The Age of Enlightenment is the Period that I find most interesting. This period spawned out of the Middle Ages. It was a time when creatives and intellectuals stopped reiterating the formula of their precursors and started to question and think for themselves.
The Renaissance coincides with the Age of Enlightenment, this is significant because for the first time in Art History, Artist began to understand how to create linear perspective, to render the Third Dimension and manipulate stone to create smooth and highly detailed sculptures.
For the first time, things that were considered ‘normal’ were being scrutinised, especially the systems of power such as the Monarchy and the Church. As people turned away from the Church, the Church found new ways of luring people back into faith, they did this by commissioning grand art works that glorified God and depicted the ecstasy of faith, a period we now call Baroque.
Middle Ages> Age of Enlightenment>Renaissance> Baroque>Rococo>Neoclassic
In week 2, a reoccurring idea was being questioned within my tutorial group and that was the notion of being creative and being derivative, to the point of plagiarism. The period that we are living in, that is generally referred to as ‘Late Modernity,’ there is this notion that it has, in fact, all been done before. That culture was a domino effect of history and Art periods, that has now come to a crashing holt, and all we can do is reiterate or appropriate what has already happened into new contexts.
Like any good debate, there are strong arguments for both sides.
AGAINST ‘so-called’ Contemporary Art: The past 50 years of Art History has seen a fundamental realignment of intention, structure and meaning of what it means to create Art. This can be seen in the decline of technique and criticism, and the ascent of philosophy and theory. Contemporary Art schools replace studio-based units with research, and practical technique with abstract problem solving.
What differentiates Modernity from Late Modernity is the ideology of Modernity being an age of perceptual change, progress and avant-garde; an ideology that has been usurped by the recognition that it has now all been done before. What remains is a novel reiteration of Art’s History for the benefit of the market and its various profiteers (Hansen, 2010).
The emphasis on art as a commodity has to a great extent displaced critical discussion.
Artists have to decide, consciously or not, what relationship their work will have to the global audience, as any ‘anti-global’ aesthetic could result in the exclusion from the international art system (Mateer, 2013). With this in mind it’s difficult to understand art’s role and its ability to make meaningful and honest contributions to Contemporary Culture.
FOR Contemporary Art: Visual Art can be about visual communication and not just a sign of prestige for its patron. Art is powerful; it has shown that in the past. In an oppressed society, the Artist and the Writers are among the first to get censored and imprisoned because of what Art can do, see Ai WeiWei as a Contemporary example in China.
I often get jaded, being in the Contemporary Art scene, and I question the reason why I create, its purpose. I then reflect on a scene from Margret Atwood’s ‘Oryx and Crake:’ “When any civilization is dust and ashes,” he said, “art is all that’s left over. Images, words, music. Imaginative structures. Meaning—human meaning, that is—is defined by them. You have to admit that.” (Atwood, 2003)
In terms of human meaning, art is very special. There are copper etchings in space, greeting intersecting life forms on the Voyager Golden Record, that is powerful, and I do have to admit that.
Atwood, M. (2003). Oryx and Crake. McClelland and Stewart.
Hansen, D. (2010). Show Me. Art Monthly Australia (230).
Mateer, J. (2013). My Tone of Uncertainty. Perth: PICA.