the self-criticism of self-criticism
Post #457 • January 19, 2005, 6:55 AM • 24 Comments
I posted this as a comment on the Dorsch post from last week, but thought it might qualify as an independent piece. Here it is again, worked up a bit.
Good art has always used self-criticism.
Traditional artists used self-criticism to achieve the imitation of nature and good design, which many cultures thought to exist as two aspects of a single trait.
Modernist artists directed self-criticism at the process of art-making, discarding many of the assumptions of traditional artists and demonstrating that one could make good art without them.
Postmodernist artists directed self-criticism at the culture of art-making, discarding many of the assumptions of Modernist artists. Modernist artists had so few assumptions, however, that eliminating them removed the basis by which one might see art as good or not.
In the next phase, artists will direct self-criticism at self-criticism. Postmodernism, having arrived at baselessness, demonstrates by its excesses that some assumptions have value. Artists of the next phase will see worth in the conventions, because they will see them as having life.
Flatboy challenged this with: "If our assumptions are the basis for seeing art as good or not we are in trouble. Art does not proceed according to assumptions. Only theory does that." I agree. The assumptions are a side-effect, and I overstated it when I said that they removed the basis by which one might see art as good or not. Evaluating quality is intrinsic to human functioning and no theory will ever be powerful enough to stop it. But to the extent that contemporary art relies on infinitely fluid standards in order to find philosophical justification, the above statement remains true on some level. Whether properly belonging to the category of Pomo or not, the legacy comes from that realm.
Why is it that nearly every culture at every time produces art? Why is it that nearly every religion counsels against greed? Why is it that fine cooking from any ethnic group combines intensely flavored, low-nutrition materials with bland, high-nutrition materials? I think we will find that culture is not an arbitrary construct but instead relates to physical, perhaps spiritual facts about the world and the humans who live in it. In the meantime, I intend to proceed as if these relationships were already proven. I feel them to be true.