Myth and the Philadelphia Renaissance Pt. 1


How mythologies proliferate and perpetuate themselves among the human race- the mechanics of mythology- is a fascinating issue, and involves knowledge of humanities (sociology/anthropology) which I do not have. Yet, I begin this essay on the side of a certain kind of knowledge- that for many years in Philadelphia in the Aughts, many young artists were developing rapidly and in tandem. The formal-thematic concerns they shared were easy to notice- expressed sexuality, both queer and straight, as a manifestation of achieved personal freedom and expressive competence, and against the backdrop of a faltering national economy and socio-political landscape; a rekindled romance with the haute culture of the nineteenth century, particularly nineteenth century Europe, as a repository of worthy forms and psycho-cognitive, textual or imagistic vistas; a generalized rejection of post-modernity's rote, dry, unimaginative and bloody-minded cultural stranglehold from cash-built, internally corrupt fortresses of media, galleries, academic institutions, journals, and presses; and the city of Philadelphia itself as a muse and fetish, specifically owing to the city's manifest complexities, exquisite architecture, and the spirit of socio-sexual freedom and aesthetic daring which reigned as a zeitgeist for many years in the Aughts here, and which, once descended, animated affected lives with a perpetual sense of liberation, release, and intoxication.

This congeries of complexes and circumstances constitutes, for me, the backbone of what I call the Philadelphia Renaissance- but as, in the midst of text-creation, I interrogate myths, mythologies, and processes of myth-making, it occurs to me that for a genuine, cherished myth (or series of myths) to take root in Western consciousness around what happened in Philadelphia in the Aughts, some form of collective will need to develop for the aforementioned proliferations and perpetuations to occur- in other words, myths cannot be created completely in a vacuum. I have failed to enumerate what we were (and are) up against, which is formidable- a shadow-Philadelphia (and America) of faux-cultural sectors, set in place only to coerce awful, inferior, thoughtless and formless art into entrenched positions of demonstrable power and prestige; the "deep pockets" able, for subterranean reasons, to buy out these contrived, inauthentic positions, and which can and will be willing to block attempts to consolidate Neo-Romantic art. Our art, of course, was not created or placed into circulation from "deep pockets" but by young artists living on, and from, their wits, instincts, and impulses; and we must also face the collective will of local and national press to bury the Philadelphia Renaissance, whose organic, sexualized, and aesthetically emancipated approach disrupts normative practices and conventional American myth-making mechanics. The most enduring kind of high art, whenever and wherever it erupts, is always disruptive, because a genuine, tearing edge of innovation is in it, alongside an engagement with aesthetic histories, both of which are perceived by average minds as strange and threatening- and the best pieces of Neo-Romantic art are no exception; are, in fact, representative of this phenomenon; our very creation myth is a semi-unprecedented one. I consider my own attempts to disseminate Neo-Romantic art, and the myths which inform it, as a kind of humanities experiment over a long period of time. My formulated supposition is not a particularly modest one- that we were, and will likely remain, sui generis in the history of American (and Western) art, and that what we created deserves wide attention and comment, if not imitation (not-overt or overt, benign or malign, wholesome or craven).