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Maciamo
08-11-06, 11:02
Europe has known a golden age from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. Between the late 15th century to WWI, about all the great inventions (http://www.eupedia.com/europe/list_of_inventions_by_country.shtml), discoveries, socio-economic progress, new political system and freedoms, great artistic styles, etc. came from Europe (and a bit from the USA from the mid-1800's).

Then came the First World War, which left Europe devastated, and most of its young men dead. This was the first major mistake of European nations, but at least it had a lasting effect in the heart of the Europeans, who swore never to have such inhuman war again. Indeed WWII was much less barbaric, combat-wise (no more poisonous gas, flame-throwers, trenches...) and caused much less (military) casulaties. It also led to the downfall of many big monarchies : Russia, Germany, Austro-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire... Women also got more rights and became more active in society.

The end of WWII left space for the biggest succession of major blunders in European history.

The arts

We had seen radical changes in the arts since the aftermath of WWI. People's mind were so troubled by what they had experience that the "arts" became a way to express tragedy and confusion rather than beauty and harmony. European paintings, which had been known for their extreme realism since the 17th century, had become abstract monstruosities, leaving most people wondering if that could still be called "art". It is time that European artists stop lamenting on the harshness of their existence and come back to a more classical style. The so-called modern art is anti-art, and whoever disagrees with that does not have a clear mind.

Urban planning

WWII left less deaths in Western Europe than WWI, but more material damages through the new carpet bombings. The Americans have been particularily eager to raze all big German cities. But even in countries that were left relatively unscathed, like France or Italy, the worst eyesores the continent had ever seen were constructed in the 2nd half of the 20th century . France got its concrete cités with their soulless HLM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HLM) towers. During the 1950's and 60's, governments across Europe, and most badly in the UK, Netherlands and Belgium, built huge, bunker-like administrative buildings, hospitals and other public buildings. These architectural abominations only start being demolished and replace by nicer structures now, but it will take decades of "cosmetic surgery" to repair those architectural scars.


Society

The end of the war gave rise to a general euphory (at least in Western Europe) and different vision of the world. This resulted in major changes in lifestyle, beliefs and values, a great liberalising momentum. Little by little, over 3 decades, people started criticise their government and system more freely, revolt against the traditional education system, criticised religion and religious taboos, especially about sex. This was all for the better - well at least if the old-fashioned ideas, values and systems had been replaced by efficient new ones. Instead we saw society divide itself (with the rise in individualism) and look for alternatives, some more fortunate than others. What is certain is that many new systems have been tried, and many failed. We only start realising that now, after the youths of the 50's and 60's start getting old, retire, and it becomes easier to criticise them or make the "balance sheets".

Education was a particularily sensitive thing to reform. Each European country have reformed it in a slightly different way, some many times. Now that we look back at the achievements of each system, we realise that some countries have better ways of teaching foreign languages, other are stronger in maths and sciences, and others yet do a better job at teaching history, geography and philosophy. But we also see that the systems that have remained the most traditional (e.g. teaching Latin and Greek), have resulted in the highest unemployment levels as well (France, Belgium, Germany, Italy...) because they teach everything to theoretically, and not enough useful subjects (e.g. psychology, accounting, economy, I.T.) for the modern job market.

Government-wise, the big post-WWII mistake was the socialist idea of "dole" (unemployment benefit), in other words giving tax-money to all unemployed people so that they can live with it. I am not against the dole, but the system has been far too generous in countries like Germany, France and Belgium. No need to look further at why unemployment is so high; who wants to get a badly paid job when you can get almost as much by staying home ? (see article (http://www.eupedia.com/forum/showthread.php?t=24147))

Values

The 2nd half of the 20th century has also brought an immense change regarding marriage, divorce, sex and having children. New contraceptions and disappearing religious taboos about sex meant that people became more promiscuous (until the arrival of AIDS from Africa in the 1980's). Consequently people had the chance to "try" more sexual partners before marriage (another taboo before WWII), and so began to get married later and have less children. What is more worrying is that divorce rates also surged, despite people knowing each others better by cohabiting before marriage. This is due to what I consider one of the most obvious erros of the late 20th century : ignoring social classes. Thanks to the process of liberalisation of society, some people mistakenly thought that social classes were imposed from above (like caste in India), either by religion, tradition or even the ruling class. This idea partly came from the communist concept of class conflict (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_conflict) (Marx), partly from the Hippie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippie) movement inspired mostly by Indian society (hence the mistaken comparison of European classes with Indian castes).

But social classes exist in every society, even in the Communist countries that deny them, even in societies where people don't seem to be aware of them. It isn't because people aren't aware of something or don't talk about it that it doesn't exist. Social classes as I understand it is a natural division of society by sensitivity inherited from the milieu one is born into. It is mostly in the mind (values, tastes, style, manners...), and the jobs people decide to do or the clothes they decide to wear are just an expression (conscious or not) of the class they belong to. But major differences exist between at least 4 or 5 main social classes in every civilised society (i.e. non-tribal). Ignoring or denying their existence is dangerous, especially when it comes to marriage. People understood that (again consciously or unconsciusly) before WWII, and some still do now. The problem is that more and more people in the Western world have become class-blind, thus marrying a person with completely different values, manners or tastes, with inevitable result a sharp rise in divorce rates.


Decolonisation

The last and most sensitive point I want to raise in this article : decolonisation. Believe it or not, many errors were made there. We could start to argue whether colonisation itself was not an error. This could take long because there have been so many kinds of colonisations. There is hardly anything in common between the 16th-century colonisation of the Americas and the relation between the UK and Australia, nor even with France and its DOM-TOM. The motivation and way of colonising were entirely different. When the Spaniards arrived in the Americas, it was only a bunch of gold-hungry, ultra-Catholic mercenaries plundering, raping and destroying everything. In the 20th-century, all colonising powers (but Japan) had a much more civilised way of colonising, building schools, railways, administrative buildings, etc. Their intentions were quite humanitarian, in addition to trade and political influence worldwide. In fact, the British or French colonial armies kept peace ans stability in the occupied regions much more than they caused war.

If we look at Africa since the decolonisation, all we have seen was a combination of very bad dictatorships, genocides, misery, famine, AIDS pandemics, a deterioration of the colonial infrastructure, and the anihilation of the democratic systems put in place by the former colonial powers before the independence. Few, if any, African countries have experiences less than two of these. In comparison to many dictatoship the vast majority of the people were better off under foreign rule. It is not so hard to comprehend, when we see the huge influx of Africans coming to Europe to seek a better life, even from relatively stable countries like Senegal or Tanzania.

Decolonisation was maybe sucessful in some countries like India, Malaysia or Singapore, but it was a terrible blunders for Africa, and even for some Asian countries like Burma (dictatoship), Cambodia (dictatoship, war, and genocide) or Vietnam (dictatoship and war).

I believe that decolonisation was too fast and too careless. Colonisating powers should have given them only partial autoomy, with an appointed governor to suppervise the transition, until the new countries were mature and experienced enough to self-manage themselves. India was more sucessful because of its long political experience before colonisation. In Africa most societies were still tribal, or small "medieval" kingdoms before colonisation, with no experience of a modern administration, and even less of a democratic system.

I blame the heavy immigration from Africa to Europe (to this day and increasing) on this lack of consideration of European leaders in their way of granting independence. Who are they to think that tribal people can manage to establish a successful modern and democratic country when not even European countries would have been able to do the same had they been colonised by a hypothetic modern and democratic nation a few centuries ago. The gap was too big, and it might now take centuries for Africans to catch up in the mess they were left in. Look at South American countries, that have been independent for 200 years, many with a ruling class of European descent, and are only starting to emerge economically and slowly becoming more democratic. It is almost statistically proven that the more European immigrants in a Latin American country and the more prosperous and democratic it becomes. The best examples are Chile and Argentina, where 90% of the population is of European descent.

Kinsao
08-11-06, 14:55
What a very interesting thread! :) Unfortunately I don't have time right now to think about a clear response to all points before I have to disappear on work, but I just quickly wanted to say something about the arts...


European paintings, which had been known for their extreme realism since the 17th century, had become abstract monstruosities, leaving most people wondering if that could still be called "art". It is time that European artists stop lamenting on the harshness of their existence and come back to a more classical style. The so-called modern art is anti-art, and whoever disagrees with that does not have a clear mind.

I want to state quite clearly that there is a lot of 20th century art which is quite simply a load of crap, and that such new ideas in art as you describe have provided a perfect and disastrous excuse for a lot of people to create crap and pass it off as art. You are right on that score, and I am not defending art which is nothing other than bad.

However, I have to disagree that all the major 20th century art movements were for the worse, or that they all produced nothing but crap. (That may not have been what you were saying, but your post implied it with the use of general terminology such as "The so-called modern art is anti-art".) And you would rather go backwards, regress to an older, previous style?!? Of course, the long and glorious history of European art contains many amazing and great works with fantastic techniques (as well as, may I add, a lot of work that's boring and mediocre, as you would expect, not all would-be artists can be 'great' ;-)). But the only way to go is forwards. I am emphatically NOT saying that artists can't or shouldn't use ideas, techniques and influences from the past. Indeed they should! We should use all the armoury at our disposal! But sometimes it's necessary to go through things in order to learn from them, and I can say with confidence that the visual arts are richer and more teeming with possibilities because of the somewhat 'melee' of the 20th century and its developments. Movements that did indeed produce a lot of crap have also generated an amazing amount of creative ideas and diverse ways of thinking, which gives an incredible benefit to artists working today - even if they choose to work in 'traditional' media and themes. :-)

Also, although I fully agree with you on the huge contribution that the world wars (and accompanying social changes) had to play in these developments in the visual arts, I can also say that it had started to happen even before WWI. What was more influential than the Wars was actually the development of the camera. This changed the role of the artist, as previously there was a great value in depicting things as they are seen in life - making exact copies. But when the camera took over that role, visual artists had to question their role and think about what they were doing that was more deep, communicated more, than just copying what was in front of them. This raised big questions about representation, perception and stuff like that. Inevitably visual artists then had to stretch the barriers of their art and branch out in other directions. The Wars no doubt speeded up the process considerably, but it was something already in train in the late 19th century and which would have continued (albeit at a much slower pace) without the Wars. Of course, the Wars were also to greatly influence subject-matter - as you say, wishing to express tragedy and confusion - but without the invention of the camera, it's fairly sure that people would have tried to visually express this in a far more 'conventional' way. (For example, there are many conventionally-executed paintings throughout history that depict violent things like battles, executions, revolutions and such, painted at times of upheaval.)

Also, I can vouch for the fact that visual artists are no longer 'stuck' in a 20th century style or outlook - in fact, were rapidly moving away from this right around the turn of the millennium, the time when I was lucky enough to have the privilege of studying art. It was a very exciting time to be involved in the scene, as all around us people were leaving behind the trap of 'modernity' and then the nihilism of 'post-modernism', and moving on to a greater freedom, in which many more up-and-coming students and young professional artists were beginning to use 'traditional' media and themes once again - yet within a context of having much more freedom, so that choice they made to work traditionally was a lot more meaningful (rather than in older times when artists worked in a certain style simply because that was how they were taught).

Jeez, I have to go now, time has flown! :shock: I want to say more but it's probably a good job I'm not doing... :bluush: Art is practically the only subject on which I can speak with knowledge, so... I get a bit carried away. :sorry: Y'know, the subject you raised there takes many books to tackle properly! :p

Maciamo
08-11-06, 17:32
However, I have to disagree that all the major 20th century art movements were for the worse, or that they all produced nothing but crap.

Depends what you call "modern art". I wouldn't consider Surrealism (e.g. Dali) as really "modern". I am referring more to "abstract art" that does not represent anything, or even the worst forms of Expressionism.



What was more influential than the Wars was actually the development of the camera. This changed the role of the artist, as previously there was a great value in depicting things as they are seen in life - making exact copies. But when the camera took over that role, visual artists had to question their role and think about what they were doing that was more deep, communicated more, than just copying what was in front of them. This raised big questions about representation, perception and stuff like that. Inevitably visual artists then had to stretch the barriers of their art and branch out in other directions.

The problem resides in the imagination of the artists then. My inner world is very colourful, harmonious and realistic. Plenty of pre-20th century painters reprensented scenes that they had never seen (only imagined) and that could not have been photographed, had the camera existed at the time. This includes all the neoclassical subjects (scenes of mythology or ancient history), but also religious ones (e.g. the Capella Sistina in the Vatican). Another major role of painters is to emphasise particular emotions in a scene. Take for instance the "Death of Marat" by Jacques-Louis David (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Jacques-Louis_David) below. It really happened, but a photograph could not have rendered the same emotions as this painting.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/45/Jacques-Louis_David_-_La_Mort_de_Marat.jpg/250px-Jacques-Louis_David_-_La_Mort_de_Marat.jpg


In my eyes, arts should celebrate beauty, even in tragic scenes. Another favourite of mine is the The Interventions of the Sabine women (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Sabine_women.jpg) (also by J-L David) stopping the fight between the Romans and the Sabines.


"The Romans have abducted the daughters of their neighbors, the Sabines. To avenge this abduction, the Sabines attacked Rome, although not immediately – since Hersilia, the daughter of Tatius, the leader of the Sabines, had been married to Romulus, the Roman leader, and then had two children by him in the interim. Here we see Hersilia between her father and husband as she adjures the warriors on both sides not to take wives away from their husbands or mothers away from their children. The other Sabine Women join in her exhortations."

This is a dramatic scene, full of intense emotions, yet the artist lived 2500 years after it supposedly happened. World history is rich enough for modern painters to find themes to match the message or emotions they want to convey. If not, why not depict the world as it is today, in its splendour or ugliness, but in a really artistic and realistic manner. Capture the scene that will move millions... The painters has actually much more freedom than the photographer. He/she doesn't need to be on the spot or to include all elements or people present there and then. The important for an artist is the effect and the beauty.

As the Chinese proverb says, "it is easier to draw a demon than a dog", because nobody has seen a demon and so anything passes for one, but everybody knows what a dog looks like, so you have to be accurate. Modern art suffers from this 'dog vs demon' complex, and artists that can't draw things as they are prefer to draw things that not only don't exist, but don't look like anything that could exist. Who will make a giant frame depicting a scene from the war in Iraq, even with imaginary people, as long as it could be true and conveys the emotion the artist wants to convey. The beauty of arts is not just in the execution, it is also in the emotions or theme. One without the other is not good art.

Kinsao
09-11-06, 13:17
Plenty of pre-20th century painters reprensented scenes that they had never seen (only imagined) and that could not have been photographed, had the camera existed at the time.

Oh yes, that's true. And even, 'war artists' are still employed to this day! I read an interview in 'Modern Painters' a couple of years ago with someone who worked in this capacity. But they don't tend to be really famous nowadays - at least, not outside the art world. But it is still acknowledged that an artist (in the sense of 'traditional' artist, because a photographer is still an 'artist' @[email protected]) can bring something more to the work than a photographer can. Although in the past, when people painted scenes from imagination, such as battles and mythology, they tended to use live models, to work out the correct proportions and such for different components of their painting, even though the work as a whole was composed from their imagination. :relief: Absolutely the painter can convey emotions that cannot be captured by the camera! ^_^ But I think it took a kind of... crisis of representation... to actually make people think about this, think about what they are doing... Well, one important question for a working artist used to be "does it look like what it's supposed to be?" (say, you were trying to paint a dog)... whereas now it is more like "does this get across to the viewer what I am trying to convey?" - of course, if it's meant to be a dog it still has to look like a dog, but now, sheer skill in painting dogs won't earn you so much praise, because people would think "well, you could have just taken a photo of that, why bother painting?!" You can't get by on technical skill alone but have to have a deeper agenda.

But I think you are agreeing with me there anyway, like you illustrated with the "Death of Marat". :p

The beauty of arts is not just in the execution, it is also in the emotions or theme. One without the other is not good art.

^ exactly! :cool:

Personally, I have never liked art that is purely abstract. It just does not speak to me at all, I can't connect with it, it totally fails to communicate anything to me. I'm sure that some artists who practice it have great skill also in making representative art, but no matter of their technical ability, it doesn't reach me. (Of course, I realise that some people love abstract paintings, and not every type or work of art can reach every viewer, but I can only write about my own thoughts... >_<) For me, when I'm looking at a work, it needs a kind of representational 'key', no matter how vague, for me to be able to engage with it... it might just the tiniest hint of something that looks like an object, from which you can build a sense of scale (in much the same way as you see figures in the cracks on the ceiling! XD)... but me, I need that.

Perhaps that's because, odd as it sounds coming from someone who studied art (>_<), I'm totally not a 'visual person'. I mean, I don't get any particular visual pleasure just from looking at an arrangement of colours, lines and shapes. :souka: I mean, some people seem to be able to look at abstract paintings and experience them as though they were music for the eyes! but me, it's nothing to me! O_o Rather, my brain works in a more... erm (not sure how to put it >_<) 'structured' way? or 'logical'? I mean, there has to be something in there for my brain to get a grip on, as well as my eyes... I can't just enjoy something on the visual level, it has to contain something to think about, as well. :buuh:


This is a dramatic scene, full of intense emotions, yet the artist lived 2500 years after it supposedly happened. World history is rich enough for modern painters to find themes to match the message or emotions they want to convey. If not, why not depict the world as it is today, in its splendour or ugliness, but in a really artistic and realistic manner. Capture the scene that will move millions... The painters has actually much more freedom than the photographer. He/she doesn't need to be on the spot or to include all elements or people present there and then. The important for an artist is the effect and the beauty.

^ Agreed! :cool: I think we have the same opinion... :)


Modern art suffers from this 'dog vs demon' complex, and artists that can't draw things as they are prefer to draw things that not only don't exist, but don't look like anything that could exist.

Yeah... I think that when you're drawing something out of your imagination, it has to look convincing, it has to look possible, doesn't it? The viewer has to believe in it, or rather, be convinced to suspend their disbelief? I mean, you referred to the works of Dali, and it's obvious these things he paints are not 'real' things, but you are convinced to belief in it enough. :relief:

Much as I totally fail to appreciate abstract art :D though, I have to say it's one of those things that's necessary... sometimes you have to try something before you realise that it doesn't work... and until you've done that, you can't move forward... so even if the thing itself isn't a success, it has worked like a pathway to a further place... if you see what I mean. :bluush:

Anyway I have written far too much without addressing your other points, about which I know nothing and can't address in any depth at all. :bluush:

Urban planning
Imo this is strongly linked to the Wars and bombings as you said... and truly in replacing damaged buildings there have been some dreadful things put up in place! :souka: Strangely, actually this also links back to the 'arts', primarily architecture of course :p and the Bauhaus and its terrible effect on '60s architecture (well at least, in Britain!), which took everything as influence too late and ridiculously out of context. *shivers*

Society
Big changes... :) ... seems like an increased freedom, questioning, rebellion, individualism... these are good things for searching out new ideas and methods, getting rid of old baggage/values/whatever that is useless and kept only for tradition... the downside is that there's a tendency to a lack of discipline as a result (I think particularly as you mentioned in the education system; I don't mean 'discipline' as in control of the pupils but rather a structure and formality in the way of learning)... and discipline is imo necessary in many walks of life; yes, it does mean 'restricting' yourself a bit, but the idea is that the end result is better; like, you can't dream of being a great violinist unless you're prepared to practice... that kind of thing.

Values
Hmm this seems to link a bit to society ^^... again a lack of discipline, with greater sexual freedom, on the surface a good thing, then when it is followed, a rise in the bad consequences... I think there is a bit feeling of "I just want to have/do what I want", with people only just beginning to see that it's not so simple as all that. Similarly with social classes as you point out, it's not something that can just be ignored and make it not to matter. O_o

Decolonisation
Ah, and here I know absolutely nothing :bluush: I can only say that the Indian people now settled in the UK (and now 2nd and 3rd generations) seem to have integrated really well which to me would imply that the decolonisation of India by the UK was handled relatively well (otherwise I would expect more ill-feeling) :? But about Africa I know nothing; guess this was more of French colonies, right? and so it wasn't taught about in school here (or at least not my school, but that's not saying much cos my school was crap >_>).

On the main subject, though, to answer for myself which I have not even done so far :blush: when I think of "20th century errors of Europe" the immediate thing that comes to mind is the two World Wars. :(

LeBrok
24-11-10, 05:51
I'm pretty much eye to eye with Maciamo on these subjects. I'm not really a fun of modern art nor the monolithic blocks of concrete of public buildings of 60.

I would add that colonial powers screwed up the locals leaving them in same colonial borders with ethnic mixes often hating each other to death. An excellent background for civil wars. They should have left them with more ethnic borders.

^ lynx ^
25-11-10, 02:21
If we look at Africa since the decolonisation, all we have seen was a combination of very bad dictatorships, genocides, misery, famine, AIDS pandemics, a deterioration of the colonial infrastructure, and the anihilation of the democratic systems put in place by the former colonial powers before the independence. Few, if any, African countries have experiences less than two of these. In comparison to many dictatoship the vast majority of the people were better off under foreign rule. It is not so hard to comprehend, when we see the huge influx of Africans coming to Europe to seek a better life, even from relatively stable countries like Senegal or Tanzania.

Many of those dictatorships and (at least) one genocide have been supported/instigated from european goverments and institutions. More specifically: France.

There is so much bias in the rest of your message that I'm not even going to bother in replying.

Greetings.

Templar
04-12-11, 23:32
I think that as educational levels increase, people become more secular/irreligious. And many people end up going through nihilism. The lack of religion in their lives takes away stability, existential security (no souls/afterlife), their guardian/God, and purpose. And most people come out of this process as liberals (in an American context). They make their lives worth living by creating a purpose. This "purpose" usually ends up being the pursuit of equality in every form. It becomes their life's mission and they pursue it with an almost religious zeal. And goes so far as to hurt the roots and values of their home countries. Why they choose to make their purpose to be such a "noble cause" is probably explained by the fact that they lost something important. When people are hurt in some way, they tend to relate to others easier, I think the prime cause of this is the belief that: "if I am nice to you, perhaps you 'll be nice to me in return". Only those who believe enough in themselves can avoid becoming these "nice-zombies". Maciamo, many of the problems and changes u mentioned are the direct result of the rise of liberalism. At to make things worse, globalist corporation who you would think would be the main enemies of liberals take advantage of their pan-human/global views to rank up profits. What do you think can be done to help promote secularisation but without the hysterical need to help others at the cost of your own (and your peoples') good?