We know that art is a function of societies for the good reason that during 99,900 of the 100,000 years or so of art history societies were the active energetic polarity of humanity; the individuals constituting its passive polarity. And societies strategized that to assure their reproduction over time they needed a high level of societal cohesion.
During the first 99,900 years of our long history visual art acted as a tool to enforce societal cohesion by giving visual signs of the worldview of the men of knowledge in order for all to share the same visualization of the knowledge of the day:
- animism: shaman during tribal societal organization devised animistic worldviews all around the world (from the earliest of times till the development of agriculture: worldview = animism and its visual representation is called “primitive arts” by moderns)
- religion or philosophy: priests or wise-men starting from early kingdoms to empires (worldview = religions or philosophies. In the Middle East the religions of the Word gave way to religious art that was practiced by craftsmen who were accorded very low social standing. Chinese philosophy gave way to Shieyi and Gongbi painting that was practiced by the men of knowledge themselves...)
- early modernity: long haul merchants and bankers, starting in early modernity in Europe, over the centuries developed a worldview consecrating individualism and private ownership that conflicted with the established religious worldview. Their power in gold and the assets that gold could buy finally assured them societal recognition in the form of architecture (mansions and palaces) and art (landscapes around the mansions, portraits of those living in the mansions and stills of what adorns the tables in the mansions). Such art was destined primarily to share the new values of individualism and private ownership and please notice that those 3 imposed subjects are the exclusive subjects of painting from the Renaissance till around 1900.
- high modernity (modernism or 100 years on the 100,000 years of art history): the sanctification of the individual into the active polarity of modernity dates from early modernity; a process that unfolded over the centuries starting with the first crusade. But it is only with the advent of economic massification (mass market) between 1800 and 1900 that individualism finally displaced the societal structures of knowledge by bringing the men of knowledge on the level playing field of the market for ideas where they had thus to fight against all kinds of charlatans for the eyeballs of citizens. By 1900 the mass market had imposed itself as the generator of the bulk of all surpluses in Europe and the US and thereafter it permanently tried to expand its reach to newer goods. But to succeed the mass market had needed to give each consumer the power to chose what product he wants to purchase and to establish the symbolism of consumer choice it first needed to break two stumble-blocks by generating the illusion into the eyes of the masses that they:
* controlled the political process of decision making (democracy, one people/one vote). Power had not vanished. Gold and the assets that gold can buy still had the upper hand and would henceforth manipulate the designation process of the representatives of the people. Nothing changed to this day...
* controlled the ideation process by relegating the “men of knowledge” to the level playing field of the market for ideas. But here again power had not vanished. Gold and the assets that gold can buy would thus manipulate the people to follow its ideation agenda...
It's in that particular context (high modernity) that the avant-garde emerges:
* rejecting past ways of painting (rejection of the 3 obliged subjects of modernity)
* searching for a deeper meaning of reality to depict visually
Looking at the last one hundred years of visual creations force is to recognize that the avant-garde failed to achieve the goal it had set for itself. It did not discover a deeper meaning of reality and the works, of whatever its school, have not enlightened nor during high modernity nor today in late modernity.
We still are searching today for that deeper meaning of reality... And thus the necessity of "Thinking what reality is all about, writing about that thinking, painting along its lines."
The following images illustrate a deeper meaning of reality that makes sense. They were not created by artists but by scientists plunging deep into the microcosm.
Is this art?
These are visualizations of what the brain accesses through the use of deep magnifying instruments that scientists then use to have a better grasp of the implications initiated by their abstract ideas (visuals initiated by the brain, absorbed by the eyes then transferred back to the brain for further analysis).
Those visualizations give us a peak on what it means to strive for "a deeper meaning of reality" which, let's never forget this, was what propulsed the Avant-Garde to the front of the art scene around 1900. But most importantly those visualizations irrevocably destroy the artistic illusion of "whatever is art" as well as the conceptual urge for "the rejection of beauty" that governs Late-Modernity.
Visualization offers contemporary artists matter for thought. How its lessons will be incorporated in their artistic creations, in the end, depends on the willingness of artists to engage into much thinking. Is this too much to ask from artists?