Byte-Size History – Part 4

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was a physics issue which regarded time and space, but was soon applied by some to truths in general as “moral relativismDr. Ehrlich’s (1907, 1909) discovery of a cure for syphilis (Salvarsin) made the consequences of illicit sex less fearful (and more popular). It paired neatly with moral relativism since it put venereal disease in the “innocent” company of other diseases caused by microbes and curable my man (rather than setting it apart as a terrifying punishment from God for sexual sin). Frank Frazer’s book, “Golden Bow” was a study of comparative religions which  put Christianity on an ostensibly equal footing with all other religions. As always, some took the bate, rejecting Christianity or religion all together.

Adding the above to Darwinism, Entropy, and Freudian psychology, the art, literary, and philosophical worlds continued in a paroxysm of creation. The creative examples are numerous and continued for decades into the present. I show only a smattering of examples here:

Picasso’s paintings sometimes make connections between sexual anxiety and primitive mentalities. Picasso said that painting is “a sum of destructions” (reflecting entropy and the destruction of the old secure complacence in the knowledge that nothing is solid or unchanging). His painting, “Demoisselles d’Avignon” shows prostitutes staring boldly at us, demanding confrontation. They are harsh and primitive like African masques (Freud collected such masques). The primitive and immoral are no longer scorned here. Instead they are held up as some fundamental truth about the nature of man for which he need not repent.

The music of Schoenberg (1908) used dissonance and atonality which echoed the new physics, rendering the material world as illusion devoid of foundations. A critic reviewed Schoenber’s “Second String Quartet” in the crime section of the newspaper. In 1909, Schoenberg’s “Erwartung” expresses moods more than story line (reflecting the Freudian subconscious) rather using variations on a theme in the classical tradition. In Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lumaire” the music is fragmented into musical “atoms” and the puppet seems to raise questions wrapped in riddles.

The philosopher, Bergson promoted the Elan Vital (life force) concept in which truth comes through intuition rather than from rationalization (again reflecting the subconscious mind).

Later would come the Theater of the Absurd in which nonsequitors often replace rational, cohesive speech as though drawn from the depths of the subconscious.

Dadaist art began in Switzerland before the end of World War I. Dada believed that the war had killed man’s ambition to create durable, classical works of art. The war had shown rationality and immutability to be illusion. Science had produced only primitive carnage. Dada (“yes, yes” – to life) glorified play and turned to childhood innocence, claity, cleaness. Duchamp (Dadaist sculptor) made bicycle wheels and urinals the subjects of one of his creations. Dada art was anonymous and collective with no place for ego. Risk and experiment were germaine to it. Later it would take on different shades of difference as it spread to other countries. Dadaist writers in Paris would attempt to write entirely from the subconscious mind.