Art can be seen to be one of the defining human activities, evident in the early history of homo sapiens, and probably arising from some evolutionary advantage concerned with the ability to produce the symbolic representation of mental concepts.
Since the emergence of civilised communities art has been seen as an agent of power, religious and secular, and, until the emergence of modern art, it has been used as an agent of social control. For some Marxists it was (is) simply the epiphenomenon of the economic sub-structure: it arises from, and is constructed on, the values of a capitalist society (see the chapters on ‘Capitalism and Marxism’ and ‘The State’).
With modernism, art began to challenge the social, economic, and political status quo and now, with postmodernism, art challenges our philosophical account of social and physical reality. Art has now moved, not just into philosophy, but into political philosophy at that.
Postmodern art, then, seeks to identify, create and introduce non-quantifiable, human values into society. In this way art seeks to represent the sense of a shared human experience, a shared community value, which has no expression in the economic world of business.
Art presents the possibility of the concept of non-economic value systems and, in a capitalist society which is dominated by the commercial, it has become truly subversive and revolutionary. For this reason the artist is often found on the fringes of society and, for this reason, their contribution to the prevailing culture is often rejected, neglected, or misunderstood.In some ways, art has picked up the baton of revolutionary change from the stalled revolutionary socialists and from the surrendered social democrats.
© Lusion 2005