Only half a year after the original Über das Geistige in der Kunst had been published 1911 in Munich, there were translated excerpts published in Stieglitz’ magazine Camera Work.
In Munich, where Kandinsky lived during the important jugendstil influenced years 1896-1914, as in other places in the west, the air was vibrant of new ideas and the sensitives gave prophecies about an upcoming apocalypse.
Hopes of Creating a Better World
There were discussions about a non-objective art, that would be able to envision and create a better world, everywhere. Kandinsky was a pioneer and one of those who finally gave form to the new art theories.
There was great hope for the future of art in the midst of apocalypse angst.
The Horrible Hijack
Then came World War I, a period of some peace at least on the surface, economic depression, another war.
In the meantime100 years of an odd kind of Modernism developed with the help of some careless art critics. These influencers and writers of art history seem to have hijacked the original ideas and intentions of a better and beautiful world and exchanged them to expand something completely different (as in the case of critic Clement Greenberg who hijacked Jackson Pollock to spread his own ideas about Modernism), that on the surface became the theories and the legacy of Modernism.
Where did those original ideas of a new art with life and world improvement functions go?
To my great joy, I discovered that I am not the only one asking those questions…
Govan, Glasgow – Scotland
In Govan, Glasgow, Scotland, there was a conference in 2011 – if you want to make a deep dive into the discussions, there are transcripts and lots of information on this loss.
This is from their first page:
In October 1911 the Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky, completed in German the manuscript of a little book that he called “Über das Geistige in der Kunst” – usually translated as Concerning the Spiritual in Art. This webpage sets the context of a small but international centenary celebration conference, Kandinsky in Govan. It will be hosted by community groups in an area of Glasgow that suffers from high unemployment and many social problems, but which retains a powerful community spirit and much artistic talent. Like Kandinsky’s book the conference seeks not to promote “art for art’s sake”, but like the Russian Peredvizhniki school of “wanderers” or “itinerants”, to explore “art as service”. With keynote speakers including leading art experts and the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, we will be exploring how art can speak in places of poverty today.
The conference will challenge the narcissistic nihilism of contemporary art forms that have turned their backs on beauty and, perhaps arguably, lost sight of art’s deepest function.
This is certainly something to think about.