Theo van Doesburg: The End of Art

One can not renew Art.
“Art” is an invention of the Renaissance which has today refined itself to the utmost degree possible.
An enormous concentration was needed to make good works of Art.
One could only develop this concentration by neglecting life (as in religion) or to lose life entirely.
That is today impossible for we are only interested in life. The whole life of today is in contradiction to the religious and aesthetic concentration of the past. It is quite out of fashion to devote ourselves only to one thing.
New life is based upon construction, that is to say: the distribution of strain, the neutralisation of pull and pressure.
We too distribute our forces upon all of life.
That is real progress.
This progress negates exclusive concentration.
It can only give instantaneous snap-shots of life.
That is the first reason why Art is impossible.
Second reason: just as scientific progress, for instance, was suppressed in the Middle Ages by religion and its official today through Art. Instead of religion we have Art.
Therewith is all of life poisoned.
Aestheticism has infected and diseased us all. (Yes, us.).
One can not touch an article which isn’t filthy.
If one wants to put a pail upon the ground: immediately the high priest of Art comes to us and says, ‘that disturbs the harmony of the street, or the harmony of the city, or landscape’.
If one wants to put a typewriter or sewing-machine into the room, then one hears directly from the landlady who insists that one ‘take this thing away, it disturbs the harmony of the room.’ Postcards, stamps, pipetobacco, tickets, pot de nuit, umbrella, towel, pyjamas, chairs, bed covers, handkerchief, lamps, stoves, necktie… everything is Arty.
Let us refresh ourselves with things that are not Art: the bathroom, the W. C. the bathtub, the telescope, the bicycle, the auto, the subways, the flatiron.
There are many people who know how to make such good unartistic things.
But they are hindered, and their movements are dictated by the priest of Art. Art, whose function nobody knows, hinders the function of life.
For the sake of progress we must destroy Art.
Because the function of modern life is stronger than art, every attempt to renew Art (Futurism, Cubism, Expressionism) failed.
They are all bankrupt.
Let us not waste our time with them. Let us rather create a new life-form which is adequate to the functioning of modern life.

Originally published in De Stijl
vol. 7 | nr. 73/74 | pp. 29-30

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