A Study in Art II
By Israel Shamir
Why did it happen? What is the reason of Jewish success in the field of Modern Art? It is not due to great achievements of Jewish artists: they are quite modest, and despite the PR support of Jewish art collectors, curators and critics, they are well within what could be expected for a fifteen-million-strong wealthy community. Interaction of wealthy Jewish collectors and philanthropists with Jewish critics active in the Jewish-owned media provides us with a partial answer.
Still, the Jews were extremely ill equipped for their conquest of Olympus. For many generations, Jews never entered churches and hardly ever saw paintings. They were conditioned to reject image as part of their rejection of idols. In the course of two thousand year long selection process, visual gifs of Jews were not developed, as opposed to abilities to learn, argue and convince honed to perfection in Talmudic environment. Rejection of Christ – this main fountain of creativity – is even deeper reason. There is no visual art or poetry outside of God, at best, a godless person can imitate art. For this reason, Jews are, as a rule, poor painters and sculptors. (Chagall and Modigliani embraced Christ, and Chagall made the stained glass of Chartres). While their mastery of word and ideology is very high (well above average of 100, at 130), their average visual ability is only 75, extremely low. One can consider it a scientific proof of ‘no art without Christ’. Indeed until recently there were no important Jewish painters or sculptors. The Jewish temple was supposedly built by Phoenicians and Greeks, and it had a very few images. Even illumination of medieval Jewish manuscripts was usually done by non-Jewish artists, who made very obvious errors trying to copy Jewish letters.
Jewish success in the Art world is amazing. If the Olympic Sports committee would consist of handicapped persons, and a fair share of sports commentators would be lame, and even some winners of the games would be lame, we would have reason to be astonished. But probably, looking at it carefully we would find that the main Olympic sport is Run in Bags, or chess.
Visually handicapped Jews created a similar anomaly – that of non-visual ‘conceptual’ art. A piece of ‘conceptual’ art is describable and explainable. It is a narration. Tracey Emin’s ‘Unmade bed’ fully describes the object, while another beauty, Alighiero Boetti’s sculpture ‘Yearly Lamp’, a light bulb that illuminated itself only once every twelve months, is fully described by this description. Preparation of these items places no demand on artistic abilities. They can be done by anybody. Such art is perfectly within Jewish abilities. Moreover, Jews with their good ability to produce ideas and read iconography will surely succeed in it. Thus, the Run in Bags, the kind of sport that began as a new entry into Olympic games, eventually is promoted to the position of an all-important one.
We can easily dismiss demonising talk of ‘the Jews who destroy art in order to break Aryan spirit’. Jews bend art to fit their abilities, in order to succeed in this difficult (for them) occupation. Breaking (or not) the Aryan spirit is quite irrelevant for them. While there are wealthy Jews able to buy art and provide for an artist who makes what they like, while there are witty Jews in the media that approve of the art Jews like (one that is easy to tell about), they would create bias in favour of the art they like and understand. But how did they get into this position in the first place? How the lame runners of our example have got their opening into the Olympic committee?
Despite their wealth and media domination, the Jews would not ‘make it’, but for a few previous developments.
1. Photography and reproduction. Recently I visited an excellent photo exhibition of Hagia Sophia mosaics, made to the highest standard. The photographs are so good that one has to touch it in order to recognise that these are not real mosaics. But for a strange reason, the photocopies do not inspire. One can look at them all day long but the soul is not stirred. And then, one comes across the real thing, and the heart turns to God.
Photography is to painting as pornography to real women. Both create an illusion of real thing, but leave a lingering emptiness. In the long run, the ‘real thing’ suffers. Pornography undid many happy unions. Reproduction of art conditioned us to view uninspiring beauty. It is difficult to view a painting of Mona Lisa without instinctively comparing it to its endless reproductions. In a way, the modern art was a botched response to reproductions, for an artist needs to attract attention of blasé viewers.
Photography was an important stepping stone to demise of art. Great paintings were reproduced in albums, and caused no great uplifting in the hearts. Purely materialistic vision of the age precluded even to referring to the vast difference between original and copy. Painting lost its uniqueness.
2. Museums. Removal of paintings and sculptures from the churches into museums was fatal for the West. A painting lost its context, it was de-contextualised and de-constructed. Paintings and sculptures of Annunciation and Passion were given into the custody of the new priesthood, the curators and critics. It undermined the living practice of faith: despoiled of their precious art, empty churches did not attract visitors.
De-contextualisation of art was done under cover of not-too-sophisticated sophisms. “God needs no paintings, true faith needs no adornment, art will be safe in museums” etc. As if the organisers of mass confiscation wished to strengthen faith, as if they wished to bring people to the church!... It reminds me the favourite Jewish sentence so frequently used: ‘It (whatever you are doing or saying) is undermining the Palestinian cause’, as if they wished to help Palestinians.
In France, churches lost its riches in the beginning of the 20th century, and since that time both faith and art (after a short splash) went downhill. Need to ‘protect art from thieves’ was frequently used as a pretext for undermining it. It was similar to locking princess away in a Maiden Tower of so many legends. The Tower protected her, to be sure, but it turned her into an old spinster.
The chef d’oevres of the human spirit were removed from the churches to museum, - to jail. People go and visit the jailed dear friend for a while, and it brings profit to jailers, while the churches brought no profit; but eventually they forget the jailed man, and it is even more profitable, for spirit interferes with profit.
3. De-sacralisation of art. It was achieved after removal of art into museums. From this point of view, while Bilbao Guggenheim is quite repulsive, its mother institution is even worse. New York Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art carefully mixes sacral art and junk. Exposition is done in a way saying: they are the same. Sacred images of Brazilian Virgins are placed next to rude idols, or to erotica. Indeed, pictures of Christ and His Mother are plentiful in the modern art. But as a rule, they are aimed to profane their image. Made of faeces, or presented in indecent poses, they are part of the war on art and Christ. A photograph of crucifix in a container of urine, entitled Piss Christ was exhibited in the Whitney Museum which is headed by a great friend of Ariel Sharon, a member of Mega, Leonard Lauder. Recently I saw in Stockholm an image of Christ presented as the poster for the week (or was it the month?) of gay pride: a crucified black man was erotically embraced by a white muscular Nordic man. He even placed the inside of his leg on the crucified man’s body.
If one wants to shock people one can follow the example of a small Russian city that placed the icon of Christ on its coat of arms. All Moscow-based American correspondents visited the dashing rebels and asked them whether they are not afraid of Jews. Probably that is the only ‘sacrilege’ that still has some shocking value. Alternatively, one can envisage a model of the Wailing Wall with urinals in public toilet.
It is impossible to rule whether the Jewish participation (surely very active) in the processes of de-uniquisation, de-contextualisation and de-sacralisation of art was decisive. Consider a city with a big oil company which supplied the citizens with oil. There was also a tiny kerosene shop that provided a few diehards with the stuff in an old-fashioned way. It was impossible even to compare the two companies. But eventually the big company was streamlined, broken to pieces ‘to enliven competition’ – surely in the best interests of the customers, - forced to tender some of its operations, and was undermined. The tiny kerosene shop received the same status as the once great corporation, and when the corporation’s plant was burned down, it rose to unexpected greatness. Was it achieved by the kerosene sellers, or did they enjoy the windfall?
Now we come to a stumbling block of ‘conspiracy’. Can one believe that the Jews, ordinary Cohens and Levys, actually conspired to remove art from churches, develop photography and place sacred images in juxtaposition with profane things in order to kill art and the European civilisation? Should we consider a possibility of Jewish conspiracy against art as a part of the warfare against spirit?
In order to unravel this mystery we shall introduce a concept of a Group Interest. Groups (classes and nations) have interests which do not coincide with the sum of interests of its individual members. Moreover, individual members are not always aware of this Group Interest. Let us consider Mammon – personification of capitalist Class Interest. A capitalist may wish to sell drinking water, but Mammon wants to poison all water in order to force everybody to buy drinking water. A capitalist may build the mall, Mammon wants to destroy the world outside the mall, for the outside world interferes with the only meaningful occupation, shopping. While a separate capitalist can do a lot of damage, his Class Interest, Mammon, is more dangerous, nay ruinous for the world. Mammon will try to eliminate every distraction to shopping, be it churches, art, forests, rivers, seaside, fresh air, mountains. An individual capitalist probably is not aware that he follows his Class Interest when he dumps chemical poison waste into a river.
For Mammonites, Art is a distraction from the most important occupation, adoration of Mammon. Mammonite reviews of Art concentrate on price of Art. Recent discussion of a possible fate of the Pink Madonna by Raphael in the NY Times and in the Guardian was limited to the price tag and ownership. A modern Russian writer Victor Pelevin described [x] an exhibition of receipts, where the masterpieces are left in crates in the storehouse, while the walls of the exhibition hall are adorned by an art dealer-issued documents asserting that the painting was bought by the private collector for, say, 15 million dollars. It is the most advanced tendency in design, monetarist minimalism, says a character in the novel. Indeed, judging by many art reviews, such an exhibition would do nicely, as it keeps the most relevant items, price tag and ownership of the piece of art.
For Mammonites, every art exhibition is a monetarist minimalist exhibition, as they notice only the bottom line - price tag. Mother of a Jewish American Princess is supposed to meet her potential son-in-law wearing mink replete with price tag, says a cruel Jewish joke. In the modern art, mink is removed, but the tag is preserved. Thus the Capitalist Class Interest supports Conceptual Art; moreover, it turns every kind of art into Conceptual art.
For Jews, their Group Interest lays in undermining visual art for they can’t compete in it. Even deeper group interest of Jews is to undermine Christianity, their main enemy. We see this interest satisfied now by relentless attack on Mel Gibson who dared to produce a film about Christ. Not about Jesus – a kind Jewish Rabbi, neither about whoring Jeshu from jolly Nazareth – but about God Who Died on the Cross. As sacrality in Europe is unavoidably Christian, profanation of art is certainly within Jewish Group Interests. It does not mean the Jews, or even some Jews understand that they act in their own group interests.
However, they did it before, as well, for the Eastern Christianity experienced a similar development twelve hundred years ago. The Jews were prominent in the great tragedy of Byzantine art, the iconoclasm. In the beautiful and spacious Church of Hagia Sophia, the arguably greatest achievement of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity, lovingly restored in 20th century by Turkish masters, in vain one seeks mosaics of Justinian and Theodora copied at Ravenna. One finds only relatively late mosaics and frescoes. Everywhere, with a very few exclusions, the sacred images of that fruitful period were destroyed, when the rejection of images became the official doctrine of the Empire. They survived in far away places: in St Catherine of Mt Sinai, in remote monasteries, to haunt us with their sublime beauty and with feeling of irreparable loss. The contemporary writers leave us no doubt: Jews (a powerful community in these days as nowadays) were extremely active in promoting this concept.
However, this comparison brings some hope, for after two hundred years of iconoclasm, people got tired of boring non-spiritual churches, and brought the visual art back. Until now, the Church celebrates Sunday of Orthodoxy, when the Art Came Back. We also can do it. The sacred images should be returned to their rightful place, in the church. All of them, the delightful Annunciation by van Eyck from Washington Museum, and Trinity by Rublev in Moscow Museum of Old Russian Art, should be re-contextualised. We should not be cruel to collectors: in my opinion, Saatchi may keep all formaldehyde swine he likes.
And while at it, other cultural properties should be re-contextualised as well. Let us return the mosaics of Pompeii to their place from the boring museum of Naples, and the Greek marbles to Athens, let the treasures of Mesopotamia go back to Iraq, and the statues of Hisham Palace back to Jericho. Let us empty the Grand Louvre and fill small French towns with art. It will repair the broken fabric of spirit. Art objects can’t be owned by private persons, they are our connection to Divine. Restoration is possible: during last few years Russia restored vast amount of churches, and precious icons were returned to them. In Old Ladoga, an old Russian town, (70 miles from St Petersburg), restored churches of 12th century shine again on the bank of Volchov River after years of neglect. With gruesome complaints the Russian museums give up church properties swallowed in 1920s. The West can do the same: there will be thousands of visitors in the churches after their art pieces will be restored to them, the fountain of faith will supply us with endless creativity, and the Aberration will be over.
[x] Pelevin, Babylon, Faber and Faber 1999.
Last updated 04/10/2003