Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Art and The Auschwitz Album
Humanity is in particularity and partiality; the universal is literally inhuman, and there's no way to resolve the contradiction without sacrificing one or the other. ...
It's inhuman to deny intimacy, even the illusory intimacy of art.
The top two photographs will be remembered. The bottom one won't. Some people have said the only reason is context.

Alva Noë: How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience

my comment, on the fly.  Noë is an idiot.
Discussion of aesthetics is silly. Actors don't discuss the aesthetics of a performance of Hamlet. Consistency, nuance, dynamics, yes. Aesthetics no. Lawyers don't talk about aesthetics when talking about how to seduce a jury. Martin Luther King didn't talk about the aesthetics of religious oratory.

Art is the communication of experience, not of ideas; it's the communication of subjectivity. An actor's job is to make you feel emotions; their job is to manipulate. They don't have to feel a thing. But as artists and not simply con men their job is to lie while demonstrating how they're doing it, to make you cry while reminding you that you're crying for nothing, while still making you cry, so that you understand. They lie to you and smile at you and you thank them for lying and they bow.

Art is intimate empiricism. It's what makes you cry over a picture of a dead baby while another picture would simply make you a sad for a moment. It's the illusion of proximity. Why were people so upset by the pic of the dead kid on the beach? Because he was physically intact. He looked like he was sleeping but he was stiff, like an abandoned doll, a lonely image of death. That's what "aesthetics" means. But the photos themselves are crap illustration, because they aren't made to show you how they work.

Photojournalism is manipulative and voyeuristic. A mature work of art with an image of a dead child teaches you to respect the distance between you and others. You don't believe the fantasy that you're the child's parent; you know you're not and you know you're feeling the wish you were, and that's where it leaves you, in your own world, re-centered of your own world but with a respect for the experience even the tragic experience of others.

Photojournalism is cheap sentiment and cheap politics. It's pity and self-pity, not concern.

What really disgusts me about all this happy-talk-philosophizing about aesthetics is that it says nothing about the importance of art as describing pain and moral ambiguity as experience. It's not art it's "design". It says nothing about The Wire or The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, and that's just American TV. I won't even bring up the stuff you've never heard of.

The difference between design and art is the difference between the optimism of the makers of Grand Theft Auto and the moral pessimism of gangsta rap.

Of course neuroscience can explain it. It can explain away your entire life and the life of the condescending ass who's explaining it to you. Determinism means there's no difference between Alex Rosenberg and Lady Gaga. What then?
Tell me about it, assholes 

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