Edmund Burke, the famed Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, exclaimed in his far reaching An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs of 1791): “Art is man’s nature”. As we move through time and space within the Art Historical journey of man/woman, we come to periods of extreme creativity and prolific art making as well as epochs where images are reviled, they are seen as dangerous, and leaders step forward and persuade the multitude to destroy the offensive forms. The destruction of imagery is called iconoclasm. We are witnesses right now to the destruction of artistic production in the name of religion. The current war in Syria is not only destroying the lives of residents throughout Syria but also the artistic monuments left for our gaze by earlier inhabitants. The cry for freedom by “modern” artists, the desire to leave the past in favor of new interpretations of the present and the potential future is being misrepresented and confused as iconoclasts subject their vitriol through the false “spin” and “propaganda” of religious fears of idolatry. The Russian dissident, Boris Pasternak has stated in his powerful tome Dr. Zhivago: “Salvation lies not in the faithfulness to forms, but in the liberation from them.” Irving Howe, a once prominent Jewish-American literary and social critic, exclaimed: “Modernity consists in a revolt against the prevailing style, an unyielding rage against the official order.” The iconoclasts today are using brute force and a “might makes right” mentality to destroy the creative images of our ancestors because of fear of idolatry. What are your thoughts on the breaking/destruction of images in the name of religion? Are images dangerous? Should “offensive” images be destroyed? How do you decide what stays and what is destroyed?
Temple of Baal Shamin, Palmyra, Syra
ISIS Destruction of Baal Shamin, Palmyra, Syria