Metamodernism & Retromodernism: Wellspings of Art & Culture

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Soo I’m an aesthitician. Sometimes I do nails … but mostly I do art. Everyone has their interpretation of art, but do some of us have more acuity for seeing the beauty in art? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how do we develop that ability to see it? Is such beauty inherint in anything? If so, are there things better left unseen? What determines what our mind decides to focus on?

If the conscious layer of the mind is like the surface of water and thoughts are like the bubbles the subconscious allows to rise to the surface, then what determines what arises fully to the conscious layer? This is just as important to the beholder as it is the artist, but the artist develops an awareness of how the beholder will see their work. Much of what lies in our subconscious isn’t worth thinking about, but the best artists seem to be able to swim in the depths of their subconscious, retrieving jewels not shaped or constrained by effable thought. How does one tap into that?

Oh yeh, the joke. You’ll need this definition to get the joke.

Aesthetician

ϕ What is Retromodernism?

∇² The Best Artists Fly Under the Radar

∇² Oh Snap! We Got A Smart One Over Here!

ϕ Truth: An Artist’s Perspective Contraposed with the Status Quo

∇² Distraction by Design

∇² S-Class Artist

∇² Suffering for Art’s Sake

ϕ And Just Fade Into Nothingness?

∇² Hello? Is Anybody Out There?

ϕ Bound to Cover Just a Little More Ground

∇² Never Change! Don’t Ever Change!

∇² Shh! Can You Hear That?

∇² The Best Artists Must Choose Between Success and Art

∇² Falling on Deaf Ears

ϕ The Best Art Stays Crypted

∇² Hipsters Drink from the Wellsprings of Art & Culture

∇² Semiotics of Medium

∇² On Art, Knowledge and Directive Cognitive Expansion

The Next Ghostbusters is Steampunk

Steampunk

What is Retromodernism?

Once technology has eliminated the constraints to artistic medium, it seems the near future might present us with an artistic movement that reenvisions and recombinates alternate progressions of technology in search of alternate mediums and formats, which might have been popular in some alternate timeline or formulation of reality. What would art look like if industrialization emerged from India or elsewhere in the 18th century, finally spreading modernization to Europe? If modernization emerged and converged in some way that changed the order and regions in which technologies became available, how would that have changed the qualities of artistic mediums? E.G. if photoshop was available before and without radio, how would that affect the nature of print medium? The progression of art, mediums and techniques surely would shape it’s prevelance and evolution, so what if that were different in some way? How would we think about the past today if some seemingly trivial aspects differed slightly?

We may see a resurgance in interest in revisiting 19th and especially 20th century tech and ideas to find hidden gems, rare art and recombinant forms of such. We already see this in steampunk and elsewhere, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to it as retromodernism. I apologize for inventing a word. While awareness of differentiation and distinction of ideas is important, I’m not fond of arbitrary division and distinction between ideas, so who am I to create another? And really … who am I to try to define a concept such as retromodernism?

Much of the art produced to reflect this idea would be encumbered by stilted constraints imposed by the artist, but if some retromodernism formulations seem natural enough to avoid lengthy explanation, we’d see some very interesting art indeed. Further, this would help us understand the general nature of alternate progressions of technology in the near future, as we approach the Singularity.

The Best Artists Fly Under the Radar

Many artists remained unknown until their death, never tasting the fruits of success, recognition or fame. Van Gogh is a great example. Is this necessary to their faculties of vision and reflection as an artist? In many ways, isolation, struggle and incomprehensibility can reinforce their skills as an artist. It’s ironic that success and fame might alter the potential of an artist, but it clearly has time and time again. Public recognition distorts the way they see things, causing them to transcend the environmental constraints. They become deprived of the challenges that helped them originally develop their ability and vision.

Success and fame cause us to become attached to them. We fear their loss and then choose to don restrictive social norms and conventions, which begins to couple us to those things which we originally distinguished ourselves from. IMO, it is what is unique that is beautiful and intriguing. When art makes us think, that forces us to invest time and energy in understanding it, which fosters appreciation for that work. An artist constrained by society will produce works that reflect that. Whether it’s a painting or novel or film or video game, art that isn’t distinguishable doesn’t seem to require as much thought for us to understand.

In many ways, art represents the frontiers of inner space. Artists are like astronauts who explore their own subconscious depths as well as the expanse of cultural artifacts and ideas. The rich and powerful defend the status quo because it makes them comfortable. They also buy art. You aren’t going to sell much art if you’re trying to sell it at a shelter for the homeless. Your price point is determined by your audience or market. Art expands how we think and the most popular art forms the edge of things we think about. Still, art and truth have a tendency to slip out and have a powerful effect on how people think. This changes the status quo. And so, the development and progression of art is influenced by the idiosyncrasies in the market for art, whether it’s visual art, corporate art, literary or cinematic art.

Oh Snap! We Got A Smart One Over Here!

The best artists fly under the radar! Quite often, they have to shield their true understanding of the world around them because they can be serious threats to those in power. That doesn’t mean there are men in black out there snuffing starving artists. Instead, you’ll find that the rich and powerful will tend to redirect your energy through allures of money and positions of influence. As someone who’s struggling, it’s hard for the artist and author to resist, but not everyone is Mozart. Those who have considerable influence and way too much of other people’s time on their hands want to identify these possible threats early on.

It is not the rich man you should properly call happy, but him who knows how to use with wisdom the blessings of the gods, to endure hard poverty, and who fears dishonor worse than death, and is not afraid to die for cherished friends or fatherland.

The artists who are just lucky and don’t fully understand their work won’t feel as commited to forego selling out to protect the authenticity of their work. But the true genius will endure hard poverty for his work because he believes his message is worth the struggle. This is true of many other facets of life. Great parents may forsake opportunities or distractions to ensure they devote themselves fully to their family because they embody a belief that nothing is more important than their family. So they instead seek humility and stability.

Oh Hey, Look! It’s Mara! Do You Think She’d Like Some Tea?

Buddha and Mara

Truth: An Artist’s Perspective Contraposed with the Status Quo

Let me apologize in advance for the impending conspiratorial statements. The point is – if you are an artist or philosopher whose ideas threaten the status quo, you’ll find yourself on a relevatory path of suffering for truth, assaulted on all sides by distractions, frenemies poisoned against you and outright malevalent forces.

If you make it too far, but refuse to give in, there may be powerful forces who seek to get you off that path by any means necessary. It is most effective to do so by offering you a career opportunity and essentially buying you off. Actually, they want to keep you busy and keep you close, while appearing to be your friend. They don’t seek to become overt enemies and “they” aren’t exactly evil, cigar-smoking, men in suits. But beware, if you are a true threat in any big way, the people on the top of that pyramid of power do not play nice. You will not know what hit you. Usually, they start with a metaphorical gift-basket though. Hey, look! Wine and chocolates! If you’re lucky, you’ll have some mimosas. Perhaps some brunch and coffee.

Distraction by Design

The very best artists know that they’ll be presented with an assault of enticing distractions. They are well aware that great art is mystifying. Moreover, they have the capacity to develop a unique vision or message, but they are familiar enough with it to understand that their ideas may be dangerous. Therefore, this artist may seek to limit exposure to protect his/her voice.

For example, not to say I’m an example of this class of UG Artist, but I know that I can’t post my blogs on Reddit or my account will be deleted. The /r/philosophy and /r/askphilosophy mods told me so. Nope, I can’t even “AskPhilosophy” bro! Typical, for me. No, I’m not allowed to utilize online forums to interact with other like-minded intellectual citizens.

S-Class Artist

This class of artist realizes that (1) the conventional critic or consumer isn’t going to understand and (2) if someone doesn’t understand, it may ultimately threaten the artist’s quest for truth and realization of vision. Thus, to this end and in pursuit of mystification, the great artist learns to encode their work with a vaporous shroud of enigma. In this way, if the art truly merits criticism and study, then those who meditate on the piece long enough may unlock the truth.

I wish I could do this with my own work, but I’m plagued by the sensation that I’m running out of time, which is a blessing and a curse. It doesn’t help much when the people around me don’t seem to care about my pursuits, writing or business. Also, I think it’s interesting to expose my drafts on Github, as it exposes the thinking and writing process a bit. Typically, showing others unfinished work is a major mistake, but in my case, something is better than nothing and I have a lot to offer! If I upload drafts of my work early on, then no one can steal my work while I’m in the process of writing with no means to sustain my work and constantly assaulted by efforts to distract me from ever becoming anything or ever accumulating a legacy. I’d prefer not to vanish without a trace…

Suffering for Art’s Sake

So, the great artist knows they might have to suffer for their work and they are more than willing to do so, not out of a sense that doing so might mean they become more successful, but because it is worthwhile. If the great artist had acuity for great art and thought there wasn’t much value to their own work, they wouldn’t be so eager to expend energy and endure hardship in pursuit of the exhibition of truth. On the other hand, they know that excessive success may change them or draw too much attention to early work, possibly forcing them to abstain from expressing ideas that threaten the status quo. It’s de facto censorship. If you’re too attached to wealth or fame, you’ll censor yourself. If the great artist knows this and purposefully flies under the radar, then it gives him or her more time to produce more work, hoping it will be discovered later. Or perhaps the artist isn’t attached to whether or not the work will become widely known after their death.

And Just Fade Into Nothingness?

I don’t think so. I’m not sure what the deal is, but I haven’t really had a life experience. I mean I have, but I haven’t. I feel like I’m watching TV all the time. Like I can look, but I can’t touch. Why can’t I participate in life? Why have I been essentially blacklisted? The damage done to my life, my psychological development? It’s unreal. I don’t understand what curse lies upon my name, but holy shit people treat me like Voldemort and all I wanted was connection. Connection with likeminded intellectuals or beatniks or hippies or whoever. It really doesn’t matter. Everyone has a story and I don’t have the damn money or means to do anything. For all the restriction in my own life, I have accumulated a ton of experience and knowledge. I want to put that to use; to build something; to make something. Or !@#$, at least get laid.

As for my own journey, I finally recognized that I had great ideas and just how different they were. By the time I did, I had already sought to suppress expression of everything I knew because I feared that hidden elements in the world would lash back at me. However, the world seems to have done just that and when I began publishing, I never got a bigger rise out of people who wanted to shut me up. I’m not sure why, since I was writing treatises on the humanities: linguistics, philosophy, psychology and sociology. I didn’t even know what a treatise was, but that definitely describes some of my best articles. Maybe I got too close to some esoteric topics. It’s depressing to get so close to the truth and fear leaving nothing behind. Still, getting this mostly insinuated and passive aggressive reaction was as close as I came to satisfaction from a project and it was more accesible than apps and programming libs because it was written in English.

Hello? Is Anybody Out There?

Is This Facebook Thing Even On?

It’s actually fun, at this point. If all I get is a rise from blogging about what’s worth thinking about, it’s totally worth it, even no one ever actually recognizes me. I have skills and knowledge and passion, but who cares? I’ve been mostly disconnected from my social graph and I have no social capital. If I’m lying about something, then by all means, call me out on it. I dare you. I’ve been shadow-banned from social media. They don’t even let me have trolls down here because I’d game them right back for the social media newsfeed points.

I uploaded my drafts recently and now my updates are posted to cloud prematurely to ensure that I don’t end up vanishing without a trace or legacy. Over the past decade, I might have been naive, boisterous, and ironically undereducated, but I learned a lot and while it seems that I produced little to nothing, I have spent so much time thinking and philosophizing. I’ve felt deprived of opportunities and perhaps tormented by a handful of people, which forced me into isolation, where I quietly build out magnificent edifaces in my mind. I don’t want to be so attached to what I’ve created, but I’ve given too much. I’ve sacrificed too much for my mind.

Bound to Cover Just a Little More Ground

The tendency and perhaps necessity for great artists to remain unseen implies that there should be much undiscovered art. Somewhere out in that wide world, there lies a vast, hipster paradise, a veritable elephant graveyard where starving artists go to die in peace as stubborn, but joyful paupers. So, as technology expands our ability to create, while inevitably diminishing the space of the uncreated, we may become more interested in finding those pieces otherwise buried beneath the deafening roar of industrialization and consumerism.

The best artists also have the technical capability to hide their true vision. They have the acuity to develop a vision in the first place. And some of these people may have understood, to truly push out their ideas, they needed to hide them in plain sight, within their work. Therefore, they must also understand how to encode these kinds of symbols and messages. The person capable of the above: they are usually capable of success. If security and stability doesn’t stray them from their path, then fame & fortune will tempt them. It tempted me, but I had experienced so much suffering and sacrifice to retain the freedom to speak freely that I wasn’t willing to allow myself to be sold out. I suffered for the ability to speak my mind and to speak the truth as I saw it and only later realized the cause of my pain. I wasn’t willing to sell out or become a mockery of what I suffered for.

Never Change! Don’t Ever Change!

These artists, the remarkable ones, are able to withstand the initial temptation of fame & fortune. Often, they reach such heights only after it is inevitable that their work brings such attention, but they are less susceptible to being changed by it. That’s difficult, especially since it changes those around you. And if you are in such a position, it stems from being yourself. You’re marketing yourself and people want the authentic you, but it’s incredibly hard to maintain that.

Quite simply, the best artists value the truth and authenticity of their art more than anything else in the world. They know what it is that they have and why people respond the way they do to their personality or work.

Shh! Can You Hear That?

Here are some observations on music and art that may lead to interesting insights. Some music, art and artforms need to stay underground. Even if it wasn’t made for mainstream appeal, it loses something if it becomes mainstream. Art and music risk losing some truth or aspect of themselves, once they extend beyond a circle of people who truly understand it.

Music which can only be fully enjoyed by those with the right headphones is less marketable. There are lots of songs out there, for which you can only truly experience what the artist intended if you have a high quality headphones. This makes it inherently less marketable. Still, at the same time, more artistic. If you’re an artist and you’re making music with this in mind, then by embracing your artform with creative, hard-to-hear music production techniques, you have to accept that you’re probably not going to be successful, since it’s less marketable.

The Best Artists Must Choose Between Success and Art

In other words, because the better artist can encode their message utilizing more obscure and hard-to-ascertain means and because it’s necessary for the best art to lay low under the radar, then the more proficient artists must necessarily choose between success and art. Therefore, and quite often, mainstream success is at odds with artistic expression. This doesn’t mean that mainstream artists aren’t good artists. However, it implies that, over the 20th and 21st century, there should be plenty of artists or artforms which completely avoided mainstream notice. That is, some of the best art was a bit too camouflaged. It stayed hidden.

These artforms based on technology that was only around for a few years or those formulations of art which would’ve only occured in some alternate universe: these should contain some hidden gems that have been otherwise completely missed. It’s not too hard to imagine that in the age of modernization, amidst the roar of globalization’s mainstream media, that some truth and beauty of our development lays still unnoticed, perhaps for eternity.

Falling on Deaf Ears

Why should one suffer for art, if it’s to fall on deaf ears?

Back to audio engineering, there are so many production techniques that would be lost on those not listening with a critical ear. To the same point, many creative techniques enrich audio or visual art which are totally lost to most, except to those who listen with a critical ear. Therefore, in terms of becoming popular or achieving mainstream success, none of those techniques are going to help you sell art, but they require more effort: sometimes orders of magnitude more time or cost.

Truly, the best artists produce work that’s like an onion. Every time you experience it, you peel away what turns out to be the surface of some amazing new layer you hadn’t imagined. Sometimes you cry. The best is when art hits you with a wave of truly unexpected emotion as a result of a revolution in how you see some aspect of their work’s object. i.e. PS I Love You (just trust me) … In that case and in others, the art led me to see something that I could have never expected myself. Perhaps I would have never experienced it …. Chick flicks, amiright?

The Best Art Stays Crypted

And so, the best art is necessarily underground. It’s easy to miss. It’s not popular. Sometimes it’s downright subversive, which is why the artists painting with uncomfortable truth would prefer to remain hidden. It’s because their truth might limit their capacity for telling the truth. That is,unless for some reason, they happen to export enough of it while they can, hoping that at some point in the future, when society is a bit more understanding, life will acknowledge the artist as being truly ahead of his or her time. The artists that meet this criteria are few and far between. As society becomes more tolerant, the person who exemplifies the strength and virtue of this artist will become a jewel perhaps impossible to find.

There’s a group of hipster critics who pride themselves on understanding those sensory delicacies most often lost. These critics share their tastes with their friends and as they do, that art grows slightly in popularity. To a lesser degree, so does the general appreciation of what makes that art “good” that can be recognized by listeners and consumers.

The selection of underground artforms and symbols recognized by someone forms a kind of map or language that can speak volumes on who they are and who their friends are. This especially applies when they are unaware of the significance of some symbols. This esoteric aspect of underground music and art only holds true as long as those works remain underground.

Hipsters Drink from the Wellsprings of Art & Culture

When critics recognize underground art for some minor qualities that remain missed by others, and then spread that art & appreciation of its qualities to others, this forms a kind of cycle. There’s a wellspring of creativity at the center, surrounded by hipsters and master artists. These wellsprings have an intense effect on the evolution of art.

The evolution of art and music is an incredbily powerful thing to control or influence. Control this and you control the map of ideas available to others, upon which all that they know and think is woven. There are unseen forces that guard these wellsprings of creativity, art and culture. To either control them for profit or to protect them from tainted influence is to guard the metaphysical realm for future generations. As the speed at which information and culture converge across the globe via technology increases, the metaphysical realm begins to increasingly influence reality and begins to manifest itself.

From these wellsprings, artistic influence gradually spreads outward to the mainstream consumers whose capacity for recognizing and appreciating “good” art expands. These wellsprings basically throttle the process of natural selection that selectively propagates some works of art over others. It’s survival of the fittest. What’s worth retransmitting and what maintains interest is propagated to other nodes in the graph. Those with the most eclectic set of interests have the most unique positions in the graph. They are the “hipsters” who exert the most influence on the rest of the graph.

Semiotics of Medium

To truly appreciate art, one needs the capacity to understand and they need to activate it. The significance and meaning of art itself is often encoded into the art, whereby the significance of symbols related to the production of the art is important to understanding the true meaning of it. This is because artists are most familiar with their tools. Since these are the languages of symbols they understand most, they provide the semiotic basis of “second language” for the artist and the artisticly inclined. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the production of art and the techniques involved if you hope to understand an artist’s work.

New mediums, like those of technology, require a new set of afficianados, familiar enough with the medium to understand this semiotic language of signs based on the medium itself.

On Art, Knowledge and Directive Cognitive Expansion

In other essays, I have discussed the importance of semiotics in expanding consciousness as critical to developing our mind’s ability to abstract ideas, generally. That is, the degree of our consciousness is measured by the expanse of symbols a being can communicate with and by it’s skill in reconstituting those signs and symbols into peer-to-peer micro-languages. That’s what is meant by “having a connection” with someone. They understand you and your actions in a way that can be only established by contact, listening and a true emotional connection.

If this is so and the degree of consciousness is measured by the expanse of symbols a being can communicate with, both those it recognizes and uses, then it should stand to reason that our most learned citizens are the most conscious and the best artists must be those of us who are highly educated and retain a varied expanse of experiences.

These are the most conscious. Those of us who know and understand and are capable of the most authentic empathy. This is why I focus so much on learning new languages and forms of writing.