Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New Book About Making the Arts Universal

"What Good Are the Arts?" is an intensely argued polemic against the intellectually supercilious, the snooty rich and the worship of high culture as a secular religion for the spiritually refined and socially heartless. Modern art," writes James Carey, "has become synonymous with money, fashion, celebrity and sensationalism, at any rate in the mind of the man on the Clapham omnibus." Contemporary painting, opera, ballet, most poetry and theater are all removed from the life of ordinary people, being part of a cult available largely to the wealthy and mandarin, where only the elect may worship. Meanwhile, "mass art" -- daytime drama, pop music, Hollywood filmmaking -- is commonly dismissed as mere entertainment for shallow and stupid proles. Washington Post01/29/06

I have conflicting feelings about the premise of this book. While I agree that art has to be accessible, I stop short of believing it has to be "dumbed-down". I have enough life-experience to back-up my belief that people will (as a whole) only succeed to the level of another's expectations. That is true in business and education - therefore I believe it is also true in one's willingness to understand art. If you take the time to make your art accessible through explanation and exposure, mass intellectual understanding will follow.

This ties-in pretty well with my last post, because James Carey's book "allows" for bad popular culture as an artform - it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the snobbish elitism he finds distasteful. While I agree it is a trend bordering on (bad) art, I disagree that this is the best way to reach the masses.

Similarly, while Bush's "No Child Left Behind" is an utter failure. I believe it is a failure due to the fact that it wants everyone to go slower inorder to be on the same page, intellectually. I propose a "No Patron Left Behind" attitude by contemporary artists. Rather than slowing everyone down to grasp an art movement like "clich├ęd cowboy realism" - the artists can educate (up) and enlighten to the multi-layered messages of their more contemporary works. - DN

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that you and Carey start an age-old argument on what is good culture, and what is art's purpose in it. I think most of the educated world makes dumb people and assumes that they are smarter than those dumb people to satisfy their desire to be superior to others. Hence elitist attitudes destroy common art. Example: In 1860's, the mining town of Virginia City, Montana territory, one of the first things built was the opera house. Opera??? It was the common man's love in the 19th century yet; by the 1920's it becomes elitist. Why? Too many foreign words for the common man to understand was that the problem? After all they did usually speak more than one language. You have to wear a tux to go to it? You must spend a lavish amount of money for good entertainment? Bullshit, it was to isolate from the common people the joys of something that the elite adopted as only educated people should be worthy of, and they lost interest. Some bunch of "Artists" wanted to say that for the masses it would have to be dumbed down? Art is not for elite people to sit around and give a grandiose and good art should be something that all people can take something from. Be it interpretations of life's struggle with god, or just good pictures of something beautiful.