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An open letter to Jake Chapman

Post #955 • February 9, 2007, 10:02 AM • 43 Comments

Dear asstard,

Andrew Sullivan linked to a recent review of your work by Johann Hari, who noted,

At times, [you and your brother] offer up a mythical pure, pristine past, before reason supposedly contaminated the world. Jake Chapman says, for example, we shouldn't think of the sun through "any kind of enlightenment notion of photon particles being useful". No: we should, like premodern tribes who died at the age of thirty of diseases they did not understand, "start thinking about the sun as a kind of excessive, catastrophic energy." You can see this mentality in The Chapman Family Collection, their fake African tribal artifacts which the viewer gradually realises are modelled on Ronald McDonald and his friends. We are supposed to lament the contrast between their 'authenticity' and our 'fakeness'.

His point caught my attention because I recently considered a specialty of mathematics to demonstrate the sorry state that the art world has devolved into. You see, no human pursuit continues forward without standards. The famous end of the contemporary art market shucked most of the useful ones inherent to art, and consequently, it has become vulnerable to influence by amoral, corrupted impulses like consumerism and intellectual laziness. Nature abhors a vacuum, but apparently any hot air will do to fill it. In the case I was referring to, a writer used topology - at least, a version thereof seemingly gleaned from the non-mathematical portions of its Wikipedia entry, maybe even just the pictures - as a metaphor for the usual deconstructionist nonsense of category-blending and hierarchy-inverting and whatnot. It was a new analogy for an old set of aims. It also turned topology, a provable, rigorous enterprise, into slush.

As it happens, Harvard reported soon afterwards that one Dmitri Tymoczko, a composer-in-residence at the university last year, developed a method for mapping music that uses a topological object called an orbifold. I won't pretend to know what an orbifold is - Wikipedia defines it as "a generalization of a manifold," and hilarity ensues - but Tymoczko built a convincing demonstration around one that shows that pleasing combinations of notes share a common mathematical space. It became the first paper on music theory accepted by Science magazine in 127 years of publishing. I reacted with acute envy, because art theory's attempt to pull in topolgy was so bogus by comparison.

So I was already wondering if a phenomenon that I characterized as pathetic and problematic was actually more pernicious. Back to Hari:

But ditching the Enlightenment quickly leads to even darker places than this. The Chapmans' intellectual hero is Georges Bataille, the French writer and (anti-)philosopher who was obsessed with moments of "transgression", when the "prison" of the Enlightenment could be left behind. And these glorious moments? They mostly consist of torture. He lauded the Marquis de Sade... Jake Chapman echoes his hero. He talks about the "libidinal pleasure" that comes from seeing a real picture of a real person being tortured, because of the "transgression of the ethics that that image is supposed to trigger or incite". A few years ago he was asked in the Papers of Surrealism: "Does Battaille's formulation of the conception of transgression relate to the way that work like your own is sometimes suggested as being part of a necessary force?" He replied: "Yes - a good social service like the children who killed Jamie Bulger."

I had to look it up. I wasn't pleased by what I found. I won't link to it - Jamie was a British two-year-old who was killed by a couple of ten-year-olds.

Hari rather brilliantly outlines how one of Battaille's top pupils, Foucault, became an admirer of Ayatollah Khomeni, and how this lapse is "the culmination of his life's work dismantling reason. Why shouldn't premodernism and postmodernism come together in the face of a common foe?" Bringing it back to your art, he continues:

The Chapmans inhabit the same fetid dead-end. Jake has described the international opposition to the Taliban blowing up ancient Buddhist sculptures as "strange", describing it with bland semi-admiration as the "live, vital religious opposition to something that has a direct and local meaning to them".

If there's a body of work that deserves the application of several tons of dynamite, it's yours, not the Bamiyan Buddhas. At any rate, The Independent generously printed your response to Hari:

What a cheap fat-faced ugly four-eyed shot. Cheaper still because a lazy editor saw fit to allow a journalist to sling words like "fascist" around and permit shoddy thoughtcrimes to stand as journalism? Oh yes you did!

Anyway, we'll bump into each other, I'm sure.

I have only ever previously heard accusations of "thoughtcrimes" come from the fictional totalitarian government in Orwell's 1984. Apparently you believe that thoughts against your work are impermissible. That's disgusting, but the "shoddy" thing also sounded a bit familiar. When I laid responsibility for the hypercommercialization of the art world at the feet of people who assault standards, a noted art critic, someone whose work has been anthologized, responded thusly:

What?? Why? What have you been taking up north? C'mon boy. You used to be more careful with your arguments.

Take care.

They even look similar, now that I see them paired. I guess the emotions that accompany culpability are universal.

You see, some us cannot silently countenance the aesthetic and philosphical outrages perpetrated in the name of contemporary art, but fighting them is like punching a hill of meringue. You and yours are entrenched. Even a notable professional setback, such as your delicious loss of the Turner Prize to Grayson Perry, is nothing you can't salve by rubbing your art world earnings on the wound. I worry for myself though, because in light of the Tymoczko article and others, I look longingly over at other fields and bristle at the pandemic rot in my own. That first topology article I mentioned appeared in a magazine published by the College Art Association, and it also featured a piece that ran a semiotic analysis on the life of Ghandi. The man's actual life. It was one of the most offensive things I've ever seen, treating the biography of the author of the Satyagraha movement as if it were a prolonged performance piece. Vile projects like that are normal, and even lucrative. I'm the weirdo saying that maybe it's not okay while I line up my next side job.

Frankly, I'm still exhausted from Art Basel/Miami Beach, and next week, heaven help me, I'm going to the annual conference of the College Art Association to look for teaching work. I won't lie to you - it occurs to me at times to give up on art. I experience ferocious episodes of self-criticism in which I look over my entire visual and written output and say, Meh, and why bother. But no matter to what extent the art world becomes dominated by sophists, charlatans, fashionistas, and idiots like yourself, it still has a place for brave humanists like Hari, and maybe it has a place for me too.

Take care.

Comment

1.

Jack

February 9, 2007, 11:02 AM

I completely agree, Franklin, but as you note, any hint of discomfort or unease on the part of the Chapmans (and analogous types) will quicky be suppressed by a big sale to a "major" collector, or some fawning opportunistic institutional type, or some with-it-unto-death art scribe.

The above, of course, presupposes people like the Chapmans actually have the capacity to entertain the possibility of being anything less than an unadulterated boon to mankind. Delusion, fueled by fame and material success, is a mighty potent drug that can keep all sorts of troubling considerations at bay.

I'm all for calling these people what they are, and I certainly reject them, but I wonder if it's worth paying them that much attention. Yes, they're noxious, but cold indifference and disdain may be a better way to go.

2.

I Don't Buy It

February 9, 2007, 12:25 PM

What an interesting post, I started off disagreeing, I was then confused, followed by pissed off and then I thought I understood and then I didn't.

I now think the Chapman's should live with the Taliban for awhile, see how their ideas and figurative work is accepted....their hands would be cut off in a few hours....then send them to Iran for awhile. Then on to a maximum security prison for some real good old transgressive ass reaming and sado masochistic fun.

All their smoke and mirrors looks good as words on paper, and I'm sure Mr. Edgy Art Collector eats it up.

I don't buy it.

Franklin don't be discouraged.
I think you read to much.
Turn off your computer.
Look out your window.
Wake up before the sun rises.
The contemporary art world is like a scab, the more you pick at it, the more it bleeds, eventually leading to infection and amputation.

3.

opie

February 9, 2007, 12:43 PM

The art world is a freak show. It's too bad. I know how you feel.

4.

wwc

February 9, 2007, 1:01 PM

Amen. Transgression for its own sake is sick. The sleep of reason produces monsters.

5.

8675309

February 9, 2007, 1:31 PM

"The contemporary art world is like a scab, the more you pick at it, the more it bleeds, eventually leading to infection and amputation."

I generally try to avoid reading any art criticism in general for these reasons. It's my uninformed opinion that critics and the market place in general leads to more bad art than original or good art.

Am I wrong to think that?

Sure I might read a review of a show to get a sense of whether it's worth attending, but generally speaking I like to have my own reactions to art less impacted by outside opinions.

Though I do read a lot of Artist biographies to try and understand where their art is coming from. But critics, I have no time for.

6.

catfish

February 9, 2007, 1:38 PM

Now now folks. A while back George likened the current art scene to the delta of a large river. Many of us liked the idea, not because we liked the situation, but because the metaphor is an apt one.

There is a common saying that "the cream rises to the top". Imagine a million pounds of raw milk dumped into George's delta. The cream would not disappear, but I would challenge anyone to find it. That is our situation today. It isn't really corruption. It is simply dissipation. That may be worse than corruption because dissipation cannot be fought. It simply must be endured.

7.

Jack

February 9, 2007, 2:22 PM

The Chapmans are brazenly full of it, which is bad enough, but what's much worse is that so many people fall for it or buy into it. It's a kind of "perversity chic" posture, and it's beyond bogus.

8.

Marc Country

February 9, 2007, 2:49 PM

You had me at "asstard", Franklin.

9.

David Thompson

February 10, 2007, 12:59 PM

Hi people.

I briefly touched on Jake Chapman's hissy fit over here. Strip away the preposterous theorising and what's left is very often glorified kitsch. I happen to like kitsch, but I don't think of it as great art. Maybe that's because kitsch isn't likely to affirm anything or redefine the possible.

10.

George

February 10, 2007, 2:27 PM

More on music

11.

John

February 11, 2007, 8:47 PM

The Chapmans inhabit the same fetid dead-end. Jake has described the international opposition to the Taliban blowing up ancient Buddhist sculptures as "strange", describing it with bland semi-admiration as the "live, vital religious opposition to something that has a direct and local meaning to them".

At the heart of extreme postmodernism is a nihilism, a yearning for the abyss. It is a voice which rejoices in destruction.

12.

A.T.

February 12, 2007, 8:13 AM

F. I got to this post a little late. The problem here is your proclivity to become didactic (or moralizing) when dealing with aesthetic matters (careful! it's a slippery slope used by fanatics of all persuasions). My point: I can still read Heidegger’s philosophy, admire Speer’s architectural gift or enjoy some of Wagner’s music even if I dislike them as individuals.
Take care,

13.

MC

February 12, 2007, 10:59 AM

Yeah Franklin, give it up. There's no sense in being didactic or moralizing to people who refuse to learn, and have no shame.

14.

opie

February 12, 2007, 12:44 PM

AT and MC are saying two different things.

MC is saying that is is futile to make a fuss about people who refuse to learn and have no shame. I can agree with that, even though I don't practice it very well myself.

AT is saying that one should not moralize when it comes to esthetic matters, and that it is possible to like the art of people you do not like. This may be true, but it is not what Franklin was doing. Franklin was taking issue with what Chapman said. This is anything but a "slippery slope used by fanatics". The comparison is illogical and misleading.

15.

Franklin

February 12, 2007, 12:54 PM

AT, I don't know what the point of your point is. Are you sharing with us your forgiveness for personal failings when it comes to creative efforts? Are you saying I don't have this quality myself? Did you want to discuss this for some reason? We can, but I'm not sure how that addresses anything above.

I'm going to assert that "didactic (or moralizing)" really just means that something I wrote aroused your aversion to judgment. If that's not the case, then let's examine whether something I wrote is wrong, and then we can consider tone.

16.

ahab

February 12, 2007, 8:25 PM

#12 - Sorry, whose "proclivity to become didactic (or moralizing) when dealing with aesthetic matters"?

17.

A.T.

February 13, 2007, 9:51 AM

Let’s leave it as it is now. Perhaps a future exchange will give us reasons to be clearer.

18.

opie

February 13, 2007, 10:42 AM

Yeah, don't make anything clear. I guess that's "transgressive" or some such, very "now".

19.

Jack

February 13, 2007, 10:50 AM

Not to mention very convenient.

20.

MC

February 13, 2007, 1:20 PM

MC is saying that is is futile to make a fuss about people who refuse to learn and have no shame. I can agree with that, even though I don't practice it very well myself.

That's a good point, Opie, but that's not all.

Being "didactic" simply means being engaged in communication "designed or intended to teach", "intended to convey instruction and information as well as pleasure and entertainment," or possibly even "making moral observations ." And "moralizing" as we know, simply means "to explain or interpret morally", or "to make moral reflections".

Leveling these neutral descriptions as some sort of vague pejorative accusation, as if morally relective, informative writing itself is "the problem here", is senseless (and, seemingly, wrongly relies on presuming that to identify someone's "problem" isn't itself inherently "didactic" and "moralizing").

Of course, Chapman's description of his own work as "a good social service like the children who killed Jamie Bulger" is itself didactic and moralizing; only, it communicates bad information, and bad ethics. The proper response, for sensible people, is to counter it with good information, and good ethics.

As Franklin does in the above post.

Being didactic (or moralizing) is a way of communicating that is open to anyone. But, to people who "refuse to learn, and have no shame", there simply can be no discernible sense in it, whether in the giving, or the receiving.

21.

opie

February 13, 2007, 3:05 PM

Yes, MC, and it is not very cool, all that didacticizing and moralizing. What's cool is to hear someone approve of murdering children and not get all "fanatic" about it.

22.

Katie

February 13, 2007, 7:01 PM

How very disturbing. I remember reading about the Jamie Bulger murder some years ago in the New Yorker. This wasn't just any murder- the details were so horrifying I has trouble sleeping for weeks after reading the article. (I did have children close in age to Jamie at the time.)

The only previous knowledge I had of the Chapmans were ads in the art magazines of those dolls with penis noses- vaguely revolting, and not anything that made me want to learn more about their work. But the comment, "a good social service like the children who killed Jamie Bulger" isn't something I can make any sense of, which ever way I consider it. Was it perhaps an attempt at self-denigrating sarcasm?

23.

Jack

February 13, 2007, 7:43 PM

It was an attempt at a fashionably "trangressive" and oh-so-cutting-edge pose. These grotesquely overrated jerks may not be smart or insightful enough to think through the implications of what they're so blithely spewing, and it's all done largely for effect anyway--aimed at the pathetic idiots susceptible to being impressed by such vile drivel. Unfortunately, the idiots are anything but scarce.

24.

Franklin

February 13, 2007, 11:46 PM

Let’s leave it as it is now. Perhaps a future exchange will give us reasons to be clearer.

Aversion to judgment it is then. What occasion do you await?

25.

Bunny Smedley

February 14, 2007, 5:14 AM

Was it perhaps an attempt at self-denigrating sarcasm?

I don't think so, Katie (although I entirely sympathise with the rest of your post) - I don't think the Chapman brothers 'do' self-denigrating.

More likely, the Bulger comment was a cynical and indeed rather desperate exercise in attention-seeking. The Chapman brothers know the British media well enough (do Goldsmith's do a course on media management now?) to realise that while it's difficult to get anyone in these islands very excited about either blasphemy or obscenity, there's nothing like a tortured, murdered child to gain those vital column-inches in the tabloids. (C.f. Marcus Harvey's admittedly much more ambiguous image of child-killer Myra Hindley, which caused considerable uproar when 'Sensation' was shown in London - whereas Chris Ofili's 'Holy Virgin Mary' garnered much more attention when the circus, err, show transferred to New York.)

This would hardly be worth mentioning, were it not for the odd fact that the Bulger comments have really received remarkably little attention here, despite the appearance of Johann Hari's excellent article in a British paper. Is it too much to hope that even the British press has got bored of having its buttons pushed by these two talent-free, charmless, actually quite sick self-promoters?

And yet work by the Chapman brothers is held by all sorts of major institutions here, and they receive the sort of semi-serious critical attention for which plenty of real artists, labouring away on producing far better stuff, would be all too grateful.

For all those reasons, I am very much of two minds about how to deal with provocations like this one. In general I tend to go along with what Jack wrote at (1), suspecting that the 'cold indifference and distain' he mentions is perhaps a better response to venal nastiness like this, as opposed to Franklin's obviously very real anger, if only because, well, there's a level at which any publicity is probably good publicity and the last thing one wants to do is to reward these people by giving them what they want.

And yet Franklin's open letter reminds me how good the alternative can be. It is not as if I think it's going to make any difference to the Chapman brothers, who are probably past earthly redemption, or to the many, many others in Britain and elsewhere who think along similar lines. There are, after all plenty of people out there who have been bullied into believing that callousness, cynicism and cruelty are somehow much more contemporary and fun than alternatives such as kindness, morality and plain old good manners. If you don't believe this, try watching television comedy, reading 'humour' in the broadsheets or - well, looking at a lot of 'successful' contemporary art. So the Chapmans are reflecting the zeitgeist as much as they are shaping it.

No, I think the real benefit of Franklin's post is the way it reminds us that not everyone thinks the way the Chapman brothers do. Much of the logic of this whole aesthetic of nastiness is the typical playground bullying one - 'if you don't think this stuff is funny, if you don't get the joke, then you're an uncool outsider and we don't want to play with you'. As Franklin put it 'I'm the weirdo saying that maybe it's not okay while I line up my next side job.' But of course it isn't okay, and even at this late date, it feels really good to be remember that there's another way of looking things- that those of us who don't think child murder is funny aren't completely alone.

To paraphrase MC at (20), what we really have is choices between different ethical systems. Judgement is unavoidable.

(And sorry, as ever, for the long post.)

26.

opie

February 14, 2007, 7:07 AM

Bunny, your excellent (as ever) post would have been just a tad shorter without the unnecessary apology for its length.

27.

Jack

February 14, 2007, 11:00 AM

The true obscenity here is that it is indeed possible for the likes of the Chapmans to get so far and do so well in the current art world. That is the true scandal, which is a far greater indictment of said world and its dubious denizens than of the Chapmans themselves--who are merely brazen charlatans able to manipulate or deceive people who are virtually begging for it.

The issue isn't really the calculated and heavy-handed shock tactics and "transgressive" twaddle, which is just so much cheap visual and verbal theatrics, but rather, as always, the quality of the art--the absence of which could hardly be more obvious. The Chapmans are not the problem; their enablers are.

28.

George

February 14, 2007, 11:11 AM

Bunny said,
So the Chapmans are reflecting the zeitgeist as much as they are shaping it.
I would add ‘pandering’ and ‘exploiting’ to this, which are characteristics of sensationalism. It does appear that the zeitgeist is in a Marquis de Sade phase and it would be an interesting bit of research to understand the reasons behind this.

...I am very much of two minds about how to deal with provocations like this one... (paraphrasing…)
(1) 'cold indifference and disdain'
(2) Franklin's obviously very real anger,

I would add...
(3) Make it intellectually unfashionable, which is obviously a more complex program to undertake.

In order to make a philosophical idea intellectually unfashionable, it must be replaced with another viewpoint. Sokal, a physicist, and Douglas, an English professor at ufl, have attempted to expose the flaws existing in the journals of current intellectual fashion, but have done so only by adopting its mode of incomprehensibility which fails to offer an intellectual rebuttal. I am willing to believe that regardless of whether or not the Chapman brothers reflect the current zeitgeist or not, they have been able to successfully sway some sector of curatorial thought primarily because no better or compelling proposals have been advanced.

To digress for a moment, Franklin’s reference to "corrupted impulses like consumerism and intellectual laziness" makes a point but offers no solution. I suspect that if this "consumerism" was adapted more to ones taste, less would be said. It is not actually consumerism which is the problem but the manner in which the ‘product’ is marketed. What I might call ‘errant consumerism’, the consumption of artworks of lesser quality (using whatever definition for ‘quality’ you desire) seems to be a characteristic of the marketplace throughout modern history. In other words, for whatever reasons, a considerable amount of money gets spent on ‘lesser’ artworks and this must be considered a condition of the marketplace rather than necessarily a form of validation.

Marketing is directed, in part, towards the collectors with a desire to be on the ‘cutting edge’. Their reasons do not matter, it is personally and psychologically driven, and no amount of complaint about the ‘state of criticism’ addresses their issues, to the contrary it reinforces their apparent sense of closeness to the edge, the embracement of controversy.

In order to affect a philosophical change, new arguments must be set forth, arguments which have some basis in reason and which take into account both the cultural and scientific evolution which has occurred over the last thirty years. The Continental theories in philosophy, and by osmosis, both art and literary criticism are long in the tooth and rapidly degrading towards nonsense. I would find it surprising if the intelligentsia has not begun questioning this course of discourse, which they have.

The new arguments must be both compelling and interesting, they must capture the imagination of the public and move to the edge. I believe this is presently occurring in a substrata of intellectual thought. It is being driven by what I am going to suggest is the most revolutionary area of intellectual inquiry and research since Einstein 100 years ago.

The combined areas of cognitive psychology and neuroscience are revealing for the first time quantifiable and testable information on how the mind works. Science is revealing how we perceive the world and therefore obviously includes how we perceive art. As a point of philosophical departure it is more relevant, more interesting, more exciting and more directed at revealing the truth, than anything the postmodernist have offered in thirty years of intellectual speculation.

The advancements in this area of research have rapidly gained ground only in the last ten years as new scientific tools became available to facilitate the studies. Recent articles in the NY Times on ‘mirror neurons’ and the function of the insula are examples of how recent research (last 5-10 years) has opened new frontiers into understanding the mind. The application of these ideas are starting to applied to area of aesthetics, notably at Harvard and at Washington University in Saint Louis.

For those interested in reading more on this, I would recommend the TheEdge.org website. Curiously, the Edge is an evolution of an idea started by the artist James Lee Byers. It is a form of digital Salon, bringing together eminent thinkers in all fields. If you do not already know about it, it’s worth a look.

29.

opie

February 14, 2007, 11:51 AM

George, I think the only to get at "what art is all about" is to study it as behavior, from the viewpoint of neurology and anthropology, and I am working on something of this nature with a cultural anthropogist and an esthetic neurologist.

I feel confident that something meaningful can come of this but I am not so naive as to think that the art world will be affected or changed one bit.

30.

Jack

February 14, 2007, 11:52 AM

George says the Chapmans "have been able to successfully sway some sector of curatorial thought primarily because no better or compelling proposals have been advanced."

I agree with the first part, which is beyond dispute, but certainly not with the second. If anyone really believes there's nothing better out there than what the Chapmans are peddling, well, just forget about living artists altogether. It's simply NOT true. What is true is that there are all too many people in positions of influence who, for whatever twisted reasoning, have seen fit to enable the likes of the Chapmans. It may amount to the same thing in terms of results, but it is not the same.

31.

George

February 14, 2007, 12:29 PM

Jack,
My point was not that there is nothing better out there, just that current critical thought has not offered a convincing counterpoint in support of it. This should not be construed to mean that I believe there is no convincing counterpoint, quite the contrary.

Opie,
My sense is that you are too pessimistic regarding whether or not "something meaningful can come of this". My argument would be that the history of philosophical ideas is mutable, that points of view change. Part of this maybe primarily due to disagreement of the younger thinkers who are looking to carve a bit of territory out for themselves. Certainly, any philosophy which ends up in producing nonsense in the endgame is vulnerable for deprecation and I believe this is the case with postmodernism. It is clear to me that the postmodern program is falling into disrepute with more and more of today’s advanced thinkers in all fields. What remains to be fully fleshed out are the counter proposals based on the most recent research into the nature of human experience. I suspect that the line of inquiry will include the culture as well. Dawkins made a stab at this with his proposal of the "meme" as an evolutionary unit of culture. I looked into the idea and find it interesting but essentially cumbersome and ineffective for adequately describing the problem of how culture evolves, at least in the form originally presented.

32.

opie

February 14, 2007, 1:06 PM

I was not pessimistic about "something meaningful" coming out of my efforts, George. In fact I am quite optimistic about it. However, I am very pessimistic - to the point of not really caring - about the effect it might have on the art world.

The "problem of how culture evolves" must first be atttacked by actually investigating it. There is a masterful study of this - "The rare art traditions : the history of art collecting and its linked phenomena wherever these have appeared" by Joseph Alsop - and Ellen Dissanayake is doing anthropological research on the prehistoric origins of art, but this work is only a beginning.

33.

Jack

February 14, 2007, 4:23 PM

George, current critical thought, such as it is, has never offered even remotely convincing support of work such as that of the Chapmans, certainly not to me. The fact so many have fallen for this glorified offal has little or nothing to do with convincing arguments for it, since there are none. Of course, some people can be convinced of practically anything, no matter how ludicrous, but that's a matter of cognitive dysfunction, blindness, folly and/or an overwhelming desire to be "with it" at any cost.

34.

catfish

February 14, 2007, 5:44 PM

George has a point. There is something very missing in current critical thought, not to mention current art. Why nothing rushes in to fill the vacuum is a mystery to me. It underlines the emptiness.

35.

opie

February 14, 2007, 6:39 PM

There certainly is something missing, Catfish, but wondering why something does not rush into the supposed vacuum presupposes a desire for common sense. The art world is currently a kind of last ditch stand for much of the lunacy that has been exorcised from other areas of human thought. It is not a vacuum, it is a bag stuffed with bullshit.

36.

Jack

February 14, 2007, 6:57 PM

True, OP. As long as the vacuum is filled with something, even rank bullshit, there is, in fact, no vacuum--at least technically. That means that nature is pacified, so to speak, and heaven knows the rich idiots are. As long as they keep shelling out the money in large enough quantities, the system simply will not change significantly. It's like a fat, useless cat: if you keep feeding it, it's not about to change its lifestyle, even if it looks like a feline late Orson Welles.

37.

catfish

February 14, 2007, 7:17 PM

Opie and Jack, it seems more like empty to me, like a hummingbird feeder filled with saccharine water, though that is too kind of a metaphor. Bullshit is the negative analog to saccharine water, perhaps. Nothing of sustenance, in either case. And it is hard to believe whatever is there has any "filling" power. Yeah, think I'll stick with empty.

The Renaissance asserted that man is the measure of all things. This worked to the advantage of science, but as science ascended, thinking about things that cannot be measured has declined. But that relates more to art criticism than art itself.

38.

opie

February 14, 2007, 7:19 PM

Filled with bullshit and populated by dung beetles.

What use have they for enlightenment?

39.

Franklin

February 14, 2007, 7:26 PM

I have thought quite a bit about what comes next. Dawkins interests me as a devoted rationalist, and I've noticed that a lot of this so-called current critical thought dries up and blows away as soon as you apply some basic principles of evidence, causality, or any other expectation that conforms to reality. This is why, as AT demonstrated, clarity has to be deferred, indefinitely if possible - clarity works on "current critical thought" like garlic on vampires. For my part, for the fat lot of good it does, all I can do is demonstrate what it looks like when you use clarity and judement to talk about art, and hope that people will find it heartening and imitate it.

But Jack is right that the current climate will continue as long as money pours into it. On the other hand, there's more money in the art market than ever, and when markets enlarge, they have the opportunity to specialize. I'm hoping at some point it can develop a modernist or visual-quality niche, with its own ubercollectors. I don't see why that couldn't happen. There must be someone between Alice Walton and Mera Rubell out there.

40.

George

February 14, 2007, 9:22 PM

Franklin,

You said

"and I've noticed that a lot of this so-called current critical thought dries up and blows away as soon as you apply some basic principles of evidence, causality, or any other expectation that conforms to reality."

What so-called current critical thought are you referring to?

41.

ahab

February 14, 2007, 10:33 PM

I happen to know what comes next - what comes next are personal unapologetic statements declaring our judgments of right, wrong, better or best. The judgments have always occurred anyhow, but somehow it's as if we have been collectively brainwashed into thinking that we can't say what we think - unless we want to claim for our own one of those simplistic sanitized viewpoints so often found (or sold) in print media.

Good-on-ya! to everyone brave enough to stand upon their unique discernments, come what may. I have little doubt that if all people were to unabashedly call out their own actually-felt Good!'s, Great!'s or Lousy!'s the "sophists, charlatans, fashionistas, and idiots" couldn't measure an iota of marketable cachet between them. It is unfortunate that the "real artists" mentioned here and there in the comments above have so few Bunny's and Jack's to rely upon.

42.

thanks

February 16, 2007, 5:04 AM

A lot.

43.

david rohn

February 17, 2007, 10:11 AM

Sensationalism sells almost as well as sex.or gets attention too. So The Taliban is right to ban music and blow up ancient statues and the Enlightenment is a prison. W.ell ok maybe for some people.
But then they remind me of the Europeans and occaisional Miami kid whoo supports Fidel and / or Chavez and / or Ajeminabad(Iran-(spelling)) who wouldn t last a day in these societies unable to access the internet use an Ipod or see a movie from the outside world( with minor exception perhaps) To me they re like stupid rebelliious teenagers who understandably resent the flaws in our own enlightened but hideously cumbersome systems and probably long for the simplicity of these rigid and inhumane ones
It s telling that all these societies have armies that goose step.
And it s imporrtant to remember that a great many people simlpy can t handle the degree of freedom enjoyed by contemporary developed world democracies. They would no doubt be more comfortable in fundamentalist , superstitionist, fear based societies like those mentioned above, and not least the Taliban. Then they could have complete control over Women. grow long beards, ( not allowed to have short ones or none at all) execute people who listen to music , etc etc. If this is what these people llike then a society like ours must be absolute hell for them;- So we have to wonder why they torture themselves by remanining here.
I guess its the hope that by attacking the little that societies like ours hold sacred that they can attract attentiion ; frankly I find someone like Anna Nicole Smith - who (arguably) also suffered from an inability to manage a great degree of freedom) more interesting for how she used it in a loving, expansive and tolerant way than the idiots who react by rejection it intellectually and instead support rejection, intolerance, and destruction.
But hey to each his own and I m sure if they wanted to prove their sincerity by defecting to North Korea that they d get lots of attention for it .

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