What "Modern Art" Has Become

Paul V. Hartman

The art world is driven by a quest for novelty. Novelty enjoys cultural tensions and controversy, and, in recent years, must descend to violence, obscenity, and vulgarity, to find it.

Even the definition of avant garde, always the essence of modern art, has changed. Whereas it once meant "the presentation of classic social themes in new artistic forms", it now means "the symbolic presentation of behavior and ideas that test the limits of social respectability." Or as another has defined it: "the progressive exploration of the forbidden frontiers of human experience."

A photographer named Mapplethorpe is a paradigm of this new construction for "artist." (Like most pervert "artists", he has died of AIDS.) When the average person views a Mapplethorpe photograph (ie: the "artist's" buttocks with a bullwhip protruding from the anus) he thinks Perverse, whereas the "progressive artist" sees that "the conventional notion of good taste is based on an illusion of social order that is no longer possible or desirable to believe in."

The forbidden frontier is "tested", evaporates under the scrutiny, and a new frontier is projected and established, more perverse, more violent, more vulgar, than the previous, which must then be "tested." Under such retreat, the notion of a distinction between "art" and obscenity disappears. It should come as no surprise that this is exactly what perverted "artists" WANT to happen under the rubric of intellectual freedom: one cannot be called perverted if ALL are perverted by one definition or another.

And our culture ratchets down one more level.

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