Its a strange time and place that we live in, a unique cultural moment in the west that can either break us, swallowing us all whole within its clutches, or we can ride it, like so many psyche waves in a tumid sea of unconscious activity; But enough with these poetic niceties, let me get down to the real red meat of this provocative address to the Broader political and cultural Right. Let me forewarn that this is in no way a systematic dissertation, and will probably be more of a rant than anything. I will try to be as sympathetic as possible, but Lord knows we live in a very unsympathetic age.
This unique cultural zeitgeist is one of dissonance, and one of schizophrenic fragmentation and bifurcations of all things, and between all realities. What I mean by this is that there are several contradictions that pull the whole mythic goal of a Whig liberal democratic society apart. I am focusing on the cultural and aesthetic aspects of this modern fragmentation, rather than the (shuttering) political aspects, even if everything is indeed “the political”. Let me give an example. How can we explain that in an age of infinite choice when it comes to art medias and cultural output, we are seeing an increase in the crushing centralization of all media everywhere? How is it that we can distribute more art and culture than ever before, but for some series of complex reasons, we find ourselves at the hands of the tinier and more narrower few that control cultural output?
We can go into the machinations and operations of the Cathedral system, but that’s not what I am trying to get at here. We live in a time of immense cultural, artistic, spiritual, etc. fragmentation that makes strangers of us all. Worse yet, the mainstream culture seems like a distant island, an alien and hostile entity that is actively working to deaden the souls of the mass-dividual. The culture industries have made that jump-off point of total psychic control, and has cemented its place in creating, not merely propagandizing, the subject.
Now let us think about this for a moment; the cathedral systems of cultural control create our very sense of subjectivity, like how liberalism has created the very conditions of modern politics. Therefore we can’t begin to show people its workings and hidden assumptions/images of thought. The same phenomenon applies in the cultural realm itself. Mass media constitutes the modern NPC, the mass-dividual, the “herd” or whichever derogatory name for the normies is in vogue this month. No one can even begin to contemplate why things are the way they are, for instance- why is it that mass culture is so alienating? Why is it that the archetypal forms are being used in such a way as to to rob them of their power? Why is it that every journalist, media person, Hollywood director, think-tank flunky, Academic nobody, etc. all fundamentally think the same on every single cultural issue? Why is it that the “arch of history bending towards” whichever progressive flavor of the month theory isn’t questioned in mainstream cultural productions? I can ask these questions endlessly, but without any recourse to a grand, metaphysical, philosophic, and life-affirming ground that underlies a collective culture, informs it, yet is distanced, and lays outside of the mainstream, I might as well be preforming negative-dialectics forever.
Of course our cultural masters think their works of tedious, repetitive mind-pablum is being informed by this thing that is greater then themselves. They have I am sure, some post-Christian leftist political view of perpetually moving unity that we just need to find, so long as we get rid of those nasty, uncouth neanderthals in the hick-flyover states. I am sure every coastal media person attending the latest IPA and cheese parties have an idea of what lies beyond the manifest in current mainstream culture, however intangible, ungrounded, and altogether invented and unnatural that idea is.
The problem is in western society, any recourse to a shared mono-culture, aesthetics and metaphysics that affirms, rather than deadens the soul of a people, a culture, a civilization, etc. is either seen as a joke, or is a total impossibility with what constitutes art and culture in modernity. It is not just that Cathedral culture industries want to profit so they spin out empty, repetitious mind-candy. What we have in the mainstream is specifically designed to constitute subjectivity in a rigid and disciplinary way. Why is it that the ideology-policing in Hollywood and in media institutions is so draconian? Any dissent would violate the specific programming presets. This is why the current cultural productions, especially the most mainstream and popular ones, are totally ineffective at any grand revival of spiritual mono-structures. Our current culture is a cadaver factory, making us into walking cadavers, attaching us to the blinding, mentally catastrophic, synapse exploding streams of useless information over-load. Furthermore, our current culture is not just killing our souls, but killing the soul of the planet itself.
Dare I say it, but this current culture is, perhaps the word I used, designed, is not a choice word, for it implies conspiratorial intent. What I mean to say rather, is that the discourses and operational manipulations that have led to the near-consensus among those who make and inform current culture in the west, is patterning and manifesting in such a way that it is detaching us from the Divine. Art is not merely beauty, but beauty (not just peasantry, for beauty can be horrifying and grim in certain circumstances) connects us to God.
Now that we know all of this, let us move on to what has really bothered me for quite some time now.
We live in a time of immense and persistent cultural decline, and a simultaneous filtration of all culture through the lens of preferred cathedral mass-ideology. In such a decaying epoch, it is the job of those who see, who have the courage to see beyond culture, or at least it should be. It should be the sacred duty of each and every one of us that sees past the decay, the rot, the banality, the “everything being a product of ideology” (as Zizek says, or rather, spits), to take the reigns of subversive, yet meaningful counter-culture and ride the tiger with it. This all leads me to my main point.
It deeply saddens and disappoints me that the cultural, political, and intellectual Right is totally ignoring artistic creation, or rather, making a mockery of it. In these times we should be placing all of our emphasis on not just critiquing and trying to destroy the ivory towers of mainstream culture industries (although this is also important, and a noble goal), but finding aesthetic and cultural movements that will replace them.
What constitutes the current efforts of mass-art on the Right? Apart from a few people in the trenches, it largely involves the curation, dissemination, channels and flows of intensities of specific memes, or repetitive fashwave images and digital edits with the same mined quotes and Roman art/WW2 stock photos. The alt-right in particular used to ride along with those cringy edits of pop and Disney songs as a form of culture-jamming, and while trolling can be effective, it has its limits to say the least.
This leads me to the popular aesthetic attitudes I have witnessed in the broader conservative and Right wing crowds: There is this mix of worshiping ashes if you will, in the form of only accepting genre paintings, pastoral landscapes, and realism (I.E. the ability to render a realistic image) as the zenith of artistic clarity and skill. There is this near philistine-like attitude when it comes to non-objective and impressionistic styles of visual art, and lord knows the endless discourses on the weaponizing of ugliness in modern art. Some of these criticisms of popular and obscure (yet ideologically useful) art is warranted and needed. My objection comes from the fact that we cannot ignore these modern art movements. We cannot simply put blinders on our eyes and pretend that they do not exist. To the surprise of many on the Right, what we can do is find meaningful critiques of modernity itself in more modern and non-objective forms of art, music, and theater. This is entirely too nuanced of a point for the Paul Joseph Watson attitude of mocking the most sensationalist and grotesque examples of modern art while knowing nothing about them.
My main point of concern is that we have seen and absorbed the endless tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc. vilifying the state of modern art from a Right wing perspective, yet we do not have a crop of sufficiently deep artists actually making moving and compelling works. Why is there not Ateliers being funded by populist New-Right groups in Europe? Why does everything have to appeal to the lowest common denominator propaganda with digitally manipulated images? What I am not seeing is right wingers putting their money where their mouth is and going out of the way to actually engage in the process of becoming a good artist. We need spiritually motivated people to devote their lives to the creation and expression of good art.
The one key difference that is apparent when dealing with right wing art is that most of it is too on the nose, too propagandist in nature. The reason that hyper-progressive conceptual artists in particular are increasingly being ridiculed is precisely because of their hyper-ideological works. As the abstract symbolist poet Mallarme said, “To define is to kill, to suggest is to create”. In so many words, what is best left to mystery is often more effective than loudly and crudely shouting out your ideological proclivities like some street-corner lunatic, barking at any passer-by. So-called Right wing art boils down to merely sloganeering in so many cases. The ones who actually have artistic skill end up making repetitive Ben Garrison and Dee Illustrations-style macro images. Take for instance, the painter that did the now infamous Obama portrait of him ripping up and burning the Constitution. It made him famous for all the wrong reasons, and it highlighted a crudeness, a callow, hyper-political shock-seeking that underlies almost all of explicitly conservative and Right wing art at that point in time. The piece itself was done with skill and with realism, but at what cost? It was too manifest in its goal, it practically hit people over the head with what it was trying to achieve. This shallowness to political art must be avoided at all costs, lest we become like the feminist period blood painters, and Piss-Christ shock artists we so lament as zero-creativity hacks.
Painting by Jon McNaughton, oil on canvas, 2012.
If the Right wishes to produce good art that can sustain the soul, perhaps art must be made for its own sake, and not merely as a conveyor belt of ideology. Perhaps using the tools of contemporary artists, and broadening the horizons of what passes for acceptable art on the Right is a worthwhile endeavor, even extending this charity to piece of conceptualism and abstraction; The problem with a lot of fine artists today that possess the skills of high realism, at a quick glance, devote themselves to bloodless and sterile technique or ability, rather than emotion and narrative. What good is is to paint the female nude, or a classical still-life if there is no intent of ideas, be they political, philosophic, theological, etc. in the work of art?
It seems that the art of the future will be even more bifurcated along the lines of establishment-backed ugliness, or consumable mass art that boils down to anti-art, for it violates any artistic authenticity (an example of this trend would be multinational corporations becoming the new patrons of the arts). On the other end, you will still have people who find novelty in certain pockets of marginalized outsider-art, which becomes hard to come by since even what is considered folk and outsider has been appropriated by the art world. Photo-realism seems to be the newest interest among normies, but this cannot be aesthetically sustainable, since there is a noticeable lack of intent in terms of making these piece of art. This is where the Aesthetic Right crashes up against the rocks. We simply cannot replicate the monolithic genre paintings of the past, or expect people to admire the skill of rendering an image alone. What we must do is solidify a place in taking over the outsider-art game. This is no easy task of course, since the vast majority of the art world, from art schools, to galleries, to patrons, almost always skew leftwards. This much is clear, but perhaps the DIY ethic of outsider art movements can benefit the Right in many ways.
What can a crop of artists on the Right really do without the official, and heavily ideologically-policed, networks of patrons, universities, galleries, etc. of the art world? This is the question that should be central to artists on the Right, along with securing a stream of income, but that question plagues the vast majority of artists.
An interesting, albeit limited and partial response to this question, came to me around the time of the LD-50 gallery fiasco. If one recalls, a group of Frog-Twitter ironists convinced the gallery to host an exhibit of pieces that spoke to issues facing weird twitter Right wingers in the modern world. The pieces did not seem altogether shocking, or blatantly offensive, but never the less, the exhibit was shut down after London hipster protests, and denouncements from the ivory tower art world, claiming the exhibit was promoting Fascism.
Everything the Right does seems to be a stones throw away from the dreaded F word, and like the even more dreaded R word, more and more people roll their eyes at such histrionic proclamations of inner and hidden fascism everywhere. Now imagine if you will, this strategy of cyclical outrage, response, and the resulting dialectical synthesis of people growing increasingly apathetic and even hostile to the hysterical leftists witch-hunts of artistic fascism or cal-arts for racists. Imagine if there were DIY galleries and crowd-funded underground art shows featuring outsider, amateur right-wing artists every single week. Imagine arts and life columnists at various lib rags like the Guardian whipping themselves up into suicidal despair, like the librarians in Borges’ infinite library, trying to keep track of a steady and constant stream of subversive, insane, visually stunning and truly beautiful right-wing art and aesthetic micro-movements.
These micro-movements of artists may carry some promotional stylings of meme-culture, but not in the same way, or with the same intent in mind if they are to be effective. Perhaps artists on the Right would be attached to galleries and movements, but the works of art were widely disseminated, not just a single meme being disseminated on mass and then picked apart and warped into various transformations, meshing and referencing other memes, then being dried up and finally reaching terminus after they have outlived their usefulness. A staggering amount of art work must be passed around, not just works of the same pieces of art that take on the life cycle of memes.
This strategy would be similar to what Foucault observed in the Iranian revolution, arguably (and controversially) one of the only effective reactionary political revolutions in the modern world. The constant and endless streams of demonstrations from the people in the streets, a collective frenzy of displaying political and even spiritual frustrations when the whole of every political institution was in total control of an unsympathetic regime. Perhaps to translate this to aesthetics on the Right, a constant stream of art must be used to break the yoke of the progressive, cathedral-driven art world. There must be publications, “Zines” and Samizdat outlets devoted to centralizing, disseminating, and exploring aesthetics on the Right. Far too much outsider-publications, blogs and podcasts are hyper-focused on politics and ideology, or Byzantine political systems that are only ever LARPed in imagination, and might never see the light of day in praxis. The Right must also abandon the universally ignorant declaration that conservative ideology is the new punk rock or the new counter-culture, since fadism, appeals to baseless edginess, and riding some convenient trend of dissatisfaction with leftist culture must be avoided. There is always that chance that the left will start to change and contort the cultural narrative in their favor once more, so instead of trying to be trendy, the aesthetic movements on the Right must plant firm and authentic roots.
I do not see any easy solutions to any of these problems, and the way things are heading, we are going to face quite troubling times ahead. One thing is put my faith in is the divine power of art, and even if it takes multiple generations, if the Right is invested in planting artistic and cultural seeds now, then perhaps the disasters of modernity can be alleviated, and the healing of our souls, the planet, our relationship to God and each other can begin. But be forewarned, the stranglehold the left has on the art world is not going to go away or even loosen up any time soon, so prudence, sly evasion of censorship, and a consistent work-ethic is of paramount importance for anyone on the Right who wishes to sojourn down the path of being an artist.