Underlying any viable aesthetic movement
Underlying any viable aesthetic movement is a broader philosophy, a loosely unifying worldview that connects the artists working within it. In the aftermath of WWI, Mondrian and the modernists weren’t just painting blocks of primary color, they were retreating from a physical world that had ceased to make sense into a realm of pure abstraction. They were pursuing the development of a universal language through which to express fundamental truths. And when the “war to end all wars” was succeeded by another, the abstract expressionists retreated even further from the external world, turning inward to search the collective unconscious for some sense of existential certitude.
What have our contemporary artists been giving us? For the most part, they’ve given us objects and empty forms – golden calves and diamond skulls. It’s the economic substructure of art – the underlying network of critics, curators, collectors and tenured academics – that has been imbuing our art with its meaning … and value.
Like everything else in our crumbling financial reality, the art we have lauded as the best of our age has been exposed for what it is – a number on a page that doesn’t represent any real wealth, an object on a pedestal that doesn’t represent any real meaning.
We can’t explore the possibility of developing a new aesthetic until we answer the question of what, if anything, will be the unifying philosophy of our age. If, as Erik Plambeck has suggested, we are destined to be a culture that measures success through a tally of Facebook friends and blog hits, then we have no impetus to collectively tap an undercurrent of meaning and truth. We will be content to live in a world of appearances, virtual successes and hollow forms.
But then again, maybe that’s a bit too pessimistic. Celebrated writer and critic Dave Hickey sees things differently. He has stood as a sentinel in the art world for decades and offers a sage observation on its rise and fall: “Good artists will make love among the ruins” he vows. “Good art will always take us by surprise.”
The Big Ideas of 2025
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Subversive Smiley Cracks Singapore’s Ridiculous Facade
Think of a symbol of resistance. What comes to mind? A Guy Fawkes mask, a raised fist, an anarchist circle-A? How about a smiley face? In March, activist Jolovan Wham was arrested for holding up a smiley-decorated piece of cardboard in front of a police station in Singapore. Last Monday, he was charged with "illegal public assembly." He has already been jailed twice this year — once for hosting a video conference with Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and once more for comparing Singapore's judiciary, disparagingly, with Malaysia's. Clearly, Singapore's heavy-handed repression of free speech is nothing short of ridiculous. “It should never be an offense to speak your truth,” Wham said. “If we can’t speak up, assemble freely, and campaign without looking over our shoulders, the reforms we want can only be done on the terms of those in power.”
Will Autocracy Die or Thrive?
We're caught up in a pivotal moment. The American people await the president's concession. The country — along with the rest of the world — could be thrown in one of two directions.
In the first, Trump, crumbling under the twin pressures of history and democracy, swiftly concedes the election to Biden and slinks out of the White House in January with his tail between his legs. With Trump's repudiation, the autocrats and would-be strongmen of the world are put on notice, and a new day dawns for justice.
In the second, Trump clings on stubbornly to power. His enablers encourage him to double down in the face of every precedent handed down to him by his presidential forebears. Confidence in democracy is all but lost, and a dangerous new example is set for future demagogues — both at home and abroad.
It's down to this: Will autocracy die or thrive? Every day that Trump refuses to acknowledge Biden's win and denies him a smooth transfer of power, the forces of despotism grow bolder. And as democracy wanes in the United States, prospects for democracy look bleaker in every corner.
All eyes are on America. Will one man's bullying and bluster undo the work of centuries? Or will the promise of a vision put forth in the dim light of the past survive to see a brighter day? Trump must make his decision, but we the people are the final arbiters. If justice calls, what will you do?
Biden Won. What's Next for the Left?
The greater of two evils has been ousted. That's reason enough to breathe a long-held sigh of relief. But for the next four years, America will be stuck with only the lesser of the tawdry two. Biden's mediocre Democratic Party is spread too thin and is still too beholden to the interests of the gutless, money-grubbing, corporation-friendly establishment. The political Left will have to go a lot deeper — deeper than it has gone since the earlier part of last century — if it is going to have any chance of even beginning to pick up the pieces, prevent planetary devastation, and heal the wounds of history — both festering and freshly inflicted. It's time for the Left to do some long-overdo soul-searching and get its shit together . . . before the embittered right-wing swings back with a vengeance.
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The Big Ideas of 2025
You can’t always see aesthetics, but it is there . . . In the brutalist face of a bank building, cold as an autopsy table. In the way the city exhales after dark. In the knack and smack of internet trolling . . . in the angst of Christmas shopping.
Can we invent a new aesthetics, cultivate new sensibilities for our post-materialist age . . . come up with new ways to live, love and think?
Our century will be a time of monumental ideological clashes, paradigm shifts and metamemetic insurgencies. We artists, designers and creatives must be the vanguards — positioning ourselves at the forefront of every struggle and debate. Just as farmers are the keepers of the land, we are the keepers of mindscape. We must nurture it and care for it and make sure there will always be wilderness, diversity and freedom there.
Build a new aesthetics with us . . . for a future that computes.
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