Repost-Celebrity, The Romantically Primitive, Modern Art & Money: Douglas Murray’s Take On Jean-Michel Basquiat

Full piece here.

Perhaps there are enclaves in NYC’s commercial bustle where people can lead lives less burdened by the racial history of the U.S., in addition to bettering their lot. Perhaps there are freedoms and opportunities not found in other quarters, either, which have been nurtured by this extended culture. There are schools, like minds, and fellow artists to develop alongside. New York City’s a cultural center, after all.

Despite the decadence and grime, the many fakes, fops, and wannabes drawn to the flame, there is genuine talent and potential genius.

There are also the temptations and realities of celebrity, the creative destruction and ruthlessness of the market, as well as ideas in the modern bubble which can actively discourage artistic development (the incentives and meta-bullshit of a lot of modern art galleries and buyers, the desire for the genius of the Noble Savage).

I believe this is Briton Douglas Murray’s (The Strange Death Of Europe) argument regarding enfant terrible of the 80’s Jean-Michel Basquiat. Whatever natural talent Basquiat may have had, and however much the larger culture thought itself supposedly ready to celebrate such an artist, it is a mess.

Basquiat, through relentless self-promotion, found himself blown up like a balloon over 5th avenue.

Murray:

‘It was not obvious that Basquiat would end up the producer of such trophies. Born in Brooklyn in 1960, he left school at 17 and first gained attention through his co-invention, with a friend, of a character called “SAMO.” Graffiti signed with this name cropped up in SoHo and on the Lower East Side in 1978.’

and:

‘Friends claimed that Basquiat was famously independent of mind and that nobody could tell him what to do. They should at least have tried. If they had said at the outset that, instead of dealing his work, they would help him learn the skills needed to pursue it, then he might not have banged his head so visibly and continuously against his own limitations throughout his short career. Perhaps he understood that he was only getting away with something and worried when it might end. Far greater artists than he have had similar fears and been brought down by them.’

Speaking of balloons and balloon-dogs: Within A Bank Of Modern Fog-Robert Hughes On Jeff Koons

Two quotes by Hughes that stood out:

Religion is diminished into celebrity..a kind of reverse apotheosis.

‘This alienation of the work from the common viewer is actually a form of spiritual vandalism.’

It’s tough to say that art is really about religion (though much clearly is), but rather more about an experience Hughes wants as many people as possible to have, and that such experiences can elevate and expand.

On that note, some previous links and quotes:

Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

‘…aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

Somewhere apart from Medieval, Christian, Classical and pre-Enlightenment forms of authority and social hierarchy; somewhere away from the kinds of patronage, inspiration, rules, money that bent and shaped previous Art, emerged the Enlightenment and came the Romantic, Modern, and Postmodern.

***As for ideas to fill the holes, there’s definitely one path from Hegelian ‘Geist’ to Marxist class-consciousness to the revolutionary and radical doctrines found in the postmodern soup…but there are also problems with the liberation of the ‘Self’ from Schopenhauer’s ‘Will’ to Nietzsche ‘Will to Power.’

Thanks, reader:

Is street-art, or the use of graffiti & mixed-materials performed illegally out in public (on public and privately owned property) partly due to the success of capital markets?

-Banksy’s website here.

-Newsweek’s piece: ‘See You Banksy, Hello Invader.

Response To A Reader On ‘Radical Chic’ And A Link to Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’

God or no God, please deliver us from tired political philosophies:

I’d argue that it’s possible, especially with the constant cries of modernism to ‘make it new,‘ I think this is one way we’ve arrived at pop art, and the desire to blend conceptual art and popular music together. This is in evidence from The Talking Heads to Lady Gaga to Jay Z promoting his new album alongside Marina Abramovic at MOMA.

Choose the form of your destructor:

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

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..

Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

John O’Sullivan On The French Elections

Full piece here.

‘So the next five years could well see a series of social crises in which two versions of young France — a multicultural one swollen by migration and a native-nationalist one fed by the arrival of a post-guilt generation — will find themselves on opposite sides of a worsening political divide.’
The fundamental instability of both current French politics and the EU are worrying, to say the least.

 

As previously posted:

Interview sent in by a reader with Hollebecq on his ‘Soumission,’ which, in his fictional world, imagines a soon-to-be Muslim candidate defeating a French nationalist candidate, followed by an ultimate submission of French society to Islamic law and political leadership.

Interesting discussion at the link (including a deflation of (R)acism as critical theory).

‘But now you’re asking words to mean something they don’t. Racism is simply when you don’t like somebody because he belongs to another race, because he hasn’t got the same color skin that you do, or the same features, et cetera. You can’t stretch the word to give it some higher meaning.’

On some of Hollebecq’s thinking behind the creative work:

‘Yes. It has to happen sometime and it might as well be now. In this sense, too, I am a Comtean. We are in what he calls the metaphysical stage, which began in the Middle Ages and whose whole point was to destroy the phase that preceded it. In itself, it can produce nothing, just emptiness and unhappiness. So yes, I am hostile to Enlightenment philosophy, I need to make that perfectly clear. ‘

Whoa, at least he’s relatively up front about that.

Isn’t it possible to reject Hollebecq’s modernity-is-dead worldview AND also put the universal claims of progressive, collectivist, ideological, postmodern, multicultural feminist discontents into their proper perspective…without suggesting the end of the modern world and some presumed next stage to be reached?

And as for discussions of art:  Is the book worth a read?

======================

From the comments:

‘Those of you regarding e.g. feminism as somehow an antidote to the patriarchal impulses in enlightenment thinking or Islam, or in broader terms postmodern political and social movements as offering a ‘third way’, something totally new and immune from this dynamic of competitive decay and decline, forget the fact that these movements are themselves the most recent outgrowths of the emancipative instinct, one of the core features deeply rooted in Western thought ever since the renaissance, as Barzun described. As an Asian living in the West myself, I have to tell you that this instinct is simply not present as a core element in other civilisations, and is indeed distinctive about the West. That Japan and Korea, and for that matter every non-western nation, modernised without a countercultural ‘values’ rebellion is indicative in this regard. The west is going to be without allies as it goes with a whimper.

Under such a depressing worldview, hope is provided for by religion and mysticism, a return to medievalism. It is sad, because the West will truly die as it numbs its own most deeply embedded instincts in the process of conversion, but the mysticism is a form of hope for the masses, who never particularly cared for high ideals anyway.

Houellebecq seems to channel Spengler, who hardly anybody reads nowadays. But that such an interesting thinker is hardly glanced at today is an indictment of us, not of him.’

Also, from the comments.  Hubristic, but there’s something to the grandiosity and deflated nihilism:

‘This is why I love French writers and thinkers. Fascinating to read even if they are always wrong.’

Two Friday Links: Outside Of Paris & Inside The Guardian

Charles Cooke visited some Parisian banlieues:

‘Having been brought in during the “30 glorious years” that followed the end of World War II to work the jobs that the natives didn’t want, a whole raft of people are now stuck in a country that does not quite know what to do with them — and, for that matter, in which many are actively hostile toward them. Indeed, for all their talk of equality, the French are astonishingly racist when compared both with Europe in general and with the unusually tolerant Anglosphere, and they have shown no signs of actually adopting the sort of idea-driven “melting pot” approach that has made the United States so successful.’

Maybe it’s better than somewhere in North Africa, but it’s not quite France, either (The British and The French have notorious ‘beef’).

***The Hudson Institute had a discussion with Walter Russell Mead, a French mayor, and others on the mood in France after the attack.

Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution: Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..

Medieval Times-Roaming The Gloom With Theory: Interview With Michel Hollebecq

Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Look Away From Europe’s Muslim Problem’

See Also:  Why Lars Hedegaard Still Matters…Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘The Repentant Radical’

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David Thompson keeps an eye on the Guardianistas, particularly, George Monbiot, so you don’t have to:

‘Yes, dear readers. The odds are stacked against us and the situation is grim. Happily, however, “we” – that’s thee and me – now “find the glimmerings of an answer” in, among other things, “the sharing… of cars and appliances.” While yearning, as we are, for an “empathy revolution.” What, you didn’t know?’

Red Impulses Gone Green-Tim Worstall At The Adam Smith Institute On George MonbiotFrom George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Kevin Williamson At The National Review: ‘Whose Liberalism?’

Link sent-in by a reader:

Original review in The Nation:

‘Before the 1930s, histories of liberalism told a different story. In his excellent Liberalism: The Life of an Idea, the journalist Edmund Fawcett, a former correspondent for The Economist, returns to this earlier telling. For Fawcett, liberalism is, at its simplest, about “improving people’s lives while treating them alike and shielding them from undue power.” To understand its history, “liberty is the wrong place to begin.” Liberalism wasn’t created in the seventeenth century but in the nineteenth, after a trio of revolutions—American, French and industrial—shattered the old order. Liberalism’s first job wasn’t simply to defend private individuals and limit the size of government, but to cope with the rise of capitalism and mass democracy amid the aftershocks of a postrevolutionary world.’

Reducing Locke’s influence thus would serve certain ends:

For Fawcett, all of these solutions count as liberal ones. His book is intended as a defense of liberal values, capaciously defined. The usual cast list of Mill, Tocqueville and Isaiah Berlin is expanded to include unfamiliar philosophers and household-name politicians on both the left and the right who wouldn’t normally make the cut: Roger Nash Baldwin, the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, stands alongside the German progressive Eugen Richter; Margaret Thatcher and Herbert Hoover are squeezed in alongside Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson; Marxist Jean-Paul Sartre rubs shoulders with Milton Friedman and conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott.’

To which Williamson responds:

‘Forrester, a lecturer in the history of political thought at Queen Mary University, London, begins with a strange assertion: that the idea of liberalism as a consent-oriented view rooted in the work of John Locke and based on “toleration, private property, and individualism” is in effect a propaganda coup, “a recent invention. It is, in fact, largely a product of the Cold War. . . . Before the 1930s, histories of liberalism told a different story.”

and:

‘This speaks to an ancient but fundamental disagreement over the nature of human beings and, consequently, over the nature of human society. Conservatives — those who seek to conserve the liberal national order formalized by the founding of the American republic — tend to be oriented toward process, toward a narrow reading not only of Constitution and statute but also of the meaning of rights (negative) and the role of the state (limited); in our view, rights are enjoyed by individuals rather than by collectives, even when those rights are exercised in aggregate. Forrester characterizes this habit as “polar thinking,” and against it opposes what she calls “practical thinking” and “practical compromise.”

The fight for the ‘pragmatic’ and the view from nowhere is always going on. Comments are worth a read.

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…

Repost-Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Labor & Time-Kevin Williamson At The National Review: ‘Planes, Trains & The Internet’

Full piece here

Williamson suggests we should look to Helsinki, Finland, at least when it comes to technology and transportation:

‘Notably, the Helsinki model would end some transportation monopolies (the rail service would no longer have a monopoly on ticket sales, for instance) and would rely on competition among private providers to match resources with consumer demand.’

The larger principle he uses to get there:

‘American progressives love railroads and hate cars, and that is not without a political dimension: Railroads tell you where to go, which is very appealing if you see society as one big factory to be subjected to (your) expert management. And that’s really the basic question of liberalism in the better, classical sense of that word: Is the state here to tell you where to go, or is it here to help you get where you are going? And how to get there?

If you believe that you have a right to your own labor, and that your time is your labor, then why would you need a large, unresponsive, oft politicized monopoly deciding how much time you spend in transit now that technology is making other options available?

One appeal of the libertarian argument is simple: Don’t you want to pay less for a ride when you can?

Another appeal is also pretty simple if you believe in the above: Free citizens need to put the moral justification back onto the current laws, political players, and monopolies from time to time, forcing them to justify their involvement in our lives and in the markets. After all, beneath lofty ideals gather real interests seeking to bend the laws towards their own ends, and with a lot of self-interest besides.

Incentives matter, and while I’m guessing safety and public safety guide a lot of moral justification by local governments, and which a lot of citizens generally support, it’s necessary to do some house-cleaning now and again.

Airlines are partially de-regulated as Williamson points out (more responsive to consumer demand these days, so flying is much cheaper and more accessible and thus probably more like taking a Greyhound), but not all the way de-regulated.  Yet, where is the money going again exactly?  Who’s doing what and how much are they getting paid? Aren’t these regulations creating dead zones where technological innovation lags?

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On that note, one of the main arguments behind the push to pass Obamacare was the idea that you don’t own a right to your own labor nor time enough to prevent the socialization of that labor when it comes to health-care:  It’s no mere commodity nor economic exchange. You will have a tax/penalty levied and part of your tax dollars will now go to a centralized, redistributionist, oft politicized set of experts and enforcers promising to make sure everyone gets health-care on some level (ignoring many of the structural problems at the VA and various other incentives that prevent responsiveness at other bureaucracies).

Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t exactly worked as advertised so far, with a lot more bumpy road likely to come.

The Scandinavian welfare-state was held-up as a model by many progressives for Obamacare, so Williamson does try and justify his use of Helsinki as a model for deregulation here in the U.S.:

‘Imagine trying to implement such a thing in New York City or California — imagine the union friction alone — and you’ll have a pretty good indicator of why European-style policies are unlikely to produce European-style results in the United States. It is not as though Helsinki is a free-market, limited-government utopia — far from it. But on the liberty–statism spectrum, it matters not only where you are but in which direction you are moving — and why.’

Intentions matter as much as actions?

On the statism/liberty axis, I’m guessing many progressives believe that we need more Statism in order to secure more liberty, but from the libertarian perspective, such a definition of liberty is so utopian and idealistic/ideological that it can never be reached, only promised and over-promised. Many progressives also likely believe their intentions are pure enough for government work and during the last two Presidential elections, it seems a fair number of Americans agreed with them for a time.

Stanley Kurtz At The National Review: ‘President Reticent’

Full post here.

Of course there’s plenty of political posturing and framing, but the crux of Kurtz’ argument is interesting:

‘Most of the commentary on Libya has focused on the tension between Obama’s apparent desire to displace Qaddafi and his reluctance to admit to it. But the chief reason for this intervention is the one that’s staring us in the face. Obama dithered when it was simply a matter of replacing Qaddafi, yet quickly acted when slaughter in Benghazi became the issue. What Samantha Power and her supporters want is to solidify the principle of “responsibility to protect” in international law.’

In my ignorance, I’ve been using the term ‘liberal internationalist’ because it seems to work.  Obama seems reluctant to use any sort of American military power.  I’m assuming his guiding ideas are mostly Western, and liberal humanitarian and universalist in foreign policy.   He’s seeking to use international framework (to please the base…the independents who voted him in?), and as Kurtz notes, even walking close to the line of subsuming American sovereignty to that international framework.  The downside risks aren’t just a protracted war in Libya, but getting burned by even our closer allies as we still carry most of the water.

Clearly, the U.N. has legitimacy and structural issues, and the Bush team was reluctant to gain U.N. approval.  Perhaps now Obama is being overly deferential?  What would be some consequences of Power’s theories?

Also, how are the two most recent president’s definitions of freedom (Bush’s human freedom…Obama’s arc of history…) getting crafted into foreign policy?  Any president will have to deal with the bureaucratic and institutional structures in place.

Related On This Site:  Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom CSIS: ‘Turmoil In The Middle-East’From The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

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