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When Pandora opened the box a plague dispersed and doomed humanity to suffer ruin, insanity, and despair. She hastily closed the box to stop the plague but, pathetically, only Hope remained inside."

For centuries art has, at its best, evoked catharsis from its audience, and in so doing exalted the senses, the intellects, and the passions of those who experience it. Art has been a vehicle that has called upon the highest sentiments of the human creative vision and demanded exacting technical skill. Recently, however, art has taken on a new form known as postmodernism which, in too many instances, has served as little more than shock aesthetics - outrageous sensory stimuli created to provoke the "psychological processes." Many scholars and artists alike, believe this new artistic movement to be nihilistic and, at times, gratuitous. Art, a non-static entity, has undergone several significant metamorphoses in its history. It has seen greatness in Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, and to suggest that the influence of postmodernism has altogether put the Arts in a bad way would be wrong. What can be said for sure is that postmodern art has gone too far in stirring controversy and shocking its audience for it to any longer be considered art. Also, that they are two broad reasons for this decline.

The Encyclopedia Encarta describes the aims of Dadaists' (the first postmodern artists) works as "... designed to shock or bewilder, in order to provoke a reconsideration of accepted aesthetic values," which is a misnomer for much of what we have seen produced to date (Encarta, 2001, p. 6). A recent article in the Toronto Star has challenged the parameters of postmodern art with its piece, subtitled: "Public autopsies, baby eating, and bog people... hot exhibits bait our fascination and disgust" (Star, 2003, H1). Human bodies are just that, neither artifact nor art and exhibiting them "is running up against some of the few taboos left in North American culture," says Meghan Williams, head of Canadian Conference of the Arts, an advocacy group. "And they're aren't many left" (Star, 2003, H1). Shows like "Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies," now in an East end London Gallery, to Belgian artist Wim Delvoye's foul smelling Cloaca, a mechanical digestive system, to Chinese artist Zhu Yu Allegedly cannibalizing a newborn child on video-tape, are examples of "artists" who have ventured above and beyond the reaches of tasteful art. There are several plausible explanations for this decline in the quality of art, the foremost resulting from the transgression of ideals throughout history, particularly in the past two centuries, and the second dealing with the medium - the curators, who base their exhibits on "contemporary aesthetics."

As for the former, the increasing naturalism of the nineteenth century led, for those who had not shaken off their religious heritage, to a feeling of being alone and without guidance in a vast, empty universe. The rise of philosophical theories of skepticism and irrationalism led many to distrust their cognitive faculties of perception and reason, a philosophy which was addressed several centuries



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