Friday, June 18, 2010

A repeat, from less than a month ago, but with the order reversed. In response to this.

Clement Greenberg
Each art, it turned out, had to perform this demonstration on its own account. What had to be exhibited was not only that which was unique and irreducible in art in general, but also that which was unique and irreducible in each particular art. Each art had to determine, through its own operations and works, the effects exclusive to itself. By doing so it would, to be sure, narrow its area of competence, but at the same time it would make its possession of that area all the more certain.

It quickly emerged that the unique and proper area of competence of each art coincided with all that was unique in the nature of its medium. The task of self-criticism became to eliminate from the specific effects of each art any and every effect that might conceivably be borrowed from or by the medium of any other art. Thus would each art be rendered "pure," and in its "purity" find the guarantee of its standards of quality as well as of its independence. "Purity" meant self-definition, and the enterprise of self-criticism in the arts became one of self-definition with a vengeance.
Max Weber
[S]cience [i.e. Wissenschaft, scholarly or method-based disciplines] has entered a phase of specialisation previously unknown and ... this will forever remain the case. Not only externally, but inwardly, matters stand at a point where the individual can acquire the sure consciousness of achieving something truly perfect in the field of science only in case he is a strict specialist. All work that overlaps neighbouring fields, such as we occasionally undertake and which the sociologists must necessarily undertake again and again, is burdened with the resigned realisation that at best one provides the specialist with useful questions upon which he would not so easily hit from his own specialised point of view. One’s own work must inevitably remain highly imperfect. Only by strict specialisation can the scientific worker become fully conscious, for once and perhaps never again in his lifetime, that he has achieved something that will endure. A really definitive and good accomplishment is today always a specialised accomplishment.
The practice Holbo asks about was in fact standard for centuries.


Masaccio, The Tribute Money. The figure of St. Peter is repeated 3 times.

In an age when the vast majority were illiterate, paintings were made by the church for the public, and paintings told stories. In an age of increasing literacy, technical advancement, and private wealth they moved away from it. As literacy increased even more painting continued to fade in importance to the point where Panofsky, who had no stake in Modernist pretension could write: "Today there is no denying that narrative films are not only 'art'—not often good art, to be sure, but this applies to other media as well—but also, besides architecture, cartooning and 'commercial design,' the only visual art entirely alive."

Comics are a minor art. In an age of high cultural synchronic form, narrative thrived in common idioms. Holbo defends comics as simple preference, related but not identical to the defense of speculative fiction [see the post before last]. He enjoys them from on high, with a condescending irony, like Feynman's bongos, that gives comics and the arts less credit than they deserve. There was a lot of tragedy in Feynman but he had no secret wish to abandon physics for music. He had no interest in subtext, but he knew what he loved and did it happily, and had a hobby to let off steam. You get the sense with Holbo that he can't take seriously the one thing he really loves.

"How can you say the cafe revolutionary represents the cafe more than the revolution!? He doesn't talk about the cafe, so what relevance can it have to his ideas!?"

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