Preliminary Notes on the dawning Postpandemic Era

The essence of the post-pandemic debate is that between necessity and possibility. What do we need to preserve and perfect, and what do we need to throw away in order to open space for the possible Utopia to evolve?

Postpandemic thinking is ‘anti-systemic’ because it sees through the lies of the system and the way the system restrains real progress whilst spreading deeply harmful and destructive ideologies and modes of living.

POSTPANDEMIC ART

With the confinements ordered by governments as health-security measures during the 2020 pandemic, many artists have found their forced isolation to be more of a welcome discipline than a restriction.

Discipline leads to inspiration in all creative fields, and when the discipline comes with no other stipulations other than one has to stay at home, then the scenario is perfect for the artist. The experience of pandemic confinement is the first conditioning factor for post-pandemic art. Post-pandemic production, therefore, is nurtured on the artistic values of discipline, frugality, and an autocratic or self-sufficient approach to the art form.

The postpandemic artist comes from the confinement of the lockdown.

The revelatory importance of the pandemic resides in the fact that it managed to put the entire global system on hold for several months. Post-pandemic thinking, therefore, takes this revelation as the basis for its creative inspiration. The post pandemic artist sees through the illusion of reality that says this is how the world is, in order to envision far greater possibilities of how the world could be. In many cases, the solitude of confinement has forced humanity to think about how a better future could be fashioned, and for this reason, the post-pandemic reality is forward-looking and utopian. It understands the fragility of the system and wills to change it.

The pandemic experience was one of limited consumerism and, consequently, post-pandemic art transcends all commercialism.

Aesthetically, the form is unimportant and the essence of postpandemic art is the content, which is always forward-looking, utopian seeking, anti-consumerist and deeply critical of the pre-pandemic world we are emerging from. Postpandemic art strives for depth and is cerebral in nature and because of that it rejects shallowness and cheap sentimentalism which are questions of content not form.

Subsequently, postpandemic art can adopt any form as long as its content is postpandemic.

Paul David Adkin is the author of Dismantling the Paradigm

If the dawning post-pandemic era is not going to fall into the constraining negativism and wall-building, anti-human authoritarianism of the far-right, and for the future to be a positive step forward from the disaster of the global affliction, it is necessary that we comprehend the real nature of the system we are emerging from. Dismantling the Paradigm was contrived before Covid, but it has become even more imperative that it finds readers in order to imagine the world coming next.

 Dismantling the Paradigm is now available from the Amazon online store:

At Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Paul-David-Adkin/e/B0082UK618

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Capitalism and Truth

In this age of Fake News and the Trump presidency, we clearly see the unimportance of truth, not only because of the pandemic of lie-infesting trolls and other cults of ignorance that plague our social media, but also from the capitalist-minded organisms of power that govern our lives and the individuals that direct them.

Our System, with a capital S, is capitalist and neo-liberal, and neo-liberal capitalism is indifferent to truth. An indifference which is essentially destructive, because what is buried in the indifference is a denial regarding the overall, tremendously negative consequences of its aim of perpetual growth through a constant increase in production and consumption.

Because of the uncomfortable nature of truth, capitalism has to withdraw from any relationship to it, so much so, that it altogether destroys the possibility of there being anything like truth in it – and this explains the existence of a president like Donald Trump.

Of course, because of this allergy to veracity, our neo-liberal, world civilisation suffers an agonising loss of authenticity, and this means that authenticity is the very force that must be developed in order to vanquish this desperate dictatorship of truth-indifferent capitalism. It is, therefore, to the authentic artists, the scientists and the authentic thinkers that the task of re-instating truth in our societies now lies.

This authentication process, however, is not new; it has taken place in other periods of history – in the classical period when authentic thinking first began, arising as a necessary evolution away from the ubiquitous dominance of the tyranny of myth, and this was repeated in the Renaissance, as a revolution away from the mythical dogma of biblical scripture.  

Seen in this way, capitalism’s indifference to truth is a return to the Dark Ages and the unenlightenment of societies organised and driven along lines governed by mythical assumptions, now in the form of a plague of conspiracy theories designed to distract from the real dangers of the System, which lies in the unintelligent, truth-indifferent nature of the plutocratic system itself.

The fundamental question the authentic thinker must ask today is: What kind of art and what kind of thinking is it that can rescue truth from the erroneously dangerous confusion created by the myth-making conspiracy theories and other lies emanating from the System itself?

The fundamental lie of the neo-mythmakers is that truth is a relative concept that has countless subjective interpretations. A common tactic of these neo-mythmakers is to publicly debunk facts with so-called common-sense assumptions. But common-sense, while it seems logically sensible at first, is never a healthy tool for policy making as it almost always ignores the science and overgeneralises the truth. Attitudes expressed by climate-emergency sceptics are good examples of this, e.g., a spell of cold weather in your region does not mean that the global average temperature is not steadily rising, as scientific studies show.     

For art and thinking to be authentic, they must be anchored in facts, and only then can they be contrasted with the inauthenticity of the neo-mythologies. However, it would be wrong to assume that these facts themselves can serve as a weapon to vanquish the enemy. Remember, capitalist neo-mythologies are indifferent to truth and that makes them indifferent to facts, which means they are immune to any attack from the factual realm.

Here we see that science alone, or a politics rooted in science, will not be enough to overcome the myth-perverted system, it needs to transcend its own seriousness and coldness in order to attack through aesthetic means any perverted judgements that have an indifference to truth. Through the didactic power and ethical seduction that can be energised via art, the neo-mythologies can be fought from within.

Art, because art can embrace the myth itself and use the truth-indifferent universe to take a stance and draw arguments within the mythical world itself, via a creation of new, legendary characters that actually seduce audiences back towards a passion for the comfort of a more ethical, truthful, authentic society. In this way, art can undermine the power of neo-myths.

As Walter Benjamin pointed out when writing about tragedy:

Through every minor and yet unpredictably profound interpretation of the material of legend, tragedy brings about the destruction of the mythic world-order, and prophetically shakes it with inconspicuous words.”[1]

Benjamin observed that it was through the art of writing and performing tragic theatre, that authentic thinking was able to undermine the powerful hold that myth had over Greek society. Tragic art is grounded in myth, but only in order to destroy it, opening a door for authenticity itself.  


[1] Walter Benjamin, GESAMMELTE SCHRIFTEN, II, 1:249

Getting out of the Game

Games, in all their nuances, have become an obsession for contemporary societies. In a sense, we are lost in the dialectic between winning and losing, and dominated by a need to take part in all games by taking sides with the players when we cannot directly intervene ourselves. We could divide our life-experience between the games we play, on one hand, and the games we watch, on the other – the latter being what unites us to a culture.

In this voluntary desire to watch all games, we have become more childlike than we were in previous centuries, and we are dominated by a peevish, childlike will to win, peppered by a hatred of losing. Of course, this creates weak and geeky characters.

We desire strong sensations and X-treme sports are fashionable, but in general, most of the more dangerous games are played out in the virtual landscapes of the plasma-screen reality that our younger generations so willingly drown themselves in.

Living the game is a vulgar way of experiencing life, and our civilisation is a tasteless one. Lost in the virtual miming of authentic being that is the game, human beings are forfeiting their own authenticities in favour of the ultimate purposeless rituality of playing. Competitiveness may be a good incentive for children, but the adult should be able to find a better reason than winning a game to motivate him or her – isn’t that partly what differentiates adults from kids?

In certain respects, our obsession with games is a logical one, for it is the game that is being offered over and over again by the civilisation that we operate within. By playing or watching we are merely swallowing that which is given to us on society’s platter. It is hard to say ‘no’ to the only thing which is constantly and abundantly being fed you. Of course, we quickly get addicted. Once we are addicted, as in all addiction, it is very hard to break the habit. To do so we have to see the dangers of the patterns we are following. Nevertheless, our absurd obsession with the game does become apparent when we see how repetitive the compulsion is.

Each time the game is played, it is basically the same as every other time. All games are confined by finite rules that are unbending, and because of those rules, the only differences allowed are variations of what is the general repetition of the same game over and over again. Only creativity can give any meaning to the game, and only art can save us from the repetitious mitigations of our souls that playing and watching games inflicts on all our societies.   

Art, in fact, is a transcendence of the game obsessed society, and games are a vulgarisation of our creative and artistic instincts.    

Art & our Digital World

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The crisis caused by the digitalisation of music, cinema and books, and the ease this creates for the pirating or free distribution of the artist’s work, should be accepted for what it is and what it indicates.

What it tells us is that the facilities offered to artists by the new technologies and the amount of people (artists, would-be artists, or even pseudo-artists) seduced into using these technologies to produce things, makes the traditional marketplace of the arts obsolete.

This is because there are too many works being produced to make them all profitable. And, in fact, the huge majority are not profitable at all.

Many artists are asking how this can be changed. But the truth is, it can’t be changed. What has to change is not the technological advancement, but the economic perception of artistic production.

If we look at this economy, we see that there is an abundance of artists creating abundant work that is released into the marketplace even though there are not enough potential consumers who could be expected to purchase this kind of work, at least not to the level that would enable the majority of artists to receive a life-supporting income from the sales. But this is not because of any restricting effects of technology, in fact it’s quite the opposite: technology has liberated artists and made artistic production more democratic. The problem is rather that the economy hasn’t been able to adjust itself in a way that can ensure that creators will be given proper compensation for their efforts.

The technological revolution has sparked a great wealth of work that is being produced for next to nothing in return. Art for art’s sake (some of it), but really, it’s material that is created for the pleasure of doing it, and because the one, artist or not, who creates it can.

Obviously, a civilisation, if it is worthy of being called a civilisation, needs to nurture this creative spirit, but: How can this production be measured? Although there are not enough paying customers to recompense creative work in the way it should be compensated for, production continues. This creates a glut of work that threatens the stability of the entire art industry, and the industry says that this is unsustainable, yet in fact, what makes a glut of art unfeasible economically is not the abundance of art, but the lack of creativity in the economy.

The industry throws out warnings to the glut of unpaid artists that threaten its economy: “Why waste your time, you fools?” it says. And yet, the production continues. And it should do, and it should be encouraged to. But the only way to do that is to restructure the reward-system – restructure the economy. If the marketplace can’t offer the rewards that artists deserve for their work, then a different kind of reward system has to be implemented for artists.

What we are seeing here is the real evolutionary impact of technology on our economy. The traditional scheme of labour being rewarded by money is challenged by technology. What the idea of technology implies is that that formula no longer has to be the case. Technology is, in fact, a human evolution away from money.

Of course, it is not in the interests of some to let this happen, but it is in the interests of the majority.

The digitalisation of the arts is only a first step. The digitalisation and mechanisation of the whole of society is technologically within our grasp and the only thing standing between us and that change is … money.

Harold Skimpole: Art, Time & Money

 

Harold Skimpole is a character from Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House”. He is described as being innocent, like a child who knows nothing of time or money.

From this description we could conclude that Dickens is saying that time and money have eaten up our innocence. Dickens was writing at a time when the Industrial Revolution was pushing capitalism to its full potential and carving a new world-order designed to produce unlimited wealth on the one hand, and abject poverty on the other. A revolution that has endured centuries and continues to steam-roller forward through our own innocence-starved lives. But now, the concept of time-and-money has taken away far more than just our innocence: it has robbed us of our freedom, and, most especially, of our humanity.

In Bleak House, Skimpole has the airs of an artist: an amateur artist; a pure artist. Art, in its pure form, is always a gift – and we can see an association between the pure artist and innocence, because anyone who gives freely must be either innocent or mad. And yes, there is also an association between innocence, the simpleton, and madness. But art, as a gift, is the antithesis of capitalist ideology, because a gift is, in its essence, outside the economy and beyond the realms of time and money.

An authentically human system cannot ignore true art, and a truly human economy would have to understand the incompatibility between art (that which must be given) and the false-necessities created by the ubiquitous presence of money. A truly human economy, therefore, should be designed in a way that allows art to be created in a space beyond time and money, or, in other words, outside the money system itself.

 

PROPOSITION A:

The existence of art has to challenge the ubiquitous nature of the money system.

 

When Skimpole says: “… go after glory, holiness, commerce, trade, any object you prefer; only – let Harold Skimpole live!” in effect Dickens is saying that the capitalists can build society anyway they want. However, the world they are building stifles Skimpole, and if Skimpole is a symbol of the artist, then Dickens is saying that the time-and-money system is choking art.

But Skimpole is a survivor, who has still not been swallowed up by the System. Somehow he manages to maintain his autonomy, perhaps because “he still had claims too, which were the general business of the community and must not be slighted,” or because he is anti-materialistic himself: “I covet nothing”; or because: “I feel as if you ought to be grateful to me for giving you the opportunity of engaging the luxury of generosity. I know you like it … I may have come into the world expressly for the purpose of increasing your stock of happiness.” Forget your worldliness and play with me, he says, which is what any pure artist would say as well.

Art is the gift of escape, but it is also the gift of progress-through-creativity, and because of that it is not only a gift it is a fundamental feature of humanity whose essence is to become through a continual process of becoming. Only through art can humanity ever really conceive itself to be progressing freely. Art is an essential ingredient in any definition of freedom. And, as Skimpole asserts: “the base word money should never be breathed near it!”

Skimpole can only exist in the time-and-money system by being a charlatan, and as a charlatan he is unscrupulous at ensuring his survival. But Dickens is also blaming the system for Skimpole’s unscrupulousness. Skimpole has no choice, just as art or any artist has no choice. In order to survive in this world, everyone needs money, artist or not. Skimpole uses his charms to maintain his independence from the System, but the System is still there and he is still inside it. He is an impossible man, but in his absurdity resides something that the world that makes him absurd also needs: His creativity.

In the eyes of capitalism, Skimpole is a parasite, just as all artists are who cannot justify themselves in the world of the free market are parasites. But let us remember that some parasites achieve greatness as well: those who, doomed to be amateur nobodies in their poverty-stricken lives, became superstars after their death. A most poignant example is Van Gogh, whose work now brings in millions and yet he never sold a painting in his life. Likewise, Dostoevsky was a struggling unfortunate; as was Beckett.

Art in the civilised world now seems to be the heading the same way as the nomad. There is no space for the real artist in the free-money-market world. And, like any nomadic society, the artist will be forced to eventually conform to the system or perish.

Of course, the irony of this, is that art is one of the defining features in the identity of the civilised world against the barbarian. By reducing the artist to the level of the parasite, civilisation reveals a triumph of barbarism within its own walls. It has its pinacothecas and museums, but these only display its own hypocritical attitude toward the artist, who, like Skimpole, is only a parasite until proven otherwise.

Art in Time

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One of the main features of art is permanence, or the eternal. Albeit it is a feature which some post-modernist artists have tried to disconnect from, even to the stage where artists promote ephemerality in their work (e.g. Joseph Beuys and Fluxus). However, as these attempts have been considered anti-art by the artists themselves, then even the anti-eternalising efforts point toward the link between art and the longing for permanence.

Art strives for the eternal, and it is this desire for permanence, or at least for a process of a becoming that is always moving toward the universal, that makes it essentially antithetical to the marketplace. In order to manage art the market had to invent fashion. Fashion tries to situate art in the realm of the actual. In doing this, however, it robs art of its essence, which is a striving for eternity. Fashion is always, therefore, a perversion of art.

Theatre is unique amongst the art forms because one of its essential qualities is the ephemeral. Nevertheless, this ephemerality does not, or should not, rob theatre of its desire for permanence. Great theatre happens when it is able to create the eternal moment within the ephemeral. And here we also see the real success of art in its relation to time and space. Art can transcend the momentary nature of the moment by infusing it with the eternal.

However, the nature of theatre also carries a pessimism which is embedded in all kinds of art forms: Art can never be permanent, it can only strive for it. Great art (like great theatre) works when it touches on the eternal and transmits it, although this is also a paradox. Art presents the eternal in the fleeting which is logically absurd. The effect is joyous, but also melancholy, because of this absurdity. Once could also say soulful: psychologically it moves us because it reveals the impossible permanence that the human spirit is striving for.

The Real Form of Art

Breugel Icarus

Art is an invitation to understanding that can often embody an idea which is far greater than even the artist him/herself is capable of comprehending. Because of this, it could be said that art transcends what it knows about itself.

Art never is, it is always in a state of becoming which takes place through what it is perceived to be. Physically it has a form enclosed by a frame, or defined by a certain number of words or notes on the pages of a manuscript, but the ideas proposed by the so-called great or classical works of art are constantly changing, appearing or reappearing.

The real form of art, therefore, is a fluid one, of flux, and because of that it is also a faithful representation of the human condition itself.

The Idealising of the World

money-art

The idealising process of making-our-own-reality has two forms:

There is A) idealising through ideology, which is a segregating process that atomises humanity and creates social subjectivities; or B) idealising through art, which reinforces the idea of humanity as unified whole in which the individual-expressed is always a microcosm of that whole.

Ideology and Art are therefore antithetical forces, although not seemingly antagonisms. They don’t fight each other – or they don’t seem to. Ideology, especially in its dogmatic form of religion, represses Art constantly through censorship and accusations of treachery or blasphemy. But Ideology does not want to destroy Art, it prefers to enslave it and use it for its own ideological purposes. Hence, a thousand years of European pictorial art saw Art’s enslavement to the dogmatic ideology of the Catholic Church.

In the same way, Art has now become a slave to capitalism, if not directly through a dissemination of consumerist ideas, most definitely in an indirect way, through its active participation in the circulation of capitalism’s most symbolic component – money.

Art and the Intellect

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All art, whether it’s painting, literature, music or philosophy, is a crafting of ideas that some clever people will be able, or at least think they will be able, to understand.

By removing the ideas (the ideal) from Art, we lose the art itself.

Art, being fundamentally an exhibition of ideas, creates its own academic environment. Art invites thinking, it could even be said that it seduces us towards reflectiveness.

If constant reflexiveness is an essential part of human potential and the sapiens spirit embedded there, then art is a necessary agent for unlocking and developing those possibilities.

The Aesthetics of the Universe

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The Universe is creative, capable of engendering novelty and incredible complexity as well as beautiful simplicity and harmony. In fact, when we examine the cosmos it is easy to make an analogy of its mechanics with the creative process of art: there is trial and error, perhaps even deliberation and accidental inspiration; there are moments when it destroys its own work, rubs it out and starts again; new options can emerge and it will follow them.

All art is in the Universe, and the Universe is in all art. It starts off as a Jackson Pollock and evolves into Da Vinci and then goes back to Pollock.

To be a good cosmologist, one has to study the aesthetics of the Universe.