© 2014 Makoto Fujimura
Mineral Pigments, Sumi ink, silver, and gold on Kumohada paper
60.25 x 45.25 x 1.25 in
Prints are available - click here.
Frontispiece to Culture Care.
The book is Makoto Fujimura's Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life, which I am spending some time with in preparation for reading at and participating in the June Culture Care Summit, sponsored by International Arts Movement and Fujimura Institute, at Cairn University in Philadephia. Here are some quotes from the part of the book that is foundational and sets up the terms of his argument for change.
In the aftermath of two World Wars, artists began to articulate the culture's dramatic loss of humanity... artists recognized the gap left by the weakening witness of the church in culture and increasingly came to see themselves as secular prophets and priests with a call to "speak the truth" against the "establishment." They intentionally isolated themselves from society and produced work aimed at shocking people into recognizing and decrying the horrors of the age. As critic Robert Hughes has noted, "the shock of the new" became a way of life in the twentieth century modernist experiment.
Artists have been pressed--sometimes willingly and sometimes not--to speak not for their own work, vision, and principles but for (usually leftist) ideologies. The implicit and explicit cultural pressures for ideological uniformity are so high that one could say that in the culture wars artists are free to express anything other than beauty.
With the exception of ideological uses, today's art has been commoditized to such an extent that we often see commerce as the prevailing goal of art, and value the arts only as transactional tools to achieve fame and thus wealth.
Why is Culture Care needed? From the perspective of the arts, it is because today, an artist cannot simply paint; a novelist cannot simply write; a pianist cannot simply play. Utilitarian pragmatism and commercialism so thoroughly pervade culture that without some shift in worldview and expectation, what we do as artists--the activities of the arts--will be neither sustainable nor generative. We will not be able to resist their use as weapons in the culture wars.
We need to recognize our time as a genesis moment.
I recommend it--the book is suffused with Makoto Fujimura's bright vision of a world that is generative for artists and others, a world that flourishes and produces arts that our descendants will find worthy and beautiful. As a Christian, Mako tends toward the ideas of fruitfulness and wholeness that pervade the book. It is a book for anyone who cares about the vicissitudes of culture, and where our culture is headed after Modernism and its aftershocks.