In The End of Art, Donald Kuspit argues that art is over because it has lost its aesthetic import. Art has been replaced by ‘postart’, a term invented by Alan Kaprow, as a new visual category that elevates the banal over the enigmatic, the scatological over the sacred, cleverness over creativity. Tracing the demise of aesthetic experience to the works and theory of Marcel Duchamp and Barnett Newman, Kuspit argues that devaluation is inseparable from the entropic character of modern art, and that anti-aesthetic postmodern art is its final state. In contrast to modern art, which expressed the universal human unconscious, postmodern art degenerates into an expression of narrow ideological interests. Read More:http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521540162
Are we dying? One may doubt that we have reached that point of dissolution where, in Vico’s phrase, men “finally go mad and waste their substance.” One may doubt the ultimately astrological intuitions of a Spengler: civilizations are not ruled by the stars. One may doubt too, Arnold Toynbee’s ultimately theological prose poem of civilizations, a gigantic Pilgrim’s Progress that suffocates us with its petty pieties. But something is there.
Oswald Spengler’s assertion that we are in the process of exhausting the feeling-forms of our civilization, which is itself a mere postscript to the great creative phase of Culture, has an uneasy ring of truth. Have we not, just possibly, passed from culture to routine civilization? A century ago, when Spengler made his charge, it may have seemed the caviling of an embittered crank. There were giants in the earth in those days, divisive or not: Freud, Einstein, Kafka, Joyce, Gide, Matisse, Rilke, Mahler, Gorky, Babel, Bartok, Bergson and on and on and on…
But the intuition may have been founded on some solid bases. The giants have pretty well departed the scene. Philip Roth and Bellow are not really a Proust or a Fitzgerald. Henry Jenkins and before Marshall McLuhan, in all respects were not I.A. Richards or a Wittgenstein. Christopher Hitchens et al. are not Martin Buber. Essentially, our vaunted technological prowess, our materialist pride, is for the most part a working out in practical detail the basic theories and perceptions that are a century old.
i’ve argued elsewhere that the last group of great philosophers died about 50 years ago. we’ve been orphaned ever since then. real thinkers have been replaced by a multiplicity of historians of thoughts, academics, but seldom one with any original or meaningful one.( Hune at Martin Buber Institute )
In what sense is our space travel program a fundamental breakthrough comparable to Max Planck’s quantum theory? Is the technological expertise of DNA a true index of society’s inner growth? Technology is cumulative and has gone on growing throughout history independent of the rise and fall of great civilizations. If the exploitation of the proletariat is one of the great crimes of history, and the goalposts are moving on that, if the elite were too often oppressive or merely smug, does that mean that standards of excellence should be watered down and diluted to pap, pablum for mass consumption? As in Vico’s somber vision, must democracy in politics lead to a deadly statism that overlays a formless egalitarianism of the senses.
You have to wonder if we are not just trudging on ceaselessly from decade to decade, tirelessly dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of an increasingly empty existence. The vision is one of dragging on, technologically capable of keeping who we define as barbarians at bay, but of little else. A siege mentality. When the pulse of life in the state grows fee
, when the individual’s imagination grows dull, then eventually it is a good thing, as in Rome’s case, Vico’s “better nation” finally comes to conquer. The arts atrophy, and political factions, hard ideology and a political civil war holds sway. Sounds like America. Except the stakes are high given the incredible national wealth.
“In this way says Vico, “through long centuries of barbarism, rust will consume the misbegotten subtleties of malicious wits, that have turned them into beasts made more inhuman by the barbarism of reflection than the first men had been made by the barbarism of sense.”
Emmet Cole:Kuspit traces the genealogy of the postart aesthetic from Marcel Duchamp’s announcement of an “entropic split” between intellectual expression and animal expression (which led to the reification of concept over form, and from there to a nihilistic pessimism) through Warhol’s commercialism (which blurred the line between art and business) to Hirst’s installations (which reflect postmodernism’s preoccupation with the banal objects and situations of our everyday lives).
Whereas modern art consisted of revolutionary experiments motivated by a desire to express aspects of the newly-discovered “unconscious mind,” Kuspit argues, postart is shallow, unreflective banality motivated by the desire to become institutionalized; that is, part of the mainstream (along with the commercial reward that such co-opted acceptability brings). In this regard, the messianic zeal with which Van Gogh approached his work represents an ideal because it demonstrates the kind of authentic and individualistic commitment to artistic expression that today’s commercialized postartists lack. The crucifixion has become a cabaret….
…Kuspit points out that it was to a very different kind of institution – the psychiatric ward – that modern artists were drawn. In an attempt to understand how the unconscious and madness can affect the creative process, modern artists turned their attention to the artworks of psychiatric patients. Modern art went on to find its greatest glories in the dark and mysterious world of the human unconscious. This is the anti-Allegory of the Cave, an emergence into night.
Acknowledging that modern art’s engagement with madness produced imperfect (but important) art, Kuspit’s new book attacks the postartists for substituting modern art’s authentic engagement with madness for the cozy passivity of the television documentary. Read More:http://www.themodernword.com/reviews/kuspit.html
Clement Greenberg once said that the Old Masters achieved what they achieved by way of their manipulation of pigments not by way of their “spirituality” (his word), but I think we now recognize that they couldn’t do what they artistically did without their spirituality and insight into human nature. I don’t think the past is particularly “exalted,” but much of its art seems much more mature than modern art. Nor do I think the future will necessarily be more “original” than the modernist past, but it will be as creative, if in a different way and direction. Picasso once said it took him a lifetime to learn to paint like a child. I think that it’s time for a new adult art. Children’s art and the art of the insane – so-called ”outsider art” in general – has outlived its usefulness as a model. The New Old Masters have turned to more mature, sane art for a model, both emotionally and aesthetically. Read More:http://www.themodernword.com/reviews/kuspit.html