2/2- Mortarboards v. Mortarshells

4:56:00 PMPaul

Whether one chooses to accept or discard the previous portion of our discussion as a basis for further definition of art is inessential and inconsequential to consider the following. A movement has taken place and gained momentum over the past 100-150 years towards abandonment of what is termed by separatists and iconoclasts as useless, academic, formal classicism. I stand in stark contradiction of this definition, understanding it as mere reactionary, childish narcissism implemented to an equally pretentious degree as the practitioners of the styles commonly accepted as outmoded. I feel it's important to note that this is not merely an exercise in discourse, semantics or intellectual appropriation, but rather an attempt at encouraging a more exact and even more sincere level of artistic output. The language with which we even casually discuss the most mundane topics molds the way we perceive them as well.

While 150 years may seem like an interminable and insurmountable amount of time to challenge, I use the presentation of Manet's shock art as a point of departure. The universal, and perhaps unspoken (unnecessary to be spoken at least) truth is that he himself drew influence out of rejecting and adapting previous work and this regresses infinitely to the point where the idea of expression was only used as craft (in the sense established prior). I use M Manet's most famous work because it's a traditionally academic place to begin when discussing the disgustingly arrogant act of abasement of established beauty as a falsehood, which itself began in earnest, as a mainstream attraction, after 1945, using the pretense of great, senseless loss of life as a pretext for flippantly defiant art offered with no intention on reaching out to others or illuminating experience (at least not as appraoched prior, and by that conclusion I stand firmly.)

In fact, what we term "modern art" has worked tirelessly, in different media and venues to convince us that we as a social whole, and less often as individuals, truly aim towards perpetual nothingness into which all of our efforts in life, from the greatest ambition to the most fleeting fart of a thought, is consumed inconspicuously and unmemorably. The most offensive part is the insistence that in doing so, these self-proclaimed artists are trying to open an audience's eyes to unknown truths about the world and about themselves.  Simply because one individual with bursting creative desires has no ideas within does not mean that the world is devoid of a meaning, or at least a commonly held meeting.

We've become pretentious presenters, even those creating supposed low-brow product, who claim to aim at calming the clamoring masses; there stands the celebrated observation that no such convention as high-brow truly exists, that it all stems from lower forms and is simply clouded with academic posturing. He was making no new headway, we all know that each civilization in its infancy gives birth to what we call modern forms.  So post-modernism is far from a post-mortem of previous and longstanding  adventures in encapsulating the human spirit. In fact, its truths are self-defeating, because the forms and formalism arose before the academic study of any art.

Before I continue further, I want to make very clear that I in no way purport to attack M Manet, a patient and fiery talent.  Of course, this opens me to the suspicion that I may only hold him reverently since he's now a historical relic in which academicians with too much free time can relish and invest new contemporary readings not prevalent and sometimes not even existent in the artist's time.  Likewise, I make no argument in favor of the salons and the Beaux Arts that was necessary for the success of any technician of the day.  Manet certainly imbued his art with philosophy and it wasn't simple iconoclasm or antidisestablishmentarianism.  The systems in place, both politically and artistically were stale and the criteria for assessment were artificial and removed from true life.

The problem lies in the fact that the very same system still exists today.  To speak utterly plainly, an NYU grad will hand me an action abstract painting or free verse poem with urban imagery and tell me it's beautiful over my raw and bullet ridden corpse.  We have suburban whites with too much money and too much time creating internal psychological problems and claiming that the only true way to access them is through "raw, unrestrained immediacy" using examples of outsider art and folk art.  I suppose to simplify, my argument is that art leans in general far too far to the philosophical end (as described previously) and suffers in its lack of craft.  Only now, the patron system and Les Academies and Courts are covert and disguised as scenes where the criteria for acceptance are vague and isolated, and often unfounded.  It's a bunch of brats, to speak plainly again.

I will not deny I often find beauty unpolished works and that sometimes too strong a technique can blunt the intended emotional force (as was observed before), but the artist's job is to balance the two, not to supposedly disregard conventional beauty in favor of supposedly exposing an inner pain or a shameful life or anothers' lies.  If we eliminate any kind of standard of measurement as far as skill or craft suffused into a work, then we at very least implicitly admit to judging works on their emotional content.  This goes hand in hand with the movement towards a subjective existence.  How can this be so?!  How can a museum or a publishing house prefer one work over another because it seems to embody a more incisive view to every person's existence.  It's as much of an artificial pretense, but more disgusting.  In essence, what one says now to a rejected artist (in any medium) is not, "You lack in skill.  This will only speak to a limited number of people.  Clean it up.  Try again." but rather, "The emotions that inspired you to create this are bland and uninteresting.  Your life has given you nothing to say to your fellow man." In modern culture, the concept of the artist isn't someone who can stretch further than others into a realm of true understanding, but rather an obstinate and arrogant child who won't take no for an answer. Success depends on no more than beligerent persistence.  And whatever sells.  And what sells is reactionary garbage.

And who's to say what beauty is?  Just because a person or a pastoral scene is conventionally considered pretty doesn't mean that it isn't actually pretty.  How arrogant it is that we believe the more outlandish, the more disgusting a offering we provide is, the more Real it is? The ugly and extreme are just as unreachable as the structured and refined inaccessible by human emotion and experience. loose association free verse can be maligned as well as defended, depending on one's stance, in every applicable way that a sonnet can. While we constantly search for ways to expand ourselves and our reach, we've grown, as a society only in terms of our apathy and negation. We take the easy way of rejection without offering replacement and respond to our own rejection with the sinde, sniveling superiority of others not "getting it."  It is the artist's job to make people get it!  Any idea that purports to be expressly "for the people" is false, because all art is all already for the people. All was originally created by the people for themselves.

So different aesthetics appeal and apply to different people, but only by rejection or association, based on subjective experience.  Every artistic movement is in turn a retaliation or reaction or a continuation of a previous one, which stems from consolidation and appropriation of "folk" ideas. Everything's been done before, nothing's new. I understand that we are standing on the platform of a train station watching the train of experience and expression pass us on its way to its next formation.  But I do not understand the necessity to reject the old in order to make room for the new, to file away previous movements on the superficial basis that they spoke only to their time.  The times speak to the time no matter how they're phrased.  If we were to erase the last 500 years of art and start over, where's the unwavering guarantee that we'd end up here again at this exploitative and reductionist point?  We stand in only one of any infinite parallel universes of possibility concerning art and if a new classical traditional began, we'd see new possibilities develop.  Art is a maze and when "post-modernism" emerged, we had hit a wall.  It's time to begin again.

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