The Raison D’etre of Authentic Art
Perhaps the reason why people distrust terms such as modernism and postmodernism is because it begets the idea that art can progress. But is it wrong to conceive of art in the context of epistemological progress? People are quick to rationalize the progress of science and technology, for the information learned is built upon with a common scientific method. It’s empirical, fact-based, linear. The same with the concept of evolution, where a species adapts based upon the condition of its environment. Yet there is no evolutionary “progress.” There is only adaption, and re-adaption. One way to think about art is as a reflection upon one’s condition relative to their environment. To hold a mirror up to one’s nature, to show virtue her own feature, and so on. In this sense, there is no “progress” within art, either. Any illusion of linear progress is simply our framework for looking at our constantly changing conditions. Can one not understand the terms that apply to science, history, economics, politics—pre-industrial, industrial, post-industrial, Modern, antebellum—within the context of the art that reflects these social changes? Can one not describe art that reacts to the late-capitalistic condition as “Late-Capitalistic art”? Thinking about art this way reveals that it is not just art that is non-linear—the environment that it reflects is evolutionary, yet non-progressive. If it would make the farmer more money to sow her seeds by hand rather than by machine, she would sow them by hand. At its core, technological progress is just the progress of efficiency—of increasing outputs and decreasing inputs—and therefore it is epistemological progress. The physical limits of the world mold our relationship with efficiency, and, bounded by time and mortality, we attempt to rebel against these physical limitations in the name of scientific advancement: it is within our genetic code to defy Nature. It can be argued that art, too—viewed as a reflection upon one’s condition relative to their environment—defies the limitations set by its environment upon the condition of its creator. Is it wrong to say that “Late-Capitalistic art,” therefore, rebels against the limitations set by the condition of the late-capitalistic environment? This, I believe, addresses the raison d’etre of authentic art: to hold up a mirror upon one’s own condition so that one may see clearly their own features within the context of one’s historical, scientific, economic, political, technological environment, and may be able to address their own limitations with clarity and resolution.