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The Timeframe of Art
When posting beautiful images of cathedrals, I often get the same comment: “This is not possible anymore, because it costs too much”. In a world where buildings are destroyed, almost as soon as they are constructed, this false dichotomy has to go. It depends mostly upon the timeframe you’re thinking in.
Build for eternity versus building for fashion
The modern conception of time stands in contrast to the ancient conception of time. 10 years seems like a long time for modern man, whereas a Catholic finds that the protestant revolution only happened yesterday. This difference in timeframe is visible in all aspects of modern and Catholic thought.
The modern world is obsessed with fashion, or going viral. These are the same manifestations of the same concept: a short and heavy dose of focus on something useless. Catholic liturgy points towards the most high and tries to correct sinners who have lost that focus. Within modern thought, there is no such central focus. Because this lack of focus, anything can grab the attention of people. If it is useful in any way, it will stay. If not, it disappears quickly.
The same idea of fashion is also seen in modern art. Modern art tries to grab your attention, but ultimately it has no meaning, except rebellion. The normal reaction to it is disgust or confusion. Modern art is focused on fashion, and focusing the attention on what does not matter. Art galleries, which cycle through huge amounts of modern art, or constructions in the public square, which are removed in a short amount of time after placement. These both show the short-livedness of modern art.
Much of old art has been lost, but that does not disprove the point. Namely, that it was made to last eternally. That is why, in an atheist west, the old Gothic cathedrals still attract so many crowds. People intuitively get what beauty is about.
To return to the beginning comment. In the fashion framework, it makes no sense to put effort into making something beautiful. If it has to be destroyed in a short-time, why build something that aspires to something higher. It makes sense to create something that grabs the attention, and for that, beauty is not one of the main focus points. Modern architecture creates buildings that are cheap to build. Cutting costs will inevitably make sure constructions will forget obvious facts (building libraries where the books start burning).
Et in saecula saeculorum