Consumption I

The parallel consumption of art (in exhibitions) and fashion (in catwalk shows or shops) comes at the tail end of the change in modernity that moved from acquiring material goods for their functional purpose, through conspicuous consumption, in which objects are bought for their societal significance, to consuming the products as a spectacle, as entertainment within a saturated market. At the beginning art was consumed for "educational" purposes, to instruct the senses in what was understood to be morally just. It celebrated the dominant spirituality of the culture and favorably documented the established political system. Throughout the Enlightenment (as well as comparable tendencies outside occidental culture) the consumption of art began to operate along lines of individualized perception, and the communication of ideal beauty was understood to be based on temporal and spatial aspects and no longer as an unchangeable cogent. With the rise of a middle class that was socially mobile and less culturally dependent on one structure alone, art turned to the reflection and subsequent critique of its consumers. It no longer presented an unobtainable ideal of sentimental or spiritual perfection but introduced the vernacular, the popular, and the visceral into its discourse. The personal worldview of a particular consumer base took over from the universal understanding that had been propagated for the whole of a culture before. Western modernism challenged such particularity by looking again at quasi-scientific inquiries that should establish general principles for the aesthetic and social meaning of art. Yet such "empirical" principles were subject to change with every art movement that was usurping the one before and wiping the sociocultural slate clean for new individualized rules to be inscribed onto it. In the early 2000s, with the tropes of later modernism determining our understanding of art, its consumption has shifted from edification to entertainment.

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