by Paul Virilio
'Remaining silent, now there's a lesson for you! What more immediate notion of duration?' , Paul Valery noted in 1938, shortly before the tragedy of the camps, the silence of the lambs ...
To speak or to remain silent: are they to sonority what to show or to hide are to visibility? What prosecution of meaning is thus hidden behind the prosecution of sound? Has remaining silent now become a discreet form of assent, of connivance, in the age of the sonorization of images and all audiovisual icons? Have vocal machines' powers of enunciation gone as far as the denunciation of silence, of a silence that has turned into MUTISM?
It might be appropriate at this juncture to remember Joseph Beuys whose work, Silence, parallels, not to say echoes, Edvard Munch's 1883 painting, The Scream. Think of the systematic use of felt in Beuys' London installations of 1985 with the gallery spaces wadded like so many SOUNDPROOF ROOMS, precisely at a time when the deafening explosion of the AUDIO-VISUAL was to occur along with what is now conveniently labelled the crisis in modern art or, more exactly, the contemporary art of the crisis of meaning, that NONSENSE Sartre and Camus were on about.
To better understand such a heretical point of view about the programmed demise of the VOICES OF SILENCE, think of the perverse implications of the colouration of films originally shot in BLACK AND WHITE, to cite one example, or the use of monochromatic film in photographing accidents, oil spills. The lack of colour in a film segment or snapshot is seen as the tell-tale sign of a DEFECT, a handicap, the loss of colour of the rising tide under the eflects of maritime pollution ...
Whereas in the past, engraving enriched a painting's hues with its velvety blacks and the a rainbow array of its grays, BLACK and WHITE are now no more than traces of a degradation, some premature ruin.
Just like a yellowed photograph of the deceased mounted on their tomb, the MONOCHROMATIC segment merely signals the obscurantism of a bygone era, the dwindling of a heroic age in which the VISION MACHINE had yet to reveal the PANCHROMATIC riches of Technicolor ... gaudy, brash AGFACOLORI over-privileging hot colours to the detriment of cold. But surely we can say the same thing about the sonorization of what were once silent films.
Nowadays everything that remains silent is deemed to consent, to accept without a word of protest the background noise of audio-visual immoderation that is, of the 'optically correct'. But what happens as a result to the SILENCE OF THE VISIBLE under the reign of the AUDIO-VISIBLE epitomized by television, wildly overrated as television is? How can we apply the lesson of Paul Valery's aphorism in considering the question, not of the silence of art so dear to Andre Malraux, but of the DEAFNESS of the contemporary arts in the age of the multimedia?
Silence no longer has a voice. It LOST ITS VOICE half a century ago. But this mutism has now come to a head ... The voices of silence have been silenced; what is now regarded as obscene is not so much the image as the sound or, rather, the lack of sound.
What happens to the WORLD OF SILENCE once the first SON ET LUMIERE productions are staged, again under the aegis of Malraux, invading as they do the monumental spaces of the Mediterranean? The 'son et lumiere' phenomenon has been followed most recently by the craze in museums as venues for live shows, though you would be hardpressed to beat the calamitous NIGHT OF THE MILLENNIUM, when the mists of the Nile Valley suddenly broke up a Jean-Michel Jarre concert. After the deafening felt of Beuy's London installation, PLIGHT, they managed to bring SMOG to the foot of the pyramids.
'I don't want to avoid telling a story, but I want very, very much to do the thing Valery said to give the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance.' These words of Francis Bacon's, taken from David Sylvester's interviews with the artist and quoted as a lead-in fbr the 'Modern Starts' exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, 1999, beautifully sum up the current dilemma: the less you represent, the more you push the simulacrum of REPRESENTATION!
But what is this 'situation' concealing if not the contraction if time? Of this real time that effaces all duration, exclusively promoting instead the present, the directness of the immediacy of ZERO TIME ... a contraction of the LIVE and of LIFE, which we see once more at work in the recent appeal of live shows, which are to dance and choreography what the video installation already was to Fernand Leger's Mechanical Ballet.
All in all, the invention of the CINEMATOGRAPH has radically altered the experience of exposure time, the whole regime of temporality of the visual arts. In the nineteenth century, the aesthetics of CINEMATIC disappearance promptly supplanted the multimillennial aesthetics of the appearance of the STATIC.
Once the photogram hit the scene, it was solely a matter of mechanically or electrically producing some kind of reality effect to get people to forget the lack of any subject as the film rolled past.
Yet one crucial aspect of this mutation of the seventh art has been too long ignored and that is the arrival of the TALKIES. From the end of the 1920s onwards, the idea of accepting the absence of words or phrases, of some kind of dialogue, became unthinkable. The so-called listening comfort of darkened cinema halls required that HEARING and VISION be synchronized. Much later, at the end of the century, ACTION and REACTION similarly would be put into instant interaction thanks to the feats of 'tele-action', this time, and not just radiophonic 'tele-listening' or ' tele-vision'.
Curiously, it is in the era of the Great Depression that followed the Wall Street Crash of 1 929 that SILENCE WAS PUT ON TRIAL in Europe as in the United States. From that moment, WHOEVER SAYS NOTH ING IS DEEMED TO CONSENT. No silence can express disapproval or resistance but only consent. The silence of the image is not only ANIMATED by the motorization of film segments; it is also ENLISTED in the general acquiescence in a TOTAL ART the seventh art which, they would then claim, contained all the rest.
During the great economic crisis which, in Europe, would end in Nazi TOTALITARIANISM, silence was already no more than a form of abstention. The trend everywhere was towards the simultaneous synchronization of image and sound. Whence the major political role played at the time by cinematic NEWSREELS, notably those produced by Fox-Movietone in the United States and by UFA in Germany, which perfectly prefigured televisual prime time.
Alongside booming radiophony and the live rallies of Nuremburg and elsewhere, the talkies would become one of the instruments of choice of the fledgling totalitarianisms. For Mussolini, the camera was the most powerful weapon there was; for Stalin, at the same moment in time, the cinema was the most effective if tools for stirring up the masses.
No AGITPROP or PROPAGANDA STAEFFEL without the consensual power of the talkies. Once you have the talkies up and running, you can get walls, any old animated image whatever to talk. The dead too, though, and all who remain silent. And not just people or beings, either, but things to boot!
'The screen answers your every whim, in advance', as Orwell put it. Yet though the walls may well talk, frescos no longer can. The seventh art thus becomes a VENTRILOQUIST ART delivering its own oracles. Like the Pythian prophetess, the image speaks; but, more specifically, it answers the silence of the anguished masses who have lost their tongues. As a certain poet put it, 'Cinema never has been SILENT, only DEAF.
Those days are long gone. No one is waiting any more for the REVOLUTION, only for the ACCIDENT, the breakdown, that will reduce this unbearable chatter to silence.
In olden days a pianist used to punctuate segments of old burlesque movies; now the reality of s cenes of everyday life needs to be subtitled in similar vein, the AUDIO-VISUAL aiming to put paid to the silence of vision in its entirety.
All you have to do is dump your mobile phone and grab your infra-red helmet. Then you are ready to go wandering around those museums where the sound-track amply makes up for the image track of the picture-rail.
Does art mean listening or looking, for the art lover? Has contemplation of painting become a reflex action and possibly a CYBERNETIC one at that?
Victim of the prosecution of silence, contemporary art long ago made a bid for divergence in other words, to practise a CONCEPTUAL DIVERSION before opting for convergence.
Surely that is the only way we can interpret the Cubists' newspaper collages or the later, post- 1918, collages and photomontages of Raoul Hausmann, say, or his Berlin Dadaist confrere, John Heartfield, not to mention the French Dadaists and Surrealists, among others.
In a decidedly fin de siecle world, where the automobile questions its driver about the functioning of the handbrake or whether the seatbelt is buckled, where the refrigerator is gearing itself up to place the order at the supermarket, where your computer greets you of a morning with a hearty 'hello', surely we have to ask ourselves whether the silence of art can be sustained for much longer.
This goes even for the mobile phone craze that is part and parcel of the same thing, since it is now necessary to impose silence in restaurants and places of worship or concert halls. One day, following the example of the campaign to combat nicotine addiction, it may well be necessary to put up signs of the 'Silence Hospital' variety at the entrance to museums and exhibition halls to get all those 'communication machines' to shut up and put an end to the all too numerous cultural exercises in SOUND and LIGHT.
Machine for seeing, machine for hearing, once upon a time; machine for thinking very shortly with the boom in all things digital and the programmed abandonment of the analogue. How will the silence if the infinite spaces of art subsist, this silence that seems to terrify the makers of motors of any kind, from the logical inference motor of the computer to the research engine of the network of networks? All these questions that today remain unanswered make ENIGMAS of contemporary ethics and aesthetics.
With architecture, alas, the jig is already up. Architectonics has become an audio-visual art, the only question now being whether it will shortly go on to become a VIRTUAL ART. For sculpture, ever since Jean Tinguely and his 'Bachelor Machines', this has been merely a risk to be run. As for painting and the graphic arts, from the moment VIDEO ART hit the scene with the notion of the installation, it has been impossible to mention CONCEPTUAL ART without picking up the background noise of the mass media behind the words and objects of the art market.
Like TINNITUS, where a ringing in the ears perceived in the absence of external noise soon becomes unbearable, contemporary art's prosecution of silence is in the process of lastingly polluting our representations.
Having digested the critical impact of Marcel Duchamp's retinal art, let's hear what French critic, Patrick Vauday, had to say a little more recently:
The passage from image to photography and then to cinema and, more recently still, to video and digital computer graphics, has surely had the effect of rendering painting magnificently celibataire. Painting has finally been released from the image-making function that till then more or less concealed its true essence. Notwithstanding the 'new' figurative art, it is not too far-fetched to see in the modern avatar of painting a mise a nu of its essence that is resolutely ICONOCLASTIC.
At those words, you could be forgiven for fearing that the waxing twenty-first century were about to reproduce the first years of the twentieth, albeit unwittingly!
Under the guise of 'new technologies', surely what is really at work here is the actual CLONING, over and over, of some SUPER-, no, HYPERABSTRACTION that will be to virtual reality what HYPER-REALISM was to the photographic shot. This is happening at a time when someone like Kouichirou Eto, for instance, is gearing up to launch SOUND CREATURES on the Internet along with his own meta-musical ambient music!
What this means is a style of painting not only without figures but also without images, a music of the spheres without sound, presenting the symptoms of a blinding that would be the exact counterpart to the silence of the lambs. Speaking of the painter Turner, certain nineteenth-century aesthetes such as Hazlitt denounced the advent of 'pictures of nothing, and very like'. You can bet that soon, thanks to digital technology, electro-acoustic music will generate new forms of visual art. Electro-optic computer graphics will similarly erase the demarcation lines between the different art forms.
Once again, we will speak of a TOTAL ART one no longer indebted to the cinematograph, that art which supposedly contained all the rest. Thanks to electronics, we will invent a GLOBAL ART, a 'single art' , like the thinking that subtends the new information and communications technologies.
To take an example, think of the influence of Wagner on Kandinsky in 1910, when the very first ABSTRACT canvases emerged; or think of the influence of Kurt Schwitters whose Ursonate was composed of oral sounds ... Then, of course, there is the influence of JAZZ on works like the 'Broadway Boogie Woogie' of New York based Mondrian, an artist who would not have a telephone in the house during the years 1 940 to 1 942 . Unlike MoholyNagy, who was already making TELE-PAINTINGS twenty years earlier using the crank phone to issue instructions at a distance to a sign painter ... and inventing pictorial INTERACTIVITY in the process.
All this interaction between SOUND, LIGHT and IMAGE, far from creating a 'new art' or a new reality to borrow the name of the 1950 Paris salon dedicated to French painter Herbin's geometric abstraction only destroys the nature of art, promoting instead its communication.
Moreover, someone like Andy Warhol makes no sense as an artist in the Duchamp mould unless we understand the dynamic role played not only by sign painting, but more especially by advertising, that last ACADEMICISM that has gradually invaded the temples of official art without anyone's batting an eyelid. So little offence has it given, in fact, that where ' Campbell's Soup' not so long ago turned into a painting, today Picasso has become a car.
Last autumn, the BBC began broadcasting recordings of murmurs and conversation noises destined for the offices at the big end of town where employees complain about the reigning deathly silence.
'We're trying to get a background of ambient sound', explains a spokesman for the British station. 'These offices are so quiet that the slightest noise, such as the phone ringing, disturbs people's concentration which, of course, can lead to stuff-ups.
Following the muzak that is piped through shops and supermarkets, let's hear it for AMBIENT MURMURING, the voice of the voiceless! After the promotion of domestic consumerism via the euphoria of radiophony, it is now production that finds itself beefed up with a sound backdrop designed to improve office life ...
Similarly, over at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the post-renovation reopening exhibition, which was called 'Le Temps vite' or ' Time, Fast' was underscored by a sound piece composed by Heiner Goebbels.
Heralding the coming proliferation of live shows in museums, silence has become identified with death ... Though it is true enough that the d ead today dance and sing thanks to the recording process: 'Death represents a lot of money, it can even make you a star', as Andy Warhol famously quipped. Don't they also say that, on the night of New Year's Eve 2000, the 'POST-MORTEM' duo of Bob Marley and his daughter-in-law, Lauren Hill, could be heard all over New York?
On the eve of the new millennium, the aesthetics of disappearance was completed by the aesthetics of absence. From that moment, whoever says nothing consents to cede their 'right to remain silent' , their freedom to listen, to a noise-making process that simulates oral expression or conversation.
But did anyone in the past ever fret about the very particular silence of the VIS IBLE, best exemplified by the pictorial or sculptural image? Think of what August Wilhelm Schlegel once wrote about Raphael's Dresden Madonna. 'The effect is so immediate that no words spring to mind. Besides, what use are words in the face of what offers itself with such luminous obviousness?
Today, when the AUDIO-VISIBLE of the mass media reigns, beamed out twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, what remains of that effect of immediacy of visual representation? Media presentation dominates everywhere you turn.
Struck 'deaf and 'dumb' over the course of the waning century, the visual arts have taken a battering, not only from the animated image, but especially from the TALKIES.
Remember, too, what the poet said when he insisted on the fact that so-called SILENT cinema was only ever DEAF, the first cinema-goers of the darkened movie halls being less aware of the actors' lack of words than of their own deafness. The early devotee of the seventh art of cinematography translated the silence of the movies into their own imaginary handicap, their personal limitation in seeing without hearing what the characters up on the screen were saying to each other.
Yet has anyone ever experienced this feeling of infirmity looking at a painting representing singers or angelic musicians? Hardly! So why did the aesthetics of the animated image suddenly disable the viewer of silent films, rendering strangely deaf a person hitherto not deaf in the slightest?
'Looking is not the same as experiencing' , Isabelle Adjani reckons and she would know when it comes to looks. Adjani here goes one further than Kafka, who expressed his specific anxiety to his friend, Gustav Janouch, some time in the years between 1910 and 1912 :
' Cinema disturbs one's visions. The speed of the movements and the rapid change of images force you to look continuously from one to the next. Your sight does not master the pictures, it is the pictures that master your sight. They flood your consciousness. The cinema involves puttingyour eyes into uniform, when bifore they were naked. ' .
'That is a terrible thing to say' , Janouch said. ' The eye is the window of the soul, a Czech proverb says.'
Kafka nodded. 'FILMS ARE IRON SHUTTERS .
What can you say about the 'talkies' and about the sound-track that puts the finishing touches on the effect of mastery of the image track, except that they are a lot more harmful than people realize? Must we wheel in radiophony and telephony yet again to explain 'the accident of the visible' ' that goes by the name of the AUDIO-VISUAL?
Bear in mind Demeny's bit of chronophotography in which a man mouths 'je t'aime' to a camera that only records the movement of his lips. We've all seen the smile of the Mona Lisa; here you can see the smile of Etienne-Jules Marey's pretty niece as a prelude to hearing speech enunciated in front of a microphone.
The contemporary cnsls in the plastic arts actually started here, with the enunciation if the image of the TALKIES and the concomitant denunciation of our deafness. You do not lend speech to walls or screens with impunity not without also attacking the fresco and mural art and, ultimately, the whole panoply of the parietal aesthetics of architecture every bit as much as painting.
After the eye, mobilized by the whipping past of film sequences denounced by Kafka, it is the turn of the ear, traumatized suddenly by imaginary deafness. Victim of the war in which the unfolding of time is speeded-up, the field of perception suddenly becomes a real battlefield, with its barked commands and its shrieks of terror; whence the quest for the SCREAM as for FEAR conducted by the German Expressionists throughout the traumatic years of the 1920s and 1930s when the disqualification of the silence of paintings would usher in the impending tyranny of mass communications tools.
This bestowing of speech upon images, upon the whirling rush of film, meant unwittingly triggering a phenomenon of panic in which the audio-visual would gradually lead to this silence of the lambs whereby the art lover becomes the victim of sound, a hostage of the sonorization of the visible. In his 1910 tract Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto, Marinetti, after all, declared, 'Our sensations must not be whispered; we will make them sing and shout upon our canvases in deafening and triumphant fanfares.'
The key term here is this WE WILL, expressing the triumph of the will to wipe out the voices of silence through the din of those famous 'noise-making machines' that heralded the ravages caused by the artillery of the Great War.
And so the upheaval in the graphic arts is not to be chalked up to photography or even to cinematography so much as to the TALKIES. As a contrast, both sculpture and architecture were able to dream up and elaborate the myriad metamorphoses of their representations and this, from the beginning in fact, thanks to a certain cinematic aesthetic.
'To command, you must first of all speak to the eyes', Napoleon Bonaparte decreed. 'The cinema means putting your eyes into uniform' , Kafka confirmed . Between these two complementary assertions, oral culture has slowly evaporated. The art of speaking has bowed out before the ' talking' cinema and the oratorical power of the political tribune has been defeated by media culture. From now on, what speaks is the image any image, from billboard images to images at home on the box.
Wherever TELEPRESENCE has taken over from PRESENCE, whether physical or graphic, silence spreads, endlessly deepening.
Having been wired for sound at the end of the 1920s in 1927, to be precise, with the film The Jazz Singer the cinematograph has not only pulled blinkers over viewers' eyes or iron shutters, as Kafka would say. It has also, according to Abel Gance, stymied looking before going on to render the visual arts hoarse and then swiftly dumb.
By indirectly promoting the rise of TOTALITARIANISM, Democratic Germany's 'silent prosecution' promptly authorized every kind of negationism. Bear in mind the confession of the German priest, Father Niemoller: 'When they arrested the gypsies, I said nothing. When they arrested the homosexuals, I said nothing. When they deported the Jews, I said nothing. But when they arrested me, the others said nothing.' Early warning signs of the pitiless nature of MODERN TIMES as portrayed by Charlie Chaplin, the visual arts of that historical period never ceased TORTURING FORMS before making them disappear in abstraction. Similarly others would not cease TORTURING BODIES afterwards to the tune of the screams of the tortured prior to their asphyxiation inside the gas chambers.
On that note, let's hear the testimony of Valeska Gert, the actress who starred in German filmmaker G. W. Pabst's 1 925 'street' film, Joyless Street:
I looked like a poster that was novel. I would screw my face up into a grimace of indignation one minute, then quietly dance the next. By juxtaposing insolence and sweetness, hardness and charm, without any transition, I represented for the first time something charac teristic of our times: instability. This was in 1917, towards the end of the war. The Dadaists did the show as a matinee in Berlin and the high point of the programme was a race between a typewriter and a sewing machine. George Grosz was the sewing machine. I danced to the sound of the two machines.
A still figure coming to life, silhouettes, shadows flapping about: the camera obscura had already been there, done that with the invention of visual perspective. But an animated image, one that talks, calls out to you ... This was the birth of a sonorous audio-visual perspective that far outdid what instrumental music had already done for the history of oral culture. Suddenly Plato's cave became the Sybil's lair and there was not a thing the visual arts could do about this sudden irruption of the AUDIO-VISIBLE.
When Al Jolson, the white singer who mimicked the movements of a black singer, launched his celebrated 'Hello Mammy' in the first talking film, in 1927, he was answering the unarticulated scream of Edvard Munch. In 1 883, two years before the Lumiere brothers invented cinema, Munch had tried to puff up the painted image with a sort of SOUND RELIEF, which was until that moment the sole province of music and its attendant notations.
Similarly, around 1910, newly hatched abstraction would typify the bid for mental sonorization in the pictorial realm. Here's the way Kandinsky put it: 'The clearer the abstract element of form, the purer, the more elementary, the sound.'
An adept of the then very recent discoveries in the psychology of perception, this pioneer of abstraction would seek to clear the field of all the formal references of figurative art. In the peculiar manner of the Berlin School's GESTAL THEORIE, Kandinsky would tirelessly pursue 'the right form' : a pictorial language 'that everyone can understand'.
It is worth noting in this regard that, contrary to the romantic notion previously expressed by Schlegel, art's most serious drawback is its immediacy, its ability to be perceived at a glance.
While theatre and dance those arts involving immediate presence still demand prolonged attention, we sum up the visual arts immediately, or as good as. The very recent development of REALTIME computer imagery only ever accentuates this effect of iconic stupefaction.
Whence contemporary art's shrillness in its bid to be heard without delay that is, without necessitating attention, without requiring the onlooker's prolonged reflection and instead going for the conditioned reflex, for a reactionary and simultaneous activity.
And strangely, as British art historian, Norbert Lynton, notes:
Since the thirties, we have spoken more and more often also of another sort of commitment. We want the artist not only to give himself wholly in his art and to pis art; we also want him to dedicate his resources to political progress. For too long, the argument goes, has art been an ornament and a diversion; the' time has come for the artist to accept adult responsibilities and to make art a weapon. Art that does not help in the fight diverts attention from it.
This declaration of hostility towards the prolonged attention of an ONLOOKER, who then finds him- or herself defined as MILITANT, if not MILITARY in any case, as militating against the law of the silence of art is typical of a 'futurism' for which war was the world's only hygiene. It could only end up disempowering the graphic arts due to their lack of sound.
For if certain works SPEAK, those that SHOUT and SCREAM their pain or hate would soon abolish all dialogue and rule out any form of questioning.
The way that pressure from the media audience ensures that crime and pornography never cease dominating AUDIO-VISUAL programmes so much so that our screens have reached saturation point these days, as we all know the bleak dawn of the twentieth century was not only to inaugurate the crisis in figurative representation, but along with it, the crisis in social stability without which representative democracy in turn disappears.
To thus vociferously denounce OMERTA, this law of the silence of art, and promote instead some socalled 'freeing up of speech' , was to trigger a system of informing that George Orwell would later portray to perfection. NEWSPEAK, the language Orwell invented in his novel, Nineteen-Eighty-Four, beautifully exemplifies not only the linguistic cliches of the emergent totalitarianisms, but also the crimes and misdemeanours of the audio-visual language of the MASS MEDIA and, in particular, those of this denunciatory telesurveillance we see being installed all over the world.
While psychoanalytical culture managed to bring artists up to speed with tales from the FREUDIAN DIVAN, twentieth-century political culture would embark on the rocky road of trying to control the silent majorities. TO MAKE SOMEONE TALK would suddenly become a major requirement with the advent of the poll and television ratings systems.
The imperatives of state security and those of advertising become indistinguishable in identifying trends in public opinion. And so contemporary art finds itself dragged kicking and screaming into this escalation in the use of investigative and promotional campaigns, especially in the United States, where sponsorship ,turns into manipulation, pure and simple. That is, until the Saatchi affair of autumn 1 999, when the exhibition 'Sensation' at the Brooklyn Museum, financed by Christie's International, had the unavowed aim of speculating on the value of the works on show.
Despite Magritte and a handful of others, commercial imagery verbal art, visual art would wreak the havoc we are all too familiar with yet which has for some reason provoked less of an outcry than that wreaked by 'Socialist Realism', the official art of the defunct Soviet Union ... The comic strip iconography of the likes of Roy Lichtenstein taking on the noisy sound effects of the Futurist machines, Mimmo Rotella apeing systematic billposting, etc. Why go on?
As for Andy Warhol, listen to him: ' The reason I'm painting this way is because I want to be a machine'.
Like Hamlet reinterpreted by the East German defector Heine Muller, the WARHOL-MACHINE no longer has something to say about the 'worker', but only about the 'unemployed'.
Somewhere between Antonin Artaud and Stelarc, the Australian body artist, Warhol does not so much document the end of art preceding the end of history as the end of the man of art: he who speaks even as he remains silent.
Whether what is at issue is the manual speech of the painter or the bodily speech of the mime artist or dancer, we are now living in the age of suspicion with doubt about the creative faculties of naked man holding sway.
With the indictment of silence, contemporary art can't quite shake off the acccusation of passivity, indeed, of pointlessness ... The case instituted against silence, citing the evidence of the works, then ends in out and out condemnation of that profane piety that was still an extension of the piety of bygone sacred art.
Silence suddenly stops being indulged: he who says nothing is deemed to consent in spite of himself to judgement of the artist on mere intention.
Accused of congenital weakness, the silence of forms and figures suddenly turns into MUTISM: the mutism of abstraction or that of an indeterminate figurative art whose victims were to be Giacometti, Bacon and co. 'The less you think, the more you talk', Montesquieu pointed out. Surely the same thing applies to the visual arts. The more you talk, the less you paint!
The first thing to go was craftsmanship, a victim of industrial manufacturing from the eighteenth century onwards. In the twentieth century, it was art's turn to feel the impact of industrial repetition head-on. Victims of an art that claimed it contained all the others, with television following hot on the heels of the movies, the visual arts have slowly vanished from the set of history and this, despite the unprecedented proliferation of museum projects.
The art of the motor cinematographic, videocomputer graphic has finally torpedoed the lack of MOTORIZATI ON of the 'primary arts'. And I don't just mean the oceanographic arts or those that have come to light at Thule in Greenland but also, equally, the gesture of the artist who, first and foremost, brought his body with him: habeas corpus; all those corporal arts whose vestiges remain the actor and the dancer. Such motorization thus prefigures the disastrous virtualization of choreography, the grotesque dance of clones and avatars, the incorporeal sara band of some choreographic CYBER-ABSTRACTION which will be to dance what the encoding of digital HYPER-ABSTRACTION has already been to easel painting.
The Nazi assault on degenerate art would thus be followed by the age of computer-generated art, AUTOMATIC ART, cleansed of any presence sui generis an aesthetic cleansing thereby perpetuating the recent ethnic and ethic cleansing in the theatre of the Balkans.
And so, after the SACRED ART of the age of divine right monarchy and after the contemporary PROFANE ART of the age of democracy we will look on helplessly, or just about, as a PROFANED ART emerges in the image of the annihilated corpses of ryranny, anticipating the imminent cultural accident the imposition of some multimedia 'official art'.
Art breakdown, contemporary with the damage done by technoscientific progress. If 'modern art' has been synonymous with the INDUSTRIAL revolution, 'postmodern art' is in effect contemporary with the INFORMATION revolution that is, with the replacement of analogue languages by digital: the computation of sensations, whether visual, auditory, tactile or olfactory, by software. In other words: through a computer filter.
After the like, the ANALOGOUS, the age of the 'likely' CLONE or AVATAR has arrived, the industrial standardization of products manufactured in series combining with the standardization of sensations and emotions as a prelude to the development of cybernetics, with its attendant computer synchronization, the end product of which will be the virtual CYBER WORLD .
It might be useful to note, by way of winding up these few words, that the hypothesis of an accident in AESTHETIC values or in scientific knowledge in the age of the information revolution is no more farfetched than the hypothesis of the accident in ETHIC values that shook Europe in the age of the production revolution ...
What has recently taken place in Austria in the aftermath of the tragedy that has been playing out for ten years in the Balkans proves yet again that POLITICS, like ART, has limits, and that democratic freedom of expression stops at the edge of an abyss, on the brink of the call to murder limits bli thely crossed by those already going by the name of THE MEDIA OF HATE.
excerpt from the book: Art and Fear by PAUL VIRILIO