2007/04/29

Etymology to the rescue of sense in art.

My friend Mark from New Delhi sent me the following comment about my post "About the ways of seeing reality":
The word 'idea' has its roots in the Ancient Greek word 'idien' which means 'to see'.
The root word for 'technology' is again an Ancient Greek word 'techne' which to the Greeks meant 'art'.



That's very interesting indeed. The etymology of the words I write about seems to reinforce my argument:
- to see = idea about reality
- art = the technique to put out the idea about reality for all to share.

The real question then centers on our way of seeing. And that is at heart what differentiates civilizations and the different epochs within civilizations.

Modernity has its "way of seeing" that is basically ideological: the reign of individualism and private property. This ideology develops as an outcome of a few centuries of plundering by the European aristocracies and merchant adventurers. From those accumulated "richnesses" develops a logic of rationality (the logic of capital) and the individuals who own those richnesses want to experience the prestige that comes with them. So we'll have portraits. landscapes and stills on the walls of their mansions and for a few centuries painting will be exclusively about that.

Coming out of the first world war "thinker-artists" reject that model but they don't succeed in finding a new "way of seeing" that could be validated by their societies and the story will end later in "whatever" being presented as being art. (a certain shark for exemple, is it not Mr. Saatchi?).

We sense today that a new "way of seeing" is there somewhere out of the door waiting to be shared by the whole world. I mean that the world, the whole world for once, is searching for sense out of the chaos wrought about by the fast changes induced by science, on one side, the impact of globalization on another side and finally the side-effects of modernity that day after day appear to become a greater threat to the survival of life on earth. All this is happening simultaneously on a worldwide scale and at an accelerating rhythm due to the multiplying interactions between those 3 factors!

What I refer to here is a new "way of seeing"and understanding reality that is shaping as a postmodern "way of seeing" but I sense that there are some conditions for this search for sense to find a successful outcome. Post-modernity emerges indeed out of the completion of the expansion of modernity to the 4 corners of the world! Let's remember that the process towards modernity implies economic change that brings social change that in turn brings cultural change. It's this complete process that guarantees the capitalistic strength for a nation to strive in modernity and it's only after the completion of the whole process in all nations that postmodernity could possibly strive.

But we artists can't wait for this outcome. It is our role, it seems to me, to materialize in visual signs what the etymology of the words "idea" and "art" could possibly represent in postmodernity:
- to see = idea about reality: science and the philosophies shared by the majority of the people on this earth (China, India,...) will somehow fuse to give us a paradigmic new vision about reality that redresses all the ill side-effects of modernity.
- art = the technique to put out the idea about reality for all to share.

To give visual signs that will make sense 50 or 100 years from now artists better dig into science and philosophies in order to represent substance in their works.



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