I hope the coming sentence won't be too arrogant as a reply, but living outside the western world, I had to deal with more of the products of Japan and India, Iran and Pakistan, and Europe and US, so fortunately or unfortunately I never watched Star Trek, and I don't know if I will have time to watch it anytime soon. The reason I am mentioning this personal story is that again and again in these 20 years of Supercommunity and Conversations what one sees is thick layer of Western world, which probably not on purpose but automatically deprives the reader and replier of the possible things non westerners have made out of these problems. finishing Mohammad's text, I was more in a joy of imagining fantasies of Green Movement, Arab Spring, the world that I got through internet, the first time as a teenager I chatted with an Israeli teen which probably was the most fantastic Yahoo messenger had ever brought to me.
Anyway, maybe that's not only directed to the reply but also to what the first text points out:
"What conditions have made visual arts a concern of Western culture?"
Actually I don't agree with Mohammad that we should have a very broad research field to look at why Western culture has become concerned with visual arts. Western culture has not failed to look over the history and geography, reaching out to pre-history, Japan, future, America, etc but avoiding one thing which according to Norman O. Brown has been the greatest repressed object of the Western Culture: Islam.
Islam in contrast to Western culture has made visual culture secondary. Spectacle is basically the problem, if I understand Salemy correctly. Then Islam has a very sharp political reply to that, which throughout centuries Western culture represses:
"And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain."[4:175}
or the way Brown puts it:
"But the passage about the Crucifixion that I'm working with: "They slew him not, not did they crucify..." I'm giving you a variety of possible translations now..."They slew him not, not did they crucify him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save the pursuit of a conjecture."
Another translated: " it was caused to appear to them that way"; "he was counterfeited for them." Or, "They have been caught in the trap of the assimilation committed by themselves"...(page 40 the Challenge of Islam)
The cross is seen as the fundamental symbol of the Gnostic perception that there is a contradicion, a contradiction between appearance and reality. And that is via a dialectic of negation of appearance that we arrive at the truth. Contradiction and Crucifixion. Crucifixion being seen as the symbol of contradiction, as in Pascal, for those of you who know his theology of illumination. Although Crucifixion is a revelation, I think it may be fair to say that one of the reasons for the Docetic Islamic posture with regard to the Crucifixion is that for the the Transfiguration--that episode that I gave you from Matthew 17-- is the fundamental narrative about the revelation of what Christ meant: the Transfiguration." (Brown, The Challenge of Islam, 41)
Well, now, who disagrees that maybe the Cross was the most prominent image in the western culture, before and during the modernisation? this obsession with the spectacle, according to Brown has a political and psychoanalytical function: if we believe what we see (jesus on the cross), we believe in god's reincarnation into the body of his own son, killing him and there you go, we are not responsible for whatever horrible things that happen in history. But what was the political emphasis of Islam to change the narrative of Crucifixion and to say Jesus was not killed but it only appeared to us? Then we are responsible, we were the evils who wanted to kill him. And this is just the beginning of the story of obsession with Spectacle. Docetism, Gnosticism. After all Western culture yet is not dealing rationally with the emergence of Christianity edition 2.0: Islam.
"do we really need art with its professional attire and technical language to create this kind of social construction?"
Brilliant! This is exactly where the essentialist thinkers like Kristeva become useful. many years ago she already talked about intertextuality and the irrelevance of art in this market driven society.
"Now, if knowledge becomes just a secondary concern and the focus is instead placed on art as a platform bridging the internality of the art world to its externality, art will then make available different forms of knowledge that science has not and will not be concerned with."
This one remind me of the works of Adam Phillips and Leo Bersani. Phillips, the psychoanalyst who has withdrew from the psychoanalytic circles, who believes artists were and are always the idols for psychoanalysis, who believes Freud was never a scientist and in fact he doesn't have a future as a scientist but as a writer, degrades knowledge in the course of psychoanalytic session and rather pays attention to analysis and art as ways of connecting inside and outside, internatl/external. the fact that science has reduced emotions to chemistry, doesn't end the fact that we still have an inner world experience.