Desire and Disillusion. That technical progress with its transformational capacity could finish by alienating the individual giving rise to consumerism fueled by invidious comparison and a spirit of competition which would appropriate Darwininian contexts to establish political, social and hegemonic order. Nothing short of a nightmare.Cubism was a reaction, a response in grappling with a new sense of reality and a need to find new art forms that could adapt to the intensity of emotion. The Foucaultian madness that was inexorably replacing the Clausewitz connection between reason and war as an extension of politics. Now war, destruction, violence were seen as having a life, an entity of its own, unchained from the rational, emancipated from the strictures of genetic code. The propaganda to support the frenzy and spread the fear was enhanced by technical reproduction of politicized art that could “market” consistent patterns of disillusionment” A glorification of the hollowness at the core of modernity and its insubstantial focus on facets of life which were suspicious representations of the reality they embodied. Cubism and Picasso continue to fascinate ; sex, death, life and exploring the world of the Buberian “in-between” where dialogue is in an uneasy co-existence with something vague and neutral on the threshold of language.
…”poetry will die if we do not offend her. we must posses it and humiliated in public. later on we’ll see what needs to be done”. nicanor parra . for him it meant liberating words from their pleasant passivity and convert them into tools for real human liberation….”stones in the road? i save every single one. one day i´ll build a castle” -fernando pessoa. it takes of course a poet’s soul not to take those stones and pelt the world with them. or hurt one’s own foot kicking them out of the way….( Hune at Martin Buber Institute )…
Picasso, Braque, Matisse, was an art deeply informed by both Marx and Freud, and did much to lay the rails for Surrealism and Dada. The inevitable politcization of art which would marginalize narrative and bring us an indefatigable quantity of non-aesthetic work, but would be victim of suffering the inherent flaw of falling into the same morass, a big muddy that Freud and Marx were wallowing in.Namely, an assertive reasoning, a set of arguments underpinned by complicated theoretical constructions, Babel like, in place of moral claims. It was a bypassing of the first ethics. An acceptance of the irrational and madness theory which opened the door to Heidegger and I think we know where his theoretical constructions ended up.
Also, the concept of status was foreign to Freud and Marx. Yet this Veblen revelation at the cusp of he twentieth-century never made an impact in the Old World. That different social classes tended to reproduce and insularize their identities mimicking the top of the pecking order could have ruptured the artistic, political dynamic installed. Status may have been more fundamental than private property, social class or any other economic concept. The excesses of the predatory class were simply was a behavior evident down the food chain.
Kuspit: In 1887 Henri Poincaré argued that the principles of geometry, and of science in general, were not absolute truths, but relative conventions, of heuristic value but otherwise inconclusive. In a sense, the modern frame of mind can be said to begin with this idea, which unavoidably informed art — made it truly modern. The vital moment mattered; the effort was to convey what the philosopher John Dewey called “an experience.” This attitude seems far from the traditional effort to immortalize appearances, giving them a grander-than-life reality. It was hard, after all, to continue to be a wild beast (fauve), or to sustain subjective expression — the eruption of an image from the unconscious depths, which was the German Expressionist ideal — or to hold the transient dynamics of an appearance in steady focus, as the Cubists realized….
Donald Kuspit: we are told that “the figural images that are among the most provocative are those that fragment, dissolve or otherwise ‘distort’ the figure, or those that show it in postures that seem incomprehensible, or in groupings or environments the reasons for which seem annoyingly obscure.” Such images are abundant in modern art — distortion and fragmentation are the clichés that dominate understanding of the modern figure — but the reasons why they have become epidemic are not examined in depth. We are told that the modern figural artist means to generate perceptual ambiguities and uncertainties, affording new sensations rather than telling old stories, even if the perplexing contradictions — visual antimonies, as it were — are composed into a kind of narrative. This formal, indeed, technical explanation of their illogic hardly does justice to the conspicuously “abnormal” character of the figure, which often seems disrupted to the point of absurdity, and sometimes seems on the verge of total disintegration. We have become accustomed to them, but from an everyday perspective they are strange indeed….
…The figures that Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque painted at the height of Analytic Cubism (1910-11) seem completely disintegrated, and as such only nominally figures. Indeed, they have a mosaic quality, being a patchwork of tessera-like gestures, each an expressive end in itself. They look like fragments of a shattered whole, as though Picasso and Braque were archaeologists who had pieced together shards of some murky ancient figures they dug up from the depths within themselves, even if the peculiarly archetypal result seems incomplete, indeed, a kind of chaotic construction of fragments that does not quite add up to a harmonious figural whole, however memorable. The conventional art historical explanation of them as rendering the figure simultaneously in two and three dimensions — as both flat and rounded — misses the motive for this simultaneity. When, later, Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror (1932) splits her face in two, with each side clearly suggesting a different emotional state — her profile is pale mauve, the rest of the face bright yellow, with a splotch of red marking the cheek — he is surely doing more than showing his cleverness. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit1-10-06.asp
…My point is that the innovations of modern art, for which it is justly famous, cannot be explained exclusively on formal grounds. Indeed, their formal appearance is a consequence of deeper issues. “ModernStarts” goes far in changing our ideas about what started in modern art, but not far enough. Let me make my point by examining in detail Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), perhaps the most famous, sensational work of art produced in the first decade of the 20th century. Indeed, it has been called the first truly 20th-century painting. Picasso’s painting was so avant-garde — so unpredictable, unprecedented — that it made the avant-garde art that preceded it seem quaint, indeed, obsolete. Paradoxically, Picasso was almost excommunicated from the avant-garde for painting it. Henri Matisse initially thought it was a hoax or joke, ridiculing modern art. N
ubt he felt threatened by it. Georges Braque, who had just met Picasso, and who was soon to develop Cubism with him — Picasso remarked that they were tied together like two mountaineers or a married couple — said to him that he “wanted to make us eat tow or drink kerosene.” In other words, Les Demoiselles was in bad taste, even to those ready and eager to accept anything avant-garde.
And that is part of its point: the disavowal of what had hitherto been regarded as good taste, as though that is what art is ultimately about. The undermining, overthrowal and dismissal of the whole idea of tasteful art is central to its message. Its lack of taste — its contradiction and refusal of taste, as though to deny that the value of a work of art resides only in its tastefulness, that only the consensus of taste, which is a social measure, makes it significant — is what makes the Les Demoiselles revolutionary. In a sense, it is truly avant-garde because it refuses to be pleasing, because it disaffliates itself from the usual measure of artistic success — to give pleasure, or to represent pleasure in a pleasurable way, the way, for example, Matisse’s Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life) (1905-06) does. A somewhat more tempting, very different grouping of naked young women, it was painted only a short time before, but suddenly seemed passé, both in its attitude and forms. It was the anti-sociality — it was much deeper than a matter of being “tasteless” — of Les Demoiselles that Picasso’s colleagues intuitively recognized and found offensive. And that anti-sociality was rooted in the expression of painful feelings….Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit1-10-06.asp
…even as it suggests Picasso’s conflict about women and sexuality. The contrast between the foreground still life of fruit and porrón, a Spanish wine vessel, and the women — the death symbolized by the suppressed skull has passed into them, giving them an oddly predatory look, like vampires — epitomizes this conflict. Les Demoiselles is a cautionary parable, and, in a sense, Picasso’s first truly mature as well as truly original work: it is not all gloom and doom, like the fatalistic pictures of his Blue Period, nor subliminally tender, like the subtly erotic Pink or Circus Period works, but rather a synthesis of the two, conveying ambivalence: Les Demoiselles is fatalistically erotic. It is about the terror of raw, unempathic sexuality, life-threatening sickness and elusive health, and the realization that what looks seductively real is in fact an illusion created by one’s own desire. It seems no accident that it was painted in the same decade in which Sigmund Freud wrote Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)….Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit1-10-06.asp
Kuspit:It is Picasso’s discovery and use of what were then alien, bizarre forms, derived from African sources, to express and suggest his personal sense of alienation, and the experience of the bizarreness of reality — female reality — that follows from and accompanies it, that makes Les Demoiselles the expressive and conceptual model for all subsequent 20th-century art that dares call itself avant-garde. Paradoxically, the qualities of depersonalization and derealization that inform Les Demoiselles, and that are responsible for its aura of abstractness, make it one of the most personal, emotionally realistic paintings of the 20th century. The trauma it caused Matisse and Braque reflected its own traumatic character. When Picasso’s dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler remarked that Les Demoiselles seemed “mad or monstrous” to those who saw it, they were unwittingly registering its traumatic content, which was in bad taste. Thus the collector Sergei Shchukin mourned the work as a “loss to French art,” which had always been tasteful. But then Picasso was Spanish, and there was a longstanding fascination with the mad and monstrous — the grotesque — in Spanish art, as Diego Velazquez’s portraits of dwarfs and Francisco de Goya’s “Quinta del Sordo” paintings indicate, not to mention many Spanish paintings of religious martyrdom.
The fear of woman, which haunts Picasso’s art, and leads him to distort them into grotesque, dangerous monsters — the psychoanalyst Wolfgang Lederer suggests that this is a standard apotropaic defense against them — makes its first serious, sustained appearance in Les Demoiselles, as does the grotesque as such, which also recurs again and again. Even when Picasso presents woman as the object of tender love, rather than simply as a sex object, fear remains, signaled by distortion, if not to the point of grotesqueness, as in Les Demoiselles, where woman is exclusively an object of sexual lust. The women in Les Demoiselles are all prostitutes, and the artist — and implicitly the male spectator — is surveying them, trying to choose one to have sexual relations with.Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit1-10-06.asp
… to invent a new art of harmony, at once cognitively and emotionally satisfying, a visual art that would overcome the dissociation of sensibility — the split between reason and feeling — that T. S. Eliot regarded as the disease of modernity. It would be an art of healing and reconciliation, in which opposites merge to synergistic aesthetic effect. His is the only 20th-century art that deliberately sets out to do emotional good. It has a calming effect, with no sacrifice of cognitive and perceptual complexity, and vitality.( Kuspit )
Richard Kazis:What are the effects and significance of these new art forms? Benjamin understood and lauded the potential democratization of the communications media and the arts implicit in advances in mechanical reproduction. A work of art that once could only be seen by the wealthy in a museum or gallery could be reproduced at little cost and made accessible to many more people. The advent of inexpensive illustrated newspapers meant that current events had become the business of the masses. Film allows an event or a performance to be recorded and be available for countless audiences to see. Mechanical reproduction makes possible the involvement of the masses in culture and politics; it makes possible mass culture and mass politics.
In “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Benjamin analyzes how mechanical reproduction destroys the uniqueness and authenticity, the “aura” as he labeled it, of the work of art. The withering of aura in the age of mechanical reproduction is inevitable. And, in many respects, it is a good thing. If the mystique of the “original” is broken down, if the work of art is torn from the “fabric of tradition” (p. 211) of which it was a part, then it loses its false importance.
“For the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual” (p. 224).
The value of the work of art no longer stems from its ritualistic cult value, whether it be magical cult, religious cult or secularized cult like the cult of beauty. Authenticity is no longer a relevant criterion for evaluating artistic production. In photography, for example, it makes no sense to ask for the “authentic” print.
The affect of this withering of the aura is significant. “Instead of being based on ritual,” Benjamin notes that the function of art “begins to be based on another practice—politics” (p. 224), What this means is that art for art’s sake, the theologizing of art, is rejected for artistic production that serves a purpose, that stands in direct relation to the political struggles of the time. Art and media begin to merge. When the distance (we could call it the mystification, though Benjamin does not use that word) between artist and society is lessened (and this is what accompanies the loss of aura), then the false distinctions between the social roles of artists and educators are negated. Benjamin explains,
“By the absolute emphasis on its exhibition value as opposed to an ahistorical cult value, the work of art becomes a creation with entirely new functions, among which the one we are conscious of, the artistic function, later may be recognized as incidental.” Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit1-10-06.asp
Indeed, one of the reasons that Veblen’s work received such a guarded, if not hostile reception amongst socialists is that he claimed that every stratum of society was complicit in reproducing the class structure. No class of society, not even the most abjectly poor, forgoes all customary conspicuous consumption. The last items of this category of consumption are not given up except under stress of the direst necessity. Very much of squalor and discomfort will be endured before the last trinket or the last pretense of pecuniary decency is put away. There is no class and no country that has yielded so abjectly before the pressure of physical want as to deny themselves all gratification of this higher or spiritual need (1899, 85).
There is an even more disquieting suggestion made here, viz. that status, like any other good, is subject to diminishing marginal returns, and it is therefore the lower classes who are more likely to make serious compromises in their standard of living in order to engage in competitive consumption.(Heath )Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdf