Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The meaning of Art

I only write when I am moved to write. Lots of things to do, too little time, stress, work, family business, work and more stress.

This moved me.

Without further ado, let me spin my tale.

When I was a pre high school boy, my parents did a great thing for me - a family trip to Washington, DC, to see our nation's capital, the government's buildings, the White House and other sites, both touristy and grand.

I remember being very reverent as I walked through the White House open for tourists, as I stood close to president Lincoln, looking up, as I climbed the stairs in the Lincoln Memorial.

I remember, after 5PM on a weekday, standing on a suddenly deserted street, with the shops being bolted down, with no restaurant open and no tourists - no people, at all - around us, with us being at first amazed and then my father saying: "This doesn't feel right, lets get out of here NOW.".

Spooky.

(Sorry, don't remember the neighborhood nor even the street).

After we drove off in search of a motel or a hotel (this was pre smart phones, GPS - only my father driving and a map on my lap), driving a few blocks away from the White House, now it is night time, we notice cars slowing in front of us and swerving to avoid some obstruction on the road in front of us.

That obstruction was a stopped car in the middle of the road, and a black guy beating up - or rather, fighting - with a woman.

In the middle of a street a few blocks from the White House.

You can imagine what went through our minds then: "What the hell is going on here, this is the Nation's CAPITAL for fucks' sake!" which, when we noticed that ALL the cars around us had black drivers and passengers changed to (you guessed it), "This doesn't feel right, lets get out of here NOW.".

Spooky.

(Sorry, don't remember the neighborhood nor even the street - it's been a long time).

But most of all I remember the great Smithsonian exhibitions.

As I walked through one museum, I saw planes, from the earliest examples (Oh. My. God. THE Wright Brothers plane!), the first operational fighter jet (the German Me262), and... hang on, is this THE B29 bomber that... why, yes, it is the Enola Gay.

Amazing.

It made me think of our human race, of how SMART we are as a people, of what we can accomplish, for good and ill - we can fly using a contraption made from wood an fabric, we can fly very, very fast, we can reach the moon, we can unleash hell on earth using the power of the atom.

Heady stuff for me (your mileage may vary).

Natural History Museum - the incredible past of our planet, with - hang on - look at the size of these bones, that thing is HUGE!

Incredible.

Look at these cavemen, they had to hunt for their food and forage and compete with animals - look at how much they had to overcome, and how the hell did they ever achieve the jump from that stage to farming with grains, training dogs, building pyramids, making space shuttles...

Inspiring.

And then, also with a proud name of Smithsonian, we walked into the museum of modern a...

Hang on...

What the fuck is this shit?

Those are the actual words, the actual quote of my mother which she uttered out loud.

This Smithsonian was very different from the other museum complexes - whereas the other ones were inspiring, heady, uplifting, this one was... well...

Shit.

Just.

Well, shit.

One exhibit was a bunch of TV's stacked one on top of another and their projections were a goofy, weird face splashed across them - so that the face was sometimes in each TV, and sometimes the gigantic face was divided between them.

Oh... kay...

We walked in and saw much more... art... er...

Weirdness.

Shit, really.

We saw colored dots on a white canvas.

We stood, as a family, in front of this, for a few minutes, with our faces showing dejection, surprise, then snickering expressions.

We had, what one can call, a What the Fuck face.

All of us.

We saw the famous Andy Warhol pieces.

"Neither here nor there," said my mom.

"Doesn't do anything for me," declared my dad.

"Why is he so famous?" said the little me.

Shrugs all around.

I saw various people walking in the building, which, after my little brain did a difficult thing for it at that time - thinking critically after observing - I divided into two groups.

One group of people was solemn, walking quietly, pointing, discussing, standing in front of the "art", taking it in, walking, pointing, discussing, reading the programs trying to understand what a given artist was trying to project through his or her work (for example, the three colored dots on a white canvas was moving and profound because... well, I forgot, forgive me, but I am sure it was quote heady, inspiring and moving).

The other group was just like my family - moving around without a purpose, a permanent expression of "what the fuck" on their faces, sometimes, just sometimes, momentarily changing to the "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?!" expression. Snickering, nervous laughter, pointing, shuffling away, then moving towards the exit, breaking into a gallop from a normal stroll as they neared the door.

I decided that, while supremely cool and important, modern art was not for me and my pea brain to understand and admire. I simply did not get it and hoped that, when I grow up, I would become more intelligent, more astute, more cosmopolitan and mature to finally GET IT.

A few years later, a bit more grown up, I went to London.

I visited a few museums (the World War II museum was a particular hit with me - I mean, I am a man, and no real man can skip the Imperial War Museum in London). I saw Greenwhich Mean Time, the tools used by ancient mariners as they navigated the seas, their clocks, appreciated their risks, courage, greed, sense of adventure.

Heady.

Inspiring.

Makes one think of how great we humans are.

From London it was just a train ride away on the EuroStar to Garde du Nord station in Paris (note to others - do bring your own food on board, the stuff they sell on board is priced for millionare pockets).

I loved Paris.

Speaking a little French, it was just enough for me to have some trouble communicating but enough for the good people to help me out.

I wondered the streets by myself, without any plans, and met a wonderful girl there who was a tourist herself - job interview, you see.

We went on a whirlwind tour - Tour d'Eiffel, Notre Dame Cathedral - inspiring. What cannot we humans accomplish?

The Trocadero, in front of the tower and the beautiful park place below me, with cheerful humans walking down there.

Nice view.

Walking the Champs d'Elysee, with an American group and a lady singing "Ohh Champs d'Elysee, da na na na naaaa!" and laughing with us, happy to see it and realize her dream.

We saw the Versailles, the beautiful gardens around it and the inside of the place itself.

Beauty.

Strolling near the Arc de Triomphe, with the crazy cars doing crazy things around it on the rondo.

Scary.

But the one thing I remember the most, the one thing that really left an impression with me, was the Louvre.

If there is one museum on this earth that every human should see, should visit at least once in their life that is it.

(Think of it like a Hajj for intelligent people).

The history of the Louvre is very simple - France had a very successful military, especially during the reign of the bloodthirsty and ambitious Napoleon, and they were very successful in traveling all other the world and stealing art treasures which struck their fancy.

Which was pretty much everything.

As the Louvre grew in importance, various kings started to purchase different stuff to fill it more, then private individuals gave their family art collections and... voila!

I started with the ancient section.

I walked in between the Sumerian stone guardians - the sphinxes - one on each side of me.

I saw the phenomenal works - figurines, mostly - from the dawn of recorded history.

Sumer.

The age of these carvings blew me away, as well as the obvious skill of the artisans.

I saw cuneiform tablets with writing on them from thousands of years before First Anno Domini.

Ancient Egypt (look at it!).

Amazing.

Just look at it!

We did stuff like this WHEN?

Then onto Ancient Greece.

Rome.

The statues perfected.

Perfectly proportioned faces.

The artists clearly showing us what they wanted us to see, what they wanted us to feel.

The artisans statue making craft perfected.

The museum programme in my hand, went to my pocket.

I could read on what the experts thought a given statue was of, what it signified, but I decided to just take it all in as art - and to learn the history afterward (note: as a tourist, DO buy the goddamn Louvre museum book with glossy paper and hundreds of pictures - you will treasure it).

That was the start of my love affair with antiquity, with ancient history, before ancient Judea and the mono religions usurped the world with their hatred... but that's another story.

Suffice it to say, I was blown away by what the ancient artists could accomplish and how much was (fortunately!) saved for us.

For me.

For the human race.

After the triumph that was the ancient section, I was reluctant to move onto the middle ages and renaissance paintings section.

It was different than the ancients section - whereas the Sumerian, Greek, Roman sections were mostly statues, now I was in the world of paint.

I stood in front of a painting, looking at an expression of a peasant girl. Then noticing the subtle. There was a candle in the painting, which was giving light to people's faces close to it, leaving one side in the light, one in the shadows.

I laughed aloud (you must remember, you are dealing with a dork here, and yes, before you ask, people around me DID look at me and quite probably classified me as an idiot) as I realized that this was GREAT FUN for the painter.

He was playing with the light and shadows, the dynamic light and shadows, with the candle in the middle of the composition.

He was having fun and loving painting it.

I could just imagine a grown man being so full of joy, laughing to himself inwardly, his facial expression showing strain, as he gingerly used geometry, math, angles, physics and his genius and physical prowess (physical prowess is NOT ALWAYS, or perhaps should not be, used to denote a grown child's skill with a basketball or a soccer ball, but can and SHOULD be used to denote a human's skill with a hammer and chisel and a painting brush...).

The Dutch Masters

The whole Dutch school of painting was dealing with light (then given by candle or a window in a room) and its effect on people and objects near and far.

I made it into a rather large room/hall, and was standing on one side of it, all alone, admiring the technique of a particular painting, noticing the mastery of the artist, how it all flowed and how beautiful it was and thinking to myself: "Well, this is the Dutch Masters exhibit, and this, this painting was painted by THE MASTER of his craft".

Spectacular.

Literally breathtaking.

I finally turned around, as I was quite annoyed by the rather large group behind me hovering close to a particular spot on the wall.

I moved in close, elbowed my way in, and saw it - perhaps the most famous art piece in the world.

The Mona Lisa (OMG OMG!)

Behind ugly, gaudy, heavy, thick plastic cover.

Meh.

This... Well, Leonardo da Vinci was a genius, an unparalleled inventor and futurist, but I was not impressed by the small (supposedly self) portrait of a lady (or Leonardo himself as an illuminated individual).

Whateva.

I went back to admiring the Dutch Masters, the TRULY GIGANTIC paintings they created, the candles and windows and the effect of light on a scene.

You know - simple, boring stuff, not like THE Mona Lisa - no, a peasant girl or a group of merchant men playing cards.

Rubes for rudes, indeed.

I never felt as affected by a museum as I was when I was in, and immediately after leaving, the Louvre.

It affects me to this day, with my curiosity of ancient cultures (you know, Sumer, Ur, Harapan, Assyria, Graham Hancock, Schoch, Kenyon, West, Dunn - standard stuff).

The next day, I briefly thought about going to a modern art exhibition in Paris - but thought better of it.

I felt light, as if I could fly (no drugs were ingested by me, unless one counts Orangina as such), I felt like a new man, inspired, uplifted, happy, proud, so very proud of my human race, and I felt that if I visited a modern art exhibition chances were that those feelings would be gone.

Replaced with... well...

...Three dots on a canvas...

Well, with shit, frankly.

I felt like going to such a place would take away from my valuable tourist time in Paris.

So I didn't.

I called that girl from the day ago instead.

After coming back to America, I did not go to art museums, and any mention of modern art, Picasso, and especially Warhol, made me laugh.

I can't help it - I must do so when confronted with absurdity.

I started to wonder why the art of the Ancients - Ur, Sumer, Greece, Rome - was so simple, yet so beautiful. Why the people painting compositions of light on a scene were probably giggling like schoolboys kissing their first girl as they deftly manoeuvred their brushes, getting the colors on their palettes mixed just so.

I wondered what the fuck happened to modern art?

How did it happen?

Of course, such philosophical musings were not very high on my daily "to-do" list, and so this question was unanswered, nagging me deep in the dark recesses of my mind.

Then I happened upon Dr. Lasha Darkmoon's piece on art in the theoccidentalobserver and I saw the light.

And the shit.

But mostly the light.

But I know you.

You are cheap and don't want to pay (you cheap bastard!).

Here:

I want you now to leave this blog and read that article in its entirety.

If you want, come back to this blog to read some more of my musings about this topic, if not, just stay in Lasha's article, research it, double check the facts, the dramatic personnae, the Frankfurt School, the shit.

Open your eyes.

The Plot Against Art
Dr Lasha Darkmoon



So you're back?


I decided against further torture of you and my fingers.

A simple exercise of compare and contrast for you.

Lets give it a working title of, lets see...

Is it Art - versus!

Lame title, I know, but what can one expect from such a pea brain as myself.

There will be rounds - round one, two, etc etc.

In each round, two pieces of art will be presented.

In each round, pick one winner.

Got it?

Ready?


Lets start!

First, lets take what inspired me, the Dutch Master having fun with light and shadow:























Versus!

A modern master, a true art genius, improving upon the obsolete techniques of the so called Dutch Masters, giving us his innate playfullness as he plays with lights and shadow, in the aptly titled piece of art called "Shadows", Miiiiiiiiiisteeeeer Aaaaaaaaaaaandy Warhooooooolololololol!























OK, I know this is hard, you are (probably) not a professional art critic, before you read Dr. Darkmoon's article you had no idea what the Frankfurt School was (and now you do, you lucky dog you!), so breathe in, out, think and pick a winner.


When ready, lets go to Round Number Two!

Just a common milkmaid, nothing interesting here.























Versus!
Damien Steven Hirst, an artist so successful that he "is reportedly Britain's richest living artist, with his wealth valued at £215m in the 2010 Sunday Times Rich List." Again, a true genius, "He is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young British Artists (or YBAs), who dominated the art scene in Britain during the 1990s".

Let me quote it again for yah biatches:

Dominated the British Art Scene.


Heavy.

Here is one of his paintings.

Are you ready for genious?

I said ARE YOU REAAAAAAAAADY FOOOOOOOR GEEEEEEENIUSSSSSSS!
(Welp, then here you go...):



So much genius it is spilling off the web page!

He cain't be kontained!

Ahem...

Stop, stop, is the effort of trying to pick a winner difficult for you?
It should be, this must be very tiring for you, what, with (hopefully) no experts nearby to help you make up your mind and guide you in the right direction.

But now you must pick. The first one, or the last one.

This is a head to head combat, art style.

Don't be a pussy, pick a winner (at random if you just cannot make up your mind) and lets go!

To...


Round Three, the Ultimate, Final Round!
Up first is a random picture from google search showing us bits and pieces of ancient Sumer, a sphinx and a scene of two people talking, nothing too exciting, just normal Sumer stuff (click the picture to see the whole of it, including the Sphinx):


Versus!
Also a random picture from google search, "modern art Smithsonian", showing us a modern scene of uh, ummm, hmmmm, with the artist trying to express, ummm... Well, you should be moved, dammit! If you are not moved, it is because your idiot blog author has pasted it wrong, so go ahead - click it for the full effect and watch the artist play upon your emotions as he changes your worldview, your feelings, affects your very soul!:



I lied.

There is one more.

This will truly, truly tax your brain and intellect.

This will be the most difficult one of all.

Breathe in.

Out.

Let it all out (ooooooooof!).

This is in video format, perhaps this will be easier for your modern brain to process?

Anyhoo...

OK, lets plunge in.

A homeless Korean boy, singing on a kitschy, tacky South Korean version of Idol, singing live:


Versus!
This group of modern musical geniuses needs no introduction, the amount of talent on display in this shiznit is off da hook (yo), we gotz the up and coming Rick Ross, whose talent is so large it cain't be kontained by a normal shirt, the genious of Lil Wayne aaaand the pop sensation Drake fronted by the smooth and silky DJ Khaled (mada faaaaaakaaaaaa!) Leeeets gooooooo!:





Stop!

It is over!

I know you expected to only lazily read stuff, and to not do an actual, strenuous, brain taxing exercise (ouchie!).

But you are done!

Rejoice!

Now, do you remember which ones did you pick as art, or at least as winners in the versus! stages?

Did you always pick the first option?

Always the second option?

A mix, a mish mash of first one, then the other?

At least tell me that the lyrical genius of Deeee Jaaaay Khaled (in da hizzouse!) with such a tremendous cast of supporting music virtuosos won versus a homeless boy from Korea, an unsuccessful nobody, a loser - a loser competing against such a group of winners.


I would be thrilled if you let me know your results of this little exercise!

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7 comments:

Fyodor said...

The film 'The Banishment of Beauty'also discusses the explicit rejection of anything that demonstrates aesthetic value (or aesthetic accomplishment) in modern art. By doing this modern art is making a political statement. In rejecting the Hellenestistic value of beauty that has been a longstanding aspiration of western civilization it is rejecting the 'old' or existing world order that was defined by Christendom & Western Civilization.

Of course the film, Banishment of Beauty, does not explore the political subtext behind these trends. LashaDarkmoon hit the nail on the head.

I also encourage you to read up on the three part series on Mark Rothko in The Occidental Observer and of course, Elizabeth Whitcombe's article Adorno as Critic: Celebrating the Socially Destructive Force of Music

Kosta said...

The painting of dots was... um... decorative?
But I'd rather have Ramona's Painting hanging on my wall.

Or even Pockets' paintings.

Perhaps you and I just don't get it goy boy, coz it seems that today, Shit Sells

"Banishment of beauty" indeed Fyodor.

AmericanGoy said...

Thank You both for the outstanding comments.

Fyodor,

The film 'The Banishment of Beauty' states the facts but, like you hinted, dances around the subject of WHY (I will watch in full in a few days).

"White Centre (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) by Mark Rothko (1960): Sold at auction in 2007 for $73 million"

Culture is very important, and destruction of ALL art forms - printed media (yes, newspaper articles CAN be an art form, and of course poems and books), music (self explanatory), sculptures and paintings, with a flood of weird, ugly, depressing shit standing proudly in galleries to be bought by the 1%, with actual, real artists with talent having no place there.

Sickening.

Looking at http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2009/08/adorno-as-critic/
- just look at the picture of Theodor Adorno!

Forgive me for pseudo-pop psychiatry here, but it is obvious that there is something disturbing inside this man; this man's face screams pain and loathing and fear and base feelings; something is wrong with him.

Shudder.


Kosta;

Ramona's painting is cute, especially as you see the animal actually smiling as it paints (do you see it too?).

The monkey's work is much better than Warhololololol's in my not so humble opinion - but then again, almost everybody's is.

Shit sells... He created a machine to produce shit.

Of course, the powers that be praise and glorify this... this profoundly disturbed and sick... work (surely not art?).

We live in a sick world my friends, but all of us can make it a little but better day by day.

Don't give up the fight.

Fyodor said...

I may have linked to the wrong article about Adorno, the article I was thinking of was The Mysterious German Professor

....by the late 1940s Adorno understood that popular music could be used to further the cause of revolution. Adorno and the other Frankfurt School theorists and New York Intellectuals were well aware that popular music could be used to manipulate the masses in communist, fascist, and capitalist societies. As alienated intellectuals living in New York in the 1930s and early 1940s, they had excellent reasons to dislike popular culture: In the US, it upheld the capitalist status quo. In National Socialist Germany it reinforced anti-Semitism and racialist ideology. And in the Soviet Union, it was part of Stalinist repression.

But it’s a completely different ballgame when they had the power to influence popular culture, as they did after World War II. If these leftist intellectuals had the power to influence popular culture, they could use it to manipulate the masses in the directions that they wanted — toward liberal cosmopolitanism, breaking down racial barriers, and promoting Black cultural icons.

Atlantic Records was certainly involved in these trends.


I'm afraid you might be asking your readers to do a fair amount of reading and thinking. Most people view the promotion of 'counterculture' in the 1960's as artists lashing out at 'the system' or 'the man'.

These articles imply that these artistic trends are in fact serving as a cultural vanguard that promotes ideas, trends, tastes, that the 'elite' or at least a highly cohesive part of our elite wish to propagate. That's a bit too far outside of the box for most people to grasp.

AmericanGoy said...

Fyodor...

I think I am now stuck in an "Alice through the looking glass" moment, and becoming more so with each year.

There is the world out there, open and simple and shown on your reality TV, and then the hidden world, with secret, unknown power struggles, unnoticed by the blathering, confused masses.

Thanks for posting the link - both are quite good.

Anonymous said...

Wharhol bored and brought vapid to a stupefying level, to be sure. It was in music, (no personal pronoun applicable) the effect on human life brought in contact became extremely deleterious. My words stumble but one must see it as the language lacking the ability to register my disgust at the afore mentioned cretin. R. Olausen.

AnonymousCoward said...

You might be interested in this essay about Walt Disney:

Deconstructing Disney