English

Test 6

The passage given below is followed by a set of five questions. Choose the most appropriate answer to each question.

A remarkable aspect of art of the present century is the range of concepts and ideologies which it embodies. It is almost tempting to see a pattern emerging within the art field—or alternatively imposed upon it a posteriori—similar to that which exist under the umbrella of science where the general term covers a whole range of separate, though interconnecting, activities. Any parallelism is however—in this instance at least—misleading. A scientific discipline develops systematically once its bare tenets have been established. Named and categorized as conventions. Many of the concepts of modern art, by contrast, have resulted from the almost accidental meetings of groups of talented individuals at certain times and certain places. The ideas generated by these chance meetings had twofold consequences. Firstly, a corpus of work would be produced which, in great part, remains as a concrete record of the events. Secondly, the ideas would themselves be disseminated through many different channels of communication—seeds that often bore fruit in contexts far removed from their generation. Not all movements were exclusively concerned with innovation. Surrealism, for instance, claimed to embody a kind of insight which can be present in the art of any period. This claim has been generally accepted so that sixteenth century painting by Spranger or a mysterious photograph by Atget can legitimately be discussed in surrealist terms. Briefly, then, the concepts of modern art are of many different (often fundamentally different) kinds and resulted from the exposures of painters, sculptors and thinkers to the more complex phenomena of the twentieth century, including our ever increasing knowledge of the thought and products of earlier centuries. Different groups of artists would collaborate in trying to make sense of a rapidly changing world of visual and spiritual experience. We should hardly be surprised if no one group succeeded completely, but achievements, though relative, have been considerable. Landmarks have been established—concrete statements of position which give a pattern to a situation which could easily have degenerated into total chaos. Beyond this, new language tools have been created for those who follow—semantic systems which can provide a springboard for further explorations. The codifying of art is often criticized. Certainly one can understand that artists are wary of being pigeon-holed since they are apt to think of themselves as individuals—sometimes with good reason. The notion of self-expression, however, no longer carries quite the weight it once did; objectivity has its defenders. There is good reason to accept the ideas codified by artist and critics, over the past sixty years or so, as having attained the status of independent existence—an independence which is not without its own value. The time factor is important here. As an art movement slips into temporal perspective, it ceases to be a living organism—becoming, rather, a fossil. This is not to say that it becomes useless or uninteresting. Just as a scientist can reconstruct the life of a prehistoric environment from the messages codified into the structure of a fossil, so can an artist decipher whole webs of intellectual and creative possibility from the recorded structure of a ‘dead’ art movement. The artist can match the creative patterns crystallized into this structure against the potentials and possibilities of his own time. As T. S. Eliot observed, no one starts anything from scratch; however consciously you may try to live in the present, you are still involved with a nexus of behaviour patterns bequeathed from the past. The original and creative person is not someone who ignores these patterns, but someone who is able to translate and develop them so that they conform more exactly to his—and our—present needs.


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