Wednesday, January 9, 2008

En ta paume, mon verbe et ma paume (partie deux) Icons and Contemporary art, sure, but icons of whom and contemporary with what?

In contemporary art, the words PITY and PIETY are consubstantial’, and, in rejecting pity, contemporary art absolutely wallows in impiety.

WELL, here I go on a rant about art.... and the impact on Iconography, and my rejection/embracing of it...
O.K. deeep breath... I am already bored... (I read these great big books about secular art and icons and symbolism and the correlation to modern culture so you don't have to.
Even non secular contemporary art is full of icons, and why is that?
Blame the Catholics my deahhhh...
The icon’s theological aesthetics provide an answer.
Conceptually and traditionally, the icon’s aesthetics derive from Christ’s incarnation. The Word became flesh, and, like the Eucharist, only if an icon performs incarnation does it merit veneration. For me, representational art can evoke pity and so be pious, at least in part because representation in relation to the Christian icon. Desecrating the Eucharist savages Christ’s flesh. Eucharistically manifesting Christ’s body, the sacred icon aesthetically performs the incarnation to which the icon refers. In destroying the icon’s sacredness, iconoclasts pave the way for the violation of the body’s sacredness.

Tertullian’s polemics denouncing the Roman circuses in which Tertullian’s fellow Christians suffered vivisection for the spectators’ enjoyment. I believe Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism of converging transpolitically in an attack on representational art and on ethical limits. Whatever political opinions distinguished Franco Marinetti from Andre Breton, their break with representationalism signaled their joint collaboration with the Shoah’s ‘smashing to smithereens of humanism’ The European avant-gardes were Nazi cruelty’s artistic forerunners: ‘the visual arts of that historical period never ceased TORTURING FORMS before making them disappear in abstraction. Similarly others would not cease TORTURING BODIES afterwards to the tune of the screams of the tortured prior to their asphyxiation inside the gas chambers ‘’ Roughly contemporary with Nazism, abstract art culminates painting’s murder of representational art’s icons of the human.

I reject our new "nuclear faith". The 1980s movement against nuclear arms was ‘something of a conflict against idolatry’ protesting the attribution of ‘divinity’ to ‘the ultimate weapon’

Since the 1980s, idolatry has branched out from the nuclear bomb to the genetic bomb: ‘The impending explosion of a genetic bomb ... will be to biology what the atomic bomb was to physics’ Overrunning moral limits, genetic science threatens ‘the unicity of the human race’: ‘Having broken the taboos of suffocating bourgeois culture, we are now supposed to break the being, the unicity of humankind’

Denunciation of human/non-human hybridization is not only an echo of the Biblical arguemant against idolatry. Besides assimilation anxiety, the Hebrew scriptures prohibit idolatry because idol worship neuters the begetting of Abraham’s generations. The old god Moloch requires child sacrifices, and those seduced by idolatry divert from sexual procreation towards a sterile, fetishistic, erotically charged relation with the idol and the idol’s devout followers. Canceling Yahweh’s promise of descendents, idolatry renders religious circumcision purposeless, as may biotechnology. With cloning responding to a ‘demand for a spermless genesis’, contemporary genetic research follows up the nineteenth century’s ‘murder of the Creator’ with the murder of ‘the procreator’. Desiring procreation’s obsolescence yet displacing Yahweh’s promise of life, biotechnology turns idolatrous.
How can idolatry be iconoclasm? The two merge when technological idolatry takes the human image, and then the human body, as the icon to be shattered. Virilio links the idolatry of biotechnology to the ‘iconoclastic wave that swept through Europe from the sixteenth century onwards’ Rather than just striving individually to uphold the commandment prohibiting idolatry, the ‘German or Swiss reformers’ pursued iconoclasm by ‘systematically destroying any visible manifestation of the incarnation of Christ’ Images of Christ’s human, ‘earthly life’ became targets.
The incarnated Christ redeems the body of the creation, and sexual generation. But, in destroying icons of Christ, the European iconoclasts cultivated a hatred of the body and a yearning to live free of procreation and birth. Iconoclasm quickens the urge to clone. Virilio connects the ‘distrust of the act of generation’ found among the iconoclastic ‘English Puritan fanatics (the future pilgrim fathers of the Mayflower)’ to early Christian sects’ desire for a ‘life that escaped any beginning, the life before life which some of [these sects] called prebirth’ Obsessions with ‘prebirth’ existence now flourish. The militant and, in the US, sometimes terrorist struggle on behalf of the ‘unborn child’ undertaken by a ‘sectarian fundamentalism turned towards the intimacy of foetal life’ has trans-political affinities with Nazism’s eugenics and outlaw researchers’ efforts to clone humans
Virilio evokes ‘the pyres of the iconoclastic holocaust’ because he judges the sixteenth-century iconoclasts as precursors, not only of Nazism, but also of a contemporary culture acting out a Gnostic ‘hatred of matter: what was called the mortification of the flesh - that of the human body and, more generally, of the body of the living world’.
Adopting the Gnostic belief that the creation was the fall, technology’s idolaters would deliver themselves from the Christian God’s creation and from any ethical limits governing relations with and among God’s creatures.
Soooo..... in 9/11’s aftermath, a trans-political ‘global cover state’ emerges that would accomplish the ‘"beyond-Good-and-Evil" which has for centuries been the dream of the high priests of an iconoclastic progress’). This ‘iconoclastic progress’ fantasizes the solipsistic deliverance from creation of a ‘mystical ego’ that merges with a ‘techno-scientific ego’ ‘in a single desire to annihilate sensory life, the heterogeneity of our consciousness of the world as such’.
Desiring to annihilate bodily existence to escape vulnerability to an ethical awareness of the world’s otherness, this ‘Techno-scientific solipsism (the theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist. ) can be seen, then, never to have been anything but a vehicle for hatred’.

The iconoclastic hatred of images of the incarnated Christ spread as colonialism’s genocidal history: ‘Just as torture heralds the imminent putting-to-death of the condemned man, so the iconoclasm of the sixteenth century inaugurated a series of historical exterminations - of cultures, laws, peoples, distances, and human time itself’.
As a body’s torture prefaces the person’s execution, so destroying icons of the exemplary human, Christ, prefaces the destruction of diverse humans who all embody God’s image. For Virilio, a pitiless synergy inflames modern violence and modern iconoclasm.
there are many ways to be iconoclastic - One can ‘burn pictures and those who painted them’ or ‘break religious statues or blow up those of political idols, as at the end of the Communist era - But how is it when the iconoclast is the plastician himself?

What happens when the image-maker, the artist, turns iconoclast? Extending his reading of European iconoclasm, the iconoclastic artist to be the avatar of an anti-human nihilism. avant-garde artists and contemporary culture more generally, reduce the human image and body to materials to be impiously disfigured, pitilessly experimented with, and aesthetically refashioned.
There. I have ranted to the ether not unlike Hamlet to the skull of poor 'Yorick'. And with the added bonus of Ophelia's madness!

Alright. Jackie - O needs a drink-drink!

Like every artist I know, we are all an ambulatory
Open Wound!
3 oz. Everclear Whiskey
3 Dashes Tabasco Sauce
3 Small Olives stuffed with garlic
Fill a architecturally pleasing glass with Everclear and drop three dashes of Tabasco sauce in and around the edge. Garnish with the three olives like the holy trinity.
Toast your favorite Muse!

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