An Era of Ideology: Cultural
and Political Conundrums
(An artist’s attempt to understand our times)
have come to believe that art is prophetic
accepting the prophetic nature of art, it is assumed that art is indelible
to an event stream continuum. Art lives now and in the future. Suppose,
however, the avant-garde declares art to be dead.
If art is understood to be dead, how could it offer a prophetic
vision of tomorrow? The avant-garde movements of the second half of the twentieth
century referred to as Post Modern advocated nihilism and declared that art
was at an end. This sets one to
wonder whether Post Modernism also annihilated art’s historic prophetic
propensity. This question is worth examining.
To fully appreciate the extent of the question being ask we are first
obliged to briefly review the inherent character of the Post Modern
direction that the avant-garde took for much of the second half of the
twentieth century can be traced to the theories and writings of the French
expatriate Marcel Duchamp.
Duchamp was the first to deny the importance of visual or “retinal”
art as practiced by most artists during the first half of the twentieth
century. Instead, he advocated
that it was the mind or the concept that springs from the mind of the artist
that serves as the primary source for creativity. He
dismissed the process of methodology as being significant in the act of
creativity. In place of method search or composition development, where the
artist relies on his unconscious intuition for creative direction to
visually form and shape a work into a harmonious whole, Duchamp offered the
Duchamp considered art to be everywhere. All that was needed was to apply
one’s mind to identify it. Art could be acquired off a department store
shelf. A massed produced item, slightly altered by the artist, served to be
the new art. As a consequence,
easel painting involving a labor intensive methodology where the resulting
work is visually composed was rendered obsolete.
Why bother to methodically
search for “truth” through composition? All
that one needed to do was simply to think of an idea, to discover the truth
with one’s mind and to select and choose art instantaneously.
as practiced during much of the first half of the twentieth century was
declared dead in the second half by the followers of Duchamp. Ideology
replaced the unconscious mind as the artist’s primary source for
creativity. The leading artists of this era espoused the belief that they
knew the absolute objective truth of art as expressed by their work.
It has been noted that Barnett
Newman closed the window, Mark Rothko pulled down the shades and Ad
Reinhardt turned off the lights.
Thus, ideology formed by the conscious mind rather then
intuition of the unconscious inner self became the modus operandi of
America’s Post Modern art.
the presumed death of art affected its traditional relationship to science? Art and science have always shared an essential commonality. Many
of America’s institutions of higher learning combine the disciplines of
arts and sciences into the same schools. Historically, there is a
significant reason for this connectivity. Both areas of learning are
invested in methodology, the means or process used in knowledge discovery.
By examining the scientific method of learning perhaps we may better
understand the importance that methodology has historically served its
sister discipline in the arts.
two most important questions for science are, “What can I know?” and
“How can I know?”
“What can I know”, is the question asked by a religious ideologist
– a person mainly occupied with concepts and ideas. Religion, and to a
lesser extent philosophy, focus their attention on the question of, “What
can I know?” Traditionally,
for most religions the answer to this question ultimately comes down to the
way God ordered it. Religion is inherently conservative.
Truth is what God proclaimed it to be.
The scientist, on the other hand, is concerned with the question
“How can I know? For him,
truth can not be assumed in advance. It is discovered by a method or process
of trial and error.
either the “What” or the “How” question is not simply an academic
pursuit. The answers derived may well have to do with how a society chooses
to structure and govern itself, how its citizens choose to live.
By addressing primarily the “What” question, a society
presupposes that it knows the truth and that it need not question its
belief. Such a society is more likely to enforce rigid decrees from narrowly
defined criteria and be less likely to adapt to change.
the beginning of the twentieth century a revolution was underway in the
sciences that coincided with the birth of modern art. Both
disciplines were focusing on the same question, i.e., “How can I know?”
In addressing the question both disciplines came to the understanding
that the importance lies in the way one goes about answering the question.
Indeed, methodology that is chosen and utilized to answer a question is as
important as the question itself. It was realized that it was the method of
inquiry that is used that results in knowledge discovered. Methodology
matters more that anything else.
Without methodology the act of discovery, the pursuit of
knowledge and the advance and progress of civilization merely become
coincidental. “Both art and science
disciplines came to realize that a society that leaves room for doubt about
the truth is more likely to be free and open.” It
was in this context that art was created in the first half of the twentieth
now return to our original question. Can the Post Modern ideological art
movements of the second half of the twentieth century that declared
“method” art to be dead offer prophetic insight into the character of
societal behavior in the beginning of the new century? In answering this
question we need first to examine existing societal circumstance so as to
better draw the appropriate conclusion.
the year 2000 when George Bush was posed to assume control of the federal
government, he was quick to announce that he intended to restore “God”
to both the White House and the deliberations of government. Upon securing
control in January of 2001 George Bush issued the first of two executive
orders of his administration. They established a new White House Office of
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and instructed five cabinet
departments to establish similar centers inside their bureaucracies. This
ideology based action enabled federal revenues to provide support for
religious groups, which would not have qualified under long-established
procedures protecting separation of the affairs of church from state. 
have seen that at the end of the twentieth century ideology had come to
dominant American culture. Now, at the onset of the twenty- first century
with a faith based chief executive, ideology would also come to direct and
influence the political life of the country. In the past several years this
ideological approach to government that emphasizes the “what” as opposed
to the “how” question has had a chilling affect on the scientific
community in America. We shall therefore, focus attention on the current
condition of the art’s sister disciple, the sciences.
and Post Modern Ideology:
of the funding support for research in the sciences comes from the federal
government by way of research grants. A considerable portion of the work of
research is conducted by numerous operating scientific agencies and
departments of the government. It
is here, therefore, where ideology has the potential for significant impact.
it has come to light that political appointees to numerous Federal agencies
have tampered with and altered scientific research findings to ensure that
such results were consistent with presupposed White House political based
ideology. A most significant example of data manipulation concerns the
revisions made to scientific findings on global warming. The case reported
concerns James Hanson, a 39 year veteran with the National Aeronautics &
Space Administration (NASA). His reporting on greenhouse gas emissions which
did not coincide with predetermined positions emanating from the White House
was purposefully manipulated and edited to “fit” preferential
more, NASA, isn’t the only Agency beset by allegations of scientific
censorship. In surveys by the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge,
Mass., more than a third of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
respondents and almost half of Fish and Wildlife Service respondents
reported political interference in scientific determinations. Federal
lawmakers have heard similar complaints from scientists at those agencies
and others, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National
Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Administration.” 
Bush-Cheney administration’s extensive record on the ideological
manipulating of scientific findings has prompted a strong protest from
America’s scientific community. On
February 18, 2004, more than sixty leading scientists, including Nobel
laureates, university chairs and presidents, and former federal agency
directors, signed a joint statement condemning the Bush-Cheney
administration’s ideological politicization of science.
Since then more than eleven thousand other scientists have added
their names to the statement.
Policy and Post Modern Ideology:
political appointees seeded throughout the bureaucracy filled
new faith based created offices and positions that would come to also
influence foreign policy. These
appointees were given White House authority to make certain that grant
officials in the State Department embraced Bush- Cheney ideology. At the
United States Agency for International Development, for example, political
appointees wrote rules to permit missionary groups to hold church services
in the same spaces they used for handing out food or medicine, just prior to
or just after dispensing taxpayer- funded foreign aid, putting a Christian
stamp on American assistance to many foreign countries.
policy decision making in government has traditionally relied upon a
methodology of policy science analysis. The acquisition of pertinent data
are examined, compared, and tested against other data and their sources. The
analysis of various data collected must originate from responsible and
reliable sources to provide government decision makers with a competent
objective base from which to formulate policy.
complex policy formulation, e.g., the decision to invade another nation, one
would assume that such a monumental decision would be supported by the most
stringent and comprehensive standards of policy analysis. However, when
questioned by the media following the invasion of Iraq –
the Bush- Cheney Administration’s single most important foreign
policy initiative – as to whether he sought the advice of his father or
the experience of the policy analysts that advised his father in making the
earlier incursion into Iraq, George Bush replied that he did no such thing.
He said he consulted instead “divine authority”, or the “What”
question in making his decision to invade.
now know that the government’s intelligence findings presented to the
American people in 2003 that served as justification to invade Iraq were
obtained from unreliable sources and were manipulated and fabricated. The
civilian leadership at the Department of Defense guided by the direction of
the President and Vice President assumed policy preferences and
predispositions in advance for the need for an invasion. They began with an
end conclusion and worked backward.
To strengthen their conclusion to invade, they discredited and suppressed
reliable opposing evidence. They deliberately corrupted the science of
policy analysis methodology by acquiring fabricated, contrived intelligence.
Their approach to decision
making was both ideological and irresponsible. It was used to justify going
to war against a country that had not attacked us and posed no imminent
threat of attack.
They claimed to know the absolute objective truth in advance. A search to
discover the truth, therefore, was regarded as unnecessary.
FROM LIES AND DECEIT TO SHOCK AND AWE
Research and Post Modern Ideology:
February 2004, the administration dismissed a scientist, Dr. Elizabeth
Blackburn, from the President’s Council on Bioethics. Dr.
Blackburn was regarded as one of the most prominent cancer researchers in
the world. She had been
critical of the administration’s position restricting the use of federal
funds for stem cell research. The White House denied that she was removed
for political or ideological reasons. 
July 19, 2006, the White House prevailed against the cause of medical
research. For purely
ideological reasons, George
Bush vetoed the embryonic stem-cell research legislation passed by both
houses of Congress. This
was a veto of legislation that would have allowed surplus embryos from
fertility clinics - instead of being tossed out as garbage - to be used for
medical research for the possible cure of numerous life threatening
illnesses. The President vetoed the bill because he believed he knew the
absolute objective truth. Within a year he vetoed a second similar bill,
firmly establishing that in an era of Ideology the “what” priority of
faith prevails ahead of the interests of science and medical research.
question posed earlier concerned whether the anti- methodology, ideology
driven art movements of the second half of the 20th century that
declared art to be dead could retain art’s traditional propensity to
predict future circumstance. It appears that Post Modern art did in fact
prophetically establish a clear vision of society’s future direction. By
substituting ideology for methodology in cultural appreciation, it fore
shadowed the coming of ideological dominance in the political arena.
the Post Modern art movements of the second half of the twentieth century
consciously realize what prophetic impact their positions would have on
political behavior that shaped the beginning of the 21st century?
Picasso could not have realized the prophetic quality attributed to
the Guernica when he created it.
His motivation stemmed from his unconscious intuitive emotion. Its
visionary quality was unintentional – but prophetic nonetheless.
Similarly, the impact that Post Modern ideology based art movements have had
on events that shape the politics of our society today was unintentional but
the prophetic legacy it offers is nonetheless profound.
as government deliberation has been thwarted and corrupted by ideology so
also has the cultural base of American art experienced
these cultural and political conundrums that the nihilism of Post Modern art
influenced continue? How can a society be expected to survive and prosper in
a world where its culture is considered to be dead and its scientific
research is compromised by a political leadership that ideologically impedes
the search for knowledge and truth? Has
our society been compromised by its culture? Has our culture deceived us?
then is to be said of Post Modern art? Taking our cue from science
the evolutionary development of the species of homo-sapiens there was a
branch of man that ran counter to the mainstream. One could not, of course,
ascertain this relationship at the time. This early race of man we now know
as Neanderthal. It died off
because it could not adapt to or understand the forces of a changing world. It was a dead ender.
in time historians may come to understand that Post Modern nihilism and the
ideological art it embraced as exemplified by flat bricks on a floor,
cigarette butts in an ash tray, basketballs suspended in a fish tank and
black blank canvas hung on a wall were not examples of the end of art, but
rather examples of the creations of misguided dead enders or dead end art. At
such time it may be understood that the movements of nihilistic art during
the second half of the twentieth century ran counter to the evolutionary
mainstream of art’s continuum and, in effect, were Neanderthal.
too, historians may conclude that the policies of an ideologically based
government during the first decade of the twenty- first century that
presupposed it knew the absolute objective truth, presaged very little.
While demonstrating an arrogant, self righteous behavior, this government
failed to properly define, address and resolve the important critical issues
of the time. It inflicted enormous damage and, in effect, ran counter to
serving the needs of the society it claimed to represent.
UNCONSCIOUS INTUITIVE EMOTION
we may all come to realize that a society’s art, science and government
are not best serve by ideology. Art,
science and government should never be minimalized, conceptualized, or
compromised. Along the continuum in the evolution of knowledge, artists,
scientists and those responsible for administering and managing the affairs
of State must be unimpeded to choose and to maximize methodology for the
purposes of search and discovery. The arts and sciences as they influence
the direction of cultural and political affairs can then be free to secure
the pathway for the advance of knowledge and the search for truth as it
benefits the cause of humanity.
Jason, Dora, "History
of Ar"t, New York: Abrams/Prentice Hall, 1967, p 525
 Kuspit, Donald, "The End of Art", New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, p 13
Crimp, Douglas, “The End of Painting”, October,
16, 1981, 69- 86, p 75
Kuspit, Donald, "The End of Art", New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2004, p
Ibid., p 97
Rose, Barbara, "American Painting: The Eighties- A Critical
Interpretation", Buffalo: Thorney –
Barry, John, "The Great Influenza", New York: Penguin
Books, 2005, p 14
Ibid., p 14
Ibid., p 15
 Ibid., p 15
 Savage, Charlie, Takeover, "The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy", New York: Little Brown and Company, 2007, p. 289
 Dickey, Beth, “Muzzled or Misunderstood?”, Government Executive , April 1, 2006, 19-20, p.19
Ibid., p. 20
 Savage, Charlie, Takeover, "The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy", New York: Little Brown and Company, 2007, p. 303
Savage, Charlie, Takeover, "The Return of the Imperial
Presidency and the Subversion of American
Democracy”, New York:
Little Brown and Company, 2007, p. 292
Alter, Jonathan, “The Price of Loyalty”, Newsweek, November 5, 2005, pg. 47
 Corn, David & Isikoff, Michael, “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War”, New York; Crown Publishing, 2006, pg. 108
 Cole, David and Lobel, Jules, “Why We Are Losing the War on Terror”, The Nation, Sept. 24, 2007, p.12, v.285, #8
 Savage, Charlie, Takeover, "The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy", New York: Little Brown and Company, 2007, p. 303
Alter, Jonathan, “It Was the Veto of a Lifetime”, Newsweek, July 31, 2006, p.