Sunday, August 26, 2012

Signorelli and Salingaros on modernist art

From an article on modernist art by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros:
[M]odern art embodies and manifests all the worst features of modern thought — the despair, the irrationality, the hostility to tradition, the confusion of scientia with techne, or wisdom with power, the misunderstanding of freedom as liberation from essence rather than perfection of essence. In short, artistic modernism is the nihilism of our epoch made incarnate.

It's always encouraging to read writers who have broken decisively with liberalism. And Signorelli and Salingaros do that when they define freedom as a perfection of essence rather than a liberation from it. That represents a principled opposition to liberal modernity.

Quote via Mild Colonial Boy.


  1. An excellent commentary on the false premises on which modern art is justified and glorified. The authors explain why the meretricious fabrications of modern art are 'enjoyed' only by materialist intellectuals:
    Because the practices of modern art emerge from this false conception of human nature, its productions are typically repellent to human nature. The ordinary response to modern art is not attraction, but nausea or revulsion. This is why the vast institutional structure supporting modernism is necessary, to forcefully maintain the perpetuation of forms of art which, if left to the tastes of people in general, would die off in a day.

  2. Very interesting article and what a good writer Signorelli is.

    Regarding the paragraph that Alex has copied - I guess the same is true for other aspects of liberalism, e.g., multiculturalism, which many ordinary people are naturally suspicious of, which is why there is a "vast institutional structure" supporting it. Stuart L.

  3. The article is okay but has a big problem. The authors seem to think artists live in a rent-free neverland unconcerned with what is driving the market. Artsy types did and continue to make modern art because it pays. And it pays very well (for a select but very rich few).

    The stupidest thing in the world is to expect 21-year-old art school grads to have a unique point of view. They only regurgitate what they've been taught like any other 21-year-old. They are too young or too badly brought up like most kids today to have a clue about the "meaning of life." Come on folks.

    Artists do what they're told. And what they're told about Damien Hirst and Cindy Sherman is: They are rich, sexy and famous. When you are young and want to be a pro, like the late Tony Scott and his brother Ridley (both art school grads, as was Rolling Stone Keith Richard and countless other "stars") you go where the money is, just like lawyers, doctors and plumbers. The role of the artist as a sort of seer isn't correct. Artists hold up a mirror to the their market. If the market tells them it wants to look and feel like romantic storm-tossed souls they'll do that. If the market tells them they want to appear as cynical nihilists shunning excellence because its too exclusive, why, they'll do that too. Why not?

    What the article should have asked is:

    1) What is high culture and what is low culture? Does anyone know anymore?

    2) Why are conservatives so passive, i.e., consumers of art rather than producers? Why did they let the game go to the other side? Why were wealthy and influential people like Nelson Rockefeller's mother (who was a founder of the Museum of Modern Art) so attracted to modernism in the first place?

  4. Why are conservatives so passive, i.e., consumers of art rather than producers?

    Maybe because they're not. You might be surprised by the amount of arty folks with non-left opinions.

  5. You might be surprised by the amount of arty folks with non-left opinions.

    I think you are in denial mode. Conservative types who dabble in the arts really are producing kitsch, defined by Roger Scruton:

    "Faith exalts the human heart, by removing it from the market-place, making it sacred and unexchangeable. Under the jurisdiction of religion our deeper feelings are sacralised, so as to become raw material for the ethical life: the life lived in judgment. When faith declines, however, the sacred is unprotected from marauders; the heart can be captured and put on sale. When this happens the human heart become kitsch."

    How many conservatives believe this?

    How many "conservatives" destroyed beautiful buildings that exemplified traditional values and craft in order to make a quick buck putting up tract homes?

    How many "conservatives" past the age of, say 21, routinely listen to rock and roll, music that was originally supposed to be for kids?

    Speaking of music vs. visual art. How many "conservatives" who want visual artists to produce classical images only, never listen to classical music?

    How many "conservatives" think Harry Potter is great art?

    I could go on but I'll leave it at that.

  6. Its been my experience that "conservatives", when it comes to musical or visual art, are not capable or are unwilling to think in a complex way. They prefer simple and childish art, or kitsch. Art, to them, is mere decoration or entertainment rather than the organization of spiritual, material, and intellectual values into an image, sound or gesture.

    And because of this deficiency they are unable to attack modern art forcefully.