According to a recent book by the French philosopher Yves Michaud (born 1944), who has written extensively widely on the relationships of the arts and culture in a globalized, technological world, art is in a death spiral of hyper aesthetics. In the commercial machinery of galleries, art festivals, fashion shows and consumer luxury aesthetics, art has lost its connection to the broader community and its diversity.
He highlights the saturation of how even the great historical figures are continually recycled: "Même les chefs-d'œuvres du finissent par ecœurer dans cet océan d'esthétique: il y en a tellement. Quand finiront les soldes Picasso?".
Art's 'raison d'être' has lost its way, it's grounding. I would even venture to say that this hyper-aestheticism represents art losing touch with it's evolutionary purpose. While I appreciate the central observation from Michaud, his analysis potentially underestimates what is at the edges of art today, from performance artist Mariana Abromovic (getting too well know?) to the Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat.
In a response to Michaud's position in the Editorial of the French magazine Beaux Arts (edition 9th December 2021), Fabrice Bousteau cites the "narrative artist" JR as one counterpoint to Michaud's treatise.
JR works in the streets, with social engagement. His simple ritual of taking portrait photos of people from the street, and printing them on huge posters to be displayed in the streets, has had global coverage. JR has expanded into politically engaged territory with projects on either side of the Israeli-Palestine border wall, through to gun-crime narratives in the US and working in prisons. JR's work is almost that of an anthropologist.
Yet JR's work also provides an example of the power of such a simple ritual - a portrait photo, printed onto super large posters. This ritualistic dimension can be then imagined to be what the French complexity theorist, Edgar Morin, speaks to: How an artist's work is almost of shamanic nature.
A blog post to follow will pick up on the fascinating, yet rare, pronouncements of Edgar Morin on art.
"L'art c'est bien fini" Essai sur l'hyper-esthétique et les atmosphères. Par Yves Michaud. Collection NRF Essais, Gallimard. Publication: 30-09-2021