Saturday, July 28, 2007

For the fine arts to revive, they must recover their spiritual center

Spring / Summer 2007, Vol 15, No. 1 Boston University 621 Commonwealth Boston, MA 02215PH: 617-353-6480FAX: 617-353-5905 Contact Arion Advertise With Arion US Bookstores Carrying Arion EDITOR IN CHIEF Herbert Golder
Religion and the Arts in America CAMILLE PAGLIA
But here's the bad news: the avant-garde is dead. It was killed over forty years ago by Pop Art and by one of my heroes, Andy Warhol, a decadent Catholic. The era of vigorous oppositional art inaugurated two hundred years ago by Romanticism is long gone. The controversies over Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Chris Ofili were just fading sparks of an old cause. It is presumptuous and even delusional to imagine that goading a squawk out of the Catholic League permits anyone to borrow the glory of the great avant-garde rebels of the past, whose transgressions were personally costly. It's time to move on.
For the fine arts to revive, they must recover their spiritual center. Profaning the iconography of other people's faiths is boring and adolescent. The New Age movement, to which I belong, was a distillation of the 1960s' multicultural attraction to world religions, but it has failed thus far to produce important work in the visual arts.1 The search for spiritual meaning has been registering in popular culture instead through science fiction, as in George Lucas' six-film Star Wars saga, with its evocative master myth of the “Force.” But technology for its own sake is never enough. It will always require supplementation through cultivation in the arts.
To fully appreciate world art, one must learn how to respond to religious expression in all its forms. Art began as religion in prehistory. It does not require belief to be moved by a sacred shrine, icon, or scripture. Hence art lovers, even when as citizens they stoutly defend democratic institutions against religious intrusion, should always speak with respect of religion. Conservatives, on the other hand, need to expand their parched and narrow view of culture. Every vibrant civilization welcomes and nurtures the arts.
Progressives must start recognizing the spiritual poverty of contemporary secular humanism and reexamine the way that liberalism too often now automatically defines human aspiration and human happiness in reductively economic terms. If conservatives are serious about educational standards, they must support the teaching of art history in primary school—which means conservatives have to get over their phobia about the nude, which has been a symbol of Western art and Western individualism and freedom since the Greeks invented democracy. Without compromise, we are heading for a soulless future. But when set against the vast historical panorama, religion and art—whether in marriage or divorce—can reinvigorate American culture.
A lecture delivered on 6 February 2007 as the 2007 Cornerstone Arts Lecture at Colorado College. It was videotaped by C-SPAN and broadcast on its American Perspectives series on 3 March 2007.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Paintings by Vishwajyoti Mohrhoff

Contact me « Login « Sidebar Paintings by Vishwajyoti Mohrhoff Actions « album actions » Add Comment View Latest Comments View Slideshow « Jump to Album » Figurative works Airbrush -- Flowers -- Indian deities -- Sealife Oil and acrylic -- Indian deities -- Flowers -- Scenes of... -- Portraits -- Symbolic works
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Date: 2006 Owner: vjm Size: 3 items (117 items total)
Figurative works
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Oil and acrylic
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Benaras is not merely a geographical space, but it is also a cultural space

Santosh Verma Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, IN
I think my consciousness is constructed by my physical existence in the geographical area of Benaras. And Benaras is not merely a geographical space, but it is also a cultural space where the collective consciousness, within which I could achieve my personal consciousness, is full of abstract ideas generated by many thinkers like Kabir. Perhaps this is the context of my paintings. I leave it to the people to make sense of them. For me, I have done my bit by expressing myself through them. Posted by Santosh at 1:30 AM 0 comments Sunday, July 1, 2007

One who has this refinement will feel incapable of acting in a crude, brutal or vulgar manner

Jul 4th, 2007 by vivkhemka
A friend called- he mentioned that the Arts (a subject of my previous post) were a central element of the Guru-shishya parampara, a system of schooling prevalent till as late as the last century. Students would be taught by a Guru (teacher), staying at his house, doing all the housework, tending to the fields or other vocation. It was training for life. Sort of Small-Schools-Movement meeting Residential Schools.
Mira Alfassa, one of the founders of Auroville, affectionately called the ‘Mother‘, oversaw the Aurobindo Society’s Education work for a long time. She was a tireless educator, always eager to ensure her schools provided what she called “a vital education” In her book, Mother on Education, she writes about Arts Appreciation:
“Aesthetic sense should be added as early as possible. Aesthetic sense is the capacity to choose & adopt what is beautiful, harmonius, simple, healthy and pure. The child should be shown, led to appreciate, taught to love the beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble things whether in nature and human creation- one who has this refinement will feel incapable of acting in a crude, brutal or vulgar manner; it will finding expression in his behaviour and protect him from base and perverse movements."
I extend this train of thinking from appreciation to involvement. If a child is involved and then motivated to become engaged in an activity, he will “feel incapable of acting in a crude, brutal or vulgar manner; it will finding expression in his behaviour and protect him from base and perverse movements.” When talking about ‘create discipline’ in schools- what really should be called ‘creating engaging schools’ - this practice can be invaluable.
An aside: if you haven’t heard of Auroville, I recommend reading about it. You can do so here. Described as a place for humanity- of unending education, of constant progress, and youth that never ages, it is really quite remarkable in the quality of life it provides its citizens and in the community-service initiatives it undertakes. After the Asian Tsunami, as a volunteer in Nagappattinam, India’s most affected area, I noticed that Aurovilleans were the most sincere, dedicated and responsive of all the donor and non-governmental agencies assembled.
Posted in Shoulders of Giants, Curriculum 1 Comment
on 04 Jul 2007 at 10:04 pm1 sushma
It is very interesting to know that people are giving arts a respect that it totally missed 3 decades back . It was a total girly thing and if someone wanted to pursue it then he or she was looked down upon ,and the general idea was that the person concerned was not capable and a duffer .
I wish I could take up this stream and satisfy my hunger for art .I totally agree on the concept of engaging as it leaves no room for indiscipline . On days I have less work at office I become a nusiance to myself but otherwise I am busy and happy .well written !

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

God’s purpose in the creative advance is the evocation of intensities

Whitehead is very much a Jamesian pragmatist. The pragmatic test for truth is the interest that it sustains; “the primary function of theories is as a lure for feeling, thereby providing immediacy of enjoyment and purpose” (1929/1978, 184). Truth is finally a matter, not of empirical verification, but of “enjoyment and purpose,” or (to use Whitehead’s more frequent term) “satisfaction.” That is why “Beauty is a wider, and more fundamental, notion than Truth” (1933/1967, 265).19
In linking feeling to beauty, rather than subordinating it to truth, Whitehead unites the two senses of the word “aesthetic” that we find in Kant (and in the philosophical tradition more generally). On the one hand, the “Transcendental Aesthetic” has to do with sensation and the forms of sensibility; on the other hand, the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” in the Third Critique has to do with experiences of the beautiful and the sublime. Though Kant himself doesn’t comment upon the disparity between these two senses, other thinkers have found it problematic.
As Deleuze (1990) puts it, “aesthetics suffers from a wrenching duality. On one hand, it designates the theory of sensibility as the form of possible experience; on the other hand, it designates the theory of art as the reflection of real experience. For these two meanings to be tied together, the conditions of experience in general must become conditions of real experience” (260). For Deleuze, such a transformation is accomplished by certain modernist art practices; in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and Gombrowicz’s Cosmos, among other works, “the conditions of real experience and the structures of the work of art are reunited” (261).20
But Whitehead unites the two senses of aesthetics without privileging modernist aesthetic experimentation in particular. This is because, for Whitehead as for Kant, the question of beauty pertains not just to the creation and reception of works of art, but to sensible experience more generally. The connection, unremarked by Kant, between the “Transcendental Aesthetic” and the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment” is that acts of sensible intuition and judgments of beauty alike involve feelings that are receptive and not spontaneous, and for which there can be no adequate concepts. In both cases, there is a certain act of creative construction on the part of the subject; yet this construction is responsive to the given data, and cannot be described as arbitrarily imposed, or as merely subjective. Neither the attribution of time and space to phenomena, nor the attribution of beauty to phenomenal objects, can be justified on cognitive grounds. Yet both these attributions make universalizing claims that have to be taken seriously.
Whitehead emphasizes these continuities between the two senses of aesthetics. He notes that the creation of “subjective form,” as an element in any act of sensible intuition, is already a proto-artistic process, involving as it does the selection, patterning, and intensification of sensory data. There is always already a “definite aesthetic attitude imposed by sense-perception” itself (1933/1967, 216). Even the most utilitarian, result- and action-oriented modes of perception nonetheless remain largely receptive, and thereby involve a certain “affective tone,” and a certain degree of aesthetic contemplation – and, Whitehead adds, “thus art is possible” (216).
In the process of feeling, “any part of experience can be beautiful,” and “any system of things which in any wide sense is beautiful is to that extent justified in its existence” (265). Though it falls to Whitehead to make these immanent connections explicit, they are already there, implicitly, in Kant’s own accounts of sensible reception and aesthetic judgment. It is only Kant’s privileging of cognition over affect that leads to the “wrenching duality” deplored by Deleuze.
If “the basis of experience is emotional,” then the culmination of experience – what Whitehead likes to call its “satisfaction”21 – can only be aesthetic. This is the reason for Whitehead’s outrageously hyperbolic claim that “the teleology of the Universe is directed to the production of Beauty” (1933/1967, 265). Whitehead defines Beauty as “the mutual adaptation of the several factors in an occasion of experience”; it is the “Harmony” of “patterned contrasts” in the subjective form of any such occasion. The purpose of such “patterned contrasts” is to increase, as much as possible, the experience’s “intensity of feeling” (252). Such a buildingup of intensity through contrast is the basic principle of Whitehead’s aesthetics, applying to all entities in the universe.
At the low end of the scale, even the most rudimentary “pulses of emotion” (like the vibrations of subatomic particles) exhibit a “primitive provision of width for contrast” (1929/1978, 163). And at the highest end, even God is basically an aesthete. “God is indifferent alike to preservation and to novelty,” Whitehead says. “God’s purpose in the creative advance is the evocation of intensities” (105). Whitehead’s overall principle of “creative advance,” his “Category of the Ultimate” underlying all being (21), has nothing to do with Victorian notions of moral and political improvement, nor with the capitalist ideal of endless accumulation. Creative advance is rather an intensive, qualitative, and aesthetic drive for “depth of satisfaction” (93, 110). Emotions are intensified, and experiences made richer, when incompatibilities, instead of being excluded (negatively prehended), are transformed into contrasts that can be positively integrated within a greater “complexity of order” (100).
But this process is not a tranquil or banally positive one, and Whitehead certainly does not regard “order” as an intrinsic good. The “patterned contrasts” must not be too tastefully arranged. Creative advance is stifled by any sort of static perfection. It demands, rather, the impetus for renewal that comes from “the emotional experience of aesthetic destruction” (1933/1967, 256-257). Whitehead always reminds us that “it is the business of the future to be dangerous” (1925/1967, 207); his aesthetics of feeling is both an expression of this danger, and the best means we have for coming to grips with it. Steven Shaviro The Pinocchio Theory
19 It is important to point out, once again, that this means “not a relativity of truth, but, on thecontrary, a truth of the relative.” James’ and Whitehead’s pragmatism is not a slipshod relativism, but rather a claim about the situatedness of truth. A truth that is not “important,” or not strongly felt, does not thereby cease to be true; and a false proposition doesn’t become true, merely byvirtue of being invested with intense feeling or great aesthetic appeal. An unimportant truth isjust that: unimportant. But it may become important, if it is invested by feeling. And when afalse proposition operates effectively as a “lure,” so that it is invested with great feeling, one resultmay be the arousal of an “appetition” that works towards changing the world in order to make theproposition true. This is the very basis of change and Creative Advance: the “realization of whatis not and may be” (1929/1978, 32).
20 Elsewhere, Deleuze (1994) states the same point slightly differently. Aesthetics is “dividedinto two irreducible domains: that of the theory of the sensible which captures only the real’sconformity with possible experience; and that of the theory of the beautiful, which deals with thereality of the real insofar as it is thought. Everything changes once we determine the conditionsof real experience, which are not larger than the conditioned and which differ in kind from thecategories: the two senses of the aesthetic become one, to the point where the being of the sensiblereveals itself in the work of art, while at the same time the work of art appears as experimentation”(68). Here, the emphasis is less on specific modernist art practices than on the way in which philosophicalconstructivism converts Kant’s transcendental conditions of possibility into generativeconditions of actualization.
21 Whitehead uses “satisfaction” as a technical term. He defines it as the “final unity” of any actual occasion or experience, “the culmination of the concrescence into a completely determinate matter of fact” (1929/1978, 212). “Satisfaction” evidently does not mean that an experience has turned out happily, or favorably, or unfrustratingly; but just that the process of experiencing has terminated, and now only subsists as a “stubborn fact,” or a “datum,” for other experiences to prehend in their own turns. In the present context, the crucial point is that the same movement that transforms an affective encounter into an objectively cognizable state of affairs also, and simultaneously, offers up that state of affairs as an object for aesthetic contemplation.