January 27, 2023

To the End of Art and the Start of a New Creativity! Food for Thought by Joan Hus

“Anyway, we can’t verify any such thing as art.” With this words, Ed leant back in his chair. An odd mixture of smugness (approximately 78 percent) and relief (approximately 21 percent) with lesser amounts of other intangible qualities filled the room. I firmly clamped my jaws, lest I should open them and roar. It wasn’t so much what he said, as the confident manner in which he said it, that made my mind turn yellow with anger. Nothing to get excited about, calm down, play it cool, I thought, forcing my mood to turn into to a less violent, neutral grey.
“No doubt I would express an identical thought if I were you,” I said with an air of calm detachment but with a certain degree of sympathy in the tone of my voice. Ed looked up. An expression of wonder crossed his features. Nice opening gambit, I thought, while I got up from my chair. “A Wizard’s Whisky?” Ed nodded. A moment later, I sat down again and lifted my glass. A real connoisseur, Ed tilted and turned his tumbler, nosed the complex and versatile spirit of the amber beverage attentively and took a sip. I watched his mouth move as he swirled the whisky around his tongue before swallowing it. He clucked approvingly. “Eight highland brands in storage,” I said. “This one is but a start.” Ed smiled.
I cleared my throat. “No doubt, you’re right in saying that disagreements about matters of art can’t be resolved objectively. Unfortunately, this statement is not the end but the beginning of the discussion.” I took a sip and continued, “Nowadays, ninety percent of the information our brains process consists of messages received through the round-the-clock data processing devices we are quasi permanently plugged into. Art is no exception. The way we think about it is… controlled… like the trading on the stock market.” Ed wanted to say something, but I cut him off, “Don’t,” I said. “I will not repeat what I said last week, that at a certain point man started using the term ‘art’ to refer to a whole range of things which apparently form a separate category of goodies that can be traded in the bubble-blowers way…” “Do you take me for a ninny, or what?” Ed said.
“Another one?” I pointed at his glass. I waited for his approval to continue. “The fact that ‘we can’t verify any such thing as art’ and the fact that we cannot answer the question what criteria uniquely define it are symptoms of the same underlying problem. I can’t tell you how many definitions there are – all of them ultimately circular – but, assuming art is a constituent element of culture, surely, there are as many definitions of art as there are of culture…, more than the Kroeber-Kluckhohn hundred and sixty-four… The criteria which uniquely define it vary from expression, to representation, depiction, reference, meaning, value… Some scholars emphasize the emotional, others the axiological, still others the cognitive, or the material side.”
“Every man to his taste then,” Ed said, triumphantly reaffirming his relativistic point of view. “No,” I said, “Not, every man to his taste, every man to his purpose! Pick out the definition of art that befits you as a scholar, as an artist, a gallery owner, a curator, an art critic, art collector, art dealer, art consultant, board member of an art foundation, museum director, art broker, civil servant employed by some Ministry of culture…, in short, define art in terms of the goal you intent to reach as an art bubble blower.” Ed sighed with mock earnestness, “There is no denying it. In life, the pragmatic approach is the surest way to success.”
I got up from my chair, took two snifters from the top shelve of the cupboard and poured a small amount of another brand. I handed Ed one of the glasses. “The only thing that really, really matters… ” I said. Judging by the smile about his lips, Ed anticipated rightly that I would add in one form or another, that art is a thing of the past. “…is how to put an end to it, I mean to art.” Raising one corner of his upper-lip like some Humphrey-Bogart worldly-wise wise guy, Ed said, “Anti-romanticism, anti-art… what anti else are you, anti-human?” But I continued, unruffled, “Of course, if we, humans, are creative beings, as most contemporary scholars believe we are, we can’t stop from being creative. What we must not forget, however, is that our existence is fundamentally contextual. Which means that we cannot leave out the context.” “At the risk of our lives,” I thought, while taking a sip. “We may not neglect, disregard…, we may not turn a blind eye to the context, to the planetary situation we live in. Today, issues like the depletion of resources, the exhaustion of the earth and of all living beings, our petty selves included, leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the least we should do is to stop using “new” materials to produce things called art.”
Ed raised his empty glass. I poured him another Glen, saying, “We should start by abolishing art schools, by banning all forms of art lobbyism, by putting an end to art funding, by ceasing to restore and preserve work by minor and major artists, by reusing existing works, by cutting paintings into pieces, scraping painted canvasses bare, weaving the threads of tattered tapestries into cloths… really, art – lower or upper case – is the last taboo we must get rid of.” “Shake my head,” Ed cried. “Are you stupefied, or what?” “I’m not drunk, if this is what you mean,” I said, adding, “Come on Ed, be reasonable, it has to stop somewhere. More and more and more people making more and more and more useless things if only because of this inviolable art bubble blowing fomenting taboo that prohibits any form of public enmity against what is deemed to be the embodiment of the sacred values of culture, of Western Culture, or rather, of Western Global Culture – WGC…, egad, there is but one letter difference with WTC…”
“Would a Malthusian catastrophe do?” Ed asked. “Better not count on it,” I said. Ed fell silent. Then, suddenly, as if he had reached a conclusion, he raised his glass and exclaimed, “To the end of art!” Whereupon, I shouted, “And to the start of a new creativity!”
Debunking Art!

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