06w05:2 An Open and Reasonable Soceity?

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 5 number 2 (an open and reasonable society?)

In the remarkable chapter Images of Immortality found within John Ralston Saul’s 1992 bookVoltaire’s Bastards he says this while tracing the development of artist heroes:

When Romanticism began to flourish in the late 18th Century and the ego began to grow until it dominated public life, people abruptly found Raphael far too modest a fellow to have been the father of the perfect image. So they tended to fall into line with the description of the technical breakthroughs which had been provided by Vasari in his Lives of the Painters, written shortly after the actual events. In other words, they transferred the credit to an irresponsible, antisocial individualist, Michelangelo – a veritable caricature of the artist in the 20th Century. If we were ever able to create a reasonable, open society, Leonardo would no doubt cease appearing to us as an overwhelming, almost forbidding, giant and the credit would be switched to him.

Since that time, Marcel Duchamp (analytical, reasonable) has overtaken Picasso (irresponsible, antisocial individualist that he was) as the greatest artist of the 20th Century, and Leonardo has inspired one of the most read books in the history of the world. Although there is a ton of political evidence to the contrary, perhaps we are witnessing the transition toward a reasonable open society after all? Slowly the balance is shifting so that the President of the United States says ‘Americans are addicted to oil’ and these five words become a headline (as it did yesterday on the Drudgereport), representing as they do a significant shift toward reality from a man famously blinded by ideology.

This Leonardo angle comes by way of the Martin Kemp interview link herein, in which he also complains about art writing. After they talk about his Leonardo book, they get to talking about contemporary art, and Kemp says the following:

AFH: What do you think of all the writing generated by the art world?

MK: There is a lot of writing generated that is redundant. When I was a graduate student, I used to review exhibitions and I found that sitting on the train heading in to London to see the show, I would be writing the review before I arrived. At one point when I was working in Glasgow, I did a review for the Guardian of a nonexistent exhibition, which consisted of all the popular words and apparatus. It was a critical account that stood independently and I then dropped in a spurious artist in to the framework. You see a lot of writing like that allows the machinery to go on by just dropping a name into the mix along the way.

AFH: Do you think this kind of writing is destructive to art or artists?

MK: One thing that has happened very dramatically is that artists in the educational system have to produce more written work as part of their degrees. That has had an effect on artists and artistic production. I think many artists are automatically thinking about how the work will be written about when they are making it. It is not necessarily that they plan, but they can’t stop doing it. That hyper-sensitivity to the written word and what artists need to say about their own work, knowing they will be interviewed, often goes alongside a very self-consciousness about how work will look in reproduction, how it will be discussed, how artists need to justify their own work in the media. The issue is how to corral the artists and the critics into one arena that represents the work well.

This leads me to post the Jerry Saltz article from the end of December, wherein he talks about being a critic. Personally my own experience with writing criticism slanted me toward thinking it wasn’t worth it. Better to let people make up their own minds about things. There’s a difference between criticism and publicity afterall, and no artist wants real criticism. Such genuine critique comes from someone like John Carey, where in the last link this is said about the art world: “Approved high art, Carey insists again and again, is too often simply a marker of class, education and wealth. ‘It assures you of your specialness. It inscribes you in the book of life, from which the nameless masses are excluded.’ Yet ‘the characteristics of popular or mass art that seem most objectionable to its high-art critics — violence, sensationalism, escapism, an obsession with romantic love — minister to human needs inherited from our remote ancestors over hundreds of thousands of years.'” It seems to me that in an increasingly open and reasonable society, professional artists would be derided for their unreasonable snobbish attitudes. But that’s just me.

Finally, a link to a Daily Show clip on Crooks and Liars. They offer two video feeds, one Windows and the other a Quicktime, but the quicktime one doesn’t work as a type this (maybe later?). The clip goes over the James Frey debacle, pointing out that while political lying is pooh-poohed, Oprah’s humiliation is that she ‘forced Americans to read, when they really didn’t have to’.

– Timothy

Universal Leonardo | Ana Finel Honigman
The interview with Martin Kemp. But check out the website mentioned there:

“‘A project aimed at deepening our understanding of Leonardo da Vinci through a series of international exhibitions, scientific research and educational resources. Explore the web site for details of the exhibitions and to discover Leonardo’s fascinating thought and work in the realms of art, science and technology.’ “

Seeing out loud | Jerry Saltz

What Good are the Arts? | Michael Dirda

The Daily Show: Oprah vs News | Crooks and Liars
“Why does James Frey get tougher treatment than our government? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because he misled us into a book we had no business getting into. So thank you Oprah for giving us a glimpse into political accountability and punishing the one unforgivable sin our society. Forcing Americans to read … when they really didn’t have to.”

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 01 February 2006 @ 2:28 PM

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