institutions of state and no interference in the decision making of these institutions is accepted by any group of interest. This is quite different from the West where lobbies write the laws relating to their interests. What this means is that the communist party has an absolute control over the way society functions. Now this does not mean, as most Westerners believe, that China is a dictatorship. Individuals and economic actors are participating in the decision making process by giving their ideas and opinions about what should be done. During this consultation phase civil society debates with the representatives of the party and the state about solutions and the media also relays these debates. Once the consultation phase concludes civil society retreats and lets the party and state institutions formalize the decisions and their implementation. And once the rules of the game have been formalized everybody is expected to participate in their implementation.
In democracies a few families own controlling stakes of the capital that is invested in strategic sectors of the economy. This gives them, among other, the control over the media and ensures them the power to shape public opinion. And so the political decision making process is rendered captive of a public opinion that is being constantly framed around the interests of big capital holders.
In my last post I tried to brush a rapid sketch of the profound mental disconnect between the West and China. In the present post I’ll brush an even more rapid sketch about how large societies function; it lays the foundations upon which, in my next 3 posts, I’ll build a more in-depth comparative analysis between the present and the future of Western and Chinese societies.
This article is a sketch of the general context of the present moment we find ourselves in the world. It comes as a conclusion of my short series “the disconnection in perceptions between East and West”. I'll follow this sketch with 2 more posts addressing – the realities on the ground in China and the West, – their future prospects in view of their present realities.
To my regular readers "welcome back" and to new readers "welcome". Since I stopped blogging over a year ago let me start with a recapitulation of my past blogging activity.
This 4th of July Patrick Buchanan asked if America is still a nation (1).
This question touches a raw nerve and our minds ache.
What will we do without America?
As I wrote in the first post of this series (A growing disconnect between Chinese and Westerners) "Change is assaulting our certainties as never before. The fields it affects are multiplying while its speed is accelerating and in consequence our minds are being numbed into incomprehension".
But few would ever think that these changes already imply that the technological center of gravity of the world is leaving the US. So what follows will come as a surprise to most. The reality is that China is sprinting investing all over the place while the West is broke, its societies atomized and on the verge of violent confrontations, and the interconnections between its systems are clogged like the arteries of a patient with advanced arteriosclerosis. Treating this condition is not a given and many specialists (economists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, etc...) believe that the patient is on its death bed. It should thus not come as a surprise that year after year, month after month, the scientific news is informing us that Western technological supremacy is sifting, one sector after the other, like sand falling through the fingers.
1. Past trends that help to understand the present:
Source: “Statistics on World Population, GDP and per Capita GDP, 1-2006” by Angus Maddison, University of Groeningen. Via “The Economic History of the Last 2,000 Years in 1 Little Graph”. Derek Thompson. The Atlantic. 2012-06-19.
This graph was actualized by laodan.
Does it matter if Chinese and Western perceptions about societal reality are growing further apart? Whatever people may be thinking the fact is that this disconnect is going to have a decisive impact on how humanity's future will unfold and so I believe that those whose minds are still open and curious about the fate of humanity better watch carefully.
What is going on? People's perceptions in China and in the West are so absolutely out of sync nowadays that I feel the urge to write about this disconnect. Generally speaking people in China are optimistic about the future and they trust their political decision makers while in the West people are generally pessimistic and totally distrust their political decision makers as well as the other elites of their societies which renders them weary about the future. Am I the only one to be shocked by the intensity of this disconnect?