Monday, May 2, 2016

Beyond Immaterialism: Parallels between Judeo Christian doctrine and Contemporary Art.

Human culture is shifting from material to immaterial. I am going to suggest that this is related to man's fear of nature. This fear, has got a pattern. It becomes more obvious in periods and areas with scarce resources or under strain. Less apparent in groups of people emerging from crisis. It manifests itself as an aversion to material objects. This text will try to explain how this phenomenon substantiates in the field of modern art and by comparing art with other faces of culture, will make a case that the art world is largely unaware of this condition.

Revolution against Nature

Let’s take a look into the Bible, the bestselling book of all time. What's groundbreaking about the bible is that it provides its readers with a new way of living. A way, rid of material pleasures and pains, a way more economical and efficient. A common pattern throughout the Old and New Testament is swapping the material with the immaterial. The material is usually represented as evil and the immaterial as good. The examples are many. In Genesis a world of plenty (Eden) is swapped with a world of scarcity. The source of temptation is an animal. From the very beginning there is an association of Nature with the unattainable, but also an association of nature with evil(snake). A counteract to man’s sense of futility upon confronting the natural world.

In Leviticus a manual for social operating (or God’s contract with Israel if you prefer), there is a list of animals that are considered unclean. In the Book Of Job, Leviathan, a crocodile (or hippo), represents the darkness of the physical world. In Jonah, one of the most popular tales, the hero is swallowed by a giant fish and surviving the encounter with the animal provides the supernatural core of the story.

And they shall no more offer their sacrifice unto devils… “

Leviticus 17:7

In this particular verse, “devils” is a translation of the Hebrew word sairrim which literally means wild goats.* In order to make the swap from material to immaterial more effective, the editors of the Bible (composing the Old Testament at around 400b.c.) borrowed a concept from the Persians. Good and evil.

“… the Persians had become the dominant nation in Asia, and Persian thought would be expected to be very influential among all nations which, like Judah, were under Persian rule. Persian religion had just been systematized by a great prophet, Zarathustra (Zoroaster), at about the time of the return from Babylonian captivity, and the earth rang, so to speak, with the new doctrine. Zoroastrianism offered a dualistic view of the universe. There was a principle of good, Ahura-Mazda (or Ormuzd), and a principle of evil, Ahriman, which were viewed as virtually independent of each other and very nearly equal.”**

The dualistic good-evil concept made life easier to explain and added an element of excitement and drama in storytelling. Nowhere before 1 Chronicles is Satan mentioned, but after that he regularly appears introducing worldly vices to various characters, including Jesus Christ.

Text by Teo Michael

Published on the June 2011 issue of online art magazine