COMMENTARY: The Elitist Art World Is A Cargo Cult

Cargo cult

A Decoy For The Gods

The art world is run like a banana republic. It’s structured into highly stratified classes. On top, a few plutocratic overlords, catered to by bureaucracies of remora-like functionaries and lackeys, holding sway over struggling supplicant masses of creative hopefuls, all theoretically revolving around the production and presentation of the product Art.

The focus of the rulers is not on the art itself. Their purpose is assimilate status, influence and power. Art is just a vehicle for their self-importance. To gain the favor of their masters, opportunistic followers are made to understand to advance anywhere within this system, certain rules must be obeyed, or certain criteria met.

Artistic quality isn’t an issue. Under the permissiveness of relativism, anything goes-as long it falls under the approved formulas of the establishment. Any aesthetic concerns are irrelevant compared to adherence to the agenda.

Scorn must be directed at the appropriate targets: God, organized religion, patriotism, free expression, Western civilization in general. Claiming grievance confers virtue and enables claims for retribution. Hostility must be displayed towards anyone who does not accept the priorities of the elitists, or rejects the march towards collectivism.

The culture industries are just part of the larger problem. Our establishment is enforcing a tyranny of oikophobia, the disdain of our heritage and traditions. From their strongholds in the media, academia, administration and the arts, they are applying their unified efforts to clear the slate of society for the Great Leap Forward: a jump right back into feudalism, where the new aristocracy of the well-connected will be secure in their unaccountable power.

But since the language of morality is used to disguise their authoritarian ambitions, it creates some confusing contradictions. Today’s establishment is a sorry display of hypocrisy. They are bigots for Tolerance, Anarchists for Big Government. They are so open minded they demand any dissenting viewpoints must be censored out of existence. The perpetrators acknowledge no paradox though, as the self-regard gained by espousing and conforming to the correct views overwhelms self-awareness.


Being reduced to a tool for subversion has been very damaging to the relevance and achievements of the contemporary art world. With all this non-art related dogma assuming primacy in the culture industries, contemporary art is bereft of inspiration. Cut off from eternal sources of creativity by ideology, to compensate the art world has veered into a surprising dead end.

Much of establishment contemporary art has become an inverted cargo cult.

The phenomenon of the cargo cult originally was observed when the primitive tribal societies of the South Pacific encountered the advanced cultures of the West. It reached a pitch of religious fervor after World War II.

The industrial manufactured items of the newcomers amazed the remote villagers of islands like New Guinea and Tanna. The strangers from over the sea brought with them riches in the form of machines and goods-airplanes, tools, medicines, canned food, radios and the like-made from materials incomprehensible to what were practically Stone Age people. The tribes decided surely such wonderful items must be made by the gods.

As battles raged in the Pacific, the indigenous populations observed the soldiers at work: marching around in uniforms, clearing runways, talking on radios. In response the planes arrived, seemingly from heaven, bringing to the islands the massive quantities of materials needed for the war effort. To the natives who got to share some of the magical items, this treasure-the technological output of developed nations-came to be referred to collectively by the pidgin word cargo.

But when the war ended, the soldiers left. The flow of magic cargo ceased. The tribesmen had lost access to the gifts from the gods.

The abandoned natives developed a plan to get back into divine favor. Having no frame of reference for the ways of the modern world, they interpreted the activities of construction and communications the visitors performed as forms of ritual. The tribesmen would reenact the rites they had seen the foreigners perform, recreate their ceremonial objects. This would please the gods, who would start delivering the cargo again-but this time, to the natives.

The islanders designed outfits based on military uniforms. They drilled in cadence, carrying rifles of bamboo. They built wooden aerials, constructed mock radios, clearing landing strips in the jungle, placed decoy planes of straw on them. And waited.


Some are apparently waiting still for the gifts to start descending from the heavens. Educated by missionaries, the natives explain if the Christians can wait two thousand years for Jesus to return, the natives are willing to give the cargo gods a few decades to respond.

The natives of the South Pacific were practicing a type of sympathetic magic. This concept of sympathetic magic was explained in Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough: “From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it.”By going through the same motions witnessed in the people who received the cargo, the tribes believed they could summon the same effect: the bestowal of divine treasure.

To our rational minds this is preposterous. We understand the uselessness of evoking the facade of a machine without the necessary functionalities being incorporated into it. What matters is the inner workings, not the appearance.

And yet, a form of this magical thinking has infected contemporary art. The subservience of art to political issues derails the purpose of the artist. The prevalent dogma interferes with the discovery of a personal artistic vision. So contemporary artists attempt to imitate their way into a valid artistic experience.

In a stunning reversal, in our advanced technological society, artists uncomprehendingly recreate inferior approximations, parodying  the objects and gestures of the past and the primitive, trying in vain to summon the sense of awe and wholeness present in the art of bygone ages. By mimicking and mocking the outer forms of the originators, the artists hope the gods will arrive bearing their eternal gifts-that these snotty knock offs will also rise to the level of art.

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The contemporary art world says both of these are works of art

The contemporary art world is a liar

The art market had been degraded to flim-flaming hucksters who hire teams of technicians to create overwrought and overpriced versions of cheap gags. This is still art, the so-called experts assure us. But who the hell are they? Just some more cult members, in on the take. They have destroyed their own credibility.

By embracing methods of pastiche, a tone of irony, and a poorly concealed lust for power, today’s establishment artist can have no more success in creating a legitimate art for this time than the Pacific Islander can succeed in summoning a fleet of airplanes using his hand carved radio.

The South Seas native can be forgiven for his mistaken views on cause and effect. After all, his people were incorporating an enormous dislocation imposed from the outside, and the sudden end of a timeless way of life.

Harder to explain is why our people, in an age of unprecedented resources and information, seem to have so little insight to add to the human condition. The twisted motivations of the ruling establishment, their pursuit of unmitigated control, has of course been a huge impediment to our development. The proselyting elitist art establishment needs to be cleared away, bypassed. A great future lies beyond the collapse of the corrupt syndicates that have plundered our culture to further their political aims.

The Remodernism Manifesto of Billy Childish and Charles Thomson eloquently described the way forward.

“A true art is the visible manifestation, evidence and facilitator of the soul’s journey. Spiritual art does not mean the painting of Madonnas or Buddhas. Spiritual art is the painting of things that touch the soul of the artist. Spiritual art does not often look very spiritual, it looks like everything else because spirituality includes everything.
“Why do we need a new spirituality in art? Because connecting in a meaningful way is what makes people happy. Being understood and understanding each other makes life enjoyable and worth living.”

Without the massive misdirection of focus of the preceding decades, what could artists be capable of these days?

Miracles await.