Yesterday we offered a meditation on the work of Suzi Gablik who died last week with a special emphasis on her daring to critique the modernist art world from which she emerged.
She puts the issue of letting go directly to her profession, the art world itself. In doing so, she invites us to critique the worlds that we work in. She says: We live in a toxic culture, not just environmentally but spiritually as well. If one’s work is to succeed as part of a necessary process of cultural healing, there must be a willingness to abandon old programming—to let go of negative ideas and beliefs that are destructive to the planet and to life on earth.
Applying this critique to her own work world, she asks, “But what does this mean for art?” One of her answers is that we let go of the notion of “art for art’s sake.” This idea implies an “inherent purposelessness” and thus echoes the anthropocentric and negative cosmology of the Enlightenment and of Patriarchy. “Modernism was the art of the industrial age,” she points out, and among other things it served up a patriarchal idea of “value-free aesthetics.”
Gablik does not dwell on the destructive aspect of letting go. Rather, she challenges those who would make a religion of deconstruction alone. “Healing is the most powerful aspect of reconstructive postmodernism, whereas for the deconstructivist it would seem that art can only deconstruct. There is no future beyond deconstruction.”
The artist must choose whether to follow a path of demystifying alone or a path of being instead a “cultural healer.”
Jesus advised that “by their fruits you shall know them.” One’s work will be judged by what one gives birth to—“cultural healing,” in Gablik’s words–not only by what one lets go of.
Gablik calls for artists to become “participating co-creators” in an “active mode of reconstruction.” What is our common goal today? Transformation cannot come from ever more manic production and consumption in the marketplace; it is more likely to come from some new sense of service to the whole—from a new intensity in personal commitment….The great collective project has, in fact, presented itself. It is that of saving the earth.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work, pp. 208f.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
Is it true that “we live in a toxic culture, not just environmentally but spiritually as well”? Can critiquing our work worlds contribute to detoxing our culture? Is Saving the earth the great collective project of our time as Gablik told us years ago?
The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time
Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter