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quinta-feira, 8 de dezembro de 2005

The post-contemporary condition

Édouard Manet (1832-83) - “Le déjeuner sur l'herbe”, 1863
oil s/ canvas, 208x265,5 cm

Modern Art
by ANTÓNIO CERVEIRA PINTO

The 20th century, or at least the half in which it fell to me to live, passed by in a rush of bloody utopias, from whose bed still stirs a humanity divided between an amputated and destitute part, which includes the majority of the world’s population, and a part which has been stupefied by the insistent aesthetics of progress, peace, well-being, consumerism and waste (the minority to which I belong). Nobody resists the pornography served up by the media. From the rubbish produced by the large TV broadcasting channels down to the micro-networks of cable TV and the net, channelled through the empire of publicity and masticated by cinephiles, this aesthetic immersion in the logic of Capitalism has in fact led us into a kind of mild, comfortable, stereophonic Fascism which, like a condemnable but irresistible vice, we cannot manage to abandon by our own means.

The abandonment of the image on the part of painting, and subsequently on the part of other superior forms of art, meaning those which, for the use of liberty and criticism, were opposed to the utilization of their seductive and philosophical faculties, was, to put it this way, the great negative tropism of modern sensibilities. Due above all to the invention of photography and all the machines and regimes of work exploration which allowed Walter Benjamin to speak of the work of art in the age of technical reproducibility, the artist saw his being cleaved in two schizophrenic halves: the commercial half and the modern half, i.e. the opportunistic, happy, useful and disposable half for an urban and affluent society just beginning to emerge, and the disgusted, critical, analytical and useless half of interest to no one, unless the media see in its unusual manifestations motive for cosmopolitan scandal, public derision and finally speculation.

There was a persistent tendency in modern art for abstraction, in the face of the tiresome and hypocritical iconographic realism of the fine arts academies. In expressionist terms, this tendency was above all a process of disfigurement (Expressionism, Surrealism, Pop). In analytical terms, it led to a kind of sublimation of the figurative structures of representation (Impressionism, Cubism, Suprematism, Geometric Abstraction, Minimalism). In conceptual terms (Dada, Futurism, Constructivism, Action Painting, Situationist International, Pop, Conceptualism), it displaced art from the aesthetic territory to a markedly intellectual arena, revealing itself mainly as a process of manifestation of the concrete subjectivity within techniques, languages, and algorithms.

In general terms, it can be stated that Modernism was the result of a philosophical elevation of common artistic activity, resulting from a freeing from its critical nature. Whether this led in the direction of Kantian beauty (which pleases universally without opinion) or, on the contrary, in the direction of Hegelian condemnation which historical duty commands of the interesting nucleus of Aesthetics – namely, the tendency for both sensibility and language to find in the death of art itself the necessary means for its contemplative release – such a metamorphosis implied removal from normal life and an isolation of critical nature. Modern art separated itself from material culture, lending it in spite of this its form and its grammar, which it ruined in its mercenary use given to the multiple urban and commercial applications and urban consumerists upon which it drew. This is how the waters of art were divided between the end of the 19th century and the end of the 20th century. 

In the left-hand margin, the ever more tangled ball of thread of philosophical art (frequently the cause of great errors and perversions); in the right-hand margin, the torrential and democratic flow of a completely seductive and opportunistic functional aesthetic. Only when museums are able to collect, catalog and exhibit these two opposing categories of modern culture will we understand the whole self-destructive dimension of Modernism.

AVANT-GARDE ARTISTS

Édouard Manet’s Breakfast on the Grass (1863) and The Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico (1868) are two paintings which are most symptomatic of the freedom acquired by the artist in modern life. A freedom announced in the disturbed trajectory of Goya, in the landscapes of John Constable, by the Barbizon painters and by the realist Courbet, but that only the growth of industrial cities, the development of a capitalist bourgeoisie independent of the aristocracy and feudalism, republican movements and the steam engine would make evident in that contradictory and disturbed Paris ruled by the diminutive Emperor Napoleon III. To be cast out from a Salon by a decadent jury who owed a debt of obedience to the institutional apparatus still dominated by a kitsch mixture of monarchy and empire became a strategy of demarcation and identification in the great rupture already underway between the official art of the academies and the independent art put forward by Victor Hugo, Mallarmé and Baudelaire. The concept of truth became absolutely essential to the creative process. In juxtaposition to the idealized, rhetorical and simulationist models of the academies, modern painters, to whom Nadar lent his studio in which to hold the first Impressionist exhibition, committed themselves to the search for truth. They searched for truth in everyday things (en plein air!), against the diaphanous cloak of romantic fantasies, subsequently stripping the form of this truth of all its unnecessary accessories. This truth born of free observation thus became artistic truth, rendered in literature, poetry, painting and sculpture as a concrete manifestation of creative subjectivity itself – the manifestation of concrete subjectivity, the subjective action contained within languages, theories, and codes, in the name of theory and of love. 

The purity of this new method of communication would produce a purification of the languages of art, of their conventions and unconscious traditions, and an analysis of forms. Representing reality in an era which was becoming dominated by photography and the illustrated press would become, for the avant-garde artists of the first half of the 20th century, a very different aesthetic discipline to the bucolic and subservient decadence of the Fine Arts. For the successors of Manet, Courbet and Cézanne (and also of Van Gogh), for artists such as Mondrian, Malevich, Klee, Tatlin (and also Modigliani and Picasso), or even Pollock, Rauschenberg, Calder, Bacon and Giacometti among others, the symbolic reproduction of the real implied above all an iconological and communicational deconstruction of its conventional ideological appearances, via an absolutely original critical gesture. The learned bourgeoisie of the era (doctors, lawyers, businessmen, industrialist, and bankers), whose marks of identity involved the production and mastery of determined imaginary universes, as well as the acquisition and possession of properties and distinctive symbols, was to receive this sleight of hand with great satisfaction. In its double opposition to the rural, illiterate, religious and submissive world, and to the Napoleonic decadence of the aristocratic regimes, the urban bourgeoisie aspired to the freedom of movements, to the power of the majority, to the rights of the individual and to the substitution of theology with a network of knowledge which was epistemologically verifiable. Under the favorable pressure of steam engines, electricity, and new urban cosmopolitanism, the modern spirit, this libertarian, and entrepreneurial urgency, transformed itself into something more decisive, programmatic and radical at the turn of the 20th century: the Avant-garde! The modern spirit invents with absolute originality the idea of pace in innovation and in criticism, giving rise to a proliferation of avant-garde ideologies in the arts, social and political movements, science and technology, and fashion. From the revolutionary avant-garde of the proletariat, to the brutal militarism of the First (1914 – 18) and Second (1939 – 45) World Wars, taking in the financial vanguards which would lead to the unstoppable expansion of Capitalism, there would remain, however, in the unmentionable wake of Auschwitz, a bitter hangover, and an existentialist anguish which would lead to the end of European modern art. The rhetoric of modernization (patently clear in the representative political demagogy) then became a public signal of a vague wish, almost always interpreted as the backwardness of a particular State in the eyes of the European media or our American friends.

CONTEMPORARY ART

Modern art was born in New York from the confluence of the immigration of European intellectuals, the revolutionary muralism of Siqueiros and Ribera and the North American puritanical, naturalist, empiricist, pragmatist, experimentalist and functionalist tradition.


Marcel Duchamp, “Fountain”, 1917

This pathos, theorized by William James, Charles Pierce and especially by the extraordinary philosopher and pedagogue named John Dewey, allowed the expansion of this European modernist heritage in the direction of something which was seriously lacking in Europe: space and reality! Hans Hoffman and Joseph Albers, upon resolving to abandon the Dantesque irrealism of Hitler’s Germany, contributed symptomatically to the conversion of the modern art of Paris, Vienna and Berlin to the modern art of New York. This transition, with the groundwork laid by precursors such as Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Stein, Peggy Guggenheim, James Johnson Sweeney, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray etc., despite its origins and the confusion raised by the translation of terms, is the birth point of the second great cycle of 20th century cosmopolitan art, which began with the consolidation of Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting as emblematic aesthetic movements of the new world power. This cycle is different from the first, not only, of course, in the size of the works demanded by the scale of the city which harboured them, but also in their fundamental ideological nature: what in European modern art was above all an essentialist search for the I, Truth and Form, in the modern art arising from Black Mountain College and the frenetic isle of Manhattan was basically the experience of the I, Truth and Form. Whilst in Europe there was an avant-garde revolutionary tendency to destroy the past and create the future, in a kind of super-fast overtaking of the present, in the USA, on the contrary, energies were focused on the here and now of artistic experience, in the performativity of the present as an opportunity to find reality – the real thing – via a pragmatic discipline of observation and the use of forces, tools and prime materials which lead to painting, sculpture and performance. It was this necessarily eclectic context which generated, at the end of the 1960s, the notion of contemporaneity, a fundamental ideological attribute of Euro-American, urban, art of the last three decades of the 20th century.

While in politics the topic of modernity associated with the economic logic of growth and progress persisted, the artistic culture of the world’s main cosmopolitan centres (New York, London, Venice, Cologne, Zurich, Basel, Amsterdam, etc) gradually dropped the notions of modernity and the avant-garde in the very expensive dustbin of modern art. To take their place, as if announcing the end of the story, contemporary art emerged. In reality, this strange designation corresponds to a normalization of modern art and its avant-garde movements in the light of a merciless determination of creative activity by the invasive, alienating and speculative logic of Capitalism. The censorship of authors such as Öyvind Fahlström, the tardy and hesitant recovery of John Cage, Buckminster Fuller and Allan Kaprow, or even the ridiculous capitulations of Joseph Kosuth, Daniel Buren and Art&Language in the face of the new mechanisms of institutional legitimization, are all examples in a string of episodes which led to the true domestication of the avant-garde, in the name of a whirlpool called “contemporary art” – the perpetual present of fashion, the perpetual present of speculation; the perpetual, sacrosanct present of money-art!

At the precise moment in which Capitalism, digging its own grave, unleashed and defended its scandalous mechanisms for whitewashing its illegal and criminal activities, contemporary art, which followed the still heroic phase of Happenings, Pop Art, Minimalism and Conceptualism, with nothing to say – because all that was said disappeared in the black hole of spectacle, consumerism or the joyful exaltation of stupidity – saw its cultural usefulness degraded to the point of the most evident cynicism. Its horizons of hope and ambition, above all in the 1980s and 90s, were rapidly confused with those ambitions associated with the desire for success and sudden enrichment, without limits or responsibilities. So-called contemporary art, within whose jungles dwelled poor devils incapable of understanding the good and bad things which befell them, became a non-reality, whose manifestations ceased to interest common mortals (especially those who think). As it is not commercial art, meaning Pop spectacle itself, it is also neither a testimony of ethical demands, nor a demonstration of critical vitality, nor even a genuine sign of curiosity. What is it? In most cases, nothing. A sad nothing. In the best of cases, a dispersed cloud of micro-logics, where now and again one still finds interesting converts and a few deserters. The best of these desert to not-art.

THE POST-MODERN CONDITION

The aspect I retained best of Lyotard’s report on the post-modern condition was the idea of the melting away of great narratives and the impossibility of reliving them, except in the hypothesis, in my opinion, of an ill-timed civilizational reversion. Associated with this idea came another: that of a society of well-being in which knowledge, technique and representation established a new type of praxis, rather more effective than that of the Dialectic of History and all the theologies sustaining it since the New Gospel. Now this theory had, among other practical consequences, one which is very straightforward and destructive: the statement of the end of modern art as one of the most typical examples of the secular variant of messianic teleology put forward and worked in various directions by German Romanticism. In reality, so-called contemporary art, which Lyotard viewed above all as a direct and a non-critical descendent of modern art (and its avant-garde movements), was a notorious symptom revealing that the artistic institution, just like the modern State, did not know how to adapt – neither to the epistemological leap announced by Einstein’s theory of relativity (1905 – 16) and by Heisenberg’s quantum uncertainty principle (1927), nor to the North American philosophical Pragmatism, nor to the Logical Positivism of the Vienna Circle. Basically, Modern State and Modern Art lost influence and meaning due to irreparable narcissism. Even today what is left of them, a tenuous flame, continues to delude over a destiny which ceased to belong to them long ago.


Nan Goldin

So let us put aside the rubbish produced in the name of Post-modernism in the market of ideas, architecture and the arts. The truth, which was already common knowledge, is that no object, no matter how smooth or deformed it may be, no matter how conceptual or pornographic it may be, could resist the black hole of fashion and ultraliberal capitalist globalization. No cultural insult or artistic gesture can ever compete with the current perversion of money. Even the shit and piss off the artist can aspire to the status of masterpiece, and be featured in Sotheby’s and Christie’s most selective catalogs. Were Manzoni and Warhol aware of this? They probably were. But we must still consider them players of irony and not of cynicism. Koons, Witkin, Hirst, the Chapman twins and Nan Goldin, among many others, on the contrary, are very familiar with the current mechanisms of the perverse production of value, and in fact, they play upon this agonizing quandary, in a similar way to wrestling-palace shows, televangelists, and reality-show pundits. Even, poor video, whose technology characterizes the idea itself of Benjaminian reproducibility, was recently used by the last philistines of modern (i.e. contemporary) art as a vehicle to produce unique (or quasi-unique) “works of art” for the enjoyment of those collectors who have never read the frustrated Marxist philosopher and critic. Yet what is most fundamental in the opportunist appropriation of the “post-modern condition” was the degradation of expression in the name of a false teaching – with the object of giving an ever-increasing number of the nouveau-riche whatever they like and makes them recall the glories of others; in the name, of course, of their bank accounts; in short, in order to show off their pink houses and swimming pools at sunset, built in the image of the ridiculous empires of Beverly Hills.

And yet, Lyotard was not talking about straightforward cultural eclecticism, but rather of micrological and cognitive diversity at the heart of the geometric strategy which would blast the rest of the old scholastic hierarchies of knowledge and other empires anchored in the molecular immobility of pre-information, pre-cybernetic, pre-digital space-time. Upon writing and talking about the post-modern condition, the French philosopher did not foresee the caricatures that would emerge from his discourse, but he warned that modern utopian times would be dominated by communication and the extreme and immaterial mobility of knowledge. He who controlled the ether, he thought, would command the changes.

LAST UTOPIA?

I believe that one of the motives which lead today to the ridicule of the post-modern hypothesis was the threat that this posed to the continuity of contemporary art – bogged down from the mid-seventies onwards by an ever more puerile conceptualist rhetoric. In fact, the possibility of overcoming the stumbling blocks of Conceptualism via cognitive strategies reinforced by the support of microelectronics, computing and above all communication networks and global interaction, simply became intolerable for the gallery medium. On the other hand, the simple perspective of suddenly one day making lots of money out of art turned out to be irresistible to a large proportion of the avant-garde artists of the last 35 years. The declaration “market and avant-garde”, proffered at the beginning of the eighties by all those show-offs who influenced the course of so-called “international art”, effectively revealed the dimension of the compromises proffered to younger generations of artists emerging from European and North American art schools. If the market did become a utopia, then we must ask ourselves whether it came to represent, against all expectations, the last modern utopia. Does this hysterical fixation on the contemporary moment not figure in the definitive death of art itself as a critical vocation and a projection of truth? Were the fantastical returns to the heroic centrality of figuration anything more than a badly disguised retake on the cult of the golden calf? And this new subjectivity, was it nothing more than a pretty trick of prestidigitation?

NOT-ART

Two major cultural confrontations seem to dominate any critical discussion about the nature, need and evolution of art entities within media-saturated, hi-tech, monitored, global societies. The first is old Greek-Roman-Catholic iconophile vision of reality versus the old Jewish-Protestant-Calvinist iconoclast vision of that same reality. The second is the contemporary art establishment and its exhausted (and sometimes heavily corrupted) avant-garde versus newborn tech and generative artists, and practitioners of the dynamic art. By dynamic, or live-art, I do not mean art performed by live artists, but art that has a life form of its own, of generative origins, organically alive in its resistance to space-time.

The Homo sapiens Erectus exposes his sexual apparatus to all. He does so by the very act of raising his head. He does so by placing himself in a vertical axis towards the center of Mother Earth. Human eyes, like those of monkeys and birds, became much more important sensory apparatus than ears, or noses, for reasons of strategy or survival and due to the need to compete with others of the species through collecting all visual information related to feeding and mating. As André Leroi-Gouhran has explained in detail, this topological move allowed humans to develop their brains and modify the functional design of their heads, and most significantly to change the mechanics of the mouth/oral apparatus over a long period of time. Following this anthropological evolution, one could actually stress the idea that the biological conclusion of this long-term process will take us to a new state of need which is independent of those physical necessities that drove the hope and greed of humankind throughout the last couple of hundred thousand years.

Catholics think the cup is still half full, Calvinists, on the contrary, are certain that it is half-empty. I think Calvinists may be closer to the truth. In fact, if one takes into consideration the most advanced tribes of humankind, those most closely wired into a progressive but unstoppable techno-morphosis, it is more than logical to expect that they will evolve into some kind of post-human condition, and that their bodies and minds will migrate to a radically new, much wider, more inclusive, networking reality. 

Sceptics — buoyed by recent historical events like September 11th, the recent crisis between Christian and Muslim civilizations and the huge, unprecedented external debt of the US — will tell us that the ever-widening social divisions in the world will unleash all sorts of very dangerous viruses, and that in the end this implosive drive will be set off by the Digital People. Those who are even more sceptical, who are actually horrified by the inflexible computational scenarios presented by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows and Jørgen Randers in “Limits to Growth” (1972/2004) and “Beyond the Limits” (1992), think that, no matter what we think or do, the near future (say between 2020 and 2100) will bring not only peak oil production (sometime between 2006 and 2020) but also such unimaginable human catastrophes that most of our would-be cultural engineering will simply vanish into thin air. But since the future is by definition unpredictable, and until I am convinced that some apocalyptic angel will finally tell me the truth, I confess myself to be more inclined to believe that the Analog People will prefer to conform to the new “artificial” digital world in the making, than to jeopardize this godless paradise forever. Like any other metamorphosis, this one will be painful, and new patterns of social struggle will certainly emerge. But hopefully, a new mental framework will evolve from this shifting paradigm. The aesthetic re-evaluation of flesh and mind, as the re-consideration of the inherent existential rights of photogenic and propositional images, is already part of this thrilling change.

LET US SUPPOSE THEN THAT DEBATING DYNAMIC ART IS WORTHWHILE

Photons, like words, can start an image process inside the brain by exciting that marvelous 1300 cc of white blancmange. The result of any such interaction is that some kind of external or internal perception, substantiated by content, is actually seen as the visual properties of the given object of perception. This given object is, by the way, neither “given” nor “object” in a materialistic sense of the expression “given object”, but rather a mere moving shadow, to use a Platonic analogy. What we see is nothing but a fragment of the all-photogenic hologram generated by the collision between light and that thing which we then call the perceived object. The vision of such and such a thing, that whether by accident or design we perceive as “seeing”, is nothing more than the beginning of an epistemological process, that may or may not evolve as a historical accumulation of knowledge, aesthetical sublimation, and moral convictions. From the day we start building an internal library of visual entities, to that anxious night that will shut our eyes forever, every image evolves inside of us like a philosophical category, oscillating between the theatrical surprise of its scandalous appearance and the metaphysical contemplation of its possible truth. If there is anything the digital image has cleared up, then it is certainly the obsolete debate about the original description of an image. Is this description a sensational event or, on the contrary, a purely mental performance? Well, it seems to be something in between… We build images the same way as we build concepts: with constant effort! What is most important, and rather Marxist, is that until now pictures have been bloody frozen moments of the historical class struggle upon which all human identities and narratives rest.


Tate Modern, a phallic statement, London

Any digital image is only a potential image, preserved as code, far from being an actual image until the day some genetic order arrives: “Be that image!” Any computer geek can give this order whilst know absolutely nothing about the process he has just triggered. So when one says that the computer can play the role of a new and more productive model for understanding visual arts and its potential stumbling blocks this means that one has to take into consideration both its common use and its nature. As soon as computer art becomes common sense, leaving behind it all the cheap metaphysics of progress that defined the commercial and civic aura of Information Technology, we will have the time and opportunity to concentrate on its inner novelty, as something much bigger than just a sophisticated and very productive tool. To work properly with computers, artists will have to co-evolve with them in a kind of a symbiotic process. Learning from computers is not the next but actually the latest big thing in “post-modern”, “post-human” art. Of course, such a move would be unimaginable from any romantic’s point of view, be it financial, bureaucratic or professional. Ivory towers like the Tate Modern and MacGuggenheim’s, whose only mission is to safeguard art speculation on the behalf of old capital investments, are still using heavy artillery against the emergence of dynamic art. One of the reasons why this is happening lies in the economic implications of the new art regime, which is supposedly based upon open-source and free networking social strategies.

I insist that I am not thinking of some new way to opportunistically abuse technology. What really matters now is that there is the possibility of some kind of co-evolution into a completely new art paradigm, based on a post-human expanded life. Systems theory, artificial life, artificial intelligence, DNA-based genetics, electronic life, enhanced bodies and radical networking are some of the indispensable ingredients of the coming age. Some meteor, or most probably our own stupidity, could always shatter our dreams. But this is no reason to close this debate.

THE TECHNOLOGICAL MONASTERY

We can now examine the modern movement and its sequels in the light of the energies which gave birth to them. If there had been no coal or steam engines, what would it have been like? And what if there had been no petrol or natural gas? And if these carbon-based resources, which guaranteed the expansion of the industrial era, allowing the planet’s population to grow from a hundred million to 6.5 billion souls in the space of only 200 years, had already begun down the slippery slope of unavoidable decline? What would happen to our intellectual optimism if within 20 or 30 years the majority had to live without petrol, without natural gas, and without the richest varieties of coal (or with drastically limited and extremely expensive access to this energetic paradigm)? Worse still, what would happen if a third of the world’s population, around the year 2050 (which by then would be about three billion struggling souls), made the decision to sacrifice the other two thirds of humanity and abandon them to hunger, thirst, continuous bad weather-related disasters, viral epidemics and permanent war, in the name of the survival of the species? There is nothing deliriant about these ponderings. The modern condition based itself upon an unconscious hypothesis, which we only discovered to be mistaken far too late: that of the unlimited and abundant availability of natural resources which corresponded to an ideology of continuous growth of the economy, consumerism and the state of “well-being”. The post-modern condition, upon foreseeing the overtaking of the utopia of growth by a utopia of knowledge, nevertheless still retains a strong belief in the possibilities of world economic expansion. The post-contemporary condition, on the other hand, already takes into account evidence that there will be a dramatic rupture of the current global energetic paradigm before 2030-50, which will bring in its wake inevitable social decomposition on a planetary scale. The doubt which still persists in the post-contemporary spirit can be summed up a need to know if a dramatic cutback in current levels of waste of energy and prime materials, combined with a genuine techno-cultural revolution committed to the digital duplication of the world, i.e. a substitution of a large part of the current macroscopic disturbance with electronic and digital interactivity, can possibly avoid the disaster and allow humanity to continue its progress on Earth. One way or another, we will have to prepare ourselves for this rapidly approaching shock to civilization.

Some thinkers argue that the overshooting of humanity has already begun, and that we will inevitably fall into the great pit of energetic scarcity, lack of drinking water, deterioration of agricultural land, the depletion of various basic prime materials, the inviability of continuing to create and manufacture synthetics derived from petrol and natural gas (plastics, fertilizers, dyes, varnishes, medicines, etc…), chains of environmental disasters, uncontrollable epidemics and new wars of mass destruction. What is to be done? What place is there for art and museums in a scenario of this nature?

I asked recently, in a seminar on “audio-visualization in art” promoted by the “la Caixa” Foundation in Barcelona, what would happen to the artistic heritage of the 20th and 21st centuries in a future in which the scarcity of energy and basic resources determined the entropy of the technological systems which currently support not only the continuing production of virtual and enhanced reality in which we are immersed (including the info-sphere and all types of techno-cultural manifestations on-line) but also its electronic conservation. What will happen to Bill Gates’ photo-digital repository, to recorded music or to cinema and television archives, on the day that it ceases to be economically viable to produce new equipment and means of storage and digital reading and all analogical equipment has been permanently discontinued? Who among us has not seen, on a small domestic scale, the harmful effects of technological obsolescence: the hundreds of video cassettes lovingly collected over the course of the last 20 years are about to pass their sell-by date and DVDs will not even last that long! Computers go into the rubbish bins every four years or so, mobile phones every two years or so. It is easy to imagine this phenomenon on a global scale: the whole technological civilization suddenly hit by an unprecedented energetic and ecological rupture. 

Alarming! The cause can hardly be the technical potential of “History”, but rather the model of so-called post-industrial society itself. The service economy, great cities, and their suburbs would cave in, and the return to subsistence-based socio-economic models would end up being imposed upon humanity. Following a catastrophic and violent interim, the survivors would have to rise up from the ashes to re-embark upon the long and difficult journey of human development. What is the starting point? How? With what tools? With what knowledge? With what convictions?

Will we return at the end of this century to a regime of low-intensity plastic arts? Will we revert to the times of wandering storytellers, aesthetic religious rituals based upon crop seasons, or to anti-cataclysmic votive offerings? What will happen to the cognitive and technological heritage of the commercial and philosophical arts from the two centuries marked out by the invention of photography and the possible implosion of the technical reproducibility paradigm as described by Walter Benjamin? These questions would take a long time to answer, but nonetheless, I believe they are pertinent.

Philosophy and art will need to be reinvented in the light of radical changes in the anthropological paradigm looming on the horizon. For this reason, it would perhaps be worth considering the transformation of the world’s museums into real community centers dedicated to simulations of the approaching scenarios of change. As far as I am concerned, and I hope to come across fellow enthusiasts up to the end of the present decade, the time has come to consider the idea of technological monasteries, i.e. a strategic withdrawal which will allow us to reflect with absolute honesty on possible ways to safeguard knowledge and art.

Lisbon, December 2005
Copyright © 2005 by António Cerveira Pinto

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