Modern art[i], the victim of advanced lifestyle
As I have promised in the previous part, now I will try to present the reasons for the weakening of the module of will in details and at the same time the crisis[ii] of the perception of the most vivid expressive way of the will to creation, that is, the perception of art. But first, let us try to reach an agreement on some concepts.
In 1750, Dijon academy announced a competition of philosophical works on the topic “Has the restoration of science and art contributed to the purification of morals and progress in general?”. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the greatest thinkers also took part in the competition among the others. He was among the firsts to try to view the progress of science[iii] and art as an independent phenomenon influencing the development of the human civilization, as politics or economy do. There is one more conclusion among the numerous ones in the work that I would like to highlight in the scope of our topic. That is, the author actually considers both science and art tools to struggle against nature, state, oppressions, fear, etc. That is to say, Rousseau views the act to create and to perceive (as far as art is concerned) as a manifestation of struggle. As it has been mentioned earlier (in the previous part), two of the numerous expressive ways of the will to creation (a kind of the positive will) are science and art. Yet, along with similarities these two greatly differ from each other. In his book “The end of history and the last man”, Fukuyama separately mentions art and science from the point of view of the general human history, but he completely splits these two from each other. Fukuyama states that if the gradual and continuous progress of natural sciences is impossible to deny as it is probably one of the most continuous and universal phenomena in history, in case of art, things are not the same. “The Parthenon”, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Michelangelo’s “David”, “Taj Mahal”, “Mona Liza” are perfections created centuries ago and they do not need any progress or further development. Meanwhile, all the things that once were available only to G. Galilei or L. da Vinci, today are known and applicable for each end every schoolchild. Moreover, our knowledge is now far more perfect in their subjects of study. That is to say, if science is capable of continuous progress and popularization of its products and it will never reach perfection, in case of art, the way of development and logic is much more different. In my opinion, art has reached perfection quite often (moreover, I strongly believe that if we leave religious principles aside, art is the culmination, the human catharsis of man’s eagerness to reach perfection, eagerness to create). Only its manifestations, directions, means of expression have been different, but even with all these we cannot say that it has developed. For example, the works of W. Shakespeare do not leave behind those of Homer for any objective criteria. Nor do the works of Homer leave behind those of L. Tolstoy. Moreover, comparing them is itself inappropriate and wrong. Whereas, it is sometimes necessary to compare some concrete scientific disciplines.
However, there have been some cases in history when art or, to be more precise, the perception of art was in a crisis because of the change of the vector of will or weakening of the module of will. The events in the dark medieval periods (universal decline of culture, science, education and art) can be explained through the changes of the vector of will.
On my mind, the perception of art is in a critical state nowadays, too. But today, the crisis is not conditioned by the changes of the vector of will, but by the weakening of the module of will in general. The 21st century brought about unprecedented progress of science, technology, social and political thought. All these also caused drastic changes in our way of life. Never in the course of history have people lived such a prosperous, peaceful and well-off life as we do now. Never have the way of life been so comfortable, high-qualified and serviced as it is today. The human environment is unprecedentedly beautiful, safe and clean today. The mass application and consumption of the beauty was changed due to the entry of the new generation of information storages. People take for granted watching, listening and being satisfied with best plays, performances and all other exhibits of art inside their houses.
All these brought about sufficient satisfaction of the beauty and the harmony. Some people gained placidity due to this satisfaction, others developed more capricious expectations that were not much related to the classical notions about the beauty. To put it simple, the man does not lack the beauty in his environment, in the world surrounding him and, therefore, has no eagerness to master the new beauty. Meanwhile, art is usually mastered for four reasons:
- Lack of the beauty and, hence, eagerness to master the beauty.
- Expressing protest, when riots and complaints about the phenomena going on in the society are expressed through art.
- Self-assertion, self-seeking and self-development.
- Eruption of internal energy, emotions – relax.
As for the first one, I have already mentioned that things have become much easier and now neither the needs are as actual as in the past, nor their satisfaction is problematic. The reasons why the second one has declined are far more interesting. The popularization of liberal-democratic values and democracy parade have eliminated all the actual totalitarian systems in the world. The existing authoritarian systems are only shadows of the monstrous regimes of the past from the point of view of their power and, therefore, their capacity to suppress the society. And finally, the world is so open now, routes and other ways of transportation are so safe (compared to the past) and borders have become so conventional that the vast majority of violated people prefers simply to leave the zone of violation. There is no big and mass systematic torment, there is no big and mass injustice and an institution that executes this injustice (like the Catholic Church in the Inquisition period). In fact, the present liberalization of social thought and expansion of liberal-democratic values are harmful to the perception of art. Today, neither the expression of protest bears the vital significance as it did before, nor its expression acquires any allegorical approaches, as it is possible to disagree with and to criticize anything openly. Well, and the decline of the role of the third and fourth points is the joint effect of all the above-mentioned processes (regime liberalization, huge information flows and extra surplus of the beauty). I would like to add that in the present reality[iv]there is no large and vital struggle that usually has serious impact not only on art, but also on will in general. But let us discuss this in details a bit later.
Some other, less systematic reasons
The meaning of life has been viewed differently in different times, as a result of existing religious or political-cultural flows. If the Romans viewed the meaning of life in the scope of Romanism, i.e. dedicating life to universal good and beneficial activities that would result in universal good[v], then in Christianity, the meaning of life was to reach the salvation of soul. Yet, the meaning of life is different today. And it is the desire to be happy, above everything, and this desire is present everywhere, in everything. If previously happiness was only a result, not an objective, e.g. a Roman did not seek for happiness, he sought for remaining in history forever and achieving this he became happy, then nowadays happiness itself is the objective. And it is not important whether how or by what happiness is gained, only happiness itself is important. Such a simplified formula was popularized and inevitably resulted in simplicity, associating happiness with materialistic welfare. In these conditions there can exist no brilliant creations or struggle, unless, of course, it is itself the source of happiness for a person. This, however, occurs seldom as a brilliant creation and struggle are mainly accompanied by torment and suffering.
Popular culture, that is a relatively new achievement of the Western Civilization, also has negative impact on modern art. The threshold of susceptibility (and, therefore, the quality also) is continuously reduced in order to gain wider audiences. We need to understand the two most important reasons for the development of popular culture:
- The presentation of material to large masses of public in a simple and comprehensible way, usually in order to somehow affect the latter.
- The industrialization of the act to create art and turning the latter into a source of profit.
All the mentioned issues that put art in a critical state, actually have much more serious effects. I mean, they all eventually lead to the weakening of the module of will, since satisfaction, assurance, resource availability, the ability to automatically participate in political and social processes, muddling of struggle – all these phenomena have certain influence on the perception of art, and most importantly they all have a negative impact on the module of will.
I have attempted to define the vision of the issue and suggest some possible solutions in the next part.
- Жан-Жак Руссо, Избранные сочинения в трех томах, Т.1, Москва, ГИХЛ, 1961
- Ф.Фукуяма, Конец истории и последний человек, Москва, АСТ, 2015
- Основные направления и течения философии с их представителями, http://studme.org/1667011917702/filosofiya/osnovnye_napravleniya_techeniya_filosofii_predstavitelyami
- Encyclopaedia Britannica,http://www.britannica.com
Author: Areg Kochinyan: © All rights are reserved.
Translated by Yeranuhi Antonyan
[i] A kind of social consciousness, a form of the human creative activity and spiritual culture, a unique method of recognizing the reality. Art reflects the reality aesthetically, through fictional characters. The subjects of the reflection of art are the aesthetic phenomena of the reality, the tragic or heroic, noble or ignoble and especially beautiful aspects of life.
[ii] In the whole text we focus on the crisis of the perception of art (by the way, the word “crisis” derives from the Old Greek word “κρίσις” – a drastic moment, a state when the means to achieve goals become inadequate and their continued implementation causes unpredictable situations.
[iii] A special kind of cognitive activity in order to master, adjust and create objective, systematic and well-grounded knowledge about nature, society and way of thinking. The basis of this activity is the collection of scientific facts, their continuous update and coordination, criticizing analysis and synthesizing or summarizing new kinds of knowledge on this basis which not only define the observed natural or social phenomena, but also allow to establish casual connections and in result to make predictions.
[iv] Here and in the whole text in general we mainly mean the Western world.
[v] For the sake of justice it should be mentioned that in the times when Romanism was dominant, there were usually rises in some branches of art: the ancient period, the Renaissance and so on.