2007/06/04

The plight of the visual artist in late-modernity.

Seen from a historical perspective the form taken by visual art appears to have greatly evolved over time while its function has nevertheless remained constant, indeed, along 99.99% of its timespan visual art has been the visual representation of the worldview of the men of knowledge of the day, by the artist, at the attention of his fellow citizens.
From early on humans understood that they could not survive by themselves alone in the wild but that they needed to be part of a societal grouping to assure their reproduction and that of their children. Societies were thus a fact of life for humanity since way back in time as it is also for most other animals. But once in existence societies behave like ensembles on their own and devise strategies to preserve their own reproduction. It's inside those societal strategies of reproduction that visual art finds its roots.
Through adaptation and evolution the eye evolved as the most important human sensor. Since millions of years each individual has been bestowed with vision to protect himself from the dangers lurking in his immediate environment and this, in turn, has shaped the foundations upon which humanity has developed its understanding of reality.
Under animism, along far more than one hundred thousand years, primitive arts have represented the worldview of the shaman. The role of the shaman (the man of knowledge within the tribe) was the formation of knowledge about what reality is all about, that means about all aspects touching the existence of his tribe. He then used visual illustrations, symbols, and signs to transmit the essence of his acquired knowledge to his fellow tribesmen. The sharing of those visual signs and their content was unifying the tribe behind a common set of beliefs and the tribesmen reinforced that belief through the use of those visual signs as decoration of their daily use utensils. Both the visual creations by the shaman and the functional creations by the tribesmen constitute what is commonly called "primitive arts" or "arts premiers" (following their decision to open a museum especially reserved for "animist arts" and in order to avoid being criticized for Eurocentrism, the French lately termed those arts "first arts" or the ones that came first on the human societal evolutionary ladder).
It always struck me that there seems to be such a strong resemblance in the content of animist works. African, American Indian, Indian India, Chinese or anywhere around the world animist works may vary in their form, the materials they are realized in but the story they represent for the observer to see are invariably identical: the interconnectedness of all living and inanimate elements present in the environment forming like so many yarns woven together in the gigantic tapestry of the one thing all fell they were part of, I mean, the ultimate reality; the Whole, the One.
Under religion, during a few thousand years, the creed has been the exclusive object to be represented visually. With the unification of tribes as a consequence of the larger population densities unleashed by agriculture the unity of content found in animism vanishes and is replaced gradually by parochial foundational stories used by the local men of power to strengthen their control over their subjects.
This is the time when the illustration of the worldview of the men of knowledge started to specialize and gradually the making of visual signs established itself as an autonomous societal function. But this autonomization has been a very slow process that was only completed, in Europe, during the late Middle-Ages.
The separation of functions between knowledge production and its diffusion through visual signs was initially realized amongst the monks. Some specialized in learning and developing the creed while others specialized in spreading the foundational story through speech and visual signs. Seen that the only literate beings were the monks and priests visual signs took preeminence in the diffusion of the creed among the populations of Europe. When cities started to develop at the interstices of freedom on the periphery of the manors, commoners gradually took over this image making function from the monks which thus established the craft as one among the many others.
What is remarkable in this process is the extremely low social esteem that was recognized to the image making craftsmen. This stands in sharp contrast to the role of the artist under early modernity. The entreprizing aristocrats and new rich merchants accumulated their wealth against the will of the church which was forbidding banking activities and greatly discouraging the accumulation of material possessions. This acted like a powerfully incentive on the new rich to start spreading their own worldview. Image crafters were then hired to represent the virtues of individualism that ultimately procured the wealth of private property (portraits of those living in the mansions, landscapes around the mansion and stills of what lay on the tables in the mansions). One can easily imagine that the inquisition did not see with a benevolent eye its image making crafters passing at the service of the infidel, the enemy, and its punishment through fire acted as a severely inflating factor on the remuneration of those image crafters who dared brave the inquisition by jumping over board in the camp of the new rich. This incentive of very high remunerations fast changed the perception of the social status of the image crafters. Wealth for themselves procured them also gradually a high prestige and their craft soon was to be called art and themselves artists. This is indeed the origin of the words art and artist as we understand them under modernity.
Nothing is being meant to last eternally and so the high remuneration that went with the exercise of the artist's craft, in early modernity, would soon be memory. From the wealth and prestige of Rubens history surfs indeed very fast towards the misery of Van Gogh.
The combination of the logic of capital and philosophic rationalism extending in applied science eventually ensued in industrialization and democratization. This process that expands approximately along two centuries resulted in the separation of the men of power from the men of knowledge which, by the way, procured to the visual artist the freedom to represent whatever he wants. The new men of knowledge, the scientists, were left to compete on the "level playing field" of the free market with anyone presenting a foundational story about reality.
In this process visual artists have gained total freedom over the content of their works but the substance of that content had vanished and thus their market was gone, they had lost the societal function that had been theirs until then. But, for sure, nothing changes overnight. All movement forward continues for a while even after the energy prompting its movement has been cut. Inertia sets in and inertia conquered modernity or to be more precise the mature stage of modernity what some also call "high modernity".
High modernity can be summed up as a short period of search, by "thinker-artists", for a new narrative about what is reality. The whole enterprise was centered on content, on meaning, and form was only of marginal concern for the artists themselves. But force is to recognize that the content of most of the works from that period does not carry forward much helpful meaning and that it is their form that is being remembered in late modernity. As a direct consequence of this paradox, visual arts lost:
- any trace of a narrative: the naive belief in an "end of history" did not leave any space for another historical narrative and whatever the artist does is considered sufficient to be called art.
- any trace of a public: from the onset of a high modernity Paul Klee already noted that "the people are not with us" (Uns tragt kein Volk)
Having lost any notion of a narrative (a story about what reality is all about), having lost their public, the question that begs for an answer now in late modernity is "for who do visual artists continue to create?".
Answering this question comes down to isolate the different market segments where the creator, the artist, can try to place his wares and this should also shed some light on the content of his works.
  1. The market for interior decoration expanded from being exclusively reserved to luxuries for the rich to a mass market for the middle-class that was then satisfied by the proliferation of cheap prints and cheap originals. The profit imperative of the corporation being what it is the bulk of the prints on the market are mass copies of works that fell out of intellectual protection. Some artists experiment with limited edition copies of their works but, all in all, the marketing imperative most often leaves them in the quandary of having to decide being an artist or being a marketeer. Lately the production of cheap originals (copies or works in the style of...) has been delocalized to China and other countries of the South. You can buy an excellent copy of the Mona Lisa in Beijing for 50 US dollars frame included. Only the frame costs more that that in the West. Furthermore the level of technical skills of painters in the South is rarely seen nowadays in the West. Copies and works "in the style of..." relate to subjects of the past: portraits of those living in the mansions, landscapes around the mansion and stills of what lay on the tables in the mansions. This does not fit the content of contemporary art works. In sum the process of delocalization has left many Western painters discovering the hardship of having to sell their own wares at a Chinese price.
  2. The memory of our culture and the cultural importance recognized by history to artworks is being cultivated in Western education systems and speculators equipped with PR and advertisement exploit the memory of that cultural importance to make fast bucks by speculating on the value of works that they buy initially for a cheap price. Charles Saatchi is a perfect example of this new group of art buyers. What counts here is the generation of hefty returns. Art is of no importance. Charles Saatchi candidly describes the criteria that motivates his purchases as a certain quality to generate scandal, to shock the observer and he lately declared that English art schools have lost their prime strength and fallen behind their successes of the eighties and nineties when he bought and rendered famous just graduated art students whose crap contained the genius to repulse the observer, and provoke his angry reaction, which in finale is what made the crap to the news bulletins. So if artists want to be selected by Saatchi or his peers the lesson is absolutely clear. They need to provide substance for the news hour. Scandal leading to shock and provocation or whatever else will catch the eye or the ear of the TV news channels will do. Charles Saatchi's company will then amplify the noise which will lead to a surge in value of the works he presents to the public and when the value is ripe to his taste he pockets the fantastic returns on his initial small investment. Saatchi justifies his move by saying that the high returns he pockets will allow him to buy so many more works from beginners. I have nothing against speculators but I have something against stupidity. Scandal never will qualify as art, at least not as visual art, but perhaps could it be conceived as the art of marketing. Why can't the speculators reintroduce art and its meaning in the art market? The answer here seems to be double headed. For one it comes from the artistic illiteracy of the speculators. But again I have nothing against speculators per se. They are indeed not responsible for their own illiteracy. Western societies, as a whole, have indeed become artistically illiterate. The first to blame are the media companies that want to give their poorly educated viewers what they most want, scandal and sensation and the second to blame are the bureaucrats of the artistic institutions. They are the ones who make all the noise about art and they just don't get it. Their talk is most generally total emptiness. Only the noise of words rattling onto one another. But where is the meaning in all their speeches and writings? In the end we have nevertheless to acknowledge that no-one is really responsible, for, it all boils down to the logic of capital that drives us all. In the face of their competitors the medias have to generate returns and the artistic institutions and their bureaucrats have to please donators for the sake of their donations.
  3. Galleries live from sales of art works. Not surprisingly most owners focus their attention on what sells and force is to observe that what sells is conventional, in other words, what sells is what is already recognized. Those trying to promote artistic substance are a small minority. In the present overwhelming confusion, about what art is all about, it goes without surprise that this small minority is preponderantly poor in capital and in consequence its marketing reach is rather limited.
  4. The art bureaucracy consists of speakers and writers making noise about the works of artists. It starts with art critics and commentators in the media and finds its true meaning in the functions serving, the modern form of public art temples, the museums. Money is the language of power and speculators and merchants target those modern art temples with the entirety of their power. Having their artistic possessions find a place in those temples consecrate their value in the eyes of all... The artists who might want to target that segment of the market better be advised first to try to be enlisted by a powerful speculator. Their direct encounter with this bureaucracy could at best only result in the sharing of some charitable proceeds in the form of meager grants or other.
  5. Are there still some art connoisseurs out there? Yes they did not disappear all together. One still can find some specimen here and there but most generally they are not that wealthy, albeit, they are well educated or cultured. Those rare specimen of art connoisseurs are the best that can befall an artist. They know what they speak about and for artists they act as stimulating intellectual muses.
  6. The last segment of the artist's market is himself. He will not generate any income by pleasing himself but it nevertheless remains, and by far, the most rewarding experience for the artist to try to understand the reality in which he struggles and ultimately see his understanding becoming the generator of the content of his works. We artists gained our freedom from the men of power and the men of knowledge but in this process we lost a given content and now our only escape from absurdity is through the generation of our own knowledge base. In our present societal predicament targeting one's own productions for him(her)self has the best chance to lead to a dialog between the reason of the brain and the execution of the hand. This is also the only way for the artist to regain a clear understanding of the societal meaning and function of art.
Modernity has triumphed:
- economically: the logic of capital substantiates all our social interactions.
- educationally: economic functionality obliging; science and its applications are transmitted, to one degree or another, to all of us through our education systems.
- philosophically: we all have fallen, to one degree or another, under the charm of rationality but to our surprise we also discovered that the growth of knowledge, predicated by rationality, is also expanding our field of ignorance.
But modernity never morphed into a worldview accessible to all nor did it ever give a foundational story of itself for all to share. Max Weber noted that "scientific rationality offered us artificial abstractions unable to teach us anything about the meaning of the world". Here we are thus left spectators of the utter limitation of modernity wondering "What now?".
With modernity painters gained the total freedom to represent whatever they want but never were they been offered the intellectual tools to come up with images corresponding to the reality of their times. What ensued was "whatever is art". Marcel Duchamp had it all seen come down on the art world and ridiculed the process by exhibiting a toilet seat that critics baptized "readymade". Profoundly distraught by this recuperation Duchamp quit painting for chess.
With late modernity we witness an initial sketching of the road of humanity towards its future in the form of an interaction on a worldscale of 3 determinant factors that will gradually displace modernity:
- a process of scientific revolutionizing that is churning out ever faster new "knowings" or bits of knowledge about the working of reality.
- the impact of the side-effects of modernity on life on earth will definitely mould our ways of doing and thinking in the future.
- globalization is expanding the frontiers of modernity to the whole world and as such we are assisting at a kind of radicalization of modernity. But ultimately this will project on the whole world the civilizational, cultural, societal and other values of 85% of the world population that was until now only experiencing the destructive impact on their traditional structures of a dominating European or Western modernity.
We have entered an age characterized by a total absence of certainty that will transform into a maelstrom of destruction of our past givens and creation of new forms. This process that could well take decades if not centuries to complete will end with the sharing, by all, of a new paradigmatic vision of reality; a common worldview.
It is the understanding of this process that today offers a chance to the artist to engage into a dialog between the reason of his brain and the execution of his hand. Starting from the self the artist then regains the pleasure of understanding how his creations can fit and play within the context of his society.
That's where the artistic adventure finds a new start, a societal meaning, letting us quit late modernity and entering the unknown of what comes after...
Here are some sketchy trails into that unknown:
  1. On the front of ideas the dualistic certainties founding our views of things (beginning versus end, good versus bad, white versus black and so forth) will be displaced by more interactive, polar, circular or cyclical visions of change coming to us from the civilizations of China, India, Africa and south America as well as from advanced science and a rediscovery of animism.
  2. On the front of our environment the fact that reality is made-up of systemic complexity, or complexity within ever farther-apart ensembles interacting upon one another, will gradually be firmly inserted into our minds, albeit, under the impact of necessity.
  3. On the front of our macro universe will gradually emerge the certainty of our ultimate incapacity to apprehend the whole. Understanding the working of the parts will never indicate us if the whole, we are such a tiny particle of, is a pink elephant nor, if it really is a pink elephant, how many family members it lives with.
  4. On the front of visual representations our confrontation with Chinese philosophy and Xieyi painting (writing down the meaning) will help us reassess the link between knowledge and the act of painting and ultimately its societal function. Xieyi painting was never a specialization as such. It was a practice by the men of knowledge on a par with music, philosophy, history, strategy and other.
A vision is slowly sinking into my mind; under the urgent necessity of clarifying his own role the artist is slowly weaving the dress he'll be wearing as a kind of shaman for postmodern times.

2007/06/03

On ART in the future.



This article is a follow-up of:
- What is modernism after all?
- Scientific visualization. Is it art?
- About the ways of seeing reality.
- Soulless science and rationalism
- Etymology to the rescue of sense in art.



In the air of our times something is brewing that we still can't see nor comprehend very well but that is bound to change drastically the way we understand what is reality. Four factors, it seems to me, are the ingredients of that brew:



1. The mis-understanding in Late modernity that "art is whatever".

If we agree with Marcel Duchamp that "In fact until the last hundred years all painting had been literary or religious, it had all been at the service of the mind but this characteristic was lost little by little during the last century" then we have to answer the question "how did art come to forget about its function?". Answering that question imposes us to resolve the problem of the mysterious disjunction between power and knowledge that happened sometime during modernity:

- when the worldviews of the men of knowledge stopped to be imposed on everyone by the men of power. That is when visual artists were freed of their ancestral obligation to illustrate subjects that had always been imposed on them. In this freeing the artists got to illustrate whatever they wanted...
- when freed from an imposed worldview everyone started to consider that their own views were reflecting the "truth" about "reality" better than the ones of the others.

This was indeed the fertile ground out of which societal confusion would grow and develop unhindered into the aberration of late modernity that is characterized by a complete societal imbalance, extreme individualism tilting toward the atomization of our late modern societies. Such an imbalance is deadly. We are indeed acting as if we were atoms of a "material entity" that were going it their own way. But this is pure delusion for the atoms are nothing on their own. The nature of their being is no more than to be a particle of the "material entity" they are a part of. That is what gives sense to their own existence. Going it their own way the atoms would only succeed to destroy the "material entity" they are a part of which would be synonymous with their collective suicide.

The history of visual arts after the second world war follows that path toward atomization and it is in this particular context that the art market imposed its rules of value. Those are rules of financial value that imposed themselves over an atomized visual art landscape wherein the idea that "whatever is art" finally led to that other idea that "art is dead" for the only reason of the loss of any societal functionality. In Danto's words "Art today is produced in an art world unstructured by any master narrative at all, though of course there remains in artistic consciousness the knowledge of the narratives that no longer apply". From the recognition of the disappearance of any societal functionality at all Danto then concludes: "I myself argue here and in a number of places, that the end of art has come, meaning that the narrative generated by the concept has come to its internally projected end". (note 1)

At that point "whatever is art" became the norm in the game of visual art creation... but it seems to me that the theoretical foundations bringing about "whatever is art" are ultimately very thin and fragile.

Through the whole timespan of human history visual arts have always been a function of society.
I mean that our visual sense is the most powerful sensor that we humans have at our disposal and societies needing some gluing of the individuals that compose them, through the sharing of a common worldview, in order to possibly achieve their reproduction, well because those reasons, the men of knowledge who produced or held the keys of the common worldview of a given society used images to convey the content of their worldview for easy sharing by all the other members of their society. This process has been going on since the beginning of the history of mankind till sometime around 1900 in the Western world and I posit that the necessity of this process has not vanished, that on the contrary, it has never been more urgently needed than in late modern societies.

The question that arises then is "what is the worldview" that should be illustrated by visual artists today? Furthermore where are the men of knowledge of our times? In short the answer is that, if there are still some real men of knowledge, societal atomization has put them on a level playing field with all kinds of charlatans and their worldview is being overshadowed by the noise and furry of the cacophony resulting from the public debate.

In this particular societal context visual artists are like being blinded. I posit that the only and exclusive answer to this blinding is knowledge about the workings of our societies and the road to the future they are on presently.



2. Scientific imaging is confronting us with an exponential rise in realist images of things our eyes can't see directly.

The complexification of the content of available knowings often gives to an image a higher communicational trust or skill than a thousand words. Scientific literature thus logically embraced the trend with no restraint. Such images accessed through the lens of a telescope give us views on the macro realm, accessed through different kind of lenses they also give us views from the micro realm or simply of abstract thinking or of complex processes. All this has been rendered possible by our use of electronic microscopes and telescopes or databases and mind mapping software or new digital captioning technologies that appeared along the last two decades.

Technology liberated us from the limitation of our visual sensors (after all they were only tools given to us for assuring our individual survival) and multiplied the scope and breadth of our observation field. We are no longer bound exclusively by what our eyes see and their transmission of signals to the brain for it to process orders for the defense of the body. The brain is now, directly or indirectly, creating images for the eyes to see allowing them to discover dimensions of reality that were inaccessible to them before.

With the detachment of only a very short period of time since such images became accessible to the public we nevertheless already had the chance to become aware of the fact that such images are ushering us into a whole new visual dimension that somehow reflects the futility of traditional first degree images, realist photos or paintings of landscapes, portraits and stills.

The newly gained profound depth of comprehension about reality, that we gain from such images, instills in our minds the idea of a very strong positivity emanating from such postmodern realism. Unmistakably this is bound soon to shame all those who theorize, practice and finance the "whatever is art?". We'll then witness, within a relatively short timespan, the fall of "whatever is art" into the dustbin of history in the form of a "liquefaction" of modern art assets that had been thought of so highly by the bureaucrats of the art market.

But far more important than this loss will be the fact that the postmodern realism that I here describe shall be instrumental in devising for us a whole new paradigm about "what is reality".

Here follow some examples of such postmodern realist images.


Composite Crab. Credit: NASA - X-ray: CXC, J.Hester (ASU) et al.; - Optical:ESA, J.Hester and A.Loll (ASU); - Infrared: JPL-Caltech, R.Gehrz (U. Minn


Pinwheel galaxy. Nasa / ESA Hubble Space Telescope image.



Botanical Visualization of Huge Hierarchies. Author(s): Ernst Kleiberg, Huub van de Wetering, Jarke J. van Wijk. Institution: Department of Mathematics and Computer Science - Eindhoven University of Technology

Copyright © 2000 - 2006 AguaSonic Acoustics. All Rights Reserved.


Cystine a amino acids (very small biomolecules with an average molecular weight of about 135 daltons. © 1995-2006 by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University All Rights Reserved.


Taurine a amino acids (very small biomolecules with an average molecular weight of about 135 daltons. © 1995-2006 by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University. All Rights Reserved


The least we can say after viewing such scientific visualizations is that the images they stumble upon are very seductive from an artistic point of view. And what amazes me the most is that those images are often far superior, in artistic terms, than much of the art produced by contemporary artists. Just for the sake of the experience compare the painting here under by Willem De Koning that sold recently for $63.5 million to the images here above. Everyone, not just the art specialist, shall be able to form valid conclusions. I hate the idea of appearing here to downplay a fellow artist, this is not my intention, but I guess that Willem De Koning would have been the first to poke fun at those who throw such amounts of money after that particular work of his and he would also have been one of the first to recognize the importance of scientific visualizations for the visual arts.


Willem De Kooning Revocable Trust/Artists Rights Society, New York. David Geffen sold Willem De Kooning's "Police Gazette" for $63.5 million to Mr. Cohen, the founder and manager of SAC Capital Advisors in Stamford, Conn.



3. The objectification of beauty.

Beauty is most often presented, by the art market bureaucracy, as being contained in the eye of the beholder meaning that it is thus purely a subjective matter.

A few days ago the National Geographic published an article by John Roach titled "Your DNA Is a Song" that should awaken us to the real possibility that beauty, musical or visual, is simply the memorization somewhere inside our DNA of the musical sounds and visual patterns that the principle of life successfully retained along the whole time span of evolution. This comes, kind of, substantiating what I'm writing about in my book Artsense.

Following this idea that visualizations shed more light, and faster, in the brain of the observer than a thousand words biologists started to convert DNA and its components, amino acids and proteins, into musical compositions (see notes 2, 3, 4)

"By listening to the songs, scientists and students alike can hear the structure of a protein. And when the songs of the same protein from different species are played together, their similarities and differences are apparent to the ear. " 'It's an illustration transferred into a medium people will find more accessible than just [text] sequences. If you look at protein sequences, if you just read those as they are written down, recorded in a database, it's hard to get a sense for the pattern.' " (see note 5)

Here are a few exemples of such sound conversions:
- the amino acid scale by M. A. Clark. Texas Wesleyan University
- Drosophila Protein by M. A. Clark. Texas Wesleyan University
- Heat Shock Protein by M. A. Clark. Texas Wesleyan University
- Collagen PBD by John Dunn

One of the most prolific in the field, and an artist on his own, Nobuo Munakata shows that musical sounds can in turn be converted into visualizations and thus help the brain to form an easier interpretation of something that initially seemed quite abstract in words and letters.
Three Faces of Genome Guardian: P53 Tumor-Suppressor Protein (3D, 17.1MB) by Nobuo Munakata.

Those conversions from biological code to sound and then to image are as valid a representation as the language of mathematics or physics or chemistry or biology. They indicate the background noise of phenomena, and also their own conversations. As such those musical and visual conversions are an integral part of our tool-set for describing reality and they suggest that our universal background is interwoven by an infinity of particles and ensembles that are interacting upon themselves like a giant interactive multimedia orchestra that is projecting the sounds and lines and forms and colors in the memory of all its actors.

In substance, I posit that, if we are all attracted by musical beauty it is because it reproduces the harmonics and rhythms of successful evolution and the same goes for visual beauty. By that I mean that visual signs are equally under the determinant influence of all forms and lines and colors that have been successfully retained along the whole evolutionary timespan of the principle of life. All of us humans are thus somehow un-consciously under the influence of some kind of automatic pilot inducing us to appreciate the successful evolutionary forms, colors, lines, harmonics, rhythms... and this pilot is our DNA-RNA and its genetic code that stores the memory of the entire evolution of life on earth.

We are also, let's not forget that point, induced to abhor all unsuccessful forms, colors, lines, harmonics and rhythms. Such unsuccessful sounds are quite easily recognizable, for, our ears do not seem to tolerate them, as if it were a question of hearing-physicality, while in the visual realm acceptable signs seem more dependent on our cultural build-up that spans tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years back which should explain why our eyes are able to look at whatever. It is indeed our value system that makes us eventually reject an image or a visual sign and not our physicality.

What I write here is not something so radically new. It is only the transcription of an eternal artistic truth into a present day form that grows out of our contemporary knowledge-base. Kandinsky is assuredly one of the thinker-artists who best described this idea of objective beauty. "Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions. It follows that each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated. Efforts to revive the art-principles of the past will at best produce an art that is still-born. ... There is, however, in art another kind of external similarity which is founded on a fundamental truth. When there is a similarity of inner tendency in the whole moral and spiritual atmosphere, a similarity of ideals, at first closely pursued but later lost to sight, a similarity in the inner feeling of any one period to that of another, the logical result will be a revival of the external forms which served to express those inner feelings in an earlier age. An example of this today is our sympathy, our spiritual relationship, with the primitives. Like ourselves, these artists sought to express in their work only internal truths, renouncing in consequence all consideration of external form." (see note 6)

Kandinsky's idea of internal truths is founded upon a firm conviction that something objective is hidden deep inside all of us. But he very well knew that in his age those internal truths remained hidden and that "this all-important spark of inner life today is at present only a spark."

Whatever the advances of science one hundred years after Kandinsky wrote "The art of spiritual harmony" we still, today, have not grasped the profundity of his intuition.

Notwithstanding our general ignorance it is nowadays a well accepted fact that life is governed by forms, colors, lines, rhythms and harmonics that are not directly accessible to human sensors. We know they are there but that is about all we know.



4. Globalization and the great melting-pot.

"Whatever is art" shall not vanish from our sight like erased by a single swoop of my words nor shall scientific imaging be integrated into the consciousness of all by any more swoop of my words nor shall the objectification of beauty materialize in knowledge made of stone.
Those three seem to be, no more than a sign of the times under late modernity in the Western world which including Japan and some other isolated countries (the North) represent barely 15% of the world population and this figure is bound to decline further in the foreseeable future.

The brew of those three ingredients, in the North, is a process that will be taking a long time before completion. It would be day-dreaming to believe that we'll be given to taste it soon and there is one more complication. Even if we succeeded societally, here or there to near completion of this postmodern brew, force is to recognize that its taste should not be mature, for, if modernity could mature and even reach its late stages within the confines of one, two or three regions, in contrast, postmodernity is a global affair that comes after the completion of the expansion of modernity to the 4 corners of the world. Post-modernity will definitely include much of the thinking and philosophical background of the Chinese, and the same I'm sure can be said of, the philosophical background of the Indians, the Africans, the Arabs, the South-Americans.

What I mean to say ultimately is that the Western intelligentsia's approach towards postmodernity is definitely totally out of touch with the reality of 85% of the world population and in the present times of capitalistic globalization it makes no doubt at all that such a Western-centric vision is doomed. See the visualization of the evolution of the distribution of economic power around the world given in this stunning eight images slide-show of Der Spiegel Online: "Postponed Power: The Rise of China and India"


World in 2005. Copyright Der Spiegel Online


World in 2050. Copyright Der Spiegel Online.


I'm not a divinator, I can't see into the future. But I believe that, out of the process of change that is taking place nowadays within the timescale of the "long history", we can determine the factors that will be most determinant in the shaping of the future of humanity. Some of those factors are already visible for those who care to accumulate the necessary knowledge and who furthermore care enough to look attentively at what's going on around us today and I firmly believe that the 4 factors that I introduced here above constitute the core of what lies ahead in the making of our future visual reality.

As a visual artist I feel that it is my duty to understand the following questions:

- What is art?
Answer: art is the illustration of the worldview of the men of knowledge of the day at the attention of their contemporaries. So who are the men of knowledge of our days? I dare to venture that we are like in a "hole" in late modernity not knowing clearly any longer who are the men of knowledge of the day. For sure we all know that the scientists are accumulating vast pools of "knowings" but we also have this confused feel that somehow they do not succeed to transform those "knowings" into workable knowledge that could transform into a worldview to be shared by all.

- What is the knowledge of our days?
"Men of knowledge" are no longer readily available in the North, as was the case since the start of humanity's history till somewhere around 1900. So the only valid answer at the disposal of visual artists is to accumulate by themselves the necessary "knowings" in order to weave a valid knowledge-base that they could then transform into visual signs or signals of the worldview of the future that is starting to form in our days.

Marcel Duchamp said no less when referring to painters as "being dumb as a painter"... The drama of our age in the visual art world is that schools and art academies only teach kids the use of a tool: a pencil, a brush, a computer program or else out of any understanding of what the use of such tools should be set to accomplish. But the problem runs deeper than the education system. It is indeed the whole bureaucracy of the art market that does not get it. The art market pretends it is content driven but very few critics, dealers and even less buyers are intellectually capable of understanding let alone putting a valid interpretation of the working of reality into their words to communicate them to the public and the public art institutions.

Artistic qualities are not being determined by the art market.

Only time shall determine what remains artistically valid half a century, a century or more, from now. But again time is only a convenient way to put things, for, it is the knowledge shared by the people of the future that will in fact determine if a work realized today has its place in front of their eyes. If we are really conscientious of that very fact then I believe there remains only one choice for all those who are active today in the art world and that is to accumulate the necessary knowings to grasp the wave of humanity's "globalizing worldview"... and then to surf on that wave as best as one can.
____________




Notes:

1. Arthur Danto. "After the end of art". Princeton paperbacks. 1997.

2. Amino acids.
Amino acids have the following general chemical structure (C = carbon, H = hydrogen, O = oxygen, N = nitrogen). All amino acids have the same general structure, but each has a different R-group -- the chemical group represented by the designation "R".
The carbon atom to which the R group is connected is called the alpha carbon. See table of amino acid R-groups

3. Proteins.
Amino acids are connected to make proteins through a chemical reaction in which a molecule of water is removed, leaving two amino acids residues (i.e. what's left when the water is removed) connected by a peptide bond. Connecting multiple amino acids in this way produces a polypeptide. Proteins are polypeptides composed of 20 different amino acids.
The linear order of amino acids in a polypeptide is called its primary structure. The primary structure is represented in the protein databases by a string of single letters, like a long word or sentence. The order of letters is the order in which the amino acids were strung together when the polypeptide was synthesized.

4. DNA.
DNA is a two-stranded molecule. Each strand is a polynucleotide composed of A (adenosine), T (thymidine), C (cytidine), and G (guanosine). Each strand has polarity and runs antiparallel in such a way that one strand runs 5' -> 3' while the other one runs 3' -> 5'.
One strand of DNA holds the information that codes various genes; this strand is often called the template strand or antisense strand (containing anticodons). The other, and complementary, strand is called the coding strand or sense strand (containing codons).
The Genetic Code is known as "universal", because it is used by all known organisms. So the genetic code is the code of the principle of life. The universality of the genetic code encompasses all animals (including humans), plants, fungi, archaea, bacteria, and viruses.

5. "A Protein Primer": a Musical Introduction to Protein Structure.
An accessible presentation by M. A. Clark. Texas Wesleyan University

6. Vassily Kandinsky. "Concerning the spiritual in art".
Dover publications.1977. (First published in London in 1914 under the title "The art of spiritual harmony")
____________________

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,



AddThis Social Bookmark Button