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- - -a point of view

Traditional Art insists upon visible connections to a visible object. The art piece must, in some detail, resemble the visible object's appearance; or, the art piece must capture, suggest, or remind us of the essence or character of the visible object it is related to. That's enough to mark it traditional, all other things being unremarkable.

Modern art insists upon its own modification. The art piece obviously relates to the visible object, but makes changes in ways that have not any connection or relation to the visual object.The result is that the subject of the art piece is not the visual object but the artist, the maker of the very modifications of Art. Perhaps in the Asia tradition the subject of the art is a value, or something, in our western tradition, akin to a value, rather than something like the intention of the artist.

Post Modern art insists upon being only itself. The art piece is related to nothing except itself. It is a new object, created to have an appearance unique to itself. It is, in itself, a suitable subject to be pictured in what we call traditional art. Again, the subject of Post Modern Art is the intentionality of the artist, or is the result of the artist's own existential moment. The subject is the artist, and the art piece has become simply an object that resulted.

This new art insists that the human social relations are/is the one thing that is essential to be a human being. Social relations predetermine neurological experience (perception, etc) as we know it, though most people will tell you that the reverse is closer to the truth.

Consciousness, the self-awareness of all human beings, is outside of time and outside of individual knowing. All of the knowable universe, both tangible and ephemeral, includes all human experience (then, now, forever) and that great quantity of data is actually one of the smallest parts of the actual universe. So, according to this, the real of reality is profoundly unknowable. The art piece is an emblem of the individual, internal experience of perception. Thus a voiceless stone can be a soothing sermon, when you wish it to be. The esthetic is not separable from all experience.

This has not always been the nature of our experience. We Homo sapiens have changed a lot in the last five thousand years. Some three or four thousand years ago, more or less, folks living together in the cruel deserts around the East Mediterranean gave thought to their inner experience and their social organization. They found a relation between the two. They found the idea of responsibility. They discovered that, whether I like it or not, or whether I agree or not, as sure as sunshine and gravity, what I do as an individual changes the lives of other individuals; and I cannot prevent that. You can see that ethics grew from this. Tribal life was easier in the more lush and fertile northern Europe. That started to come to an end when their westward treks ran out of land on the shores of the Atlantic. They had to stop and settle down for good-- for the first time.

Up till then, possession was the thing: Achilles wanted Briseis, right? Cu Chulain wanted the best cut of meat. Owning was not the issue; having it was. Their historians had only to recall who slew whom, and sometimes who begat whom (though I think the begats came a long time after Briseis).

When the tribes settled down, suddenly everybody had to keep track: which parcel of land, and which improvements, belonged to whom, and why. Sigrid Undset deals with a lot of that in "Kristin Lavransdatter." That was Sweden in 1300 and they were still sorting it out. I put it down as a discovery not an accomplishment.

In East Europe we tried to ignore private ownership for about seven recent decades, andlook at the mess the great U.S.S.R. made doing that.

The discovery that children are not simply small, ineffective humans; that people, organizations, social groups, all go through important change; the recognition of the growth and change of western society; the creation of cities and new countries; the training and education of adults for special occupations; the re-establishment of populations following the centuries of repeated black death plagues that again and again wiped out much of Europe; all of this helped bring into our consciousness the idea of systemic change. This obvious reality, so at odds with official dogmas, could not be ignored in relatively literate societies.

The beginnings of the natural sciences and the discoveries of the former cultures of Rome, Greece, Egypt, and the stone age, brought startling insights about the progressive character of the human kind.

New knowledge made ignorance important. Dalton wrote on atomic theory in 1803; molecular rearrangement was demonstrated in 1828; that the act of making a judgement takes place inaccessibly and unaccountably in the unconscious part of us was proved in 1906.

The fairly absolute confidence that uncertainty can be quantified made pragmatism a reasonable substitute for a number of older ideas. Some argue that it made philosophy unnecessary.

Causality, determinism and relativity made the nature of the human experience increasingly a matter of opinion. This required us to invent information technology.

This technology consisted of public education (from Syms-Eaton Academy onward), high speed printing, encyclopedias public libraries, electric communications, statistics, quantum mechanics, automated data processing, cybernetics, feedback, and several new mathematics. This technology was the major achievement of this new period.

With neither a universe nor a deity that seems purposeful, for sure, reality seems to be some kind of infinite chaos. Though at first glance this looks like another of Arnold's ignorant army clashes at night and a universal Murphy's law, the results as we experience them are not really half bad. Something really interesting always seems to turn up, if we keep up the turning. Perhaps the organizing principle of the universe is an infinitely reaching discontinuity. I rather prefer that.

Art relates to all this as a product of culture, not the cause of it (just incase that point of view was not clear).


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