A Wonder of the World.
To witness the obliteration of those
glowing, lithe twins was a shock beyond comprehension. They were
so playful; light danced on them as they stretched up towards
the sky. They were so free; you could not say that they stood
tall with pride because they were so unselfconscious of their
beauty and height. They were so innocent; they believed in
friendship, progress, creation, and joy. They were.
There are people in the world who can't
stand to see that beauty and creativity exist. The guy who took
a hatchet to the Pieta of Michelangelo. The Taliban leader who
chose to blow up the Buddhist cliff sculptures.
On the other side of humanity, a vast
majority of people felt universal shock. Waves of anger, sorrow,
and sadness have followed. Though, personally, after I
experienced the shock of the attack, I felt none of those other
emotions. Instead a quiet calm spread over me and I knew it was
a time for cold, calculating, and uncompromising action and
thought. A time to expose evil and put it in its place. And a
time to stand up proudly and defend the values of civilization
against the onslaught of a species of human beings that
The definition of civilization, found
in the American Heritage dictionary, is an eloquent statement:
"An advanced state of intellectual,
cultural, and material development in human society, marked by
progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of writing,
and the appearance of complex political and social
Every civilization has had artworks,
including buildings, that represent that country's values. A
unique aspect of art is that it represents the purpose of what
one lives for. It represents the "point" of life. In a similar
way, the art in major art institutions represents the soul of a
culture or civilization.
The World Trade Center has been that
kind of symbol for us and I can think of no greater expression
of civilization at its height.
Apparently neither could the mastermind
of the terrorists' attack.
Terrorism, as I understand it, is based
on destruction and murder, using shock tactics and
unconventional means that result in a populace experiencing mass
fear, anxiety, or apprehension. Though terrorists might state
lofty aims, it is generally recognized that they don't have the
character to create anything other than to bring about destruction.
And rarely will you hear anyone claim that they destroy for the
sake of destroying. But if one looks at the results of terrorism,
one must conclude that the terrorists' aim is simply to inject fear into
their victims' state of mind. Fear is not the stuff that
civilization is made of.
Now that the World Trade Center is
gone, what is going to replace it? I don't mean replace it only
in the physical sense, but what is going to replace it as a
symbol of civilization at its best. There are reports that a
monument and four skyscrapers of 50 to 60 floors will be built
on the site. But that project has something hopelessly anemic
about it. It sounds prudent, safe, and absolutely lacking in
imagination. Of course the Empire State Building stands, but
what about finding something new from our art culture, some
artwork to hold up proudly as a symbol worth creating and
Unfortunately, the great American
skyscraper is the exception to the state of serious art in
contemporary western civilization. What dominates western
civilization now is postmodern art. Postmodern art is a
completely unique historical phenomenon. Every other culture
through the history of humanity has proudly produced and honored
painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and literature. But
postmodern art, in theory and practice, is an anti-art movement.
It prides itself on the destruction of the above mentioned forms
of art and on shocking its audience.
It starts theoretically with Kant's
Critique of Judgement, a treatise on aesthetics. He elevates
fear of experience and formlessness of means in his concepts of
the Sublime and he condescendingly relegates form, theme,
beauty, and sensory pleasure as elements of craftsmanship. It is
an amazing piece of work. Imagine dismissing the principles that
are the aesthetic foundations of Michelangelo and Beethoven as
crass and replacing them with a principle of nothingness--as a
superior aesthetic. Incredible.
Louis Aragon, a Dadaist poet, rants,
"No more painters, no more scribblers, no more musicians, no
more sculptors…no more nations, an end at last to all this
stupidity, nothing left, nothing at all, nothing, nothing."
Tristan Tzara, another Dadaist, states
pathetically, "Art is a private thing, the artist makes it for
himself; a comprehensible work is the product of a journalist…We
need works that are strong, straight, precise, and forever
Neither of these statements are
understandable in the ordinary sense of communication between
civilized people. But their stance is clear: they are for the
obliteration of the forms and comprehensibility of art. But this
attack is not limited to art. The obliteration of forms of human
understanding results in fear and will likely lead to a snap
with reality that will force the subject through a long descent
into psychotic hell.
At a recent exhibition at the New
Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, one of the exhibits was
a photo documentation of Paul McCarthy smearing his face and
beard with excrement and using his head as a brush to "paint" a
large white canvas. He is a professor of art at UCLA.
McCarthy, Sailor's Meat
photo self-portrait is taken from a McCarthy series
about flagellation with hot dogs.
Perhaps the best known and most widely
and wildly academically acclaimed postmodern artist is Marcel
Duchamp. He presented a urinal for an exhibition in 1917 in New
York. A copy of it is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Our society, unwisely, has swept
postmodern art away from its consciousness and, unfortunately,
all real art with it. They have hidden it, like the insane
uncle mentioned only in whispers, tucked away in a sanatorium
with a name like Village Heights. The whispers leave a hint in
the air that if we acknowledge that our uncle is in fact crazy
then we will become infected.
Notice how leading newspapers and
internet news sites sweep art under such light and effervescent
categories as Style, Entertainment, Arts & Leisure, as if
putting art under superficial headings will make them less scary, less
important. My guess is that because of the disgusting or utterly
puzzling content of postmodern art the news media feels more
comfortable relegating it and, consequently, all art to a less
than serious status. Imagine listing politics under Gatherings,
or economics under Business & Play.
But serious art and postmodern art are
not the amusements of the masses and they are not accessories to
life. Art is to culture what the soul is to a human being. To
see what the spirit of a culture is, look at its celebrated fine
Ignored as it may be, postmodern art,
America's crazy uncle, is not in a sanatorium. Postmodern art
rules the art institutions of western civilization. Its
aesthetics are the criteria guiding curators and directors of
contemporary art museums. It is the only aesthetic taught to
upper level students in the major art schools around the world.
It is the criteria used by the most influential art critics. It
is debated in nuances of comical and absurd proportions by the
scholarly community. It is the baying of sheep. Unless, of
course, the sheep know what they are baying about. If they
understand the point of postmodern aesthetics, then they know
that they are promoting anti-art. Which means that they are
actively promoting the demise of civilization's art forms as
well as Western art. Western art--Aeschylus, Michelangelo,
Beethoven, and Yamasaki--represents the greatest aesthetic
achievements in humankind's history and postmodernists want to
replace it with what? With the cynical spirit of Marcel
Ominously, the postmodernists are as
clever as bin Laden or whoever is the mastermind of the recent
attack on civilization. Postmodernists have infiltrated
our civilization's greatest art institutions. And they have done
it with our na