Consciously Islamic or Christian art today is stagnant, mediocre, boring and exists within a culture that aspires to mediocrity and polices its boundaries to ensure stagnation is final. Someone passed me this website as an Islamic example.
It is straightforward to compare and contrast to what has been produced in the name of God (within the West or the Orient) — and see that something when wrong at some point.
I was resisting the idea for a time, but now concede to post-colonial theoretic consensus that Islam is also a race, not just a religion — and therefore, within the space of contemporary Islamic art, a comparison to contemporary, racially-focused art is also valid (for example, art that explicitly sets out to document the psycho-economic struggles of African-Caribbean diaspora in the UK). But again, here, the comparison shows Islamic art in a weak frame.
There is (always therefore) the opportunity for a strong Islamically focused art (probably not for Christian art, which was so cruelly crucified over the course of 20th century, its last breath filmed here) — based purely on the exploration of race, but there is also a similar danger of an inherited set of cliches.
Honesty — lack of sexual honesty — is the source of weakness here. Failure to fetishize correctly is the reason why religious art is ridiculous and unexciting. That is to say — sexual repression is a good thing in art — but it must be permitted (at least) a release through innovative fetishization/fashionable reinvention (personal arousal) — not through jackbooted marching up and down the square.
The advertisement for a “progressive” Islamic art competition prescribes a rule “Artwork must adhere to Islamic principles; exercise your prerogative, ask if in doubt.” The subtext is to immediately curtail (castrate) the child artist — we’re watching you, you are not permitted that outlet — the Islamic competition, its judges — they hold the phallus, pleasure/outlet is denied completely. Sexual desire is always deferred — but here it is cut out as an avenue. The student’s Islamic art competition is, in fact, a trap — a means to power, a policing activity, ensuring the phallus is held only by the judge — and that sexual deferral is channeled into other avenues (castrated, group support for a particular kind of politics, nationality, identity, etc).
But sexual deferral, fetishized to the point of generating individual pleasure — meta-corporeal jouissance via the agency of the Fetish — this has been (in the past) central to religious experience and is the meaning of art.
- Art is weak when the Fetish is not lived, acted upon, but merely stands as inherited qlippoth, copies, simulacra (where the Fetish becomes sacrosanct, the policeman-father is in the room, pleasure is not permitted).
- Art is strong when that which is inherited is rebooted (swords), rearranged so as to provide both a lineage of reference — but also continual sexual novelty, to reinvent the wheel of life, mother-father excitation. (Freudian replacement.) Fashion, effectively: she buys into this year’s season to arouse him.
Islam is a nation as well as a race, a style of clothing as well as a body, with a uniform, with flags to wave, with an inherited vocabulary of fetishes that afford it capital, power. Islamic art of today utilizes these fetishes (carefully non-mimetic burqa themed pictures, the shahada depicted in tastefully decorative calligraphy, etc).
But it is incapable of the strong reinvention of the Fetish — sexual novelty — necessary to resonate with the mother-father excitation. Instead, its vocabulary of fetishes are denied the child, and sexual desire is channeled into group worship. Religious art today is, simply speaking, but in the deepest kind of way, unfashionable.
I took the girls to the Kusama exhibition last night. Two observations:
- Her work relates directly to the Artist Formally Known as God by religious (Christian, Islamic) artists in the (now distant, lost and ideal Eden of a) past. This is clear from her exploration of the Dot throughout her artistic journey and also in her “Aggregation” sculptures that play upon phallus (micro-yesods), multiplicity and object (effectively giving us an fetishized view of the process of Fetishization, the micro-cosmic fabric of perceptive reality, the calculus of creativity/generation/perception).
- She crosses East and West, is culturally referent, but only inasmuch as she is culture — not just an inheritor of husks, but a lifeline back to her race — thus her references to East and West are micro rather than macro level, always physical, not a referral, an are honest. Because she is living culture (living fetishization), not a depiction of national fetish, she is a productive factory, a Japanese corporation (see her competition with Warhol) able to take on the world new seasons, reimagination, novelty — all from within the confines of the capitalist asylum.