Thursday 3 August 2023

What comes after the death of art?

I've often written that real science is dead, and that there are no longer any world-class geniuses of the stature of the previous centuries; so it may be an obvious inference that real art* - as of here-and-now, is dead in an analogous sense to science. 

[* I mean art in its wide sense - music, literature, architecture &c. as well as the visual arts.]

That is, the institutions of art are dead - and such art as continues does so at the level of individual persons, or informal groupings of individuals built on dyadic relationships. The end of art institutions/ organizations/ formal relations - makes a significant difference. 

It means that 'objective standards' have become largely irrelevant, since the real art is not mass consumed; but is for self-consumption or 'local' consumption. 

Likewise, professional versus amateur has almost reversed its meaning; since to be professional means putting one's artistry in a very subordinate position - only amateurs can be committed artists. 

Putting all this together; I think we can see how it is that art has lost its power; people neither get, nor demand, strong - life-dominating - aesthetic relationships with art, in the way they used-to, up to a century ago. 

(Consider the intense attitudes to art displayed in Bernard Shaw's writings in the late 19th century, or James Joyce's work in the early decades of the 1900s - but seldom much later.)  

In my generation, a small minority were intense about art for a short phase of adolescence and young adulthood - but even this residue seems to have dissolved away. Nowadays, people demand - and receive - extremely little of art; just amusement or distraction, the stimulation of a bit of conversation (or writing), maybe a brief evocation of (visceral, not aesthetic) feelings; and the 'artists' are just the same... 

There may be the reality (or a simulation of) some aspect of the leftist-totalitarian socio-political agenda, as a claim to seriousness; but that isn't art... As used to be obvious - but isn't anymore.    


Art is dead in the sense that its public manifestations are feeble; and also corrupt - in that 'art' (self-defined) now pursues anti-artistic goals, anti-aesthetic goals; on the basis of that demonically-inspired value-inversion that grips our 'civilization'.

Yet - what it is that made art possible remains a factor in at least some people. And after all, art as a separate entity is a relatively modern phenomenon; since (apparently) 'art' used to be (up to the renaissance, at least) an inseparable part of what might be called 'religion'.   

Since I assume that our destiny is to complete - but this time consciously and by choice - a kind of return to the ways of being, thinking, knowing, doing of childhood (or, probably, early hunter gatherer-type life) -- I therefore suppose that art might again become a small scale, personal/ local, manifestation or enhancement of 'religion'; rather than there being a return of self-sufficient and powerful 'art works'.

After all, it was expected - and to a significant degree it was indeed the case - that each 'art work' (picture, sculpture, building, novel, poem, play, symphony etc) - from the renaissance to early 20th century - would be 'autonomous'; would be able of-itself to generate a powerful and objective (including generally, publicly shared) artistic experience.  

When this intent and possibility goes, and after the expectation of it goes; then people may begin to do art for themselves - including not just making artifacts and alterations to the world, but also in thinking, in imagination. 

Of course; this is not really "art" - not in the sense that art was from c.1500 and until a century ago. But it may stem-from and nourish the same ultimate aspect of Man's nature. 

In terms of objective achievement and autonomous power, such an activity will be as-nothing compared with the genius works of the past, according to the expectations and possibilities of this past.

But it may be much more like the artifacts are remains we see from ancient civilizations; little things and evidences that happened to survive; and which seem to result from the spontaneous impulses of ordinary people doing some-thing for their own satisfaction - and not for the consumption of others. 

Such 'gestures' were common among the better of the relatively less-corrupted people of earlier generations - people who did not look to the mass and social media for continual distraction. 

The Wood-Pile, by Robert Frost

Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,
I paused and said, 'I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther—and we shall see.'
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went through. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather—
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maple, cut and split
And piled—and measured, four by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year's cutting,
Or even last year's or the year's before.
The wood was gray and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himself, the labor of his ax,
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.

1 comment:

Ben Pratt said...

I am slowly catching up on your posts and only just read this.

It is an important point about art creation really happening in the mind, and of course that is true about all creation because it is the actual self thinking. Just as art, science, business, religion, and so much more as we've known them for a few hundred years have been strangled in their own titanic ossified husks, so have any remaining expressions of the impulses behind them gone deeply personal. Frost's imagery of the wood pile drove this home for me today.