Esoteric Art and the Public Venue

Essay by R.Cronk

Banks, corporations and universities across America demonstrate their belief in the greater authority of art with the display of esoteric art. There is a sense of hypocrisy, however, in the way they seek out the obscurity of the avant-garde. The controlling elite is aware that the public has turned to art for spiritual knowledge lost to the corporate revision of society. Under the guise of providing the public with culturally enriching experiences, corporate sponsors take advantage of the widening gap between esoteric fine art and public comprehension by displaying work that is intentionally beyond the understanding of the general audience. The exhibition of esoteric art in the public venue works to justify elitism in our capitalist society by implicating the general public as being unrefined and undeserving.

The conceptual movements prevalent today produce art intentionally lacking the subjective content sought by the audience. The work is not meant to be inspirational. The intent is to establish a context within the dialectics of post-modern aesthetics. The art provokes aesthetic sensibilities into the realization of art as a semiotic device devoid of subjective content.

As grist for the aesthetic dialogue, post-modern's dismantling of the philosophic assumptions of Modernism has lost its revolutionary edge. Upon entering the mainstream, the radical aesthetics of Structuralism were co-opted by the establishment. In the face of a disenfranchised population and a fragmenting culture, the esoteric art of Structuralism serves as an instrument of an oppressive ideology.

The public art venue should be a democratic forum that provides integrating cultural experiences for the general art audience. When the public venue is controlled by an elitist ideology that exhibits esoteric art to empower the ruling class, it cheats the public of the sense of fulfillment and inclusion they seek. In a divisive strategy, the display of esoteric art in the public venue works to integrate esoteric and elitist audiences at the expense of everyone else.

While art is unavoidably connected to class struggle, it remains the responsibility of the artist to expose the underlying injustices of the status quo, and not be gulled by promises of fame, fortune and tenure into producing status symbols for the oligarchy. The artist is certainly capable of producing art that is of interest to both the general audience and the esoteric viewer. Public art can be challenging and evocative without demeaning the public.

Copyright © R. Cronk 1996 - All Rights Reserved

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