How Modern Art Become Trapped by Its Urge to Shock
Read it. . and re-read it. . . I quote the last few paragraphs:
The interesting fact, however, is that the habit of faking it
has arisen from the fear of fakes. Modernist art was a reaction against
fake emotion, and the comforting clichés of popular culture. The
intention was to sweep away the pseudo-art that cushions us with
sentimental lies and to put reality, the reality of modern life, with
which real art alone can come to terms, in the place of it. Hence for a
long time now it has been assumed that there can be no authentic
creation in the sphere of high art which is not in some way a
'challenge' to the complacencies of our public culture. Art must give
offence, stepping out of the future fully armed against the bourgeois
taste for the conforming and the comfortable, which are simply other
names for kitsch and cliché. But the result of this is that offence
becomes a cliché. If the public has become so immune to shock that only a
dead shark in formaldehyde will awaken a brief spasm of outrage, then
the artist must produce a dead shark in formaldehyde - this, at least,
is an authentic gesture.
There therefore grew around the modernists a class of critics
and impresarios, who offered to explain just why it is not a waste of
your time to stare at a pile of bricks, to sit quietly through ten
minutes of excruciating noise, or to study a crucifix pickled in urine.
To convince themselves that they are true progressives, who ride in the
vanguard of history, the new impresarios surround themselves with others
of their kind, promoting them to all committees that are relevant to
their status, and expecting to be promoted in their turn. Thus arose the
modernist establishment - the self-contained circle of critics who form
the backbone of our cultural institutions and who trade in
'originality', 'transgression' and 'breaking new paths'. Those are the
routine terms issued by the arts council bureaucrats and the museum
establishment, whenever they want to spend public money on something
that they would never dream of having in their living room. But these
terms are clichés, as are the things they are used to praise. Hence the
flight from cliché ends in cliché, and the attempt to be genuine ends in
Art has long insisted that beauty, like truth, is in the eye of the beholder. What foolishness! No amount of sincere belief makes a lie into truth and no amount of cliched fakery can turn garbage into art. Yet this is what we have been left with -- a vain attempt to one up each other by shocking us to death in the name of authenticity and then calling it art or beauty. This does not only happen in the museum and it is not only the canvas that conveys our preoccupation with stark and ugly vulgarity.
Consider the way modern art has become the cause to erect bland, stark, ugly, cold, and sterile buildings and call them churches! As another blogger put it, Even our architecture has given God the boot, so to
speak. Circular and fan shaped churches dominated after 1950. The
tabernacle was relegated to the side, altars became largely devoid of
candles or a cross, and it became almost “immoral” for the
priest-celebrant not to “face the people.” Seeing and interacting with
each other became the goal. God was invited, too, but His role seemed
more to affirm what we were doing and to be pleased with us; or so we
sang, on and on and on. Surely God was happy when we were happy!
Or as another commentator put it:
Have you noticed that nobody loves modern churches? Nobody. I mean NOBODY.
Have you ever met anyone who sees a church like this and and heard them
whisper, “I just love that church! It is so inspiring!”.round
you ever gone into a “worship space” like this and heard someone say
how awed they were to be in the presence of God? I doubt it. interior
That’s because these buildings were not designed to inspire
awe or to remind you about the presence of God. They are people
centered, not God centered. They are auditoria not temples.
is a gut level negative respond to these buildings. Even those who have
got used to them make comments like, “Well, it’s our church and we’re
doing the best we can.” Worse still, they have grown up with these
monstrosities and they do not know of anything else.
I have spent
the last week in central Missouri worshipping in a beautifully restored
country church built at the end of the 1800′s. My heart opened in
worship simply because the space was sacred, simple and beautiful.
gut level rejection of the modern, brutal, utilitarian barns is not
merely a hankering after “ole time traditions”. It is not simply a
nostalgia for the past or a question of personal preference.
We react negatively to round churches because we want to be oriented towards God in worship, not towards one another.
everyone knew this down the ages. That’s why there was a certain
pattern to Christian churches, and did you know the pattern was actually
established by God?
tabernacle-drawingIn the Old Testament God
revealed to Moses how to build the tabernacle–the traveling tent/temple
they used in the wilderness. The tabernacle was rectangular with a large
outer meeting place of the people. Then there was the “Holy Place” for
the priests and this was surmounted by the “Holy of Holies” where the
Ark of the Covenant was lodged. The Ark of the Covenant was the Throne
of God himself.
This was the prescribed plan for a building to
worship God, and the Temple in Jerusalem was a larger, permanent version
of the tabernacle.
Now nobody is suggesting that Christian
churches should be traveling tents (although the preachers in the
American south used to do pretty well in their tent meeting revival
services) Neither am I suggesting that we should build churches that are
replicas of Solomon’s temple.
But there was a basic pattern here
that was followed in all Christian churches from the earliest days. The
pattern was of a three fold, hierarchical space. A large meeting space
for the people, a next step into the holy place for the priests and then
the dwelling place of God which is the Holy of Holies.