I was always perplexed by modern art. Why would anyone pay millions for a canvas painted completely blue? Furthermore, why should such a painting hang in a museum? I, with no artistic talents, could produce a better painting. Heck, my four-year-old could do better.
I finally got modern art when I picked up a book about Rites of Spring, a 1913 ballet. It was not any ballet. It was history’s most controversial ballet. The Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, departed radically from traditional music, using irregular rhythms and dissonance. Choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, the performers danced in a choppy and disjointed style, far different from standard ballets.
Needless to say, the performance caused a riot. With boos descending from the audience and people leaving en mass, Stravinsky and Nijinsky hailed it a major success. In a flash, I understand the ballet, modern art, and all of post-modern culture.
In a Christian culture, the end means of art is beauty, and since beauty is an attribute of God, it is considered objective and timeless. Art from the Christian era, the Pieta or Notre Dame, is beautiful and will always be considered beautiful.
In the post-Christian worldview, art is detached from God, and there is no objective aim. Artists no longer desire that their art be beautiful, but new. Culture has thus become a rat race to produce newer and newer art forms, measuring their success in the shock factor.
I mistakenly thought that artists wanted to produce beautiful paintings or beautiful music. The painter of the blue canvas did not want me to stand in awe of his work, but stand there confused, saying I could do that. Stravinsky did not want applause and rave reviews. He wanted boos and rioting. In both cases, they wanted to shock the viewer.
Here’s the catch. You cannot do the same thing twice. The second person to paint a blue canvas will not be in museum. You have to invent a stranger, more radical form of art, which brings us to Miley Cyrus.
Miley Cyrus poses with Lady Gaga, two celebrities that perform and dress for shock value. (Image via Flickr, JOnasIsMyMiddleName)
I did not see MTV’s video music awards (MTV still exists?), but what I have gathered from my Facebook feed and the news, Miley Cyrus performed a tasteless and provocative number. The reactions have all been negative, but in terms of the world, she was a huge success. That is, winning today is measured by shock value, not beauty.
Miley Cyrus realizes all press, good or bad, only keeps her in the news for longer. Her act surpassed Britney’s infamous kiss with Madonna and Lady Gaga’s meat dress. She’s the newest, most shocking celebrity, but by doing so, she has ventured the farthest from true beauty. Was it worth it?
Sadly, we are far from correcting the course of our culture. I hope that eventually we issue a collective: ENOUGH! And, demand an end to shock culture and insist on a rediscovery of true beauty. In the interim, I am scared what will happen next year on MTV.
August 27, 2013 09:23
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi