Expressionism, Rule Following and Fascist Art

As I Lay Dying

Fascist art is the unwanted child of expressionism and stringent rule following, pressed and molded under the boot heel of totalitarian propaganda.  Break the grip of one or the other on the imagination of the artist, and we can, finally, get back to the business of creating humanist art.

Let me elaborate.  Expressionism is concerned with the primacy of emotional expression in the creation and consumption of art.  It is not concerned with description as much as metaphysical prescription of what is valuable, and what it is to value.  It is not hard to see that unmoored from some sense of reality and allegiance to it, expressionism can be pressed into any shape whatsoever.  Consider: What is Jackson Pollock’s entire oeuvre, if not a tip o’ the hat to just such a proposition?

We are still friends; humanists, all, even now.  But add on rule following, that will not break its own apparatus of practice and we have a subtly mixed but no less-volatile compound.  Rules cannot recuse the follower from his obligation to forsake such and such a rule due to some other lexically prior right or obligation.  The rule, “traffic allowing, turn right on a red light” does not prescribe how long one should follow this rule or where one should follow it.  It is only the dogmatic lover of right turns and red lights who would follow that rule to the end of the world, the end of his days.  This man is, of course, the artist for whom expression is the only worthwhile value, and as a consequence, expressionism is his aesthetic.

Here and there, some Augustus will establish a totalitarian regime that attaches its instruments on the coerced bodies, and suspicious minds of the chosen many.  If for some artist the only value is expression and expressionism and it can be molded to fit any need, and rules are followed though lives be lost, is it not possible that Augustus himself could set upon this artist all the riches of the land to do what, for him, is his own good?  “Set about painting the social beneficnce of war and complete drawings that speak to the communal benefits of relenting during protest; I will give you your audience.  They are the people; they are you.”   Those people, their eyes pried open, gorge on so  much declamatory art, celebrating in signs and screed so little that is kind and humane.

~ by Faheem Haider on November 5, 2009.

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