2015 – oil on canvas, 150×150 cm / 59×59 in
Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards”. Aldous Huxley
“I look into the abyss of our civilization and see the mirror of our mechanized brain”. Anna Chromy
In 1958, Aldous Huxley wrote “Brave New World Revisited”, in which he reconsidered his book written 30 years earlier. He concluded that the world was becoming like “Brave New World” much faster than he originally thought, due to overpopulation, drugs and subliminal suggestions by which populations can be controlled.
Over 50 years later what would Huxley conclude today? Certainly not that he was wrong!
Aldous Huxley was one of the preferred authors of my youth.
Another premonitory work, which I recently unearthed again, is Ortega y Gasset’s “The Revolt of the Masses”. Just one excerpt summarizes this brilliant essay: “As they say in the United States: “to be different is to be indecent”. The mass crushes beneath it everything [and everybody] that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select… Nowadays “everybody” is the mass alone”.
I would like to show the prescience of those two authors with two recent examples, one in international politics and one in my own field of the arts. Ortega’s thesis has once again been confirmed by the recent events in Russia. Just over a year ago, the popularity of Premier Putin was at its all-time low. Twelve months later, in 2015, he was a national hero. How did he achieve this? Not by creating better living conditions for his people; they are worse off now. Not by granting more freedom for personal development; only the government media is left. No, he started a war to grab land from a neighbor, killing thousands in its wake, pretending that he did it to protect the fatherland and its people, and became a hero.
As Ortega said: “Everybody is the mass alone”, and we could add “Everybody’s brain is part of the mass”.
Another phenomenon of our mass civilization is what they call “Contemporary Art” or “Art of the Trader”, with Jeff Koons as its most successful representative. I quote from the March 2015 edition of “The Art Newspaper”: “Koons usually begins with extremely high-resolution scans of his source object” – a photograph of Lady Gaga, or a toy-store figurine – “that are used to make 3D renderings”. “These ultimately guide a multi-axis milling machine that carves or drills into the chosen stone”.
A pure mass production process, with a total absence of creativity and the sole purpose of creating ever-bigger works for ever-larger chequebooks of an ever-increasing mass of speculators, who displace the connoisseurs. When I created my Cloak of Conscience with the help of two assistants, themselves qualified artists, I could not have applied these methods of mass production. No robot could have created the interior space of the sculpture or its folds. I had to develop them one by one from the top to the ground.
This is my example of creativity of the human spirit versus its computerized, mechanized version. I consider Leonardo’s words, “where the Spirit does not work with the Hand there is no Art”, still valid today!