Friday, April 07, 2017

Excrement Masquerading as Art and Politics

Not much time this morning, and none at all next Monday. The best I can offer is a half-ration of Coon Chow:

So, how and why and when did common sense realism -- our nation's founding philosophy, or operating system -- become so devalued and marginalized?

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking that part of the answer must have to do with virtue signaling and status anxiety.

Analogously, think of the art world. I read somewhere that the French impressionists are looked down upon by certain critics. Why? Essentially because everyone likes them. That being the case, they hold no snob appeal.

There are also, of course, political reasons. The impressionists have no agenda, political or otherwise, except for the transmission of beauty.

In The Rape of the Masters, Kimball writes of how "the study of art is increasingly being co-opted by various extraneous, non-artistic, non-aesthetic campaigns." Which is to put it mildly.

And just as art has become politicized, politics has surely become aestheticized. Clearly, a great deal of the elite loathing of President Trump is on aesthetic grounds. They were more upset that he puts ketchup on steak than they were at Obama eating dogs.

Kimball notes that the undermining of art involves a kind of two-pronged attack: first is "a process of spurious aggrandizement" through which "you hail the mediocre as a work of genius, for example, or pretend that what is merely repellent actually enables our understanding of art or life."

My father-in-law was an art collector, with many very expensive works adorning his walls. Admittedly I am a simple man, but I find them visually off-putting -- AKA ugly -- or just neutral, with nothing attractive about them.

Plus, they are a stylistic jumble. There is no connecting theme, such that the overall effect is of a kind of disjointed psychotic dream. Not the kinds of specters I want hanging around my house.

But if some overeducated fool looks at one of those paintings and waxes poetic about its genius, one may be reticent to express the opinion that a five year old could do better.

Exaggeration? One could cite countless examples. Kimball notes that when a couple of well known artists "exhibited The Naked Shit Pictures -- huge photo-montages of themselves naked with bits of excrement floating about," one critic celebrated their "self-sacrifice for a higher cause, which is purposely moral and indeed Christian."

And if you do not see that -- which you do not and could not -- then it elevates the critic at your expense, you untutored, mouth-breathing yahoo.

The second strategy (after spurious self-aggrandizement) "proceeds in the opposite direction. It operates not by inflating the trivial, the mediocre, the perverse, but by attacking, diluting, or otherwise subverting greatness."

We don't have time for a full excursion into the art world, AKA Adventures in Vertical Perception. The point is, something similar has infected the political world, such that our leftist elites simultaneously aggrandize themselves and denigrate the restavus via allegiance to their strange ideas and stranger gods.

Indeed, this is precisely why they did not see Trump coming, nor why they cannot (thankfully) refrain from saying and doing things that will ensure the coming of More Trump.

As mentioned a couple of posts back, Woodrow Wilson was our first progressive political elite to denigrate the Constitution. If even literal-minded idiots such as yourselves can understand it, then it must be pretty vacuous, right? Don't we need a more sophisticated document that only the experts can appreciate and decipher?

Even the cognitively labile Jefferson had sufficient wisdom to recognize that the purpose of our Declaration of Independence was (and is, forever) "Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of," but rather, "to place before mankind the common sense of the subject... it was intended to be an expression of the American mind."

But today, leftists will read Jefferson's comment and notice only that he said MANKIND!, thereby whining about the better man while signaling one's superior virtue.

So it's a whine-win situation, as is true in general of the celebration of liberal victimhood.

[N]othing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in [later] life -- save only this -- that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education. --Prof. John Alexander Smith (in Kimball)


Blogger julie said...

In The Rape of the Masters, Kimball writes of how "the study of art is increasingly being co-opted by various extraneous, non-artistic, non-aesthetic campaigns." Which is to put it mildly.

Not only is the agenda to elevate the ugly and perverse over the beautiful, it serves to help sever the understanding of meaning.

In the past, before the ubiquity of literacy, art served not merely as a vessel of beauty, it was an entire language that even the most uneducated peasant could understand. People didn't just read the Bible, nor just listen to scripture during the Liturgy, they saw with their own eyes theMother and her Child, and were called to discipleship along with Saint Matthew. Art helped to bring an immediacy to that which is eternal.

Modern art, on the other hand, strive to bring eternity to that which is merely immediate - and idiotic.

4/07/2017 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

The point is, something similar has infected the political world, such that our leftist elites simultaneously aggrandize themselves and denigrate the restavus via allegiance to their strange ideas and stranger gods.

Another thing, tying in with art but also politics within Christianity, have you ever noticed that most people, and even most Christians these days, have no idea why certain symbols are tied in with certain holidays? Having lost the art and traditions that made it all seem rather mundanely obvious, we have ceded the narrative ground to pagans and atheists claiming, essentially, that Christian symbolism is mostly made of elements stolen from other cultures. Thus the claims that Easter was really about some minor norse fertility goddess, full of pagan springtime fertility symbols, and Christmas is all about Saturnalia, etc., etc. Therefore, the arguments go, they are really stolen holidays that are essentially excuses to party, and not based in any actual truth.

Few Christians have a rebuttal anymore when it comes to anything outside the written Biblical narrative. 1900 years worth of teaching aids have been abandoned in the name of progress.

In fact, the Easter basket and all of its symbols made perfect sense, at a time when everyone seriously fasted for Lent and feasted on Easter Sunday. If I'm not mistaken, rabbit was often on the menu along with the eggs and everything else. Having lost that, we have people carrying on the traditions while scratching their heads in uneasy bafflement over the meaning.

4/07/2017 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a tenured history professor, I can attest to the prominence of virtue signaling and status anxiety in academia. While tenure, in theory, is supposed to offer educators immunity to censure or dismissal for unorthodox or contrarian thinking, it does nothing of the kind.

Once I became ensconced in the ivory tower, the money, prestige, and sexual license became an addiction. Who has time or inclination to be contrary when life consists of an unremitting series of pleasant events? There is no incentive to rock the boat, and I see this among my tenured peers as well. We like the status quo, so we take pains to signal virtue to the Dean, Administrators, etc. We don't like rebel professors; they make us anxious we'll fall from grace by association. We take pains to fit in.

Life, Liberty, the pursuit of is common sense. And it can devolve into a "bloviating power grab." Which is also common sense.

So, Godwin, be a rebel if that pleases you. See where it gets you.

4/08/2017 07:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And P.S. to Julie:

The ties between pagan holidays and Christian holidays are at this point beyond refutation due to the preponderance of evidence on the matter. However, the cause of this pagan connection was not some pollution of the Christian faith, but rather a necessary evil to get people to convert en masse in Northern Europe. Jesus took some selling, and a promise to keep some of the old holidays active had to be folded in to seal the deal. So rest easy.

4/08/2017 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

My atheist father-in-law liked to say gratuitously pseudo-rebellious things like praising paganism over Christianity. I told him that if he was sincere in his admiration of paganism, he should join the Catholic church.

4/08/2017 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ooo, a chance for an interesting discussion!

I actually amended my initial comment considerably, as of course Christianity has borrowed heavily from and Christianized local customs, symbols and traditions in order to spread the gospel in ways that people everywhere can understand, and I don't dispute that at all. Many of the early symbols were drawn from existing Greek and Roman art, and served as a sort of hidden-in-plain-sight messaging that both illuminated certain concepts and also helped them to blend in and avoid persecution. Good Shepherd statues, the fish symbol, and various written symbols served this purpose; common for centuries before Christ, they were very effective at spreading the message. That they used common local concepts to illustrate Christian teaching is not at issue, and should not be a reason to dispute the truth of Christ.

Rather, my concern has to do with a more pernicious behavior, focused around those claims that serve to delegitimize the truth of Christ. Primarily, the arguments made surrounding Christmas where the date, December 25th, is claimed as (among other things) actually being a sort of usurped solstice celebration, and Easter as being a modified fertility rite, as though those two dates were arbitrarily "assigned" by early Christians in order to counter pagan celebrations with something more wholesome.

In fact, Christmas is celebrated 9 months after the Annunciation, which from the beginning was recognized as March 25th - "in the 6th month" according to the Hebrew calendar. Probably not precise, but nor was it arbitrary or planned as some sort of takeover of the birthday of Sol Invictus (as sadly, even many Christians dating back centuries seem to believe). They may have made a bigger deal out of the date in response to the popularity of winter solstice festivals, but to say that they essentially made up a birthday for Christ to compete with the pagans is simply untrue.

Point being, people used to be able to at least discuss these things intelligibly; these days, the average person has no historical context for even thinking about it, much less understanding. They ask, "why Easter eggs?" and the Christian just shrugs uncomfortably while the local atheist/pagan steps in and says essentially, "because everyone was horny in the springtime! LOL!! You Christians are actually worshipping a sex goddess!"

The links - of history, of art, of tradition - having been successfully severed, the average person feels that there is no foundation to his belief; that if some of it is a lie, then all must be; and down he falls again...

4/08/2017 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

BTW, my comment above is an example of using irony to defeat irony, a large subject I'd still like to explore one of these days. God is definitely an ironic guy -- for example, infinity dwindled to infancy (which is the title of a book that came out a few years back). What could be more ironic than God in a useless baby?

4/08/2017 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of the development of Christian tradition and theology, this book I'm reading, Early Christian Doctrines, is outstanding so far. Apparently it's considered a classic. I'm only up to page 52, but will be able to dive in more deeply today. No distractions, since wife and son are in Vegas for an international parkour competition.

4/08/2017 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I like the paganism gag. Most Protestants - including many former Catholics - I know would unironically agree. You should see the side eye that comes up in my nondenominational Bible study group whenever someone mentions Mary or the saints!

I may have to pick up the Early Christians book. Have a new children's book coming out shortly, after which I'm planning a series on (surprise!) forgotten Christian symbolism and tradition. Any research helps.

4/08/2017 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It seems to me that Christianity negates nothing, but is just a fuller expression of all man's religious impulses, intuitions, trends, rituals, objects, etc. It makes sense of them in hindsight -- or vertical "down-sight."

4/08/2017 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, exactly. That there should exist, outside of Christianity, traditions that echo and resonate with the truth of the one and only Absolute is entirely unsurprising. It would be weirder if they didn't.

4/08/2017 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of which, one major area with which Schuon disagrees with normative Islam is in situating Islam in the larger context of Vedantic metaphysics. In turn, that would be my biggest difference with Schuon, since I think Christianity contains Vedanta, not vice versa.

4/08/2017 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4/08/2017 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Huh. Nazis had opinions about art? Who knew?

4/08/2017 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

(Heh - Godwin's law...)

4/08/2017 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The left always politicizes art, whether international socialists, national socialists, or contemporary SJWs.

4/08/2017 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

To be fair, they do have a point: get everyone gawking and squawking over the latest propaganda shit show, and they'll stop paying attention to the ineffable loveliness that leaves one speechless.

4/08/2017 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a modern artist, I do make political statements with art. One of my mediums happens to be feces.

Feces are an expression of absorption, of digestion, of rumination, and are a bodily metaphor for meditation and contemplation. However, they represent the portion which is discarded; therefore, an artistic composition of feces will be that which has been contemplated and rejected, for whatever reason. There are many political uses for that metaphor.

Furthermore, the colon and rectum create interesting forms: smooth tubes, coils with pinched ends, hills, mountains, and other wondrous shapes. The digestive tract as artist, so to speak.

Color-wise, the gamut of rich ochres, tans, or greens present in feces can be either attractive or repelling. Who does not peer into the bowl to see what the latest creation is like? It is human nature.

The smell of feces is pungent, urgent, repelling, yet at the same time complex and living. There are many aldehydes, phenols, and terpenes which contribute to the ouvre. The smell of feces can trigger repressed child-hood memories like nothing else.

Small children will instinctively paint with feces; later they are taught not to touch and enjoy. But everyone knows children are wise in their own ways.

Well, there's my apologia for my art, in response to the criticism. I hope to display in your city soon....

4/08/2017 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Since you're the expert, I have a question: would you regard working with feces an advance or a retreat from playing with it?

And would you agree that the medium is the message?

4/08/2017 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Wow, son placed third in international parkour competition in Vegas. Video to follow...

4/08/2017 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Congrats to your son Bob! His innate talent is evident.

On a side note, ever come across Thomas Storck? Just watched him on Journey Home, and some of his ideas come off as compelling.

4/08/2017 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I checked out some of his books on amazon a while back. Something or other turned me away, although I can't remember what it was....

4/08/2017 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Ah, I as look into him more, apparently his ideas aren't so friendly to the free market. He also takes an economic position similar to Belloc and Chesterton, while grounded in private property, is more distributive. But I still may check out his book.

4/08/2017 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hmm. This book on early Christian doctrine is starting to bog down. Not sure if I need to know every theory on baptism before 500...

4/08/2017 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

I have the same unease with much scholarship. I am curious to know many things in relation to a coherent view, but not the minutia of it all. There is a sweet spot between pop-academic journalism and tedious scholarship. Most of the Raccoomendations fall into this spot.

4/08/2017 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Exactly. An expert should be able to boil it all down to the essence. Expertise isn't just what you know, but what you know how to exclude.

4/08/2017 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

That's jazz. The notes you leave out are as important as the ones you play, otherwise it sounds like Irish music. That anon artist seems to know his shit.

4/08/2017 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Anybody here watch the Greg Gutfeld show on Saturdays on Fox News? That guy really makes me laugh.

4/08/2017 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I guess Miles Davis is the standard for knowing what notes to leave out.

Steve Cropper was good at that. Carlos Santana too, back in the day.

4/08/2017 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gagdad Bob: In response to your questions:

Artistry with feces is an advance, not a regression. There is a lot of science involved in calculating how to engineer a work in feces. They must be sprayed with a special sealant to keep in the moisture. It is not just a matter of throwing it out there.

Even my assistants, who produce the fecal material, have to train themselves rigorously. They devote days to experimenting with the optimum types of food and dietary fiber to produce the desired results. Each must be tested monthly for enteric pathogens, and lead a clean life-style. These artisans develop almost superhuman sphincter control so as to be able to deliver what the master wants on demand. Needless to say help of this caliber does not come cheap.

And is the medium the message? Perhaps in part. Other artists work with urine, some with blood, but in my opinion fecal art is the most demanding there is. And, I might add, quite stressful. The sponsor must love it, and the audience must be engaged, or my reputation as the best could be lost.

Naturally I am sensitive to criticism, but do appreciate your interest in the subject.

4/08/2017 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As you no doubt know, Freud theorized that all artists are symbolically playing with their feces. It's heartening to know there are still old-school artists who avoid the middleman and traffic in the real thing.

4/08/2017 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger JWM said...

I haven't dropped a comment here since forever, but anon with the poo-post gets a prize for some of the best trolling I've seen in a long old time. Expert level shit!


4/09/2017 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. Tristan's 3rd place, congratulations! All that hard work served him well.

4/09/2017 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger debass said...

There is no rhythm without the rests. Samewithspeechortext. Space, the final frontier.

4/09/2017 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Music: or, how to play with silence.

4/09/2017 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

Is scat painting like scat singing?

4/09/2017 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe for the old master painter from the faraway hills.

4/09/2017 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

Catholicism baptizes the pagan.

4/10/2017 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Not liberal said...

Ditto on academic theology. I am reading Christosis by Ben C Barnwell. The title is a play on Christ and theosis. I can't quarrel with any of the ideas but it clearly was not aimed at theological amateurs. A book by a scholar for scholars.

4/12/2017 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The God of the scholars is a paltry thing. God isn't a mathematician, and he certainly isn't tenured.

4/12/2017 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Greg Gutfeld= the best!
even too-lib Howard Stern digs him
if he isnt on 'THE 5', it misses the mark.
[he knows his music too--
THE 5 uses Eno, T Heads, the Fall, Clash etc for bumpers]

4/13/2017 06:14:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Wow!Congratulations to Tristan!

4/13/2017 11:36:00 AM  

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