This post is a continuation of my Peanut History of Art.
Manifestos are out of fashion these days. Only teenagers write them, or designers. Contemporary politics and aesthetics are built around the intense relativism of post-modernism, the belief that there is no such thing as beauty, truth, love, reality and so on (or that these things are, ultimately, mind-knowable phenomena, which amounts to the same thing) and so manifestos — declarations of standards, aims and limits — are considered to be laughably démodé, perhaps even a bit fascist?
That it might be necessary or possible to draw distinctions without rooting them either in the ‘standards’ of fascist objectivism or in the whims of subjective insanity, cannot occur either to the postmodernist or to the classicist, both of whom miss the point.
I’ve already written about how collective quality — aka culture — is dying. This is not just an empirical fact — provided of course, you can tell the difference between Jack Whitehall and Peter Sellers, or Tom Hiddleston and Laurence Olivier, or Coldplay and The Kinks — but an inevitable outcome of depriving genius and scenius of the fuels that feed them — mutual aid, nature and access to it, freedom of speech (and access to platforms), independence from institutional coercion, availability of risk and adventure, recognition of consciousness, femininity, darkness and unself. These are either completely inaccessible or fast becoming so, and so the fruits of culture which they produce are dying on the vine.
Individual brilliance still pops up from time to time of course, but look at the musical output of Jamaica at the start of the seventies, for example, or New York at the end, and compare that to anywhere in the world now. We are dragging our laptops through a cultural wasteland as bare and barren as Franco’s Spain, Mao’s China or the last five hundred years of Switzerland.
But this won’t last for too long. Civilisation is collapsing, and this means that, sooner or later, large groups of people will have nothing to lose. This is the indispensable precondition of collective creative joy and the only means by which the gentrification of the arts (aka hipsterism) can be overcome and the creative commons reclaimed from the bland horror of modern cultural output.
This will, inevitably, take the form of a new artistic movement, a new synthesis, a new style and, essentially, a new contextual truth from which original artistic forms will draw breath. I call this ‘art’ Apocalysm (from the Greek for ‘revelation’), but it will, no doubt have a different name, many names. And it will, of course, have many surprising forms. It might even reject everything we know as ‘art’ — in favour of the immediate, the unmediated, the verbal, the spontaneous, the living. Perhaps the paintings, stories and songs we love are, as John Zerzan maintains, not a mark of culture, but a sign of decline, an attempt to point the way back to a state where such efforts are unnecessary?
In any case I am still pointing, and I feel sure that a few more pointers will appear soon, honouring the elusive source.
(click image below to download)
Further discussion of the concepts in the above:
- (For ‘high and low art’) Finding Ludwigland
- A Course in Self-Mastery
- Duck-Rabbit Duality: Paradox and the Origins of Civilisation
- (For hyperporn and panjectivism) A Peanut History of Art