From the beginning God said, let there be light, and there was light.
This is the capstone to the great animating words that threw the world into history. Judaism, and moreso Christianity was born out of the famed words from Genesis. God said, let there be light, but given the metaphor, those of Humanity with the insight of the great philosophers and artists have contemplated these words in one way or another.
God said, let there be light, and Man said, we must be the prism through which this light is refracted – and so then there was art! Yes, art has been with us since we had the ability to gaze into the heavens above (and within), find an abode amongst the celestial phantasmagoria, and carve off a piece of that insight into our own works.
We have, in the earliest known accounts, the first cave paintings made by Neanderthals in the caves of Chauvet in southern France. In the seminal documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), German documentarian Werner Herzog gives us a close and personal look at these stunning and beautiful works. In them we see the earliest signs of metaphysical religion, ritual hunting practices, and mythology. The ancients painted what they knew, and what they knew is what was most intimately around them. Thus, we have arrived at the most basic of all truisms in art and aesthetic philosophy: the artist depicts what they most intimately know and what is most approximate to them on a physical and spiritual level. One needs to only look around themselves as an artist to feel the divine mandate to create, to bring forth what is one’s own light – derived not simply from the desire for pure self-expression, but out of the light of insight, of LOGOS: of the divinity within all things.
But now let us look around to the contemporary art world, and the contemporary world of politics that surrounds art, specifically on the internet. What do we find? A sea of nihilism, crass ironic detachment, the glorification of hideousness and moral depravity, the weaponization of ugliness and absurdity, and more fundamentally, an anti-metaphysical attitude that is ubiquitous and unyielding.
Art has degenerated into a social engineering project, hence why the CIA for years used the New York School of abstract expressionism as a covert psychological operation against the Soviets (and the American public). Despite what the mission brief states, the CIA’s promotion of abstract expressionism was never meant to spread some romantic idea of American artistic freedom to the Soviets, but rather to weaponize chaos and absurdity. That is not to say abstraction is abjectly anti-art, that it does not have its place, or that it is doomed to be cast aside as an effete obsession of pseudo-intellectuals and the coastal upper classes. Quite the contrary, abstraction done with a deep purpose in mind can be quite meaningful.
Wassily Kandinsky, the father of abstraction himself, said that all great artists are driven by an “inner necessity”, a divine spark that lies within one’s being, driving the artist towards ever-greater heights of expression and harmony with nature. Kandinsky of course has a spiritual purpose in mind, trying to vigorously express the divine nature of being through his colorful passages and dark lines of tonal mass. Even the luminaries of the New York School such as Jackson Pollock, and Mark Tobey before him, were using non-objective painting as a way of expressing the unconscious (being that Pollock was a Jungian). The great inner necessity of these abstract artists (perhaps Morris Graves, Milton Resnik and Mark Rothko included) was to work through this profound inner necessity inside of them, expressing a spiritual longing, as in the case of Tobey, or a purely emotive and psychological wholeness in the case of Rothko and Pollock.
But as time went on, abstraction became in vogue – the pursuit of art school snobs and rich collectors – and the art world was turned away from expression of meaning towards a desire for pure profit. A whole slew of artists, even to this day, perform the ritual dance of repeating the same motifs of abstraction and action-painting, becoming ever more solipsistic and meandering. As such, the pejorative term that sprang up to describe the work of these milieus is “zombie formalism”: the bloodless repetition of a well-established genre of art for its own sake. Soon art (to quote the Roman historian Edward Gibbons) has become what it is now, freakish and sensationalistic, ghastly in its near-nihilistic way of celebrating the mundane and superfluous, dressing (sometimes literal) trash as a profound political statement.
Of course, hyper-politicization is what has led the original sacred purpose of art down the path of damnation. No better example of this would be contemporary conceptualist art. You have Piss Christ and all its faux acclaim, Tracy Emin’s soiled and filthy bedroom display, Richard Serra and his pretentious fake wall – the list is endless. Anyone with a sociology degree can find a creative way to smear their own fluids on a canvas and call it a profound (often leftist) political statement. It seems that art should only wax political in a manner where the nature of art itself remains aloof, held aloft above the mortal world of the everyday – no slave to, or mere vehicle of, politics.
The latter has long been the order of the day for the academic post-Marxist identitarian left. To them, art has no higher metaphysical purpose beyond the political and the bodily. It thus becomes utilitarian, lacking any significant power or intrinsic virtue despite those supposed qualities of art the average sociology major pays lip service to. You hear cheap slogans thrown about by art school hipsters, like “art can change the world”, or “art is power, art is resistance” – but how could they possibly venerate and pay homage to any artistic ideal from their deeply dug trenches of crass apathy, festooned piecemeal with the materialist appropriation of trends and cultures not their own? Those who make art the slave of politics are simply missing the point.
But what does this say about those who are supposedly on the side of tradition and deeper meaning? Where does the political Right fit into this, especially the new Dissident Right in all its manifold forms? The answer as of late has been quite grim. To begin with, most if not a significant majority simply do not care about art – they consider art and literature to be an irredeemable tool of the left, thus conceding what I would argue is the most vital ground to fight for in the culture war. Even those who are aesthetically inclined are stuck in an odd and vulgar mental ideation that is helplessly grounded in repetition of the old (we will expound on this later). Let us first examine the defeatist attitude of the new or dissident right on the Internet.
(Sub)urban Loathing: the Defeatism of the Awakened.
The aesthetics of the new Right is sadly inadequate to reflect today’s zeitgeist. On the one hand we have a veneration of the Old Masters, of pastoral landscapes and Renaissance or late German romanticist paintings. Being a landscape painter myself, I find respect for these works to be a positive – they were created in the spirit of Man’s divine nature to express the sublime beauty of the world and of Creation. However, this respect should supplement a new, forward-moving body of work on the Right yet to begin manifestation.
For instance, the new Right is indifferent to modern forms of landscape art that can speak to the unique challenges of our time, such as the plein air (outside, literally in open air) art movement. This topic could be an essay on its own, but a direct engagement with nature, capturing light in real time, going into the wilderness or the urban concrete jungle and rendering an image with a unique feel due to the time constraints of such a work – this is artistic heroism that must be seriously given attention. Plein air painting has been stripped of its roots in the 19th Century dandyism of the French Bohemians and ruggedness of the North American woodsmen, and has now become a twee pastime. The pastoral aristocratic landscape and the High Renaissance portrait can only serve as inspiration in our artistic endeavours, not something to be blindly replicated or worshipped as if it is a rune or enchanted talisman we can utilize for our purposes.
As the saying goes in traditionalist circles, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of an eternal flame”. This applies directedly to the new aesthetics the Right should be focusing on creating. Tradition in its most philosophic and metaphysical sense should be the eternal guiding LOGOS, the sacred heart of being that may change forms in terms of appearance or setting, but remains illluminated with the spirit of God. So, art too must change, revert to primeval forms, then take off on different lines of flight, whilst remaining true to its original “inner necessity” and spiritual purpose. Art that stays stagnant because we have arbitrarily deemed it “traditional” ™ becomes an empty utilitarian vessel, and it is thanks to this attitude that the Right does the exact same harm to the purpose of art as the Left does when they wring out forms of expressionism and conceptualism ad nauseam.
This is especially true when it comes to those masters of trolling, the white nationalist kids of the Alternative Right. These types amount to little more than racialist liberals in terms of their lack of principles (besides the pedestalization of materialist race theory), and they hilariously view the Nazi regime – the first purely aesthetic totalitarian apparatus – as some sort of fount of traditional refuge. The reality is that the Nazis made a mockery of traditional art and aesthetics, holding aloft the Old Masters whilst LARPing as Teutonic lords; they simply emptied these works of art of any real substance. To the Nazis, like the Communists or the modern Alt-Right and their art-school-hipster SJW counterparts, art is doomed to be a political tool – a propaganda device with a utilitarian purpose. In hindsight, the laying-claim to Traditional aesthetics and principles by regimes such as the Nazis amounts to nothing more than a cynical joke. The Right however, be it the Reactionaries, the Alt-Right, or simply conservatives, all suffer from an even more pervasive malaise which stifles their capacity to create anything truly artistically meaningful or interesting: the mentality of political defeatism.
A very good article <<link to article>> came my way by fellow writer (and friend) Richard Ocelot, outlining the self-destructive attitude of the modern Right quite aptly when it comes to aesthetics. Instead of building cultural monuments, or seeding a series of alternative networks that can run parallel the Cathedral institutions and cultural gatekeepers like Hollywood and the art schools, the brain capital of the Online Right seems devoted to either intellectual onanism and regurgitation of doctrine, or immersion in the Faustian mission of “exposing” and highlighting the worst forms of degeneracy that the modern world offers. Some still prefer to simply marinate in the sludge of vile forms of human depravity and maleficence, seeking out these evils, ruminating over them to the point of arriving at the inevitable “blackpilled” mindset.
Endless ink and pixels of text are thus spilled over this modern form of right-wing “hunger artistry”. For those who have not read Kafka, the short story “A Hunger Artist” is the archetypal example of a tale crafted for the sole purpose of giving the reader a feeling of pure and pointless suffering for its own sake on the part of the protagonist. The hunger artist is a paragon of neglect, stating no reason as to why every time, during the county fair, he climbs into a cage as a circus freak, achieving ever more torturous lengths of time passed without a scrap to eat. When he is about to die a person pulls him out of the cage, and his final words as to the question of why he did it? “I simply found nothing good to eat”. This throwaway statement sums up the whole parable; in the end there really was no higher purpose or ideal to the suffering of the hunger artist. To link back to the modern Rightist, mere critique and exposure to the horrendous and ungodly realities of modernity is not the bread of life – the pursuit of spiritual art is.
The online Dissident Right has arrived at a point where this endless collecting of data, regurgitation of talking points and descent into obsession over the basest of political realities borders on nihilism. Its seems the Right is just as guilty as the postmodern Left in crafting a form of negative or anti-art in video or written form. Nothing accentuates this point better then reaction channels, Alt-Right remix songs, and the endless streams of “pessimism porn” in infinite blog posts and vlogs. Whilst hidden behind a veil of ironic detachment and satire, the gathering up of this detritus – the absolute worst examples of modern western phenotypes – and putting them on display could, in a way, be akin to a project of modern collage art. This is the Right-wing version of the celebration of ugliness and grotesqueness found in any modern art gallery.
The trendy Post-Marxist art school graduate might have a work “expressing the contortions of the female body”, or railing against capitalism and patriarchal norms by finding artistic uses for literal trash or their own fluids. On the other side, the basement-dwelling white nationalist ironyposts, spreads memes with an ever-diminishing shelf life, and collects obscure titbits of information on various degenerate internet subgroups, to then post on their blogs and YouTube channels. All who grind away at the black pill machine share the same fate – the damning of more lost souls to a life of resignation, inadvertently empowering their very enemies through their own acquiescence.
At this point I may touch upon a typical response to my critique of the online Right’s lack of an artistic sensibility, that being the question of them owning the “memes of production” on the internet as it were. I have already discussed at length the ways in which the Right’s desire to control meme culture is not only a losing game, but will ultimately sign away cultural control wholesale to the political left and the Cathedral’s social engineers. For it is the absence of a serious politics, and the inherent irony of meme-spreading as a chaotic artform that will eventually bode ill for the Right – we are seeing evidence for this already in large swathes of the Alternative Right. Memes offer poor conveyance of transcendent truth, and can bring the average modern subject only so far before the irony wears thin. This is the crucial fault in the thesis of “memes as an artform”; it does not account for competing memes, or the fact that the relevance of any given meme is temporal, a short while at best before they decay into self-parody.
Whole ideologies and worldviews become memes in this online space, where people claim to hold deeply-felt beliefs as a form of political posturing. Even a belief in traditional religion, be it Orthodoxy, traditionalist Catholicism or Evangelicalism and heretical forms of paganism, are elaborate tokens to collect for the online Right – the intention being to LARP the meme religion or ideology long enough that the reality and the fiction of a purported belief become one and the same. Even being a nihilist or “blackpilled” as the saying goes, is a form of ironic meme production. This of course exposes the same crucial flaw in the faux-aesthetics of Dissident Right meme culture as the utilitarian appropriation of traditional art, namely it is a sign that those on the Right are the same rootless, apathetic victims of postmodernity as their enemies on the political left are. They, by buying into the so-called “power” and voracity of memes, have produced their own Right-leaning version of postmodern anti-art, and thus find themselves at odds with the higher spiritual and traditionalist values they claim to be upholding.
Even the embrace of Vaporwave, its nostalgic aesthetics, and the virtual-visual space of transhuman accelerationist futurism (be it photo and video editing, digital art, parodying corporate consumer aesthetics, etc.) may prove to be fruitful, but ultimately is wrapped up in, 1: Nostalgia for a bygone era, namely their childhoods in the 80s and 90s (a disease which has infected almost all millennials), and, 2: The same defeatist attitudes and hang-ups as endless critiquing and meme culture, namely a dystopian technocratic future of virtual reality serfdom, the likes of which Aldous Huxley could never have imagined in his darkest nightmares. What must be overcome are these impulses towards critique – we are in a position where we cannot suffer the time wasted on tearing down. Only meaningful artistic creation must be promoted on the Right and allowed to gain any cultural legitimacy – and not the faux-legitimacy that comes with grovelling to our Cathedral functionaries, to go along with the manufactured cultural orthodoxies controlled by the Left like some Republican NRO plebeian conservative – but an authenticity of principles that comes part-and-parcel with the creation of Good Art. There can of course be no compromise, but in turn there must be quality production, not empty shock and sensationalism; a new star to outshine the gravid moon of “trolling” and endless variations on the same boring offensive memes and publicity stunt tactics.
Accelerate or Go Back?
The aesthetics of the new online Right points to a disposition of lament, nostalgia, and defeatist resignation. Technology seems to be a central focal point in the online Right’s pantheon of aesthetic symbols and motifs, namely the right’s swaying between the two extremes of embracing (and sometimes lamenting over the inevitability of) tech accelerationism in terms of aesthetic exploration, or the other extreme of wistful neo-primitivism and romanticism in art. As the Orthodox carver and artist Johnathan Pageau observes in the works of Heidegger, teche – technical ability or knowledge that has been transformed into its baser forms after the enlightenment – proports a way of synthesizing all of life in its grasp. To Heidegger, the essence of technology is the revealing of truth, Alethia. Technology is a dialectic, a form of revealing truth, but because of the post-enlightenment discourses of instrumental reason and efficiency, technology reveals only a materialist truth. When there is a revealing of truth, there is as double act of concealment for Heidegger, the mystery of being as it were, the sacred movement of all life that instrumental reason (via its workings in modern technology) denies. As our technological capacity increases, so does our thinking become more materialistic in a myriad of ways, and hence efficiency, comfort, and material ends becomes the primary focus in life, not the revealing of truth after which the ancients sought. Art too is caught up in the discourses of modern speed and efficiency, revealing a consistent aesthetics of alienation and futurist loathing. Art reflects life, and the life that reflects the truth of our world is that of fearing the possibility of a totally controlled world. The Right has embraced an art of the future, from vaporwave to cyberpunk and digital media, that shows humanity as a deracinated, materialist bundle of distorted affects, wasting away whilst the technocratic control apparatus of some future dystopian globalist world-state plays upon our wind-tossed passions and fears. Some have chosen to embrace this aesthetic, to swallow the “black pill” of futurist negation, and attempted “ride the tiger” as it were, becoming transfixed with the possibilities of a world controlled by AI, or virtual reality, or totalitarian social engineers with technological powers that mimic that of a Demiurge (those familiar with the Landian / Moldbuggian side of Neoreaction know the type of aesthetics I refer to).
This leads us to the question of embracing the “aesthetics of acceleration” as it were, coming to terms with the marching-forth of technology, and attempting to move forward with those (if any) traditionalist elements of right-wing ideas that can be salvaged and made new in such a world. These questions of course preclude the other possibility, that of the sacred civilizational reset – the secret burning desire of every traditionalist – one that few express out in the open for fear of being labelled a kook or a nihilist. That collapse scenario that will plunge the West into a new dark age, from which an older way of life would be extracted as the norm.
Bracketing this aside (and of course bracketing the dubious assertion that technology and science progresses in a neat, straight line upwards), let us assume that life will, as it inevitably does, mimic art, and we arrive at the Post- or Trans-human cyberpunk future. As Osho said in his commentary on Nietzsche, “when God is dead, Zen is the only living Truth”: the conception of God to Nietzsche has died, and perhaps in a living futurist society, the saying may go, “when God is dead, Art is the only living Truth.” We would need art to navigate such a world if the more euphoric among us are correct, and a future society that has “progressed” technologically will abandon metaphysics wholesale. If this is the case, there are numerous questions of technology creating a sort of Transhuman metaphysics, a pseudo-metaphysics – not of the soul, but of a literal Deus ex Machina. But this is of course speculation, and for our purposes, let us stick to the aesthetics of the future.
Surely there will be classical art, fine art, produced by Man, Machine or the two in tandem, to liberate the soul, the psyche, or whatever you wish to call the deepest seat of living animate humanity. Surely not all emotions will be synthesized into a mass of circuitry, pixellated blissful unawareness and soy-based vitamin supplements. Perhaps the orthodox Marxists are not right in asserting that material history is the be-all and end-all of existence, and that art does not merely provide some detachment from our alienated existence by giving us an autonomous picture of reality. Perhaps the Frankfurt School is right in asserting the power of art to deliver us from oppression, and that high art is not some cynical ploy by the capitalist bourgeoisie to provide a mental relief valve for the overworked proles. If the cyberpunk future screams alienation at every turn, then future art must deliver us from that alienation. But this take on art is not a new one – there was a period where humanity stared the possibilities of their own future in the face, and embraced it head-on: this was the Italian futurist movement.
artwork done by me, entitled “Lone journey after the storm (acrylic on board, 2013): https://www.facebook.com/giantartproductions/photos/a.1256142471090564.1073741832.1254797357891742/1272230442815100/?type=3&theater
 Saunders, Frances. “Modern Art was A CIA Weapon”. The Independent. Oct, 21, 1995. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-weapon-1578808.html
 Kafka, Franz, and Nahum N. Glatzer. The collected short stories of Franz Kafka. London: Penguin Books, 1988.