of nihilistic art and religious beliefs...
The question remains whether, in the same way that sacred images can be consumed and dismissed by those whose fickle tastes have been formed by the visual orgy that is modern media, the disciplines formed through the patient contemplation of icons might in fact redeem the otherwise sterile inanibus phantasmibus of our media age. But that will have to wait for another time ...
Scott Stephens is the Religion & Ethics Editor for ABC Online.
(Image above by Gustave Doré)
An essay of more than 5500 words and all of Scott Stephens' conclusion is "wait for another time". Very cheap indeed. And inanibus phantasmibus seems to be a Latin vocab made up by Scott himself to sound erudite. I don't really know... But his attention hereby is devoted to belittle a modern artist, Thomas Hirschhorn. Scott seems to be over the top while missing the point though I would not be surprised if Scott attacked Thomas because Thomas is or was a "communist" at Grapus.
The work of Thomas Hirschhorn, Touching Reality, is just that, a work of "art"... It not all of reality, there are still flowers to be smelled, but I don't think that Thomas Hirschhorn is trying to be iconic with this. To me it's an existential work. That's the point.
In his 5500 word essay, Scott Stephens gets lost foraging in his own memory of having seen images of Christ in suffering, trying to reconcile the iconic images of Christ, with images (possibly fake — "no humans were hurt in the art creation?") that are just that of a horrid reality — which we often don't see, as most media censure such images not to upset us at the dinner table. Scott thus argues, while denying he is making comparison, which ones — Christ on the cross by various artists or Touching Reality — depict suffering in the best manner.
The two "genres" are not linked, nor should they be. I've seen similar "reality" as Hirschhorn's work, IN REALITY. Blood, guts and disfigurements of people in war, car accidents and awful diseases. And people in Palestine/Gaza are seeing similar images (and worse) hourly when the kid sitting next to them is blown up. That is reality for some people.
Of course some of the images used in Hirschhorn's work are fake. And they are made to be as if transferred by a vérité media... Yes the media filters images... So are the iconic images of Christ on the cross painted 1500 years after the deed. While these are allegorical paintings made in order to explain a relationship with god, the images of Hirschhorn seem to be only created to show our uneasy unsavoury relationships with other humans when there is broken flesh. Nothing much more than this. Nothing new either, once you've seen the "real thing"... As well, when I was a kid, images of gory martyrdom were the flavour of the month in parallel with engravings of war heroes stabbing an enemy with a bayonet...
Scott reminds us of Hirschhorn's own view:
"In today's world of facts, of information, of opinion, and of comments, a lot is reduced to being factual. Fact is the new 'golden calf' of journalism, and the journalist wants to give it the assurance and guarantee of veracity. But I am not interested in the verification of a fact. I am interested in Truth, Truth as such, which is not a verified fact or the 'right information' of a journalistic story ... Truth is irreducible; therefore the images of destroyed human bodies are irreducible and resist factuality ... The habit of reducing things to facts is a comfortable way to avoid touching Truth, and to resist this is a way to touch Truth. Such an acceptance wants to impose on us factual information as the measure, instead of looking and seeing with our own eyes. I want to see with my own eyes. Resistance to today's world of facts is what makes it important to look at such images."
To this extent, Hirschhorn's artistic vision (such as it is) is unnervingly similar to the political vision (such as it is) of Julian Assange. Both eschew the importance of mediation in favour direct access to "the Truth"; both insist that "Truth" cannot be constrained by ulterior considerations such as taste, significance, convention, expedience, potential harm, or whatever; both profess a naive confidence in the social efficacy of direct contact with "the Truth"; both assume the impossible role of a kind of vanishing mediator (to crib Fredric Jameson's wonderful phrase) and thus efface their own agenda; and yet both adopt an aggressively didactic, almost authoritarian, tone in their presentation of "the Truth."------------------
In fact Hirschhorn is wrong on the "golden calf" of journalism...
The mantra for journalism these days has been to please masters and commanders with articles that suit the neo-fascist doctrine of capitalism (the neo-liberal doctrine), their neo-communist doctrine in the East, or their Sharia context in the Muslim world. Few journalists can survive otherwise. See Peter Greste...
Few thus are the true journalists who through their investigation, become advocate for the truth, whatever that is, while most are either lazy or indoctrinated. Truth of course does not exist. The observer's presence interfers with the "truth" but one can come as close as possible to the unfolding of events without "touching". Scott Stephens is also strongly influenced by his own religious beliefs.
Scott Stephens also tells us:
I am reminded of Jean Baudrillard's critique of the pathology of modern art after Warhol: the very desire to produce art after a conspicuous transgressive fashion had effectively transposed nihilism into kitsch. According to Baudrillard, modern art consigns itself to farce in its attempt "to strive for nullity when it is already null and void." Similarly, by declaring the political import of his art - never more plaintively than in the Incommensurable Banner and his execrable Gramsci Monument - when his art already purports to give unmediated access to "the Truth," Hirschhorn reduces his own art to the status of anti-aesthetic schlock in self-righteous drag.
In fact, the point is whether we like this art or not, and would we see it in our bourgeois lounge room? Not for me. Nor any iconic pictures of the crucifixion — though in most houses in Europe, there was a figure of Christ pinned to a wooden cross to remind people of something. And the next question is whether Hirschhorn is reducing his own art to the status of anti-aesthetic schlock in self-righteous drag, because he wants it to be that way? I would say, yes and it's up to us to say whether it suits us or not. We do not have to approve...
Meanwhile, Baudrillard has been accused of lazy amoralism and he was also proud to be an "artiste" through his photography, thus one could "nastily" guess that attacking the "new nihilistic art", was his way to promote his own pataphysistic visions.
Long live nihilistic kitsch, if that is what Hirschhorn wants. Or whatever, but please, Scott, do not try to analyse Hirschhorn's work in parallel to images of Christ on the cross...
What is art?... Many a philosopher have broken their teeth on this question... For Gus, art could be defined as the inventive description of the futile, glorious and nihilistic — including religious beliefs.
Your local glorious artist