Culture Against Art – Apophatics
Usually the word “culture” is conjugated with the word “art”. We are told from childhood that culture is the highest, most important spiritual heritage of mankind. It includes religion, science, art, philosophy, and the most striking intellectual, technical, and economic achievements of the human race. This is what distinguishes a person from an animal. And the artist, respectively, is a cultural worker. Museums are temples of culture. Etc.
Is it so?
Absolutely not. Yes, culture, to some extent, may be a sign of man’s difference from the natural world. But, what does this give the man himself, besides pumping his brain for unjustified anthropo-racist ambitions, thinking that he is marked by the highest prerogative and chosenness, and therefore has the right to control the natural world according to his free will? Observing a terrible environmental crisis, we see what such an arrogant approach has led to. But I would like to point out the following.
In fact, culture hardly tolerates any religion, philosophy, and art it dislikes. And the fact that it immediately swallows sacred, intellectual and artistic products of human activity speaks only about one thing – in this way it tries to unarm, castrate, and neutralize this passionate human activity. Thus, the goal of culture is to turn this activity into something toothless, harmless.
Because these areas are transgressive, they represent the main explosive desire of man – to break out of all the restrictions imposed on him since childhood, from all the suffocating molds set for him by society, breaking through to the unthinkable freedom of spirit. The goal of culture is exactly the opposite – preservation of the obvious achievements of the Philosopher, Saint and Artist, clogging of these fiery impulses of breakthrough into the beyond, into the glamorous artifacts of museums and cultural archives, supposedly for subsequent generations. But these generations will still not understand anything in these frozen and cadaveric artifacts, for the true always happens “here and now” and is not subject to any fixation and archiving. Any fixation of the fiery creative impulse is the killing of this impulse. As life practice and basic research shows, subsequent generations are not able to adequately understand the messages of previous generations fixed in static artifacts. All the “cultures” of antiquity – Paleolithic, Babylonian, Egyptian, antique, etc. – are closed from us, presenting themselves as external exotic scenery. For the keys are lost, the language. We look at the monuments of the Middle Ages and antiquities through the prism of modernity, completely disregarding how people thought then. Everything preceding for us is an unfamiliar language into which we project our own fabrications. In a word, culture is a global mental cemetery, a substitute for reality, a powdered obstacle on the path of the rebellious spirit of an ascetic to that which has no names and is higher than any already thought something
So here we reach the topic that unites religion and art, more precisely, prophets and artists – the topic of apophatics.
Both the prophet and the artist intuitively strive to reach out to what has no name, which is indescribable. In this aspiration, which is included in the tradition of iconoclasm, they commit “countercultural” actions, that is, actions that are not accepted by culture, are condemned, are called destructive, radical, and even – extremist. Secular culture is afraid of such actions as fire. Let us take a look at the monotheistic tradition, in which the destruction of idols was not only an important feature, but also a fundamental characteristic. In ancient Babylon, Abraham destroyed the idols of gods and goddesses, even those made by his own father. Moses broke the golden calf, which was made by his fellow tribesmen … In the avant-garde art of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso exclaimed: “Burn the museums!” Antonin Artaud insisted that “end masterpieces!” Futurists also talked about overcoming the entire past as something that impedes progress. Artists were not joking and it was not said just for the sake of saying. The radicals of the artistic avant-garde opposed human culture as a global system of idolatry, which served as an obstacle to the movement of the spirit to unconditional freedom, to that which has no name. And here is the most eloquent example, not only in content, but also from a visual point of view – “Black Square” by Kazemir Malevich and the Black Cube of the Kaaba.
Malevich created “Black Square” as a collective image of the PICTURE as such, “drowning”, annihilating in this zero image all the visual diversity of the previous history of fine art, all the pictures of the world. The direction created by him – “Suprematism” – was supposed to be the last and highest stage of art.
As for the Kaaba, the story suggests that after the Muslims, led by the prophet Muhammad, occupied Mecca, the prophet began to actively establish in one God, as an absolutely indescribable and inexpressible Reality. And this meant the destruction of the idols of former gods and goddesses. So, having entered the territory of the Kaaba, Muhammad, reading the verse “The truth has appeared, and the lie has disappeared. Verily, lies are doomed to perish ”(al-Isra 17/81), destroyed 360 idols, formerly established by the Quraysh in the Kaaba. After this, the Muslims destroyed other idols that were outside the Kaaba, among which was the idol of the goddess Manat …
Thus, the apophatic, idol-fighting tradition, which was followed by religious figures and avant-garde, radical artists, dates back to the earliest times of the history of mankind, as a set of “cognitive tools” for eliminating interference and noise in consciousness / thinking and gaining “clarity in truth”.