Underground is a collection of trends in contemporary art, whose followers deliberately oppose their work to official and popular mass art. The underground is a kind of protest of a musician, poet or artist against censorship and the established moral values of society. The supporters of such art ignore any restrictions, create works that are informal, independent and prohibited for widespread display.
The underground is the art of provocation, shocking and rebelliousness, for which there are no prohibited topics, be it religion, sexual relations or drugs. Its supporters live by their own rules, often conflict with the authorities and openly show disrespect for the official ideology of the state.
Features of the underground
The underground includes a wide variety of types, genres and art forms. It is impossible to define clear boundaries of this cultural phenomenon, and many works that belonged to the underground several decades ago are now recognized as classics of modern art.
The underground works can be classified according to the following criteria:
- A type of art (painting, sculpture, literature, music, cinema, photography).
- Demonstration place (in salons, at exhibitions, on the street, covert display for a limited circle of people and not intended for public demonstration).
- The attitude of the authorities towards them (legal and illegal, authorized and unauthorized). Loyalty to the regime (with or without political orientation).
There is an opinion that any subcultural movement has the right to be ranked among the underground only if it does not have a commercial component. There is another term for works created with the help of sponsors for the purpose of making money – “alternative art”.
The underground in art has long historical roots. At all times, there were innovative artists whose work did not fit into the official canons of painting, sculpture or music. The works created by such authors were not recognized by critics and the public, and the most active guardians of the moral foundations of society demanded the destruction of terrible creations.
Over the years, the following have been seriously attacked by representatives of academic art in painting:
- realists and impressionists;
- expressionists and dadaists;
- fauves and abstractionists;
- primitivists and post-impressionists.
However, the term “underground” officially appeared in art only in the late 1950s. It was first used by the American artist, writer and critic Manny Farber in one of his articles to refer to films on the sensitive topic of sexual minorities. The name not only stuck, but later acquired a broader meaning.
In Western society, the underground quickly acquired a mass of supporters among musicians and artists who reject the traditional values of bourgeois society. Among them were many supporters of the ideas of hippies, drug addicts, homosexuals, representatives of non-traditional religious confessions.
Followers of the underground boldly experimented with styles and genres, performed shocking and even frankly provocative acts. Despite the opposition of the authorities, over time, such performers and artists have gained their fans, and their work has become an integral part of the history of art.
In the Soviet Union and other countries of the socialist camp, avant-garde art was strictly prohibited until the early 1990s. Although its first samples appeared during the “Khrushchev thaw” in the 60s of the twentieth century. The famous “Bulldozer Exhibition”, which took place in Moscow in September 1974, is a striking example of the Soviet underground. The work of Soviet dissident writers and rock musicians of the era of stagnation can also be classified as underground art.
Today, the underground is part of the cultural life of modern society, and the attitude towards it has become more tolerant. For example, in the United States, the original Burning Man arts festival is held annually in the Nevada desert, which attracts tens of thousands of participants. In an atmosphere of general fun, people from different countries communicate, artists present original works of modern art to the audience, and musicians perform songs.