Thursday, May 25, 2006

the unfortunate length of history

I enjoyed Mindsprinter's essay on honesty and generosity and dreaming this morning. Certainly she seems a lot closer to the truth than whatever is going on over at Winkelman. Though, I will say in general I think Ed's writing is really clear and his commenters spend a lot of time sorting thru this stuff with sharpened tools in the end I can't help but
think if the lady at the bus-stop or the guy fixing your washing machine doesn't respect it, then something is wrong. And there is lots wrong with society, including with artists. Remember those Scottish cattle farmers marveling over Andy Goldsworthy's work ? I can't really remember the last show I saw that had caught up with what Erazim Kohák writes about in the passage picked up here at Modern Kicks.

All of that is really to say, the intellectual advance that happened in our life-time was that :

Our direct awareness of nature as the meaningful context of our lives [...] presents itself spontaneously, without a subject's effort. If anything, it requires the very opposite: to suspend effort, to let be and listen, letting nature speak. In a real, though not a customary sense, it is what we mislabel "poetic imagination" that is, "objective," a spontaneous experiential given. It is our image of nature as dead and mechanical--and the image of the human as either a robot or a rebel--that is "subjective," a product of the subject's active imagination rather a given of live experience--and actually quite counterintuitive.
It's not that we use technology and it alienates us. Insight is not that artists are personalities now and we need to explain this. Insight is not that "modernism" failed, much less that all of our alienation needs to be prominently examined.

I've not read much of Kohák, but we find these sentiments throughout the better side of our discourse. The truly un-healthy obsession with the death of modernism lingers on and it is clear from the talk who has seen what replaces it and with whom only the shreds of the modernist project seem viable. Nature and beauty and experience seem boring to people dazzled by glossy magazines and Times Square. Art without celebrity seems like it must be a horrible alternative, like not being able to think big.

One time I was priveliged enough to visit the Warhol Museum on Carpatho-Ruthenian day and saw these old dancers still performing, with some flagging enthusiasm, their hundred year old dance from the far west of Slovakia. I wondered if the present day modernists would ever understand the "Everyone" part of the famous 15 minutes.

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