For Dr Martin Patrick Art Literature Review and Literary Survey
by Phillip O’Sullivan

 

After 1989 as Communism’s European bloc was seen to have collapsed, capitalism in the form of liberal media successfully presented itself as a realistic political-economic system - a situation that the bank crisis of 2008, far from ending, actually reinforced. Mark Fisher’s book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? questions the development and main features of this apparent ‘capitalist realism’ as a problematical ideological framework. Using examples from politics, movies, narrative arts, employment and education, it argues that capitalist realism taints all areas of contemporary consciousness. But it will also show that, because of a number of inconsistencies and mistakes natural to the capitalist sense of ‘the real’ that capitalism is anything, but not actually, realistic.
This essay operates within the concerns for the politics arising from consumer capitalism. This current essay considers that description of Fishers as a way to approach visual cultures expression with a further personal twist, along the lines of capitalist gender politics, as a recently ‘come-out’ masculist website writer (see masculist-art.com) of some fierceness, it argues for the necessity of absolute dominance of society by masculist understanding for instance; and other cultural political issues whose attitudes and seeming insights derive from that initial broaching of an inchoate masculist understanding. Masculism is sometimes called ‘masculinism’. Masculist is preferred here.

All this clamor is ill defined and necessarily in dire possibility of clashing with currently perceived feminist ideology and understandings, all within a context of an ongoing and seemingly sustained and sustaining economically successful capitalism. This is valid if we consider that basically so far feminism has been advanced under an almost total advantage of being mostly without serious theoretical objection. Even from the presumed viewpoints of a potentiating masculism yet to be tried; it is amazing how capitalism appears to continue its upward climb. (Masculism properly conceived entails another ’third wave’ of political consciousness called population economy: not covered here, though it replaces capitalism, which is slightly covered here.) This essay is mainly about alternative ways of ranging symbolically across a broad spectrum of cultural concerns by deploying selected cultural symbols in a minimalist ballet of significance: of enabling a rich plethora of signed meanings from out of a masculist basis. Rather than being any definitive expression of masculism per se from within or without capitalism.

Fisher shows that the movie Wall-E (2008), quoting Jean Baudrillard, has

what Robert Pfaller has called ‘interpassivity’: the film performs our anti-capitalism for us, allowing us to continue to consume with impunity. “ (Fisher:2009)

Muted examinations of capitalist consumer life remove our objections slowly and insidiously to their encroachments upon our collective thinking. Until it becomes impossible, and very more likely improbable, that we would do anything about it. This is no less true within the ideological and hegemonic structures and strictures of the art world as we shall see. Thus the packaging is bought along with the product and the production of constructed meanings alongside with the other mediated commercially aided advertising about the product; we buy into its world. Thus we comply with our own mutable sense of personhood and alienation.

We concede ourselves to the capitalist projection of reality writes Fisher in Capitalist Realism (2009).
“…their implicit concession that capitalism can only be resisted, never overcome, and the liberal communists, who maintain that the amoral excesses of capitalism must be offset by charity, give a sense of the way in which capitalist realism circumscribes current political possibilities. Whereas the immobilizers retain the form of 68-style protest but in the name of resistance to change, liberal communists energetically embrace newness. Žižek is right to argue that, far from constituting any kind of progressive corrective to official capitalist ideology, liberal communism constitutes the dominant ideology of capitalism now”. (Fisher:28)

Newness has been substituted for political action, ideological analyses and philosophical reflection. Zizek points to the development of ‘encirclement’ the tropes and even the ideas of the left have been coopted into a kind of capitalist-communist mindset that enervates all likelihood of political change. In New Zealand for instance, weary and wary of political rhetoric and the gap increasing between it and the realism coaxed into a false being by the so called state of ‘capitalist realism’ that a huge 30% fail to now vote in moribund ‘elections’ that result in ‘governments’ that really have no mandate to rightly govern at all. Hence also all European states, or their first world ‘cousins’ (such as South Korea, Taiwan, Argentina) are experiencing unaccustomed difficulties, as suffering from the same or similar malaise, the failure of state capitalism to be real. Capitalism requires of itself to deliver the (consumer) goods, and this, consistently over the political generations. This is what the ‘they’ (the conspiratorial ‘powers-that-be’) of capitalism fails to continually do in an economically sustainable environment: with ‘their’ environment being both natural and economic.

Some do not incorporate well into their thinking the idea of a responsive ‘them’ (Them:2003) where the ‘big other’ is Zizeks stand-in.

Žižek’s elaboration of Lacan’s concept of the ‘big Other’ is crucial. The big Other is the collective fiction, the symbolic structure, presupposed by any social field. The big Other can never be encountered in itself; instead, we only ever confront its stand-ins. (Fisher: 44)

Zizek recognizes the problem for the left by using Lacans vaguer concept. It is more like Ron Ronsons book Them: Adventures With extremists by making an extended joke of colloquial understanding. The big ‘other’ idea unfortunately skirts the fringe of outsiderness and another type of sociological otherness. So where does this lead us. Fishers book ends, as we shall see later, in the concept, - wait-for-it- of, none other; than ‘rationing’. By which I think he means a grand green strategy of harnessing the earth’s resources and managing them by rationing. He does not say this in the end of Capitalist Realism. So in effect provides no solution at all except one that any conservative minded person could think of in a non-radical conservatism qua Winston Churchill post-war. Thus Fisher does not carry out his left radical posture into any new ideological territory.

His book is a handy reflection of our times and its condition but is not a prescription for its problems. His has the scope perhaps of enlightened dreaming. Dreams can come true with one of Fishers quoted examples.

Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven. It is a novel about George Orr, a man whose dreams literally come true. In time-honored fairy tale fashion, however, the acts of wish fulfillment quickly become traumatic and catastrophic. When, for instance, Orr is induced by his therapist, Dr Haber, into dreaming that the problem of overpopulation is solved, he wakes to find himself in a world in which billions have been wiped out by a plague; (Fisher:54)

Utopias and dystopias are part of Mark Fishers concern in Capitalist Realism. He closely observes various social phenomena for cultural breakdown and personal alienation and distress. One widely noted result has been the infamous ‘dumbing-down’ of society.

 

in postmodern media, the network narcissism of MySpace and Facebook, has, in the main, generated content that is repetitive, parasitic and conformist. In a seeming irony, the media class’s refusal to be paternalistic has not produced a bottom-up culture of breathtaking diversity, but one that is increasingly infantilized. By contrast, it is paternalistic cultures that treat audiences as adults, assuming that they can cope with cultural products that are complex and intellectually demanding. (Fisher:75)

 

Paternalistic provides an opening for a remake of Marx’s patriarchal world; the workers’ paradise. If children characterize women’s main interest; then work as Mass Times Force equals, or could equal men’s sense of the mechanics of productive work. Thus masculism posits the priority of men as a chief concern. Masculism is an appropriate ideological cousin to the world views of feminism; sometimes opposed, sometimes in concert, but always different in its outlook. This too is what my art explores: that and a concern for the various utopias/dystopias and New World Orders/Conspiracy theories floating about in the post-contemporary art-world. The intended effect is that of an artificial, falsely lit (see my Cenotaphii on page one of osullivanartstudio.info) orthographic and fiercely masculist ‘mise-en-scene’ as drawn in charcoal on a large canvas. It is not about war death as such, but men’s death in the battlefields of life: partly trans-shifted by not actually being Cenotaphii but Obelixii impregnating the cultural space around men’s influences. Any perceived context confusion is not intended but an inevitable result of the viewer’s own previous propaganda and ideology.

 

As Oliver James, Žižek and Supernanny have shown, unlimited (feminist) license leads to misery and disaffection, then limitations placed on desire are likely to quicken, rather than deaden, it. In any case, rationing of some sort is inevitable. The issue is whether it will be collectively managed, or whether it will be imposed by authoritarian means when it is already too late.(Fisher;80)

 

In the above the concept has been applied to the shelf lives of ideology as well. All good paradigms come to an end; newer views rule the roost. For instances of this

In "Gulliver's Travels" we have a picture of society in which horses ruled the roost, and lorded it over human beings. In this satire Swift in effect put the question: "How would you humans like to be treated by horses as inferiors, just as horses are treated by you to-day?" (Bax: 1913)

Bax of course is speaking from an early muted ‘uprising’ feminism phase challenging his conservative world in 1913, yet he is speaking of it as a major threat! In the Post-Contemporary world feminism has become favoured dogma, state-supported propaganda and overwhelmingly the most prevailing overarching ideology today. Such as one can speak of a ‘matriarchy’ without everyone disagreeing and develop masculist arguments in contrast to its ubiquity. Proof of this is readily stated: how many books are there in any university library on either patriarchy, from a mans celebratory point of view, or on masculist art, culture or consciousness; compared to those from any political feminist point of view, including ones that are overtly feminist, and know they are, or on feminist topics generally. One might find tens of thousands constituting a feminist matriarchy while one struggles to see masculist books of any kind on university library shelves. A Massey keyword search returns but 16 items! While a search for feminist returns 403,265! This is a huge difference, when considering that men too, hold up, ‘half the sky’. This in itself explodes the myth of male dominance in the post-contemporary world. Could this be the source of the malaise that Fisher describes in Capitalist Realism, the mater-ialism of the post contemporary world infects us all. Maybe it is not a problem of production of cultural objects but a situation involving reproduction of the civilized community itself: the very bodies of which we are ourselves.

As an extreme example we could consider the attitude of Germaine Greer’s book ‘The Obstacle Race’ together with the artist Artemisia Gentileschi (Gerrard:1991) and speculate on men’s work and production values (including art) over against women’s creation of community and humanity itself. This is easier if we regard the human race much as a biologist would in respect of the genders and their pronounced differences- as in examining various species breeding strategies. (Gilmour. Sex in the Bush: 2005) Women in the Renaissance typically had 12 children. Four hundred years ago would have accumulated in ten generations to around Ten Billion children had they all lived to bear children! However we must reduce this, as birth numbers per mother taper off in later centuries to around two replacement children: or less. Assuming very high mortality still gives extremely large figures out of reproduction: the very real power of women. Their lifetime earnings would be almost incalculable. Their lifetime ‘economic activity’: forming the very economoia (‘managed home’: shades of Fishers ‘rationing’ world [Fisher: 2009]) in which we actually live now already must be vastly greater still. Artemisia Gentileschi’s value in art productions as an artist, pale in comparison to her potential ability to create all future ‘economic activity’ of her children, children’s children, on into her great-great grandchildren and beyond. The total of all her extant artworks today may be around $20 million or so; the estimated possible economic value of all her lost progeny, and their economic activity, begins at today’s value in the billions. Artemisia Gentileschi’s art productions continue today to cost us money. Mind you this is an extreme example of valuing along these lines, but deliberately going beyond, Warren Farrell and his book Why Men Earn More. (Farrel: 2004)

Fisher does not demonstrate a plausible leftist answer to the dilemmas posed by the Capitalist Realism though he outlines how artists, filmmakers and writers have depicted the problematique.

Thus it allows further artists to entertain exploring these themes themselves. Locally in New Zealand William D. Hammond has explored a type of psychic ‘political’ landscape of consciousness and poetry for Aotearoa. Largely by reflecting a dead religious signage in Egyptian Religious imagery, which we can fairly safely say no one practices genuinely in New Zealand, yet wrapped in a strong naturalist referencing in its usage toward a stock-standard environmentalist ideological shibboleth required of Aotearoas cultural lions. Such is our determined secular cultural desire. This becomes a type of metaphor for rich cultural continuity projecting forcefully the economic elites class success ethos. As if saying; we too encompass nature. We are para-lyrically ‘concerned’, involved, and still in control. This however is not a full masculist consciousness, for it is being conveyed in a society that is amoung the most feminized in the world. Maori and Polynesian artists having a strong patriarchal and masculine consciousness have contributed greatly from a conscious basis within a flourishing male led culture. John Pule, Shane Cotton and Peter Robinson have strengthened Polynesian perceptions and mana within a greater New Zealand culture. Many feminist women too have expressed an overt women’s political stance with well received feminist art. With the library situation above one could well expect an overt deliberate and self-aware, declarative and overt masculine politics to also emerge in an inevitable response. Few have objected to the emergence of women’s political or ideological art in recent years. Have men no allowed point of view?

My own position is embarrassingly shown by listings on Google. Searching Google for ‘masculist’ returns something like 287 entries; with 13 being my own videos, websites, articles. Thus at this historical moment I am almost five percent of the entire field. A situation I hope rapidly diminishes. My masculism emerges from a personal trauma that gives one a sense of insight into the less than full applicability of feminist theory: thus, by extension, insights with a similar questioning attitude, contesting their absolute claim to our attention and any exclusive influences. Masculist theory is then of urgent concern. One early totally masculist insight is of the masculine nature of the sacrifice men make in running society at all: men die, not only in war, but consistently in workplace injuries that vastly outnumber womens sacrifices in childbirth. Current statistics allow for 43 days beyond actual births, of women, to count as childbirth deaths (about 17 per year then in NZ; only three or four otherwise on the actual birth date per year); men historically are over 95% of all workplace deaths (around 900 or so per year): if deaths post-accident are allowed also for up to 43 days then these could be much higher. Say up to 1200 per year on the same basis. From the prior library example above it seems that male consciousness of these grosser inequalities than feminism even remotely allows is demonstrably around fifty years behind feminist propagandizing in these matters. Moreover if a concept of ‘economic death’ is also allowable: whereby men injured or maimed so badly that they cannot ever work profitably again during the remainder of their stunted lives, - say-even at a ‘half-rated’ allowance, so that injured/maimed men are accounted amoung the ‘dead’ (at the rate of two maimed counting as one dead) we could have 3 or four thousand men yearly making sacrifices for New Zealand women, children and families (because we love them) at an overall rate two hundred times greater than women! This is an astounding inequality. One amoung many as Farrel shows (Farrel:2004) Yet seven times is spent on women’s health than that of men. Meanwhile men are set up for being blamed for their own sacrifices; as in the ‘man-control’ ads on TV. Imagine doing that for childbirth deaths: blaming women for getting pregnant.

Counting in the health expenditure inequality makes the absolute overall inequity in the order of one thousand four hundred times in this example. Feminism is obviously not at all about equality but obliterating men entirely in a holocaust of absolute domination, hegemony and ‘white female privilege’. Masculism has only just begun emerging from out of the shadows of feminism, more analysis like this needs to be done and substantiated.
Masculist art then in answer arises naturally from that feminist-economique reasoning requisite within current capitalist realism and the ‘liberal communism’ Zizek writes of, and the blind ‘shopping culture’ of mater-ialist consumerism. Men can reinvigorate masculine and European culture within New Zealand for themselves in a general and submissive sense; submissive in the subversive sense of submitting their committed point of view for consideration by the otherwise other-committed economic elites. My own practice is increasingly becoming extreme in its overt self-knowing expressions because of the creative possibilities it arouses, the better to dramatically engage the capital elites of whatever politics who always run things. The thing that emerges from the last Spanish protests on the streets of Madrid (as in Greece also) is more like “no left-no right“ than espousal of any one expected political agenda, all having massively failed, the people having been dismayed by the parties previously governing Spain and Greece. Social and political comment is natural to art from Brueghel to Lowry: there is no more urgent time for it than now as the estate of men’s oppression is extremely dire also. Extreme positions are thus as dramatic as they are alienating and divisive. Yet useful to explore things prior to the reality they merely appear to convey; active advocacy beforehand is different from exploratory depiction before the fact.
However a masculist understanding of gender issues also floods over into concerns that framework the entire spectrum of political society and consciousness so that the potential arises of addressing much wider cultural situations than gender. The richness of possibilities for an artist are then wide ranging and politically symbolic. By gathering together a broad range of civil, legal, political, cultural, social, artistic, environmental, racial, religious, ideological, economic, media and intellectual symbols, signs and visual ideograms: one can indirectly submit artistic visual comment across the entire vast range of socio-political issues to the wider visual arts community and thus to society as a whole without offering boorishly over-defined and absolutely prescriptive ‘solutions’. A nuanced offering of possibilities is suggested and helpful rather than dogmatic, pedagogical absolutes; as society ultimately takes responsibility as a whole from the choices available. No offering should be forbidden, however, for even dramatic absolutist ones, as they throw into relief the urgency of the thinking over of possibly dangerous matters. No one wants what we have never had here; a lower classes, workers, right wing party, to arise, as in Greece, Holland, Great Britain or France with unaccustomed anger and vehemence.

 

Masculist art therefore is no more a condemnation of capitalism than of socialism: it could be a moderation of both. The socialist argument for absolute equality must be qualified by an understanding that the Dictator receiving exactly what the laziest, dullest, slowest person in the state receives is never even a remote possibility: and that the communist reward too of the laziest with the average rate is an enervating drag within socialist economic planning. The regimented Maoist look is hardly promising for anything but agit-prop socialist realist art in its absolute regard for the false chimera of ‘equality’. Sameness does not a varied art make.
Similarly capitalist ‘freedom’ leads to enormously wide disparities in actual economic freedom for poorer individuals: as the upper economic elites make the laws for their own otherwise temporary continuance in power, to make that power permanent thus locking millions into ‘equally’ permanent debt or wage slavery as economic disparities increase too freely. An echo of 1984 here (Orwell:1949) Nineteen Eighty-Four has been either banned or legally challenged as subversive or ideologically corrupting, like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932); We (1924), by Yevgeny Zamyatin; Kallocain (1940), by Karin Boye; and Fahrenheit 451 (1951), by Ray Bradbury. Masculist art too may be seen that way as enunciating the full effect of feminist lies too loudly to be withstood, is too, too much to stand.

One solution may be to combine the best of capitalism with the best of socialism into a new synthesis plus insights developed out of a feminism under true masculist contestation; with possibly a truer masculist understanding triumphing over a so far blind (uncontested) feminist one.

Affirming the socialist paradigm may involve appreciation of education, health and welfare while setting limits on their excesses. Affirming the best of capitalism may involve ground level support for small markets and businesses and stressing the freedom of access to internet information and of everyone at the smallest possible scale having the right to issue scrip as currency in whatever form they can get it trusted and accepted. That would stop monopoly currency control- the source of all debt slavery- in its tracks. Art could function as a type of portable currency with its value locked in by community value assessments. Something I have previously suggested on artpos.info.

At the intellectual level a plain recognition of the contradictions inherent within the catch cry of the French Revolutionary ‘situationists’, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, French for "Freedom, equality, brotherhood" that both socialism and capitalism attempt to emphasize as essential separately apart from brotherhood. Liberty is impossible to make an absolute value- it equals slavery for most as in Orwells, 1984 “Freedom is slavery” never more true than now. While the Regimented Maoists suits, and its intellectual equivalents, ruin the variety essential to art, fashion and individuality. Equality absolutely applied is indecently boring and unfair to hard workers and any sacrifices on behalf of others. It must distort its own ethic in order for anything to happen at all: as it is a complete failure to understand what motivates human psychology.

Thankfully, all these various shades of political and cultural meaning have talismans, totems, central ideas, symbols and manifest semiological signs attached to them. These signs I distill into their essences: bringing them together in unaccustomed pairings and confluence on the inflected canvas. One can visually bring these charged, changed, adapted, reworked sign systems together in coded ways: charged with sexuality, or controversy, or ordinary contrasts and conflict on the picture plane of traditional abstract painting. The flatness deployed orthographically in dramatis personae, the symbols dancing a ballet of politics. The manifest totems singing within an opera of signs: sound and fury signifying nothing, or do they? This is my work.

The signs work for me, an individual: my capitalist slaves in a socialist community of communist purpose: dreaming the impossible dream; that we can all love one another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phillip O’Sullivan 3100 words

References

 

Bax, Belfort E. The Fraud of Feminism (1913) London: Grant Richards Ltd pages 109-139

Farrel, Warren. Why Men Earn More (2004)

Why do men earn more than women? Because they deserve to, argues this contrarian challenge to feminist conventional wisdom. Men work longer hours at more dangerous and disagreeable jobs. They more readily accept night shifts, hardship postings to Alaska and entrepreneurial risks. Men get in-demand degrees in engineering, while women get degrees in French literature. Female librarians earn less than garbagemen, not because of discrimination, but because so many applicants compete for the safe, clean, comfortable, convenient, fulfilling jobs women prefer. Indeed, the author insists, statistics show that women and men with equal experience and qualifications, doing the same job, for the same hours, under the same conditions-get paid the same. Farrell, author of The Myth of Male Power, usefully points women towards high-paying, male-dominated fields that are becoming female friendly and suggests that ambitious women marry stay-at-home husbands.

Fisher, Mark, Capitalist Realism; Is there no alternative Publisher: Zero Books (December 16, 2009) A book describing succinctly to many the current geo-political-economic situation.

Gilmour, Dione & Matthiesson, Josie & Ross, Emma & Toft, Klaus & Hall, Alan et al. Sex in the bush. 2005
This four-part documentary is a study of the sex lives of the native wildlife of Australia. It combines close camera footage of a selection of wildlife, accompanied by entertaining anecdotes from scientists, with expert knowledge on animal sex. Shows that the battle of the sexes is just as much an issue in the animal world as it is for men and women. 'Sex In the bush' will challenge the viewer's assumptions of what is natural, normal and even possible. Features some of Australia's most respected scientists who share their knowledge.

All the above are about the sexual, or seductive, not mainly the lifelong strategies for family living necessary for our more complex and arguably important species. We study them in Universities. We have yet to see animals showing any concern for our survival. Or studying us in animal universities. Also many more species continue to be revealed than are going extinct.

 

Gerrard, Mary D. Artemisia Gentileschi (1991)Princeton University Press

Artemisia Gentileschi, widely regarded as the most important woman artist before the modern period, was a major Italian Baroque painter of the seventeenth century and the only female follower of Caravaggio. This first full-length study of her life and work shows that her powerfully original treatments of mythic-heroic female subjects depart radically from traditional interpretations of the same themes.

Garrard's in-depth study of Renaissance/Baroque painter Gentileschi is both timely and necessary. First, Garrard examines the life and work of the painter: the training with her artist father, the debt to Michelangelo and Caravaggio, the biblical and classical themes prevalent among her contemporaries, stylistic concerns, and her popularity, much-publicized rape, and influence. Then, using this information as context, Garrard proceeds to interpret the pictorial and spiritual contents of Gentileschi's paintings, contending that, while no one gainsays Gentileschi's skill, her true genius lies in her ability to empower mythic-heroic female subjects with "female artistic intelligence."

Greer, Germaine. The Obstacle Race (2001) Publisher: Tauris Parke

If men and women are equally capable of genius, why have there been no female artists of the stature of Leonardo, Titian or Poussin? In seeking to answer this question, Germaine Greer introduces us to major but underestimated figures in the history of Western painting--Angelica Kauffmann, Natalia Goncharova, Suzanne Valadon, Berthe Morisot, Kathe Köllwitz--and produces a brilliantly incisive and richly illustrated study. She explains the obstacles as both external and surmountable and internal and insurmountable in the race for achievement.

Orwell, George 1984. (1949) Secker and Warburg

Ronson, Ron. Them; Adventures with Extremists Simon & Schuster (January 7, 2003) Conspiracy theory

A wide variety of extremist groups -- Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis -- share the oddly similar belief that a tiny shadowy elite rule the world from a secret room. In Them, journalist Jon Ronson has joined the extremists to track down the fabled secret room.

As a journalist and a Jew, Ronson was often considered one of "Them" but he had no idea if their meetings actually took place. Was he just not invited? Them takes us across three continents and into the secret room. Along the way he meets Omar Bakri Mohammed, considered one of the most dangerous men in Great Britain, PR-savvy Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Thom Robb, and the survivors of Ruby Ridge. He is chased by men in dark glasses and unmasked as a Jew in the middle of a Jihad training camp. In the forests of northern California he even witnesses CEOs and leading politicians -- like Dick Cheney and George Bush -- undertake a bizarre owl ritual.
The Legal Subjection of Men, 1908 antithesis of John Stuart Mill's 1869 The Subjection of Women.

The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex; Warren Farrell, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993: ISBN 0-

 

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