Thanks for stopping by, and to everyone that has!
Nice to get more background from this very good piece:
Cole’s life was anything but insular,” these curators write in their catalogue introduction. “Rather, it was marked by restless transatlantic travel and by a complex, often troubled, engagement with the traditions of European art and thought, a commitment that countered, but paradoxically also heightened, Cole’s abiding passion for the American wilderness.”
‘The painterly innovations Cole picked up in Europe, in particular the mechanics for plein-air oil sketching, inspired the florid naturalism of his American disciples. Yet Cole himself was always less and something more than a pure landscape painter. Unlike the later landscapes of Church or Durand, where nature speaks for itself, Cole used nature to speak for his ideas. Of course, all great landscape painting says something, but Cole’s messaging was more explicit.’
As previously posted:
A good decade ago, while visiting D.C., I saw Thomas Cole’s ‘The Voyage Of Life:‘
One person’s life, and all of our lives, can be broken-down into four allegorical stages, pregnant with visual and universal symbols.
From Cole’s bio:
‘Although Cole had ample commissions in the late 1820s to paint pictures of American scenery, his ambition was to create a “higher style of landscape” that could express moral or religious meanings.’
‘In the late 1830s, Cole was intent on advancing the genre of landscape painting in a way that conveyed universal truths about human existence, religious faith, and the natural world. First conceived in 1836, the four pictures comprising The Voyage of Life: Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age fulfilled that aspiration.’
These scenes in the Romantic style can have an emotional pull for me, as generally does the work of the Hudson River School. Such allegory certainly tends to function as a vehicle into memory (Cole’s work has really stuck with me…in a sort of haunting way, mixed with some thought of how I’m supposed to live and what might be coming next).
Also, the wild, untamed nature we Americans have often faced is perhaps requiring of a spirited and grand attempt at putting our experiences within Nature into some context: To soar as high as our hopes often do.
Or at least, to find in paintings: Familiarity. I like to see the roll of a hill like I’ve seen, or an opening of clouds, sky and light like I’ve seen.
Perhaps Wild Nature can be ordered in a Romantic, neo-classical or more modern way. Perhaps Nature can be made, with the tools at our disposal, to conform to some of our deeper ideas about Nature, mirroring our hopes in some recognizable fashion; giving some basic comfort and meaning.
Maybe, after all, we can find a home here.
On the other hand, allegory with overt moral/religious meaning can also come across as heavy-handed, sentimental, and moralistic. Too lush and pretentious; perhaps a bit anachronistic.
Do I really have to hunt for all the symbols and put the puzzle together?
‘So, you’re going to reveal universal truths, eh?’
This can seem distant from the experiences of the modern viewer, often finding himself a little further down the modern/postmodern ‘river’, where such attempts at universality might seem a wash.
Much more common these days are the very personal shards and glimpses of the inner life of an artist, attached to high ambition and great talent surely in some cases; as well to form and tradition, but generally making less bold claims to knowledge than ‘The Voyage Of Life‘.
In painting, I’m reminded of the abstract expressionist movement seeking meaning in reducing experience to the abstract in order to reveal something essential within Nature, or essential about our relationship to Nature: A transcendent place where shape, form and color can be isolated from anything immediately recognizable in the world.
Or maybe, I’m being too generous?
‘The movement’s name is derived from the combination of the emotional intensity and self-denial of the German Expressionists with the anti-figurative aesthetic of the European abstract schools such as Futurism, the Bauhaus, and Synthetic Cubism. Additionally, it has an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic. In practice, the term is applied to any number of artists working (mostly) in New York who had quite different styles, and even to work that is neither especially abstract nor expressionist.’
The exploration of the Self is often pursued, as well as that of Nature, but the general hope that it might all make sense (life, death, Nature, purpose etc) in many more modern movements is often left abandoned.
Or so often, as we’ve seen in the past few generations: The pursuit of The Self can easily become subsumed to the pursuit of fame, celebrity, and money.
Towards a theme: Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas.
Mark Rothko undertook the idea that within the modern context, one could create temples of universal meaning through aesthetics, art, and beauty:
‘The Rothko Chapel, founded by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A tranquil meditative environment inspired by the mural canvases of Russian born American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970), the Chapel welcomes over 60,000 visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.’
There’s even a suite of music by Morton Feldman, entitled ‘Rothko Chapel’
See Also On This Site: Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The Jar…Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow Man…Friday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume
Alas, the mildly ambitious knowledge, hobby, and vanity project that it is this blog continues (it takes a LOT to listen, watch and paste a link to a Youtube video):
Jordan Peterson and Stephen Hicks. Recommeded:
Mentioned: Immanuel Kant and his transcendental idealism, Noam Chomsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Jacques Derrida, the American Pragmatic tradition and more.
Also from Dr. Hicks:
‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.
I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.
So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’
More On Nietzsche’s influence-Part of Bryan Magee’s series:
Nietzsche directed his thought against Christian morality, secular morality (Kantian and utilitarian), was quite anti-democratic, and anti-Socratic Greek (the beginning of the end).
Quote found here at friesian.com (recovering Kantian idealism and moving in a libertarian direction):
‘Oddly enough, it is the intellctual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’
Roger Scruton was cast out of polite society just for trying to provide some context and pushback:
Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?
Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom:Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’
Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?: From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …
The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…
Repost-The Cresting Of A Hipster Wave?-From The New York Observer: ‘Brooklyn Is Now Officially Over: The Ascendance of Brooklyn, the Lifestyle, Above All Else’
For many years now, Brooklyn seems to have become a beacon for people involved in a restless search for culture and authenticity, group-membership and belonging, identity and some sense of purpose. This seems to be in addition to all the other job/career/immigration/mating reasons people have typically moved there.
It was a place where working-class people could afford a house.
Mind you, no one ever put-up a neon-sign over Brooklyn, flashing away into the night and visible from the suburbs (unless it was probably done ironically, mocking the ‘crass commercialism’ of a ‘bygone’ and fetishized era), but there have been some interesting demographic shifts going on. The words ‘community’ and ‘craft,’ ‘artisanal’ and ‘fair trade’ get thrown around a lot.
Have hipsters become part of the fabric of the city?
Here’s an interesting piece from Christy Wampole At The Ny Times ‘How To Live Without Irony:’
‘The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness. Before he makes any choice, he has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool.’
Christian Lorenzten has a less flattering take, in order to get at a more pure definition of ‘cool’:
Under the guise of “irony,” hipsterism fetishizes the authentic and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity. Those 18-to-34-year-olds called hipsters have defanged, skinned and consumed the fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge. Hungry for more, and sick with the anxiety of influence, they feed as well from the trough of the uncool, turning white trash chic, and gouging the husks of long-expired subcultures—vaudeville, burlesque, cowboys and pirates.
Of course, hipsterism being originally, and still mostly, the province of whites (the pastiest of whites), its acolytes raid the cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity in the pot.
(Addition: Of course his version of ‘authentic’ seems to be that hipsters haven’t thankfully gone full Lefty).
Below are the Mast brothers, taking that hipster ethos into the business and branding of themselves as chocolate-makers, along with an entirely ‘old-timey’ aesthetic. Few chocolate-makers take pains to mention Mark Twain & Ralph Waldo Emerson:
It seems the tide may already have receded a bit.
From the Observer:
‘Economic bifurcation has increasingly divided a borough known for its vibrant blend of cultures, classes and races into two different worlds, each with its own set of schools, stores restaurants and bars, with those at the bottom receding from the larger consciousness of Brooklyn identity to the degree that The Wall Street Journal recently labeled Bed-Stuy’s “underserved” those who could not, until now, find a craft beer for under $7. ‘
Has the hipster been good for Brooklyn?
That’s debatable, and it depends on just who we’re talking about. I’m guessing the local anti-hipster perspective found at DieHipster.com represents genuine sentiment and grievance: Their Brooklyn has become a playground for extended childhood. Rents get raised. Locals are pushed-out and overrun. The area gentrifies and can actually become more divided. For all the talk of ‘community’ and ‘authenticity,’ there’s a surprising (or unsurprising, really) naive idealism and post-Boomer narcissism, self-regard, and self-interest amongst the hipster crowd.
All politics is local, and it’s playing out in Brooklyn.
Is the hipster good for free markets?
Theses are some pretty vague terms I’m throwing around. Obviously, some folks are, and Whole Foods is a good example, but I wonder about the creep of collectivism and communalism into the culture more generally.
Here’s a quote I put up before.
‘For yet another cause of unhappiness was the encroachment of machine industry and its attendant uglification of town and country. The Romanticists had sung in an agrarian civilization; towns were for handiwork and commerce. Industry brought in not factories only, and railroads, but also the city — slums, crowds, a new type of filth, and shoddy goods, commonly known as “cheap and nasty.” And when free public schools were forced on the nation by the needs of industry, a further curse was added: the daily paper, also cheap.’
*I’m aware that this type of cultural criticism and/or ‘sociological analysis’ is often done by those typically invested in abstract categories of ‘culture’ about which I remain skeptical.
**No, I’m not from Brooklyn, and can make no particularly persuasive claims upon it.
Related On This Site: Some Links On 5Pointz, Graffiti, & The Arts–Property Rights & The Rule-Of-Law
Well, art doesn’t need to be in service of a socialist vision, but it can: Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’
Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar Man…From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’
Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either: A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’
‘The scale of the street grooming crisis in the UK almost defies belief. Hundreds of girls and young women were raped in the city of Rotherham, and hundreds by similar exploitation rings in Rochdale, Peterborough, Newcastle, Oxford, and Bristol. Now, up to a thousand girls are thought to have been drugged, raped, and beaten in Telford between the 1980s and the 2010s.’
Large numbers of migrants (more than possibly can be admitted) desire entry into more successful civilizations from less successful and often failing civilizations. Some are genuine war refugees, some are seeking political asylum, some want economic opportunity, and others’ll just take money if it’s being handed-out. Some are smarter than you, some are considerably dumber; some have particularly valuable skills, others have few to no marketable skills. Some are of exceptional character, some are of particularly low and criminal character; some are from instantly recognizable civilizations, some from very different and potentially conflicting civilizations. All will take much from their own civilizations into yours, and without proper incentives, most will likely wall themselves off into separate and unequal enclaves.
Better to start getting more serious about these questions sooner rather than later.
The flood of Middle Eastern refugees into Austria began in the summer. By September they were arriving at the southeastern border at the rate of 10,000 or 12,000 a day. These migrants are associated in the public mind with the war in Syria but, in fact, come from throughout the Muslim world—Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Most of them are on their way to Germany. The great majority are young men. By the end of this year, Austrian authorities estimate, 375,000 will have passed through the country, and a quarter of them will have stayed to apply for asylum. Austria will have added 1 percent to its population in just about three months, with virtually all the newcomers Muslims. When migrant families follow, as they inevitably do, the effect will be multiplied. Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European Council, warns that the biggest tide of migrants “is yet to come.”
A few things that stuck-out:
–The inability of the leading Social Democratic coalition in Germany to craft reasonable policy, instead making naive, idealistic, short-sighted rather self-serving political choices with consequences for millions of people, and for decades to come.
–The fact that while many of these refugees are simply looking to escape war, many are young men, anchors who will bring more family over to become likely ‘European Muslims.’
–Again, what is Europe doing? With a rather socialistic Left defending freedom with such vaguely utopian idealism, this invites the more ethnically purist, nativist, and further right interests to take measures, almost out of principle alone.
Caldwell raises some important points, and sheds light onto the Muslim immigration debate in Europe:
“SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is America more successful when it comes to integrating immigrants?
Caldwell: For now, yes. I think the first reason is the ruthlessness of the American economy. You either become a part of it or you go home. There are more foreigners in the workplace, and that’s where a lot of integration happens.”
Another review here. (updated, Fouad Ajami’s piece, which was not the original…from 2009)
A few quotes:
“The most chilling observation in Mr. Caldwell’s book may be that the debate over Muslim immigration in Europe is one that the continent can’t openly have, because anyone remotely critical of Islam is branded as Islamophobic”
Salman Rushdie at about minute 57:00: ‘This idea of separate treatment for separate cultures…I think essentially if we follow that to its conclusion…destroys our ability to have a really moral framework for society.’
A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea…as a more entrenched radical British Left and Muslim immigration don’t mix too well: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…
Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’
Witch hunt this Sunday!
Clearly many of these peasants are expressing complex emotions in a fluidly dynamic space, reinforcing community standards and exploring boundaries of empathetic inclusion.
Who are you to resist the heat of bodies juxtaposed here, reshaping meta-narratives of dominant and historical power-relationships?
The need for meaning and ritual abounds, and when violence erupts in the name of such need, it’s less of a surprise these days, but no less unacceptable for a free society:
One person pulled her head from one side. Another person barreled into her from the other. Whiplash effect. That’s what actually happened. A professor trying to walk to a car from a lecture hall. https://t.co/BxOEuM2x83
— Charles Murray (@charlesmurray) March 17, 2018
Be careful on Twitter, now.
Perhaps a digital bulletin board with no cost to entry and anonymous handles, governed by unclear standards and what seems to me rather politically biased management, just might amplify the sound and fury of outraged fools.
Should you thank God, or the Watchmaker-God, or the Nothingness, or the Oneness-connecting-all-living-things, or Xenu, or (P)rogress, you’d damned well better resist the Devil, or the devil-take-the-hindmost:
Roger Scruton on the lynch-mobs of social media:
‘What is to be done about this? I have a couple of suggestions. The first is to set up an institution call it the Ministry of Truth in some legally insulated country (oddly enough, Russia springs to mind) devoted to tweeting malicious stories about everyone who is anyone. If everyone becomes a victim of this inherent malice people will begin to see Twitter for what it is,as a tool that easily into the Devil’s hands.’
Addition: The Devil?
I thought human nature was basically good, made bad by ‘historical forces,’ and ‘systems of oppression’? Perhaps institutions are only as good as their ideas and the people within them?
You know, concerts like the below make a fella wonder if we’re in good hands.
Fundamental differences of religion, law, ideas and government resulting in murder and civilizational-type clashes?
Bring in James Taylor!:
Dead girls at a pop-concert? Coldplay performing a moving twilight cover of Oasis ought to cover it. Some sing to remember, some sing to forget.
How are the institutions in the West actually performing?
Much of this may come down to your views on human nature, and from there, which kinds of ideas guide the people within our institutions. For it is these institutions which shape those people and have serious implications for the rest of us (shaping us too):
On that note, many folks invoking the truth of faith and the necessity of Christian doctrine are in a smaller minority these days, and have some important things to say. Personally, I’m not clear what is absolutely true and necessary in order to maintain a decent moral life, truth and institutional integrity.
I’d prefer a rebuttal to Pinker’s arguments.
Rod Dreher on Patrick Dineen’s book, and the ever-needy Andrew Sullivan. The doom that awaits:
‘The reason the brilliant Steven Pinker can’t understand why there is so much unhappiness is because he is a materialist. Patrick Deneen, Andrew Sullivan, and people like us understand otherwise. There is no replacement for the company of other people.’
Related On This Site: Maybe if you’re defending the current conservative position, you don’t want to bring up the ‘aristocratic radical’ : Repost-Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy..
A return to Straussian neo-classicism?: From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’
Neo-neo conservatism, new atheism and post socialism for the ’68ers? Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue…
Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’…From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’,,
Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes…From Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘…Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department
Twirling your blue skirts, travelling the sward
Under the towers of your seminary,
Go listen to your teachers old and contrary
Without believing a word.
Tie the white fillets then about your hair
And think no more of what will come to pass
Than bluebirds that go walking on the grass
And chattering on the air.
Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail;
And I will cry with my loud lips and publish
Beauty which all our power shall never establish,
It is so frail.
For I could tell you a story which is true;
I know a woman with a terrible tongue,
Blear eyes fallen from blue,
All her perfections tarnished — yet it is not long
Since she was lovelier than any of you.
Witnessing The Baleful Capitulations Of Institutional Gatekeepers-Repost- Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale Surrenders
Old news I know, but it seems that the Yale Press was genuinely afraid that publishing this book could potentially lead to violence, and that they are responsible for the consequences of such potential violence:
“…Yale had consulted a range of experts before making its decision and that “[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.”
One might even argue that politically, it will be harder to get Muslims to the table when knowledge of this kind of publication is used and misused to inflame the the Arab street…if it inflames the Arab street…
See Also: If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here. From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West” Libertarians love this issue: Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant
Now, here’s an interesting read:
‘But the best thing that could happen to this post is that it makes a lot of people, especially myself, figure out how to be more tolerant. Not in the “of course I’m tolerant, why shouldn’t I be?” sense of the Emperor in Part I. But in the sense of “being tolerant makes me see red, makes me sweat blood, but darn it I am going to be tolerant anyway.”
In the spirit of the piece, some quotes gathered over the years:
So much of our lives is defined by what/who we are against.
“Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.”
-Minogue, Kenneth. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).
On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:
‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial. Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony. In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral idea.’
Some Oakeshott: The problem of thinking you know more than you actually do:
‘But my object is not to refute Rationalism: its errors are interesting only in so far as they reveal its character. We are considering not merely the truth of a doctrine, but the significance of an intellectual fashion in the history of post-Renaissance Europe. And the questions we must try to answer are: What is the generation of this belief in the sovereignty of technique? When springs this supreme confidence in human ‘reason’ thus interpreted? What is the provenance, the context of this intellectual character? And in what circumstances and with what effect did it come to invade European politics?’
“The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavoring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief:…”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 8-9.
Watch out for the assumption of rational and knowable ends, and the one-stop-shop of modern doctrines promising radical liberation. All that’s left is to implement such knowledge into systems that will lead all men to some point outside of themselves.: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”
The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”
Positive and negative rights are also a part of Leo Strauss’ thinking (persona non-grata nowadays), and Strauss thought you were deluded if your were going to study politics from afar, as a “science.” There has been much dispute about this: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’
“More recently Richard Rorty made an attractive attempt to reconcile the most avant-garde postmodern theory with a defence of the institutions of the Western liberal democracies, but the Mill of On Liberty still reigns supreme.”
Also On This Site: From Nextbook: Philosopher Of Science Hilary Putnam On The Jewish Faith
—Martha Nussbaum suggests re-examining the religious roots of the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams (Williams College)…perhaps to prevent excessive and ideological secularism?: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder.
—Daniel Dennet (Christianty paved the way for much of science, it’s time to keep moving on) debates Dinesh D’Souza (who ironically brings up both Nietzsche and Kant to support his religious arguments…to his detriment?): Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy.
-Koons gets the Annie Leibovitz treatment (an unfortunate photo at the link).
-This is not a commentary on Koons’ art, some of which I like well enough, it’s a much worse beast: Another attempt at cultural criticism.
In the talk around Koons, what often stands-out to me is how much talk there is about Koons himself, and the search for meaning in all that talk. The concept of artist-as-individual is nothing new: An isolated Self, quite apart from society, mining his interior life and experiences in order to represent beauty, meaning, and some attempt at expressing universal truths through his work and craft. This is unsurprisingly part of what all artists do, and the extreme individuality of this process is what Western artists somewhat consciously have been doing for a few centuries now, from musicians to writers to sculptors, from romanticism to modernism to post-modernism and beyond.
The fact that Koons is doing this with such relentless self-promotion and while also courting celebrity is arguably a much more ‘modern’ phenomenon. A certain amount of melliflous, abstract bullshit seems part of the Koons’ game, as if you’d walked onto a used-art lot as Koons tours you around, asking what’s-it-gonna-take-to-get-you-into-one-of-his-pieces, yet with soothing, professional demeanor, offering an invitation to return a part of of your Self to you and make you whole again within the work produced by his Self. Jeff Koons is a brand.
Perhaps this is what it takes these days to make a living by schmoozing with wealthy art-buyers, but in some ways, it has a distinctly American feel as well. High and low culture mix in a highly commercial, utilitarian way. The urge to merge abstract art and the avant-garde with mass, pop-culture is expressed. Fame and meta-critiques on fame, celebrity, money, the Self amplified for all the other Selfs to see has implications for much of our culture, I suspect.
As to establishing Koons’ bona fides enough to merit attention by Vanity Fair…here are a few quotes from the piece:
“Jeff is the Warhol of his time,” proclaims Adam Weinberg, the Whitney’s director.
Everyone’s getting in on the bullshit!
‘The reference to Curtis ties Koons to the last true avant-garde—a pedigree the artist likes. Curtis, who refused to be called a drag queen, was a pioneer of the L.G.B.T. movement and, like Candy Darling, was made famous by Warhol’
You need the cultural legitimacy of an L.G.B.T. blessing to be truly avant-garde these days.
‘What Warhol and Koons do have in common, though, is an uncanny ability to nail an image or an object so that it catches the Zeitgeist.’
Partially true, perhaps, but what if the Zeitgeist is nothing but a leafy suburb full of good schools, intact families, and moderate lives? Isn’t this why some youngish people (ahem…many hipsters) often leave their small towns and suburbs looking for meaning, group membership and purpose in what can end-up vaguely collectivist and vaguely individualist lives in cities?
Everyone’s an artist, these days.
Establishing modernist credentials for the brand:
‘Koons’s job at MoMA gave him the opportunity to immerse himself in the history of modernism, in particular the ideas of Marcel Duchamp, who changed art history by showing how everyday objects, or “readymades,” could be elevated into the realm of art, depending on context. Duchamp’s theories were a revelation to Koons.’
Piketty and Brecht in the same paragraph:
‘Barbara Kruger, the artist whose unsentimental pronouncements have been cutting to the chase about the art world for decades, says “Oh boy” when I call to discuss Koons, whom she has known since they both were starting out in New York. She needed to think about it and later wrote me: “Jeff is like the man who fell to earth, who, in this grotesque time of art flippage and speculative mania, is either the icing on the cake or some kind of Piketty-esque harbinger of the return of Brecht’s ‘making strange.’
And finally, while I have no quarrel with neurosicence, pop-neuroscience is often a repository for the modern search for legitimate experiences and theories of the Self:
‘Dr. Eric R. Kandel, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, was so impressed with the show that he e-mailed Koons afterward. I asked Kandel why. He explained, “I have been interested in the ‘beholder’s share,’ an idea that came from the Viennese art historian Alois Riegl. It involves the concept that when a painter paints a painting or a sculptor makes a sculpture it is not complete unless a beholder, a viewer, responds to it.”
Kandel adds, “When you looked at the sculptures you saw yourself embedded in the gazing balls. Artists sometimes put mirrors in works, but they don’t design the work so that you find yourself in the arms or chest of a statue, which is what Jeff did.’
Go and find your Self and be made whole, dear reader, within Jeff Koons’ work and the Jeff Koons brand, and try and tell the dancer from the dance.
Koons’ Made In Heaven only amplifies that sound, blurring the line between art and porn, private experience and public show, innocence (so easily corrupted) and naive, narcissistic indulgence.
I suspect Made In Heaven explores previous themes of high and low that were already emerging in his kitsch work, fleshed out in pieces like Michael Jackson And Bubbles, Winter Bears and on this site: ‘St John The Baptist’.
Some quotes from Koons:
‘This type of dislocated imagery is what motivates people. They’re amused by it, but they have a lot of guilt and shame that they respond to it. I was trying to remove that guilt and shame.’
Another quote which highlights an idea of some import to the nation:
‘Coming from a suburban, middle-class background, as he did, he felt that there was something, if not dignified, at least, too easily discarded about this kind of imagery and this kind of sentiment.’
Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment