Chanter Literary and Arts Magazine — December 1964

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times frantic and oft en self-conscious, probing. It is an age wherein today's knowledge, tomorrow, stands in need of embellishment, fundam ental qualification, or actual refutation; aesthetic style has simply donned the restless intellectual and spiritual raiment of its age. "The word" today is that of the philosophic logos, a logos which has come to reside in the scientific spirit. The artistic expressions of this century have been so eclectic, that it is difficult to ascertain just what does constitute their general or pre dominate stylistic-aesthetic characteristics. N evertheless, those artistic movements which have been clearly discerned and und erstood in this century (i.e. neo-clas­ sicism in music; cubism in art; expressionism in both, etc.) all have at le ast one thing in common with each other and to the philosophic logos of their age. They are all primarily rational; either objectively rational, and rational toward the realities of everyday life such as neo-classicism, or, at least, rational in their internal structural d e­ sign, such as cubism, which, however, goes beyond and breaks through the rationality of eve ryday appearances, as indeed, has science. For in the sense of everyday common sense realism, there is nothing more irrational than the rationality of science, in all of its disciplines. The alliance of these movements with "the word" is essentially an alliance with the philosophic logos of the ir century­ the rationality of the scientific spirit. R ecently the artistic movement known as abstract impre ssion­ ism has become a dominant artistic force , and even more recently, in the last few years alone, out of abstract expressionism something e lse has develope d in artistic expression: Paint, sheer color, arbi­ trarily arranged, sometimes literally thrown onto the canvas with great zest-the elements of accident and enthusiasm becoming cent­ ral to the artistic expression; sounds, purely sensuous (often e le c­ tronic) and often arranged to two extreme ways-either through a preconceived and arbitrary organizational condition which negates freedom of choice and makes the expression a kind of mathematic inevitability, or sheer sound (sounds of nature superimposed, sounds of breaking glass electronically reproduced, etc.) arranged with the e leme nts of accident and random as the chief components. The end result is fundam entally the same for all of these ex­ treme forms of avante garde artistic expression. For they all have one basic thing in common: moral responsibility has bee n aban­ doned in favor of irrationality. Indeed, the se most e xtreme forms of avante garde art and music today are actually passionate ex­ pressions of irrationality. Such art is no longe r simply irrational in the sense of breaking through everyday re ality, but, far deeper, 32

they are the passionate re bellion against the claims of all logic, the claims of all structural relationships, the claims of all things rational, and finally rationality itself. The meaning of such art is derived in one way. Meaning is derive d solely through the directly subj ective and completely sens­ ual reaction of the viewer or listener. The artistic experience is re­ duce d to the level of pure subjective sensuality. This is a fact; it is not a pronouncement of condemnation. Understanding endows �is­ torical proc ess with its own power of selectivity-of condemnation and conservation. Nevertheless, such expression in many instances are e xpres­ sions worthy of the name art. Blobs of arbitrarily arranged c?lor�, presumedly for their own sake, and sheer sensuous sounds arb1�ran­ ly arranged and presumably for their own sake, have the cap?c,ty to be true art. And though it is undoubte dly a fact that there 1s more charlatanism in the world of music and art today than e ver in their history, tru e art, nevertheless, has bee n achieved in the very ways just described. Why? The re ason is that sheer color and sheer sound contain two things which have made them a relevant and valid artistic e xpres­ sion for our age. They are these : the eternity that inescapably lies beneath and supports all existence including any fragment of e xis­ tence, and the specifically arranged temporality; mea�ing in such

art lies in the immediate and direct sensation of the tension between the eternal and the arbitrarily arranged temporal.

Such works have se vered their relationship to the philosophic logos; such works also appe ar to stand divorced from the th� ologi­ cal Logos; such works are solely existential. Y et, it is for this very _ re ason -the fact that they are solely existential-that the theological Logos is implied and directly reaffirmed. For all such expr ession, regardless of whether or not they ore good or bad, that is, artistically successful or unsucce�sful, is the _ unconscious "que st for reve lation" (Tillich). For such e x1stent1al art is the dramatic testimony of the sophisticated despair of our age. The despair of a penetrating but fragmented awareness; an� aware­ ness that no longer will or can commit itself to the presumptions and moral pronounce ments of both the philosophic logos and theolo�y. Existential art is the quest for revelation because it is primarily the passionate expression of an awareness which sees bey�nd the pretensions of all idealism. For this very r e�� on such a_r;t is often simply play; play in the fullest and most po�1tive �ense : Excep� ye be converted and become as little children ye ·shall not e nter into 33