After The Words Are Written-Some Links

I find myself drawn to photos of empty fields and abandoned buildings, with good composition and horizon lines meeting somewhere far-off; quiet places with natural forces at work.

Perhaps I’m fairly introverted, caught in the rushes of daily life.  Such images can even seem like indulgences.

Don’t pity the traveler in a train observing himself observing the passing scenery; snatches of a clean suburb whose gabled rooves give way to rows of derelict houses, given over to the falling rain.

After the words are written, the desire for awe, beauty, and symmetry remain.

-Some links on ideas and trying to contextualize the modern Self:

James Lileks responds to an Atlantic piece which reflects upon the modernist influence.  From the Atlantic piece.

‘At their best, the Schiffs can be models for renewing the unquenched aspiration of a century ago, to place art and its imaginative demands at the center of an effort to build a more humane future’

Humane.  Human.  Human rights.  Make it new.  Break with the past.  Shape man’s destiny upon new foundations of knowledge, explore new possibilities, and perhaps shape men themselves.

Why, there’s a whole philosophy under there.  Not a religion necessarily, and not always moral claims to knowledge, but a whole framework nonetheless. Well, some of it, anyways.

Lileks responds:

‘There is no morality in art. There is morality in religion; there are philosophical objectives embedded in politics. The two are intertwined in a society and reflected in its art. When you sever art from its cultural moorings and make “newness” the overriding criterion by which the merits of a work are judged, then anything is possible. This results in crap. Not always’

James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, the Bauhaus, the imagists, the futurists etc.  Some of those influences have morphed into post-modernism or where such currents have flowed and keep flowing.

Lileks’ take:

‘The primary urge of the revolutionary and the modernist and the adolescent: impatience.’

So, do we aim for maturity?  Reverence?  Good old Longfellow?

Food for thought on this Friday.  Science, technology, mathematics are doing quite fine, and moving ahead, but what about the humanities?

Full interview here.

From Dr. Steven 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’

Via Mick Hartley:  ‘The Geometry of Emptiness: A Journey Through France’s Diagonal du Vide

-Photographer Ben Marcin has a series called ‘Last House Standing.’ Solitary row-homes…the only ones left on the block.

-From Popular Mechanics, ‘Creepy Abandoned Military Sites From Around the World.

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Kenan Malik At The New Humanist: ‘People Power’

Full piece here.

Interesting read:

‘The 20th century witnessed also a revolution in the way that artists were able to conceive of the human. The emergence of the modernist sensibility, the breakdown of conventional forms of representation, of the old fixed, linear, views of the world, and the growth of a much more fractured, dissonant, abstracted, multilayered, self-conscious awareness transformed the ability of writers and painters and composers to explore the human condition. The result was a growing tension between the new possibilities of art and the darkening perceptions of humans, a tension out of which emerged some astonishing works of art, from Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet at the End of Time to Mark Rothko’s paintings, from Barbara Hepworth’s figures to Pablo Neruda’s odes.’

(Aside from the art), did the Unitarian Universalists get there first to transcendence without God, a mishmash of faith and secular humanism?

Towards a theme: Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas:

‘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’

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RelatedA definition of humanism:

“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Related On This SiteFrom Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

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 HobbesFrom 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

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’

James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘The Widening Gulf’

Full piece here.

Oil and gas money can buy Qatar lots of art (and help it import cheap labor), but other tribal, autocratic ways haven’t changed much:

‘On the one hand, Qatar’s art initiatives can be seen as a modernizing force, one that could liberalize the tribal attitudes of the country’s native population and pave the way for further political reform. On the other hand, contemporary art may merely serve as a cover for further repressive policies.’

Related On This SiteJames Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

MOMA is private, so perhaps it’s not as decadent if they display Tilda Swinton in a box:

Tilda Swinton At MOMA-From Arma Virumque: ‘Nightmare In A Box’

From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

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

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

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’

A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

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Koons’ site here.  Part 1 of a 5-part documentary above.

I often find myself reacting to modern art and pop art, like many people, with my bullshit detector continually sounding at a low buzz.  Are these great artists?  What has happened at the intersection between art, money, and media in the ‘modern’ world?  Is there any ‘there’ there?

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’.

Modern Art by gps1941.

Excellent photo found here…gps1941 photostream here. More on the original St. John The Baptist here.

This is kitsch par excellence, exquisitely rendered.  I admit that I can still break out into laughter while staring at it, admiring Koons’ ability to use his materials to realize a very particular concept, and to execute that concept and evoke what might even be a particular emotion in onlookers.  The quality and finish of these pieces is high and Koons works in various materials, including porcelin, metal, wood, and mixed media.  Like Warhol, he’s set up a studio with workers churning out his art.   There is no doubt some genuine artistic ability there, creative imagination, vision, and devotion to his craft.

Great art?

On what he was trying to achieve:

‘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.’

In a way, Koons could be seen as quintessentially American, taking the country, its lack of refinement as an artist might see it, its marketing and advertising, the products of its egalitarian spirit and consumer culture into his embrace.  By recalling his own experiences and trying to provide deeper context (and by constantly self-promoting), he certainly has a commitment to America. This raises questions of perpetual interest to those who see their duty in making, criticizing, curating, buying and enjoying art. It also coincides with a larger movement.

From the video:

‘I think that Warhol, as radical as he seems, still very much prized the idea of originality at the core of his working process, and it’s hard not to see him as being a very original artist in that sense.  The idea of Koons rejecting all originality, I think, is central to understanding what his work was about.’

and:

‘The way Andy predicted celebrity, Jeff predicted branding.’

I don’t doubt for a second there’s a bright, aesthetically inclined teenager out there laying under the illuminating glow of a Thomas Kinkade signed print.

As posted before, Camille Paglia is a child of the 60’s, wants better art education, and is sympathetic to themes found on this blog:

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Such artistic impulses also have to deal the rest of America’s bustle and mass culture.  Some of our best-known exports to the world are made by groups of us here at home, organized in certain ways.  Examples abound, from Hollywood movies to McDonalds and Starbucks to our politics to Mars exploration, but we Americans have a real talent for this kind of thing, and Koons seems to be trying to hold up a mirror to our desires and the culture.  Naturally, this creates tension between the individual and the society, what kind of society we have, and what kind of society we ought to have.

Here’s another quote from the video:

‘Koons like to fill things, blow them up, and make his own breath last forever.  He’s interested in eternity, in immortality.’

That’s probably worth thinking about.

***Robert Hughes wrote a review for Time entitled the “Princeling Of Kitsch.”

***The day that Damien Hirst put up his works, selling them for $111 million dollars, the market crashed.

Related On This Site:  Martha Nussbaum wants to take religion out of the laws, and also has ideas about shame and disgust.  I’m not necessarily convinced by the type of secular moral thinking she wants to guide society.  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

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

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

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’