THE SENSE OF A RITUAL FUNCTION IN CONTEMPORARY ARTS

PhDr. Kateřina Růžičková /CZ/

Today, there is no doubt that the explosion of scientific knowledge caused a crisis of religion and religious feeling globally. The decay of religion (if we understand religion as a relationship between man to the sense of his existence) leads to a decay of basic human certainties.

Science gradually becomes a religion of a new type – God is replaced by man, a sovereign creator exempt from dependence on authoritative dogmas. A modern unreligious man takes new existential situation: he acknowledges just himself as an influencer of history. Scientific knowledge assumes enormous proportions, while psychic competence does not change. Romano Guardini, a theologist and a philosopher), says: “A man knows scientifically and mentally more that he is able to sensually understand. He is able to achieve effects, he cannot emotionally experience. But with respect to matters, they lose their importance due to their unlimited duration and immense quantity. Among infinitely many both is important, because nothing is absolutely important. There rises an indefinitely continuing connection to all the directions, which on the one hand provides a free space, but on the other hand does not give an objective space for existence. Human life has a free field for activities, but at the same time loses its consistent place. The ability of facing up with ourselves and to challenge with problems of life is disappearing. This was supported by the traditional understanding of world.” (in: Guardini, R., Konec novověku).

Contemporary arts authentically reflect the situation in the world – a decay of all the basic metaphysical certainties, integral thinking, culture or arts. There does not exist any generally valid criteria (canons), embedded in global conception of world, because awareness of world as a unit with an inside, exactly given order does not exist. All the rules are more relative because of an objective (scientific) view of history; all the criteria are more problematic. Ephemerality of all the rules has been scientifically proved – contemporary man does not have any reason for accepting any rules. He does not believe in the generally valid canon, he could hold.

As well art has emancipated. In former times the conventions of art movements were set in general conception of world and corresponded with requirements of this conception. “The sense of art consisted in his exactly defined and by tradition confirmed service to the general conception of world and general requirements, which resulted from this conception. The sense was not in it itself, but in its service to something outside it, in his role for being a “mirror of the life”. As if it did not concern art, artistic ness, but everything else and higher: world, man, life, salvation, god, myths. It made the harmony and obviosity.“ (In: Havel, V., O lidskou identitu)

With the loss of a unified conception of world, whom part was art, also the ability of serving art. By this art emancipated from the hands of society, but at the same time it lost its place. It is relinquished to itself, to its own evolutional dynamism, because it is not bounded by any needs of society. It does not receive any conventions.

Present man is dispensed from bundling weight of old structures, traditions and rituals. On the other hand, he needs dependence to manage subdued anxieties sequent from limitations of his physical life, he needs rituals, which enables him communicating with other people, to experience the feeling of belonging to a wider unit. Present man, relieved of religion by science, is looking for new sacral space.

According to M. Eliade man accepts two different existential situations, two modalities of being in the world: sacral and profane. Profane modus can be defined as a complex of personal and everyday moments fluent in so called historical time. Sacral modus is characterized stopping lapsing of profane and persisting in inert sacral modus. Through religion, art, ritual or cult games a man recovers his mystic relation to the life.

Ritual (according to M. Eliade) is closely connected with myth. A myth is a tale about the beginning of the history of the mankind, which has to be steadily repeated by the society. Eliade calls this repeating – a demonstration of the myth by members of the society – ritual. Ritual was gaining its importance and distinguished from other human activities by that it repeated the original activity of gods in the beginning of times. The orientation on searching for unchanging beginnings (archaism), which are ontologically more relevant than a world of variable events, correspondents with the fascination by transcendent, eternal archetypes. So ritual is a time presence of a mythic, archetypical event.

Abidance in an immobile sacral modus P. Rezek calls as a mythic situation: “If our life was composed of moments with a hard time, of moments, which are stressed, which divides the life and from those, which are only a continuance of life, so the myth is a moment with a hard time. A moment, in which the myth is born, can be called a mythic situation. In such a situation we cannot be neutral. A gesture and a ceremony is the presence of the mythic situation, they do not mean anything, and they are that, what they do.

One of the tasks of contemporary art is restoration of its ritual function – its original function. But it is not only a problem of our era. Already R. Wagner in his essay “About music” persuaded that modern art became estranged from its original role. The aim of “artistic ceremony” was to invoke a feeling of participation in proceeding act of creation. Such a ceremony has a transcendent sense – through it the participant connected himself with super-personal principle, which gave him a power for his trying and gave him a deeper sense of his life.

Also Allan Kaprow attentions to the sense of a ritual function (in: Yates, Peter: Theatrical - Performance Music: Drama, Theater, Ritual, Game or Play.): “an occasional exaltation in art is done through celebration, demonstration something like it is… art does not rise by putting something somewhere (to a gallery or to a museum), but by “transformation” through celebration.

Peter Yates says similar words: “When – during some ritual, e.g. in church, we sit, stand, kneel, sing, we find ourselves in the center of ritual, action, ceremonial dimension of art. In all the eras it was the most important, what people expected from art – a ritual with masks of many kinds, tangible and invisible –that, what was creating super-real presence. Multimedia art is becoming more and more popular. Its protagonists do not expect that they would create a piece of permanent value. They understand their work not as a final product, but as a possibility, changeable action, which can be repeated and changed many times. They try to give music and theater their original purpose back, they try to renew the basic element – ritual.”

This original – ritual function of art persists in cultures of so-called primitive nations to date. Apparently, some streams of present Euro American culture strive for its restoration.

MgA, Mgr. Kateřina Piňosová (Růžičková)
PhD – composer, theorist, music critic /CZ/

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