No Progress Made

I thought I’d better amplify something I said in the preceding post, about art as an agent of enlightenment—the latter meaning freedom from myth. When art definitively became a secular religion, just before the turn of the twentieth century, it was a concrete step forward because art as religion is clearly a critique of religion itself. I’m talking about art, not “critical practice” or the avant-garde, which Boris Groys describes today as discursive and iconoclastic practice. These later initiatives, as he explains well, are a critique of the art-religion. However necessary they may be in the art context, and however inevitable, with respect to a larger society still ruled by myth they are premature. Art as secular, profane “religion,” is still a negation of actual religion, which yet has an iron grip on the consciousness of billions of people, so it does have an enlightening function. Meanwhile, critique suffers two deficits. First of all, it is fated to remain secondary to art. In other words, art as discourse can’t survive without the art-religion; it needs an antithesis or foil to give it material on which to exercise its critical faculty, which ultimately is its only justification. Secondly, through the integration of curatorship with bureaucracy, it has become assimilated to the prevailing regime of mass delusion or myth. As has been well explicated in many different ways since Marx first described the fetishism of commodities, rationalized society is utterly ruled by myth. Also well known is that a critical consciousness can exist quite comfortably with this fact. The critic of the art-religion joins with religion itself in a common program: the suppression of any liberating mimesis. But art is a mimetic technology that can liberate us from the out of control mimicry typical of post-enlightenment/mythic society: violence and counter-violence, terror and state terror—even down to the repetition of inanities in the mass media, what passes for political discourse. Or, as I have discussed on this blog, art could be described as a technology of possession that can liberate us from the demonic possession that is in fact the truth of collective behavior today.

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