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Kristia Bernadine L.


Art should always be socially or historically rooted. Art can be compared to a plant, drawing sustenance and vitality from the ground in which it grows. When this plant is cut off from the ground, its source of life and stability, it is always in danger of withering for lack of nourishment. Art needs the rich resources of its society and historical epoch in order to survive, and also to have the ability to be much more appreciated. Even cave paintings on the walls of Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain attest that art has always been related to social and historical life. The problem of treating art for arts sake (AFAS) is it only has aesthetic, but not the context. Art without a context is art without knowledge and a firm foundation. Treating AFAS, as the history of art has shown, has the tendency as being confined and limited occurrence deviating from the general flow of art drawing its impulses from the dynamics of society and history. Arts should always recognize social roots, because art as a form of knowledge can never be context-free. Impressionism, sensitive as it was to the social and environmental changes wrought by developments in science and industry. Even modernist styles werent devoid of social meaning. The art of expressionists expressed their intense emotional reactions to the distortions of humanity in militarized settings. These are examples that art, in the past and at the present, should always be rooted socially or historically. Theophile Gautier, declared that art may not serve any other values than the aesthetic without damaging its aesthetic value. The French Symbolists likewise laid deliberate emphasis on aesthetic value, although as Baudelaire decried the childish utopianism of the school of art for arts sake in ruling out morals. The Goncourt brothers are attributed to the statement painting exists to delight the eye and senses and not to aspire too much beyond the recreation of the optic nerve. In England, French Symbolists called the Aesthetes or the Decadents, made AFAS their catchword. Isolationists, among them Benedetto Croce and Clive Bell, were also in support of AFAS. Benedetto Croce sought to separate art from human activities, while Clive Bell advanced the theory of Significant Form. In the nineteenth century, the French romanticists and the Parnassians signified their resistance to absorption into the bourgeois value system which then expected poetry and painting to serve narrow bourgeois morality. In their lifestyle, they deliberately cultivated the artificial pose, the effete gesture, and dandyism to distance them further from bourgeois society. Gautier and Theodore Banville both

shared the same hatred of the bourgeois. An important aspect of this turning away of the nineteenth century artist from his society to take refuge in solipsism had to do with the revulsion on the part of the artistic sensibility to the overwhelming commercialism of his environment. Plekhanovs theory states that the belief in art for arts sake arises whenever the artist is at odds with his social environment. It is a response symptomatic of alienation. The artist had become alienated from his art now reduced to a commodity obeying the laws of the marketplace-an alienation which results in the fragmentation of his personality, with art losing its force as a meaningful expression. Thus, artists counterposed art for arts sake against art for moneys sake in the bourgeois system. Marx traces the historical process which has led to this condition in our time back to the time when only the superfluous was exchanged. Then, there came a time when not only the superfluous was exchanged, but all products. And finally, there came a time when everything men had considered as inalienable became an object of exchange, of traffic and could be alienated. Everything has passed into commerce. It is the time when everything, moral or physical, having become a marketable value, is brought to the market to be assessed at its truest vale. While the Parnassians and the Symbolists, in reaction to the venality of their social environment, took refuge in the ivory tower of aestheticism, they served the interests of that reviled society in the long run by denying to art its potency as a revolutionary weapon and agent of change. As Plekhanov stated, the Parnassians, romantics and realists, while revolting against the vulgarity of their social environment, had no objection to the social relationships where this vulgarity was rooted. And, although they cursed the bourgeois system, they actually treasured it first instinctively, then quite consciously. The more conscious was the attachment of the French believers in AFAS as the stronger the movement for liberation from the bourgeois system in modern Europe. Edmund Husseris method of phenomenological reduction involves the elimination of historical, cultural and social factors in the quest for truth, which is very much related to art for arts sake, which takes aesthetics without context. The truth or eternal truth Husseri was referring to, can only be grasped by pure consciousness, arrived through phenomenological reduction, which opens the question, With art being a form of knowledge, wouldnt the quest for pure art involving such a reductive process, can only end in futility? In support of contextual art, contextualists including Tolstoy, Dewey, Goldmann and Murnford stressed the continual interaction between aesthetic and non-aesthetic values. The greatest moments of art were attained with the fusion of

high artistic form and human liberative meaning, as proven by Europan academic painting, fascist painting of the Third Reich and academism of Russian post0revolutionary paintings. Francisco Goya is remembered for his Tres de Mayo 1808, which clearly explains what happened to him on that exact day when the French had captured him. Delacrcix is best remembered for his Liberty Guiding the People which shows how women were mistreated during those times, but who were ironically dominant in wars. Picassos Guernica recalls for all time the moral outrage at the Fascist aerial bombardment of a small Basque village, and the brutal suppression of the peoples struggle bye fascist regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America. H. Benac unequivocably posits the utility of art and the necessity for the artist to recognize his social role. As he says, art is useful in contributing to the development of culture, in influencing morality by fostering self-awareness, and in changing society. The artist must recognize his social role because he is a responsible being in the context of his time and place. Alienating himself from his society and his time, would make his art fall into artifice and formalism which can lead to pure play with form or artistic nihilism. Art for arts sake, linked to class interest, has been pointed out by Janet Wolff. She perceives the contradiction within traditional bourgeois aesthetics which hypostatize universal, trans-historical or metaphysical features of art, while those purported universal characteristics turn out on close scrutiny to be nothing more than the values of particular dominant, or strategically located, group in society, able to project these as absolute and impartial.And as Bourdieu said, the pure disposition which is accepted as universally legitimate or as an aesthetic choice in opposition to social art, is both class bound and the object of struggle between classes; it is used as a strategy of exclusion and distinction by members of a higher class against those below them. Art is the vision of reality reflecting a standpoint that gives unity of work. Whether a work is pure commodity catering to market demands, whether it asserts formalistic values as absolute in the rejection of reality, or whether it deals with sociopolitical themes, it always represents a perspective, a world view pertaining to a particular interacting and living consciousness shaped by its social being. Vinayak Purohit identifies three moments in dynamic motion in art as an artifact and product of labor: commodity, technology, ideology. He said Those that own the processes of commodity production also own and dominate technological output and ideologized expressions. As technologies are geared to serve the interests of the First World, so is art shaped as commodity to serve the market by encouraging

and rewarding marketable qualities. Ideology, however, is not as apparent as the other two are. While the artist may claim spontaneity and deny ideological meaning in his work, the artist is nevertheless formed by history and his particular social circumstance. And whether conscious of it or not, the artist cannot express himself through an ideology, in reaction to an ideology, and in conformity or in rebellion against an ideology. Hauser said art can express social aims in two different ways. Its social content can be clothed in the form of explicit avowal-confessions in belief, express doctrines, direct propaganda- or in that mere implication, that is, in terms of the outlook tacitly presupposed in works which seem devoid of social reference. Nakedly tendentious art often repels where veiled ideology encounters no resistance. Frankly partisan art is labeled as a propaganda, which has accumulated strong negative connotations. Works of direct social message, such as posters and murals, fulfill an immediate hortatory function as they relate to topical issues in the manner of visual journalism. Art as a form of knowledge is always produced from the perspective of a specific historical and social situation: artist and viewer both experience art within a particular context. Lukacs identifies the role of art as representing a totalizing vision in a fragmented society, as against the artificial segregation of disciplines in a sterile academic overspecialization which prevents one from arriving at a total encompassing view of reality. When art is the product of overspecialization as a purely technical practice, if not as a self-indulgent pastime, it results in artifact-commodities, rather than the living and life-enhancing expression that it is and should be. Aesthetics has to do with theory of forms and how these function as elements of artistic expression. It deals with the conventions of artistic representation which mediate ideology in aesthetic form as it also deals with philosophical issues regarding the nature of art and its relation to reality. This constitutes the specificity of art which thus gives it a relative autonomy as it is defined as a particular discipline distinguishable from sociology, politics, religion, etc. Mao Tse-Tungs position on literature and art, while unambiguous, is neither rigid nor dogmatic. He has been consistent in his recognition of the importance of work on the cultural front and the need for political work to go hand in hand with it. There was no doubt in his mind on questions relating to the purpose of art. His position on the nature of the relationship between the artist and those for whom the work of art is intended is an echo of the mass line that he advocated on the question of revolutionary struggle. He believes that art reflects life. Having clearly identified from a revolutionary Marxist position the class nature of literature and art, and their respective roles in the struggle for social change, he adopted the strategies for

carrying forward the class struggle to struggles at the cultural front and in the arena of literature and art. Throughout the debates, the statement that the greatest moments of art were attained with high aesthetic form and human liberative meaning is emphasized. Works of art which lack artistic quality have no force, and often turns sociological; while those that have high aesthetic forms, but no context are the very popular art for arts sake. Therefore, both are needed to create a great moment of art.