‘But what’s so public about public art? Is it “public” simply because it’s stuck in public places? And who asks for it? In a recent interview with Manner of Man Magazine, Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland, hits the nail on the head.’
Click through for some good quotes. Why is public art often so bad? What happens when art gets attached with money, and yes, also money through grants?
‘But step back a moment. Would ending federal, i.e., taxpayer, i.e., your, money on entities like the NEA, the NEH, and the CPB be a bad thing?’
Here are two good reasons in favor of ending Federal funding:
You will likely aid in making better art. Universities, museums and institutions don’t necessarily get along with the creative genius, nor in making something new. In fact, such institutions can stifle creativity by rewarding and amplifying current tastes and entrenching public sentiment into reefs, creating additional hurdles for talent to get where it’s going. State money, furthermore, is not a necessary condition of good art. In fact, it may be a necessary condition of bad art [addition: we can probably say that bad art is everywhere, but there’s rarely great art coming out of Federally funded programs].
Incentives matter: The self-interested, ideologically driven and less-talented will have incentives to control the Federal bureaucracy and politicize the arts. They’re out there, and if you reward them with cash and status, you’ll get more of them (bad artists, ideologues, politicians and bureaucrats in an unholy cycle of Badness).
No one can speak for all the public, not even the artistic genius. Art-curators, docents, specialists and critics can do good [for art], but sometimes they can do bad. Individual talent, tradition, hard-work, groups of people, ideas, money and opportunities all matter, but how much exactly, is anyone’s guess.
Richard Serra was commissioned to put a piece in Federal Plaza, paid for the public, and some people didn’t like it.
It was removed. Serra felt railroaded. There was a lot of press and drama.
Pretty relevant, I’d say:
Also, this Vincent Gallo interview is funny as hell:
He takes the critics on while wearing an awesome USA track-suit:
In June, amid the golden fields, I saw a groundhog lying dead. Dead lay he; my senses shook, And mind outshot our naked frailty. There lowly in the vigorous summer His form began its senseless change, And made my senses waver dim Seeing nature ferocious in him. Inspecting close his maggots’ might And seething cauldron of his being, Half with loathing, half with a strange love, I poked him with an angry stick. The fever arose, became a flame And Vigour circumscribed the skies, Immense energy in the sun, And through my frame a sunless trembling. My stick had done nor good nor harm. Then stood I silent in the day Watching the object, as before; And kept my reverence for knowledge Trying for control, to be still, To quell the passion of the blood; Until I had bent down on my knees Praying for joy in the sight of decay. And so I left; and I returned In Autumn strict of eye, to see The sap gone out of the groundhog, But the bony sodden hulk remained. But the year had lost its meaning, And in intellectual chains I lost both love and loathing, Mured up in the wall of wisdom. Another summer took the fields again Massive and burning, full of life, But when I chanced upon the spot There was only a little hair left, And bones bleaching in the sunlight Beautiful as architecture; I watched them like a geometer, And cut a walking stick from a birch. It has been three years, now. There is no sign of the groundhog. I stood there in the whirling summer, My hand capped a withered heart, And thought of China and of Greece, Of Alexander in his tent; Of Montaigne in his tower, Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.
Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame. Take the moral law and make a nave of it And from the nave build haunted heaven. Thus, The conscience is converted into palms, Like windy citherns hankering for hymns. We agree in principle. That’s clear. But take The opposing law and make a peristyle, And from the peristyle project a masque Beyond the planets. Thus, our bawdiness, Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last, Is equally converted into palms, Squiggling like saxophones. And palm for palm, Madame, we are where we began. Allow, Therefore, that in the planetary scene Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed, Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade, Proud of such novelties of the sublime, Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk, May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres. This will make widows wince. But fictive things Wink as they will. Wink most when widows wince.
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth– Assorted characters of death and blight Mixed ready to begin the morning right, Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth– A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white, The wayside blue and innocent heal-all? What brought the kindred spider to that height, Then steered the white moth thither in the night? What but design of darkness to appall?– If design govern in a thing so small.
The black and white was made in 1924, and is probably most evocative of noir.
I think Raymond Chandler’s High Window is the best of the detective novel.
Here are some quotations of his, if you’re interested.
“Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good-hearted and peaceful. It had the climate they yap about now. People used to sleep out on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America.”
Here is the link. It’s been a long time since they just reviewed the book and not the author.
The poem that most came to mind:
Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane. I have passed by the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet When far away an interrupted cry Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye; And further still at an unearthly height, One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. I have been one acquainted with the night.
‘Therein lies the central tension of Speak, Memory. Its prose is meticulous, suggesting memory as an exercise in exacting dictation from an omniscient oracle, yet its message points to memory as mutable, prone to the passage of time and the vagaries of imagination’
“Nabokov in America” is rewarding on all counts, as biography, as photo album (there are many pictures of people, Western landscapes and motels) and as appreciative criticism. Not least, Roper even avoids the arch style so often adopted by critics faintly trying to emulate their inimitable subject.’
What’s more American than an exiled member of the Russian aristocracy intimately making his way into the English language and peering out from a thousand Motor Lodges?
A little bit about politics and also the politics amidst fellow writers and critics:
‘…when in doubt, I always follow the simple method of choosing that line of conduct which may be the most displeasing to the Reds and the Russells.’
‘Who’s in, who’s out, and where are the snows of yesteryear. All very amusing. I am a little sorry to be left out. Nobody can decide if I am a middle-aged American writer or an old Russian writer—or an ageless international freak.’
On his professional collection of butterflies:
‘The pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope or an undescribed species on a mountainside in Iran or Peru. It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all.’
Via Youtube: An interviewer, Nabokov and Lionel Trilling discuss ‘Lolita:’
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden. My words echo Thus, in your mind. But to what purpose Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves I do not know. Other echoes Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow? Quick, said the bird, find them, find them, Round the corner. Through the first gate, Into our first world, shall we follow The deception of the thrush? Into our first world. There they were, dignified, invisible, Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves, In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air, And the bird called, in response to The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery, And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses Had the look of flowers that are looked at. There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting. So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern, Along the empty alley, into the box circle, To look down into the drained pool. Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged, And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight, And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly, The surface glittered out of heart of light, And they were behind us, reflected in the pool. Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty. Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children, Hidden excitedly, containing laughter. Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality. Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present.
O the month of May, the merry month of May, So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green! O, and then did I unto my true love say: “Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my summer’s queen!
Now the nightingale, the pretty nightingale, The sweetest singer in all the forest’s choir, Entreats thee, sweet Peggy, to hear thy true love’s tale; Lo, yonder she sitteth, her breast against a brier.
But O, I spy the cuckoo, the cuckoo, the cuckoo; See where she sitteth: come away, my joy; Come away, I prithee: I do not like the cuckoo Should sing where my Peggy and I kiss and toy.”
O the month of May, the merry month of May, So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green! And then did I unto my true love say: “Sweet Peg, thou shalt be my summer’s queen!”