The Logic of Modern Art

Integral Axis

leonardo-da-vinci-vitruvian-man.jpg

The essence of modern art is the negation of beauty. The value of beauty – along with its association with the sacred – is inverted. Ugliness and vulgarity are now put forward as ‘art.’

The method for how this is done:

Beauty has two forms: 1) beauty-without-form (generalised beauty), 2) and beauty-with-form (the beauty of particular things.) There is, additionally, the perennial connection between the aesthetic and the sacred.

This gives three means of inverting beauty:

  1. Inversion of beauty-without-form
  2. Inversion of beauty-with-form
  3. Inversion of aesthetic/sacred link

We will begin by looking at 1) beauty-without-form.

1. Inversion of Beauty-without-Form

To understand beauty-without-form we must understand the concept of entropy

For our purposes, entropy can be understood as the principle that everything in the universe tends to greater disorder over time. As time increases so does disorder/entropy. The exception is if energy is put into something to make things move in the other direction – i.e. to increased order (lower entropy.)

This is intuitively obvious. If we put our energies into the construction of a building and then leave it to the elements, it will only deteriorate over time. The brick and mortar will crumble, glass break; the building will slowly fall apart until collapse. This is entropy. From order to disorder. Conversely, a large pile bricks and materials will never spontaneously arrange itself into a house by chance.

To take another example, consider a sandcastle on a beach. But instead of thinking of it as a single object, think of it in terms of its many constituent parts – the grains of sand that it’s made up of. And alongside this; consider a pile of sand consisting of a more or less identical number of grains of sand.

The sandcastle represents the grains of sand in a low entropy state (ordered.) The pile of sand represents the grains in a high entropy state (disordered.)

Entropy is a measure of how many ways we can rearrange those grains of sand without messing up the overall shape or structure. There are infinitely greater ways of doing this to the sand pile without causing any meaningful alteration to its structure. This is therefore said to possess ‘high entropy.’ Whereas, almost any rearrangement of the grains of sand in the sandcastle and it will no longer be the same thing. This means it exhibits low entropy, which represents a more highly ordered state.

And again, if left to the elements, then the winds will attack the sandcastle and it will gradually disintegrate and become less ordered.

sandcastle-and-pile

A low entropy state is an aesthetic state. This is what we’re referring to as beauty-without-form; the beauty of nothing in particular. And conversely, a high entropy state is an unaesthetic state.

Low entropy = High aesthetic

High entropy = Low aesthetic

ornate-sandcastle

A low entropy state is a high aesthetic state…

ceiling.png

Beauty-without-form is the manifestation of order in the world. The aesthetic is the crystallisation of order in the world. Order can be understood as consisting of two complementary components, harmony and complexity:

Order = Harmony + Complexity

It can be understood as such. It is not a synthesis.

If we take a look at the pictures above and below we can understand what the simple formula above really means.

floor

So,

Beauty-without-Form = Harmony + Complexity

Therefore, beauty/order can also be negated in one of these two ways:

1) Through the radical minimisation of harmony

or

2) Through the radical minimisation of complexity

In other terms:

1) [high complexity / low harmony]

or

2) [low complexity / high harmony]:

  • High complexity / low harmony = disordered complexity
  • Low complexity / high harmony = hyper-simplistic harmony

 

Here are examples of 1) and 2) …

pollock-and-newman

So this is the first means through which beauty can be negated. The entirety of modern ‘aesthetics’ constitutes a willed negation of beauty. Modernity is entirely negatory. Modernity is a neurosis.

 

2. Inversion of Beauty-with-Form

Now we move on from the negation of beauty-without-form to the negation of beauty-with-form – that is, the standard of beauty which is particular to a thing itself.

The clearest exposition of this idea came from Plato, although the idea itself existed long before he himself came to define it. This idea is called Plato’s Theory of Forms. Its premise is that every object has its own ideal form or structure;  belonging to the metaphysical realm, outside of space and time. So, for example, there exists the Form of a perfect circle. An individual object in the human world can be said to be a circle, or circular, only insofar as they participate in, or imitate, the perfect Form of a circle.

Every person is born with innate knowledge of the ideal form of all natural phenomena. Two pertinent examples, for our purpose, are the human face and human body. It has been found, for example, that newborn babies spend more time looking at attractive adult faces than unattractive ones – this is an innate preference. They possess an innate (though sub-conscious) conceptual model of the perfect face against which they judge the attractiveness of actual human faces.

Let’s look at The Beauty Mask, developed by plastic surgeon Dr. Stephen Marquardt. The mask was produced using a mathematical framework to measure the ratios of beauty.

marquardt-beauty-mask.png

Below is an example of Marquardt’s Beauty Mask overlaid over two real-world examples – one representational, one actual.

beauty-mask-overlaid

And here we have two historical representations of the perfect male body – Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man (left) and Myron’s Discobolus (right.)

perfect-male-bodies-examples

 

The following examples illustrate the second means of negating beauty – Through the negation of beauty-with-form – That is, radically distorting an object away from its ideal Form (whilst still being recognisably of that Form).

bacon-and-freud
Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud
francesco-sambo
Six pieces by Francesco Sambo

 

3. Inversion of Aesthetic/Sacred Link

The third and final means of negating beauty is less directly to do with beauty itself. It involves a radical rejection of the traditional link between the aesthetic and the sacred.

This is accomplished through the juxtaposition of the aesthetic and/or sacred, with elements which are at the furthest possible point from the spiritual. (The lowest, basest, crudest; that which is vulgar, sordid, dirty; the most biological, animalistic and carnal aspect of human existence.)

The following are two well-known examples, utilising this juxtaposition in regards to that which the West has traditionally considered sacred:

piss-christ-virgin-mary
Andres Serrano and Chris Ofili

A similar juxtaposition in the realm of the aesthetic, produced by feminist theatre group ‘Sirens’, while standing on stage making male masturbatory hand motions as part of a performance art piece:

sirens

To Conclude

The practical uptake of all this is that now – equipped with the underlying logic of modern art – it should be perfectly possible for us to create our own pretend modern art, as a form of mockery. And more importantly, to elucidate the principles outlined in this article, demonstrate the bogus nature of it all by doing . This is surely the optimal line of attack against this stuff;  a more effective strategy than simply constructing and propagating arguments against it. Thoroughly undermine its credibility. The Emperor has no clothes…

 

Republished from Integral Axis.

3 thoughts on “The Logic of Modern Art

  1. Thomas Jones April 5, 2017 / 6:27 PM

    “it should be perfectly possible for us to create our own pretend modern art, as a form of mockery; but more importantly to elucidate the principles outlined in this article, and in doing so to demonstrate the bogus nature of it all.”

    I’ve always thought it would be a good idea for people to start doing this. And hey if they can make some money off of it which can be put to good use then all the better!

    Like

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