Wednesday, December 15, 2010

[reusing old graphics]




From the paper [see the link on the side of the page]

Again: the problem isn’t one of Analytic or Continental philosophy any more than one of (academic) left or right. The problem is philosophy itself: the placing of ideas over their enactment. If in the beginning was the word, then our world begins with God. If in the beginning was the act, then it begins with us. The Derridean critique of Logocentrism is little more than a critique of those who would be speak before their maker. Derrida is an exegete for whom secular literature is parasitic . Even when he could have been direct and to the point, as in his dismemberment more than deconstruction of John Searle’s arguments, in the essays published in Limited Inc , his indirectness shows as little more than the false modesty of an ostentatiously self-deprecating priest, constantly referring to a higher authority. His ‘performance’ as an author reminds me of my mother’s painfully deferential attitude when playing Bach; painful precisely because of her refusal to perform, as if to do so would be to usurp his authority. Derrida’s philosophy is as opposed to art as is any other form of Modernist intellectualism. How does his whispering discussion of “…the other” fit with the vulgar realities of theater or law? If an actor plays Macbeth, a fictional character, written by William Shakespeare, where’s the self? Can you imagine the theater reviews of Derridean passivity as applied to Hamlet? Deconstruction is nothing but the manifestation of hypertrophied individualism, overdetermined and under analyzed, glossed-over by the sincere desire to be something more. And sincerity is like intention, meaningless. Better the powerful insincerity of Olivier or a trial lawyer at the bar. Better philosophically, better politically.

The contemporary “theory of art”, if not of literature, music or film, begins not with art but with philosophy, with an individualism that’s foreign to the arts. The aristocratic arts have become bureaucratized to match the intellectual aristocracy of management. It was popular until recently in art/intellectual circles to argue against “mastery”, not against mindless technique in favor of communicative skill –not against Jazz fusion and for Charlie Parker or against Yes and for the Clash- but against craft as such in favor of the moral and intellectual mastery of ideas and the mind. And this bookish authoritarianism when allied to the pretensions of the academic bourgeois, left and middle, was called truth. th. In the acknowledgements of her intellectual biography of Clement Greenberg aptly titled ‘Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses , Caroline A. Jones thanks Benjamin Buchloh, historian, critic, and theoretician of high-seriousness in contemporary art, for his “stimulating aperçu regarding the ‘administrative sensibility’ of post-Greenbergian conceptual art.” It’s left at that.
It should be clear by now my point is that craft is less individualist than reason, whether the reason of the analytics or of the craftiness of theory, though as I’ve said, foreign thought is less translated than transliterated. And its readership is barely more sophisticated than Donald Davidson in his arguments against “conceptual schemes”. Americans are naïve about themselves. European socialists and social democrats are not American liberals and the writings of academics enamored of French theory are no more French than Johnny Hallyday is Elvis. Middle class Europe took working class America and made it sophisticated, removing the vulgarity. American middle class vulgarity takes European sophistication and replicates it in the university and mall. American theory is bureaucratized and humorless, self-indulgent and childish. It’s anti-cultural. Derrida was engaged as the product of culture. He was a priest. The argument against him, and its damning, is that he’s trying to use the language of the high church, or the high temple, to describe democratic responsibility, trying to reconcile a univocal God with a multivocal world. But the moral law of democracy says that meanings don’t come from God, or from above, but from below.
The aristocratic arts can’t represent or defend democracy any more than science can. Which is why in Europe unlike the US the aristocratic tradition still plays a role. The model of the intellectual as Bourgeois-Anti-Bourgeois or of the high and low against the middle, includes elements that are both radical and reactionary, and people are unafraid to criticize the banalities of democratic culture as they see it. This doesn’t happen so openly in the US and when it does, the superiority of the aristocrat, flaneur, or connoisseur is transformed into the snobbery of the technocrat and expert, even the expert in French theory. The insouciance of the boulevardier becomes the pedantry of middle management.
What is pure art according to the modern idea? It is the creation of an evocative magic, containing at once the object and the subject, the world external to the artist and the artist himself.

What is Philosophical Art according to the ideas of Chenavard and the German school? It is a plastic art which sets itself up in place of books, by which I mean as a rival to the printing press in the teaching of history, morals and philosophy.
-Baudelaire
Our works will not be judged for what we want from them but for what they appear be in others’ eyes. Numbers model but language represents. Formal structures can be tightly structured but their relation to the world is fluid. The authors of the Constitution understood that. Foucault understood that more than Derrida. The American intellectualism of bureaucracy, of theory and philosophy, of Social Text and Quine, doesn’t understand it at all.


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Monets sell high at auction because they’re pretty not because they’re important, which is not to say that they aren’t both. Warhol sells for glamour not for terror, though their relation was his theme. That’s how the market for valuable commodities works. ...

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