If you’ve read my other article on modern art then you already understand how art has subjectified the act of expression itself over the objectification of a great thought, emotion, event etc. This means that in modern art, the style in which the artist expresses him/herself has been made as important as the work of art itself. The artist takes on a kind of cult of personality through the choices and attitudes (the thought process) they display in the art, attitudes which often clash severely with societal norms in order to affect the viewer. That means in modern art, it is literally style over substance because of competition from CG graphics and other electronic media. That is, except for these artists:
There are very good reasons why some of the innovators in the article have decided to remain anonymous. The creator of bitcoin must have understood the potential destabilization of a decentralized currency on the currency markets, whose toes he/she could be stepping on, and how deep that side of the pool was. Banksy obviously knows that graffiti is illegal. Aside from the legalities, being anonymous also prevents one from becoming a part of the work, and a part of what is scrutinized by the public. The anecdote about jazz trumpeter Dupree Bolton hiding from the public due to the shame of his criminal record is one example of an artist separating themselves from their work to avoid judgement.
In an age in which engagement with artistic works has been displaced by gossiping about celebrity artists, the anonymous innovators have forced us to return our gaze to the creative product.
Objectifying the artist and including them, and their thought process and attitudes, with the work that is to be evaluated and criticized has changed how we as a society judge one another. In modern art, rather than judging an artist solely on the merits or lack thereof in their work, modern art encourages the examination of the choices, and therefore, the attitude of the individual during the artistic process. Particularly so if that behavior is deviant or controversial. It would appear, to my view, that this attitude has begun to spread or be spread into other areas.
In social media, commentary is valued equally to original content. Posts, status updates, and likes are often times commentary themselves. The emphasis is connectivity, or the ability to freely express oneself to another. When that ability is threatened, such as the attempt to copyright reaction videos on youtube, people respond quickly and emotionally.
The effect on social discourse is to significantly muddy the waters in ideological, epistemological warfare. Now that the person has been objectified, society is free to pass judgement on them as well as their ideas. This means that the event the most sophisticated, well-constructed arguments can be completely ignored and ad hominems heaped upon the person instead. Now that everybody has the option to kill the messenger, nobody wants to be the messenger and nobody’s getting the message. Rather than presenting an argument standing on its own cited facts and logic, the attitudes and beliefs of the presenter are the focus of examination. Those who have contradictory beliefs are “corrected,” and every social interaction becomes an opportunity to prove and reinforce loyalty to an ideology and rebuke outsiders.
Political correctness and “microaggressions” are an example of how specific choices of language, phrasing and interaction can be associated with undesirable attitudes by popular society rather than the individual. By giving into political correctness, one is forced to admit that they are, in some aspect, subconsciously antisocial and that popular society is attempting to correct them (white guilt anybody?) rather than attributing a different meaning, and intent, to their words and actions. Instead of ignoring the message and attacking the messenger, you only need one wrong word or act to establish bad character and discredit the messenger. Anybody wishing to have an intelligent discussion will be presented with a minefield with all of these divisive, pseudo-scientifically derived word and mind games.
The legal system has begun to take on these characteristics as well. Things like hate speech and hate crimes place additional emphasis, and scrutiny, on the thought process of the individual. Although the traditional, Orwellian meaning of thought crime does not require a specific act, these types of hate crimes do lay additional punishments on certain motivations and beliefs in addition to the act. Although the aim of these laws is admirable, one has to wonder if the act of having an illegal thought, and nothing more, would be enough to get one arrested in the future. With the spate of highly-publicized killings in the news lately (the media loves the ratings), legislation requiring mental health screenings is being proposed for gun buyers.
But none of this is new. For decades, the American people have been made to focus on aspects of psychopathy whether it be serial killers and suicide jumpers on the news or divisive, schizophrenic social attitudes and conflicts. When JFK was assassinated, Lee Harvey Oswald was the “lone nut.” In other words, on of us just went crazy and tried to kill the president on his own. This meme would be repeated for RFK, Ford and Reagan, and after being beat about the head with it for a few decades the people have succumb. The paranoia and polarization of our current times is the result.