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Symbolism is the future of visual art

Painting had a devil of a time adjusting to the rise of photography. They tried all sorts of ways to think of reasons why their skills had value apart from representation. The Impressionists said, we're not painting objects but light reflected from objects. The cubists said, we can give you several points of view at once, not like a two-dimensional photograph. Surrealists said, we can lump together objects that would never be seen together in real life and so stimulate your unconscious. Abstract painters experimented with color, line, shape, texture, and ultimate found objects, where selection rather than creation was seen as the essence of the artistic imperative. Meanwhile others delved into the emotional world with automatic painting, and expressionism. But as painting became more and more about painting rather than communication, it grew more and more ghettoized even as appreciation of the old representational works had never been more widespread or higher. What is to be done? The future is suggested in that story about the "Piss Obama" the Republicans created. One photograph from American artist Andres Serrano in 1987 has haunted their dreams and waking for twenty-five years. One photograph has caused more outrage, drama, and dreams than all of the rest of art put together. One photo of an ordinary glass with a yellow liquid in the bottom and a crucifix sitting it, has obsessed them night and day for decades, making them feel angry and helpless, but not disgusted, as they expected to be. Why? Because it was not, as they pretended, a desecration. Try as they might, nobody gagged up a lunch on seeing it. Serrano's photo didn't reduce CHRIST at all, but it rather made piss seem tasty and drinkable. It elevated the natural body function rather than tore down their religion. So when they created "Piss Obama," hoping the left will feel angry and frustrated as they will, the fact remains 1) they are more likely to gag over this representation than the left; and 2) they are by doing it elevating Obama to a kind of supernatural talisman, all while satisfying their sexual lust for Golden Showers. The future of art, what will reconnect it with the masses as well as the intellectuals, is the briliant manipulations of symbols, the ordinary understood symbols of secular, commercial, religious, etc. society. Andres Serrano has shown the way.


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