Monday, December 16, 2013

note taking. two recent comments (mine) @ the NYRB.
The links added here

Andrew Butterfield Trapped in Vienna
"The place was a cockpit of magnificent art and appalling kitsch, glutted with waltzes, whipped cream, chocolate cake and high culture. The grimmer the political climate grew, the more relentlessly frivolous the city became. “In Berlin”, remarked the Austrian satirist Karl Kraus, “things are serious but not hopeless. In Vienna they are hopeless but not serious.” Terry Eagleton 
But there was no magnificent art; all of it was over-designed or aggressively -desperately- the opposite. The whole culture was marked by a manic passivity, the most extreme example of a Mannerist culture imaginable. The author describes the show as focusing the lesser figures of the scene but here are no major artists from fin de siècle Vienna. The relevant theme is less the emptiness of art than its inadequacy: the inadequacy of the merely beautiful in the face of the intelligent, and the result is like makeup on a corpse. 
It's high time we come to terms with the decadence at the heart of a lot of Modernism, Schoenberg and Adorno included. 
Reading Fintan O'Toole on Pinter I thought of Brecht, and then was almost ashamed I hadn't seen the obvious. We still have a lot to learn about the recent past.
Tim Parks on the academy, Literature and Bureaucracy
The humanities, or humanist culture, as practiced by people who write and read books, essays, articles, stories, fiction and non-fiction, who make movies, have an ambiguous relation to bureaucracy; academies are bureaucratic by definition. Librarians aren't necessarily humanists, and librarians have become the model, from Borges to Franco Moretti. 
The academy has devolved into a self-contained, self-supporting ghetto, promoting pseudoscience in imitation of the real thing. Bureaucracy has become its ethos, formal integrity as parody. I'm still trying to figure why decades after the collapse of the dreams of a science of history we still give degrees in the science of politics. But history, economics, and politics are not science, and WVO Quine is to philosophy what Milton Babbitt is to music. The end of Modernism is the waning of the Middle Ages as farce. 
Faith in the primacy of theory requires the illusion of control. But what historian, novelist or playwright writes from the primacy of theory? What artist we still look at began with anything other than the primacy of observation and then practice? The contemporary academy follows the assumption that Sophocles read Aristotle. 
Art begins with observation, but the term now is "creative". The academy treats most of humanity as simple objects of study, things to be graphed, while fostering a culture for its own predicted on their own freedom. That's the worst of it. 
Tim Parks is a translator, in practice a transliterator. There's a respected argument in contemporary philosophy that claims that if you can't translate something from one language to another then there's nothing to translate. Words are treated like numbers in an equation. It's an example of following the requirements of formal rigor to the point of it being intellectually useless.
It's scholastic anti-intellecualism. And that's where where the academy is at.
Butterfield's an old-school scholar-dealer  He was the player behind the sale the the Bernini Modello. He was also involved in bringing Verrocchio's  Christ and St. Thomas to the Met, or at least he wrote the catalogue.  I talked to him at Salander and had a bit of fun complaining that the curators had placed the sculpture on a low platform so that I had to get on my knees to see it as it was designed. At it's proper height, moving to the left side of the pair, your eye-line follows Thomas' right forearm like the view behind an arrow of its target. And the image that results is openly sexual. At the Met you were able to see more of the piece but made it harder to read, so I ended up crawling around the statue on my knees, looking up.  I asked him why they'd done it. "Democracy?" His eyes widened. "Oh… no!" His secretary laughed.

Stand a little more to the left of where the first photograph was taken and the folds in the fabric on Thomas' forearm seem to spiral inwards. You can see the foreshortening, but from the right angle the tapering effect becomes dynamic; all of the forms swirl around the central image of the wound. The second photograph shows more the intimacy of the relations of the two figures, something that might be harder to see from far away.


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