A Phoenix of System Changes: Art as an Institution,
the Avant-garde and the Capitalists (2019)
By Ingrid Katrine Amundsen
ARCHITECT • HUMAN GEOGRAPHER • PHOTOGRAPHER
This essay on the institutional art world is written in flashbacks, in the heat of the moment, and as foreshadowing.
On some lazy, hot and late summer days of 2016, I visited Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London,
in the peak of a midlife crisis.
Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London or colloquially; "The Cathedral of Modern Art", has a unique status within the art world as being a sacral place or site for exploring modern art; which should be met with respect and devotion or handled with care. The gallery houses key works from our modern art history, and the building itself is an innovative architectural masterpiece; a grand Cathedral, designed by the Swiss architects; Hertzog and de Meuron (2000-16), and the English architect; Scott (1940s). This gallery; in this city; has a major impact on the art world; particularly in shaping its conditions. The art institution's location; London, is not only regarded as a global financial capital, but also a strategic city within the art world; one of the spearheads of innovation within this system. London's diverse social identity expressions, its powerful milieu of Avant-gardes, its institutional attributes, its capitalist forces and its concentrations of different cultures, is what makes the city: a breakthrough place for new ideas! London is a metropolis were beliefs, judgements and convictions breaks, transforms, evolves and change. It enables and simultaneously constrains refractions of opinions, expressions and utterances, through natural selection processes, that are influenced by the Avant-garde, the capitalists, and art as an institution. The institutional art world; as a system, is; in sum, a phoenix of evolution, struggles, systemic functions and refractions. Through transformation from within or self-organizing; new arrangements of resources and new alignments of power, may occur. These radical system changes may again turn into a reconfiguration of the institutional art world and affect the way our art world is heading; its directionality. In a reconfiguration of the institutional art world as a system or simply a change of direction; the cities; their Avant-gardes and artists, their art institutions and their capitalists, plays a key role: they act on behalf of the institutional art world. London is therefore a hotbed of powerful actors that may (or may not) encourage system changes from path creations – births!
The Nature of Art
Art as a Metamorphosis, the Avant-gardiste’s Choice and System Inertia: What Drives the Institutional Art World?
In this context of system changes, art as an institution continues to drive the institutional art world, through thoughtfully created works of art, in which the Avant-garde and artists rise above mere contentment, and continue to contest the given rules of the institutional art world in the shape of – system criticism. In this given spirit the author set out to analyse the institutional art world and unravel its power configurations, by asking the most fundamental questions of all times: what is the nature of art? Art is shaped by sociable living creatures and dependant on the frameworks of history. The living creature may also serve as a metaphor for the art world – such as the creation of art, since art most of all is created by human beings. Living creatures seeks truth, meaning and love. The Cathedral opens our eyes to the sky. In the heat of the metamorphosis darkness turns into lightness, material transforms into sacral, the secular converts into divine: if only for a brief moment in terms of history artefacts becomes – art. The Cathedral is grand. You will be enlightened and empowered by its presence: The Cathedral is powerful! The Cathedral is a place for cognitive metamorphosises, affections, and intellectual thoughts, so is the art institution or the art gallery, such as the Cathedral of Modern Art. Within the frameworks of the Cathedral or historical structures, art, as a living creature, forms its own history, influenced by historical incidents. Within the institutional frameworks that our history allows for, these contexts are again influenced by social conditions in sum, which the artist and the Avant-gardes; must relate to, whether they contest, confirm or resist these frameworks. By the view of the human geographer; the artist defines the idea. The idea defines the artist's or the Avant-gardiste's 'choice' of concept, which in its nature interplay with contextual frameworks whether they are societal, institutional, historical or geographical. Art within these frameworks is, therefore, powerful, contextual, optional and rightful. It is optional, because it's up to the artist to choose what art – is. It is rightful, because the Avant-gardes and the artists have been given their right to express themselves through artworks. Since the Avant-gardes and the artists through artworks contest given rules in the institutional art world – this may, thereby, appear as conflictual – the artworks may create conflicts in the institutional art world, when the Avant-gardes and the artists; by their given resistance and freedom, contest the given rules of the institutional art world. Furthermore, the institutional context also adds to the understanding of art – art does not exist without the context – it is institutional by nature. From the artistic creation of the idea – to its contextual appearance, art is also highly geographical. It appears to have unique geographical characteristics and is shaped by uneven geographical conditions. But, what is art and how do we define art? In a radio interview at BBC in 1956, Duchamp himself, thus, ponders on the relation between the rendezvous of 'the readymade as a work of art', and his denial of the possibility of defining 'art' (Duchamp, 1956; Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 151 and 155):
"That is the very difficult point, because art first has to be defined. Alright, can we try to define art? We have tried and, in every Century, there is a new definition of art. Meaning that there is no essential, no one essential, that is good for all centuries. So if we accept the idea of trying not to define art, which is a very legitimate conception, the readymade can be seen as sort of irony, because it says here it is, a thing that I call art, I didn't make it myself. As we know art etymologically speaking means 'make', 'handmade', and there instead of making, I take it readymade. So it was a form of denying the possibility of defining art" (Duchamp, 1956; Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 151).
I think Duchamp knew it, and as Harari explains (2017); the Fountain (1917), proved to us that 'art' can be anything and 'anything' can be art – we only must define it as 'art,' contextually. But; here lies also the fundamental problem of 'art as an institution': how do we define an institution; 'art', that basically can be anything? Trying to define art is therefore a highly complex task, which the author does not take easily. An understanding of 'art' may include all its complexities, but a definition should also be simple, spot on and clear. Nonetheless, an attempt of trying to understand ART may start out with the Avant-garde's idea and 'choice', and their ideas and choice interact with different contexts and institutional frameworks, which again interplay with the (fictional) story of art (created by different social roles and characters in the institutional art world); and how art is understood in our society through historical incidents. What is art? can therefore be understood through the artistic creation of the idea and their choices, its contextual and institutional characteristics, the fictional story of art; in which the artistic creation of the idea, should dominate or define the understanding of art; throughout the terms of history. Though, the artists or the Avant-garde may also choose to exist outside the institutional framework, but this is also part of the institutional setup. They work as a control function to criticize the system; such as 'art as an institution' or more widely; the institutional art world. The characteristics of the institutional framework gain inspiration from the outsiders as a counteraction, and in form of – resistance (outsider art). Without this refreshing and new thinking resistance, the art world; as a system, would flip into crisis caused by stagnation, inertia, and ultimately; lock-ins. Embodied in the nature of the institutional art world, those who have been perceived as outsiders; such as e.g. Edvard Munch (1863–1964), Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), or the Norwegian Avant-gardiste and artist; Bjarne Melgaard (1967–), plays a key role in the understanding of 'art as an institution' (Eriksen, 2018a). Art as an institution is characterized by being fuelled by its outsiders, they hence, becomes a vital communicative force of the institutional art world: resistance drives the art world in (multiple) directions: art is thereby multiple in its directionality! The artist does not supremely define what art is themselves, it is also defined as an interplay or tug of war between three core actors; the Avant-garde and the artists, the capitalist and the art institutions, whom again characterize the nature of 'art as an institution'. This tug of war was sparked off by Duchamp's stunt; the Fountain (Duchamp, 1917). Although the copy of the Fountain (Duchamp, 1917) is placed in Tate Gallery of Modern Art, it is, thus, not a real artwork, since it is a copy.
"Fountain is one of Duchamp’s most famous works and is widely seen as an icon of twentieth-century art. The original, which is lost, consisted of a standard urinal, usually presented on its back for exhibition purposes rather than upright, and was signed and dated ‘R. Mutt 1917’. Tate’s work is a 1964 replica and is made from glazed earthenware painted to resemble the original porcelain. The signature is reproduced in black paint. Fountain has been seen as a quintessential example, along with Duchamp’s Bottle Rack 1914, of what he called a ‘readymade’, an ordinary manufactured object designated by the artist as a work of art (and, in Duchamp’s case, interpreted in some way)" (tate.org 2019).
Additionally; all art works are representations of human phenomena from the universe to the body. Human phenomena are social, flexible, creative and organizational, and genuine 'art' is a product of these human abilities (Harari 2017). Since Fountain (1964) is a copy or a replica from the original lost Fountain from 1917; it is a representation of a representation (tate.org, 2018): it is a good old fictional story of the Avant-gardiste Duchamp's original artwork. What makes the Fountain (Duchamp 1917) a work of art, is that Duchamp choose it by chance and thereby transformed it; from being just an industrial produced object; into a work of art – he thereby added new thoughts to the urinal, which again turned it into – art (Mutt; Ades, Cox and Hopkins, 1999a, p. 127). A groundbreaking Avant-garde piece of art, is thus, also a manifestation according to Bürger (1984). The Avant-gardes, such as Duchamp, therefore, represents our forefront when it comes to developing highly experimental, progressive and radical ideas; as manifestations, in our global society. They can forecast the future, thrive in the moment or revive the past – they; the artists and Avant-gardes, can therefore guide art into multiple directions. They; the artists and the Avant-gardes, represents the humankind. They represent US. We should listen to them! Taken together, this might bring us closer to a definition of art or what art is.
What is Art? Art Does Not Easily Stick to Definitions…
First; the open and adaptive definition: art is anything created by anyone (Harari, 2017), this anything can only be created through art by the artist (Tandberg in Eriksen 2018b, Harari 2017), and art by this definition, the author claims; emerges as an interplay between form and content, in which the institutional framework enables the artists to choose what art – is. Second; the closed or inertia definition: art is created by artists, that maintain the status quo in the institutional art world, and emerges as an interplay between form and content, within an institutional framework that constrains the artists (a white cube). Third; the refractionary, struggle and innovative definition: art comes into being through unexpected or new combinations of ideas and thoughts that overlap, collide, are being displaced or when there is a struggle between certain ideas or thoughts that occurs, which the artists turn into art by choice (Bertalanffy 1968). Fourth; the control function, Avant-gardiste and system change definition: art is original displacements of ideas created and chosen to be art by the Avant-garde, that are particularly inventive, or at least innovative and; in which the Avant-garde contest the given rules of the institutional art world as outsiders (outsider art or Avant-gardiste art).
While the first; adaption and open definition, includes all kinds of Avant-gardes, artists and artworks; (anyone and anything), that adds something new to the mindsets of our art institutional world, the closed definition regards art works that are created by conservative artists in an constraining (need satisfaction only) institutional art world or environment. Avant-gardiste artworks, are, however, sparked of or created from originality; new births, that leads to system changes. Avant-gardiste art or outsider art, thus, applies to art that is particularly inventive or innovative. This is the control function definition of art: the Avant-gardes appear to exist separate to the institutional art world or as a control function, but the fact is that they are part of the institutional setup – they are its real drivers and reality check. The key works in our visual culture or Avant-garde art, contributes; as mentioned, to the choice of direction of the institutional art world in sum, or – its directionality (Schot and Kanger, 2018). And, it lies in the nature of art to be multiple in its directionality; innovations take multiple directions, which makes system changes in the institutional highly complex and comprehensive. Avant-garde art is, thus, usually more inventive and innovative, than artworks created by artists, whom does not belong to the Avant-garde. And; it may also have a wider impact on the inventiveness of the institutional art world. The refractionary definition on art, emphasizes art that is particularly inventive and innovative, but not necessarily work as a control function in the institutional art world, or makes the system change. While the open and adaptive definition supports an endogenous and open view on the institutional art world, the closed and need satisfaction only definition on art, defends an exogenous or closed perspective on the institutional art world – status quo and inertia, it constrains system changes of the institutional art world as a whole. Both definitions are equally as important to understand 'art as an institution'; as something that may enable or constrain, the individual artists or Avant-gardes. Nonetheless, an open and wide definition of art enhances inclusiveness, experimentation and democratization of the institutional art world, and a stricter and more narrow definition of art, may in some cases cause elitism, non-inclusiveness and discrimination, anti-democratic behaviour and inequality, in the institutional art world. By this definition the institutional art world serves as a non-experimental and closed spatial container, where the rules of the white cube dominate the institutional art world. Avant-gardiste art separates the mere artists from the Avant-garde; and mastery from ordinary art. It is, thus, not always fruitful to have this divide. How we handle this division,which is not always visible in the produced art works, might strengthen the road towards democratization of the institutional art world, or hinder it.
Moreover, it is important to note that art does not easily stick to definitions. The most promising artists and Avant-gardes rather contests proposed definitions on art, than sticking to presumed definitions on art. It is, thus, all in the hands of our perspective or understanding of 'art as an institution', how the artists and Avant-garde in collaborations with the art institutions, and how the capitalists, handle the legacy and heritage of our visual culture. In sum, they may point out the future path(s) of the institution; art – its systemic output or overall directionality and organization, and its change potentials. Their choices; in sum, are fundamental to how we perceive the nature of 'art' and its future path(s). But art may also be existential: whether it's Duchamp (1887–1968), Rothko (1903–1970) or Banksy (1974–): great artists and Avant-gardes, may make us pose questions that matters to our existence, and they even might make us rethink our existence. In a silent moment with Rothko's paintings I encountered myself and had my own personal experience in The Cathedral of Modern Art. I posed my own personal questions on the state of modern art and contemporary art, I quietly tried to rethink my existence, restore my mental state; and regain my sense (with a little help from Rothko) – I opened my mind and turned to Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger and Krause. Let us start out by unravelling Adorno’s thoughts on the most prominent and fundamental conflict; in the institutional art world, popular art versus high art.
The Philosophy of Art: Adorno and Benjamin, Heidegger and Krause
Adorno's thoughts can be applied to present an evident opposition in the culture industry (in Jarvis 1998). Two camps in the culture industry; popular art and high art, are competing, with Avant-gardes in each camp. While Adorno sought to bridge the gap between art history and the philosophy of art, the author has taken an interdisciplinary stance to understand the complex relations of power and influence in the institutionalized art world (in Jarvis 1998, p. 91). This, the author has sought accomplished, by emphasising on three core actors; the Avant-garde, the capitalists and art institutions – to gain a greater understanding of art itself or art as an institution. Now, let's return to Adorno's thoughts and theories. His attack on the culture industry is that it favours popular or 'light' art over 'serious' or high art (in Jarvis 1998, p. 72):
"Light art has been the shadow of autonomous art. It is the social bad conscience of serious art. The truth which the latter necessarily lacked because of its social premises gives the other the semblance of legitimacy. The division itself is the truth: it does at least express the negativity of the culture which the different spheres constitute. Least of all can the antithesis be reconciled by absorbing light into serious art, or vice versa" (Adorno 1944, p. 157; Cumming, pp. 135-136; Jarvis 1998, p. 73).
Although the Avant-garde operate in many creative sectors, their link to high art is particularly emphasised in the creative sectors, and by Adorno (1944; Jarvis 1998, p. 73). Jarvis (1998), nevertheless, argues that the "culture industry offers a false reconciliation" between popular art and high art (p. 73). While popular art seems to dominate the culture industry, high art may in many instances represent the edge of creativity, innovation and originality within the institutional art world. The popular arts however seems to grab a disproportionate amount of the economic resources tied to the culture industry, this causes inequality of access to power and influence in the institutional art world. Instead, the fact is, thus, that it is impossible to calculate the tremendous contributions the artists and Avant-gardes of high art, has made to our visual culture and our societies, throughout the centuries. This art form's cultural significance; in form of releasing opulent ideas, fierce creativity, and highly potent innovations, is beyond reach. Adorno; in a letter to Benjamin, expresses his frustrations on the uneven relationship between the two competing camps: high art and popular art are "torn halves of an integral freedom, to which however they do not add up" an unevenness which; in the cultural industry, seems to favor popular art (Adorno 1938, p. 26-52; Jarvis 1998, p. 73). In many cases these two forms of art intermingle, join forces and united create what is called crossover culture (Jarvis, 1998, p. 73). In other instances the artists and the Avant-gardes of high art's limitless freedom of expression, continuously seems to clash with the more popular aspects of the culture industry, that colourise the conflictual character of the institutional art world. Since Adorno, we have nonetheless, experienced a violent refraction of the arts: various ideas and beliefs, behaviour, utterances, actions and opinions that breaks against each other. These refractions result altogether, in a continuous move from figurative art at one end of the continuum, to abstract art at the other end the current state of art as an institution (Guevara 2018). The Avant-garde, nevertheless, represent the forefront in bringing forth new ideas, new concepts and original opinions, and are therefore leading contributors to the characteristics of our Zeitgeist, and prevalent currents in our global society. The art world's institutions may, however, have challenges to keep up with the new frontiers, seriousness and originality of the Avant-garde. But how original is the Avant-garde, actually? In 1975, Benjamin stated that we have entered a shift in the institutional art world, it was the shift from originality to the age of reproduction. While reproduction enabled mediums such as photography and film to reach the masses (democratization of art), it also questioned the originality of singular art pieces, or pieces of art with only a few reproductions, such as e.g. graphics. The introduction of the notion; reproduction, implied one fundamental issue: the very essence of the Avant-garde; their originality was scrutinized: the Gods were questioned!
"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence" (Benjamin 1975/1987, p. 218).
Benjamin (1975/1987) argues that authenticity, or genuineness and originality, is not reproducible. Moreover, Benjamin's (1975/1987) concept of reproduction points out the difference of art being created directly by the artist himself or herself, and artworks that are reproduced by someone else; even in another style, which was the case with the Avant-gardiste Rodin's sculptures (Krauss, 1985, pp. 67-82). Nevertheless, Benjamin (1975/1987, p. 220) stresses the fact that art had moved from an authentic and spiritual ritual, to interfere with a quite other practice – politics. His (1975) concept of reproduction, thus, touches a rather hot issue in the institutional art world; the origin of the artworks and originality. Krauss (1985) argue that the origin of the artworks becomes an integral part of discussing and thinking about originality. Heidegger (1935, p. 9) explains that the process of thinking about art is a circular movement beyond our logical comprehension. On one hand, if we question the origin of the artworks we simultaneously question the originality of the artist and so on, on the other hand, more positively framed: if we recognize the masterpiece, we greatly exalt the Avant-garde originality, which contributes to understanding the nature of art. An extract from Heidegger's philosophical works, on the origin of art, elaborates on the relationships between the artists and their artworks, and art itself (1935/1971). It is presented in the following paragraph:
"Origin here means that from and by which something is what it is and as it is. What something is, as it is, we call its essence or nature. The origin of something is the source of its nature. The question concerning the origin of the work of art asks about the source of its nature. On the usual view, the work arises out of and by means of the activity of the artist. But by what and whence is the artist what he is? By the work; for to say that the work does credit to the master means that it is the work that first lets the artist emerge as a master of his art. The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other. Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other. In themselves and in their interrelations artist and work are each of them by virtue of a third thing which is prior to both, namely that which also gives artist and work of art their names – art" (Heidegger 1935/1971, p. 182).
Pedersen (2019), nevertheless, argue that we cannot separate Heidegger's philosophy from the fact that he sympathized with anti-Semites in Nazi Germany (Pedersen 2019, p. 5). His attitude towards human beings was far from being tolerant and emphatic, though this did not necessarily show off in all his written philosophy. However, it became evident in his philosophical lectures and particularly in his notebooks or diary from the Nazi time; Die Swartzen Hefte (Safranski 2016; Heidegger 1931-1975). In short, Heidegger clearly showed lack of acceptance for human beings, he did not embrace the core values of humanity – human sensitivity (personalityassessor.com, 2019). Elke Heidenreich (in Safranski, 2016), argue persistently that one should be doubtful of reading Heidegger's notebooks, and clearly position ourselves against Heidegger's philosophical project as a whole, as well as his lectures and written notebooks, since his mindset was characterized by a careless intellectual complacency, and an inhumane, anti-Semitic and Nazi human vision (Lind 2019, Heidenreich 2016; Safranski 2016; Heidegger 1931-1975). In addition to this obvious nonchalance and disturbing view on human beings, his notebooks showed clearly variable written qualities according to Heidenreich (in Safranski 2016). Of these reasons; in a German literary club, Heidenreich refused to continue reading Heidegger's notebooks (Heidenreich 2016; Safranski 2016). One should, hence, be aware of and warned about the deep lack of human sensitivity (personality-assessor.com 2019), and the vast human pitfalls that might be encouraged, by an involvement with Heidegger's diary and lectures, and at times also his philosophical project. In sum, Heidegger's lack of human sensitivity, can be defined as the lack of ability to show equal and rightful respect, empathy, altruism and compassion, tolerance, acceptance, and care for all human beings (personalityassessor.com 2019). The problematic fact that Heidegger shows lack of human sensitivity, and the at times weaknesses and lack of coherence, in Heidegger's philosophical project as a whole, is why Pedersen (2019, p. 18) stresses the fact that we should try to think with Heidegger to understand him, and then move forward and away from him: we should consider leaving Heidegger behind, and create something new (Pedersen 2019, p. 18). We also must ask a legitimate question: with such obvious and fundamental human flaws; can we put our trust in Heidegger's philosophical project; his truths? In short; Heidegger’s lack of human competencies, might make him incomplete or even incompetent; not just as a human being, but also as a philosopher. However, in the pursuit of criticism and truths, art can be recognized as a genuine and powerful tool; to make a critical eye on the past, the now and the future (Lind 2019). The Norwegian artist; Lind's brave critical eye on Heidegger and his art; "problematizes historical writing, public memory and the collective memory", and he has been a significant artistic political voice since the 1970s (kunstplass5.no 2019). Art may hence question political and institutional power relations, and given truths, such as Duchamp (1917) and Lind (2019) does: art must engage in criticism, power relations and politics, and search for truths ahead. This issue or conduct, is dealt with in "The Question of the Technique" (Die Frage nach der Technik) (Klostermann 2000, p. 65; Pedersen 2019, p. 7 ):
"Because the nature of the technique is not a technical one, the essential thought of the technique, and the decisive settlement with it, must occur in a domain which, on the one hand, is related to the nature of the technique, on the other hand, however, is fundamentally different from it. One such domain is art" (Klostermann 2000, p. 93; Pedersen 2019, p. 7).
In this manoeuvre or turnaround to find truths, art as a domain may play one of the leading roles of moving away from Heidegger's thoughts, and create or add new thoughts to our common mindset. The pathways to truth are however multiple (Pedersen 2019, p. 9). Art is simply one way of finding truths (Pedersen 2019, p. 7). Finding new truths is, however, an highly familiar activity of our contemporary artists and Avant-garde, and it is one of the fundamental reasons of why we look to contemporary artists and Avant-garde, when all other fields has failed us. They are our first and last frontier. The Norwegian artist; Tandberg (2019), nonetheless, questions of what business art deals with: does art have a responsibility to bring forth new truths and new thoughts? Her answer is – no. Since art (and literature); in her view is form, as it was understood as in modernism, it does not pose philosophical questions, or asks to be interpreted, other than form-related questions and interpretations. Art has formal attributes such as lines, rhythm, circularity, colour, dots or repetition – it is not solely content-related according to Tandberg (2019). Tanberg (2019) further argues that content-interpretation is not needed. She eloquently argues: content-interpretations can be misunderstood, but form has clarity. However, if we, as a starter, should choose to argue that art is form and content combined, the situation is quite different. And, if we ambitiously look upon our artists as our first and last frontier, the expectations to the Avant-garde to act upon their originality, pose difficult questions and express the very nature of art itself, is more important, necessary and questioned than ever: they have responsibilities to be uncompromising, act out their vivid imaginary and – create.
“The urge to create art is as deeply embedded in human history as the drive to make tools or migrate over the horizon. It is one of the primal acts that make Homo sapiens human” (Letzelter-Smith (2019).
Krauss (1985) expresses what the Avant-garde creation of originality really is all about: "More than a rejection or dissolution of the past, I perceive avantgarde-originality, a beginning from point zero, a birth" (Krauss 1985, p. 83). This essence and originality are now being questioned. Is it possible to achieve such a new birth – a phoenix – in the age of reproduction? To reflect on the background for this urgent question, let us turn to the rise of modernism and its Avant-garde, and the revolt against ‘art as an institution’ in an institutional, historical and societal context.
The Historical, Institutional and Societal Context
The Rise of Modernism and its Avant-garde
I am not the first person to pose questions on 'art as an institution'. Institutional criticism started out with Duchamp and the twenties Avant-garde. However; prior to the Avant-garde of the early twentieth century, the institutional art world and its modernist Avant-garde's offspring, was marked by core historical events and incidents of the mid and late nineteenth century, that enabled the Avant-gardes to emerge as a movement. However, the first out to mark a change in mindsets into the modern, was thus, eighteenth century Kant with his Critique of Pure Reason (1781). Examples of peak artworks were Goya's The Third of May (1808), in which he moved away from realism and had no mercy for the viewers sensitivity, and showed an intense psychological presence that was modern (Tansey and Kleiner, 1996b pp. 938-940). Another example is Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830) he too moves away from reality in his painting and as an innovator. Delacroix always elaborated fresh material, and an interest for brute beauty (Tansey and Kleiner 1996b, pp. 946-947, p. 955). Later came Manet's Luncheon on Grass (1862), which represented a new turn in modern art, where a shift from realism towards the optical reality of impressionism and use of colours functionally, was evident. However, Rodin's Burghers of Calais (1886) was faced with being banished because of its realism expressed through distortion, despair, resignation and defiance, which provoked the Government commission group (Tansey and Kleiner 1996b, pp. 1012-1013). Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victorie With Viaduct (1887) represents post-impressionism, he argued that impressionism lacked form and structure. He therefore sought to revive structure within his paintings (Tansey and Kleiner 1996b, pp. 996-927). These artworks and artists are examples of the peak of transition, made through evolutionary step-by-step adaption, into the modern world of art, in which each artwork and artist showed their particular way of being inventive. The nineteenth century was also saturated with a war between science and religion, that had profound consequences for the transition into a modern and institutionalized art world (Tansey and Kleiner 1996b, p. 929). It was, thus most of all, evolution and progress, shaped by core ideas of the 'survival of the fittest', the Marxist manifesto and Kantian self-criticism – that shaped the intellectual and artistic progress into a modern art world (Tansey and Kleiner 1996c, pp. 926-929). This era in the art world was also profoundly shaped by a restless and flickering world of imperialism, racism and nationalism, according to Tansey and Kleiner (1996c, p. 928), in which the modernist Avant-garde had to take a stance.
"For Europe, the nineteenth century was an age of rapid change during wich the modern world took shape. In a world experiencing population explosion of unparalleled magnitude, revolution followed revolution, a pattern punctuated by counterrevolution and conservative reaction. This was the erea in which the modern nation-state and accompanying ideas of nationalism was born. European governments extended their rule to virtually every part of the globe , spreading the influence of European culture [...], and clearing the way for influences back to Europe. The formation of empires abroad was supported by the enthusiasm of popular nationalism at home, and patriotism and imperialism went hand in hand" (Tansey and Kleiner, 1996d, p. 928).
However, in the nineteenth century Germany had emerged as the intellectual and artistic centre. At the beginning of the twentieth century, two German movements had profound impact on the art world: these two movements were called; Die Brücke and Die Blaue Reiter. Die Brücke (The Bridge), was established by a group of architects, in Dresden, in 1905, and among them were artists and architects such as Kirchner, Bleyl, Heckel, Schmitt-Rottluff, Nolde and Mueller. They set out to bridge the gap between the old craft traditions, and early twentieth century art. Though, it was up to a second German movement of artists, to cheer forward an artistic style in the art world; Primitivism. The movement; Die Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), was founded by Kadinskij and Macke, in München, in 1911. They sought to strengthen the influences of primitive art on; at that time; contemporary art. Both movements; Die Brücke and Die Blaue Reiter, ravishly influenced expressive art, to come. At the turn of the century the gravity of power and influence in the art world, shifted from Germany to France. In the 1920s and 1930s France took the leading role, with Paris arriving at the frontline, as the most influential capital of art – the new power centre in the art world. Aspiring artists and intellectuals gathered in Paris, to loosen up the boundaries of 'art as an institution'. It was, thus, the French Revolution that changed the foundation for artists and their art works: a divide between fine arts and crafts was prominent, and it was the Industrial Revolution, that had started to ruin the old craft traditions (Gombrich 1995b, p. 499). It was, thus, the Industrial Revolution that resulted in a rise of modern cites and modernism (MoMa 2019e).
"The birth of modernism and modern art can be traced to the Industrial Revolution. This period of rapid changes in manufacturing, transportation, and technology began around the mid-18th century and lasted through the 19th century, profoundly affecting the social, economic, and cultural conditions of life in Western Europe, North America, and eventually the world. New forms of transportation, including the railroad, the steam engine, and the subway, changed the way people lived, worked, and travelled, expanding their worldview and access to new ideas. As urban centres prospered, workers flocked to cities for industrial jobs and urban populations boomed" (MoMa, 2019e).
However, the artists of the twentieth century entered an uncertain era that ultimately resulted in two world wars. In this era of uncertainty, the artists had to choose to follow their artistic intuition, and develop a personal style, followed by a lack of economic security, or take missions, secure their economy, and loose respect from other artists (Gombrich 1995b, pp. 502-503). The independent, uncompromising and sincere artist, stood in stark contrast to the use of clichés in the public style, created by conservative artists according to Gombrich (1995b p. 504 and 511). The nineteenth century, nevertheless, laid the foundation for an individual and uncompromising art, in which the value of artistic autonomy, eventually came into the spotlight. The nineteenth century therefore represented both a prelude to a progressive modern art world, as well as a potential lag of traditions, intellectual mindsets and societal compositions – societal inertia or resistance to change. But, it was the modern society's rapid changes, that prompted the Avant-garde's alertness, criticism and made them riot against the misery and devastation's of wars, which was; in the view of the Dadaists, a system failure, executed in the name of reason (MoMa 2019b).
However, at the late nineteenth century, the artists started to question their own style and became more sceptical of given rules and virtuosity (Gombrich 1995c, p. 551). They longed for a style that not just consisted of old tricks; a style that was more than just a style, and most of all originated from something powerful and fiery (Gombrich 1995c, p. 551). However, not everyone accepted the doctrine of progress that had emerged in the nineteenth century (Tansey and Kleiner, 1996c, p. 930). The Avant-gardes of the early twentieth century was thus confronted with, took lessons from, adopted, and finally rejected the ideas of the nineteenth century. The most progressive, experimental and radical thoughts, ideas and concepts of the nineteenth century, thus gave a promise of something new in the work. The most promising artists started to experiment and proclaimed new directions and isms (Gombrich 1995a, p. 557). What was stirring the pot, was rapid changes, vast upheavals and fierce counter parties, that clashed against each other. As a result, societal components, intellectual thoughts, and artistic ideas were shaken around and – became more experimental, radical and progressive. The critical sense, the experimentation, the progressive ideas and the radical mindsets of the twentieth century modernist Avant-garde, started to awake, take shape and gain forces:
"We find that the adherents and promoters of modern art, critics and artists alike, represent themselves as being in disagreement and conflict with their styles and tastes, and what is most significant, that they maintain that they are, unlike their opponents, representatives of progress. They lead the march into the modern world. They are its Avant-garde" (Tansey and Kleiner 1996c, p. 930).
Rooted in nineteenth century historical incidents and core scientific works and artworks, the early twentieth century arose and built upon the previous century's learning and rejected parts of it – in a pure Darwinist spirit: the progress into the twenties modernist Avant-garde movement, was no sudden break, according to Greenberg (1960). It evolved constantly and smoothly; from an idiosyncratic pluralism of styles, in the nineteenth century, into a more complex and nuanced criticism of 'art as an institution', at the early phases of the twentieth century; when modernism struck solid roots (Tansey and Kleiner 1996c, p. 927). However, at the turn of the century, other artworks and artists, shaped the understanding of 'art as an institution'. Examples of core events in the art world were the Dadaist Manifesto (1916), and the Surrealist Manifesto (1924). In the later twentieth century; Postmodernism in art and literature took shape (from 1970s and onwards), in which the institutionalized art world became more politically oriented (Tansey and Kleiner 1996a, pp. 1018-1019 and 1996b, pp. 1090-1091). Examples of peak works of art and artists that shaped the step-by-step evolution into a modern institutionalized art world were Picasso's The Girls of Avignon (1907). He sought inspiration from African sculpture to find new ways of depicting form, in which he invented a new style within abstract art: analytical cubism (Tansey and Kleiner 1996a, pp 1046.1048). Later came Matisse's move towards expressionism in the Red Room (Harmony in Red) (1908-1909). At the height of his mature style, he simplified interlocking forms, used colour to depict light, and painted them as flat shapes and curvy lines. Next out was Duchamp's controversial Fountain (1917), in which he invented the readymade and forecasted conceptual art. In Picasso's Guernica (1937), his cubism took a surrealist turn, depicting interweaving planes and dreamy shapes, such as a metamorphosis (Tansey and Kleiner 1996a, p. 1088). Core examples of scientific works in this pace of time were Freud’s The Interpretations of Dreams (1900), Einstein’s Theory of Relativity (1905-1915), and Jung’s Analytical Psychology (1915). Both Freud and Jung had huge impacts on the Surrealist movement. However, core examples of inventions were: Wright brother’s First flight (1903), and Commercial television (1935-1940) (Tansey and Kleiner 1996b, pp. 1018-1019). Science, technology and inventions ravishly inspired artists to take on challenges and search for new frontiers. But from inventions and back to the Avant-garde: the features of artists as independent, uncompromising and autonomous Avant-gardes grew even stronger at the beginning of the twentieth century. Their resistance was displayed in the embodiment of artworks; such as Duchamp's Fountain (1917), that went even further than the nineteenth century, in revolting and standing up against the more traditional and conservative forces, of the institutional art world. The institutionalized art world was not protected from these societal currents and conflicts, such as wars, but had to face it. The Second World War (1939-1945), was fuelled by the progress in science and technology. Though, science and technology, in the twentieth century, was also stimulated by the Second World War (Tansey and Kleiner 1996a, p. 1020). In this violent transformation of the globe; through the means of science and technology, as well as war; each had to choose their allies, and seize the opportunities that new technologies and science brought. To sum up the changes in this era of the art world, from the late 19th century to the first quarter of 20th century, Letzelter-Smith (2019) argue:
"During this era, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Expressionism, Dadaism, Futurism, Post-Impressionism, Surrealism, and a host of other styles and movements sprang up as the Western world changed radically. This was a period that saw the introduction of the airplane, automobile, radio, and telephone into daily life. It was a time of monumental change in human history and artists struggled in diverse and startling ways to come to terms with it" (Letzelter-Smith 2019).
The modernist worldview was, thus, incomplete and had inherent errors, which gave the contemporary Avant-gardes something to work on (Tansey and Kleiner 1996a, p. 1022). Next, the author will discuss how the Avant-garde and the artists, started to work on and contest the institutional art world’s existing rules. They set out to change the inherent system of the institutional art world, and to improve the Avant-gardes and the artists artistic conditions. This will be exemplified through emphasising on one case; Duchamp and his Fountain 1917, versus Fountain 1964.
A Case Discussion
Duchamp as an Avant-gardiste, his readymade, and His Role in the Revolt Against ‘Art as an Institution’
In London’s hotbed of Avant-gardes, I was on my way to Tate during a heatwave in London (15-20th of July 2016). I first dropped by Shoreditch to have my own personal moment as I was exploring the street art in Shoreditch, and the crowded Colombia Road Market. Running late to a lunch appointment at Tate Modern; I was forced into the tube and listen to "contemporary music gone wrong". To be honest my scepticism was brooding before I even had entered the South Banks; my destination, and the site of Tate Gallery of Modern Art. It was a hot Sunday at 17th of July, and it seemed as though the whole city had headed for Tate, to cool their heads down. The hectic lot of people didn't exactly facilitate a spiritual moment, but all of a sudden, I was in front of the ONE most groundbreaking piece of art history since its origin; Marcel Duchamp's urinal, titled the Fountain (Duchamp 1964). Suddenly I recalled why I once started studying art history, and why my scepticism for institutional art is expanding. From my personal scepticism on Tate Modern to a time of a dawning modernism: Duchamp was confronted with war, imperialism, racism, nationalism, and progress in form of science and technology, as well as an expanding competitive capitalism – a society of rapid change and vast upheavals. All these characteristics of the early and mid-twentieth century shaped the modernist Avant-garde movement; which Duchamp was a part of. It was also a more personal conflict that caused Duchamp to turn against 'art as an institution'. It might seem natural to a man; such as Duchamp, that questioned his own identity, religious stance and sexual orientation, that he also would question the identity of 'art as an institution' (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a, b and c). Duchamp's attack on art as an institution was with the Fountain (1917), 'a plain piece of plumbing', a readymade, an industrial produced urinal, which he did not make himself. He only signed it under a pseudonym.
"By the early 1900s, Americans were using the term “ready-made” to distinguish manufactured items from those that were handmade. In 1913, when Duchamp designated his first readymade work of art, he appropriated the term" (MoMa 2019c).
Duchamp, during an interview, argued that the readymades was created in a "vague and accidental" manner "letting things go by themselves" (Duchamp; Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 146). He thereby explored the Dadaist method of chance and the Surrealist experimentation with the subconscious (Duchamp; Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 146). He further stated that "life and art was a matter of chance and choice, freed from the conventions of society and tradition" (Tansey and Kleiner 1996a, p. 1071). He thus confirmed the fundamental ability embodied in art – to choose to test the rules of the given society and be progressive. To look back at past eras to create art, would be just another poke in the eye to an Avant-gardiste. There was too much at stake in the art world to leave the faith and future of our visual culture, in the hands of conservative and traditional forces. The Avant-gardes choose the frontier of the future. It filled them with all the excitement there is, to be part of something new and unknown; a radical system change. In the pursuit of renewal and completely changing the fundament of 'art as an institution', the Avant-gardes of the modernist era, set their sails and steered the boat into unknown waters. But, while Marcel took the leading role of inventiveness and innovation in the Surrealist movement, it was Breton that took the leading position of the Surrealist movement (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a. The Surrealist, but most of all the successive Dadaist movement, was, the movements, that Duchamp sympathized with, claimed his adherence to, and gained inspiration from methodologically (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a). While Surrealism explored the unconsciousness as a catalyst and source of inspiration to create; "Dada artists used chance, collaboration, and language as a catalyst for creativity" in their methodology as a diverse countermovement, which the Dada, indeed, was (Hennie Onstad 2019, MoMa 2019b).
"Dada’s subversive and revolutionary ideals emerged from the activities of a small group of artists and poets in Zurich, eventually cohering into a set of strategies and philosophies adopted by a loose international network of artists aiming to create new forms of visual art, performance, and poetry as well as alternative visions of the world. The artists affiliated with Dada did not share a common style or approach so much as the wish, as expressed by French artist Jean (Hans) Arp, “to destroy the hoaxes of reason and to discover an unreasoned order.”" (MoMa 2019b).
"Participants claimed various, often humorous definitions of “Dada”—“Dada is irony,” “Dada is anti-art,” “Dada will kick you in the behind”—though the word itself is a nonsense utterance. As the story goes, the name Dada was either chosen at random by stabbing a knife into a dictionary, or consciously selected for a variety of connotations in different languages—French for “hobbyhorse” or Russian for “yes, yes.”" (MoMa 2019b).
Marcel Duchamp was an inventive force and a pioneer of the Dadaist movement (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a). Duchamp's at times unconscious quest, of changing the institutional art world, was a rough journey filled with inventiveness and uncertainty, such as living a 'life on credit' (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d). He was a pioneer. He basically forecasted what 'art as an institution' could become, through his artwork. Duchamp was ahead of his time. The readymade – represented a fresh breeze in the institutional art world, a fresh breeze of boundless possible choices, opened to the Avant-gardes and the artists. Duchamp as an Avant-gardiste artist, took the authority and chose the readymade to represent him on the behalf of the art world. The readymade was simply a "work of art without an artist to make it" (Duchamp; Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 146). According to Duchamp: it was up to the artist's choice to decide whether it was art, or not (Ades, Cox and Hopkins (1999d, p. 146).
Duchamp argued, “An ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” (Duchamp; MoMa 2019c). As anti-art and anaesthetics, the readymades had a thrilling "absence of good and bad taste" and a clearly expressed "visual indifference" (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 154). Rather than emphasizing on aesthetics, the artists of the artefacts turned their readymades into mindblowing manifestations, and "In place of "taste" Duchamp gave ideas" (Tansey and Kleiner 1996a, p. 1070), he gave a manifesto.
"Duchamp's ready-mades are not work of art but manifestations. Not from the form-content totality of the individual object Duchamp signs can one infer meaning, but only from the contrast between mass-produced object on the one hand, and signature and art exhibit on the other" (Bürger, 1984, p. 52).
Under a pseudonym, the artefact was delivered to an exhibition, the Independents, organized by the Society of Independent Artists' at The Grand Central Palace in New York, US (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a). There were no rules attached to exhibiting: all artists who applied to exhibit and paid six dollars in fee, should in principle be invited to exhibit their artwork (Ades, Cox and Hopkins, 1999a). Nevertheless: The Fountain (Duchamp 1917), was refused to exhibit and was faced with the organizer’s censorship (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a, p. 128). The artefact, in fact, caused quite a scandal.
"Styling himself a provocateur, in 1917 he famously submitted a urinal, entitled Fountain, to a nonjuried art exhibition, from which it was rejected. The work bore his first pseudonym, R. Mutt. This alternate identity would not be his last. Duchamp invented his best-known alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, in the early 1920s. Indeed, his attention to self-representation would become a hallmark of his art and would revolutionize portraiture, transforming it into a conceptual enterprise" (Goodyear and McManus, 2009).
However, Duchamp's indulgence in concepts, paved the way for conceptual art to come (MoMa 2019). Nevertheless, the Fountain (1917) was criticized for being indescant, immoral, vulgar, offensive, "breaking social and artistic taboos", as well as for plagiarism (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a, pp. 127-128). Questions aroused; "What is ART?", "Is he serious or is he joking?", and if it was recognized to exhibit; "Because it is exhibited must it be art?" (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999b, pp. 128-130). And further; should the organizers of the exhibition; as an art institution, decide what art was, or should the artist himself or herself, decide? A tug of war on who was in power crystallized itself (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a, p. 128-130). Duchamp's only editorial statement and defence of the readymade, under the pseudonym, Richard Mutt, was as following:
"Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not is of no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object" (Mutt; Ades, Cox and Hopkins, 1999a, p. 127).
In addition, a core member of the Dadaist movement came to his rescue: ”Norton […] defended the smooth curves of the urinal as real art, calling it a 'Buddha of the Bathroom'" (in Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a, pp. 127-130). Others again, associated it with "Like the legs of the ladies by Cézanne" or Virgin Mary (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a). Nevertheless; was the urinal intended as an ironic mockery (familiar to caricature), or as serious art? Perhaps both, Norton concludes (in Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a and c). As a twentieth century modernist work of art, its core ideas originated in late eighteenth century Kantian self-criticism (Greenberg 1960, p. 5). Kant states: "Pure speculative reason has this peculiarity about it, that it can and should measure its own capacity". So should art, according to the twenties modernist Avant-garde (in Guyer and Wood 1998, p. 113; Pissarro 2009, p. 42). Pissarro (2009, p. 42) thus adds; for Kant "critiquing was a never-ending activity" embodied in reason. Reason should examine itself, test its limits and prevent itself from falling into illusionary traps (Pissaro 2009, p. 42). The dawning modernism as a discipline; in a genuine Kantian spirit, was therefore characterized by criticizing the discipline itself and posing questions on 'art as an institution'. The Avant-gardes of modernism was, thus, more far reaching in its criticism than previously stated (Greenberg, 1960, p. 42).
"Modernism includes more than art and literature. By now it covers almost the whole of what is truly alive in our culture. It happens, however, to be very much a historical novelty. Western civilization is not the first civilization to turn around and question its foundations, but it is the one that has gone the furthest in doing so. I identify Modernism with the intensification, almost exacerbation, of this self-critical tendency that began with the philosopher Kant. Because he was the first to criticize the means of criticism, I conceive of Kant as the first Modernist" (Greenberg 1960, p. 85; Pissarro 2009, p. 42).
However, each artist had to make their own interpretations of the Kantian self-criticism, seize the autonomy of their profession, and find what was "peculiar and exclusive" in their own work of art (kunsthistorie.com 2018, Greenberg 1960, p. 5). Duchamp did this with his readymades. His readymades, were in their nature a rebellious, humoristic and playful expression of institutional scepticism – he revolted against 'art as an institution'. Schulte-Sasse (1984, p. xiv), thus, argues; "The historical avant-garde of the twenties was the first movement in art history that turned against the institution "art"". Nor did they take autonomy for granted. Schulte-Sasse (1984, p. xviii) further stresses the fact that; art does not necessarily communicate with the society but offers something in addition – resistance. This artistic resistance was boldly evident in Duchamp's flamboyant urinal: he did a reality check on the existing rules on power of the institutionalized art world. As a result; a shift in power and influence, was on its way. It was not just appearance at art exhibitions, that played the key role in inviting artefacts into the institutionalized art world as art. Several smaller radical art magazines had emerged; often created by artists themselves, which circulated in the Avant-gardes art milieus. These had a profound impact on the more traditional aspects of the institutionalized art world. The radical magazines were also part of the cultural infrastructure, that allowed the artists and their artefacts to become parts of the more radical sides of the institutional art world. The Avant-gardes emerged as a new kind of power in defining what art was. In emergency, all the goodness in the Avant-garde aroused; as a radical core of them, offered their support to Duchamp in form of resistance to the art institutions. Even though Duchamp himself had a strong sense of being a 'failure', they stubbornly defended Duchamp's Fountain (1917) (Clair 2019). Because Duchamp's work of art was no epic failure; on the contrary: The Fountain (Duchamp 1917), was later taken to Stieglitz's studio to be photographed for the rather short-lived radical Dadaist magazine; The Blind Man (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999a, p. 129). The Fountain (Duchamp 1917) was not invited into the traditional institutionalized art world, but the Avant-garde exercised their newborn artistical power, as they protested and invited it in; as a pure act of freedom and resistance. The institutionalized art world consisted not only of art institutions. The core of the institutionalized art world, in modernism, was most of all its unpredictable – Avant-garde. And, this was not the last time in terms of the history of art, that the Avant-garde would sprinkle with their power feathers and unfold their inherent artistic power; for the sake of art. From then on, they became fundamental constituent in reflecting on the relationships of power and influence, in the institutional theory of art. But, art as an institution have other measures than power to be successful in the view of the Avant-gardes. It must be also be related to nature. Next, the author will tie together culture and nature, and their moments of intense emotions and spirituality, inspired by Duchamp himself, such psychological and spiritual moments that Cathedrals inspires us to experience – to heal ourselves.
The Healing Capacities of Culture (Art) and Nature: Catharsis and Transcendence in Duchamp’s Artworks
In the Cathedral the ordinary man encounters something greater than themselves; that has been subdued, and comes to a point where the hidden thoughts and feelings freely unfolds itself to the maximum, when faced with the grand Cathedral. It is a moment of catharsis – a moment where suppressed or extreme thoughts and feelings are released and flow freely. And, cause empowerment, strength and enlightenment; through experiencing or being faced with works of art, literature or music. Catharsis may, therefore, be perceived as a purification of emotions that through experiencing art, comes into realization or into a clarification (britannica.com, 2019). More precisely catharsis; through being faced with art; such as e.g. a tragedy, can have humanizing effects and strengthen the spectator or reader; through a sympathetic identification (britannica.com 2019). The reader or spectator sympathetic identification with the leading character of the tragedy, or the artist of the artwork we consider; or the artwork in itself – becomes healing (britannica.com, 2019). This may cause an enlightenment (britannica.com, 2019). Because, this experience makes us become part of something greater than ourselves (britannica.com 2019). Our perspectives, thereby, becomes enlarged and fuelled with new insights – an illuminating enlightenment and empowerment (britannica.com 2019):
"The interpretation [of catharsis] generally accepted is that through experiencing fear vicariously in a controlled situation, the spectator’s own anxieties are directed outward, and, through sympathetic identification with the tragic protagonist, his insight and outlook are enlarged. Tragedy then has a healthful and humanizing effect on the spectator or reader" (britannica.com, 2019).
In the middle of catharsis; a moment cut to the core of what it is like to be a vulnerable and sensitive human being, the Cathedral arise in front of us with all its spacious grandness, and open our eyes to the sky or the glimmering, radiating and twinkling stars at night-time: we have suppressed the very nature in ourselves, we have lost faith in ourselves as evolutionary living creatures. This arises a legitimate question: have we become alienated to nature? In the Cathedral, awareness of being part of something greater than ourselves, arise. We are all results of a Darwinist evolution, dependent on nature to survive – we have to start believing in humankind, and act as we belong to an evolutionary ecosystem. We simply have moved away from nature: it's time to confront the catharsis moment and re-join with nature. In the quest of improving technology and science: we have suppressed our evolutionary functions as living creatures; the nature within us. In the name of reason, and in the name of nationalism, imperialism and racism, as well as by the means of science and technology; we have fought wars against ourselves; we have created wars against humanity (Tansey and Kleiner 1996d). We are on the edge of a climate breakdown and an ecological breakdown (Thunberg 2019). It's time for a system change – a phoenix! It's time to start acting as we are part of nature; as we are part of culture. Rather than the linear, "take, make, dispose" economy of capitalism, we must engage in a circular economy that favours an ecosystem in balance. Because whilst
"The linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model relies on large quantities of easily accessible resources and energy, and as such is increasingly unfit for the reality in which it operates. Working towards efficiency alone—a reduction of resources and fossil energy consumed per unit of manufacturing output—will not alter the finite nature of their stocks but can only delay the inevitable. A change of the entire operating system seems necessary" (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2012, p. 24).
The circular economy differs from the linear capitalist economy of perpetual growth, in fundamental aspects:
"The circular economy refers to an industrial economy that is restorative by intention; aims to rely on renewable energy; minimises, tracks, and eliminates the use of toxic chemicals; and eradicates waste through careful design. The term goes beyond the mechanics of production and consumption of goods and services in the areas that it seeks to redefine […]. The concept of the circular economy is grounded in the study of non-linear systems, particularly living ones. A major consequence of taking insights from living systems is the notion of optimising systems rather than components, which can also be referred to as ‘design to fit’. It involves a careful management of materials flow" (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2012, p. 24).
The circular economy is, therefore, rooted in the wisdom of nature itself: circularity. Nature are alike culture, both have – inherent healing capacities for nature and humankind, this is scientifically documented. So, we should not be superior to or above nature; nature cannot be all about us; all about human beings, neither are we superior to culture. The fact is, nevertheless, that we oversee the Earth's destiny, this phenomenon was discussed by Crutzen in 2000, which he defined as the age of the Anthropocene. However, nature and culture should be united. Because, we are part of a greater ecosystem that must be kept in balance. To do so, we must search for faith and balance in ourselves too. The moment of catharsis and window of opportunity is created; when we are faced with culture (art) and nature. Furthermore, the author has created three levels of fiction; to express the message of this brief essay. This is done to enforce this existential moment of potential relief, enlightenment and empowerment, of being faced with these existential catharsis experiences and start acting; in favour of humankind and nature. The Fountain (1917) tells a genuine story of Duchamp's masterpiece, represented by a reminiscence (the Fountain, Duchamp 1964), that creates a space for learning, and makes us realize what art can become, when thoughts, feelings, ideas and concepts are not subdued, but are given the freedom to flow freely. This free flow of thoughts and feelings, ideas and concepts are expressed through the Avant-gardiste or artists, such as through chance creations, e.g. collage, photomontage or assemblage, which in many cases was created through collaboration (MoMa 2019a). Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain 1917 was most certainly not created in a vacuum, which was the case for most chance creations; methods familiar to the Dada movement (MoMa 2019a). Marcel Duchamp worked with chance creations and can be interpreted as having his own personal catharsis moments: he was by Breton; the cofounder of Dada, admired for being artistically and psychologically intense (Ades 1974). Duchamp's artwork is an expression of resistance, experimentation and inventiveness; a rightful freedom of creation; a metamorphosis; a catharsis, that results in – art. Artworks provided by the artists and Avant-gardes, can have effects beyond the local range; be systemic in its influence, and contribute to radical system changes, such as e.g. the repercussions of the Fountain (Duchamp 1917) had. This artwork may also affect or transcends into other societal domains, of our global society. Transcendence can be defined as an "existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level" (Dictionary 2019). The artwork of the artist simply stands out as something greater and larger than the artwork's physical appearance. It is a result of nature at work through the means of human beings: experiencing it becomes – spiritual and sacred, personal and psychological. Pissarro (2009) argues
"Kant established the radical finitude of subjectivity in the first chapter ("Transcendental Aesthetics") of his Critique of Pure Reason [from 1781] by defining sensibility (aesthetics, meaning Greek "sensibility" or "sensitivity" as the capacity to be affected by the outside world" (Kant; Pissarro 2009, p. 42).
Transcendence in art may happen through personal processes of catharsis, in which the Avant-gardes, the artists, and the spectators or readers experiences with art, brings new insights or novelties. Their substance as human beings or physical appearance, thereby, becomes more powerful than themselves, as previously mentioned. They become part of a greater spiritual system of experiencing art, in which art may affect the outside world and be affected by it; through its transcendence. By the perspective of a human being; nature and culture, are therefore, both affected by moments of catharsis and transcendence. But, while catharsis is a psychological experience on an individual level for the artists or the Avant-gardes and the spectator or the reader, transcendence is a spiritual experience. Both exceeds the fixed box, physically or psychologically – it is an extreme experience for human beings. It; transcendence and catharsis, deals with all the losses and gains – all the facetted experiences of being a human being, faced by the grandness of – nature and culture. Since Duchamp was drawn between belief and an agnostic stance towards religion, he was also drawn towards the spirituality of art. This spirituality was particularly shown in his paintings, but also well known by art critics and fellow artists (Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999b). Marcel Duchamp; according to the essayist, polemicist, art historian and art conservator; Clair (2019b), had a
"taste for spirituality and theosophy; in fact, he had once been unconsciously preoccupied by “a metarealism…a need for the ‘miraculous (22). […] Similarly, after the war he spoke of the artist as a “medium” in a famous declaration, often cited (23), and of art as a means of accessing “non-retinal” reality" (Clair 2019b).
However, psychological experiences of catharsis, such as Duchamp's intense feelings, may, thus, have spiritual transcendent effects, and vice versa. These experiences and explorations of nature and culture are; most of all, rooted in the seeds of human beings – our nature and our culture. It is spiritual, psychological and sacred, at once. It also allows the creation of artworks and experiencing them to inflict into other societal fields, such as the Fountain (Duchamp 1917) proved to do. With its surprising provocation; the Fountain (Duchamp 1917), exceeded our expectations to 'art as an institution' and to the human being; the artist himself. It left us puzzled in shock. Because, Duchamp, as mentioned previously, did not only questioned his religious stance; his God(s); his spirituality; his nature; his identity, he also questioned his sexual orientation; and most of all; he shook the pillars of 'art as an institution'. Not surprisingly; too many taboos for the common man at his time; provided in one artistic career – one shot. And, now let us turn from one artist’s shot, one artwork and its repercussions, into how the art world as an institutional system, change, through four system change concepts, such as refractions, struggles and system functions. First out to be scrutinized is institutional theory and evolution.
Institutional Theory and Evolution
The institutional theory of art suggest that the art world consists of social rules and social roles, that have huge effects on its social practices, and how the art world is socially organized (Carroll 1999). These social practices have again great impact on the status and nature of art created and initiated. Art as an institution states that it is within the capabilities of art, to function as "systems of established and prevalent social rules that structure social interactions"; an institution by definition (Knight 1992, p. 2; Hodgson 2006, p. 2). Other examples of institutions are, according to Hodgson (2006): language, money, law, systems of weight and measures, table manners, and firms (p. 2). However, art as an institution, have capabilities of structuring and organizing social practices, by its rule making.
"The term rule is broadly understood as a socially transmitted and customary normative injunction or immanently normative disposition […] (Bhaskar, 1989, p. 80, p. 85, p. 112; Hodgson, 2006, p. 3). [...] The phrase immanently normative requires that if a rule is scrutinized or contested, then normative issues will emerge. [...]. Rules includes norms of behaviour and social conventions as well as legal rules" (Hodgson 2006, p. 3).
Rulemaking is also influenced by power and authority; which underpin the art world's social organization and serve as its institutional attributes. Nonetheless, although rules seem hard to change, they are not absolute according to Bashkar (1986) and Hodgson (in Hodgson, 2006). When contested or scrutinized they might change (if normative issues have emerged). While the art institutions are more rule confirming, capitalists may either confirm rules through business-as-usual or innovate. The Avant-garde is, however, rule contesting. Rulemaking happens as a result of an interplay between all three core actors – a tug of war. This tug of war is the core mechanism in the art world, which again have profound and groundbreaking effects on art as an institution. Nevertheless, the thoughts of the institutional art world as a social organization driven by rules; is akin to Spencer's (1898) ideas on the society as a social organism: a living creature, just as the author herself (in Bánáthy 2010). Living creatures confess their guilt, agony and despair, their sins and hopes in the Cathedral. They question their souls as well as their purpose and meaning. In the heart of the Cathedral they release their inner thoughts and feelings, and – question their Gods. Capitalism does not. An organism or a living creature, develops through evolution, such as by natural selection, variety, continuance and mutation (Rigby and Essletzbitchler 2010). The fundamental element of evolutionary theory, is to understand how, e.g. the institutional art world, can self-organize or transform from within, through its core evolutionary functions (Rigby and Essletzbitchler 2010). This process of evolutionary is possible, in the institutional art world, because creativity, originality, knowledge and innovation never stay the same (Rigby and Essletzbitchler, 2010). Nonetheless, while Spencer (1898; in Bànàthy 2010) argued for a socialized Darwinism, Rigby and Essletzbitchler (2010) based their concepts on generalized Darwinism. Both socialized Darwinism and generalized Darwinism is rooted in evolutionary theory. While the former focus on social aspects, the latter highlights economic aspects of transformation and adaption. Both aspects will be applied, in this brief essay, to try to understand how art as an institution has a potential to renew or reinvent itself through natural selection.
While some art institutions strive to renew itself, other art institutions experience stagnation; hence they lack adaptive abilities. Spencer's (1889) ideas of the social organism or the living creature, such as the human body itself, is easier to imagine. It serves as a metaphor to explain how the art world operates: a meaningful social organism that breathes and digests, thinks and communicates, feels, consumes and questions. Does capitalism do that? Capitalists have power, so do the Avant-garde and the art institutions. Power, in this brief essay, is thus defined as the capacity to influence rulemaking, through the core social or economic evolutionary functions, and thereby promote system change and adaption in the institutionalized art world, in the form of novelties. The evolutionary account of power in this essay is therefore both social and economic. While Spencer (1898; Bánáthy 2010) situates his thoughts on evolutionary social systems, or the society as a creature, Rigby's and Essletzbitchler's (2010) mindsets are anchored in conceptual theories of evolutionary economics, that has other premises. It operates by other rules. Evolutionary economics is criticized for taking capitalism for granted (Schot 2016). Capitalists seeks adventures, profits, market shares and competitive advantages through processes of creative destruction (Schumpeter 1943; Fagerberg 2003, Mensch 1979; Tylecote 1992). Art as an institution has other goals. It suggests that those with knowledge, experience, and understanding of art works are selected and possess the power to define the artefacts' potential art status – on the behalf of the art world (Carroll 1999, p. 230). The art world as a social organization is a natural selection environment, that decides who has influence on defining the status of art: who counts and who doesn't? As an institution and natural selection environment, the institutional art world operates in a landscape of social rules, social interaction, social roles, and commodifying processes, that underpin the notions of power and natural selection. In this social context of variety and natural selection; the art world as an institution, as well as capitalist actors, cannot separate themselves from the notion of power and authority. And, it is of these very same reasons that this theory by critics, has been regarded as an elitist, inequal and anti-democratic view of the art world (Carroll 1999, 230): the creature is imperfect. The art world as an institution simply states:
"If a wrong person [...] puts forward an artefact, he will not possess the capability to confer appropriate status upon it, and the object will not be art" (Carroll 1999, p. 231).
To cut it down to the core; this theory is crystal clear: if you do not have the right qualifications, you are in no position of power or authority, to define whether an artefact is genuine art or not. But; who defines who's right or wrong? System changes affects actors in the institutional art world through system functions, that works as solid frameworks and facilitators for change (or not).
An All-encompassing Reorganization: The Power of System Functions
From the power of the Cathedral to the power of system functions in the institutional art world: First, let's start out with the core systemic terms from system theory, deriving from theory on socio-technical transitions. Reallocation, realignment, redistribution, reconfiguration and directionality, are terms frequently used and recognized in theory on system change; embedded in institutional theory, particularly emphasized in sociotechnical transitions (Schot and Kanger 2018, Geels 2005, 2004, 2002). In addition; the author suggests that a fifth term must be added; reorientation. The author will, appropriate the first mentioned core system terms, and apply them to the global institutional art world. Because, the collaborative processes of the institutional art world can be understood at a system level: system change in the institutional artworld must make account for structural refraction of power, where incumbent actors of the must reallocate (reassign resources among actors differently) through an realignment (core actors recoordinate their resources). The aligned participants or authorities contribute to systemic changes of the institutional art world's comprehensive networks, through rearrangements of the resources they possess – a redistribution. Redistribution is to change the distribution of power and resources among the actors differently. Geels (2005, 2002) applies his system terms on the transition from e.g. horse-drawn carriage to automobiles (Geels, 2005), and the transition from sail ships to steamboats and other socio-technical fields (Geels, 2002). These transitions took approximately 50 years, according to Geels (2005,2002). He, therefore, argues that system changes or transitions are long-term enterprises. First, system changes or transitions, in the institutional art world, may, therefore, take approximately 50 years, give or take. But, as far as we know, system changes, in the institutional art world, may already be on its way. This may apply to a transition towards a fairer distribution of power and resources, between the actors in the game in the institutional art world, or a move in the direction of more openness, and less inequality. But while resources are more easily measurable – power is not. However, the long-term duration of transitions may cause vast challenges, when time is scarce. This is the case for the climate crisis and the potential ecological breakdown. We most certainly do not have 50 years to adapt, transform and change radically, into a more ecological and climate friendly system, within the given schedule of a sustainability transition, based on scientific findings (Geels 2005, 2004, 2002).
Second, Meadows (1999) argue that every system has leverage points. These are places in the system, that when intervened, will ease the transition from one system to an improved system change, through an evolutionary path creation (See: Meadows 1999, pp. 1-19). A path creation may come into being by the establishment of a new artistic movement, based on new artistic manifestos. But movements may also build upon existing knowledge – evolution. Path creation is a result of self-organizing or transformation from within, a start from point zero, that has an evolutionary capacity, mentioned in the section on evolutionary adaption (Rigby and Essletzbitchler 2010). Path creation; as an evolutionary function, is highly relevant and may also apply to 'art as an institution', and can, be understood as the phoenix of system change in the institutional art world. Path creations may accelerate the rapid changes from one system to another – it is a favourable short cut. From the metaphorical phoenix and back to the core system functions although the three first mentioned system functions overlap, they are easily distinguishable. Reallocation focuses on the change of arrangement of resources, realignment emphasizes on the change of coordination among the actors, and redistribution pays attention to the changed distribution of resources and power among the actors. Reallocation, realignment and redistribution, would hopefully elude into a systemic change – a reconfiguration of the system in itself, where the institutional art world as a system takes a new organizational form. More precisely explained; while alignments deals with the core actors of the institutional art world and how they choose to organize themselves as authorities within the institutional art world, allocation is simply a change of how the resources are arranged, redistribution, thus, ties together core actors and their resources and power, through connecting alignments and allocation of resources. Reconfigurations is, therefore, to change the arrangement of different actors, power and resources so that the institutional art world, may take a new form or structure; through inherent innovations of the system in itself. In these reconfiguration processes, aligned actors take on new positions, and coordinate the distribution of resources among them differently, so that new power relations arise. Since power follows resources, an excellent way of redistributing power is to redistribute the resources in the institutional art world, tied to various actors in the game, such as the Avant-garde and the artists, the art institutions and the capitalists. New power relations may, thereby, emerge, and inequal access to power tied to different geographical locations and groups of actors may even out, and the access to power may become more democratic. Furthermore, new combinations of actors, power and resources, may recharge the institutional art world's interwoven network, and create system changes – through a reorientation of these system function, in which attributes, actors, power and resources changes direction form one position to another, and creates a new direction. All systemic functions; as mentioned above, deals with different types of radical changes in the organization of the institutional art world.
That brings us to the third argument: a systemic change of the institutional art world is not possible without a change in its inherent organization. System change, therefore, equals change in the overall organization of the institutional art world. This overall change in organization describes how resources and power is arranged differently among the actors in the game. In this game systemic functions, struggles, refractions and core evolutionary functions, work together to change the system. While evolutionary functions may not work at a system level, in all manners, system functions do, and refractions and struggles tie together evolutionary step-by-step transformations of art as an institution. Together art and system; such as in the global society, shapes the directionality or the path(s), in which the global institutional art world is heading. When actors, power, resources and technological innovations are connected on a long-term scope, a durable time course or historic pace (such as a 50 year frame), radical system changes may happen and lead the acceleration and stabilization; towards a deep transition (Schot and Kanger 2018, p. 1045). "Deep Transitions = long-term, connected, radical system shifts in the same direction" (Schot and Kanger 2018, p. 1045).
"Industrial society has not only led to high levels of wealth and welfare in the Western world, but also to increasing global ecological degradation and social inequality. The socio-technical systems that underlay contemporary societies have substantially contributed to these outcomes" (Schot and Kanger, 2018, p. 1045).
In this comprehensive system change perspective, art has impact on the overall system of the institutional art world, and the overall system has impact on art: move and countermovement, countermovement and move, and so on, and so forth. Altogether, these various functions, which are evolutionary, appear as struggles, system functions and or refractionary transformation, overlap, and co-work. The artworks these functions may result in, influence and transcends by means of its spirituality into other parts of our global society – it has systemic influence. Taken together, systemic change, happens through (1) self-organization through evolutionary functions (e.g. path creation), (2) system functions (reallocation, realignment, reconfiguration, redistribution, reorientation and directionality), and by (3) refractionary transformation, or (4) struggles (between different movements, sexual orientations, ideologies, identities, institutions, classes and styles), which, altogether, makes the institutional art world and its actors intricately co-work, clash; and renew itself: fire and ashes, ashes and fire: a phoenix arise from its ashes! The systemic changes in sum (evolution, struggles, refractions and systemic functions), influences the overall direction(s) of the institutional art world. However, at an individual level the artists and the Avant-garde must reinvent themselves, through collaboration and mutations of the mind; to continuously shape new artistic actions and behaviour, expressions and utterances – that may influence the system in itself. This is a continuous and highly complex process, in which the artists and the Avant-garde must play the key role. Of the artists and Avant-gardes who should dominate these transformative, evolutionary and systemic processes and struggles; the Avant-gardes are those artists who constitute and highly influence the ideas, concepts and questions, we ponder on in our society – and thereby create art; within the social and institutional context that history allows for.
"Art develops and its history is one with the transformation of the social conditions of its functioning, in relation, therefore, to the practical reconfiguration of institutional frameworks" (Smolianskaïa 2013. p. 1).
To return to the system functions, the term reconfiguration, as well as reallocation and realignment, redistribution, reorientation and directionality, is associated with theory on institutional system change, and says that institutional frameworks; in the pace of history, will change, whether they are favourable to art as an institution (or not) – shifts most certainly appear, such as through the complexities of the next system attribute: struggles.
Creative shifts and Struggles
The changes in the institutional are also deeply embedded in what Florida (2002) calls a "shift from an industrial to a creative age" through struggles, in which Florida argues that a creative class has emerged (in MacEwan and Daya 2012, p. 273). Florida (2002) argue that "40 per cent of people in the US and UK economies [are] now working in 'creative' sectors of science, technology, culture, arts and entertainment" (in MacEwan and Daya 2012, p. 273). Marcuse (2007), nevertheless, argue that Florida's concept of the creative class and creative age, and the usage of art to promote economic growth, are two prime examples of instrumentalization of art and producing regime culture, that reinforce existing power regimes. Marcuse (2007, p. 15) claims that the US is a striking example of these two types of instrumentalizations of art, which both are empowered by processes of globalization. He therefore argues; that in a globalized art world, art is produced by specific groups or subjects – art becomes an instrument to reinforce power configurations, without permission from the Avant-garde (Marcuse 2007, p. 15). In this context a more nuanced analyse of the term 'class'; should be invited into the debate, that also considers the Marxist view of the notion. Hadjinicolaou (1978/1987, p. 243) argues that style is an expression of social classes, there is therefore class struggle, as well as style struggle in the history of art. He (1978) stresses that "...this 'struggle' takes place more often between visual ideologies of the ruling classes and the dominated classes". Instead of being repressed, the Avant-gardes offers resistance; in form of artworks; to the power of the dominating class' of a society's utterances, actions and behaviour. Struggles are however multiple in the institutional art world. There are struggles between styles and classes, identities, sexual orientations, ideologies, institutions and movements, in which 'art' is our hero in our institutionalized art world. Art is created by our Avant-garde. They are our heros – they set the tune of the debate. The Avant-garde playfully questions everything – also struggles. An artist with a conscious relation to their artworks should, thus, be aware of and question their relation to their inheritance, how they innovate, and their core motivation – as part of a (constructed) movement, that struggles with other movements (Lynton 1995a, pp. 9-10). The first art movement can be dated back to 1840s France and Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners, 1857, Realism. This was the first art movement in the institutional art world, and it inspired other movements within the arts to take place, in which the struggle between artistic movement, from that point on transpired.
"The story of modern art is usually told in terms of movements: [...]. It was as group events that developments tended to come before the public, and in some instances (Futurism, Surrealism) it is true that the art and its movement context fittingly went together. But in most cases the movement was a fabrication -- a convenient arrangement for artists of some similarity of direction but lacking the support that membership of an academy or well-established society would bring them, or just cohesiveness imposed from the outside" (Lynton 1995a, p. 10).
The notion of movements within modern art, thus, stresses the similarities of characteristics within the group, that breaks with other movements' characteristics – or struggles. While the cradle of modern art movements was Paris, by the '40s to '70s London, and particularly New York, became the dominant art hubs. Berlin also took a powerful position. Marcel Duchamp was an eager participant in the New York's and Paris's Avant-garde milieus. (Lynton 1995b). He gained a "super-heroic status as the Mephistopheles of the old modernism and the Messiah of a New" (Lynton 1995b, p. 229). Along with Duchamp, it was the Second World War, that brought many European artists to New York and London. New York and London have kept their dominant position in the art world, mostly because artists in these two art hubs, are supported by a vast 'cultural infrastructure', such as non-profit organizations, artist-led initiatives, private foundations and state supported institutions (Harris 2013). Artists, however, react to human made or caused incidents from the universe to the body. As a result; the knowledge and insight of the human puzzle, is continuously expanding. All the ideas, opinions and concepts embodied in the social and organizational insight and nature of human beings, are thoughtfully represented, uttered and contested by the Avant-garde masterpieces through struggles. The term struggle however implies that there is one dominant group and one or more being dominated. This is the core logics of all struggles whether they are between movements, ideologies, institution, identities or religious stances. But, in some cases the power relations between different oponents or actors in the institutional art worlds struggles, may even out and other system attributes interfere in the quest for power and system change. The institutionalized art world of struggles is, thus, also refractionary and fragmented. Struggles create refractions and fragmentation in the institutional art world.
Refractions and Fragmentation of Power
However, all art institutions are faced with great refractions that happens at different geographical scales, between different creative actors, at various places, intersecting vast constellations of power, and may also happen as an interplay between movements that each has its unique characteristics. The frequently used term refractions may be simplified as; 'elements that breaks against each other'. In the breaking point between two elements (such as e.g. different movements, different classes, different expression), a new result might emerge, so that the institutionalized art world continuously evolve and create novelties. Nonetheless, Adorno; as mentioned, in a letter to Benjamin, expresses his frustrations on the uneven relationship between the two competing camps: high art and popular art are "torn halves of an integral freedom, to which however they do not add up" an unevenness which; in the cultural industry, seems to favour popular art (Adorno 1938, p. 26-52; Jarvis 1998, p. 73). Since Adorno, we have nonetheless, experienced a violent refraction of the arts: various ideas and beliefs, behaviour, utterances, actions and opinions that breaks against each other. These refractions result altogether, as mentioned, in a continuous move from figurative art at one end of the continuum, to abstract art at the other end – the current state of art as an institution (Guevara 2018). The Avant-garde, nevertheless, represent the forefront in bringing forth new ideas, new concepts and original opinions, and are therefore leading contributors to the characteristics of our Zeitgeist, and prevalent currents in our global society through refractions. The results of these refractions can be seen as a fragmentation of power in the institutional art world. Because, as I entered Rothko's Room in Switch House and was surrounded by his paintings, the fundamental question of all times hit me: what is art?
Since Duchamp's productive period, there has been a shift in power within the art world: The Avant-gardes of the early twentieth century, challenged the art institutions' power monopoly; with Marcel Duchamp at the barricade; as the front figure of inventiveness; leading the attack. A new type of power materialized itself; one which became more complex, fragmented and split among the actors in the game. With Duchamp at the tip of the spear, the Avant-gardes paved the way for a new system of influence within our institutionalized art world; with multiple actors and complex relations of influence – the transformative refraction of art – in which the artists became more powerful. The core result of this refraction; was that the power of defining art in our time, is increasingly in the hands of the artists and the Avant-gardes, and the distribution of power has become more complex, fragmented and comprehensive – new actors have entered the game. Nevertheless; while the art institutions might be more characterized by an institutional inertia; a resistance to change, the artists express a dynamic, progressive, radical, free and autonomous change. In other ways, the art institutions may appear as stable and potential supportive and permeable actors, that also confirm socially transmitted rules, and secure artists rights (need satisfaction): however, they also possess a groundbreaking potential to move towards more progressive and radical reforms and transformation, and fight against stagnation and inertia (adaptive abilities). Art as an institution is, however, dependent on collaborative processes and stability, that ties together multiple geographical scales, and more rapid transformative forces that the artists represent – to co-evolve as a system (transformation and adaption). And, that can keep up with the challenges for collaboration in the institutional art world, that refractions and fragmentations, brings fourth. Because, art as an institution, the Avant-garde and the Capitalists must collaborate to emphasis the Avant-gardes most precious ability; originality, and cope, as well as utilize the advantages that is embedded in refractions and fragmentation, and continue to ask the core question of all times: what is art?
The Avant-gardes and Their Originality
As I entered Rothko's Room in Switch House, the most fundamental question about art, once again returned to my state of mind: what is art? Since Duchamp's productive period, there has been a shift in power within the art world. while in Marcel Duchamp's era; the power of defining the notion of art were mainly in the hands of the art institutions; with Duchamp's Fountain (1917); something has changed. This work of art represented a groundbreaking transformation of the power relations within the institutionalized art world: Marcel Duchamp made us scrutinize and question the power of art institutions. Let us not forget his spirit. The Avant-gardes of the early twentieth century challenged the art institutions' power monopoly; with Marcel Duchamp at the barricade, as the front figure of inventiveness, leading the attack. A new type of power materialized itself; one which became more complex, fragmented and split among the actors in the game. The Avant-garde are, nevertheless, agents of rapid change, that contest rules – freedom and resistance. They favour disruptive mutations of ideas, at the expense of stability and continuity. Art as an institution is dependent on collaborative processes and stability, that ties together multiple geographical scales, and more rapid transformative forces that the artists represent – to co-evolve as a system (transformation and adaption). The art world's institutions may, however, have challenges to keep up with the new frontiers, seriousness and originality of the Avant-garde. But how original is the Avant-garde, actually? To remind you, to repeat and to recall some theoretical frameworks from the section, The Philosophy of Art: The introduction of the notion; reproduction, implied one fundamental issue: the very essence of the Avant-garde; their originality was scrutinized; the Gods were questioned! While Benjamin (1975/1987) contraposed reproduction with authenticity, and claimed that reproduction was more democratic, but authenticity more original, Man Ray (19??) contraposed reproduction with creation, and argued that reproduction was human, but creation was devine! Krauss (1985) further arguead that Avant-gardiste originality, was a beginning from point zero, a birth, a path creation, a phoenix. But, the author repeats her core question in this context: is it possible to achieve such a new birth – a phoenix – in the age of reproduction?
Indeed, the Avant-garde also face other challenges. They are not completely in power of or resistant to capitalism's and imperialism's investments and funding or discriminating forces. The Avant-garde are, nevertheless, agents of rapid change, that contest rules – freedom and resistance – through refractions. They favour disruptive mutations of ideas in form of refractions, at the expense of stability and continuance (evolution). The Avant-garde is, thus, more resistant, free and autonomous; sometimes unaware, and at other times susceptible to the powers in their back. From their origin they are in power of their artworks, though, they are not entirely in power of its continuance. When the artists or the Avant-gardes have completed and exhibited their artworks, it is up to others to define its status, and search for its meaning in a cultural, societal, geographical, institutional or historical context. This process has huge effects on the continuance of the artwork; its cultural significance, its created and shared meaning, the artist's career, and our understanding of art as an institution. The Avant-garde should, in an ideal state, represent the world. The Avant-garde as a safe harbour, intersecting with Spencer's (1898; Bánáthy 2010) ideas of the society as a social organism, thus, fills me with hope. Spencer's (1898; Bánáthy 2010) thoughts suggests that the art world can be regarded as a social organism – an institutional framework or environment that is vibrant and dynamical – it is alive! The Avant-garde is our safe harbour or free zone, and most of all a joyful, sober and bewildering free force that allows for originality of the mind to be explored. We need our Avant-garde our free zone, to test everything from the most subtle, to the most explosive sides to human nature. We also need the nature of art, to question and contest our rules. We need to be asking; are we on the right track? continuously: where is the world heading? Taken together, they are core contributers to the transformations of power within the institutional art world, and sometimes, beyond.
Surrounded by Rothko's paintings I returned to the most fundamental question of all times: what is art?
To support Duchamp and further enhance my scepticism and frustrations with the notion of 'art as an institution'; the original Fountain (Duchamp 1917), was refused to be exhibited (as mentioned), and the original work of art is lost! How Duchamp would react to a copy or replica of his original artwork being exhibited, would only result in uncertain or dubious speculations. Nevertheless; Duchamp told Schwartz, that he hoped that the proposed; Fountain (1917), had escaped 'from conformity', that 'demanded art to be hung on the wall or presented on easels' (Duchamp; Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 151). By art historians and art critics, the Fountain (Duchamp 1917), is regarded as a 20th century major landmark of art. It made us pose one simple questions: what is art? When this question is discussed in context of the institutionalism of art, this simple question matters, and it suddenly became overwhelmingly intrusive to me. Although I was mesmerized by the beauty of this "Cathedral", I could not leave my scepticism by the grand entrance. Even though, my scepticism is real, I still have great respect for genuine artists, whether their art exists within the institutionalized art world or at the streets. Genuine artists give me chills, in a good way: They make me think. They make me feel. They make me pose questions. All the ideas, opinions and concepts embodied in the social and organizational insight and nature of human beings, are thoughtfully represented, uttered and contested by the Avant-garde’s masterpieces. And, their power have transformed the institutional art world. Nevertheless, the Avant-garde should; in an ideal state, represent the world (democratization of art). And, their art institutions should ease their work and imaginary – to even out power relations, geographic unevenness, economic inequality and transform the art world into a fairer system with lesser elitism. To understand these existing and future collaborative processes, of the Avant-gardes and the artists, the art institutions and the capitalists, there is a need to scrutinize the nature of art institutions as an actor that makes profound decisions; as an authority – on behalf of art as an institution.
The State of Institutions: Open and Closed (Art) Institutions
As claimed, art as an institution, suggests that those with particular knowledge, experience, and understanding of art works are selected and possess the power to define the artefacts' potential art status – on the behalf of the art world (Carroll 1999, p. 230). In line with this argument the art world as a social organization can be seen as a natural selection environment, that decides who has influence on defining the status of art: who counts and who doesn't? As an institution and natural selection environment, the institutional art world operates in a landscape of social rules, social interaction, social roles, and commodifying processes, that underpin the notions of power and natural selection. In this social context of variety and natural selection; the art world as an institution, as well as capitalist actors, cannot separate themselves from the notion of power and authority. And, it is of these very same reasons that this theory by critics, has been regarded as an elitist, inequal and anti-democratic view of the art world (Carroll, 1999, 230): the creature is imperfect. To repeat: the art world as an institution simply states:
"If a wrong person [...] puts forward an artefact, he will not possess the capability to confer appropriate status upon it, and the object will not be art" (Carroll,1999, p. 231).
To cut it down to the core; this theory is crystal clear: if you do not have the right qualifications, you are in no position of power or authority, to define whether an artefact is genuine art or not. This assessment takes place in art institutions and in the cultural infrastructure. Bang Larsen, however, points out the difference of reproduction and reinventing in the realm of the (art) institution, where concepts and ideas about art is open to the imaginary. While Man Ray talks about the difference between creating and reproduction, Bang Larsen (2019), distinguishes between reproduction and reinventing, and relates these two phenomena to the art institution as a facilitator.
"The institution is the realm of the possible. On the other hand, words and concepts that carry our intuitions and ideas about art open up to the imaginary. When the possible and the imaginary intersect, the world can either be reproduced or reinvented" (Bang Larsen, 2019).
Such an institution is Tate Gallery of Modern Art. It is a gallery and an institution since it has clearly defined pedagogical intentions. I think in most Londoner's mindsets and hearts The Cathedral of Modern Art, has a meaning, function, status and position among the other major flagships of institutions within the art world, as being sort of a holy place – not to mess with. Though, medium- and small-sized art institutions have an inherent size-bound capacity, to react to urgent issues of the institutional art world, in a more dynamic, progressive, experimental and radical manner. They address urgent issues of the institutional art world more frequently, and they support artists collaboratively, such as e.g. UKS in Oslo, Norway, exemplifies with their annual open applications for grants to young and upcoming Norwegian and international artists and Avant-gardes. They are simply more in touch with up and coming artists, and they offer artists to take part in their collaborative practices, in which the artists are in charge. But what about Tate Gallery of Modern Art? And, what is the nature of (art) institutions, how do they function (or not)?
20th of July 2016: most institutions within the art world will do their outermost to enhance the potential of arising artists; such as Tate. Tate Modern has truly embarked upon nurturing the very existence of emerging innovative modern art: it is unique! This Cathedral has an important and socially including potential to open the possibilities for a spiritual moment with modern art. However, maybe it is my own "outdated" notion of an art institution as sort of a 'spatial container' or 'white cube' that constrains the art world, which still troubles my imaginary, and makes me sceptical. But the fact is on one side (art) institutions can act as endogenous (open) frameworks; in the way they have a capacity to evolve belief systems; through institutional reforms and change (adaption). On the other side, art institutions may just as well act as exogenous (closed) frameworks; with binding rules which constrains the individual artist (confirmation of societal inertia and need satisfaction only) (Hylland Eriksen 2019, p. 3, Brousseau et al., 2011, p. 4). While "institutions and practices to survive in the long term […], must be functional (in the sense of being adaptive), […] institutional arrangement comes about, stabilizes and evolves through trial and error" (in Hylland Eriksen 2019, p. 3). On the other hand; Malinowski, claimed that there was "a direct relation between human needs and sociocultural institutions that satisfied them", hence, "the institutions exist to satisfy needs" only (in Hylland Eriksen 2019, p. 3). Hylland Eriksen (2019, p. 3) thus supports the adaption perspective on institutions. Taken together; art institutions may act as open, inclusive and adaptive (functional), or – act as closed, non-inclusive and only need satisfying (in the author's view: dysfunctional in evolutionary terms). They may, however, choose to open up their art institution in practising to reinventing and renewing their practices and rules (reformation and change), or just confirm existing practises, stagnate and constrain the individual artists and Avant-gardes (lock-ins). Though; artists might fight back against this dysfunctionality with resistance and with magnificent utterances of freedom, their most forceful creativity and their genuinely sobering originality! This makes me question: what are the next rules to be broken by the Avant-gardes? Which protest has not yet stunned and paralyzed the contemporary art world? Whom are the next aspiring artists to shake the pillars of this solid Cathedral? And ultimately: WHO is the next Marcel Duchamp? And, what are the capitalists say on this? What is art from their point of view?
The Capitalists, the Nature of Capitalism and Fetish Against Commodity Fetishism
By capitalist rules artworks, such as Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), are classified as a commodity (Krause, 2011), which can be purchased and exchanged for a price – a process which may be dehumanizing for the artists: they question their souls! A commodity circulates in the capitalist system – and by doing so it changes the original meaning and content of the artists' works. This circulation process is also saturated with power or influence – capitalism select among the population of artists and decide who will succeed and who will not. But, can you put a price on the meaning and shared content embodied in art? And can you calculate its cultural significance? As capitalism, living creatures also seeks power and influence. Capitalists are also living creatures. Saturated in power and influence, the capitalists thereby have great influence on who is the one to watch and who is not. This implies that when an artwork circulates in these commodifying capitalistic processes, the artists lose control of their artwork; its worth, its meaning as well as its cultural significance: it stops breathing! Lynton (1995c), however argue; that by losing her artwork, the artist and hers art work establishes a relationship with society (p. 356). Adorno, thus, claims that in "late capitalism everything, living human activity included, is increasingly so determined by valuation for another (exchange-value) that its value in and for itself tends to disappear" (in Jarvis, 1998, p. 117). This phenomenon is understood as and discussed in Adorno's statement of artworks as a; 'fetish against commodity fetishism' (Adorno; Jarvis 1998, p. 117). Adorno (1998) is, nevertheless, criticized for a periodization of modernism and for being too pessimistic in his social analysis (Schulte-Sasse 1984, p. xix). Nonetheless, for Adorno, art offers a resistance to 'commodity fetishism' – art may counteract with capitalism and question its nature (Marx 1867). In addition to Adorno, Krause (2011) also expresses his frustrations with the unpredictable and commodifying forces of capitalism that shapes the contexts of 'capitalist profitability' versus 'created meaning' in the capitalist art market of commodities:
"The arts currently serve the needs of the free market, not the needs of human beings. The central goals of the free market are accumulation and growth – goals which the arts have been falsely forced to serve. The arts have other values – from creating and sharing meaning [...] – that are far more important than profitability" (Krause, 2011, p. 11).
Krause (2011) does not take capitalism for granted. Nonetheless, he argues that in the current situation of the institutional art world, is that the rules of capitalism dominate. This puts pressure on the artists' original intentions and purpose with their artworks. The artworks that are subjected to capitalist accumulation, are also affected by its processes of 'create and destroy' (Rigby and Essletzbitchler 2010). Creative destruction claims that new innovations face out or destroy 'fossil' innovations and thereby drives or creates economic growth, progress or development (Schumpeter 1942; Fagerberg 2003, Caballero 2017). This phenomenon is by Schumpeter (1942) understood as 'the essential fact about capitalism' (in Caballero 2017). The process of creative destruction and capitalist accumulation enables new innovations to be created, in the economy as well as in the institutional art world. Capitalism may thereby have great influence on the processes of which new artistic expressions are being created, just as well as it may constrain forceful creativity through its natural selection processes: it is enabling as well as constraining. Capitalist rules creates a (neoliberal) marked for art that is rough, challenging and selective, but also full of opportunities! The art market is, nevertheless, a segment of the neoliberal market, which Duchamp expressed his scepticism about: "Duchamp's provocation not only unmasks the art market where the signature means more than the quality of the work" (Bürger 1984, p. 52). Duchamp's readymades, may also be interpreted as a counterreaction or revolt against the existing social order – in a genuine modernist spirit (Schulte-Sasse, 1984, p. xii). However, to separate 'art' and 'commodity' in the neoliberal art market, Duchamp nonetheless called a hypocrisy:
"Through the encounter with the commodity object expressed in both the readymades and the notes, Duchamp also highlights the traditional hypocrisy of pretending that there is a contradiction between 'Art' and 'Commodity' and that aesthetic and commodity values are totally opposed to another" (Ades, Cox and Hopkins, 1999d, p. 160).
To mark this statement, Duchamp considered to create advertisements for his readymades, such as Chocolate Grinder (Duchamp; Ades, Cox and Hopkins 1999d, p. 160). According to Ades, Cox and Hopkins (1999d, p. 166) it is, thus, fitting that at the height of his activity with the readymades, they were to be exhibited in 'the heart of the consumer market'; New York. No hypocrisy: Duchamp inventively united commodity and art, such as in the Rotoreliefs (Optical Disks) (Duchamp1935). When commodity and art is united; innovations in the art market and in the culture industry, is created and destroyed, through the institutions of money and art. The result is that art takes part in competition and collaboration in complex economic and social networks – evolution, in which imperialism works as an extension of capitalism.
Imperialism as an Extension of Capitalism in the Institutional Art World
In additions to capitalists investments several acclaimed art critics, art curators and scientists, argue that it is; well-documented, that the Cold World's art institutional world has been subjected to imperialism, such as the CIA's strategically funding of the moderate left rather than far left communism; the stance of the intellectuals in Europe and USA (Anfam; Sooke 2016, Guevara 2018). Sandler, nevertheless, argue that "there was absolutely no involvement of any government agency" (in Sooke 2016). This view is not supported by Anfam, Saunders, Kozloff, Sooke (in Sooke 2016) and Guevara (2018). Saunders (1995) claim that the CIA was funding the Congress of Cultural Freedom (CCF); an anti-communist advocacy group, (which operated in 35 countries), as well as a 'dizzying' number of art magazines and several core exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism during the '50s (in Sooke 2016, Guevara 2018). Links to New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Boston Symphony Orchestra, was also revealed (Saunders 1995; Sooke 2016, Guevara 2018). Saunders (1995) even states that the CIA supported the exhibition; The New American Painting (1958-59), at Tate Gallery of Modern Art; the Cathedral of Modern Art (in Sooke 2016). As Sooke (2016), and many other art critics, art curators and scientists continuously debate and questions: "Was modern art a weapon of the CIA?" (Sooke, 2016). Kozloff (1973) argue that Abstract Expressionism was a form of propaganda, supported by the political ideology of the Post-War American regime (in Sooke, 2016). Saunders (1995, 1999) notes that this was, altogether, a part of 'the cultural cold war' (in Sooke, 2016). She argues that the American wave of Abstract Expressionism was funded in more than 20 years (Saunders, 1995; Sooke, 2016). The American regime's controversial cover was, however blown in 1967, according to Guevara (2018). She (2018) argues that to CIA communism was equal to Nazism – the far-off enemy. The art institutions reactions to the politically strategical investments of the CIA, has afterwards been to downplay politics and support abstract art, and the autonomy and freedom of the Avant-garde: a wise decision (Guevara 2018).
"Abstract Expressionism was bound with the concept of individual freedom: its canvases were understood as expressions of the subjective inner lives of the artists who painted them" (Sooke 2016).
By supporting Abstract Expressionism, the American regime, according to Anfam, wanted to embody or foster a view of art with an "America [as...] the land of the free, whereas Russia was locked up, culturally speaking" (in Sooke 2016). While the dominantly funded style in the US was Abstract Expressionism; the official style of Russia was the Soviet Realist Style (Sooke 2016). In addition to the iron curtain in the world during the Cold War, Wright (1956) argue, that there was also a colour curtain (in Guevara 2018). Discrimination based on colour swept through the western societies. Discrimination was not just a phenomenon separate to the institutional art world; it basically intruded the atmosphere of the institutional art world. Taken together; capitalism, imperialism and discrimination integrated, are powers that might affect the freedom and autonomy of the Avant-garde and the artists, abstract art and art as an institution is, nevertheless, not an enemy – capitalism, imperialism and discrimination, however, is according to Guevara (2018). Art is our hero! However, while art more or less is created in free zones, there are geographical, economical, cultural and societal restrictions to their freedom and resistance, in shape of inequality tied to uneven conditions, artistic resources and creative capacity. This geographical unevenness and economic inequality is place bound, and tied to core art hubs in the institutional art world and the nature of the global economy.
Geographic Unevenness: A Global Rise in Inequality and the Power of Urban Art Hubs
The notion of an institutionalized art world implies that there are core configurations of power and authority that need to be revealed to understand the process of how some artefacts are defined as art, while others are not. These natural selection processes are governed by power and authority, by art institutions, the artists, the Avant-garde and the capitalist actors. The power and authority these actors possess, are unevenly distributed in the institutionalized art world – socially and politically, economically and culturally, as well as geographically. But; who defines who's right or wrong in the institutional art world? The notion of an institutionalized art world implies that there are core configurations of power and authority, that needs to be revealed to understand the process of how some artefacts are defined as art, while others are not. These natural selection processes are governed by power and authority, by art institutions, the artists and the Avant-garde and capitalist actors. The power and authority, these actors possess, are, as mentioned, unevenly distributed in the institutionalized art world. But, what does this inequality of power and influence stem from? There are power centres in the culture industry and in the institutional art world – places in which meaning, resources and power configurations are reproduced, such as London, New York, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong: places that act on behalf of the art world (Guevara 2018). The internationalization of the institutional art world is, thus, a result of the increased globalization in our world in general (Dicken 2011, Guevara 2018). The cities and power centres mentioned, are also global financial cities, from which financial investments and economic resources becomes unevenly distributed, globally. Dicken (2011) states that "contemporary processes of [economic] globalization have been accompanied by a rise in global inequality"(p. 478):
"At the global scale, the development gap is stunningly wide. The developed countries are clearly 'winners'. They continue to contain a disproportionate share of the world's wealth, trade, investment and access to modern technologies [...]. The 20 per cent of the world's population living in the highest-income countries have well over 80 per cent of the world income, trade, investment and communications technology. The 20 per cent of the world's population in the poorest countries have around 1 per cent" (Dicken 2011, p. 478).
This inequality also affects the access to power and influence in the institutional art world: the rules of capitalism have a huge impact on the culture industry, in rural as well as in urban areas. Since the percentage of inhabitants living in urban areas has passed the 50 per cent tipping point and will most likely rise to 66 per cent by 2050, global cities based on economic diversity will, most likely, continue to grow (United Nations 2014). The fact that global cities are growing, and that most of the core art institutions of the art world are situated in global cities, also makes these cities nodes or art hubs, in which concentrations of power accumulate. There is therefore an inequal access to power and influence attached to culture, institutions and place: this implies that the culture you are raised in, the institutions you are related to, and the place you come from really does matter, whether it is from a rural area or an urban art hub (Dicken 2011). Because, Reed (2018) reminds us; although talent can be found everywhere, opportunity cannot. Harris (2013) thus argues
"The editors of "Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes", [...], say that the notion of what defining an art capital needs to broaden, as artists lay down roots far beyond the traditional power bases" (Harris, 2013).
Massey supports this view that there is more to the geography of art than a simple rural/urban power base dichotomy. Power constellations are more comprehensively dispersed geographically, than previously assumed. Massey therefore stands for a more 'progressive sense of place' – a stance that favours opportunities, change, as well as adaption (in MacEwan and Daya 2012, p. 278). She
"views places as the complex intersections and outcomes of power geometries that operates across many spatial scales from the body to the global. [...There are] multiple, intersecting social, political and economic relations, giving rise to a myriad of spatialities. Places and the social relations within and between them, then, are the results of particular arrangements of power, whether it is individual and institutional, or imaginative and material" (Massey 1991, 1994, 1997; Hubbard et al., 2002, p. 17).
Massey (1994; MacEwan and Daya 2012) further argue that "the tension between the local and global" is unified, which allows for both cultural differences and cultural uniqueness (Massey 1991, 1995; Duncan, 2000; Hubbard et al., 2002, p. 18).
"This involves people being more cosmopolitan (free of prejudice and tolerant of difference). Increasing interconnectedness means that boundaries of local cultures are seen to be more permeable, susceptible to change, and difficult to maintain than in the past" (Massey 1994, p. 151; MacEwan and Daya 2012, p. 280).
The cosmopolitan way of being, is embedded in the hearts and mindsets of citizens in global cities such as London, Hong Kong, Berlin, Tokyo, Paris and New York. In their urban scenery a new form of artistic expression is created continuously, social identities are molded and cultures occur, are merged, collide or diminish. The interconnectedness of culture and cosmopolitan attitude at these sites, suggests that art as an institution is free of prejudice and tolerant as well as it possess abilities to adapt to new contexts. Though, there may be hidden discriminating, capitalist and imperialist forces, that has great impact on art as an institution, they influence its past, present and future path. The global economy and the institutional layers of the art world affect all geographical scales, from the singular global to the more intimate local scale. It enables (or constrains) the democratization of art, its complex networks and the livelihoods of our Avant-garde are encouraged to take on new challenges, and to thrive in this demanding natural selection environment, of uneven access to power and resources geographically, culturally, politically, economically and socially. In this demanding network of power and influence everyone play an important role of making system changes, but while some actors are empowered, excited and enlightened by the challenges and complexities of this network, complex or system, others are marginalized.
Democratization of Art and the Core research question
The art world is one of ours most compound, carefully and entangled; intertwined systems or networks. Whether you are facing modern art in; a "Cathedral", working at MoMA (NYC); exhibiting your own art work in an independent contemporary art gallery, having your heartfelt moment being exposed to street art or are covering walls, windows and doors with your tags, whether you are in the middle of your performance, learning to paint for the very first time, are lecturing in renaissance sculpture at a university, are about to become an influential contemporary art curator, are a writing art critic, or if you are just being generally sceptical: no worries. We are all part of the same system; wholeness and one art scene or society – ONE culture. This system is powerful! The notion of power as unevenly distributed, however, implies that there are social roles that ought to have influence, who are not taken into account. The notion of the society as a creature that develops through evolution, thus, argues that shifts in power and influence might occur (Rigby and Essletzbitchler, 2010). This is promising! There are, nevertheless, still uneven distributions of power in the institutionalized art world, that causes elitism, inequality and discrimination: it is not fully democratic! This implies that there are opinions, thoughts, feelings and ideas of those in lesser powerful social, political, cultural and economic roles, or in the art world's power periphery, that should be given a voice. Massey's views on places is, however, more optimistic and nuanced. She eloquently argues how places can be understood as progressive sites of 'power geometries' (Massey, 1993). This concept implies that the local and the global are interconnected in the institutional art world, which simultaneously allows for cultural difference and cultural uniqueness, to exist side by side and flourish: global inequalities can be reduced, and in some instances be overcome (Massey, 2009; MacEwan and Daya, 2012, p. 278). This also implies to inequalities in access to power and influence in the institutional art world. Carroll (1999), nonetheless, claims that the institutionalized art world's reputation as being anti-democratic, discriminating, inequal and elitist, is unfair (p. 230). Nevertheless, he points out that not anyone can or should act on the behalf of the art world. Carroll (1999) argue:
"Democracy doesn't require that everyone be empowered to do just anything – not just anyone can walk into a hospital and perform brain surgery. Similarly, not just anyone can act on the behalf of the artworld. On the other hand, the artworld, according to Institutional Theory of Art, is an equal-opportunity employer, since anyone, in principle, should be able to become an agent of the artworld by acquiring the relevant sort of knowledge, understanding, and the right sort of experience" (Carroll 1999, p. 230).
Those who become an agent of the institutional art world, should all be acquainted with Duchamp's artworks. Duchamp curiously opened Pandora's Box of power and influence in the institutional art world. He was an archetype of inventiveness and a prime example of artistic autonomy, an idealistic thinker; (as the author), and an Avant-gardiste who – took his artistic ability of resistance seriously (Clair 2019a)! Duchamp stubbornly paved the way for new tricks in the institutional art world. The institutional theory of art, refractions and struggles, evolutionary theory and system theory, thus, offers an opulent ocean of inspiration on how to understand the nature of art. The nature of art asks about its origin, the creator's originality, those who define its status, and its contextual appearance. The status of defining; what is and what is not art; in the art world, is closely tied to the institutional and system attributes of power and authority, as well as how inequality, discrimination, democratization and elitism, affects these attributes. Nonetheless, the choice of either open or closed, refractionary or control function definition on art, adds to what kind of institutional art world we want: how should the future of the institutional art world look like globally? Do we want a functional, inclusive, adaptive or –
a dysfunctional, non-inclusive and need satisfactionary institutional art world, only? And finally: does art arise through evolution, struggles, refractions or system functions? Or; perhaps as a combinatory? And, hence; the core question in this brief essay is: what are the complex relation of power and influence; in the institutional art world, from a system change perspective versus a single case? Power and influence, is the element that ties this brief essay together; hence, it can be evolutionary, understood as struggles, interpreted as refractionary or be understood at a system level – it also intersects different geographical scales or power geometries (Massey 1993; Hubbard 2002). Nonetheless, the view of the institutional art world; as a social system or social organism, going through phases of refractions, struggles, systemic functions and evolution to renew and reinvent itself, makes this system the most complex forms of human innovations: in this social system the flux of influence on the organism goes multiple ways. In one way, art is simply mirroring this system's diverse "sum" of innovations and its institutional contexts. All layers of innovations, institutional rules, struggles, system functions, refractions and evolutionary functions, results in diverse, complex and sometimes experimental artistic expressions. System changes of the institutional art world, discussed in this brief essay, combines elements from institutional theory on art, refractions, struggles in the institutional art world, and evolutionary theory, to emphasise processes of how system functions in the institutional art world as a system arises. It is, thus, also rooted in theory on system change. In this system level analysis, the author draws on theory from both nature and culture, to unite nature and culture.
To Apply Radical Interdisciplinarity on the Institutional Art World
Nonetheless it is of particular importance to note, that there is a difference between "nature [from a Darwinist point of view] and culture [such as art]"; as Hylland Eriksen argues (2019, p. 3) (note: the author's own selection of examples of 'nature and culture' is added by brackets). Therefore, the evolutionary terms, in this brief essay, have only been applied metatheoretically – they are not capable of being put into use directly. In addition, since the evolutionary terms does not work metatheoretically on art; in all matters, refractions, struggles and system functions, have been added when evolutionary functions fail to make a full system account of the institutional art world. The author, thus, defends the usage of radical interdisciplinarity, in the trial of making a system account of the institutional art world, since "Assumptions, objects, and methodologies do not always fall along disciplinary lines" (Savonick, 2019). But, in the trial of applying radical interdisciplinarity, the author must also acknowledge the fact that constructive comments may come from several disciplines (or from multiple directions), or at least from the disciplines in question. The debate; defended in this brief essay; in favour of radical interdisciplinarity, may be perceived as an uncomfortable, or even a bewildering struggle to defend; since research and the usage of appropriate methodology, most of all, is a constant learning process, that yields challenges and implications, as well as new insights (Hylland Eriksen 2019, p. 2, Savonick, 2019, p. 4). The more radically different the disciplines that are brought together to cooperate, the better the chances are for creating new insights or novelties according to Nelson (2017). Radical interdisciplinarity can, therefore, be defined as the act of bringing together radically different disciplines to create inventive, innovative and transformative novelties (Nelson 2017). He argues that for radical interdisciplinarity to be transformative; for radicals to act and create novelties, four core elements has to be present; (1) diversity of people; (2) appropriate sized group to secure diversity; (3) limited time scope (because innovations will decline over time); (4) ties among people with respect for diversity and respect for other people’s knowledge and perspectives (Nelson 2017). Insofar, the author agrees with Nelson (2017) and particularly Savonick (2019 p. 3), who argues that "thinking in terms of disciplines has always felt inadequate" (note: the author's own cursive).
In addition to radical interdisciplinarity, the author encourages researchers to engage in open science: "open science practices, […] refer to the openness, integrity, and reproducibility of research findings and materials" (springer.com 2019; Grand et al., 2017; Nosek et al., 2015). Open science is a genuine toolkit, that provides principles in which research can become more transparent, inclusive, collaborative and democratic. This brief essay is, however, just the start of the author's engagement with open science. By means of its core principles open science; such as e.g. publishing everything online in the writing process of a research project, can create voices, that would not be heard otherwise: this is the case with the author's a heartfelt message and contribution to a systemic approach to research on the institutional art world. From its fumbling beginning, through all trials and errors: every facetted mistake has been published online; from significant to minor mistake – every latest argument and correction, have been made available to public evaluation. To correct errors, the author has attended debates of the public media and research at linear television, online research lectures, social media and news; as a spectator, and then responded to the author's own unrightful arguments, as a researcher. This has brought new insights, and it has been hugely helpful in detecting misleading arguments or simply – errors! If there is any resistance to open science, it is most of all, researcher's unwillingness to risk presenting errors, that will stick to their reputation throughout their research career. But the author has chosen to take these risks, because even though the stakes are high, the rewards are even higher.
Furthermore, the research process has also been intuitive, creative, organic and transparent from its beginning to its fulfilment: trial and error, argument and counterargument, trial and error, and so on, and so forth. Since everything has been published online, everyone; in principle, have been invited in to comment; inevitably or if desired. Nevertheless, the research project fails to fulfil the collaborative requirement or principle of open science and radical interdisciplinarity. This essay has been written solely by the author. Nor has its hypothesis and core research question been formally reported prior to the research project. This is perhaps more applicable in quantitative method, since it is e.g. easier to pose research questions, and to plan in advance. The task of this research project is, however; to be a qualitative theory discussion, and at its best also to connect radically different disciplines, in a manner that it may create a new system perspective, system impact or system account; on the institutional art world. Nonetheless, the author has made her own selections of lectures, essays, websites, exhibitions, seminars and debates to read or attend; in particular events or essays with relevance for her research process. Receiving comments has, therefore, improved the relevance of this brief essay. Comments have been inevitable and desirable; uncomfortable and rewarding, and truly gained momentum on the research process! Nevertheless, these comments have; as mentioned, been radically complex and overwhelming, to take in, digest, and finally, to turn these digested comments into nutritious, meaningful and relevant knowledge; embodied in the arguments of this research project. In sum, as the research project has progressed, the risky challenge, the time absorbing curiosity and the open-ended excitement, that this brief essay has yielded, has seriously caught the author's attention and resources. The superior task and excitement of the author of this brief essay is, therefore, to engage in a system change debate of the institutional art world, and not just indulge in an art historical analysis, only.
A System Analysis and a Single Case Discussion
Because, it is also of great significance to stress the fact that the author has failed to make an art historical comparison of different artists and their artworks in the era of Duchamp, but as you may have understood – this is no art historical case comparison. On the contrary this brief essay is an attempt of presenting a single case; one artist, one artwork, in its societal, institutional and historical context. It is a system analysis, and it is a single case discussion. The core task is to understand the art world through the surrounding institutional, historical and societal context of the given case, and how the single case has influenced our society, through power relations in the institutional art world. More precisely, it takes a systemic move to grasp the institutional repercussions of a single case; through the means of understanding power relations, it thereby seeks to understand the institutional art world as – a system (struggles, evolution, refractions and system functions). The single case, therefore, serves as an inspiration; a contrast, to an analysis of the institutional art world as a system. The author, furthermore, takes an agnostic stance (as Duchamp) and social science methodological approach, to understand the intricacy of a single case. Hence, it is also rooted in qualitative methodology, as mentioned in the section above. The author has utilized the single case's potentials for a brief in-depth study of the Fountain (1917) and Duchamp at one end of the scale, to say something more profound about 'art as an institution' and the institutional art world in the centre of the scale, and then turn to the societal and historical perspective internationally, at the other end of the scale. However, Duchamp did not create art detached from the artistic milieu around him; such as Dadaism and Surrealism, but the appearance of movements in the institutional art world has been downplayed by the author, since the actual nature of movements understood as a joint force, was criticised by Lynton (1995a, p. 10): on the contrary the artistical movements, in most cases, embodied groups of artists with quite distinguishable thoughts, expressions and distinctive and autonomous artworks. Such diversity should any artistical movement encourage, and Dada embraced diversity – it was one of its key characteristics (MoMa 2019b). But, to narrow down the scope of this brief essay, the discussion on movements have received less attention.
Nevertheless, Duchamp was also affected by societal and historical context surrounding him, most of all; in Paris and New York, but also modernism internationally and the current state of the global society, at his time: imperialism, nationalism and racism, that caused wars, fuelled by science and technology. However, instead of investigating the local scale the author has taken a bird's-eye perspective on the global society at Duchamp's time, and a more intimate scale in discussing Marcel Duchamp's artwork. And, the Fountain (Duchamp 1917), was not created without the evolutionary steps of modernism, that unfolded prior to his artistic career, which he; at an early stage, came to be an influential participant of and contributor to. Insofar, this brief essay also tries to understand how an approach to modernism can be explored to approach contemporary art. Indeed, the strategy at work, in this brief essay; such as radical interdisciplinarity, open science and the single case, has been applied as a springboard to reinforce a systemic understanding of the institutional art world. It is a story of unfolding how the power of one man, could have impact on the distribution of power in the institutional art world as a system, and vice versa. It contrasts the singular artist with the whole system, and it tries to serve as an example to how one man (or woman); through a singular artwork, can influence the whole system. The single case strategy, is, indeed, full of implications and challenges! Because, there are limits to how generalizable insights from a single modernist case can embody, and there are boundaries to how such generalizations can be used as a foundation to discuss a systemic perspective on the institutional art world. While quantitative research may lead to generalizations, qualitative research does not necessarily so. These qualitative generalizations are therefore somewhat separated or detached from its case of origin, in many instances, to make space for a system analysis to co-work with the single case. This detachment in the narrative, has been created intuitively by the author, to explore spaces of freedom for discussing theory, as well as, to make space for the reader to explore radical and interconnections of different arguments within and outside the frameworks of this brief essay – to construct a spacious Cathedral of thoughts, freed from reason; in the spirit of Dada. A vital element of the systemic approach is, therefore, to deal with Cathedral Thinking, theoretically. Cathedral Thinking is, thus, not just spacious and grandiose thoughts, but most of all; a long-term commitment, on how to act to achieve a challenging task that desperately needs cooperation, in order to be fulfilled. Cathedral Thinking is a metaphor for visionary and collaborative thoughts and beliefs that unifies human beings, in the mutual task of building something greater than themselves, such as a 'Cathedral'. They thereby accomplished a strenuous task together, which they could not have managed if they stood alone, or if they depended on their own power only. The Cathedral is built for generations to come, to benefit from – it is a long-term project (Thunberg, 2019). For a system to change we must be encouraged to stick together, think together and act together; despite our diversity, to create grand novelties. Grand novelties can be suggested by radical interdisciplinarity, which provides a toolkit of solutions on how to improve mutual Cathedral Thinking, based on diversity and radical exchange of knowledge. The mutual task; to build or rebuild a Cathedral, in this brief essay is, therefore; system change, or how to make systems change. This brief essay provides a recipe on how to make a system change, such as the institutional art world.
The systemic Cathedral Thinking, is contrasted with the story of an Avant-gardiste and his artwork; a single case, which represents the power of humanity or what we can accomplish by ourselves, when we are backed up by others, such as a movement; whether it's environmentalists or Dadaists. However, Duchamp also did something; in the power of being himself, that usually requires a chain reaction of human acts, such as Cathedral Thinking suggests. We are all part of a global system, set on a capitalist autopilot towards destruction of our culture, and extinction of humanity. We must stand together and override the capitalist autopilot, to avoid a devastating crash landing, and a profound tragedy for all mankind. There is still time, but we need to act rapidly. Since one man (or woman) can embody the power of influencing the institutional art world as a system, so can anyone in any system encourage systems to change. Duchamp; in an independent and uncompromising manner; familiar to his lifestyle and artworks, most certainly possessed the human abilities, human vulnerabilities and the human sensitivity, common to mankind. He possessed human abilities that specifically favoured system change: Duchamp stood out as being particularly inventive, original and experimental and radical, progressive and creative, in encouraging the system; such as the distribution of power in the institutional art world as a system, to change. He was not necessarily unaware of his uniqueness, but on the other hand not completely aware of his power, or the institutional consequences of his artworks, that most of all was created unconsciously and playfully by chance collaborations. Moreover, the attributes, that Duchamp embodied, favour or started to put pressure on the system to change, in this single case. Furthermore, in contradiction to the single case, and as a foundation for a system analysis, different functions: struggles, evolutionary, refractionary and systemic functions, have been employed to get a more comprehensive and visionary perspective on system change, in the institutional art world. It serves as a foundation to make Cathedral Thinking work to its fullest potentials, to provide systemic changes. That said, the quest of deciphering the complex relations of power and influence in the institutional art world; through a system versus single case approach, has for now approached its momentary closure. It is up to others again to open the debate, if an appropriate, relevant or desirable occasion should occur. The system/single case distinction is open for discussion, debate and critical comments, and may need some refinements. For now, it's time to take a final moment for some conclusional arguments on system change; in the institutional art world as the realm of the possible and – the impossible.
To Think Outside the White Cube, the Fixed Box or the Spatial Container
From the realm of the possible to the nature of art – the nature of the impossible: what is real art? And, equally as important to reflect upon: what is real research? These are questions, that contemporary thinkers inspired by institutional theory on art, should problematice. And, rather than asking; what real art, real research and real institutional theory is, what can it become? Marcel Duchamp discussed the first question: what can art become? Simultaneously his artworks playfully question our institutions, and can be used as an example to scrutinize the foundations of the institutional theory of art. He questions our institutions, not just art as an institution, but also other institutions, such as e.g. our measures in 3 Standard Stoppages (Duchamp 1913-14) or money. This brief essay, thus, questions what real methodology and research is and what it can evolve into – its becoming. Nevertheless; all these reflections started rolling and rumbling because of one thoughtful piece of art: the Fountain (Duchamp 1917). This has inspired the author to invite fiction into the field of methodology and research. This brief essay is, nevertheless, most of all an academic essay, but it is also a confessional essay. This is expressed in the essay's flourishing opulence and ravish use of adjectives and fictional elements; such as metaphors, that makes the essay stand out as a narrative, that is beyond a mere objective analysis. Because, there is indeed, a genuine confessional story expressed as undertones to the fictional elements, and the academic analysis. However, in the subjective dramatization, some facts have been strengthened, changed, modified or rearranged, to enforce the message of the academic, fictional and confessional narrative. This brief essay is also an expression of what an academic essay can become, when we step outside the ordinary methodologies and theories – the fixed box, that has been handed over to us, from existing textbooks on theory and methodology. It enters an academic discussion, that has transformed itself from an ordinary objective intellectual discussion into; a radical theory discussion, and a realization, that existing objective theories and methodologies are inadequate. It is based on human sensitivity, basic human abilities and human vulnerabilities – sensitivities, abilities and vulnerabilities, that we all possess as human beings. It is therefore a confessional, academic, fictional, radical and a people-centred academic essay – in one. It also addresses the fact that objectivity is a myth, and that all science are constructed narratives or fictional stories created by human beings – a practice of great storytelling or not (Harari 2017). This basic fact also applies to art. Fountain (1964) is a prime example of this essential fact, but so is the Fountain (Duchamp, 1917). Both the original and the replica, are fictional stories or representation of something genuine, that has originated from the artist himself – as a human being – alike the rest of us.
Duchamp's Fountain (1917, 1964), is therefore, an expression of humanity; the power of being a human; the pool of abilities, sensitivities and vulnerabilities, we all tap into to create something greater than ourselves, whether it is a constructed academic narrative or – creation of art. To work to its optimal, both academic narratives and art must seek to exceed the fixed box; the spatial container; the white cube, that the institutional art world or academic theory and methodology, suggests, to face impossible challenges, such as system changes. If so, we may overcome our limitations as human beings and overcome the limitations of the organizations and institutions we have created. We must contest the given rules of the system – in order to change it. Because, the irony is that; in most cases, to be worthy of being exhibited in a Cathedral, the artwork must prove to question the very existence of the Cathedral and – its God(s), or question the existing foundations and nature of the institutional art world – in itself. This ability inherent in the nature of art is something other scientific fields can learn from: contest the solid pillars of our global society in order to change it! Art, therefore, must continue to ask difficult questions, the existential questions, on the nature of 'art as an institution', on the nature of our societal system, on the nature of capitalism, on the nature of belief, on the nature of history, and on the nature of human beings, as part of an ecosystem at the edge of a greater and continually expanding universe. If the Avant-garde and the artists or the researcher; through their works, starts to mess with one or more of these hot issues at once, unintended or provocatively, its effects may also result in testing the given institutional limits, the given truths and the given taboos – of humanity. Confessionally or not, the results may prove to be – groundbreaking! Taken together, the author lean on a confessional story underneath the fictional expression and objectiveness of the intellectual discussions, that enlightens and strengthens core arguments in this brief essay, in which the narrative moves from modern art to the foundations of the contemporary institutionalized art world. The Cathedral of Modern Art thereby becomes a cradle or origin of contemporary art and of – system criticism. In this cradle, the confessional story, is a narrative of the common man being contraposed to the spacious Cathedral in an institutionalized art world. The power of human being is explosive: we possess the ability to blast institutional limits, critizise history, question collective memory, and contest societal rules, as well as challenging uneven power relations! The global institutional art world can empower human beings to do the impossible: to make systems change!
Change Potentials, Collaboration and Blasting Institutional Limits
The global institutional art world is part of a superior global societal system or complex in change, of which system changes are ruled by struggles, evolutionary functions, refractions and system functions, historically and globally (Kahil 1990, p. 11). These system change functions may form principles for new structures or a systemic reconfiguration of the institutional art world – in itself. Within the given historical frameworks and the global societal system, the institutional art world struggles, transforms, adapts and changes, constantly. And, it intersects the global scale and the local scale, to form power geometries; that results in artworks, which may transcend or have impact on other (global) societal fields, such as the Fountain proved to do (Duchamp 1917). The different geographical scales are, thus, tied together by power relations and networks of influence, between the core actors in the game, such as the Avant-garde and the artists, the art institutions and the capitalists, in this case. The artistic expressions, that are systemic and transcendent in its power and influence, such as e.g. the Fountain (Duchamp 1917), are results of struggles between different religions and movements, institutions, identities, classes, different sexual orientations, ideologies and styles, as well as refractionary transformation, evolutionary adaption, and system functions, in which local system changes may have impact on global system changes, and vice versa. These geographical scales are closely interlinked and co-work to form power relations, or as mentioned power geometries; in shape of comprehensive networks globally and locally, that connects the Avant-garde and the artists, the art institutions and the capitalists, in the institutional art world. Marcel Duchamp's artwork had impact beyond the local range, it had a global effect. His artwork influenced the institutional critique and history of the arts internationally.
Duchamp's artwork may also have had impact on the overall system changes, particularly on struggles, refractions and the evolutionary steps of modernism. He had impact on struggles because he pledged his adherence to movements that expressed an idiosyncratic ideology, he was, thus; as a front figure in these movements, part of an ideological struggle and a struggle between movements. He paved the way for a new style; such as conceptual art. He was, thus, part of an international style struggle, in the institutional art world. He was part of a struggle between institutions, because he contraposed the institutions: money and art, among questioning other institutions. Duchamp was also part of a specific social class, since he lived his 'life on credit', he was, thus, part of a struggle between classes. He was also part of a struggle between sexual orientations, since he questioned his sexual orientation, through different types of self-representation; as an artist. He thereby also questioned his identity and took part in a struggle of identities. And, he changed his religious stance from being a catholic towards an agnostic stance to religion, he was, thus, also part of a struggle between religions. Marcel Duchamp's artwork was part of evolutionary steps of modernism, because of its inventiveness, he was thus, adaptable and in many ways: ahead of his time. His artworks influenced refractions, or was part of it, since his art expressed and put forward ideas and concepts, convictions, expressions and utterances and beliefs, that broke, collided, overlapped or was displaced, with other artists and Avant-gardes ideas and concepts, expressions and utterances, beliefs and convictions.
Duchamp created Avant-gardiste art or outsider art, because he was inventive and partly separated himself from the influence of movements (he, as mentioned, only sporadically attended meetings and exhibitions). He most of all contested given rules of the institutional art world. His artworks, such as the Fountain, also served as a control function in the institutional artworld (Duchamp 1917). He questioned the very foundation of the institutionalized art world and its solid mainstays. He asked the most urgent and prominent question of the institutional art world: what is art? (Duchamp 1917). However, his impact on system functions, such as reallocation and realignment, redistribution and reconfiguration, reorientation and directionality, is a comprehensive task to prove empirically. Rather than an empirical approach, this brief essay, takes a theoretical move to decipher the system of the institutional art world's change potentials, through a radical and interdisciplinary theory discussion. Moreover, to change a global system; such as the institutional art world, may seem like an unbearable task to manage. Nonetheless, when the challenges of a task or a system seems to impossible to handle and to overwhelming to grasp, the author suggests at first to try to understand the system, or make a system analysis, and then to map out or identify its trigger points, tipping points and leverage points; that when intervened, supports positive change potentials. The next step is to come together; such as by Cathedral Thinking; to act despite our differences, and to collaborate on long-term system changes of common interest and belief, based on the data material accessed – or simply facts. Common interest and belief should raise awareness on qualities, such as an improved democratization, more inclusiveness, less inequality, and a fairer distribution of power and resources; in the institutional art world – in balance with what nature has given us. The system changes; these qualities demand, may happen through a tug of war between the core actors; the Avant-garde and the artists, the art institutions and the capitalists, as the author suggests, or in the cultural infrastructure. When it comes down to system changes; remember what one human being, such as e.g. Duchamp or Thunberg, could accomplish alone, and then how powerful, fierce and strong they became when they were connected to the Surrealist and Dadaist movements; or other young climate strikers, globally! They were both backed up by influential movements: Cathedral Thinking in action. Cathedral Thinking and the global system perspective on the institutional art world is; in the view of the author, more interesting and intriguing than the diverse sum of the capitalist commodifying processes, which inflicts with the presence of 'art as an institution', as discussed in the section on capitalism and the section on circular economy. But, as Adorno argued: 'art' may also serve as a rightful resistance to these capitalist processes; a fetish against commodity fetishism (Adorno; Jarvis, 1998, p. 117). The capitalist growth system of commodities, which the institutional art world reluctantly has had to play along with, is also part of the institutional art world, as we know it. Capitalist processes are, nevertheless, exploitive, inhuman, inequal, cause vast challenges and implications for the institutional art world and – to our sacred nature. But be aware; the capitalist system is on autopilot for no return: it is time to shut off the autopilot, or crash! Indeed, the capitalist system can and must be improved; or even be replaced by a more sustainable economic system, such as circular economy, degrowth and ecological economy (an economy that joins the society, human economy and natural ecosystems). As dehumanizing, destructive for the environment and even inhumane; the capitalist system might seem, the artists do not survive on grants and scholarships and residencies, only.
However, let's sum up the core arguments of this brief essay: inequality, anti-democratic behaviour and discrimination, elitism, imperialism, as well as commodifying processes, and dehumanization grouped, is thus, an integral and highly complex paradox of 'art as an institution'; in which; 'art', at times, becomes an instrument of hidden or obvious powers in our society. This is a paradox the Avant-garde and the artists, the capitalists and all art institutions, must confront. The art institutions are, thus, fundamental in shaping the conditions of the institutional art world, protecting artists rights, and the heritage and legacy of our visual culture, or simply the institutional art world's long-term continuance. The Avant-garde and the artists are, however, in an even more powerful and unique position, to form the premise for inventions, innovations and an uncompromising autonomous change within our institutionalized art world, and in our global society – radical and rapid system changes. Nevertheless, to make system changes in the institutional art world, the Avant-garde and the artists, the art institutions and the capitalists, have to co-work, co-evolve and co-create, to form new alignments of power and to redistribute resources within or radically linked to the institutional art world – to have impact on power relations. These potential collaborative networks must particularly empower system changes in the institutional art world, and bring new insights or novelties, that makes 'art as an institution' reinvent or renew itself. If so; a transition or reconfiguration of the institutional world art as a system, or its capacity to reach its fullest rafractionary, adaptive, struggle and system functions potentials – is possible. Moreover, system changes in the institutional art world globally, may be understood as a metaphor to system changes in support of a more ecological balanced system, as well as a balanced climate system, such as the author of this brief essay suggests: nature and culture (art) must be united to enable radical and rapid system changes – that supports humanity and nature. The author will return to this urgent issue in the epilogue bellow. Furthermore, the core actors in the institutional art world must, therefore, engage in Cathedral Thinking to transform, struggle, adapt and change the institutional art world into a more democratic, open, and humane, equal and inclusive, fairer and less elitist space, through a connected and deep transition of the system of the institutional art world. That brings us back to the beginning; the origin; the path created; the Cathedral of Modern Art; the phoenix; the epic system change; the pioneer of Dadaism; who paved the way for conceptual art; the American-French; Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968); the institutional critique of the Fountain (1917).
To sum up the essential facts on institutional critique and system changes in the institutional art world: we've simply learned and experienced that anything for anyone, is possible when it comes to institutional critique and system changes, in the institutional art world. On the bright side: the future looks stark and exciting for the existence and functionality of art in our global society – it is our best invented reality check! It makes the world function better; it tests our critical sense, it moves all our senses, and it enrichens our worldview intellectually. In experiencing art, we become more vibrant! In the Cathedral of Modern Art, we become alive and part of something greater, larger and more significant than ourselves: a moment of catharsis and transcendence, provided by our Avant-gardes and artists. In London's and New York's continuously evolving hotbed of dawning and emerging milieu of artists and Avant-gardes; and by the rules of this complex and unpredictable system; an old trick might work just as well as a new! Would you like to explore some new tricks? Take a stroll down into the Tanks of the Cathedral; in Tate Gallery of Modern Art, enter The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York, or become an ephemeral flâneur at the streets of Shoreditch in London, or at the streets of Red Hook in New York, for a week or two. And finally: let's again return to the reminiscence Fountain from 1964 (tate.org 2019). If not authentic or genuine: it tells a pedagogical stripped-down story of Duchamp's lost original – the flamboyant Fountain from 1917 (tate.org 2019). A reminiscence that still radiates power! It reminds us of the cut to the core concept; the free flow of opulent ideas and the controversies; the power relations and the artistic forces, that Duchamp; subconsciously by chance, provoked and ignited with his original masterpiece; the Fountain, 1917. It is, thus, not just a mask of the original: it is a conceptual expression that reminds us of a past story and teaches us a valuable lesson of what's lost and what's gained; in the Cathedral of Modern Art. It reminds us of the inherent artistic power of an Avant-gardiste, that through a singular artwork, blasted the institutional limits of – what art can be.
To Face Impossible Challenges and to Exceed our Limitations as Human Beings
No pressure contemporary artists and Avant-gardes stick to your guns and fight! Indeed, adversities must be confronted, dealt with and overcome, they must all become water under the bridge. In your struggle with your adversities, don't forget what brings lightness and what brings darkness into art; what's right and what's wrong in our global world, and finally; what's love and what's an act of evil or malice. In the heart of the cathedral, the truth is that creation; in most cases, is an optional, rightful, conflictual and powerful metamorphosis. It is an expression of freedom and resistance; choose your battles wisely! In this metamorphosis; which 'art' goes through; each person has been given their idiosyncratic role. But you are not just an art critic, Avant-gardiste, teacher, journalist or art mediator, professor, artist or art curator, student, art dealer, art lover; or simply a passive spectator. You are not just your given or chosen role. Most of all you're a fellow human being, and with it comes responsibility; to root our actions in human sensitivity, human vulnerabilities and human abilities, and at last; to show equal respect, acceptance, openness, caution and care to all human beings: we simply need to act as if we are one inclusive and mindblowing humankind, one diverse culture, one human force, dependant on one vulnerable nature – to survive. Currently everything is – at stake! Nature will adapt and survive, but will humanity? Can we sacrifice our interconnectivity; our global village, just for a moment; to regain our balance with nature, or are we lost, lamented and departed? We are in the heart of the Cathedral and it burns: act accordingly!
To avoid destruction, devastations and extinction of mankind and our culture, we must make radical system changes to capitalism's perpetual growth modus. We must all tap into our pool of abilities, vulnerabilities and sensitivities as human beings and connect to nature: it's time to override the capitalist autopilot or make fundamental changes to its inherent functions. It's time for an all-encompassing and overall organizational reorientation; a groundbreaking ecological system in balance, and a behaviour in accordance to the emergency we have put ourselves in. Time is scarce, but faith is stronger. Faith might be strong, but the facts are straight forward: we need to change everything about the human civilization to adapt to the climate crisis and avoid an ecological breakdown (Thunberg 2019). This urgent crisis must be prompted explicitly; to maintain the existence of our vibrant culture, and to avoid being eradicated from the globe, as a species. Because, for the last four-five decades; the facts have become successively more alarming, disturbing and overwhelmingly clear: humanity is on the edge of the cliff! It's time to put our heads together; in the heart of the Cathedral and act: it's time for a radical and superior global system change that supports humanity and nature, in which our limitations as human beings must be exeeded. In line with Thunberg's challenge (2019): hands up if you are ready for an impossible challenge, keep them raised if you want to commit to an environmental system change! Art has proved to us that anything is possible! So, nod your head if you are ready to change your habitual practice for the benefit of the tragedy of the commons, because that is – the key to our survival. It is that simple, that intriguingly complex and that clear – in one: that's what we got to do! Don't get all gloomy about it; search for tranquillity and – hands-on! All habits are changeable, and so are you. Take a final moment to yourself right now and think about how your customs can become more environmentally friendly. What can you change about yourself? Because, all tiny drops of water will eventually turn into a big river. And; all tiny drops of water matters – you matter! Are you ready? It's time for nature and humankind to stand united, again. It's time for the Avant-garde and the artists to sprinkle with their power feathers, once more, and make a final split with the white cube: think outside the given white cube, the proposed spatial container, or search outside the set and fixed theoretical and methodological box, again, again and again, and finally; once more. Hunt for solutions, do not let obstructions hinder your search to find and to reach your fullest human and environmental ambitions! Have some faith in human creativity and human intuition! Only creative solutions, flexible mindsets and organizational skills, will save the planet. The moment of transcendence and catharsis for humanity is here: the window of opportunity is now! It's time for a transition in favour of humanity as part of nature.
Even though it seems like we do not seem to have the skills, knowledge or will necessary to change, this is not right! We have had scientific based solutions since the 1980s, we do however lack the one unifying political will to change! And, to recall you: we are the responsibles, we are in charge (the Anthropocene), we must altogether – change. When it comes down to it, it is humanity that must find a way to solve this potential catastrophe. But be aware, if we do not steer clear of this urgent crisis, we do not know how, when and if humanity will be capable of handling a future faced with a looming climate breakdown, and a more and more distinctive and intrusive ecological breakdown. However, connected and entangled socially and at pace with nature, we will stay stronger (Christakis and Fowler 2009). Nonetheless; even if the lines have been broken before, remember; we are nature and we are culture! The past, present and future has enlightened and empowered us to encourage and believe in system changes, that enables humankind to be understood as parts of nature: we cannot live without nature! But the ecosystem on the Earth can survive, and the climate system on Earth can endure without us (Attenborough 2019). We can only live in balance with the Earth, and enjoy the gracious, sacred and grandiose space so kindly given to our and other species' disposal: this Cathedral is a gift – not to mess with! To return to the confessional origin: an existential crisis in the Cathedral. I am a fellow human being, I make mistakes, I must learn: to regain my sense – I must change, so must the system! And, a shift is on its way. In the culture sector and the domain of nature jointly; from habitual practices to the entire globe; when it comes down to changes towards a more just and humane planet; in balance ecologically and climatically: system changes on all levels are good and honourable reasons, worth to continue fighting for! We cannot keep on treating nature in the destructive manner we have done before. We are not only self-destructive as a species, we are self-effacing; we are approaching a potential – 6th mass extinction, we are about to sweep away the ground beneath us, if we do not start caring for our livelihoods – the planet (Attenborough 2019). In this state of crisis and potential catastrophe, the Earth has her own narrative. She has her own say – Mother Earth has spoken:
When it all falls down, the enigmatic wisdom of the Earth has come to our rescue. Gravity has taken yet another fundamental turn. The frontier of the past, present and future has turned circular. I stand in front of you; the Cathedral, and I am swallowed by your spacious and grand entrance, in which the gateway to the soul of the Cathedral transpires. In the heart of the Cathedral I am as green and overwhelmed, naked and confused; as I've ever been. Once more my heart was beating, blood ran through my veins and I was breathing. In the turmoil of the crisis, the Cathedral opens our eyes to the sky – and the whole sky falls down. For the sake of art, I became alive and I encountered my Gods, again. In the nexus of the Cathedral our minds are dancing in hesitation and darkness, once more. Are you waiting for a better future too? It's time to listen to the Earth. Let’s reinvent everything and blaste new paths: a phoenix arises!
The existence of the phoenix is circular. The movement of our eyes around a circle is repetitious. All points on the circle has the same distance from its centre point. An optically correct drawing of a circle must be constant in its form, but not in its size. Yet, if in an organic or flexible material, it simply transforms from within, or it is modified from the outside. From a distance, it is our focal point, the centre of our attention, the soul. Circularity is our way of being, it is how we existis, from our humble and fumbling birth to we fade out and die. Our mindsets are circular. But, the shape of the circle has no end and no beginning. It is in a constant movement. In the centre of its circularity, we are surrounded and embraced: we are in its centre. Everything in its circular form radiates tranquility, inner calm. It is infinite, complete – history repeats.
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