"I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man."

30 September 2010

Snobby Pontificators and the Societal Zombie Plague

This article both inspires and infuriates me: Are Our Writers As Lousy As Our Bankers?

Within my fury comes the desire to counter and respond, because while I agree with the assessment of the current psuedo-intellectual trend in literature and art that ultimately is devolving 'high art,' it assumes the only art IS high art. Yet in order to define that which is 'high' from that which is (to use the phraseology of dear Uncle Stevie's mother) 'trash,' you place on a pedestal your own assumptions of what constitutes genius, and willfully dismiss anything that does not fit into your narrow-minded ideal of artistic mecca.
I do love the title 'Urban Intellectual Fodder' and agree with the style it describes, and the type of people who devour it. I also agree that art as a whole is on a downslide, a fact that can be attributed to a world with a disparate polarity between those who don't want to think and those who only think they want to think -- and trapped in a suffocating underworld, those who want to think AND feel and are being pressed down into near oblivion.
However, where I take issue is the assumption that one person's thought and emotion mean less, or have less long-reaching social impact, than someone else's. The Beatles were once little more than the 'NSync of their day. Bergman, while brilliant, is not perfection. Faulkner... well, let's just say I understand the appeal, but for me he's a pompous, over-wordy snob (this from someone whose favorite writing era is Victorianism). Yet he did write with passion, which counts for a lot.
This is where the analysis of 'real art' in this article's argument falls apart for me, because what strikes someone in the emotional chest, makes them gasp or scream, and/or makes them rethink the world, is different for everyone. Creating your own arbitrary standard of 'real art' only applies to you, and perhaps a group of others who have a similar aesthetic. Not that groups of people embracing their ideas about art, literature and culture should not be formed and encouraged, but doing so to the exclusion of all other forms of creative material adds to the detriment of art as much as Urban Intellectual Fodder.
Granted, I give the writer credit for admitting scruples and snobbery, but the intensity of feeling which accompanies such snobby opinions ultimately lends itself to turning away people who the 'true intellectuals' and 'appreciators of real art' deem as having lower cultural standards than themselves. While 'high' art and literature certainly has its place in society, and a much needed one, it is not necessarily the most valuable form of art. Some of what is now considered in some circles to be the best, most brilliant and affecting works of all time were either completely ignored in their time OR considered to the the 'pop' art of their period.
Now, if you want to make an argument that popular arts have taken a dive, I'm pretty much on that bandwagon. I also agree (to an extent) that high-brow forms of art have disintegrated, for the most part, into Urban Intellectual Fodder. I also agree there are many projects floating around out there which could, potentially, be incredible works but cannot get the funding or attention needed to come to fruition -- this can be blamed on the overarching attitude of 'whateverness' of our culture, and the concept that people want to be seen as supportive of the arts and art funding until it's a project which requires them to think or feel or express beyond their comfort zone -- or that of the drooling, teeming masses who only want more escapist 'reality' TV or to be instructed what to read by Oprah or plunk down $20 on popcorn and a remake that's a shadow of its source material, because none of those options require effort from us.
We're zombiefying ourselves with 'art' and the cultural height of said art is less relevant than the fact that we're training ourselves to not think or feel.

1 comment:

  1. This may upset some people, but I think the basic problem is trying to combine the words "postmodern" and "art". I think the two words together are as much an oxymoron as the much cited "military intelligence" and "business ethics". Because I think that art, in the end, depends on its relationship to two concepts: truth and beauty. And if these concepts are considered passe, or relative, or irrelevant, or discounted in other ways, then there is no basis for evaluating anything as "art" in any meaningful way. And any attempt at "art" (whatever that is) is doomed to be either derivative of what someone else calls "art", or slavish catering to contemporary tastes, which are constantly changing.

    I do agree that creating a work that causes a physical reaction can be an indication of art, but this also can be very subjective, and what may have a strong impact on one person can leave another untouched. I think the two most powerful movies I saw as a teenager, emotionally, were Zefferelli's ROMEO AND JULIET and Tom Laughlin's BILLY JACK. Now ROMEO was at least technically well made, but I think most cinephiles would consider it more sentimental than artistic. But BILLY JACK...from a technical standpoint, it's almost MST3K material. But on an emotional, visceral level, it works like gangbusters. But is it art???? I don't think many people would think so.

    Getting back to the original article, maybe the reason the author found so little contemporary "art" to be worthwhile, while having such a strong feeling for older work, is because the creators of the earlier work had a real standard to work toward.


More Like This: