Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Speculation: Art is dead.

By which I do not mean that no one is creative anymore, or that things were better in the past, etc, but that "art" as a certain cultural category has become bloodless. The paintings and painters --which is only metonymic for art and artists-- that made up the pantheon of modern art are starting to look like the saints and relics of a waning religion. The heaven that they occupied has become a painting, and is peeling from an old and crumbling ceiling.

A violently polychromatic era displaces the old sepia world of the Lindy and flappers and cubists and Russian Futurists in bright yellow vests, a world cybernetic, plague-ridden, violent, pornographic, and tribal, which has as much room or need for artists as they were conceived in the nineteen-twenties it as it has for tallow-makers and stagecoach drivers. Less and less does anything that has to do with art seem to have anything to do with the primaries of joy, despair, abandon, plague and ecstasy that color this age that seethes with crystallographic sciences and barbaric excess. Perhaps Jimi Hendrix can still be recognized as an artist, but more and more it seems that whether he was or not is irrelevant, as if one were evaluating Einstein as a clerk in the Patent Office.

What seems more important to say of Hendrix (say) is that he channelled new and violent energies. Even so, he was still a known man, a genius standing lone on the stage, and in this most like the Romantic vision of the tormented artist. Perhaps the millenium's powers will be channelled by teams of dreamers and programmers, all masked and faceless, slaves of instrumentalities drilling for money and so releasing the hordes of Cthulhu from the caves of data.

Brian Eno once said that people often did their most interesting work when they were not thinking of their activities as art. Maybe we have to begin with the admission that we do not know the shape and quality of the energies that time is releasing around us, we have to stop assuming that they can be released, captured, or shaped by those things and stories we find in museums. Museums and theaters were altars and we see now that altars are not built, but grow out of and crumble back into the ground of time like the anthills that we Filipinos call punso and regard as irruptions of power.