We live in a world saturated in art. Our contemporary master pieces are found on billboards and seen on television as advertising. This current culture’s greatest musicians are carefully crafted by an executive board of mega power-mongers competing with other mega power-mongers. Even the most profound of art forms – the theatre – is manipulated and evaluated by non-artistic producers to determine their risk of investment.
If our peoples go down in history, we will be known for crap art on a mass scale. It’s value based on prescribed assumptions of what will make money.
Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so, I’m cynical of it on a personal level, but all art is an evocation of epiphany, it’s bringing an idea: inspiration, concept into reality. In art’s role of money maker, one cannot dismiss that it works.
Art justifies the human’s claim to being apart from animals. It is the proof of our right to be the dominant species. It’s an universal communicator that transcends all boarders of reality, language, culture and location. If there is anything that should be held in reverence, it is in all forms of art.
So that’s why I don’t think it’s ‘bad’ that our culture is saturated in tasteless art. Sometimes though… I find it worrying. Apart from art just being, it requires an audience. This trend of flooding the world with bad art is lowering the standards of the audience.
I find the jadedness in myself as I wander through the internet. Social networking websites presents art in such an artificial and dismissive manner, so much so, when I see something truly amazing I appreciate it with only a glance and maybe a ‘like’ or a ‘share’. This jaded overexposure continues offline into a physical art gallery. It is especially noted when observing others in this environment who, with echoing voices ring, “same old” or “how boring” as they observe paintings by some of the greatest masters in history. The worry I feel is that this over exposure is leading to the nihilism prophesised by Nietzsche. If we’re not careful, the audience with such non-standards will be incapable of appreciating art for what it is.
Then you see the hatred of art in society itself. It’s fitting writing about this now as we see examples with the spread of extremists morons in the Middle-East who seek to destroy all forms of art from burning drum kits to demolishing some of the greatest artefacts / structures in world history. We can’t just blame those extremist barbarians in the middle-east however. The West is at fault too with its over censorship, intolerance and itself destroying artwork in the name of religion and politics. Since Abraham smashing idol statues to the modern art movement of the twentieth century there has been a war against art. On both sides there have been gains and losses. Sadly, given my knowledge of history I see the West following suit, yet, again.
If by over exposure, religious doctrines or cultural norms we have to admit we have lost our ability to hear the choir of the Muses. Yet under Muses reign their devoted polytheist followers produced the greatest art ever known. The art of polytheists have had an influence on all we know. From basic composition to our concept of aesthetics, standards of writing to the play house – we can even go as far as claiming the development of politics, philosophy and mathematics.
To provide an example here is a simplification of fifteenth century art history: We have a culture that is exposed to the Greek writings from the Islamic Golden Age. This rekindled the lost heritage within the Italian elite who went on to further study the Greeks and developed a new kind of appreciation for the art. These nobles then commissioned digs and contemporary artists to create a new era of art that we name the Renaissance.
I don’t want to dismiss the hard work of those peoples, but it was their reintroduction to the classical polytheist cultures that initiated nations out of the Medieval Dark Ages. The liberating influences of the ancients lead to the further developments climaxing during the industrial revolution. In regards to art we have the study of natural science, such as anatomy led to better medical practice. Alchemy, via the study of chemicals to make pigments, became the secularised study we call chemistry. Introduction and experimentation of artists aided in the development of common metal alloys too. Through the reintroduction of perspective from the Roman’s, artists became architects and learnt to build grander, stronger structures. Along with philosophy and the theatre we have the development of political theory and eventual reestablishment of democracy and just think, individuals like Shakespeare would be nothing without the works of Homer, fragments of Greek plays and of Roman greats like Ovid.
So you see when Oscar Wilde says in wit, mimicking works by Kant and Plato: “All art is quite useless” I will fervently argue against it. Yet, I also seek a balance of Wilde’s statement through making art as devotion. The balance is dependent on the point of view of the creator / spectator, if one is secular then it could be perceived as useless but if one has faith in the divine it is the most beautiful work one can strive for.
This is the difference, faith, and this is something that our polytheist predecessors had, belief in the gods and what did they do? The ancients and their knowledge of art have made us what we are today. All their art was devotional, their entire lives were dedicated to their gods and in the process of creating art for the gods they achieved the greatest pinnacle of art. A pinnacle that we have been disparately trying to emulate but never reaching fulfilment because our culture is not polytheistic.
It’s not a matter of money, monotheism, politics. It’s faith in the gods while creating art in their honour.
If we look at all kinds of movements, be it political, cultural or religious we see that that there is an art movement in itself that coexistent and justifies the existence of that said movement. That is something I want to attempt to ignite throughout the polytheist community. One being the reestablishment of the Dionysian Artists. The other commitment is encouraging others to produce devotional art and / or establish their own artistic communities within the polytheist sphere.
So what is an art movement? I’m going to quote Wikipedia here are its succinct and correct:
“An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, (usually a few months, years or decades) or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years.”
There is a lot of debate as to what was the first art movement but of my own opinion the first was the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Millais. I believe they are the first art movement as they, the artists, were the first to have a set of doctrines which dictated the art as being considered Pre-Raphaelite, these are:
- to have genuine ideas to express
- to study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them
- to sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote
- most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues
These doctrines are very liberal but allow members some guidance in what to strive for in making art. As a result of their formal brotherhood we not only witness a drastic change in art of the mid-late 1800’s but also see their effect on other areas of art including writing, poetry, common home decor, architecture and fashion. Through their art they created a miniature cultural revolution within the Victorian climate with influences on other forms of art and associated movements that continued well into the twentieth century.
We have these examples of success already in front of us. There have been groups with lesser goals than the polytheist community that have altered the cultural climate. From ancient examples I’ve provided in previous posts to my mention of the middle ages to more modern times. Movements that have lesser motivations, each all different, but none that have the gods on their side in their creation. Compared to these groups there is a lot of people online that call themselves polytheist, why is it that we are not pressing forward into the grand overarching culture of the west to reassert ourselves once again? To me the simplest way to do this is through art. Be it painting or sculpture, writing, poetry, philosophy or performance. Not these navel gazing, petty, self-generating squabbles between ourselves.
Maybe, just maybe, if we can work together to produce good art for our gods we can break the jadedness of mainstream culture… let’s conflagrate the passions of the Muses once more. Let’s do something constructive for our gods!
Markos Gage Δ