From Modernity to After Modernity. (01)

Part 2. Theoretical considerations
1. About the formation of human knowledge

1.1. Introduction

The notion of being, of being human, is not a given – nor a universal one - nor a historical one. It is a work in process.

Biological evolution lays the ground work in which an evolving materiality gives form to life and life evolves then a multitude of biological forms – plant and animal.

Such a background suggests that the individual units of all species are interdependent. By being components of the universal whole they are being animated by the same universal energetic flow that binds together all particles and the ensembles that are a part of the whole. That energetic flow is a generator of inter-connectedness.

Brain, mind, consciousness

Consciousness emerges as a shock a unit of a given specie, more often called an individual when referring to the human specie, undergoes at watching her/himself in the mirror tended to it by its “brain” or computation organ. Watching oneself in the mirror tended by the brain is something that happens under duress of the environmental and/or societal context. The image projected back to the self from the mirror engages a very lengthy maturation process of the “mind”.

The reflexion of the self in the mirror tended to it by the brain questions the observer and this questioning opens the door to the mind. The mind is an evolving process toward the growth of consciousness. This whole process eventually forces the unit or the individual to come to terms with his belonging to his specie and the universe.

Under biological necessity the individual unit already operated in sync with his specie since it emerged to life. The “brain” or computation organ took care of that  societal necessity. Individual units don't live and survive, by themselves, by the sheer power of biological necessity they live in symbiosis with the other units of their species and later societal necessity acts as a catalyst on the working of the brain that reflects the self in its mirror and so emerges the mind.

In other words it is not the individual that shapes life and survival but the species as a whole.

All forms, taken by life in the gamut of the different species, emerge through biological evolution but their manifestation takes place in what we commonly call the culture of the specie. Culture has to be understood as the entire assemblage of ways of doing and thinking of a specie within the boundaries of its context. Species differentiate indeed in groups of individual units that are closely knit together in their environmental and societal context. And societies shape the path of the potential evolution of the individual's consciousness which then becomes one of the drivers of culture.

Worldviews coalesce the particles

The individuals share an ensemble of ways of doing and thinking among the members of a group or society which is called a worldview or what German philosophy refers to as a 'Weltanshauung' .

Worldviews are approximations of the true nature of reality and how groupings deal with such an approximation in their daily lives. In other words worldviews are foundational narratives or stories that are being shared by the members of a group. Such a sharing is then what shapes the path the individuals follow in their eventual search to increase their potential consciousness.

Consciousness has thus to be understood as being relative; relative to the worldview of the group. In that sense consciousness, and the knowledge formation that relies on such a consciousness, is always resulting from within a preexisting narrative.

This implies that the transformation of a worldview can't possibly be initiated by the individual consciousness or knowledge of the individuals that compose the society that holds that given worldview.

The transformation of a worldview occurs as a necessity that is being imposed by changes taking place in the context where the worldview is playing out. Real changes occur indeed within the context of a society and its environment obliging the individuals to eventually adapt new cultural behaviors in order to survive. And after such new cultural behaviors are reproduced over time the worldview eventually integrates them as the new normal. New behaviors conflict with existing norms fixed within the worldview and this gives way to a process of arbitrage between the individuals and their society that is the root of societal evolution.

In other words what I'm suggesting here is that, on the grand scheme of things of systemic complexity, we don't really have free will and our ability to shape the future is thus minimal but not exactly nil. This idea squares neatly with the perspective of biological systems in which species appear to have no real control over their fate. But such a view leaves nevertheless open the operation of individual free-will within the context of his near environment inside the time-frame of the larger external systemic cycles in which the individual's near environment represent merely a small part. As such individual free-will can only be construed of as merely being a relative quantity.

Another kind of transformation of the worldview might also occur horizontally as elements of the narrative of one society are crossing over to other societies' narratives. Societies trade and in the process they exchange cultural characteristics. In our present historical context of market globalization this leads us to question if the whole of humanity could possibly one day share a common worldview. From the vantage point of Modernity we observe indeed that such a unification of humanity's worldview is already taking place under the aegis of the globalization of capital and its trusted tool science.

But will Modernity succeed to complete that unification? In my mind the answer to that question is a resounding no for the reasons that I exposed in the last chapters of “From Modernity to After-Modernity”, Part 1, the lessons from history (1).

Speaking about the role of narratives, as it has been observed throughout the whole span of history, Jean­ Francois Lyotard wrote the following (2):

"What is transmitted through these narratives is the set of pragmatic rules that constitutes the social bond". I concur with this view which is similar to what I express by ”the societal worldview, shaped by the men of knowledge of the day, is being shared by all citizens in order to strengthen societal cohesion”. The sharing of a worldview has the ability to strengthen societal cohesion which is what ensures a smooth reproduction of the group. This is a primordial characteristic of all groups. It is what allows a group to reproduce over time which is also the condition to ensure the survival of the specie. In this sense nothing could be more important than societal cohesion. It is the most important tool for a species' self-preservation. It ensures indeed that a society does not collapse. A society that collapses is a society that dies and nothing matters any longer after death. “It is estimated that over 99.9% of all species that ever lived are extinct.” (3). So it is not astonishing that the core preoccupation of all and any species would be self-preservation. In the perspective of living species life is what is primordial and knowledge, in a natural evolutionary way, thus means a quantity that allows the reproduction of the species. Philosophically this kind of knowledge is being referred to as wisdom or sapience by system thinkers.

"...a collectivity that takes narrative as its key form of competence has no need to remember its past. It finds the raw material for its social bond not only in  the meaning of the narratives it recounts, but also in  the act of reciting them. The narratives' reference  may seem to belong to the past, but in reality it is always contemporaneous with the act of recitation." The gluing of the minds is what really counts from a societal cohesion perspective and in this sense sharing the meaning conveyed by the narrative or the act of recitation of the narrative (ritual) both are valid strategies because both achieve the target of solidifying the cohesion of the group which allows it to reproduce over time.

Lyotard then further wrote that  "I define postmodern as  incredulity toward metanarratives. This incredulity is  undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences:  but that  progress in turn presupposes it. To the obsolescence of the  metanarrative apparatus of legitimation corresponds, most  notably, the crisis of metaphysical philosophy and of the  university institution which in the past relied on it. The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its  great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal."

It is indeed an inescapable fact that the sharing of grand narratives has totally collapsed in Late-Modernity and in consequence societies are un-gluing and starting to fragment to the point of having nearly reached today the stage of full societal atomization. This is when the individual atom considers she or he detains the truth about everything which is also when societies are seen starting to collapse.

This idea finds a good correspondence in the following text by the poet Lin Dinh: “We’re living in the Golden Age of Porn! This is the munificence of late trauma capitalism. No one will ever see so many cocks and cunts again. On top of peak oil, soil and water, this is also the age of peak self-love and peak masturbation. Snapping selfies, we climax alone.” (4)

Rationality and science at the altar of Mammon

The next step in Lyotard's reasoning  is to state that:

"Research funds are allocated by States, corporations, and nationalized companies in accordance with this logic of power growth. Research sectors that are unable  to argue  that  they contribute even indirectly to the optimiza­tion of the system's performance are abandoned by the flow of capital and doomed to senescence. The criterion of performance is explicitly invoked by the authorities to justify their refusal to subsidize certain research centers". The realization of financial surpluses is the reason why capital is invested in the first place. Any scientific project that does not satisfy that objective is soon abandoned. For an investor scientific performance means the generation of financial surpluses and it does not matter if the science is responsible for side-effects on the health of individuals or societal disruption. In other words the reason at work within capital does not contain any societal constraints and so long as investments generate financial surpluses the owners of such investments will defend them with tooth and nail. This has been documented numerous times but the most memorable example is the tobacco industry that, for decades, paid scientists to publish articles containing lies about the non-harmfulness of tobacco and the absence of a link between smoking and cancer. The same kind of manipulation of facts and lies is being observed today in the debate about climate change.

"...in the discourse of today's financial backers of  research, the only credible goal is power. Scientists, technicians, and instruments are purchased not to  find truth, but to augment power." In other words research has to be financed which is realized through investments that are being decided upon by the owners of the invested capital with an eye on generating financial surpluses which ensure them the control over societal power. And so societal power is the reason why capital holders subscribe to the reason of capital in the first place. Financial surpluses procure indeed its substance to power.

"The relation to knowledge is not articulated in terms of  the realization of the life of the spirit or the emancipation of humanity, but in terms of the users of a complex conceptual and material machinery  and those who benefit from its performance  capabilities. " It is the reason of capital that powers investments in research and development and that reason or rationality, whatever the ideological twisting might want to project, is something very different from the well-being of the individuals or societal harmony. In other words the reason of capital functions as a mechanical principle that has taken over human thinking and controls the complex mechanisms of corporations and societies at large that, as a consequence, are blinded to anything else than the smooth turning of their gearing wheels and  this, in turn, accelerates the rhythm and frenzy of the desire for always more that speeds up the need for ever faster sales,   faster consumption and faster science. It's like a tornado was moving things around our societies and the human mind was made captive of the force of its winds.

Watching the present unfolding of the bankruptcy of Greece one is given an apt illustration of these points. It's even not any longer the emancipation of humanity that is being sacrificed on the altar of Mammon, now the mechanistic reason of capital goes so far as to impose in our minds the reasonableness of cutting clear a swath through humanity. But for what exactly and what's next? Are we going to be set-up next to accept the  depopulation of the earth to a clean sheet for the exclusive benefit of the biggest capital holders? As monstrous as the reasonableness of such an idea might appear it nevertheless figures more and more regularly among the words one hears nowadays (6).

We know for a fact that in uncertain times the ultimate target of Power, and of financial capital which controls it, is to preserve its own existence and the easiest way they ever found to realize this is by:

  • dumbing down the population at large
  • controlling and manipulating the public discourse 
  • fostering the idea that "whatever sells" contains a sufficiently valid narrative that is proven by ...its market success !
  • realizing those three under the umbrella of a protective state apparatus that they control.

Art as a commodity

In such a societal construct the art market succeeded to invert the traditional order of priority, that gave artistic criteria the leading role in judging the worth of an artwork, replacing it by marketing and sales that are now the ultimate Late-Modern gauge of artistic quality.

In other words artists are now being told that they have to satisfy the reason of capital by accepting that their works become a commodity to be manipulated on the market in order to generate financial surpluses for its investors.

Such an inversion in the order of priorities necessarily brings about a rupture in the practice of tens of thousands of years of art exposure. Anyone gone to an exhibition lately? 

In the here and now reality... observing "whatever sells" artworks, without a text in hand, is most of the time a discouraging act simply because the works are unreadable. It is as if the incomprehension of the viewer had acquired the status of potential art quality and a work now has to rely on the artistic quality certification of a professional word juggler.

Late-Modernity imposes indeed the intermediary, of critics and other art-world bureaucrats, between the artwork and the viewer. This is kind of a ‘Kantian trap’ when  discussing the work of art becomes as important as the work itself ...

This is the up side down of what art was all about along the whole of human history. Art was indeed a visualization of the worldview of the men of knowledge of the day and as such the visualization had to convey the meaning without any intermediary and, in the words of Tolstoy, this imposed the necessity to apply the tactical principle of beauty to the work of art in order to attract a maximum of eyeballs.

This overthrow of first sight meaning in Late-Modernity is simply nonsense that will be wiped from the table when societal necessity finally reimposes common sense.

Spending a good chunk of my time painting I observe that my attention is constantly drawn to this fact and also, by extension or should I say by necessity, to the essence of painting. By that I mean what is the worldview of our times that can be drawn from peoples' behaviors and societal moods.

Deeply inside myself I feel indeed that the worldview of our time has to be the content of my painting as was the common practice along the entire historical span of art making. But I'm always reminded that, as Lyotard rightly states, societal grand narratives (worldviews) have simply vanished in Late-Modernity. As a consequence my mind, for the best of the last 30 years, has been chasing after the reality of the historical era we live in. In other words painting has obliged me to think deeper and deeper about what is reality and how our present societal condition is shaping what will be the future of our societies?

Thinking is framed in reason

Visualizing the patterns of the transformations of our societies on their path to After-Modernity, and the anxiety experienced by the individuals along the way, this I feel is the mission of the real-artist in Late-Modernity.

I approach thinking from a rational perspective. This means that I want to be able to understand what is understandable about the place of humanity in the whole while also being able to recognize what is definitely not accessible to human understanding. So I refuse to limit the sources of my inspiration to a reductionist Eurocentric approach. Going further I also don't want to limit my understanding to what is traditionally viewed as scientifically acceptable and by that I mean that I'm willing to dig inside the animistic approach as well as in the “mythos” of religious and philosophic power approaches.

But in the end, in order to avoid falling prey of obscurantism, I impose to myself the conversion of what I glean from those approaches into rational and possibly scientific thought; meaning that, in my mind, the conversion to rational and scientific thought acts like a validation process of what I discover in those approaches that science has traditionally rejected. I feel indeed that this validation process is indispensable in order to possibly being able to observe and understand my own reactions to these thoughts while letting my subconscious loose.

As I already stated earlier I think first and foremost about satisfying questions that arise inside myself as a result of the observation of my handicap at the disappearance of the traditional subject or content of painting. I mean the vanishing of the societal narrative that historically always formed the content of the artwork.

If, deeply inside myself, I can be emotionally satisfied by the answers given by animistic and/or philosophic views, I nevertheless feel the need to convert those views in a Modern rational and scientific presentation. My mind has indeed been forged in the historical era of High-Modernity and continued to evolve lately in the era of Late-Modernity. So it is incontrovertibly a product of Modernity. That's why this conversion of pre-modern views in the forms of a modern understanding is ultimately necessary for my observing self to possibly gauge their validity.

I also feel that being immersed in Modernity, eventually at different stages of its development in different geographical locales, peoples' thought processes in the whole world are being dragged in the mold of modern views and because of this the communication with others has also necessarily to pass through rationality and science.

By rationality and science I refer to their method of inquiry, which is called the scientific method, that asks for the verifiability and the reproducibility of new hypotheses.

Without satisfying that simple methodology I feel it is indeed far too easy to fall into obscurantism and darkness which in my mind are garbage that clutters the mind. The conversion of non-Modern approaches into Modern thought is, I feel, a necessity to possibly communicate about them with others.

I think first and foremost for myself that means that I think about answering the questions that are arising in myself during my painting and thinking activities. I set the answers in writing because the necessary tweaking of ideas into words obliges me to conform to a discipline that forces a search for greater coherence in the presentation of my ideas.

The process of digesting what I read, listen or watch leads me to open multiple new paths and side-paths like the trunks and branches of newly discovered forests. Writing then helps me to clarify what takes place in dreaming and thinking about that process of digestion. So while I think for myself a text becomes available. Should I keep it solely, as reference, for myself? This question long tormented me. I'm uninterested by fame and money but I'm interested in possible discussions and an exchange of ideas that could further open my mind, or to weaknesses in the text, or to new avenues of reasoning. That's why I decided to share the text of my intellectual wanderings with others.

The scientific method, as the necessity for new hypotheses to be verifiable and reproducible, is assuredly the most precious gift that Modernity offered to humanity.

Science transformed into a tool of capital

 But the application of that method along Modernity, and more particularly along Late-Modernity, is unfortunately channeling it away from the production of human well-being. All signs now point indeed to the fact that the scientific method has been made captive of the interests of a small minority of individuals who have acquired a strategic control over a disproportionately large share of human accumulated financial capital. That control gives them the means to impose what objectives the scientific method should satisfy and so the development of weapons of mass destruction is eventually made to take precedence over the health of citizens or the education of kids. We should thus not be astonished to discover that science has been the prime cause of most of the damage to the biosphere over the last centuries. But the scientific method was not the real culprit. It is the subservience of scientists to the orders of capital and the inexistence of a moral or societal code of conduct, to protect the reproducibility of our societies, that have occulted in our minds the responsibility of science in initiating the multitudes of side-effects of Modernity.

The scientific method at the service of the reason of capital neglected the well-being of humanity and is indeed responsible for most of the side-effects of Modernity that we discover are not only threatening our ecosystems but are also threatening the very survival of humanity.

At this point a fundamental question arises. What is the responsibility of scientists in the unleashing of those side-effects? Scientists are indeed the actors of science. They are the ones who implement the scientific method by acquiescing to the working orders of capital. Soldiers ordered by their generals to commit atrocities during war are being held responsible for their actions under international law and eventually land in jail. Scientists act like the soldiers of capital so, in my view, they should also be held accountable for the consequences of their actions in applying the scientific method.

And what about the societal responsibility of artists?  I know that this is something that will be loathed by most artists. But, sorry the fact is that artists have always had a function, a role to play, along the entire path of human societal evolution. Only in the last decades did artists stop to play that role. Now the fact is that this attitude participated in provoking the presently observed unraveling of our societies. So the natural conclusion is that artists bear a share of the responsibility for our Late-Modern societal miseries. In the end this is the crux of the matter that drives me to think and to write.

Late-Modernity, in Western societies, has erased any trace of citizens' societal responsibility. After the power grab by finance we observe 4 things, that have been documented exhaustively, occurring simultaneously:

1. yearly increases of the share of the national income, resulting from increases in productivity, is landing most exclusively in the pockets of the banksters and other financiers which results in deepening levels of social inequality.

2. the share of the national income reaching the 99% is flattening out (1) which results in deepening inequality and increasing levels of misery.

3. a dwindling notion of the societal responsibilities of citizens' and an increasing grab of the public resources by the minority that controls the levers of power. In other words we reached a state of complete societal irresponsibility which acts like oil on the fire of corruption and this explains how the present looting of the societal commons can possibly occur as if there were no tomorrow left…

4. a radical increase of the commodity-fication of everything. From the goods to satisfy our daily needs, to the goods in the public domain, to the goods supplied by the state, to our cultural activities and the works of art… everything has been made a commodity to be purchased in exchange of money and in this process of commodity-fication of the answers to our objective needs we lost sight of their quality. For example in the supply of health-care, of  food, etc… The same is valid for the meaning illustrated in the artworks by artists which participates in the general dumbing down of our populations and so on and on.

Finance is an instrument of class war

As I narrated in part 1 of “From Modernity to After-Modernity” the commodity-fication of artworks at the hands of finance in the US following the second world war served as a template for the later power grab of finance over the entire economy in the seventies (1). This resulted in the globalized reach of Western capital (globalization) and an explosion of investments in technology that resulted in radical structural changes in the field of production.

Those changes eventually helped power the class war initiated by big capital that destroyed any institutional remnants of the representation of the working class or 99% of the people in the societal bargaining processes that had been put in place in the first part of the 20th century in order to avoid societal disturbances and revolution. The end of that road points to ever more automation and the development of Artificial Intelligence which could eventually result in a society without jobs that renders the 99% superfluous in the eyes of the 1% controlling the societally accumulated capital.

What happens along that road? Are we going to assist at a depopulation of the world on the orders of the 1%? In a societal climate that continuously privileges the 1% at the expense of the 99% the possibility of realizing Marx's vision of “to all according to their needs” has indeed not much of a chance to materialize any longer. So is the egotism of big capital holders going to impose itself as the new rule of humanity? In other words could we possibly be destined to a new dark age?

In the meantime globalization and investments in technology were not only about ensuring further surpluses for Western capital. It was above all a strategy that was devised to ensure the control over the economic levers of power in all and any nations on earth at the hands of the trilateral uniting Western big capital - Western States - and their International Institutions. This would explain the trends we see at work today:

1. the recourse to technocracy as an excuse to shovel to the side the use of democratic processes with the imposition of spying on the citizens, ideological manipulation of the media, and the militarization of police to control the overflow of societal disturbances

2. the fomenting of disorder in international relations, as a cheap way to preserve Western hegemony, through the instigation of color revolutions and war resulting in severe instability and chaos.

3. Military superiority is then later invoked to restore order and democracy by taking the direct control of the decision making process.

The context of Late-Modernity

The commodity-fication of daily life in the North is nearly complete which is confirmed, among other, by the spectacular rise of its national rates of obesity… Western societies are entirely atomized and have been rendered ungovernable. This drove big capital to fortify its grip on power through spying on the citizens, manipulation of the media that now serve openly as its propagandists, militarization of police services and a legal set-up for exceptional times of resistance against the will of 99% of the people. 

In the meantime population explosion, climate change, the 6th mass extinction of living species and flora, the erosion of top soils, the acidification of the oceans, the vanishing of drinking water, the poisoning of our air and so many more side-effects are simply rendering life as usual a physical impossibility for the children tomorrow.

This is a fast sketch of the kind of societal context that humanity is discovering at an accelerating pace in these early years of Late-Modernity.

This context leaves no room to go back to earlier better times nor are technological fixes available to cure all and any of these ills. Late-Modernity is a freeway to hell with no exit and no u-turn. Its breakdown will eventually stop the music and that's when people will stop to dance to the Modern tune.

The breakdown of Modernity was baked in the cake of societal irresponsibility that was at the core of its build-up. The genie of individualism was freed from its bottle with no way to put it back in. And so we came to the unbelievable ideological extremism that is expressed in such catch phrases as “societies don't exist, the individual is all there is” that are the deep thoughts of neo-liberalism which forms the wire-frame sustaining the culture of Late-Modernity. There is no turning back any longer. But this should not impeach us to reclaim our intellectual sanity by approaching societal evolution through the lens of theory. This is what I propose trying to do in this part 2 of “From Modernity to After-Modernity”.

In the particularly dangerous context of Late-Modernity citizens better open their eyes to what all these societal developments entail in term of their daily lives. We are indeed entering exceptional times. We are not in the midst of a benign cyclical economic crisis. We are entering a period of deep structural changes that open the path to the historical transition from the era of Modernity to the era that comes after Modernity.

What this means is that our living arrangements are going to change radically, not because we want it, but because the sheer imposition of natural necessity. By natural necessity I mean that when something is broken it has to be repaired in one way or another and generally this means that anything that is available in the context of that broken thing shall be put to use. Contrast this to what the scientific mind might think would be the right way to operate.

Meandering through these difficult times our societal worldview shall adapt to the new circumstances and to the changing natural context. Such an adaptation is a natural process. It is an integral part of the process of societal evolution. Human will and human plans will fall short and will have no place to go amidst this maelstrom.

We better start to think in terms of the need to learn surfing the waves from disorder to order. This is I think a more potent analogy for what possibly will work. We have indeed to start thinking in terms of pragmatism; in line with what can work knowing what can not work.

Such pragmatism is also very useful for painters and other creatives during this era of Late-Modernity.

The subconscious at the service of pragmatism

Having lost the societal narrative supplied traditionally by the men of knowledge we are left to surf over a myriad of societal trends to pick the ones we think have real staying power. Reason and conscious thinking offer very little opportunities to point us to trends that are societally valid, meaning they resist time, and if they could teach us something our visual representation of it would end up being scholastic and  rigid at best. 

Surfing the waves of the ocean of disorder to order is a task for the subconscious or the spirit. A task that is best let to the automatism of the mind. But the automatic pilot of the mind can not navigate what the brain has not been informed about beforehand. By this I mean that, in the absence of a readily supplied societal worldview, the artist has to fill his mind with the richest possible knowledge base from which the autopilot of the mind can freely pick any element that it finds useful to surf the waves of the unknown between disorder and order. Letting the subconscious autopilot navigate the irregularities on the canvas and the paint material is then the richest avenue to meaningful content and also to a rendering form that sits right in the air of our time as Leonardo Da Vinci informed us in his book “On painting” (7).

There is no way that we possibly could divine how our societal worldview will look like once the historical era of After-Modernity stabilizes decades or centuries later. It will simply evolve as circumstances demand and the best we will be able to do is to adapt as gracefully as possible. This means that we are bound to be blindfolded along the whole crossing from Late-Modernity to Early After-Modernity and only feeling the stones in the water with our toes will help us securely pass the rivers of chaos.

At exceptional circumstances we have indeed to find exceptional answers and my personal exceptional answer in thinking and painting goes in a dance “√† deux pas”.

One step of the answer I find in my thinking and writing where both sides of my brain are put to the task. But the thinking is nevertheless always concluding as a conscious process based on converting in rational and scientific terms all the knowings that I glean from the study of history as I laid out in part 1 and the formulation of theoretical principles that forms the content of this part two.

The second step of the answer is to dodge the absence of a valid and available societal worldview, or content of the visual work, by letting my subconscious free to navigate and discover meaning in the pigments and the material. As I indicated here above I have no way to define the content of my work beforehand. In my understanding the content of the artwork is the representation of the societal worldview by the men of knowledge of the day. But as I indicated in the chapters relating to Late-Modernity and the lessons of history (1) the men of knowledge vanished sometimes at the end of Early-Modernity in 19th century Western Europe. The Modernist avant-garde answered the vanishing of the supplied content of the artwork by positing that henceforth their task was to give visual representations of reality at deeper levels of its operation than the only first dimension that had been practiced earlier. But the unfolding of time did not occur according to their plans. The deeper levels of reality they had been dreaming to reach failed to materialize in their minds and as a direct consequence the content on their canvasses got:
  • or stuck in new forms of past content especially for the impressionists, pointillists,…
  • or stuck in the repetition of tricks in the case of cubism, futurism, fauvism,…
  • or stuck in the exclusive manipulation of form while pretending this was the expression of their feelings but without ever succeeding to attain a clear content representing a given narrative as in the case of German expressionism and later abstract-expressionism. 
  • or stuck in half baked theories that did not offer a readily available content which caused the fall in nihilism or market opportunism as in the case of surrealism, dadaism, Cobra, situationism,...

Confronted with the absence of any valid content my approach is to free my subconscious to explore what Leonardo Da Vinci called the “various inventions” operating in the material on the canvas or the pigments. But Leonardo took the precaution to warn the reader of his book “On painting” that:
  • such inventions are like visualizations of knowledge that is already stored in the painter's mind which implies that it is vital for the painter to accumulate knowledge
  • the visual depiction of such visualization necessitates ”draughtsmanship to giving a visual embodiment to your intention and the invention that took form first in your imagination” (8). In other words Leonardo warned the tentative painter that technical skill is a necessity to avoid being burdened by technical matters and thus losing sight of the artistic content which constitutes the core of the artwork.

Knowledge and technical skill is also what Andre masson insisted on. He informed us that “The conquest of the irrational for the irrational is a poor conquest, and the imagination is indeed sad which only associates those elements worn out by dismal reason, such as materials tarnished by lazy habit, by memory picked up here and there, from the works of 'amuzing natural philosophy' from the antique shops and from our grandfthers' magazines.” (9) This is precisely the reason why I impose the filter of reason and the scientific method on my subconscious thinking.

My paintings are realized in different stages:
  1. first I let my subconscious navigate the “various discoveries” in the material on the canvas. I mean the material of the canvas itself and also the paint material.
  2. secondly I try to infuse sense in the various subconscious discoveries: in the rendered form and also by interpreting those discoveries at the light of the knowledge stored in my mind. This phase is marked by intense thinking following the lines and colors and the meaning that emerges on the canvas. Such a thinking about what my subconscious projects is then further integrated in the knowledge stored in my mind. This is indeed an interactive process between the subconscious and conscious states.
  3. and lastly I feel a need to “finish” or polish the technical execution of the work. I feel that, if a work has to be shown to others, it might as well be terminated and polished. It's a necessary token of respect for the viewer.

This painting process unleashes a dialog between my unconscious self and my conscious self. And this dialog shapes the content of my work which is about the transformation toward what comes after Modernity that, I feel, is slowly emerging in our reality during Late-Modernity. Change walks us indeed in the direction of the future era of After-Modernity and the new worldview that will stabilize and be shared by all in that future historical era.

What I discover while dreaming and thinking and painting is that the whole of reality, in which we are such infinitely small particles, is so immensely vast that its true nature remains hidden from humanity. That's why societal approximations about what reality might be all about are so crucial.

The fall of Modernity

Science and rationality tell us that there is no limit to their domain and that with time they will be able to unfold a reasoned tapestry of the whole of reality as well as being able to solve any problem confronted by humanity. But it appears to me that this is merely hubris in scientists' minds.

Science and rationality are one way to look at things for sure and their method is a valid one but the hubris of their actors is programmed in the axioms of their civilization and their worldviews. Science and rationality are not the absolute human way of observation. The long history shows us indeed that humanity has transited through different phases of knowledge accumulation and, to the best of my knowledge, rationality and science surely don't supply us with any proof that they are a superior way to observe and analyze reality. The long list of side-effects that impose themselves to our attention today in Late-Modernity, as a direct consequence of our rational thinking and our scientific practice, threaten indeed not only to kill most of life on earth but also to possibly extinguish the human race from the face of the earth. Even a five year old kid would recognize that such an outcome does not look nor sound like it is coming from a very smart form of knowledge. 

This begs us to try to answer the following question. What has been the smartest approach of humanity toward garnering knowledge?

Is it animism?
Is it power and its Mythos-Logos duality?

Observing that Modernity brings about the destruction of our habitat I question its sanity. The fate of so many species has shown us, without a shred of a doubt, that when the habitat of a species disappears that species disappears with it. How smart is it thus for Modernity to destroy humanity's habitat?

From a species' perspective this can't be considered smart at all. In part 1 of “From Modernity to After-Modernity” (1) I concluded that, from a historical perspective, this worldview has no future and, by necessity, is going to be superseded by a new historical era which I call “After-Modernity”. But why After- Modernity? Simply to avoid being dragged in the conceptual soup that the words postmodernism and postmodernity ended up brewing in for so long that, in the end, they resulted in conveying a multitude of meanings that render the discourse totally meaningless.

I welcome your comments.


1. see articles 13 to 20 in “painting and Thinking”.

2. Jean­Francois Lyotard. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Volume 10 of Theory and History of Literature). Edited by Wlad Godzich and Jochen Schulte-Sasse. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

“It is estimated that over 99.9% of all species that ever lived are extinct. The average life-span of a species is 10 million years, although this varies widely between taxa. There are a variety of causes that can contribute directly or indirectly to the extinction of a species or group of species. 'Just as each species is unique', write Beverly and Stephen C. Stearns, "so is each extinction... the causes for each are varied—some subtle and complex, others obvious and simple'. Most simply, any species that cannot survive and reproduce in its environment and cannot move to a new environment where it can do so, dies out and becomes extinct.”

4. Depopulation.
The general idea is neatly summarized byhttp://rense.com/general64/pordc.htm: “Plans are underway now, implemented by the New World Order Elite, to depopulate the planet's 6-7 billion people to a manageable level of between 500 million and 2 billion.”

5.  Linh Dinh in "Postcards from the End of America".  July 19, 2015

6. the wheels of capitalism are turning ever faster pushing science and human thinking in general on a never ending slide towards nothingness. Dire consequences await the future of our children and grand-children.  Most people, intellectuals and scientists included, have been anesthetized and addicted to the machine but a debate is slowly erupting pitting a minority of thinkers against that machine.

Among the machine's captive majority some express outlandish opinions. See for exemple:
- "We May Look Crazy to Them, But They Look Like Zombies to Us: Transhumanism as a Political Challenge" by Steve Fuller, Sep 8, 2015, in Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies. Check also the comments...
- "The moral imperative for bioethics" by Steven Pinker, August 01, 2015, in The Boston Globe. Pinker says: "Get out of the way.  ...slowing down research has a massive human cost."

On the other side of the barricade a minority is questioning what is going on. Check for exemple:
- “Another science is possible!” A plea for slow science by Isabelle Stengers Facult√© de Philosophie et Lettres, ULB 13 December 2011, Inauguratial lecture Chair Willy Calewaert 2011 - 2012 (VUB)

7. The 99%: I use this expression in the sense traditional Chinese philosophy uses the expression “the ten thousand things” which means all there is in the universe. In my mind the expression 99% strongly suggest a visual image of what is the absolute majority of all citizens or the near totality of them. 99% is not intended to measure a statistical quantity. If I had to quantify the 99% statistically I would have to refer to its counterpart as being 1% of 1% or one in ten thousands which would convey the idea of a quantity that is negligible.

8. Leonardo Da Vinci. On painting. Yale. Nota Bene Book 2001.

9. Andre masson. “Peindre est une gageure” (Painting is a wager). In “Le plaisir de peindre” (The pleasure of painting). Paris 1950. La Diane Francaise.

No comments:

Post a Comment