Title: Theseus' Ship
Theseus' Ship
Elements of the utopias written in Atlantis may be found in the present, but the understanding from shore of boats re-constructed on the high seas is exclusively genetic. (Johan Sjerpstra)

The capitalist system (representative democracy based on a market economy) has become incapable of functioning in its present form.  For one thing we have reached the natural limits of growth, and now produce predominantly trash and environmental damage.  Furthermore we have developed technological avenues for manipulation that have evolved into a subtle, complex, and convergent system that has the capacity to take economies, finance, and social structures in entirely unrealistic directions. This has all happened in the name of specialization that arose in the scientific revolution of the 17th century and then the Enlightenment, discarding universal modes of thought perceived as clumsy and an obstacle to development. Secularized specialization naturally gave rise to tremendous scientific and technological development from the 19th century to our day, one that could never have been envisioned in an earlier era - but it has also brought catastrophe and a string of societal tragedies.
With the rise of autonomous art in the 19th century after the wane of its religious/political function, gradually the expectation of realism and the grand narrative also fell away, concurrent with the proliferation of visual media. This was the beginning of a self-driving process, borrowing the accumulative and growth-oriented logic of capitalism, that built a system of institutions that, in addition to commercial activities, support art's own self-reflexive research. This clearly leads all the way from modernist concepts of freedom to contemporary art's notion of total competence. Now This institutional structure is being reshaped all the world over in a populist/demagogical vein, in the name of the  so-called creative industry.
During the Cold War the main message of the culture was demonstrating freedom, and art has taken this freedom, of course, in new directions, like medial/social/political/global awareness. The Cold War is over, the crisis is here, and the ideology of openness is getting to be replaced by control. In politics there is a change in general attitude toward art/culture: politicians realize its importance, but they misunderstand it at the very same time. They simply want more control over the influential creative class, and therefore envision a creative industry, which, like the other important sectors of a country's economy (like military, energy) has to be able to be governed, allowing play on its different registers.
With the wane of institutions of overinterpretative mediation, the ability of the system to resolve problems is also weakened. Within the exceptionally subtle and effective distribution of labor, the function of art has come to represent the other who stirs us to think, and offering non-violent, thought-based approaches, and solutions based on creative, independent, lateral thinking. Art works through over-interpretation - the infrastructure (institutional framework) that aids understanding - and prepares us for the encounter with the other, and for solving problems we cannot yet know. With its new autonomy, art became a place for learning about the encounter with the new, a place where, in an environment that is simpler than reality, we may encounter something unknown and experience the road from non-understanding to understanding. During this journey we fortify ourselves with learned ways of understanding and interpretation, and this is inevitably critical process.
The critical competence of art is questioned now by populists everywhere, in many local dialects. Art is the last refuge of free speech, which must be carefully guarded and preserved above all. Solutions for future problems can be found only if we keep watch over this freedom.

Since modern art is also built on the principles of capitalism (accumulation and growth), what will happen if the underlying system - capitalism - is transformed?

What other models can we imagine?

János Sugár
SPECTRE list for media culture in Deep Europe
Info, archive and help:

Antwort per Email an