Yesterday we arrived somehow to the conclusion that with the drive of industrialization towards massification, historical evolution entered into a fast lane assaulted as it was by a widening range of determining factors acting and interacting upon themselves (complexification of the systemic model):
1. Industrialization leading to rapid urbanization as more and more people were quitting the countryside for production jobs and always more new jobs servicing the production activities.
2. From a largely autarcic life in the countryside, the newcomers in the cities were reduced to dependency on the market for their survival.
3. Increased dermand induced increased offer or is it the other way around?
4. To thrive further and avoid falling into anarchy, the rapid urbanization that was followed by increased market exchanges gradually established a growing set of rules of the game.
5. For applying a set of rules of the game better adapted to the needs experienced by the market's actors, the rules making process gradually went out of the hands of the aristocracy to the hands of the merchants and the bourgeoisie and later to the hands of the working class in waiting of middle class status.
6. Industrial development induced artistic changes that in turn directed the design or to say it otherwise the forms and colors of new industrial products.
7. Marketing techniques devised a price/quality differentiation of those products adapted to each segment of the consumers base.
Coming back to our approach of the arts we can see, the barons of the nascent textile, steel and machinery industries in the 18th and 19th centuries order portraits of themselves and their families and landscapes of their local environments to decorate their walls. In a first time, the painting technique remains classic and subjects are treated realistically but things will gradually change with the changing environment in the field of ideas, scientific knowings, applied research and their ensuing new products and ways of doing things.
Nineteenth century trains and steam boats shortened distances and who used them underwent an altering of his vision of the world. Van Gogh and Gauguin took liberties with painting techniques. Their subjects started to be treated less realistically, impressionism, pointillism followed. Further down the road, the atrocities of the first world war and the following economic crisis in Germany gave birth to Die Brucke, German and Norden expressionism depicted in stark contrasted colors the inner feelings of the agonizing local intelligentsia.
The successive economic booms and busts induced by the introduction of electricity, cars, telephones, radios, aeroplanes and so on further deepened the altering of our vision of the world. Cubism, surrealism and other distortions of reality followed as if they were sucked in the path of this gigantic economic, political and social maelstrom.
In parallel with those alterings of our vision of reality appeared technologies that would permit the mass distribution of copies of the old and new visions of artists. The development of cameras and printing presses brought indeed an extraordinary expansion in the diffusion of images that would enter the interiors of the masses.
All those trends were firmly established with the 2nd world war that consecrated the US as the world's military-industrial factory. Financing was realized in great part through money creation. The great depression was overcome and the US' after war economic model, the military-industrial research and development complex, doubled by a civilian mass production of consumer goods established itself firmly as the most successful model of society. The countryside emptied followed by urbanization and later sub-urbanization. The consumption society grew hand in hand with full democratization, people were given the right to chose what to buy, products and also politicians. It was the total triumph of materialism and of individualism. Art in the process also became a merchandise comparable to whatever other merchandise. In other words art, through merchandization, was pushed aside from its aristocratic pedestal. Art became accessible to the masses, in theory at least. In practice great confusion ensued, as an indigestion by society at large of what seemed as an unending flow of productions by all those aspirants art creators who sprouted from the fertility of this newly born massification ground.
Notwithstanding also the undeniable successes of this model, the last fifty years saw much intellectual and moral confusion. Political ideologies acted as spiritual fogs and the awakening in the eighties at the demise of those ideologies left most of the intelligentsia and artists with a bitter taste of emptiness.
But the fall in this abyss was at worst only like an instant on the map of history. It should in all logic be followed by a long period of maturation or one could also say of digestion of this massification gloutonny. Much of this conclusion I derive from my personnel experience. As I understand it today, I have been unconsciously led to a long retreat into myself dwelling for the best part of the last 2 decades in the history of industrialization, the history of civilizations and most importantly the study of systemic complexity and the emergence of its own culture. Out of this experience, I came to the conclusion that a renewal, a renaissance is in the works nowadays, an intellectual and artistic renaissance that will last the best part of the twenty-first century.
As the technological roads taken in the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century established themselves slowly, people and societies adapted to those new ways over quite a long time span. This allowed for digested changes that time passing appeared natural in peoples eyes even if from an historic perspective those changes appear more like a formidable thunderstorm.
Starting after the 2nd world war, technological changes followed an increasingly fast pace and by the start of the 21st century many technological changes have no time any more to make it through all the segments of society, overtaken as they are by always newer technological approaches. This is a time of non digested changes pulling a riot of social, cultural and economic disruptions that are obscuring our understanding of what we are going through and where we are being led to. In a sense I have this intuition that we have entered the territory of folly. From an historical perspective the present times look like the earlier thunderstorm degenerated into some kind of non ending tornedo.
Digested technological changes fundamentally altered our vision of the world but left us perfectly conscious and in control of our actions. Non digested technological changes are breaking down all our points of repere and are thus plunging us into a mental state of profound anaesthesia. Deeply unsatisfied we follow the movement of economic and social inertia that plunges the majority of us into political apathy.
Earth distances have vanished, looking in the windows of our computers, Tvs and phones we can see how the other people of the world are living (global village). But this is not all, images from the space station help us to discover ourselves and our earth from a distance (mirror). Those of us who are watching the image of the global village in the mirror are plunged into a whole new world vision that gives us in some way the means to cross the divide between our present day land of folly and the promized land of consciousness that sits across the bridge.
The industrial stage of development, some would say the post-industrial stage of capitalist development, was made possible not only by an increased capital accumulation but perhaps primarily by an accumulation of knowings without precedent in human history. But we should be aware that this accumulation of knowings has been realized out of knowledge. By knowings I mean the accumulation of rationalizations that constitute science. By knowledge I mean here the interaction between scientific knowledge and philosophic knowledge.
Science remains indeed a mechanical processing of ever increased micro observations totally detached from the global reality. The sheer size of our accumulation of scientific data becomes monstruous and in this process, human beings lost their capacity to digest intellectually all those informations. This is the critical point when humanity abdicated its control over its actions and uncounscionciously accepted to be led by the internal logic of the life system that had taken root largely out of humans' knowing.
It's precisely at this point that the image in the mirror given to us from the global village helps us to understand how philosophy shines with wisdom. What indeed could allow us to make better sense out of the present day tornado of the constructions derived from scientific observations than philosophy?
The interaction between philosophy and science is what allows us to think out of the boxes given by religions, ideologies and science itself and as a result, an infinity of possibilities could arise for each of us, all but the absolute truth. But with the unknown as our roads, the difficulty is now to avoid falling into the absurd. We need to define the boundaries of our investigation territory.
Artists are within the best placed to experience this interaction between philosophy and science for the good reason that they are somewhat protected from the dramatic effects of the tornado and as such are let free to think and act, if they so desire, out of the conventional lines generally admitted by our societies. But we should not jump to hatives conclusions, someone's possibility to think and to act is ultimately and decisively dependant on his knowledge, on his general culture. I think that knowledge and culture act as the necessary breeding ground for creativity to blossom. I think also that knowledge and culture are somewhat akin to the parapets on the bridge to the promized land of consciousness that is given to our attention by the reflection of the image of the global village in the cosmic mirror. And I bet that recognized artists in the 21st century will be the ones who accumulate a valid base of knowledge, knowledge of their own culture and history, of the cultures and histories of the other people of this earth, knowledge of the scientific understandings of our times as focusing on the micro levels of reality, knowledge of the different philosophic approaches of the people of this earth as focusing on the macro levels of reality.
Knowledge acts as a trempoline on creativity, it projects a little further into reality and could redefine the artists and other free thinkers of the 21st century as the potential wise men who first could experience a global consciousness as a result of their integration of philosophical enquiries with scientific methodologies and datas. But will artists size upon this opportunity? It is not a given fact, it requires indeed much humility, time and perseverance to reflect upon oneself and to study the mysteries of the sky, the earth and the self. Notwithstanding those uncertainties, let's remember that art is something as the production of an expression or if you prefer an impression of the inner feelings and ideas of the artist. So we understand that an artist's productions are intimately related to his knowledge. The better his knowledge base, the better we can expect his production to be. Not advertisement of an ideology but expression of an idea, of a feeling through the use of a technique. In other words, content, the artist's personalized content will find central stage in artistic creation and beauty or ugliness will more and more relate to the content of a work.
It makes indeed no sense anymore in the twenty-first century to continue to photopaint landscapes, people or whatever when we can simply use a camera, shoot a perfectly realist image and manipulate its pixels through a photo imaging software. It makes also no sense anymore to continue to illustrate the ideological trappings of religious or political half baked truths as it makes no more sense to plunge ourselves into the different distorsions of reality as described by the twentieth century observers of the technological alterings of our visions of reality. We the artists and free thinkers of the 21st century have to place the bar somewhat higher than that. Let's remember that, as I wrote earlier, those of us who are watching the image of the global village in the cosmic mirror are plunged into a whole new world vision that gives us in some way the means to cross the divide between our present day land of folly and the promized land of consciousness that sits across the bridge. We artists have to cross this bridge but we should permanently remember that the parapets on the bridge are what is protecting us from falling into the absurd and we sould remember that those parapets are made of solid knowledge...