95 Theses on Art
The project is dedicated to re-questioning the purpose of contemporary art in our civilization. Namely art became part of philosophical
discourse after the invention of ready made (Duchamp, Danto). Especially- it became a part of the philosophy which inspired the
cultural hegemony of trading indulgences for the sake of paying off the sins of our (Western and global) civilization.
So, the philosophical systems which underlay contemporary art are not much different from systems of beliefs and religious
promises about ends and meanings of life. According to this artistic- philosophical discourse, this project will be adjusted to the conceptual
relation toward the history of trading with indulgences. Similar as Martin Luther had fixed 95 theses on the doors of the Wittenberg
church almost 500 years ago and similar as Duchamp wanted to place his urinal "Fountain" at the Exhibition of Independent Artists,
I will try to fix 95 Theses on Art at the doors of different galleries, which will (hopefully) allow this act of "art-faith".
Jiri Kočica, artist
95 Theses on Art:
1. Art always relates to transcendence.
2. Namely, all art has derived from religious feelings and has evolved as a part of a cult.
3. Evolutionary psychologists discovered that aesthetics is connected to reproductive (mating) selection (already established by Darwin),
and moreover art has a power of transcending events, it helps individuals and groups to survive by binding society together.
4. These words would mean that, in essence, there are no differences between different cultures; for example, there is no
conceptual difference although forms can vary.
5. Actually the same concept of art has been created wherever the human society has existed.
6. But in ancient Greece historicizing, based on democracy, began when free citizens entered into the "agora" freely
to perform history; and that event fundamentally influenced the role of art in the future.
7. For the first time (some) art had appeared in a way where ordinary, real human life had been transcended into
history without being transformed into myth or into cult.
8. Freedom of the individual person and of society and their relationships towards others became essential in
organizing mutual relations in society and among cultures (while God's perspective had ceased to remain the
only point of view to maintain transcendence).
9. Both custom and character (in ancient Greek "ethos" and "ethos") became profoundly connected in ethical dimensions.
10. Custom (ethos) had retained its meaning and its roots as the glue of society until the time of the Enlightenment
because mutual relations in society were mainly adjusted regarding divine transcendence.
11. Character (ethos) began to reflect personal freedom as transcendence, which had overcome vital
necessities and had been transmitted in a historical sense to Roman and later to European culture.
12. The invention of historicizing and transcending reality through art in ancient Greece has been carried into
European civilization by the memory of antiquity and has a large prosperity in the renaissance and humanism.
13. From God's point of view, the emphasis has been shifted to human (personal) experience and its durable nature;
this replacement has demanded greater stress on argumentation with rational logic and verification. With this shift an
argument (thesis) acquires the characteristic of eternal law by probation.
14. At the same time argumentation with rational logic and verification ousted traditional divine transcendental
authority from philosophical and scientific discussions; while in art, ritual functions were gradually being replaced with
a more realistic image of a world subjected to rationality and cause-consequence laws.
15. A historical, ordinary view of reality gained important meaning when some phenomena were verified
through logical structures and experiments as (eternal) law.
16. Traditional forms of metaphysics (God) began to fade away in European societies because of un-verifiability, lack
of logic and inability of experimental proof.
17. Namely, only with verifiability, logic and experiencing the truth could be seen in its historical form.
18. Once we come into the field of logic, experience and verifiability, we cannot step into blind faith without
being uncomfortable ... but simultaneously, we can deny but are unable to reject our natural religious feelings without being uncomfortable, too.
19. With the historicity of European art some individuals and groups began to change the forms of transcending reality.
20. The traditional form of transcendence (metaphysics, God) began to crumble because of the growing significance of
verifiability, logic and experience so that ethos, as a custom, began losing its value; but ethos as a characteristic
became more and more important (the stimulation of individualism, the individual character as emancipation from
tradition, which was imbued with religious commands for the separation of good from evil).
21. The Copernican Turn changed the human condition and demanded a re-evaluation of its traditional relation to transcendence.
22. In addition, Luther's attempt to reform the Church with his 95 Theses had momentous consequences that opened new
relations of the individual to transcendence.
23. Personality and uniqueness began to displace tradition because entering into history and the community became
more and more important.
24. The relationship between individual and community became very fragile and brought about disturbances when unbalanced.
25. Imbalances between the individual and community had and have the ability to break the code of civilization and
slip into relations of bare power, violence and barbarianism.
26. In balancing this relationship art plays an important role.
27. Enlightenment was most likely the last wave of rationality, which had attained the background
of a traditional (Christian) form of metaphysics in society, and society at the time was not completely totalitarian
and dogmatic any more (in the lands where enlightenment emerged).
28. At the same time the meaning of the traditional God almost disappeared from the area of rationality, logic, verifiability
and experience of the individual.
29. Lacking the pre-historic field of metaphysics which had followed caused a panic-stricken search of transcendence, because
it is difficult to think of human beings without any connection to a transcendence that assured traditional ties
between ancestors, the living and descendants.
30. The metaphysical vacuum appeared in which man was confronted to inability of believing in an improbable
traditional metaphysics, yet man needed faith.
31. Rousseau's deviation from the arts and sciences, and his defense of the state of uncorrupted savagery
struck the subtle civilizational balance between rational-logical science, and multilayered religious life adjusted with centuries of experience.
32. Various philosophers wildly searched for (and almost lost) metaphysical fields of community which created the
heterogeneous ideological landscape of Europe.
33. In that ideological heterogeneity art increasingly replaced the traditional role of religion because it derived
itself from cult and was sufficiently detached from logic and the sciences (and at the same time sufficiently connected to it).
34. Philosophy, which was the traditional foundation for sciences and after enlightenment also for art, created God
from pieces of human creativity (Kant, Hegel) while on the other hand, expelling God (Nietzsche).
35. Artists acquired the position which traditionally belonged to clergy.
36. The idea that the profane history has a divine character has been influenced by the reasoning that
cogito (reason) is close to divine and that the human being is responsible only to himself because of rationality.
37. The idea, that our (subjective) reason freely comprehends (objective) necessities and that we can build an
ideal society only according to our reason was merely transference of the human need of religion.
38. The language of logic, rationality, argument and verifiability is always in counterpoint to the language of myth and magic
and also to the language of poetry to some extension.
39. But both visions of the two language reach to the origin of transcendental feelings and of our ability to
communicate; therefore, language is a cornerstone of science and art, belief and verification.
40. Neuroscience has been discovering recently that probably each and every human being has an inborn need for transcendence.
41. Apparently, art has been liberated from religion only with transference from traditional religious spheres (which were
regulated through long periods of time and occasionally, very painfully) into the spheres of philosophy and politics.
42. Art has gradually replaced the religious foundation of European civilization with political utopias, which were structurally
similar to the religious promises of redemption.
43. Also the French revolution has been filled with the same "divinization of politics" and "divinization of history", similar to the
romantic artistic endeavor to reach transcendence without being traditional.
44. Detachment from tradition became a very important achievement by itself for an artist.
45. It was a sign of progress toward a sphere of greater individual liberty and deeper originality of his creation; while very
artistic activities attained a character of religious practice.
46. That's how the cult of artists of genius emerged, and this cult completely transformed the middle age position
of the humble artist, who considers himself a servant in discovery of God's incomprehensible complexity and glory.
47. The cult of those "artists of genius" attracted the attention of an increasingly literate and media-covered society.
48. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century all conditions for an additional change of art and society were ready.
49. Art has more and more loosened the feeling of reality by expelling traditional transcendence and also by denying reason.
50. Art, by dispersing reality, has gradually detached itself from representation of truth, ethos and beauty.
51. Holy writings were replaced by new cult books and manifestos with seemingly scientific and apparently logical
explanations of history, which were in essence, a kind of stimulus for the irrational alteration of social relations.
52. Most of these art and political manifestos expressed a need for using violence.
53. These manifestos contained instructions for changes that have apparently been necessary for the improvement
of the world (with both Rousseau's affirmation of "noble savagery" and "natural purity" and with the help of surrogates
for traditional religion in the form of political, futuristic, and scientific utopias).
54. Artists in various social and political systems have enthusiastically contributed to the “improvement” of the world.
55. While doing this, they tried to act as radically as possible to deny Western traditions and values, and for that
purpose, strived in finding patterns that would fundamentally change dominating points of view.
56. Attempts to reconstruct the utopian savage "equality, fraternity" or uncivilized "liberty" with each revolution
slid into tyranny and barbarism, because these attempts were strengthened by murder and sacrifice as a pivotal moment of alliance.
57. During the passage of the 20 th century specific iconoclasm began, which was reflected both by the breaking of
classical images or figures and by establishing a conceptual scheme, instead of works of art, as an experience.
58. Ugliness, as the evidence of "real" reality, lying as the way of "achieving success" and cynicism as a
"moral" attitude, which serves as the transition from a naive society into "political" and "historical self-management", gradually expelled beauty from art.
59. The First World War, as a turning point in human history and incision into civilization, was almost entirely overlooked by avant-garde artists.
60. By means of a military coup in Russia (the October Revolution), international socialism was established as a political system; and that was
a realization of those manifestos that demanded violent usurpation of state power and the deprivation of property. Avant-garde artists
were active in this experiment with their manifestos and dreamlike theories about radical changes within social relations.
61. Soon after the revolution, the same artists who wanted to improve the world by breaking tradition were quickly removed from the public sphere.
62. There were very little differences between international and national-socialisms, and this became obvious soon after various socialistic states
began to organize their art as propaganda, expansive politics, mass murders and other totalitarian activities.
63. Art in national and international socialistic dictatorships was used for propaganda in the most "European" possible form: through
idealized ancient realism, with the aim of strengthening human feelings about belonging to community.
64. Idealized realism had its pattern in the self-confident realism of Greek-Roman antiquity and the renaissance world.
65. However, because of the expelled tradition, totalitarian realism did not have a proper spiritual foundation; and, therefore,
this kind of art was trapped into the cult (and fear) of dictator -hence, socialist-realism was a completely empty form of propaganda.
66. All figurative art was stigmatized throughout the 20th century because of socialist-realism (stigmas had and have been
especially strong in former totalitarian countries).
67. Artists who were out of reach from dictators rejected figurative art, deformed the figure and used figures through their body
(performance, body art…) so as to break tradition and simultaneously break the prison of socialist-realisms.
68. Representations of wounds, blood, body- liquids, self-injuries and other forms of suffering in the performing arts
have been an echo of the baroque's searching for sacredness through extreme physical probations. It also has been a contemporary
connection to the baroque's propaganda system (counter-reformation) in which loosing the transcendence of the everyday world is shown by wounds.
69. The shift from figurative art to abstraction has released a deconstruction and re-defining of art language, and this process
established new environmental aesthetics with many unintended (not only bad) consequences.
70. During the processes of various breaks from tradition, processes of ideologically instigated homicides went on in
totalitarian countries. The number of people killed cannot be compared in history, but the avant-garde (anti)artists almost didn't or wouldn't notice
that or...they even agreed with it.
71. (Anti) humanistic theories have not only deconstructed social relations into the balance of bare power (Frankfurt School, Foucault),
they have also affirmed postmodern equalities between different truths and have exposed body-economy in art as physiological-aesthetics.
72. Although different art tendencies and artworks according to postmodern philosophy shouldn't exclude one another but only co-exist
in the ocean of equality of multi-aesthetics, there is a sharp selection of works and tendencies submissive to the centers of power exactly
on the basis of ideological presumptions and requirements (e.g. there is no postmodern philosopher from other than left wing provenience).
73. Art became a decreasingly less important particle in the chain of the free market while losing its status of intellectual/craft-like activity
from the time of the renaissance, when searching for visions and promises of civilized social-relations which were achieved with
difficulty, were as important as preserving the community and praising life.
74. Political religiosity replaced the traditional forms of metaphysics with utopian projects from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries
and sucked 20th century art into the vacuum of fake liberty (liberated from everything so that "anything goes");;and while all those
utopian projects failed, the metaphysical fundaments of political transcendence encountered Copernican shock.
75. Art that consecrates itself by searching for the truth, ethos and beauty, has been ignored and overlooked because
the truth has been interpreted as complete relativity. Ethos has been interpreted as a system of prescriptions and laws and
thus is also relative, while beauty has been interpreted as a nonexistence or lie.
76. It is necessary to reconnect the disconnected tradition of Western art in all areas (geographical and professional)
that were influenced by it because fake transcendence passes over from contemporary art to everyday life while slowly
deconstructing societies by pushing them to the edge of anarchy.
Throughout history similar situations have almost always brought about dogmatic and totalitarian regimes.
77. Traditional transcendence (a traditional God and traditional rituals which mean consolation in questions about the
unthinkable, unspeakable and a relief from powerlessness to influence the complexity of the world) enables art to stay out of
constructing new religious-political cults.
78. Thus art necessarily forms relations to transcendence in a way that demands freedom.
79. Namely, freedom is the foundation of the cohesion of contemporary democratic societies, because on one hand,
freedom is based on living space (the etymology of the word itself /dom/ implies "set, settle, establish", as well as implying
ethical relation to the other as in /free/, from the Indo-European meaning "dear" or "one's own"); and, on the other hand, it is addressed
to individual liberty, which is the source of creativity.
80. Although contemporary neuroscience cannot prove the possibility of the concept of "free will", dialogue and polylogue
can open up individual freedom due to the potentiality of seeing one's own "blind-spot" through the eyes and responses of the other.
81. Consequently, art addresses the freedom of the other and thus demands the responsibility and active role of the other within the community.
82. Freedom is leaning on personal liberty in the context of social, psychological and real physical space.
83. Freedom in itself contains a nucleus of capability to forgive in an irreversible world where our actions cannot be
deleted or undone; and in this sense, freedom is explicitly connected to the Christian tradition of forgiving (for example,
replacing the principle "an eye for an eye..." as well as the Golden Rule).
84. Freedom is not the same as liberty, which would be based only upon a position of self (ethos only as a character and only
in fulfilling one's own wishes), because that would fundamentally mean less freedom for the other.
85. Besides, freedom cannot merely be a part of custom as a dogmatic tradition would demand, because that would
make personal creativity and individual liberty impossible.
86. That is why art must spring up in the intermediary between thinking, doing, creating and becoming real in the field of encounter.
87. Through art as an open and intermediary action, individual freedom can be liberated for and liberated from the other
person in his potential humanity and creativity.
88. When addressing the freedom of the other, a social interaction could be established, where different people would be
encountered within their potential liberty and responsibility for each other inside the sphere of universality.
89. These words would mean that art begins only when historicizing is going on and is established upon the individual’s
entering into history and society in a manner which was invented by the ancient Greeks' endeavors to build a community
while simultaneously striving to remain free as individuals.
90. Transcending, which is bound only to myth, cult and ritual within the religious groups of pre-civilized societies, can be
transformed into the surpassing of natural instincts as well as the surpassing of dogmas and other social frameworks of art, when
art is connected to responsibility and to the act of addressing the freedom of the other.
91. But at the same time, art as a distinct expression of transcendence, cannot be combined with political or any other utopias
without distance (especially utopias that anticipate violence as the starting point of their restoration), because such art would remain in
the sphere of dogma, myth and ritual, outside of civilized standards which enable freedom in the creativity of the individual.
Asking and answering is the basis of logic, dialogue, experience, argumentation and preserved knowledge.
92. The connection between art as a testimony and art as verified knowledge proven by dialogue and arguments remains
a conceptual fundament of art.
93. A relation between art and science is taking place within the field, where an effort of understanding is supported with
emotions that enable this complex activity.
94. A preliminary condition and an important moment in that balanced emotional-rational thinking is hidden between
Descartes's Cogito ergo sum and Dostoevsky's "I am, therefore I love."
95. The importance of these fundamental elements of art is in creating a foundation for perceiving the world as a
place where identity and home can be built.