The Second Renaissance
You may not know it, but we’re in the beginning of what will one day be defined by historians as the Second Renaissance or “rebirth” of arts and culture.
The First Renaissance started in Italy in the 1300’s, lasted several hundred years, and centered around the rediscovery of ancient texts and classical learning that was dormant Europe during the Middle Ages. This rediscovery brought about profound changes in every area of society that formed the basis of what we now consider Modern society. The First Renaissance witnessed the birth of the Reformation, the rise of Humanism and the spark of the Scientific Revolution. And the institutional Christian church played a significant role in funding and shaping much of the major movements during this period. As a result, the art, philosophy (minus humanism) and music of that period bore the distinct marks of the church and a calling to a higher, deeper Purpose that those disciplines serve.
The Second Renaissance is quite different. While technology still fuels it–the computer and Internet taking the place of the printing press and monks–the Second Renaissance signals the transition of the Modern era into a Post-Modern one. This Second Renaissance is not being shaped by institutions–the Church or otherwise, but by individuals and organic groups formed and reformed for specific purposes. The focus is largely now on the rediscovery of pre-classical, ancient themes of good ol’ hedonism and primitive thinking. And the flourishing of the arts is not funded by the church with a Higher vision, but by business via advertising and design with a singular vision of profit and materialism. These differences between the First and Second Renaissance raise several important questions for us as designers.
What philosophies will the Second Renaissance give birth to? Will business continue to be the primary patron of design? What will be the impact on society? I’d like to suggest that the institutional or organized, visible Christian church will have minimal impact in this Second Renaissance in the arts. I’m not being harsh here, secular institutions will be equally as ineffective. The Internet has profoundly shifted the balance of power away from institutions toward the organic and the individual. The work being done by the visible Christian church in the arts is mainly copy work. The few sparks of life touching design that I have seen exist outside the visible church and with individuals functioning as the organic Church. The same can be said of design in general as it flourishes beyond the boundaries of the profession’s institutions and corporate structures.
Designers must shed these institutional shells that have served their purpose and be transformed into new creatures that look and function differently. Only then will they be able to speak life and meaning into design, find it’s true heart purpose and give birth to a Divine purpose that changes society for the Good.