Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Corey Brettschneider: When the State Speaks, What Should It Say?

The book is here
How should a liberal democracy respond to hate groups and others that oppose the ideal of free and equal citizenship? The democratic state faces the hard choice of either protecting the rights of hate groups and allowing their views to spread, or banning their views and violating citizens' rights to freedoms of expression, association, and religion. Avoiding the familiar yet problematic responses to these issues, political theorist Corey Brettschneider proposes a new approach called value democracy. The theory of value democracy argues that the state should protect the right to express illiberal beliefs, but the state should also engage in democratic persuasion when it speaks through its various expressive capacities: publicly criticizing, and giving reasons to reject, hate-based or other discriminatory viewpoints.
Schools in a republic should teach the values of a republic. How is that new, except to those who imagine themselves practitioners of a value free science of politics? The accusation that liberals are "unwilling to take their own side in a fight" has never been applied to those who actually made the effort.  Another academic reinvention of the wheel, in the slow return to an acceptance of the role of individuals as members, and products, of a society.  More of the same

Brettschneider debates the relation of the the Catholic Church to the Westboro Baptist Church, as if any churches logically should be tax exempt.
With respect to the Catholic Church, I am not convinced that either its views on homosexuality or its position on female priests clearly opposes free and equal citizenship. The granting of non-profit status should be at issue only when there is no ambiguity as to whether a group opposes the ideals of free and equal citizenship. In the case of Westboro, there is clear opposition, since that church argues that gays deserve death. By contrast, a plausible argument can be made for the case that the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish groups do not oppose free and equal citizenship. [pdf p. 6 (790)]
Written by a man, and I have to assume he's straight.
---

Corey Robin
The latest issue of Hamas is now online, and it’s fantastic. I’m a contributing editor, so I’m biased. But I know I’m not alone in saying it’s one of the newest, freshest magazines around.
The theories of schoolteachers standing in for the thought of sophisticated people.  Jacobin marks the same transitions marked everywhere in contemporary culture, but it looks inward and backward, with the future as fantasy, rather than outward and forward with the future as subject.

The transitions in the Middle East and in Islam are historically extremely significant.  The thought of the ascendant world bourgeoisie is richer and more dynamic than the theorizing of the old western white intellectual elite, as the thought of American comedians and scriptwriters is more interesting than the philosophies of American academics who would call themselves intellectuals. Jacobin, like N+1 is provincial by comparison to both the New Yorker and Jadaliyya. Both picked the wrong time to feel proudly superior.

Zizek has written for Jacobin. He's written for Abercrombie and Fitch.  Repeats:  Jadaliyya on Zizek. Not to be too hard on him.  As with most people others look to for advice, his fans are worse than he is and his enemies by and large are worse than that.
Corey Robin
In deciding how to deploy those limited resources—whether they be time, money, effort—we’re compelled to answer the great questions of life: What do I value? What do I believe? What do I want in this life, in this world? (“Every man who, in the course of economic activity, chooses between the satisfaction of two needs, only one of which can be satisfied, makes judgments of value,” says Mises.) That decision must not only remain free; it must also remain mine. Most important of all, says the Austrian economist, it must remain a decision. Should what he calls the “economic situation” disappear from the human world, the disciplining agent of all ethical action—the necessity to choose among a limited set of options—would go with it. If our “ends dominate economy and alone give it meaning,” as Mises says, it’s also true, as Menger discovered, that economy alone is what gives our ends meaning. That, it seems to me, is the center of gravity of free-market economics.
Tom Slee
And once buying music is a signal, then it has to be costly. Part of the thing about finding the crappy little record store where you could actually buy the band of choice was taking the trek to find it, discovering a place where other people were, getting exposed to other potentially cool things. The difficulty was part of the thing. If a friend of mine got hold of a badly-recorded Pink Floyd bootleg, well that was a big deal. If the bootleg was available to everyone at no cost, there would have been no point even downloading it.

Thinking that cheap, high quality music is an improvement over rare, crappy quality music is the Wizzard fallacy: we don’t actually Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day because then it just wouldn’t be Christmas: the rarity is what matters. Making music free and widely available is a bit like making membership at an exclusive club free and widely available: it just robs the whole enterprise of its point.
Chris Bertram's response to Slee: "[Like!]"

Bertram again
New Left Project has a wonderful interview with Noam Chomsky on work, learning and freedom. It really brings out the more attractive anarchist side of Chomsky’s personality and politics. He’s particularly eloquent on the importance of spontaneous play for children’s development and how this is being crowded out in societies like ours (a theme, incidentally of James C. Scott’s recent Two Cheers for Anarchism. Recommended.
Commenter Z:
It’s more than 40 years but Chomsky hasn’t changed much of his philosophy since the 50s (as I happen to agree with most of anarchist philosophy myself, I don’t see this as a shortcoming
Chomsky's never known a day of freedom in his life; it's defined more than anything by a particularly driven sense of moral obligation. The shortcoming is that he hasn't changed his philosophy since the 50s. He sees no relation between his fantasies of his own objectivity and the personal/subjective foundation of his values; he argues through the fiction of disembodied reason.

Bertram
I’m not sure how this thread morphed into a discussion of David Graeber (a man with whom I don’t enjoy cordial relations as a result of the symposium on Debt that we held). However, I’m highly amused by some of the reactions, which are psychologically revealing about some of our commenters, if nothing else.

Those committed, for example, to economic neoliberalism frequently seek to illustrate and justify their beliefs by pointing to the acquisitive tendencies in “human nature” and to the way people behave in the market. People rarely say that this is weird or artificial. But when anarchists link their political beliefs to some widely acknowledged goods (the value of spontaneous play, mutual aid) this is somehow cheating, because others acknowledge those goods too?
Bertram, 1/14/12
I’m sympathetic, I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere). I suspect this generalizes to many people in professional jobs: we couldn’t achieve the kinds of things we want to in our careers on those kinds of hours.
The most important difference between Chomsky and Bertram is that Chomsky sees the necessity of living according to his principles, even if he's unwilling to face their origin. Bertram is the inheritor of those principles as ideas but not of the weight of the experience. He's like the spoiled child of a hard-working father whom he nonetheless looks up to.  Like the pathetic G.A. Cohen. Their logic is the legacy of Chomsky's rationalism; the legacy of modernism.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"What happens to all these stretch limousines that prowl the throbbing city all day long?"



Baudelaire

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

1997

"A Former Communist Thanks His Defenders A Team Of Phila. Lawyers Put Cold War Paranoia Aside And Took His Case. Last Night, They Reunited"
Today, at age 72, Sherman Labovitz is a respected academic, historian and social researcher, a professor emeritus at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey.

Forty-four years ago, Labovitz was a young husband and father, a World War II veteran eking out a living as a furniture salesman, and the most certain thing about his future was that it would likely include a stretch in prison.

The reason was that Sherman Labovitz was a Communist. Not an alleged Communist, but as then-U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy would have put it, a "card-carrying Communist."

Yesterday, Labovitz and five Philadelphia lawyers who defied the anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950s to defend him and his codefendants described for a rapt capacity crowd of more than 200 the terror and turmoil of those Cold War years and how their trial helped break the federal Smith Act prosecutions.

The reuniting of Labovitz and five members of the defense legal team - Charles C. Hileman 3d, John Rogers Carroll, Robert W. Sayre, Henry W. Sawyer and retired Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Edmund B. Spaeth Jr. - was sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association's Civil Rights Committee.

In 1953, the association, under the leadership of Bernard G. Segal, organized the unpopular defense of the nine Philadelphia Communists. The defense team was headed by Thomas D. McBride and included nine young lawyers recruited from the city's top law firms.

Spencer Coxe, then head of the city's fledgling chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who approached Segal about the need for a Bar Association-backed defense team, yesterday spoke of the ``prevailing attitude of paranoia in Philadelphia at the time. It's difficult to convey that to people who weren't around, the degree of panic and hysteria generated by the Cold War and by the demagogues who exploited it."
Charles C. Hileman 3d, John Rogers Carroll, Robert W. Sayre, Henry W. Sawyer [3rd], Judge Edmund B. Spaeth Jr: Philadelphia lawyers in every sense of the word, and to the manor born. Coxe wasn't a lawyer.

When the ACLU was more principled than it is today, it took no position on 2nd Amendment debates.

Friday, December 21, 2012

 "Tell [Ailes] if I ever ran … but I won't … but if I ever ran, I'd take him up on his offer."
...McFarland clarified the terms: "The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger's going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house"– 
Audio:
Carl Bernstein at Comment is Free:
So now we have it: what appears to be hard, irrefutable evidence of Rupert Murdoch's ultimate and most audacious attempt – thwarted, thankfully, by circumstance – to hijack America's democratic institutions on a scale equal to his success in kidnapping and corrupting the essential democratic institutions of Great Britain through money, influence and wholesale abuse of the privileges of a free press.

In the American instance, Murdoch's goal seems to have been nothing less than using his media empire – notably Fox News – to stealthily recruit, bankroll and support the presidential candidacy of General David Petraeus in the 2012 election.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Crooked Timber [sic] of humanity, 2004
The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”
"Short of deliberate genocide"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"I want Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick."
We insist that the University of Rhode Island take a strong stand for the values of academic freedom and freedom of speech, that it not be intimidated by an artificially whipped-up media frenzy, that it affirm that the protections of the First Amendment require our collective enforcement, and that all employers—particularly, in this kind of case, university employers—have a special obligation to see that freedom of speech become a reality of everyday life.
Loomis is an idiot.

The history: Rauchway and Farrell,
Brighouse and Bertram.
Brighouse: "I think there is a very strong case that hateful epithets can be distinguished and treated differently from propostional content, and do not merit protection under “the right to speak what one sees as the truth”. 
Bertram: "The right frame, in my view, is to think of the state as “we, the people” and to ask what conditions need to be in place for the people, and for each citizen, to play their role in effective self-government. Once you look at things like that then various speech restrictions naturally suggest themselves." 
Brighouse: "I would say, in fact, that the first amendment tradition has a terribly distorting effect on American public discussions of free speech."
No links. I'm done with it.
Repeat and ongoing; use google. The sources are all linked elsewhere at least once on this site.
The original shorter list is here

Harry Brighouse
I would say, in fact, that the first amendment tradition has a terribly distorting effect on American public discussions of free speech.
-I think there is a very strong case that hateful epithets can be distinguished and treated differently from propositional content, and do not merit protection under “the right to speak what one sees as the truth”.
-These relationships [between parents and children] are inegalitarian in deep ways. The parties to partial relationships can exclude others from the mutual benefits their association yields and have special responsibilities to one another that give them the right, and sometimes the duty, to further one another’s interests. To give scope to these relationships is to limit what may be done in pursuit of equality. Samuel Scheffler calls this observation (when made in an appropriately hostile manner) the ‘distributive objection’ to special responsibilities: ‘the distributive objection asserts that the problem with such responsibilities is not that they may place unfair burdens on their bearers, but rather that they may confer unfair benefits
-(I’m in favour, for various reasons, of allowing people to buy private care, but agree with engels that there are reasons to prohibit it; John is wrong to imply that there is nothing wrong with rich people buying care for themselves—indeed, one thing that is wrong is that they could be buying it, instead, for people who are less well off). 
Chris Bertram
-The right frame, in my view, is to think of the state as “we, the people” and to ask what conditions need to be in place for the people, and for each citizen, to play their role in effective self-government. Once you look at things like that then various speech restrictions naturally suggest themselves. 
(quoting/responding to se)
"Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."
If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right.
-First, I’m sympathetic, I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere)….  Second, it is all very well Juliet Schor telling us to transition to a low hours/lower consumption economy. I’m cool with consuming less. The problem is that I, and just about everyone else, has taken out huge mortgages and bank loans to pay (in part) for the consumption we’ve already had. Hard to reduce the hours unless (or until) the debt goes away. Third, there was distressingly little discussion of the politics of this.   
 Henry Farrell
I’ve suggested that academic freedom is a good thing on pragmatic grounds, but also made clear that it fundamentally depends on public willingness to delegate some degree of self-governance to the academy. If the public decides that academic freedom isn’t working out in terms of the goods it provides, then too bad for academic freedom.
Niamh Hardiman
‘We have faith in our citizens’ – why?
Mark Tushnet
Is the loss of meaning from paraphrase or restatement or statement (in the case of nonrepresentational art) small enough to make nonrepresentational art sufficiently similar to expository writing that it should be covered in the same way that such writing is?
Brian Leiter
Much, perhaps most, speech, in fact, has little or no positive value all things considered, so the idea that its free expression is prima facie a good thing should be rejected.And since the only good reasons in favor of a legal regime of generally free expression pertain to the epistemic reliability of regulators of speech, we should focus on how to increase their reliabilty, rather than assume, as so much of popular and even some philosophical discourse does, that unfettered speech has inherent value. If much of what I will henceforth call “non-mundane” speech were never expressed, little of actual value would be lost to the world—or so I will try to persuade you.
Joseph Raz
Most forms of legitimate partiality are more or less optional. We may be required to favour our children or friends, but it is up to us whether to have children or friends.
Apart from the other absurdities of his argument, most of us are still required to have parents.

Joseph Raz, interviewed
3:AM: Have you changed your mind about anything fundamental to your philosophical position during your time as a philosopher or has it been more a process of deepening and further discovery within a rather settled framework of thought? 
JR: For various reasons this is for me a difficult question. One is that I am not terribly interested in the question, and perhaps partly as a result, am often surprised when people point out, with actual quotations, what I wrote on some points in years past. One way in which I am sometimes surprised when confronted with previous writings is that I clearly remember that I felt tentative about this issue or that, and meant to express a partial or a tentative view only, and lo and behold: that is not how I wrote. I sound very definite. Have I changed my mind, or am I one of those people who tend to sound confident when they are not? But there are other difficulties with the question. 
Eric Rauchway
If Kramer’s report is accurate, you can see why the Columbia faculty got frustrated. They wanted Bollinger to offer a traditional defense of academic freedom, which goes something like this: Academic freedom predates free speech…. 
[Perhaps Bollinger] knows the history and sources of academic freedom, but he thinks it uncongenial to assert them in this anti-elitist day and age.
John Quiggin
The claims about Art criticised in Art, an Enemy of The People, are very similar to those made by most religions, namely that there is a special category of people (prophets or artists) and a special category of activities (Religion or Art) which yield transcendent insights into the human condition, and which should be accorded special privileges over other people and other ways of finding meaning and enjoyment in life.
G.A. Cohen quoted by Brighouse (his brackets)
It does seem to me that all people of goodwill would welcome the news that it had become possible to proceed otherwise [i.e. in ways that tapped into our nobler, rather than our more selfish, motives] perhaps, for example, because some economists had invented clever ways of harnessing and organizing our capacity for generosity toward others.
G. A. Cohen [my transcription]
The basic question is, if you have a salary -I don't want to say exactly what my salary is but obviously it's maybe two, three times the average wage in the society- and you don't believe that you ought to get all that, which I don't. Then you believe that you ought to sacrifice quite a lot of it which I don't -I give away some but not very much- and the explanation is that I'm a less good person than I would be if I were as good as I could be. You know I just think that I'm not a morally exemplary person that's all. That's the reconciliation.

...It's difficult to expect a person who lives in a particular social niche to depress the circumstances of himself and his family below a certain level even for the sake of principles that he sincerely affirms.

...I wrote a book called "If you're an Egalitarian How Come You're so Rich?" And the final chapter discusses fourteen reasons people give for not giving away their money when they're rich but they profess belief in equality, twelve of which are, well, rubbish. I think there are two reasonable answers that a person who doesn't give too much of it away can give and one of them has to do with the burden of depressing yourself below the level of your peer group with whom you're shared a certain way of life; and in particular, depriving your children of things that the children around them favor. And also, and slightly separately, the transition from being wealthy to being not wealthy at all can be extremely burdensome and the person who has tasted wealth will suffer more typically from lack of it than someone who's had quote unquote the good fortune never to be wealthy and therefore has built up the character and the orientation that can cope well with it.
Corey Robin
Why would a liberal opposed to the Hobbesian vision of absolute power resort to such a Hobbesian style of argument? Because Montesquieu, like Hobbes, lacked a positive conception of human ends, true for all people, in which to ground his political vision. Montesquieu’s liberalism was not the egalitarian liberalism of the century to come, nor was it the conscience-stricken protoliberalism of the century it had left behind. Unlike Locke, whose argument for toleration was powered by a vision of religious truth, and unlike later figures such as Rousseau or Mill, whose arguments for freedom were driven by secular visions of human flourishing, Montesquieu pursued no beckoning light. 
Pierre Bourdieu
…What I find it difficult to justify is the fact that the extension of the audience [made possible by television] is used to legitimate the lowering of the standards of entry into the field. People may object to this as elitism, a simple defense of the citadel of big science and high culture, or even an attempts to close out ordinary people (by trying to close off television to those who with their honoraria and their and showy lifestyles, claim to be representative of ordinary men and women, on the pretext that they can be understood by these people and will get high audience ratings). In fact, I am defending the conditions necessary for the production and diffusion of the highest human creations. To escape the twin traps of elitism and demagoguery we must work to maintain or even to raise the requirements for the right of entry –the entry fee- into the fields of production.
Brad DeLong
[Y]ou have to either live in the countryside or live in the city and be really rich to say that rubber tomatoes suck. For those humans who live in the city and are not really rich, rubber tomatoes provide a welcome and tasty and affordable simulacrum of the tomato-eating experience.
Ted Barlow (Crooked Timber) ellipsis in original
The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”
Duncan Black ,"Atrios"
Some Question U.S. Support For Israel
By Roger B. Fetcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 31, 2002; Page A01

WASHINGTON, DC Since the signing of the Camp David accords, billions in U.S. foreign aid have gone to Israel. There is growing outrage by some about continued financial support of Israel, given the alleged human rights abuses of the Israeli government against Palestinians by the Sharon government.

David Duke, president of Americans in Support of Palestinian Freedom, a D.C.-based human rights group, said "Since last year, we have gotten well over 200 complaints of human rights abuses. It's time our lawmakers recognize these injustices."
(That was of course a fake news story. Everyone get the point?)
Matthew Yglesias
[About] "And for the record (don't post this), Yglesias as an individual has a great, self-aware sense of humor and is much more starkly honest (if also unapologetic) about his own elitism than most liberals. Take him out for a beer and I think you'd find that." 
-At the appropriate level of abstraction, the neocons couldn't be more right about this stuff, but when it comes to actually getting it done their policies have been a miserable failure. 
-After the last depressing news from the Middle East I think we have to start asking just how inhumane it would be for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the occupied terroritories. [sic] The result would probably be out-and-out war with the neighboring Arab states, but Israel could win that.
All forced population transfers are humanitarian disasters, of course, but so is the current situation. It's not like there's not any room in the whole Arab world for all these Palestinian Arabs to go live in, it's just that the other Arab leaders don't want to cooperate.
Doug Henwood
There's a Marc Jacobs boutique in Ho Chi Minh City??
It's getting too depressing; I'll add some rejoinders by others. Again, all repeats here.

QS responds to Bertram
You’ve turned sexual harassment into an intellectual game, that is where the “creepiness” originates. How do you moderate that? You don’t. You realize that your ability to treat the issue so dispassionately, playing the game of Find the Universal, probably has something to do with your maleness and position outside this particular terrain.

Sexual harassment was banned not because we found the Universal Principle Against Harassment but because women and men who believed it to be wrong fought successfully for prohibition. These people were likely motivated by a variety of ideas and experiences. The way we keep the libertarians marginalized is not by abstract philosophical games but by appealing to this concrete history.

Chris Bertram 06.03.12 at 10:06 am
QS: your latest tells me that you see political philosophy as it is usually practised as involving a profound mistake. You are entitled to that opinion. It is not one that I share.
"Marfrks" responds to Henry Farrell
I have been a lawyer for many years, and then got a chance to teach at a non-lawyerly academic institution. I loved it; I loved playing in the garden of the mind. Eventually, however, it became clear to me that academics and non-academics have very different approaches to ideas. Academics, though it sounds odd to say it, don’t take ideas seriously. For academics, ideas are games.
Jenny Holzer
Protect me from what I want.
Isn't this what post-structuralism was supposed to be about?

Repeat from above, Bertram
"Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."
If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right.
Related: Farrell makes the case for ignorance.
11MPAVictoria 07.09.13 at 5:58 pm
...Your impressions about how aristocratic they can be differ from mine. I have sat in on dinner parties where every single person there (besides me) arrived in an expensive German vehicle and listened to them complain about the gall of cashiers asking for 12 dollars an hour. So naturally your impressions made me curious. 
12
Rakesh Bhandari 07.09.13 at 6:06 pm
Well that complaining does not seem very aristocratic to me, more petit-bourgeois. 
13
Henry 07.09.13 at 6:09 pm
Rakesh – look up the etymology of the word aristocrat (‘aristoi’+'kratein’= …)
'Aristoi' - The best, the most noble.

Aristotle, Politics,  Book 4
The distribution of offices according to merit is a special characteristic of aristocracy, for the principle of an aristocracy is virtue, as wealth is of an oligarchy, and freedom of a democracy. In all of them there of course exists the right of the majority, and whatever seems good to the majority of those who share in the government has authority. Now in most states the form called polity exists, for the fusion goes no further than the attempt to unite the freedom of the poor and the wealth of the rich, who commonly take the place of the noble. But as there are three grounds on which men claim an equal share in the government, freedom, wealth, and virtue (for the fourth or good birth is the result of the two last, being only ancient wealth and virtue), it is clear that the admixture of the two elements, that is to say, of the rich and poor, is to be called a polity or constitutional government; and the union of the three is to be called aristocracy or the government of the best, and more than any other form of government, except the true and ideal, has a right to this name.
Lefebvre, The Coming of the French Revolution
The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich. The great majority of younger sons had no desire to "derogate." They sought the remedy elsewhere, in a growing exclusiveness. Some held that the nobility should form a body like the clergy and be constituted as a closed caste. For the last time, in stating grievances in 1789, they were to demand a verification of titles of nobility and the suppression of automatic creation of nobility through the sale of offices. Likewise it was held that, if the king was to count on "his loyal nobility," he should recognize that they alone had the necessary rank to advise him and to command in his name; he should grant them a monopoly of employments compatible with their dignity, together with free education for their sons.
"The great majority of nobles either did not know how, or did not wish, to get rich."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Continuing roughly from here and other recent posts

Felix Salmon on Gagosian and Robert Parker.

Comments, at the first...
Saatchi and Saatchi faced a crisis after all the expansion meant that it handled accounts for both Coke and Pepsi. Art and advertising are boutique businesses. Conglomerates can operate multiple boutiques and brands only as long as they’re diversified, but also a boutique cannot become a conglomerate without losing it’s claim to the “charm” of being a boutique. 
As David Zwirner told me 20 years ago, there’s not much difference between art and fashion anymore. I suppose I should have left that as a blind item, but I’m really sick of the cant. High art and high fashion are facing the same crisis; entertainment and clothing are doing fine. If Koons is leaving Gagosian it’s because he wants the comparative safety of the smaller art business. Schnabel to his credit seems to have chosen entertainment (his paintings are now as bad as Matthew Barney’s films). Salle, Longo and Cindy Sherman made films too, all forgotten. But the daughter of two minor art stars of their generation is now an “art house” favorite on cable. HBO is boutique entertainment, a different economic model than the art world. The middle class is more intellectually serious than the rich but moralizing art critics lambaste the new generation of oligarchs for not upholding the standards of the houses of the Medici and the Sforza. 
You quote Gopnik: “The market for art is unlike any other, because it’s built on some notion of true, underlying value” I come from a background in the aristocratic arts, but I’m a communist. Go figure. You’re not defending art you’re defending the church. 
I’ll ask again: Is Jackson Pollock more important than Alfred Hitchcock?
And I’ll answer: No.
I’ll take art where I can get it, not where it’s supposed to be.
and the second
This is the last time I’ll quote this, even if this time I’ve modified it a bit.
“The market for wine is unlike any other, because it’s built on some notion of true, underlying value.” 
As Lindmann would say: De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum.
But to take that seriously that would have to apply to values as well, so the point is not the right and wrong but the argument. Would you rather have an ongoing debate about wines, or follow someone else’s prescriptions? The criticism of Parker’s enological monoculture is longstanding.
And of course Taleb would call it “fragile”
Your focus as a finance writer colors and limits your coverage of anything else, and therefore limits your coverage of finance itself.
The last link above is something I meant to write about earlier. Salmon provides a link to the Krugman piece that annoyed Taleb. Hard to exaggerate how smug and stupid it is; and absolutely blind to the violence of what can only be described in human terms as catastrophic change.

For a primer and Daniel Davies and the culture of fragility, start here.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Every time I saw Daniel Inouye's face over the past 40 years it brought back memories of my favorite film from childhood. The Watergate hearings ran from May 17th to August 7th, 1973 and I may have missed a week of them in total.  Looking through youtube a few of the videos were listed as Alexander Mackendrick. Alec Guiness' face, and Mackendrick not George Lucas, being back memories of the same period, but I never knew there was a connection.
When talking to an interviewer in 1975, Mackendrick explained that he had been “looking at the exchange between Howard Baker, the Senator, when he was asking questions of Liddy’s secretary, and she was claiming, probably quite justifiably, that when she had typed out the reports of the bugging in the Watergate, she had no idea of what it was she was typing. It’s hard to believe in some ways, though secretaries will tell you it’s true. But at the same time secretaries are naturally curious people and like to know what it is they are typing. Baker said, ‘Is this what you’re telling me, Ms. So-and-so.’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ He looked at her, and she looked back, and he looked at her, and said to himself, ‘Well, OK then.’ What happened in those gaps was that the smart editor cut away on ‘Is this what you’re telling me?’ which meant on that particular line we saw a close shot of her as she prepared her answer, which was simply ‘Yes.’ Then it went back to Baker, who looked at her. His look said to us, the audience, ‘I don’t believe a word of what you’re saying.’ Then it went back to her, with her look of ‘You may not, but that’s all I’m going to say.’ Then we go back to Baker: ‘Cool one. I’m not going to get anything out of her. Let’s continue.’ Now, the silences, the unspoken language of that exchange, is the language of television and video, and is the language that we know better even than words.”

Here for the handout. Below is a clip from the broadcast that relates to Mackendrick’s analysis.


PBS video of the first day of hearings.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

AA links to Juan Cole.

A link I posted as part of a list I ended up removing: Living Under Drones

Two on Syria:
Patrick Cockburn
and Channel 4
Compare and contrast, arguments concerning the death of art: from rationalism and assumption, and from observation and empiricism
I had started the editing process in a spirit of easygoing cooperation, determined to set aside any pride in Englishness and work to produce the best package possible for an American public. After all, the work was being paid for by an American publisher and my commissioning editor had proved extremely helpful when it came to discussing the shape of the book. But doubts soon arose. Prose is not something that remains the same when words are substituted—“jeans” for “dungarees,” for example—or when one synonym is preferred to another. Rhythm is important, and assonance likewise. Ninety-eight uses of a two-syllable “carriage” are not the same as ninety-eight occurrences of a single-syllable closed-o “coach.” This is why, statistically, assonance, alliteration, and rhythm tend to be weaker in translations than in original texts; consciously or otherwise a writer, even of the least ambitious prose, is guided by sound, while the language itself is constantly forming standard collocations of words around pleasantly assonant combinations—fast asleep, wide awake. Any intervention in these patterns, whether simply substituting words to suit a local use of the same language, or more radically translating into another language, disturbs the relationship between sound and semantics.

But my train book isn’t just a text written by an Englishman to be published in America. It’s about Italy, the Italians, how they see things, their mental world. One of the ways one can get across the difference is to focus on words or usages that don’t quite translate—the appearance of coincidenza, for example, in station announcements, which can mean a planned and timetabled train connection, or a quite unplanned, unexpected development to which an urgent response is required, such as a last minute platform change. Over these matters the American editor dutifully followed. But where I had written mamma and papà, the edit had transformed to “mamma” and “pappa.” This rather threw me, in part because I had assumed that Americans said mama and papa, but mostly because papà is accented on the second syllable, whereas in Italian “pappa”, with the accent on the first syllable and that double p that Italians, unlike Anglo-Saxons, actually pronounce, is a word for mush, or babyfood.
"Davidson has also known for rejection of the idea of a conceptual scheme, thought of as something peculiar to one language or one way of looking at the world, arguing that where the possibility of translation stops so does the coherence of the idea that there is something to translate."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

...Meanwhile, get ready for cynical attempts to push gun control on the back of a tragedy, again. As William S. Burroughs once said, “After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.”
Lesley Stahl: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.
Our politicians like to cry

A repeat from 2008.

Listing the US policies and actions that render this absurd would be equally absurd. Our politicians cry for an audience of believers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Maneker: "The art market isn’t a measure of art historical value or worth."

Felix Salmon quotes Gopnik: "The market for art is unlike any other, because it’s built on some notion of true, underlying value"
a comment (neatened up)
“The market for art is unlike any other, because it’s built on some notion of true, underlying value ­”
Are the paintings of Jackson Pollock really more historically important than the films of Alfred Hitchcock? Your language is more suited to a defense of the Church or university. The fact that you associate that kind of seriousness with the rich in this day and age is just odd. Or maybe not. Do you crave service to an authority as morally serious as it is powerful?

The “fine” arts are the arts of aristocracy. We no longer have an aristocracy; we have a subsection of the bourgeoisie with loads of cash. Even the old “high bourgeois” are gone. Art stars are pop stars. How many of them last? And do their marketers care? I don’t know who’s worse in these debates, the boosters or the scolds. That according to Dave Hickey the Guggenheim now has critics sign contracts [stipulating that you won't disparage anything on display?] is roughly equivalent to the Koch brothers demanding changes in curriculum, but acknowledging that is not a defense of the purity of what came before
"Economics is not a morality play." vs. "The Church/University for is unlike any system/organization, because it’s built on some notion of true, underlying value."

Maneker on Hirst: back and forth.
Dec 13 2012: Hirst v. Gagosian: Who Blinked?
It is hard to see the Complete Spots show as anything but a signal that Hirst’s market had come to an end. The seeds of his market demise were surely sown in the Beautiful Inside My Head Forever sale of September 2008 but the Complete Spots were meant to be a market comeback. Indeed, the spot paintings had seemed a beguiling meta-work of endless canvases with its own mystique.
The art press played right into Hirst’s hands covering every publicity ploy the artist created with slavish intensity. Unfortunately, the 11 Spot shows seemed to deflate the Spots rather than apotheosize them. Seen together, the works appeared to be more gimmick than art.
At the bottom of the page, under "related posts": 
Jan 16th 2012: Art World Hates Hirst’s Spots, Everyone Else Loves Them 
Jan 10th 2012: The Universal Language of Spots 
Feb 22 2011: Hirst's Spots Are Coming Back to Life
Art collecting began as an aristocratic pastime, less a place for making money than for spending it. Collectors either became connoisseurs or paid them but there was a sense of pride in ownership, not of something popular but of something considered superior. Today think of the European model of sports club ownership, as opposed of the Americans who insist on making a profit. These days the most old-fashioned collectors are the ones who hire art thieves, and hide their prizes from the public. Before framed pictures for private homes there were public works for the church, but the later pieces carried the provenance of the earlier ones, a provenance fading over 400 years.

Lindemann is causing a stir because he's making a public claim for himself as a connoisseur. Right now he's pushing old feminist porn and his wife's pushing Nordic fascist kitsch. It's not sophisticated but it's making the attempt. Like Maneker he confuses significance and popularity/finance, supporting his self-image more than a coherent argument.  Gopnik's only answer is to be a snob and a scold. But ask moralizing critics for the work they'd defend and its not much better: see Thornton's defense of Sherrie Levine. [here] It's all a tempest in a platinum teapot. The problem isn't art and money it's that people in the fine arts were once capable and interested of navigating through ambiguity and that the art itself was once more interesting. Fine art is now an adjunct to design. The arts section of the NYT is mostly theater and film. Compare it even 20 years ago. etc. etc.

"The art market isn’t a measure of art historical value or worth."
If it's not the attempt to take the measure, it's just another short term bet and artists and collectors have nothing in common other than gambling. Welcome to Vegas.

Art stars are pop stars. Dealers and collectors are promoters. Some of it will last, most of it won't.

The moral/intellectual economy of fine arts is collapsing. The art world was always commercial but claimed not to be just as the academy has always claimed to be removed from the wider culture that supported it. The fantasy of the Ivory Tower was a fantasy of a bubble; the most serious, historically important, intellectual figures have always had at least one foot firmly outside. And moralizing art critics are now lambasting the new generation of oligarchs for not upholding the standards of the houses of the Medici and the Sforza.

That critics of fine art are bemoaning the death of art in an age of entertainment in 2012 says more about their isolation than about the death of art. The rich will always collect baubles, but they won't be what they were. Art critics are now like poetry critics ranting against Stephen King, less defending poetry than their sense of their own seriousness. That's not a celebration of the popular.
Wounded idealism is the definition of reaction.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Between common form and private reason: the debate's going to become much more clear, even or especially to the people making the arguments.

Leiter sends us to Posner
THE CONSTITUTION of the United States has its passionate votaries—none more so than Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School—as does the Bible. But both sets of worshippers face the embarrassment of having to treat an old, and therefore dated, document as authoritative. Neither set’s members are willing to say that because it is old, and therefore dated, it is not authoritative. Some say it is old but not dated; they are the constitutional and Biblical literalists. But most of the worshippers admit, though not always out loud, that their holy book is dated and must therefore be updated (without altering the text) so as to preserve its authority. They use various techniques for updating....

Amar’s method of updating, which is also the one the Catholic Church applies to the Bible, is supplementation from equally authoritative sources. The Church believes that a Pope receives divine inspirations that enable him to proclaim dogmas that are infallible and thus have equal authority with the Bible. Jesus Christ’s mother does not play a prominent role in the New Testament, but she became a focus of Catholic veneration, and in 1854 the Pope proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception (that is, that she had been born without original sin). This and other extra-Biblical Catholic dogmas, such as the Nicene Creed, which proclaimed the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father, form a kind of parallel Bible, equal in authority to the written one, which reached its modern form in the third century C.E.

This is the line taken by Amar. Alongside the written Constitution is an unwritten constitution. They are consubstantial. The Constitution, like the teachings of the Catholic Church, is a composite of a founding document and a variety of supplementary practices and declarations (many of course in writing also). No matter how wild Amar’s constitutional views may seem, he claims that they are in this two-in-one constitution; that he did not put them there.

Actually, despite the book’s title, it is not two in one—it is twelve in one. There is not just one unwritten constitution, in Amar’s reckoning; there are eleven of them. There is an “implicit” constitution, a “lived” constitution, a “Warrented” constitution (the reference is to Earl Warren), a “doctrinal” constitution, a “symbolic” constitution, a “feminist” constitution, a “Georgian” constitution (the reference is to George Washington), an “institutional” constitution, a “partisan” constitution (the reference is to political parties, which are not mentioned in the written Constitution), a “conscientious” constitution (which, for example, permits judges and jurors to ignore valid law), and an “unfinished” constitution that Amar is busy finishing. All these unwritten constitutions, in Amar’s view, are authoritative. And miraculously, when correctly interpreted, they all cohere, both with each other and with the written Constitution. The sum of the twelve constitutions is the Constitution.

One is tempted to say that this is preposterous, and leave it at that.
Leiter adds: "Needless to say, Judge Posner does not leave it at that, and the criticisms seem to me mostly quite sound."

They aren't.

Democracy is the public argument over the meaning of words. The existence of founding documents means only that official arguments becomes more focused. Replace the word "Constitution" above with "Hamlet", "Macbeth", "Ahab", "Lincoln", or "Jefferson" and see how obviously stupid Posner's argument becomes. There are as many Hamlets are there are actors who've played the role.

Leiter imagines himself a leftist in the manner of Chomsky, whose political philosophy is as simplistic as Posner's, but he's closer intellectually and socially to the Posners, father and son.  All have faith in their own capacity for rational action. Chomsky defends the weak as Posner defends the strong while Leiter defends a notion of academic high-seriousness to the point of tautology: seriousness is worthy of respect because serious. What lies within and beyond the pale is measured by his own level of embarrassment. He'll defend philosophers of religion as a group, thus defending the academy, but ridicule any one of them for making any concrete and inevitably stupid arguments.

They all ignore what they want to ignore about themselves and others. None of them understand democracy.

See also the penultimate paragraph of the previous post.

"formaldehyde"

"The disengagement is actually formaldehyde," he said. "It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

"Money is ruining the fashion industry!"

NYT
Prominent art writers and critics, including Sarah Thornton, Felix Salmon, Will Gompertz and Dave Hickey, have been attacking the art world, arguing that the staggering sums of money being spent on works are distorting judgments about art and undermining its long-term cultural significance.
Hickey: "Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It's not worth my time."

And again
They were adored, fawned over, hated, respected, energizing and revered. They brought hope, insulted the city and loved the city. They were negative, positive, cherished and polarizing.

And now they are leaving. Love or hate them, there is no arguing that Dave Hickey, famous art critic and genius-grant recipient, and Libby Lumpkin, art historian and curator, will go down in Las Vegas history.

There was Hickey's controversial stint in UNLV's art department, where he nurtured talented artists and aggravated colleagues.

There was Lumpkin's role in the first fine-art gallery on the Strip — Steve Wynn's collection at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art — which helped expand the perception of what could be a tourist attraction.
Hickey's gone off the rails recently, but The Invisible Dragon has lines I've never forgotten:
"I saw Robert's X images for the first time scattered across a Pace coffee table at a coke dealer's penthouse on Hudson Street…"
20 years ago.
Simply put, if you broached the issue of beauty in the American art world in 1988, you could not incite a conversation about rhetoric -or efficacy, or pleasure, or politics, or even Bellini. You ignited a conversation about the market. That, at the time was the 'signified' of beauty. If you said 'beauty', they would say, 'The corruption of the market', and I would say, 'The corruption of themarket!?'. After thirty years of frenetic empowerment, during which time the venues for contemporary art in the United States had evolved from a tiny network of private galleries in New York to this vast, transcontinental sprawl of publicly funded, postmodern iceboxes? During which time the ranks of 'art professionals' had swollen from a handful of dilettantes on the Upper East Side of Manhattan into this massive civil service of Ph.D's and MFAs who administered a monolithic system of interlocking patronage, which, in its constituencies, resembled nothing so much a France in the early 19th century? While powerful corporate, governmental, cultural and academic constituencies vied for power and tax-free dollars, each with its own self-perpetuating agenda and none with any vested interest in the subversive potential of visual pleasure? Under these cultural conditions, artists across this nation were obsessing about the market?- fretting about a handful of picture merchants nibbling canapés on the Concorde - blaming them for any work that did not incorporate raw plywood?
Under these circumstances, I would suggest, saying that 'the market is corrupt' is like saying the cancer patient has a hangnail. Yet the manifestations of this pervasive idée fixe remain everywhere present today, not least of all in the sudden evanescence of the market itself after thirty years of scorn for the intimacy of its transactions, but also in the radical discontinuity between the serious criticism of contemporary art and that of historical art. At a time when easy 60 percent of historical criticism concerns itself with the influence of taste, patronage and the canons of acceptability upon the images that a culture produces, the bulk of contemporary criticism, in a miasma of hallucinatory denial, resolutely ignores the possibility that every form of refuge has its price, and satisfies itself with grousing about 'the corruption of the market'. The transactions of value enacted under the patronage of our new 'non-profit' institutions are exempted from this cultural critique, presumed to be untainted, redemptive, disinterested, taste free, and politically benign. Yeah, right.

During my informal canvass, I discovered that the 'reasoning' behind this presumption is that art dealers 'only care about how it looks', while the art professionals employed by our new institutions 'really care about what it means'. Which is easy enough to say. And yet, if this is, indeed the case (and I think it is)I can't imagine any but the most demented naif giddily abandoning an autocrat who monitors appearances for a bureaucrat who monitors desire. Nor can Michel Foucault, who makes a variation of this point in Surveiller et punir, and poses for us the choice that is really at issue here…
The Times
Of course, rich patrons have always supported artists, Don Rubell pointed out, from the pharaohs to the Medicis. Today, multimillion-dollar sales represent only a silk-thin layer of a deeply varied and thriving art market. The art world, Mr. Rubell asserted, is “actually becoming more democratic.”
The tastes are, that's true. In democratic culture, objects of art are never going to be as interesting as language. That's something Hickey never understood.
[Gompertz] "Money and celebrity has cast a shadow over the art world which is prohibiting ideas and debate from coming to the fore,..."

...Hickey says his change of heart came when he was asked to sign a 10-page contract before he could sit on a panel discussion at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Art history is the examination of the assumptions of the people of the past as seen in the most complex products of their labor.  The serious audience for contemporary art more than for any other form of contemporary culture demands that their assumptions be met, not only that their tastes be confirmed but that they be justified, intellectually and morally, through the rigors of their own "untainted, redemptive, disinterested," and near omniscient sense of reason. The corruption begins less in the economics of the market than from the weakness of those who need to pretend that they're beyond it.  "Theory" is the history of the present written in the assumption that the future will agree with the assessment. As I've said before, it's an argument from original intent.

I'm not any more offended by the the party life of the rich at Miami Basel than I am by the party life of the rich anywhere else.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Niemeyer
Le Corbusier: "Oscar, what you are doing is baroque. But it's very well done."

Yes.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Corey Robin quotes a footnote by Brian Leiter on Nietzsche and "Ressentiment".
Bittner (1994: 128) points out that, “The German word [ressentiment]…needs to be distinguished from the French word spelled and pronounced alike, which is also its source. The words need to be distinguished because they differ in sense…[B]oth ‘to resent’ in English and ‘ressentir‘ in French suggest a more straightforward annoyance, less of a grudge than the German word does.” Bittner’s point is confirmed by the fact that in the German, Nietzsche does not italicize “ressentiment” except for occasional emphasis: Nietzsche treats the word like any other German word. This, of course, is lost in the English, where most translators continue to use Nietzsche’s German word, thus italicizing it.
Robin end with "That's All" and embeds this.


Meryl Streep as drag queen.
Notwithstanding Leiter's concern, the Oxford American Dictionary's definition: "a psychological state arising from suppressed feelings of envy and hatred that cannot be acted upon, frequently resulting in some form of self-abasement." It gives the meaning as originating in Nietzsche.

A few weeks ago Leiter linked to a review in the TLS "As part of our periodic series of scathing book reviews. From the review of How to be Gay:
Halperin’s teaching promotes “homosexuality as a social rather than an individual condition and as a cultural practice rather than a sexual one”. He scrutinizes artefacts that he believes are indispensable to “gay acculturation” and the development of “gay male subjectivity”: Hollywood movies, Broadway musicals, opera, diva-worship, pop and disco music, camp, and allied phenomena. This is because he believes that “gay sentiment”, the feelings of the “socially disqualified”, can only be expressed in “histrionics, rage, maudlin self-pity, hyperbolic passion, and excess”. To this end he provides prolix, relentless analyses of scenes from Mildred Pierce (a 1945 Hollywood film starring Joan Crawford) and Mommie Dearest (a 1981 film about Joan Crawford’s despotism towards her adopted daughter). His interpretations seem all the more lumbering and verbose for being written in academic jargon overlain with insinuating archness. Halperin, who preens himself for his courage in comparing these films to the Iliad, makes high claims for them in sections that are ulcerated with bombast and self-reference. “The entire history of gay liberation . . . may owe a direct debt to Mildred Pierce . . . or, if not exactly to Mildred Pierce, at least to . . . a definitive mass-cultural . . . drama of enraged female powerlessness suddenly and dazzlingly transformed into momentary, headlong, careless, furious, restless power.” Both films teach “the supreme wisdom” of “living one’s love life knowingly as melodrama – understanding full well . . . that melodrama signifies . . . a despised, feminized, laughable, trivial style of expressing one’s feelings”.
The book and review exhibit forms of self-hatred: one arch, high-minded and self-consciously clean, the other low and self consciously dirty."sexual acts between men can be “undignified, filthy, shameful, and perverse (at least if you’re doing it right)”. Callie Angell, the cataloger and historian of Warhol‘s films told me it was still safe to assume every homosexual was self-hating until proven otherwise.  That's not something I'd put in writing if she were still alive.

Adam Lindemann's eyes lit up when I shrugged and said Jack Goldstein's work was nihilist. Now his wife is showing Bjarne Melgaard.
Beginning November 9, 2012, Luxembourg Dayan will open the door to A New Novel by Bjarne Melgaard, an exhibition that coincides with publication of the artist’s latest novel, his first ever to be published commercially in English. Working closely with a group of leading designers and craftspeople, Melgaard is transforming the gallery’s Upper East Side townhouse into a completely immersive environment that uses his new novel’s story – its protagonist’s tortured infatuation with a doorman and the willing degradations of a surrounding cast of characters – as a point of departure to plumb further the through-line of his entire practice: an exploration of the ways in which sex and violence dovetail with love and loneliness. Melgaard belongs to a long list of artists in different disciplines and across generations, who have explored the animal state of pain and abjection as a sort of certainty, a reliable signpost in the otherwise uncertain search for existence. For such artists, a profound sense of separateness and isolation is negotiated through art and the process of translating ideas from one medium into another.

...For A New Novel by Bjarne Melgaard, each room of the Luxembourg & Dayan townhouse will become a colorful, crammed tableaux occupied by ‘dolls’ acting out the types of violence that figure centrally in Melgaard’s book. More than 150 dolls of different sizes have been made for the show by JoJo Baby, Gabe Bartalos, Colleen Rochette, and Jessica Scott. Occupying a sequence of vignettes that unfold on three floors, these odd figures will wear couture clothing made by Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler in collaboration with Melgaard. The rooms where the dolls appear will be furnished by Melgaard with rugs and layers of patterned wallpaper of his own design, along with furniture created in collaboration with Billy Cotton and upholstered in vintage Ozzie Clark dresses; textiles made by Proenza Schouler; and a jacquard fabric based upon the paintings Melgaard has created for the exhibition. Melgaard also has deployed the dolls for a stop-action animation ‘snuff film.’
Lindemann's also a fan. He compares Melgaard to Mel Gibson, attacking Gibson. But Gibson is a Catholic masochist, far from a nihilist, while Melgaard is a both a nihilist and sadist.
From the past:
"With full deliberateness, Morris pushes form, concept, and meaning," as Ratcliff says, "toward an ultimate 'all-overness' -absolute equivalence, the entropic dead end."
No one I know who liked The Passion of the Christ, claimed to agree with the convictions of its maker. In art that's not the issue. For Lindemann and Melgaard, compare El Amrani and Houellebecq. I saw The Passion of the Christ, and Hellboy in the same afternoon; two good films and within the context of their shared interests, Catholicism and filmmaking, two opposed philosophies.  Robert Morris' work, for what it was, was academic. His work was "about" nihilism, more than it was an example of it. Melgaard has turned ressentiment into an affirmative ideology: the definition of fascism.

A fashion shoot for Italian Vogue


History repeats, and so do I.

Preaching to the choir in the cult of high style, and high anti-style. A work of art should tempt us to agree with its philosophy, and as I told Lindemann, when it comes to nihilism in art, I'll take Bronzino, Seurat and Gursky.

Enthusiasm for various forms of passionate intensity: at Miami Basel, Lindemann is showing Betty Tomkins



Dayan's partner in London is showing Rob Pruitt.

The NY Times' Randy Kennedy two years ago, flacking Pruitt's previous show at Gavin Brown.
Rob Pruitt — who last week opened a gargantuan solo exhibition inspired by the Amish tradition of Rumspringa, the period during which some teenagers sow wild oats before they reach the age to join the church — is not the first artist you might think of when you think Anabaptist. You might go way down the list before getting to Mr. Pruitt, 46, a gleefully tricky purveyor of trash culture who is known for making paintings of pandas and of Paris Hilton, who has fashioned an eternal-flame monument from a bar table and a Bic lighter, and who once held an extremely brief gallery show composed solely of a long floor mirror bisected by a line of real cocaine, which was ingested by visitors.

But Mr. Pruitt has been through his own personal version of a wandering-homecoming experience, a kind of reverse Rumspringa that became so well known it has shaped his career and reputation almost as much as his work itself. In 1992 Mr. Pruitt and a collaborator, Jack Early, put together a splashy, irreverent exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery exploring the marketing of African-American culture. A decade later it might have been the subject of battling reviews, but at the time the winds of political correctness quickly turned the show, by two Southern white men, into an incendiary event. They were called cynical, even racist, and were essentially drummed out of the art world for years; Mr. Pruitt ended up selling couture dresses for a while and coming up with craft ideas for Martha Stewart Living.

As a man who earnestly, and convincingly, describes the gallery world as his church, Mr. Pruitt was devastated by his expulsion from it. In a sense he has worked for almost 20 years to earn a place back among the faithful. And with his new show, “Pattern and Degradation” — whose pieces fill more than 13,000 square feet of space at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, the West Village gallery that represents him, and at a nearby gallery, Maccarone — Mr. Pruitt is making his most ambitious bid yet. He seems to be trying to make a case for himself not just as a congregant but also as a deacon, a major artist.