The complexities and nuances of existentialism in the current decade resonate deeply with contemporary creative works across various mediums, including sculpting, drawing, hip-hop, television, and spoken word poetry.

Existentialism, with its focus on individual freedom, meaning, and the confrontation with absurdity, finds expression in the multifaceted and often introspective nature of these art forms. Each medium provides a unique lens through which the existential themes of the 21st century are explored and articulated.

Existentialism and Sculpture

In the realm of sculpting, the works of contemporary artist Antony Gormley offer a profound exploration of existential themes. Gormley’s sculptures often depict the human form in various states of abstraction and vulnerability, such as in his famous Angel of the North and Event Horizon installations. These works emphasize the human condition, isolation, and the search for meaning in an indifferent universe, mirroring the existentialist belief in the importance of individual perception and experience. Gormley’s sculptures provoke contemplation about one’s place in the world and the inherent solitude of human existence, echoing the existentialist focus on the individual’s journey to find purpose amidst the void.

Existentialism and Drawing

Drawing, as a medium, often captures the immediacy of existential introspection. The work of artist Kiki Smith, known for her detailed and intimate drawings, delves into themes of mortality, identity, and the human body. Smith’s drawings, such as Untitled (for David Wojnarowicz), reveal the fragility of life and the existential struggle to understand one’s own existence. Her art challenges viewers to confront their own mortality and the transient nature of life, core tenets of existentialist philosophy. Through her intricate and personal depictions, Smith invites reflection on the interconnectedness of life and death, and the perpetual search for meaning.

Existentialism and Hip-Hop

Hip-hop, with its roots in social commentary and personal expression, provides a powerful platform for exploring existential themes. Artists like Kendrick Lamar use their music to address issues of identity, purpose, and societal pressures. In his album DAMN, Lamar grapples with themes of fear, pride, love, and mortality, embodying the existentialist struggle to find meaning and authenticity in a complex and often contradictory world. His introspective lyrics and storytelling highlight the search for self-identity and the confrontation with existential angst, resonating with listeners who navigate similar existential questions in their own lives.

Existentialism and Television

Television, as a medium of storytelling, has also embraced existential themes, particularly in shows like Black Mirror. This anthology series explores the dark and often dystopian aspects of modern society, technology, and human nature. Each episode presents a unique narrative that delves into the complexities of existence, freedom, and the consequences of technological advancements. Black Mirror reflects existential concerns about the loss of individuality, the ethical implications of technology, and the search for meaning in an increasingly digital world. The show’s unsettling portrayal of possible futures serves as a mirror to our own existential fears and hopes.

Existentialism and Spoken Word Poetry

Spoken word poetry, with its emphasis on personal expression and emotional intensity, is another powerful medium for exploring existential themes. Poets like Sarah Kay and Anis Mojgani use their performances to address issues of identity, purpose, and the human experience. Kay’s poem If I Should Have a Daughter and Mojgani’s Shake the Dust both emphasize the importance of finding one’s voice and embracing the journey of self-discovery. Their spoken word performances capture the essence of existentialism, encouraging audiences to confront their own fears, embrace their individuality, and seek meaning in their lives.

These creative works across sculpting, drawing, hip-hop, television, and spoken word poetry collectively highlight the enduring relevance of existential themes in contemporary society. They underscore the importance of individual freedom, the search for meaning, and the confrontation with life’s inherent uncertainties. By engaging with these diverse forms of art, we gain a deeper understanding of the existential struggles and triumphs that define the human experience in this current decade.

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Gormley, Antony. Angel of the North. Gateshead, England, 1998.

Smith, Kiki. Untitled (for David Wojnarowicz), Drawing, 2000.

Lamar, Kendrick. DAMN. Top Dawg Entertainment, 2017.

Brooker, Charlie. Black Mirror. Netflix, 2011-present.

Kay, Sarah. If I Should Have a Daughter. Spoken word poem, 2011.

Mojgani, Anis. Shake the Dust. Spoken word poem, 2005.