21. The Art and Architecture of Evil – Part I

by Culture and Anti Culture

(For context see post I)

The poet Goethe observed that genuine art is an extension and elaboration of nature, and is true to her and to her methods.  What did he mean by this?  It is that art finds and uses the forms and activities of nature that are the carriers of harmony and disharmony, of beauty and ugliness.  Think of plant and animal forms, and forces that shape landscapes, waves and clouds.  Genuine art uses this store of shapes, colors, tones and forces in the service of new creation.  It shapes and molds, it magically conjures new gestures, new patterns, new being, but does not impose anything remote or artificial, maintaining a continuity with nature.   True art, apart from being realist, abstract or other categories, makes visible or audible that which otherwise would be pure spirit, without image. This is the case with nature itself, in which all things perceptible are images of unseen forces.

Anti-art is its opposite.  It forces together that which should remain apart and tears apart that which naturally belongs together.  (See Post 7- Aesthetics and Evil)

As usual, the confusion over words like art, freedom, love, good and evil, etc., comes from a distortion of the evolved and historical uses of a word for its central purposes.  Hence, the following will characterize art in the way that I use it.  These are not to be taken as rigid definitions.


Builds on archetypal gestures – tones, forms, lines, color etc.  Seeks to bring itself into relation with the aesthetic reality of each element – to be woven into a novel, living whole.  Invites what we have called “knowing feeling”.  Appeals to real aesthetic forces.  (See Post 3 – Aesthetic Forces are Real, and Post 19 – Observation Exercise)


Indifferent to the fundamental nature of its materials-takes them by force.  Aesthetic forces are secondary, enslaved to serve abstract ideas (ideology or theology) or an ulterior purpose, such as marketing


Relies on grace and proportion.   Has no intellectual, ideological purpose that dominates its composition.  Novel.  Improvisation – spontaneity – utterly unique.

Prelude, Cello Suite no. 1      J.  S.  Bach

Junker Ramp and his Sweetheart      Frans Hals


Relies on massive effects    Ideological, purpose-driven, conceptual.  Repetitive.  Derivative.  Rule-bound.

Peter Max


Intensive – supra real, lifts one out of the mundane.  Subtle.  Fundamentally done for its own sake.  Relies on appropriate proportion.  Primarily produced by individual effort.  Sincere, with an element of depth.

Chartres Cathedral


Life-sapping, banal. Crass, obvious.  Done for reasons other than creativity.  Relies on mass, shock, habitual responses.  Primarily mass-produced.  Insincere, shallow.

Some forms of evil art:

Propaganda art-political advertising.  (Ideological, coercive)

Commercial art-seeks economic gain through manipulation of desire

Conceptual art-performance art-intellectualized, fake sophistication

Computer art – absolutely remote from nature