On Reclaiming the Arts in the Modern World
The Importance of the Arts in the fight for Civilization
It was once true that what is considered “real art” in society was the prerogative of Kings, Emperors and merchants to decide, as they could afford to line the pockets of artisans and painters to make something that would glorify their status in society. A well designed home, a tapestry, a family portrait, was a sought-after status symbol. This is our simplified conception of art and is more or less accurate at a low resolution understanding of the history of art patronage. It shocks people to remind them that this exact system continues unchanged today, but instead of Kings, our arts are now largely beholden to tyrants and narcissists. The King is to the dictator, as real art is to propaganda. Understanding the difference between a dictator and a King, is understanding why our collective conception of art after 1930 appears to have become a schizophrenic frenzy of charmless performances.
“I saw the crown of France laying on the ground, so I picked it up with my sword”
Napoleon Bonaparte said this when we made himself Emperor of France in a vacuum of power. The crown of the Arts lays on the ground today. Let us pick it up.
The Tyranny of Marxism in the Arts
Some people believe that the decline in the standards of art are due to the fact that art has been democratised: that is, the decision about what is good or bad art, is no longer left to an intelligent and educated elite, but rather has become a public prerogative. If everyone says Van Gogh is good then his work must be good; if everyone says 2+2=5 then it must be true. They argue that democracy is no guarantee for the right decision because a collective psychosis is easier to achieve than an individual one. As a result, a collective psychosis that results in the abdication of all standards, leads to a democracy that decides poor quality work is suddenly good. In this essay, I argue against this very statement.
Let us ask the question, why does everyone thinks Van Gogh is an excellent artist? Most people are unconscious to the origins of their preferences and desires. Most people think Van Gogh is an excellent artist because other people say the same thing and, more importantly, because they have not been exposed to any art except modern art. Although this seems like a democratic decision, it is anything but. It is vote that has been manipulated by the art world elites who run Universities and Art Galleries and are under the spell of Marxism.
Were the art work to be put to a genuine democratic vote, that is, if everyone were privately and anonymously asked whether they prefer a Matisse to a Repin painting, and were actually shown more than one art style, the results would be very different. The arts have become a placeholder for class in many ways and to reject the opinion of the elite class is to be ostracised from them. Those who have an interest in belonging, are sure to toe the line in their “personal tastes”.
Post-Modernist Art has everything to do with Marxism because Marxism is fundamentally the idea that hierarchies are inherently evil and nothing good can come of them. In order for us to judge any art as good or bad, we must have hierarchies of standards against we can measure any individual piece. Without such standards, it is impossible for anyone to tell whether or not a piece is good. The lack of such fixed, objective standards for art, means that those in elite positions, such as heads of universities and art galleries, can make capricious decisions about the quality of artwork and never be legitimately questioned for these decisions. They wrap their critiques in indecipherable jargon that boils down to one thing: this art work is good because I said so and if you disagree it is likely because you’re not as intelligent or as important as I am.
Art tells a universal truth and because the truths are universal, they can be recognised by every heart and vetted by a truly democratic process. The more separated the decisions about real art are from individual hearts, the more they are corruptible and corrupted. The elite institution has been separated from the human hearts that should make it up and as such, the decisions they make about art are also corrupted with fundamentally destructive ideas such as Marxism and Nihilism. The solution that must be undertaken is to bring the judgement of art back to ordinary people, and thus make the system of judgement once again truly democratic.
When a child is asked to make a decision about whether or not a piece of art is good, they often prefer the art that, two hundred years ago, the elites would have also preferred and celebrated. Children are uncorrupted and therefore do not have the impulse to agree with the established collective opinion about what their opinion ought to be about things. This innocence should inspire us to tell the truth about art as well.
What is “Real Art”
Real Art is that which tells the truth. The truth is not merely material, it is also spiritual. There is a material dimension to the world consisting of that which can be materially measured. There is also a spiritual dimension to the world consisting of things that cannot be objectively measured. Real art is where the spiritual is expressed through the material and therefore conveys some truth about the world. The greatness of the art is proportional to the density of truth that is told in that piece. It is for this reason that Real Art is quite dangerous to permit in a society whose foundations are made of lies and illusions.
The very existence of the truth in this world would be so incongruent with the illusions that it would disrupt the illusion. When the illusions are exposed for what they are, it is more difficult for a person to continue to living in the lie with ease. Real Art, especially Great Art, is automatically an inditement on all lies and illusions. Aldous Huxley understood this in his novel “Brave New World” when the protagonist begins to question his world after reading Shakespeare.
One truly beautiful line of poetry is a crack in the illusion that lets in the light and lets its prisoners know, at the very least, that they are not living in the real world. The prisoners must then decide whether or not they want to escape. Whatever they choose, however, they will no longer be able to live innocently in the world of illusion.
Real Art does not need to be “De-colonized” because Art Transcends Culture and Ethnicity
Usually, the words “Arts” and “Culture” are placed side by side because the artists paint or create with their own culture. Institutions and schools around the western world are urged to share art from multiple cultures in order to “represent” these cultures better in our collective appreciation for the arts. They excoriate the promotion and celebration of art that happens to be created by artists of European descent because they believe that this art work is “Eurocentric” and promotes only European cultures. The people who make such claims are deeply mistaken because all Real Art transcends culture.
Everyone, regardless his cultural background or ethnicity, is a human being and thus shares in the ubiquitous truths of the human condition. To suggest that Chinese or Indian or Native North American people would be left out from Real Art that happens to come from Europe, is to suggest that these people do not share in humanity. When Hamlet laments over his mortal coil, when Bach plays the music of eternally blooming flowers, and when Michaelangelo paints the dance of heaven and earth, they do not speak merely about Europeans; they speak about us all. Art contains that which unites us across the superficial distinctions of race, culture and ethnicity, because it connects us at the level of the human heart.
The modern art world seems to judge art by the cultural background of the author rather than by the quality of the art itself. This is the very discrimination that one would hope to have been effaced from society long ago but it lingers like an unwanted shadow, rearing its head in new and wretched faces disguised as “progressiveness” and “anti-racism”.
Real Art is a Threat
Real Art is the potent distillation of truth in the form of performance, paint, marble or song. It is the place where the truth survives even when the rest of the world may try to rewrite it. I could easily go through hundreds of paintings to illustrate this point but I will pick a few key ones for the purpose of this essay.
A) The Truth of the Human Heart
The first painting is Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan by Ilya Repin (Plate I). This painting depicts the emperor Ivan the Terrible, clutching the wound of his newly dead son Ivan in his arms. The painting depicts a painful truth that one can feel right away but take a little time to articulate. The clues around the painting, like the fallen over stool and the bloody staff, tell us that Ivan was the one to bludgeon his son to death in a fit of anger. Yet the widened eyes, the white knuckles attempting to hold onto his son’s soul as it slips away to the afterlife, tell us something more disturbing. We feel pity and compassion for the remorseful father, even though he is the senseless murderer.
This truth distilled here is that the villains whom we wish to categorize unequivocally as evil, may not be so evil as we believe them to be. They may be compelled by mysterious forces that lay dormant even in our own hearts. Are we capable of the same evil? Are we separated from tragedy only by a moment of passion? Repin’s painting is not an inditement on human nature, but rather a truth that disturbs our comfortable conception of good and evil.
Repin’s art is an oeuvre to difficult truths and contradictions about human nature. The truths he expresses in his paintings cannot be written in a textbook. Perhaps a regime may come into power that relies on its subjects to believe the enemy is inhumanely evil and unforgivable. To show the subjects this Repin painting would be to call the regime into question. Such a piece of art, then, becomes a dangerous truth.
B) The Truth of Polarity in the Sexes
Edmund Blair Leighton similarly tells us a dangerous truth in his painting “Godspeed” (Plate II). In our modern world, we are repeatedly told that gender roles and any differences between men and women are simply constructions of society. An entire two generations have grown up with these concepts and are dealing with the consequences of attempting to live life based on this concept. They suffer in strange and unprecedented ways and gender relations between men and women couldn’t be more disturbed and confused in the mainstream today. We are experiencing the lowest marriage rates in history, fertility rates are plummeting and depression and anxiety are exponentially increasing in prevalence.
The truth is a map that helps us to navigate the world. If we follow the wrong map, it is not the truth that indites us but rather our own pride that we can change reality to suit our ideology.
This painting depicts a princess with beautiful golden hair saying goodbye to her Prince Charming, her knight in shining armour leaving for battle. Blair-Leighton perfectly captures the polarity of the sexes. People are drawn to this painting when they see it and the fairy tales it refers to are not merely European, but can be found in every culture around the world. It stirs in their hearts a desire for so simple and elegant a truth as the woman who supports and the man who protects. It depicts the couple who trusts and cares for each other in an unselfish way.
It is increasingly clear that men and women in more traditional relationships tend to be happier than those who are not. However, because of the pervasiveness of anti-family ideas in mainstream media, art like that of Blair-Leighton is important to remind us of the primal truths about relationships. Humanity may develop new technology but human nature does not change. Showing this painting to too many people is dangerous for a society that fundamentally opposed to families.
If a confused person sees this painting, it may stir in them a deep primal longing for such polarity. They may begin to wonder whether or not the traditional polarity may have some credence at least to explore, and be swayed off course from the cultural programming. If people are together and forming traditional families rather than single and overworked trying to do everything themselves, then they are much more difficult to control by the state. If people’s identities are attached to other people they love rather than to their job or the state, then the state doesn’t have as much power over them.
C) The Truth of the Succubus
John William Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs (Plate III) describes yet another truth that is relevant to us today to remember. In a world where a man may be swayed by lustful desire at the click of a button, at any moment, it has been the succubus who is blamed foremost. She is the evil temptress across the screen who steals the energy from the young man and leaves him addicted to porn and unable to form proper bonds with women.
The online prostitute is consistently blamed for the emotional demise of men. However, Waterhouse’s painting distills the truth and the reality is something not only more nuanced, but more difficult for many to accept. It is for this reason that this truth--like most truths--is difficult to accept: it is a mirror that reflects back the parts of you that you do not want to look at. To look at one’s vices is to no longer be able to indulge in them innocently.
This painting depicts a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, where Hylas, an argonaut on the quest for the golden fleece, is sent to get water on an island where the crew has stopped. The story says that he never came back and it was surmised that he met water nymphs who devoured him whole. Waterhouse captured a different side to the story that few men would dare to speak outloud: that Hylas was more culpable in his demise than the nymphs. Hylas’s pose is drawn such that his centre of gravity is firmly on the ground and he is shown to be far more physically capable than the waif thin and luminescent nymphs floating like lillies in the water.
At any moment, he could pull off their slimy hands climbing up his arm, and go back to the ship. Knowing the end of the story, we know that he does not decide this. At some point, Hylas decides to succumb to the succubus, and give them his soul. This is the moment of the fall, the original sin rhyming in ancient myth. It is not the nymphs who are evil--it is in their nature to hunt--it is Hylas who decides to capitulate.
The truth of this painting was so powerful in fact that this painting was removed from the museum in which it was kept and cannot, today, be seen by the public. I argue that paintings like this deliver truths that are too potent to be permitted in the public eye. If young men and women were to see this painting, they would not need this essay or indeed any explanation to understand the truth that this work of art conveys. The colours, composition, and choreography of this painting speak for themselves in perfect poetry. Waterhouse’s truths are not welcome in a world that wishes to maintain men under the spell of the succubi.
Great Art is a Map to Rebuild Civilization
There are many who would reclaim the arts as “objective things” and so long as I have a voice I will resist this definition. Art is not the realm of objects, it is the realm of the human spirit. Indeed, I would go so far as to argue it has been a neglect and disrespect of the human spirit and subjectivity that has led to our transhumanist world. We build a world made up of machines. We pretend that respecting the subject means we fragment the world into seven billion “truths” that are all equally valid, parallel universes co-existing. Schizophrenia is the shattering of reality. When this happens, it is difficult to see and we walk through the world blind, arms outstretching, cutting our hands and feet on the broken glass.
True subjectivity is unifying, ennobling and democratic because every human heart is imbued with a copy of the Truth. When we see Real Art, it appeals universally because it can instantly resonate with the truth in each heart. If you are curious what this sounds like, put a hand over your chest, and just listen.