Stevan Kojić, Self Sustained System of Absurdity
Photo: Courtesy of Artist

Sava Stepanov

At the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the term “new normality” appeared as a premonition of drastic changes in the way of life in the time after the corona virus pandemic. In fact, the world has changed drastically during the “age of corona” already. Precaution has forced us to avoid previous social behaviour. Providing distance is not only a characteristic of the relationship between individuals, but the paradigm of distance has been transferred to political, economic, sociological, environmental, and even scientific fields. Pressed with fear and danger, the world has shown its other face.

In fact, at the very beginning of the new century, the epochal crisis caused by the culmination of capitalism and the dominance of the philosophy of profit became visible. The world’s great corporations and their owners have turned the whole world into their own resource – equally (mis)using people and nature – not for a single moment caring about the fate and future of the entire population.

Serbian philosopher Divna Vuksanović recognizes the specificity of the link between capitalism and computer technology. Thus, for example, the Internet not only supports capitalism, but significantly strengthens its economy. In her excellent text titled Philosophy of Media: Media and Alternative, Vuksanović points to the polemics against Steve Jobs’ ideology, published on the Internet portal of The Guardian, where Tompkins’ text appeared, in which he states: “The computer is a mechanism for acceleration, it accelerates economic activity and this is eating up the world”, concluding that the computer is a logistic support to capitalism, more precisely – its political economy, and that this economy today is not only relying on it (but also on “stupid citizens”, who are also mentioned in this text), but thanks to computer technologies it has reached the level of acceleration that is almost capable of destroying the world.[1]Divna Vuksanović points out in her discussion that Tompkins disputes the opinion that technology expands democracy, claiming that in fact it concentrates even more power in the hands of a small elite and is particularly troubled by the fact that social and environmental movements that are supposed to destroy the nature of mega-technology have fallen under its spell.[2]

In a word, the usual dialectical course of things was disturbed, and the reckless use of man and his potentials was imposed on the entire population. The current world pandemic has only shown that the disease (as a fact and as a metaphor) has become a feature of the entire society and that it originated from the systematic neglect of care for man even in the most developed state systems. The enraged capitalism has “appropriated” science, and its greatest achievements are no longer an inviolable symbol of progress, because each of its progress brings a new anxiety, an even greater degree of insecurity, fear, concern, and already in the early (pre)robot age man increasingly realizes all the discomfort of a specific “valley of shudder“…

What answer can art offer to this state of the world at a time when today’s man is a hostage of the entire world order, overwhelmed by a combination of capitalism and technological medialization?

At the moment, it seems very important to re-actualize the motto of the Serbian and Yugoslav writer of Jewish origin, Oskar Davičo (1909-1989), expressed six decades ago: “The search for man is the only valid philosophy today, the only sustainable philosophy!” Since, art becomes (remains) a space of human refuge, a kind of “safe house” for preserving the universal dialectical meaning; it should be “a support to the human soul that suffers eternally” as the Serbian-Hungarian conceptual artist Szombathy Balint wishes. Because such an attitude requires the artist, in addition to critically “commenting” on the current reality, and his obligation to defend the separateness of art, to insist particularly on respecting cultivated ethical principles. According to Argan, an authentic work of art is the main constituent of social value models and has the power to qualitatively transform the society. It seems that this par exscellence modernist principle is also highly applicable in the current moment of post-postmodernism, which is, for example, visible in biopolitical artistic tendencies. The biopolitical concept deals with the artificialization of life, thus re-focusing us on the homocentric function of art; the endangered man of today truly needs art that takes care of his being and his existence; he needs art aimed at a clear affirmation of humane aesthetic and ethical principles. At the beginning of this century, dealing with the promotion of a culture of diversity in the age of globalization, Joost Smiers, in his book of characteristic and very applicable title “Arts Under Pressure” (2003) pointed out that art essentially participates in democratic debates and that its role is extremely important as a convincing and valid answer to a variety of life questions. Since, according to Smiers, art is “a field in which emotional incompatibilities, social conflicts and status issues clash in a much more concentrated way than in everyday communication.” Today, just as we will certainly be in the post-pandemic period, we are caught in an environment of different, other or “new normality”, with changed ideals of democratic and social relations, attitudes about capitalism, science, our everyday social relations, the position of man in a forced world. What is certain is that man needs art, it’s aesthetic system(s), his ethics and sensitivity. Precisely because of that – art survives. There are different views of its future – from the relational aesthetics of Nicolas Bourriaud, according to who “a work of art is created in a secured space that is partially protected from uniform behaviour, and establishes types of existence and models of action within the existing reality”; through contextual art which is, as noted by the young Novi Sad art theorist Sanja Kojić Mladenov, PhD, no longer preoccupied by the common idea of the meaning of existence, but is directed towards the diversities of the global world whose identification is not the result of natural but discursive definitions; all the way to the radical foreboding of the American theorist Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the former Art Director of the Kassel Documenta, that in the coming decades already art will completely change its shape … In fact, with its mere being art seeks to find a “healthy” answer to all social events, fractures and tensions. All this requires a precise aesthetic system, a clear idea and perception, an adequate ethical note because the morality expressed in art deeply penetrates the consciousness of the observer and confirms his/her belief in his/her own humanity … About humanity that a man must preserve to survive in the society and circumstances of new or forced reality.

[1] Taken from the text by Divna M. Vuksanović, Philosophy of the Media: Media and Alternative, Proceedings of the scientific meeting Jagodina-Končarevo (September 6th to 8th, 2017) Philosophy of the Media: Media and Alternative, special edition, volume 22, 2018, pp. 297–306

[2],.Accessed on January 9th, 2021.