Bohème Magazine Online
The First Bohème Manifesto
By Eamon Graham
The Spectre of a New Bohemianism is haunting the so-called Art Establishment, a dictatorship that has none of the blessings of art and all of the curses of the establishment.
After half a century of decline, it is time to re-claim Art from bourgeois posers, from anti-artists who have for too long monopolised the field with slashed canvases, lazy and talentless sofa-sized canvases splattered with paint, tasteless and imaginationless "installations" and "performances." The time has come for the artists of the world to overthrow the establishment of bourgeois darlings, lazy posers and no-talent anti-artists.
The rosy dawn of a new art revolution has come.
I. Defining Art and Anti-Art
What is art? Art is the creative ritual of human authenticity and expression. It is the creation of beauty and of new things, and the consequent expression of humanity's existence, ideas and emotions. Art is revolutionary: it inspires the births of new worlds and separates the wheat from the chaff. The last part of the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century exploded in new styles and experiments in all the arts, leading to an unprecedented era of creation and beauty in what was arguably humanity's ugliest and most destructive century. The last half of the 20th Century, however, has seen the embourgeoisement of art, and the establishment's drowning out of everything but what is easily marketable: Pop Art and abstraction for the sake of abstraction (or as a mask for lack of skill, talent and imagination) have received the establishment's protection and sanction, and the establishment has declared war on genuine artists who expose, through their skill and imagination, the total lack of talent of the establishment's darlings.
Anti-art is the result. It is the opposite of art. It is counter-revolutionary, it brings nothing, it expresses nothing, it creates nothing; it is nothing. It threatens nothing, it makes no government tremble, it does not inspire the creation of new values - it is not even beautiful. To see anti-art one only needs to seek out the most "avant-garde" art galleries, take a quick look at the best-selling works on eBay.
To see art, one needs to dig underground - where art has been forced by the muscle of the establishment.
Art is painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, cinema, drama, music, poetry, prose, philosophy, architecture, floral arrangement, glossopoetry, interior design, jewelry design, fashion design, crafts, calligraphy, web design, animation, games, engraving, gardening - the list goes on and on, and new arts are waiting to be discovered.
Anti-art pretends to be these things, adopts their forms, but is simply not art. It is not beautiful, it is not authentic, it is not even useful. It is vulgar in every sense of the word.
II. Diagnosis of the Current State of Art
"Modern" or "Contemporary" art is sick with the gangrene of anti-art.
Blame for the illness of "Modern Art" must be placed on: 1) Market forces which have forced artists (except for a lucky few) to either remain authentic but starving and unknown or to sell out to the current establishment sanctioned trends (the slashed canvases, the puerile messes of paint on oversized canvases); 2) the rejection, by the establishment, of the centuries of evolution of art in the name of "free expression" and its subsequent rejection of anything resembling talent; 3) the embourgeoisement of art, by which art has been stolen from proletarian Bohemian artists filled with soul and made the domain of bourgeois posers full of money or - just as bad - sell-outs whose only talent consists of being able to con bourgeois patrons with pseudo-intellectual babble; 4) the muscular control of the "art world" and any access to it by bourgeois art galleries, snobbish, counter-revolutionary "fine art" schools, art cliques like unions, guilds, syndicates, etc. all of whom impose a market friendly style on would-be artists and ensure that new ideas will be killed in their infancy.
Thus, in order to ensure the salvation of art, what is called for is the complete overthrow of establishment forces in art: alternatives must be set up by any means possible to the establishment galleries, schools and cliques; the setting up of outlets - such as Bohème - for against-the-grain artists rejected by the establishment; the holding of our own exhibitions; the usage of every resource at our disposal to propagate the work of underground artists and the ideas and ideals of anti-establishment art. Furthermore, until the market can be overthrown, ways must be found to use the market for our own benefit.
A Proletarianization of Art is called for: do not trust the so-called artist who has not once in their life pushed the broom or soiled the hands or known hunger for the sake of Art.
It is important to note here that an "underground" artist is emphatically not the pseudo-underground, in fact subterranean, artist who fancies that by engaging in infantile shock strategies that were worn out 30 years ago, or by plagiarizing Warhol and Pollock that they are revolutionary. The truly revolutionary artists of the past had style, talent, technique, insight, imagination and genuine ideas. These are the traits that will be required of the new generation of art revolutionaries.
III. On Style
In matters of style - Expressionist, Impressionist, Abstract, Cubist - the "art world's" attitude must be to let a hundred flowers bloom. The artist should use style in the same way as the speech writer uses vocabulary: different styles, or aspects of style, should be used for different purposes, different effects. The artist should not be limited to one style, but should learn to use style and techniques like vocabulary. The skillful use of style, and the creation of new, modern styles out of the collective success of the past centuries of artistic evolution, will be the mark of the new art revolutionary. Furthermore, the artist must open themselves to the art of other cultures - Asia, Africa, Oceania, Aboriginal Australia, Native America, and the Middle East will be important for Westerners and the West for them; countries formerly dominated by Socialist Realism will discover Abstraction and the work of the Expressionists; etc. etc. and all of us will benefit from this cross-pollenization and hopefully rediscover our own cultural roots, whether it be Celtic, Sinitic, or whatever.
Whatever truly works will survive.
It is only through a new appreciation of style in general, a new education in styles, and an exploration of style that new styles will be created. If we are to destroy the styles that have evolved over the centuries - as the modern establishment would have us do in order to make room for hyperabstraction - the result will not be freedom, as they pretend, but rather slavery to ignorance and ugliness. Let them spend their time re-inventing the wheel; we, on the other hand, shall stand on the shoulders of giants, and from there launch into new orbits.
IV. A New Bohemianism
A New Bohemianism is necessary, required, awaited. The art revolutionaries of the past - such as the Impressionists, the Symbolists, the Decadents, the Expressionists, the Dadaists - devoted themselves to a revolutionary lifestyle based on art. They were called Bohemians and we will be their descendants. Inspired by their example, we will overthrow the establishment and build the foundations of a new revolution in art for a century that will revile all previous centuries in artistic evolution and creativity.
This new movement must have all of the passion of the Expressionists, all of the rebellious energy of the Dadaists, all of the skill and talent of the Impressionists, all of the imagination of the Surrealists and all of the appreciation of beauty that was the mark of the Symbolists and the Decadents.
The goal of this movement, this New Bohemianism, is nothing less than the overthrow of the art establishment and the building of a new revolution in all the arts.
Copyright © 2004 by Eamon Graham. May not be reproduced or used without permission of the author.