Art, for the most part, is not really “art” anymore. It is barely decoration. Most of it could be called “personal display,” with dollar signs attached.
If we want a living, vital art again, we must go on a quest for something lost and suppressed – something forfeited long ago. We won’t find it in the white box of the gallery or the museum, or even within the exploded frame of the deconstructive or post-structural, the curatorial or the archival.
We have played out all the familiar buzzwords until they sound like tinplate notes from an old pianola.
A long time ago, art was a primordial, sacred expression of a world saturated with supernatural manna. Art was direct revelation. Art illuminated our sense of unity with the Cosmos.
Later on, art became part of Empire’s self-congratulatory pageant pomp. Then it was woven into Renaissance science; the discovery of space and representation. With the rise of bourgeois culture, art became a philosophical instrument, undermining the pieties, the smug certainties of Middle Class life.
Modern art was supposed to shock and disrupt. That was its function. Soon, we discovered that these shocks and disruptions did not interfere or impede the flow of commodities, the progression of Empire.
Art’s destabilizing spectacles and broken reflections fed the Capitalist machinery of incessant production. Art provided a bit of ideological cover for its ongoing decimation of nature, its annihilation of traditional cultures. Every effort to break the realm of the aesthetic and finally find something unpresentable, rejected, or repulsive, only enhanced the filthy, corrupt power of the mega machine.
Rebellion was routinized.
Art was efficiently absorbed into the disintegrating spectacle.
The artists who played the game effectively – titillating the bourgeois just enough – mastered the game of private capital accumulation for themselves. They retired to Bavarian castles, Brooklyn lofts, and East Hampton mansions, surrounded by their fawning devotees. Everybody agreed to the rules of this cynical pantomime, and all was fine for a while.
Probably we could have gone on like that forever, patting ourselves on the back for our little academic exercises in avant-garde-ism, but unfortunately – or, perhaps, fortunately – we now are forced to realize that our entire system – not just the art system – is a con game, a Ponzi Scheme. Empire mortgaged the future of the Earth for short-term gratifications, for narcissistic celebrations. The gilded shark tanks and basketballs no longer help to justify Capitalism’s incessant omnivorous expansion, as the climate shatters and the Sixth Great Extinction proceeds.
Postmodern art gave form and expression to the contemporary religion of nihilism. In this way, it meshed perfectly with the Totalitarian project of the New World Order, the perfected surveillance state. In a nihilistic universe, the Ego reigns, for one transitory moment, floating above the void.
Albert Camus realized, in The Rebel, only two worlds are, in the final analysis, possible for the human mind: The world of rebellion or the world of the Sacred. We can no longer bear to perpetuate the antiquated, repetitive, exhausted modes of rebellion. This must mean, by process of elimination, we are beginning to toggle back toward the world of the Sacred, if Camus was right.
Could the realm of the Sacred reemerge in the midst of our desacralized postmodern wasteland? It would be the final outrage, the last shock.
What about Intentional Art? What is it? I don’t want to know what it is yet.
Intention is a powerful idea. What is the intention of our current civilization? What is the intention of the little particles of individuality swarming around in it?
According to Eastern mystics, occultists, and Amazonian shamans, there is only one consciousness that expresses itself through the creative medium of space and time. This consciousness fragments itself into myriad tiny shards in order to learn about its own expressive capacities. If this view is correct, then the intention of civilization should be to mesh all of these fragments back together into a harmonic, ever-changing whole. We could explore universality in diversity, and overcome the false dualism between the individual and collective by reimagining our world as a collaborative work of art.
Art then loses its separate identity as an ornament of bourgeois culture and becomes intrinsic to a social world based on creative expression and improvisation, just as technology and nature weave together in a new synthesis.
Art, today, can prepare the ground for that leap in consciousness and civilization that is so screamingly, obviously, necessary. It can help to heal the culturally imposed divide between humanity, nature, and the cosmos.
So let’s have some fun!