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Dominant culture art is high brow art. What the hell is high highbrow art? Highbrow art is Art that meets the standards of an elite group of intellectual professionals who are considered to be more cultured than the rest of us sorry asses. Oh by the way if you use words like “sorry asses and hell” you’re not highbrow but lowbrow! These intellectual professionals are usually the ones who land higher paying jobs and aspire to influential roles in society. Dominant culture is created by them, for them and promotes their worldview as being the ideal for a refined society. When it comes to art, it is their tastes which defines and sets the standard for what is considered “good art.” If you apply for membership in a highbrow dominant culture Gallery and are rejected it is because your art is sub-standard. In other words it doesn’t meet up to “their” standard, it doesn’t matter if the boyz in the hood think you’re a f _ _ k’n genius or your aunts and uncles think you’re the next Frida. If the art police at Gallery of the gods don’t like your sh _ t you’re screwed. At the top of the highbrow Art pyramid are the institutions that cater to the dominant culture of intellectuals, benefactors, politicians and their rich friends. These institutions are the Met, Art Museum, Galleries at schools of higher education (city/State), the membership Galleries run by the profs from these schools, Juried group shows and most professional galleries! Well it sounds like if you want to be a professional artist you’ll have to cater to the elite! Maybe … maybe not …
The objectification of Art and the Death of Culture Art as something to enjoy for pure aesthetic reasons is a relatively new phenomena coming out of the Renaissance. Prior to that time art was a tool for sacred ritual, for recording histories and adorning every day items. Those who created these things were considered craftsman. Art was the way stories were recorded and retold and art in the form of dance, song, clothing, masks and ritual drama was the way prayers, healing and renewal took place. Art did not stand independently as something to be enjoyed, in and of its own right. Traditional cultures were more holistic and integrated, so art was not a luxury to be collected, categorized and enjoyed but a part of the tapestry of life itself. With the birth of the Renaissance classical Greek and Roman cultures became objects of study in the hope of renewing medieval society, the Dark Ages. With the objectification of ancient literature and arts, these became intellectual pursuits divorced from their original moorings in life. The objectification of life gave birth to Modernism: Art lost its life connection and became something to contemplate, something to study, to enjoy, a commodity to buy and sell, to own and collect. Since the modern concept of art grew out of the Renaissance and its classical Greco-Roman models, the standard of art was set pretty high. As the study of art widened to include non-European societies, the art of these cultures were considered artifacts of primitive peoples in comparison to the high European standard. These folk arts and crafts, as they were called, were deemed products of low cultures whose peoples were crude and unrefined.
The objectification of Art and the Death of Culture The term low brow began to be used in the 19th century to describe the cultures and art of these peoples, who were out of the loop. The belief was that these peoples had a lower brow than their European counterparts who had a high brow; people with high foreheads they reasoned have bigger brains and more intellect, resulting in more refined art and culture. High brows, elite and intellectual became synonymous terms among those who prided themselves as superior. With Charles Darwin as the rage in intellectual circles, this low brow – high brow theory fit in nicely to his theory regarding mankind’s descent from the ape, the evolution of society and human mental abilities. In the 20th century social Darwinism went on to be linked with such ugly ideologies as racialism, imperialism, selective genetics for breeding a superior race, and therefore became one of the pillars of Fascism and Nazism. The consequences of applying "survival of the fittest" theories to ones worldview range from artistic snobbery to genocide. Several centuries earlier, during the colonial period, European adventurers and conquistadores felt justified in their treatment of indigenous peoples because they were bringing civilized European culture to peoples who were considered to be beasts rather than men. Later as the U. S. government expanded westward, it justified its ruthless assault on and extermination of North American indigenous peoples in the name of civilization. “Kill the savage, save the man” was a popular slogan among Church and State workers during that ugly period in American history. The way of save a pagan was by making him conform to European standards! These self-righteous expansionists considered it their “manifest destiny” imposed upon them by God Almighty to establish a Christian common wealth. Cultural snobbery linked itself with the zeal of Christian mission and the rest is history!
The objectification of Art and the Death of Culture The new nation called America was modeled after European standards, the same standards used to judge and destroy non-western cultures. This meant it was a transplant with no unique culture of its own. It’s interesting to note that European critics of American society loved to point out that this new country had no culture of its own, and they were right. It wasn’t until the advent of the Blues, based upon the field laments of oppressed slaves that America started to form culture uniquely its own. Ironically, out of low brow peoples grew America’s authentic cultural art forms, such as the Blues, Jazz Rock-n-Roll and their sub-cultures. To add insult to these new cultural art forms, those with no unique culture of their own adopted their sound and antics bringing it into the mainstream. White artists like Benny Goodman, Sinatra, Elvis, Pat Boone, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles all copied Black Blues performers making America’s only original culture popular world-wide. By the way it was this later group who got rich off the Black man’s plight and it was their copy-cat culture that became a tool for America’s continued expansionist policies. It’s for this reason that protective foreign societies outlaw American television and Hollywood movies from entering their countries! These governments know that the way to overthrow or convert a country into an ally of America is by casting a spell on its youth, once they believe America is superior they will abandon their traditional cultures in mass. Hypocritically, dominant culture ruled by the elite has a way of laying claim to the art and culture of low brows whenever it advances their agenda to control and capitalize a profit! Sadly, dominant culture and its elite class not only set the standard for art but also for what cultures were to survive. Neo-colonialism by overthrowing traditional cultures and imposing elitist western standards masks itself behind many pretenses, including the war on terrorism. It’s best not to get caught up in its deception and as artists its best not to listen to and believe the labels others use to subject you to their control.
The objectification of Art and the Death of Culture Art transitioned away from its traditional role as an integrated part of the human experience into modernism, under the influence of science. However art as a modern objectified commodity fragmented from life, brought nothing but despair. To fill the vacuum, public galleries and museums sprung into being as venues for the modernist art movement. Objectified Art made its full transition into modernism when it became a field to be analyzed, categorized historically and written about by professionals who approached it rationally and scientifically. This break from life and the traditional expressions of it freed artists to operate in a vacuum and discover undocumented art resulting in multitudes of new movements each trying to answer modernism’s call. However Artists who naturally approach their craft with passion not reason fell deeper into despair. Despair, born in the shadow of humanisms intellectual disconnect from the gut brought cynicism to every discipline of life including the arts. Western civilization yearning for connectedness and finding only emptiness began to abandon the empty promises of the elite classes that technology and science was the way forward. The backlash came to a head in the 60’s with the death of God, anti-establishment and anti-art movements. These were the birth pains of Postmodernism. Everything which grew under the Modernist vision began to crumble. Within the art world a strong current of anti-commercialism was growing. Young emerging artists started turning their backs on market place art in favor of creative practices originating in their unique communities. Performance and experimental art events started to spring forth and question the art of the status quo. Expressive freedom over monetary concerns became the way out of the dilemma.
“The 60s was a particularly intense time of experimentation and activity, fueled by a new youth culture that placed a higher value on experience than possession, that preferred personal creativity to consumption, and that sought the spiritual rather than the material.”
Cuba, Larry. "Media Art in the 60s: The Abstract, The Spiritual and The Psychedelic." Kinetica, 4 Catalog 2002. The tombstone on modernist art was set in place by Andy Warhol with his mass produced images from Pop culture of commercial icons, ie. Marylyn Monroe, Campbell’s Soup cans, etc. His art was an undeniable statement about the objectification of art and what it had become. The anti-art movement poised serious questions to the dominant culture and its definitions and standards for art. Behind the dissatisfaction lay several hundred years of oppression by the ruling classes who imposed their highbrow elitist standards on the masses. The revolutions of the 60’s were about rejecting those standards and rediscovering life and art for ones self. More to come …