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Nihilism and Art

Postby VicG » Fri Sep 06, 2013 7:16 pm

"Artists with nothing to say usually resort to gross behavior and call it “novel” or “ground-breaking.” In the musical, literary, and visual realms, they are the avant-garde of nihilism. " This quote is from a political columnist I follow named Edward Cline. I tend to agree although not entirely with his esthetic judgements. The Webster dictionary definition of nihilism is as follows:
a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless
b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths
c : a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility

Who are the artists that you can identify as being nihilists? I am not passing judgement on nihilism in this post but making the point that an artist's philosophy, whether held sub-consciously or consciously, will be reflected in that artist's work.

My own cynical view is that nihilism has been the dominant philosophy in the arts and championed by the elites for quite some time now. Too many examples to list here but categorically from graffiti, performance and conceptual art to the denunciation of Western culture as being evil.

Have you identified your own philosophic premises? I think it is essential for artists to do so.
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Re: Nihilism and Art

Postby rhknigh » Sat Sep 07, 2013 7:31 pm

Would you care to share just one of the artists that you feel represents nihilism philosophy in their works? I am trying and drawing blanks, it makes me wonder if maybe I just avoid them and so therefore are blind to these that you say you are cynically recognizing as being "championed by the elites" (but then, the elites is not me).

I feel that philosophy is something personal that you would need to find an interview or some thing of that nature wherein the artist specifically expresses what it is. I find many artists I have spoken to have intent that is very far from nihilistic but are trying to point to a divine nature and a higher state of being beyond the limitations of such simplicity as nihilists who generally believe in nothing. Artists are here to save the world in my opinion, not to say everything is useless and senseless. In fact, artists dial in to a level of sensitivity that is beyond the norm.
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Re: Nihilism and Art

Postby VicG » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:53 pm

My examples would be in literature, Thomas Mann, in particular his novel "The Magic Mountain." a pretense of intellectual erudition but all the time he is mocking the reader as to the absurdity of their even reading his novel.

In music it is John Cage. A pretentious fraud that flaunts the aspirations of any upcoming composer as futile.

In the visual arts I will just pick the low hanging fruit of criticism and that is graffiti. Kieth Harring, the most celebrated and critic enhanced poster child of an art world gone mad.

Too much info to include in one post. You get me started and I get into trouble with my passion and frustration for what I see as a nihilistic trend in art.

I agree with you that most artists have a vision transcendent of such nonsense. They are a minority of what is being shown, reviewed and subsequently bought.
Vist my painting blog athttp://oldmasterspainting.comfor more in depth articles
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Re: Nihilism and Art

Postby rhknigh » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:23 pm

Oh, I get you now. I had gotten the idea before that you thought the entire direction of contemporary artist was nihilist. There are always so many opinions in art and some are just like that. Maybe you could write an article about your views on this subject if you have a lot to say. Seeing words outside of your head on a screen can be a good thing. Not only do you share your ideas with others, but it helps to make way for more to come. Just a thought. That is mainly what I do, write and promote art. :) Far from nihilist.
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Re: Nihilism and Art

Postby VicG » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:37 pm

Thank you. You have provided me with hope that art is still alive. Maybe this is why I joined this website, to gauge what contemporary artists are thinking and doing these days. I have become far too cynical and perhaps I needed a blast of fresh air that confirms that artists today are still being artists.
Vist my painting blog athttp://oldmasterspainting.comfor more in depth articles
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